The Fabulous Baker Girl has moved to her own domain! Please visit me at my new location at:
The Fabulous Baker Girl has moved to her own domain! Please visit me at my new location at:
I am happy to announce that The Fabulous Baker Girl will be moving to its own domain!
Beginning the week of November 16th, you can find me at http://www.thefabulousbakergirl.com. I will be celebrating the move by sharing five of my all-time favorite baking recipes and trying out two new ones that I hope become favorites. This is a not-to-be-missed week!
The new site will also have many features, like a “tips and tricks” section. I’d also like to do a weekly “Ask the Baker Girl” but that will depend on all of you! If you having pressing baking or cooking question, please ask! If I can’t answer it, I will find someone who can!
Please join me on Monday to celebrate the big move! I hope to see you there!
Thank you to WordPress for hosting me so far!
Baking bread is a very satisfying process. When you get it right. And I don’t always get it right. On the bright side, I have learned a few helpful things along the way and I would like to pass those things along to you.
The first lesson learned I like to call “The Baby Principle”. You may wonder what babies and bread have in common and I have a very good answer to that. Yeast usually needs to be proofed before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. That just means you mix it with a little warm water to “wake” it up. I also like to add a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey so the yeast has something to eat as well. This makes it very happy and your water-yeast mixture will get all bubbly and expand and smell like bread. The trick to this is getting your water the right temperature. Too cool won’t wake up the yeast and too hot (140 degrees) will kill it. You need a happy medium. Most bakers will tell you this means about 110-115 degrees. To me, it means a baby bath. I check the temperature of my water by running it over my wrist. If it’s the right temperature for a baby’s bath, it’s good for the yeast too. Hence, The Baby Principle.
For you non-parents out there…invest in a thermometer until you feel confident using your sense of touch.
Some other things I’ve learned:
* Always use yeast that is fresh. If it’s not fresh, the yeast won’t work and your bread won’t rise.
* Dough usually needs a lot of kneading so you enlist the help of the whole family.
* When the dough is ready it should be smooth and feel like your earlobe…or a baby’s bottom (another part of The Baby Principle).
* When it is time for the dough to rise, find a nice warm place. I usually turn my oven to the lowest setting while I make the dough. When it comes to temperature, I turn it off. That makes the oven nice and toasty for the dough. Another good spot is on top of the refrigerator. If you do use your oven, be sure not to turn it on while the dough is in there or all your hard work will be ruined.
* To check to see if the bread is done you can tap it. If it sounds hallow it is done. I find that taking the temperature of the loaf at the bottom is better. It should be at 190 degrees.
* As hard as it seems, do not cut the bread until it has cooled. Cutting into too soon will change the texture and make it a bit doughy
* Just be patient! Bread making isn’t that hard once you get a little practice but it is a lesson in patience. Embrace it!
The recipe I made yesterday is called 4-H Oatmeal Bread. It’s a good recipe for beginners because it’s not only delicious but also pretty easy to make. You start out by making oatmeal and then adding all your other ingredients to it. It has lots of honey in it so it is slightly sweet and when it’s warm you can even get a hint of butter. The recipe calls for the dough to only rise once, but I wasn’t happy with that so I let the dough rise again in the pans until it took the shape of the pan and has risen to just over the top. I also used a little whole wheat flour (and no one even knew!) for more nutrition.
This bread is delicious, soft, and makes good toast. I haven’t tried it on a sandwich yet, but I suspect it would work beautifully for that as well. In short, this bread is well worth the time I put into it. Besides, my girls wanted to help and it’s always nice getting to hang out with them!
Give this recipe a try and keep my tips in mind. I think you’ll be happy too.
4-H Oatmeal Bread
2 cups boiling water
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
2 packages dry active yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4-5 cups flour
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
In a large mixer bowl, pour boiling water over oatmeal. Let rest for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together water and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add the salt, honey, and melted butter to the oatmeal. Mix in the yeast mixture. Gradually add in enough flour to make a kneadable dough. Knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be elastic, smooth, and soft. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Turn dough to coat. Cover dough with a damp cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Preheat over to 325 degrees. After dough has risen, punch down and divide into two equal parts. Shape into loaves and place into two 8 X 4 loaf pans that have been sprinkled with oats. Brush loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with more oats. Bake for about 50 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.
I was making lunch for my girls the other day. I was cutting up an orange and was contemplating the perfectness of it. It has a pretty sturdy outer peel to protect the juicy insides. It is nice and round and quite portable. Inside it’s all juicy and sweet and divided up into pieces just the right size for popping into your mouth. Perfect.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the world’s perfect food come from nature. Oranges, apples, avocados, spices, and so much more. All that we need for flavor and nutrition was given to us by God in a package most perfect to them. Heck, this even applies to chocolate.
But then, I came to another realization. While all of nature’s food is perfect…not all perfect food comes from nature.
Case in point? Pimento Cheese.
Those Southerners among us will understand.
The only pimento cheese I’ve ever had is the kind that comes in a little glass jar that’s sold in the cheese section of the grocery store. I have fond memories of spreading this out on Townhouse Crackers as an after school snack. I never buy it any more because I could probably eat the whole jar by myself in one sitting. While I do really still like that stuff, I now understand that it’s not real pimento cheese. Oh no. Not even close.
I made Martha Hall Foose’s pimento cheese from her cookbook “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea”. It’s made with mayo and lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and cheese, which now that I look at that list doesn’t really seem like it would go together…but oh how it does. A perfect food…creamy and tangy and cheesy.
I guess a girl can’t live on chocolate alone.
I am now so intrigued by pimento cheese that I have begun an investigation on what to do with pimento cheese. There are oh so many applications. Pimento cheese, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
1. Spread on a cracker
2. Used in place of cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich
3. Mixed with equal parts flour, rolled out and baked into cheese straws
4. Stuffed into jalapeño peppers and baked or deep-fried into a popper
5. Rolled into a crescent roll and baked
6. Used as a sandwich spread
7. Used on a burger
8. Used as a dip for chips or pretzels
9. Added to a BLT
10. Stuffed in celery
11. Used as a veggie dip
12. Spread on a toasted English muffin or bagel
13. Used as the ham in a ham and cheese sandwich
14. Spread on a grilled chicken breast (hmmm….might be my lunch today!)
15. Spread over toasted bread and them broiled until bubbly
16. Mix with cooked bacon and use to fill a hallowed-out bread bowl, heat until bubbly, and eat with the bread from the inside of the bowl
17. And…the most obvious…just eat it by itself off a spoon
So that’s what I came up with. If anyone else has more ideas, please share. I’d love to hear them.
If you don’t than you probably have never had pimento cheese before and you need to make this recipe. Now. Go on. Enjoy.
from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose
1 cup mayonnaise (the recipe suggests homemade)
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage (I didn’t add this. I forgot.)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces Colby cheese, grated (2 cups)
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimientos, drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper sauce
In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sage, lemon juice, mustard, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce.
Add the two cheeses and pimientos, blending thoroughly to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
In the past when I have made applesauce, someone said to me, “I didn’t even know you could make homemade applesauce.”
How did we get so far away from how our food is made? How did there get to be so many steps between the farm and the table?
I suppose convenience plays a huge part. I mean, who wants to spend a Sunday afternoon peeling and chopping apples and then listening to the sound of them bubbling gently on the stove and smell the sweet aroma as it fills the house when you can got buy it at a busy, crowded store in plastic, pre-portioned containers?
Picture this: me sitting at my computer, raising my hand. Me. I want to make applesauce and spend a Sunday afternoon peeling and chopping apples and listening to them bubbling gently on the stove and smell the sweet aroma as it fills my house. Me. That’s who.
Applesauce is shockingly easy to make. You just peel some apples (although this step is considered optional by some), chop them up, and cook ’em a pot with a little bit of water and sugar (although some people think the sugar is also optional). You let this cook until the apples are mushy and look like applesauce. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
For my batch, I used a mixture of Empire and Jonagold. T here are lot of good apples for cooking with so you can pick and choose what you like. A mixture is always nice as you can get lots of different flavors in one batch. The ones I used is what happened to be available at the orchard when I was there.
Which brings me to another point I want to make about applesauce making. Be sure to get your apples at an orchard. They will be more fresh than from a grocery store and they often have utility apples for sale. Utility apples are those that are bruised or misshapen or otherwise unattractive and probably wouldn’t sell for straight up eating. They are still edible, of course, and perfect for making applesauce and much cheaper.
Here is how I made my applesauce and it was a big hit. Ella even had some for dessert last night. I guess she didn’t inherit my philosophy that fruit is fruit and chocolate is dessert. No matter…this applesauce is delicious. Dessert or not.
1 peck of apples (I used 1/2 peck Empire and 1/2 peck Jonagold)
2 cups water
2/3 cups white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
Peel the apples. Core and cut up to equal-sized pieces.
Put the apples into a big pot (mine was 7 1/4 quarts). Add water and put over medium-high heat. When apples starts to break down a bit and are easier to stir, add the sugars and mix in. Let apples continue to simmer over medium-low heat until mushy and looks like applesauce, stirring occasionally. Break-up big pieces with a potato masher. Eat warm or cold. Yum!
This makes a pretty big batch of applesauce. I kept some out and froze the rest. It can also be canned, but I’m not into canning so I can’t help you with that.
*Note: You can also add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to your applesauce when you add in the sugars. I don’t like my applesauce spiced so I omit these.
As you may remember, I have decided to choose at least one recipe from every cookbook that is on my bookshelf. This time, I chose “The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.” I’ve had this book for over 14 years. I got it as a wedding present. Or as a shower gift. Or for something else but I definitely associate it with getting married. In any case, I’ve had this cookbook for a really long time and I’ve never cooked a single thing out of it. Which makes me wonder why I still have it. Maybe it’s just a sentimental thing. I have, from time to time, used it as a reference for making soft- or hardboiled eggs. My husband uses the pancake recipe and refers to it from time to time when grilling but other than that, no real recipe has been made from this book. So, this seemed like the perfect candidate for my next new recipe.
After, admittedly, a short peruse through the recipes I came across a recipe for Mediterranean Chicken. It sounded similar to an arroz con pollo recipe that I have and love but much easier to make. I figured I had found my recipe.
Making this chicken was easy. It was a bit time consuming, but not really work. When I was taking pictures of it, it didn’t seem to look real pretty but I certainly enjoyed the smell wafting up at me. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for me. While there was nothing particularly bad about this chicken, it didn’t wow me, or anyone in my family for that matter. It was lackluster. I typically only include recipes here when I really like them and normally this isn’t a recipe that would make the cut for me. However, since I am using this as a record of all the new recipes I am trying I had to include it. Besides, as my daughter Ella says, “It’s not my favorite, but it’s okay” so maybe despite my less than glowing review, someone will still want to give it a try and find that they like it more than I do.
It could happen.
From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
1 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (I used bone-in thighs)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 ounces bulk chorizo or Italian sausage (I used hot Italian sausage), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium onions cut into wedges
3 cloves of garlic
2 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used a full teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10-ounce package of frozen peas, thawed
1 medium red or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (I used roasted red pepper)
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sliced ripe olives
Rinse and dry chicken. In a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven heat oil. Cook chicken in oil, uncovered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until lightly brown all over. Remove chicken.
In the same pan cook sausage, onion, and garlic for 8-10 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink. Remove from pan, drain grease and then return to pan. Add water, rice, bouillon, oregano, and pepper. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to pan, on top of the rice. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until chicken is nearly done, turning chicken once.
Add peas and peppers to the chicken mixture. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes more or until chicken is completely done. Gently stir in tomatoes and olives.
Makes 6 servings.
They are a classic combination. At least to me. They just go together. I mean, you need the warm, flaky biscuit to sop up all the gravy leftover from the stew. Of course, in my house you’re more likely to see a biscuit sopping up butter mixed with honey. But that’s beside the point.
When fall hits and bathing suit season gives way to something less scary, all I want to do is hunker down and curl up with my favorite blanket and a good book or look out the window at the changing colors in the trees. What better accompaniment could there be than stew?
When Erin or Prudence Pennywise (http://www.prudencepennywise.blogspot.com/) chose sweet potato biscuits for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I thought what better time to have beef stew for dinner.
My recipe for beef stew was given to me by my mother-in-law. It is my favorite kind of recipe — it is her recipe and now it is mine. If it came from a cookbook, no one knows which one. It the kind of recipe that the maker can truly claim. My copy of the recipe is scribbled on the back of another recipe in my husband’s hand. I love that. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I make it. Plus, this is really good stew. It’s warm, rich, beefy and loaded with veggies — although not rutabaga which is my mother-in-law includes.
The biscuits were a great addition with the stew. I was a bit worried that the sweetness of the sweet potatoes might not go well with it, but I worried for nothing. They weren’t overly sweet and even though I added the optional cinnamon and nutmeg, I didn’t really taste them. I could smell them while it baked though — mmmmmm….
What I loved about these biscuits is that you can make them with canned sweet potatoes. I’m not usually a fan of canned food but this makes the recipe accessible and easy. The biscuits are soft and flaky with just a hint of sweet. They were really good with our honey butter. I was wondering what they might taste like made with pumpkin. Then I wondered what they would taste like covered in chocolate gravy (see my other post). If I had any leftover, I would have tried that. Maybe next time.
You can find the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s sweet potato biscuit on Erin’s blog. The recipe for beef stew is below.
Like many recipes from the home cook, I have no real amounts here. I just add what looks right to me. You’ll have to do the same.
Seasoning salt and pepper
Stew meat (or a roast, cut up), about a pound
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1 can Campbells’ Beef Broth
2-3 cans Swanson’s Beef Broth (yes, you need both kinds)
Rutabage (if you must), chopped
Heat a bit of oil in a large pot. While it heats, season your beef with seasoning salt and pepper. Then, dredge with flour. Brown meat in the oil along with the onions and garlic.
Add in about half the can of Campbell’s broth. Be sure to scrape up all the flavorful stuff off the bottom of the pan. Let come boil until it gets thick. Add in the rest of the broth (both kinds). Reserve one can of the Swanson’s broth in case you need it later.
Let this gently simmer for an hour or two.
After at least an hour, add in the carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga (if you must). Let this simmer for about an hour more, or until veggies are nice and tender. If you think you want to thicken the broth, take out about a half of the broth now. You can also use some of the leftover broth. If you think that you need more broth, add that in now too.
When the carrots and potatoes are tender, add in peas and/or corn and let cook until heated through. Add some cornstarch to your reserved broth and then add that back into the stew, if needed. Let come to a boil and cook until desired thickness.
Serve with biscuits, of course.