Another Loaf: Apricot

I have not written nor baked in a while. We have been eating ordinary meals. You know, baked frozen fish, grilled chicken or burgers, frozen vegetables, scrambled eggs with onion and peppers, and open-faced grilled cheese with tomatoes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a pinch! Sometimes I just do not feel like cooking, so when Hubby comes home he throws something together. The open-face grilled cheese with tomatoes are one of his specialties.

At my last camping weekend I brought along the Settlement Cookbook to look through. There are some bread recipes that looked good. Simple and straightforward breads, quick and raised. My mother had given me a paperback Settlement Cookbook when I got my first apartment. I knew how to bake but not how to cook. This book was my guide to cooking meat and vegetables. I remember making biscuit dough cinnamon rolls from this book. Unfortunately like most well-used cookbooks it fell apart and eventually I could not justify saving the torn thing. ūüė¶

At a tag sale (yard sale, garage sale, depending on what region of the country you hail from) there was this newly revised Settlement Cookbook. So I bought it for sentimental reasons. This edition was published in 1965, 1976.

I was originally looking at the banana bread since I had extra ripe bananas in the house. But I froze those so the pressure was lessened. I had some dried apricots so the apricot bread was my choice for the afternoon. I figure I have to bake while the weather allows.

Alterations to the recipe as pictured above are as follows:

  • why would one grind the dried apricots? I roughly chopped them.
  • I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour; to be healthy.
  • I did not have to strain the orange juice because the juice I like does not have pulp.

The batter smelled quite orange-y. The loaf came out very nicely colored and crunchy on the outside. The inside is quite nice with the squares of apricots and nuts throughout. For the future I might add a teaspoon of ginger and/or cinnamon for added kick!

I suppose spreading it with apricot preserves might be a bit too much!

Thoughts on muffins and quick breads

I have lately been making quick breads, the kind that bake in one loaf pan without yeast. According to Bittman in How to Cook Everything “The only¬†real difference between muffins and other quick breads is the pan you bake them in.” Sure, this makes sense. We choose between corn bread and corn muffins, same batter. This means I cold make a loaf out of some of my favorite muffin recipes. Cool!

I have enjoyed making loaves. Recently I made the Blueberry Lemon Walnut Bread from the back of the walnut package. This had a bread-like texture and not cake-like in the chocolate walnut loaf made previously. I liked the cake-likeness; Hubby preferred the bread-likeness texture.

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So as I was looking at these recipes in a variety of books, I find that there is a range of sugar involved. Bittman’s muffins call for 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste), ¬†whereas Betty Crocker’s muffins call for 1/3 cup but her nut breads call for 1 cup and pumpkin bread calls for 1 1/3 cup per loaf. What’s up with this?

And why are muffins in The Cookie and Biscuit Bible cookbook? This book also has my go-to popover recipe.

Looking through all these cookbooks to see the differing amounts of sugar tempts me with more and more things to bake. I’ll never lose weight this way!

Here are some thoughts, not all about bread and muffins:

  • What does it mean when an onion starts looking pithy between layers? Is this like celery meaning that it is a bit old? Can one still cook with it? Am I a bad cook if I dice it up anyway and saute it in a dish? Don’t tell anyone.
  • Why did I put the dog food dish under the butcher block table I use for chopping vegetables and rolling out pie dough? Or, why does the dog choose that time to chow down? This is rhetorical because we know the dog can’t talk.
  • I have to decide not to be obsessive over composting when I go camping on weekends. I am sure Hubby won’t want us to come home with a bowl full of food scraps stinking up the truck!
  • Syrian casseroles are what I need to look for so I can provide meals for a family in need. And there are children. What sweet treat would be wholesome for them?
  • Do other’s of you sneak spinach into sauces and casseroles so the family doesn’t know what they are eating? Is this dishonest? I confess if asked.
  • I am planting herbs. What is the difference between German thyme and English thyme? And what to do with lemon balm?

I could go on and on but that is enough for today. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Lemon Tea Bread

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I came home from work one day this past week and wanted to make something in a loaf pan. I took a handful of cookbooks outdoors and sat at the patio table looking through them to find something to make. I know that a traditional pound cake is a loaf cake but I wanted something else. This recipe is from my KitchenAid cookbook published in 1992. It is the larger cookbook, spiral bound, and not the one that comes with the mixer. I have that one as well but my sister said this larger one does not have all of the recipes from the smaller one, so I kept them both.

I have two lemons that need to be used. I have buttermilk but this recipe did not call for that. After deciding on this recipe I find a similar recipe using buttermilk on the back of the walnut package. Oh well, maybe next time.

I actually did a mise en place. Even chopping the walnuts and zesting the lemon before starting to make the batter. Highly unusual for me with baking in that I always assume that I have everything I need.

This is a tasty and moist bread. It is very nice to have with morning coffee. It would be nice with afternoon tea.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk; I used vanilla almond milk.
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel; I zested one medium sized lemon and juiced it for the lemon glaze (see below).

Put butter, sugar, and eggs in the mixer bowl and beat for one minute at speed 6. I was amazed at how this higher speed creamed everything together so much nicer that using the lower speeds. Combine dry ingredients and add alternating with the milk, ending with the flour. Stir in the zest and the nuts.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake at 325 F for 55-65 minutes. Brush with Lemon Glaze and cool in pan for 15 minutes; remove and cool on wire rack.

Lemon Glaze: 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 3 tablespoons sugar. The recipe says to bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until slightly thickened. Well, I put the juice and sugar in a small microwave safe bowl and nuked it for about 90 seconds in 30 second intervals. I poured this over the warm bread.

I had just read that breads and cakes made with citrus zest supposedly taste better the next day after the flavors permeate. I sent a piece to work with Hubby the next day and he reported that this is so.

Four Leaf Clover Rolls (KAF)

Today is a good baking day. It is at least 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. Saturday was an out of doors kind of day: picked up dog poo, unwrapped the camper trailer, fixed bicycles, got out the lawn chairs and table, and had lunch outside. Truth be told, Hubby did most of the work. I made the lunch and brought it outside. The poor dog; he did not know what to do with himself at first. He does not seem to like laying on the lawn or sitting on the patio. By patio, I mean a section of concrete squares that surround the basement bulkhead, nothing pretty and designed.

Again I am making something from King Arthur Flour. Their catalog comes in the mail trying to sell me all sorts of baking items and has these few recipes in it. For this recipe they want you to use an Irish-style flour and some baking papers. Well, I used whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill) and a jumbo muffin pan and two ¬†8-ounce ramekins. I used raisins because I did not have currants, and I did not toast the walnuts.

The recipe link is here: the recipe.

My ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour; I always use unbleached but differing brands.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt; I use kosher salt because I used to watch Alton Brown and i think he always used it.
  • 2 tablespoons honey; remember to spray your spoon with cooking spray first and it will slide right off; I forgot.
  • 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lukewarm tap water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1//2 cup raisins

20170226_192341860_iosThe instructions are simple and fabulous: Mix and knead all the ingredients until the dough is smooth and elastic. This took just over two minutes in the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer with the bread hook. Grease the bowl, cover, and let rise until puffy about 60-90 minutes. I let mine rest for about 75 minutes.

This makes eight large rolls so I used the jumbo muffin pan and needed two more spaces so I used two 8 ounce ramekins. I sprayed these with cooking spray.

After the first rise, gently deflate the dough. Ha! Mom always called this “punching down the dough. Divide this into 32 pieces. So divide the dough into eight pieces. I like to use a bench cutter/scraper. Cut each of those pieces into four and roll each piece into a ball and place four in each cup. Cover and let rise until they crest over the rim. (I could not find the height of the special papers that KAF was promoting so I figured 60 minutes was in between the 45-75 minutes in the recipe.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes. Mine took 27 minutes. Brush with 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, if desired. I desired. And rolls for dinner.

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I think one of these with a cup of yogurt and fruit would be a fabulous on the go breakfast too. They taste sort of like a yeasted Irish soda bread with a touch of whole wheat. Gotta be healthy, right?

Cranberry-Pecan Quick Bread

This turned out to be a bit of a labor intensive “quick” bread but lovely to eat. But first a few thoughts.

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Clearly, this is not a picture of the bread!

We are having a major snow storm so I did not have to go to work this day. It is a wonder to be “non-essential” and yet so much expectations and pressure at work to do more with less as each day goes by.

It will be a good day to try a new recipe or bake something yummy. But I have not been too inspired lately. The political situation has taken over my brain!!

In honor of the Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl commercial celebrating immigrants I got out my Anheuser-Busch Great Food Great Beer cookbook to find something to make. I could cook or bake. There are some great recipes in there! But I did not have one or two essential ingredients for some of the main dishes. What? You say. When did that ever stop you? What can I say? There was a lovely gingerbread cake recipe but it called for 1 1/2 cups of butter and I thought that was a lot of butter when trying to lose some weight.

So, it being winter in New England, I got out my The New England Table cookbook to find something. There’s a lovely lemon pudding cake and a cranberry-pecan quick bread. Guess which one I chose? Although I may bake the other as well. Wait and see!

I had everything for this recipe except the buttermilk. But it is so easy to make your own sour milk. And just because I had no milk doesn’t stop me either. I used diluted half-and-half. I also thought I would make it healthier by substituting half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I also toast the pecans in a dry skillet on top of the stove instead of in the oven. And I got to use my mortar and pestle to grind cardamom seeds. And that aroma was heavenly!

  • 2 cups flour; I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; this was two pods
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk; I put a teaspoon of lemon juice in the measuring cup (you can also use vinegar), added 1/3 cup half-and-half, and added water to the 2/3 cup mark
  • finely grated zest and juice of one large navel orange; I zested a fresh orange but used 1/4 cup prepared orange juice; I wanted to eat the orange for my morning snack!
  • 1 extra large egg; mine was just large
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries; oops! the recipe calls for these to be coarsely chopped; I put them in whole
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped; I did remember to chop these

The labor intensity of this quick bread comes about for toasting the pecans, grinding the cardamom seeds, and making the buttermilk. Okay, that may not sound like a lot, but I did not read the entire recipe ahead of time and so scrambled to get these things done while putting together the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter a loaf pan, standard size of 8 1/2 x 4 inches, and dust with flour. (My standard loaf pans are actually 9 x 5 inches).

Sift or whisk the first 6 dry ingredients together and set aside. Mix the egg with the sugar until it is thick and yellow. Mix the butter, buttermilk, orange zest and juice in a small bowl. (This I forgot to do and had to scramble to put these in together but not as a mixture). Blend this mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. Then add the flour just til combined. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Spread in prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. My oven took only the 55 minutes. Test bread with toothpick or cake tester.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out of pan onto wire rack to cool.

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I, of course, did not wait for this to cool completely before trying a slice. When cutting warm bread remember to hold the loaf and gently cut with a serrated bread knife.

This was yummy. Not so good for a reduced calorie count for snacking as it is hard to eat just one slice!

Just because baking is a science, doesn’t mean that substitution and innovation results in disaster. Once you know how to bake you can have the confidence to change things up a bit. That may be ingredients but also technique. Happy baking to all!

Everyday Table Bread…

On this cold New England winter-ish day, I bake bread. I also made a nice supper in the crock pot. Tomorrow I may even bake cookies.

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I sat at my kitchen table early this morning and wrote out my Christmas cards. Hubby has put the wreath on the front door and we play Christmas music. I have been looking at my cookbooks, not in them, just at them wondering about doing any Christmas baking. We did purchase Red and Green M&Ms so that is Christmas-y! We take the dog to a dog park. It is not crowded and is in a wooded area. Leo (our new old dog) is great. There was one other dog and Leo put up with the puppy’s antics. We also stopped at the Home Depot to buy a kitchen trash can with a lid because “you know who” thinks “dumpster diving” is productive daytime activity!

Back to bread. I have made this bread before but don’t remember how long ago. It has good stuff in it like cornmeal and oats. It is from the Soulard Market cookbook.

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast; I use 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 2-3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • rolled oats

In the large mixer bowl, I combine the first five ingredients. In a glass quart measuring bowl I put the water, butter, and molasses. I microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, 30 seconds at a time, until the mixture is about 125 degrees F. Between 120 and 125 was close enough for me. Stir that into the flour mixture. Add enough of the all-purpose flour to make a stiff dough. I then kneaded this with my bread hook for 5 minutes.The dough was not very stiff so I kneaded in about 1/2 cup more white flour. Still none to stiff but I did not want it to be too dry so I pushed the dough around the bowl while I sprayed with cooking spray so it would rise in a greased bowl. Cover this with a tea towel and let rise until double. In just one hour it had reached the top of the mixing bowl.

In reading the recipe it says to punch dough down and shape into round loaves. I don’t remember ¬†these as being free form loaves, so I spray my two loaf pans and shape into loaves. Now let these rise for another hour or so.

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These have risen above the rims.

These are nicely risen. Make an egg wash with the egg and tablespoon of water. Brush this on top and sprinkle oats on top. Bake in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes. If making round loaves check after 35 minutes for doneness (is that a word?).

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A good and hearty bread.

Questions:

  • Why does my bread not stay as high and risen as before baking?
  • Do I use too much yeast?
  • Did brushing on the egg wash deflate them?

I suppose I could call the baking hotline or I’ll just internet search it. I could even look in some of my bread-baking cookbooks. Meanwhile we enjoyed this bread with supper and then for toast at breakfast.

 

 

Thoughts from my Kitchen

I had a fabulous baking weekend. Well, on Saturday I roasted a big chicken, with Mediterranean vegetables. Yum! I was so tired after winterizing the trailer which included arguing about how to drain all the plumbing properly and running off to the store to buy more RV/Marine antifreeze to be effective that I did not want to make anything else. Wow! That is a run-on sentence if I ever wrote one! As I write this we are waiting for all the little goblins and ghouls to show up to beg for the $20 worth of candies I bought. Then I will turn off the porch light and relax.

After a tiring first half of the weekend I set to work in the kitchen. First I did a bit of cleaning and then got out the sourdough starter to make rolls. I used a recipe that looked good and as luck would have it I had powdered milk and potato flour. If you don’t have these ingredients there are plenty of other sourdough bread and rolls recipes. I had fed the starter the day before so I figured it would be just fine. I let it set out for the entire morning of the day I made the dough:¬†sourdough dinner rolls¬†from King Arthur Flour. This makes two pans of eight. Here is the one for the future!

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I have found the chocolate cake recipe that bests the  Best Ever Chocolate Cake. I hang my head in shame as I write these words. I had to look again and again at the ingredient list to note the differences.Best Ever uses 1/2 cup more flour and twice the baking soda. I looked into the explanation of using baking soda in cakes in the book BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. She explains that 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is sufficient for each cup of flour. The new best chocolate cake recipe rises nicely and even has better body than Best Ever.

So what is this rogue recipe that has come to shake up my baking world? It is basically King Arthur Flour’s version of Texas Sheet Cake baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I found this in their sales catalog/flyer that arrives by the post ever so often:¬†King Arthur Flours Favorite Fudge Cake. And its not just because of the fudge frosting, although that makes it awesome!

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I actually followed both of the recipes exactly although I don’t always use KAF products.

I am not advertising for them; I just recently got their flyer and was organizing recipes for my recipe notebooks. And these were two of the ones I had marked to try.