Monday, February 24, 2014

Big Restaurant Copy Cat Bread

What is it about those wheat-y- molasses-y- sugary breads they have in big chain restaurants- normally steak house type deals, that taste so freaking good?  Give me a beer, some cheese and one of those loaves (okay, maybe two) and I would be in my glory- best meal ever.

This bread comes pretty darn close.  It's real good.  But me thinks, some more attempts are in order.  Eh hem, not because its bad, mind you or less than, but because its good. Practice makes perfect, don't yah know.

Big Restaurant Copy Cat Bread
Printable here.

3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/8 cup all purpose flour (or more as needed)
3/8 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp yeast (1/2 packet)
1/2 tablespoon oil
egg white for brushing loaves
oats for sprinkling

    Dissolve the instant coffee in water. Add sugar, stir in and sprinkle yeast over top and let bubble. Add cocoa, molasses, salt, and oil. Add the flours and knead or beat with dough hook in a stand mixer. Continue adding flour by tablespoons and beating until dough pulls away from the bowl. 
    This is a wet dough so you want it sticky but manageable. You can spray your hands with cooking spray or rub a little oil on your hands to take it out of mixing bowl and into an oiled bowl.  Allow dough to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. 
    Shape into rolls or loaf. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Allow to rise- about 45 minutes.

    Bake at 350°F 20-35 minutes (time varies depending on the size of the roll/loaf). To tell if it's done pick it up and thump the underside it will sound hollow when it's finished. Or stick a meat thermometer in there.  You are looking for an internal temp of 190°F.

      Saturday, February 22, 2014

      Crescent Roll Dough- Skip the canned stuff

      I'd love to show you the finished product here.  It was dark when they were done baking and they were gobbled up like nobody's business. But I can share with you the beginning stages and later on, when I make them again, because I definitely will, I will share a photo of the end product.

      Crescent Roll Dough
      Printable here.

      3 cups flour
      1 teaspoon baking powder
      2 teaspoons yeast
      1 teaspoon salt
      8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
      1 1/2 cups ricotta (part skim or whole)

      In the mixing bowl of a food processor (you can certainly do this by hand in a regular bowl with a pastry blender or fork) combine the flour, baking powder, yeast and salt.  Close the lid and begin to spin.  Add in pieces of butter until dough is crumbly like pea meal. Add in 1 1/2 cups of ricotta.  (Next time, I am going to use cottage cheese- just for a lighter dough, eh hem, as light as it can be considering all the butter in these babies). Mix it only until it comes together.  Empty out onto a floured surface and flatten into a rectangle.

      Fold the sides of the rectangle in like you would a business letter, trifold.  Flatten a bit again and repeat the folds.  Flatten a little, cut in half.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (for an hour and up to 24 hours).  You can freeze this dough if you like at this stage.

      Once you remove the dough from the refrigerator, Roll out and make crescents or use to make a calzone or like you would for any recipe calling for "canned" crescent rolls.  Voila.  From scratch. Minus preservatives and chemicals.
      Broccoli, Ham and Cheese calzones.

      Tuesday, February 18, 2014

      Lavender Bath Salts

      Not for eating, just for the bath. Though, you can make it for the kitchen if you just replace the Epsom salt for Kosher salt and use mint leaves and food grade lavender.  I grow my own lavender so I just use that.

      Lavender Mint Bath Salts

      3 cups pf Epsom salts
      2 drops of mint essential oil
      1/2 of lavender

      Mix all together and pour into jars.  You can pretty up the jars with labels.  I used labels from The Graphics Fairy.  If you don't already know about the Graphics Fairy then, boy are you in for a treat.  She has taken many images that are not copyrighted and placed them on her blog for you to download for free.  You can manipulate the images and size them to whatever your needs are.  

      Sunday, February 16, 2014

      Stove Top Stuffing- Box Free

      How not to have processed stuffing in a box but yet have it nearly as easy*.  The hardest part here is chopping and cutting and really that does not take that long. The chopping part of time would be your trip to the store, standing in line, paying out too much money for chemicals...

      Stove Top, Not Boxed Stuffing 

      *You can prepare the crouton in advance.  Store tightly in a covered jar.  When you go to make it- it will be very quick and easy.

      Printable here.

      3 cups bread 
      3 tbsp. butter
      1 stalk celery, chopped finely
      1/2 med. onion, chopped finely
      2 cloves garlic, minced
      2 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
      1/2 tsp. sage
      1/4 tsp. marjoram
      1/8 tsp. pepper
      1 to 1 1/4 cups boiling chicken stock or any kind of stock

      Cut bread into cubes.  Place the cubes on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so, until golden.  Let cool.

      Bring stock to boil in a medium sized soup pot or sauce pan. Add in butter, dry seasonings, celery, garlic and onion.  Let simmer until the vegetables are softened.  Dump in the croĆ»tons. Remove from heat. Stir to mix and cover.  Let sit 5 minutes or so before serving.

      Friday, February 14, 2014

      Happy Valentines Day

      In the spirit of the quote from Mahatma Gandhi... "Be the change you want to see in the world."  I decided to send my daughter off to school with Valentines that look like these.

      The apple says, "You are the apple of my eye".

      The banana says, "I go bananas over you."

      The "cutie" says, "You are such a cutie."

      She was pretty jazzed about it because she said her teacher would appreciate the nutrition and the effort.

      Don't get me wrong a candy once in a while is okay but, geez, candy comes at the kids from every angle and too much sugar... all those chemicals... nuff said.

      40 Free Valentine's Day Images
      I will end with this saying that my Mom loves to say about a kiss.  Maybe its from the dictionary, I don't know but it just tickles all of us when she says it.

      "A kiss is a juxtaposition of 2 orbicular muscles in a state of contraction."


      Wednesday, February 12, 2014

      Pumpkin Bagels

       What do you do when you have some time on your hands, some canned pumpkin that you got for a good price (lots of it) and cold weather to make you want to bake to heat the house a little.... You make bagels of course, well, that is, if you are a baking bread fiend like me.

      Ah, but that kinda crazy has its own rewards.  Fresh baked bread.  Do you smell it?  Pumpkin pie spice warming in your oven.  The intoxicating smell of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg...

      In an effort to incorporate more and more grains I added a bit of wheat and of course the pumpkin has lots of fiber, so its a pretty decent bagel to eat health wise.  That is if you don't slather heaping mounds of cream cheese on top.  Oh, that wouldn't be any fun now would it?  Oh, but seriously my new bff is Greek Cream Cheese- made from yogurt, a bit less calories 60 to 70 per ounce rather than the usual 100.  And the flavor and texture is yummy.
       I am probably not the best shaper of bagels
      But I did improve a little.

      Pumpkin Bagels
      Makes 19 fairly big bagels- the kind you see at the store. I froze some of them- an instant treat for later.
      Printable here.

      5 1/2 cups bread flour
      1 cup whole wheat flour
      1 cup pumpkin
      2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
      1/2 tablespoon salt
      1/3 cup brown sugar
      4 teaspoons yeast or 2 packets
      2 cups water (give or take depending on humidity)

      1 tablespoon baking soda
      2 quarts water

      In a large bowl or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer combine a 1/2 cup water, the sugar and yeast.  Let sit about 10 minutes.  Add the flours, salt, spice, pumpkin and 1 1/2 cups water and begin to mix.  Add in water a little addition at a time.  You want the dough to be soft and supple.  Not hard or too sticky.  Err on the side of sticky.  Mix for about 3 minutes.  Turn out onto counter and begin to knead using flour as needed so it does not stick, but use sparingly.  You know it is done when the dough is soft and smooth, only slightly tacky.  Place in a bowl with a little oil.  Turn dough ball to coat.

      Let rise until doubled - about an hour. When close to being done with the rising, place 2 quarts of water in a soup pot and bring to a boil (you want to time it so by the time you start making your bagels you can drop them in the water).  Add in the baking soda.  It will bubble a little.  It will stop quickly. Stir.

      Preheat oven to 450F.

      Remove dough and fold down.  Make 18- 20 dough balls.  Poke finger through the middle of the ball and widen the whole to form the classic bagel ring.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.  (Because of the wetness and the baking soda thing, they tend to stick, so, you really need the parchment.)

      Place formed bagel rings on a dampened towel.  Add about four bagels to the boiling water, about one minute on each side. Remove from water, shaking excess water off the bagel and place on prepared baking sheet.

      Bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove and place on cooling rack.  If you freeze them, make sure they are completely cool before doing so.

      Sunday, February 9, 2014

      Mexican Style Casserole

      I was digging through my freezer for chorizo and I thought I found it.  Lo and and behold, it was a long forgotten stick of chorizo- USE BY DATE of 2008.  Ugh!  I threw it out.  It probably would have been fine but it was not worth the risk.  So, I grabbed a few sausage sticks of andouille. Worked rather well- tasty and delicious with a little heat.

      If you have some leftovers then this casserole will come together in a snap.  First, a layer of brown rice mixed with enchilada sauce.  I had a pretty big casserole dish so there is about five cups of rice there.  You want it a little soupy because the rice will absorb some of the liquid from the sauce as it bakes.
      Next, a layer of fried peppers and onions, sprinkle some asiago or queso fresco over that and then sprinkle on your beans.
      Next, fry the sausage in a pan.  This makes it a little more flavor because it browns but also you get rid of some of the grease by frying it and then laying it on paper towels.
      And then, of course, a little cheddar sprinkled over the top.  Covered and baked in a 350F oven for about an hour.

      Remove from the oven and voila, deliciousness.  If you like sprinkle a little cilantro over top- even better.

      Friday, February 7, 2014

      San Francisco Style Sour Dough Bread

      Another attempt at making good sour dough bread.

      Getting use to my starter and how to to use it has been a bit of a journey.  A journey that continues.  I have read much about it.  I feel a little more comfortable.  My bread is not as sour tasting as I would like.  Or as light as I would like it to be.

      One thing that stands in my way I think, is rising times.  Without yeast, the dough has longer rising times.  These longer rising times are what helps to give it flavor.  I have not timed it very well so far.  This boule is one of my best so far though it does have yeast. 

      Here are some articles I have found helpful regarding sour dough bread:

      Sour Dough Bread at Pinch My Salt
      Sour Dough Bread at Instructables
      Sour Dough Bread at Wikipedia

      This recipe below attracted me because of the name.  However, if you read about sour dough bread- you can't really have San Francisco sour dough bread unless you live in San Francisco. Why?  Because the bacteria that lives there probably doesn't reside in your area. (It even has its own name). If you know about sour dough bread you already know about what I am talking about. If you don't know about sour dough bread then that is one of the many things you can learn about sour dough bread.  One of the variables...

      San Francisco Style Sour Dough Bread
      Adapted from this recipe here at Allrecipes.

      Printable version here.

      4 3/4 cups bread flour
      3 tablespoons white sugar
      2 1/2 teaspoons salt
      1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
      1 cup warm milk
      2 tablespoons butter, room temp
      1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
      1 extra large egg
      1 tablespoon water

      In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add milk and softened butter. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, adding more or less depending on how humid it is.

      Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Fold dough over itself as you knead- folding in from the left and right and top and bottom. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.

      Fold in on itself a few times, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Slice with a knife ( I coat my knife with grease so it does not get stuck in the bread and pulls through easily).

      Brush egg wash over tops of loaves.

      Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, or till done (internal temp about 190F).

      Monday, February 3, 2014

      Rainbow Cake

      This year I asked the girls what kind of cake they wanted rather than what shape they wanted.  One wanted the cookie cake that was posted here a few weeks ago.  The other one, and yes, they both are January babies, wanted rainbow cake.  After seeing this cake on Pinterest a few hundred times, I was curious.  My daughter actually had seen it on Pinterest while I was scrolling around.  I was very happy to make it.  It was a lot of messing around but totally worth it.

      I just love how pretty it looks with all of its color.

      My daughters just loved it.

      I will say that the white cake that was used for a base was awesome.  I will be making it again sans food coloring.

      Rainbow Cake
      Printable here.


      3 cups flour
      4 teaspoons baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 sticks (1 cup; 8 ounces) butter
      2 1/3 cup sugar
      5 large egg whites
      2 teaspoons pure vanilla
      1 1/2 cups milk, room temp

      Equipment Needed:

      9 inch round cake pans, preferably six, I did 5 layers
      food coloring, spanning the rainbow
      parchment paper

      Prepare pans, lining bottom with cooking spray and parchment. Preheat oven to 350F.

      In a small bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.

      In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat about five minutes- until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg whites and combine completely.  Add in vanilla.  Add in milk and flour in two parts, ending with the dry ingredients.

      Divide into bowls.  Mix in food coloring into each bowl.  Pour into prepared pan.  Reusing pans if you dont have enough for all the colors.

      Bake for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending if you divided the batter into five or six pans.  Let cool five minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  Let cool completely then frost.

      I was in a hurry so I kind of had a quick frosting, which is kind of too bad.  Would have been really stellar with some good frosting.  The cake is outstanding.  I will definitely be making plain white cake using this recipe.