The Fabulous Baker Girl

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Baked Oatmeal June 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 2:01 pm
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Ballooon Festival 2009 121It’s very unusual for me to make something and them post about it immediately.  I usually don’t have the time.  In fact, I’ve got pictures and pictures just waiting for me to blog about them.

Today, is an exception.

I am learning how to play guitar.  My teacher is the greatest.  He doesn’t expect too much of me but he also knows what I’m capable of.  The nicest thing about him, though, is that he seems interested in food and the things I bake.  Occasionally I’ll bring him a treat and in return, besides learning guitar, I get fun little tidbits of information about music, musicians, and the Buddhist origins of tea…quite interesting, but I’ll reserve it for another time.

Yesterday, he mentioned that he like oatmeal and a friend of his told him about baked oatmeal.  I had heard of this before but had never made it.  I was looking for something different — something that might sway my kids away from the Toaster Strudel (or snoodle, as they call it) that my husband bought them at the store.  I figured I’d give it a try.

I found this recipe online at about.com.  It comes from a “professional innkeeper”.   I chose it only because it was the easiest and took the least amount of time to cook.  Hey, when your a mother of three sometimes you need to lower your standards.

Luckily, this recipe turned out to be a gem.  It was just the right amount of sweet and had an interesting contrast of textures between the inside and the outside edges and bottom.  It tasted quite a lot like an oatmeal cookie only, in my opinion, even better.  I thought it was wonderfully delicious and I could definitely see this becoming a go t0 breakfast on cold winter mornings.  Or any morning, for that matter.

As for whether or not it distracted the girls from the Toaster Strudel.  In the spirit of being honest I have to say…heck no!  They are kids after all.  What kid would prefer oatmeal, baked or otherwise, over sweet, fattening, frozen pastry?  That said, my oldest said it was good and my youngest ate some.  Since she’s not quite two I take that as a success.  My middle one…well I’m lucky she eats at all so I wasn’t surprised she didn’t eat any.  She said her stomach hurt.  Likely story.

The recipe below is does have some modifications from the original.   I wanted to add a bit more nutrition by adding some ground flax seed.  I also added some cinnamon.  You can also add fruit and nuts.  I decided not too.  I figured the girls would take to it better for the first time without.  This is the full recipe but I halved it with no trouble at all.  Also, try baking in ramekins for individual portions.  I hope you enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups oatmeal

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all the ingredients together.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9-inch buttered pan.  Bake 375 degrees for 25 mintues.

Easy peasy

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Homemade Granola June 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 3:32 pm

Last year I decided to give up all processed foods.  While I was really into it and fully behind the idea that fresh is best, it was a bit too time consuming for a mom of three.  Baking homemade bagels, hot dog buns, and yogurt was fun but not exactly convenient.  I still think fresh is best but there is something to be said for quick.

One thing that I haven’t given up making homemade is granola.  That’s mostly because I made one batch back in September and I just finished it off.  I’m the only one who really eats it so it lasts a long time.  I whipped up a batch this morning.  It’s in the oven toasting as I type.

The best part about granola is that you can add the ingredients that you like.  It’s completely flexible…not to mention delicious.  I love it over yogurt.  I got the original recipe from another blog called Tammy’s recipes (www.tammysrecipes.com).  I’ve adjusted it just a bit for my own taste.  While this isn’t exactly a baked good, it’s still a nice treat to have around.  I hope you enjoy.

Homemade Granola

6 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup wheat germ

3/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup flax seeds

1 cup slivered almonds (I also added some sunflower seeds that I had just a bit left of)

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk

2/3 cup honey

Scant 2/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup dried fruit (I usually don’t put in the fruit, but this time I used currents, golden raisins, and dried blueberries)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

In a large bowl combine oats, sugar, wheat germ, coconut, flax seeds, almonds, and dry milk.

Pour in honey, oil, water, and vanilla.  Stir thoroughly.

Lightly spray two large, shallow baking sheets.  Divide granola among the pans.  Toast in oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring at least twice during cooking time.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes.  Stir.  Add dried fruit and stir again.

Store in a tightly sealed container.

 

My First Fondant-ed Cake June 11, 2009

Filed under: Cake Decorating,Cakes — amynb2008 @ 8:18 pm
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When I signed up for my cake design class, I was pretty excited.   It’s summer term and I figured this would be easy.  In some ways I was right.  There’s no homework, no studying, no big tests.  However, this class is definitely challenging.  Cake design requires a lot of practice and even more patience.  The work can be tedious but when you get it right, it’s incredibly satisfying.  It’s a great creative outlet and the more I get into it, the more I like it.

Vanilla Sponge Cake fresh from the oven

Vanilla Sponge Cake fresh from the oven

This week we worked with fondant and gum paste.  I must say, I think I have a knack for gum paste roses.  I loved the ones I made.  They are so pretty.  They aren’t finished yet but as soon as they are, I’ll be sure to post them here.

I didn’t take to the fondant quite so well.  I rolled it out and it got too dry so when I put it on my cake, it cracked.   When I took it off, it fell apart.  I won’t even talk about all the icing and crumbs. Luckily my teacher is a genius.  She helped me salvage my mess and I tried again.  I covered the cake and this time had success.  I used royal icing to make the designs.

I think the design turned out really nice.  It was a simple, clean design, not too busy.  It’s just the kind of style I like.   I  was really quite pleased with it.  And surprised too.  I wasn’t sure that cake decorating and design was my thing, but, hey, I may just change my mind.

Out of the pan

Out of the pan

I would like to say a word about the actual cake before I sign off.

I went to the craft store the other day.  I went for something that cost $2 and left after spending $40.  I don’t know how this happens to me.  One thing I picked up was a little cookbook called “Baking Day”.  It looked like it had some good recipes to try (like I need any more).  For only $5, I figured it was worth it.

It turns out this little book had a little gem.  The cake recipe I used was based on one of the recipes.  I say based because I did

Crumb coated and ready to go

Crumb coated and ready to go

make a few additions to the recipe and changed the way it was put together.  I also used all purpose flour instead of the self-rising flour that the recipe called for.  This was not deliberate.  It was a mistake on my part.  Didn’t seem to matter though.  The cake came out perfectly.

The recipe below is as I altered it — not the original.  The original recipe makes two thin 8-inch layer cakes.  I used two 6-inch pans which made the perfect height to cut in half to make four layers.  I didn’t choose to do that, but you could.

Oh…by the way, I know “fondant-ed” is not really a word.

Vanilla Sponge Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup butter, softened

Covered in fondant

Covered in fondant

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line two 6-inch cake pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  This is a small enough recipe that you can use a hand held mixer if you want.

Beat in the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time.

The final design

The final design

Add in the milk.

Pour half the batter into each of the cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Close up of the top

Close up of the top

Inside the cake

Inside the cake

 

Let’s Add Apple Crisp to the List June 8, 2009

Filed under: Crisps and Cobblers,Dessert,Dorie Greenspan,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 1:49 am
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I’ve notice that my last few entries have been a bit long.  I guess it’s no secret that I can be a little long winded.  I

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

promise that I’ll try to keep this one short.

Friday was the last day of school.  My daughter’s last day of being a second grader.  I promised myself I wouldn’t cry but as I watched her walk in the building a second grader knowing that when she came out again she’d be a third grader, I got a little bit teary eyed.  These kinds of moments are always bittersweet.  I am so in trouble when she graduates.

To celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, I asked my daughter what she wanted for dinner.

Let me tell you a little bit about her.  She loves food.  She doesn’t just like to eat.  She loves food.  She’s a huge fan of the Food Network (and is eagerly awaiting the premiere of “The Next Food Network Star” tonight).  She loves watching the Challenge shows, particularly the cake ones.  She likes the show “Chopped”.  She’s a big help in the kitchen and can even help cut up soft things.  Her favorite food is shrimp.  She  is probably the only 7-year-old I know who knows what cilantro is.  Knowing all this, I was pretty sure we weren’t going to have hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese.

And I was right.  She wanted steak, potatoes, and green beans with Apple Crisp for dessert.   She has impeccible taste.

Apple crisp is not in my usual repoitre so I had to look it up.  The first one I found was from “Baking From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan.  It was actually a cran-apple crisp but it was easy enough to throw together with ingredients that I had mostly on hand.  I left out the cranberries and just stuck with the apples.  I also added peanuts to the topping.

The recipe was straight foward: peel and slice the apples, mix with sugar and flour, stick all the topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse.  Easy peasy!

I stuck it in the oven and soon, despite it being early June, the scent of October wafted through my house.  I may not be into fruit as dessert but the scent of cooked apples is just heavenly.

The crisp finished cooking shortly after we sat down to dinner.  By the time we were ready for dessert it had cooled off enough for it to be pleasantly warm.  My husband and I usually eat our dessert after the girls go to bed in order to get maximum enjoyment our of it but as per our daughter’s request, we ate with the girls.

I took a bite and thought, “Well…this isn’t bad.”

I took another bite and thought, “Hmmm…this is pretty good.”

I took another bite and said aloud, “Hey…this is really good!”

My husband looked and me and said, “You sound surprised.”

The truth is, I was.  I wasn’t expecting it to taste so satisfying and comforting, and just plain delicious (especially since I got distracted and forgot to add the cinnamon and ginger to the topping).  I used 2 granny smith apples, 1 fuji, and 1 golden delicious.  This was a really nice combination of flavors and textures.  It wasn’t too sweet and the consistency of the thickened juice was just right.  The topping was equally nice.  It had a nice crunch to it but wasn’t so overwhelming that it took over the apples.  The peanuts, while not doing much for flavor, added a nice bit of texture here and there.  Since  I forgot to add the cinnamon and ginger to the topping when I made it, I sprinkled just a little cinnamon on top.  To be honest, I really didn’t think it needed anything else.  There was just a faint hint of the cinnamon so it wasn’t overpowering at all.

All in all, I have to say that this was a success.  I definately have to add it to my list of acceptable fruit dessert — please see “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” to see the short, but complete list.

Apple Crisp

based on the recipe for Cran-Apple Crisp from “Baking From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan

Filling:

4 medium apples (I used 2 granny smith, 1 fuji, and 1 golden delicious), peeled, cored, and sliced

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1/2 cup peanuts

1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces.

Cinnamon, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

The original recipe calls for buttering 8 ovenproof 1-cup bowls but I used one big, stone baking dish.

Toss together apples, sugar, and flour.  Pour into your baking dish(es).

Pul all of the topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms big curds.  (This can be prepared 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight bag.)  Sprinkle topping over the apples.  You will have extra of the topping.  Since I left out the cranberries, there wasn’t as much filling as in the original recipe but I didn’t adjust the amounts in the topping to this.  Next time I would.

Bake the crisp for about 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filing is bubbling away.  Let rest for a few minutes (at least 10 for individual crisps and 15 for one big one) before serving.

 

Pineapple Upside Downcake…Or Blender Cupcakes. Take your pick. June 4, 2009

Filed under: Cakes,Nigella Lawson — amynb2008 @ 3:20 pm
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Have I mentioned how much I love Nigella Lawson?  I mean, really, the woman is fearless in the kitchen.

Nigella's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Nigella's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I was perusing one of her cookbooks before making dinner the other night when I came across a recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  It looked easy enough to whip up before dinner.  I had all the ingredients.  I figured, why not?  Of course, I didn’t take into account that my husband doesn’t like pineapple upside down cake.  Oh well!  More for me.

All right, let me interrupt my story here for a moment.  I know what some of you may be thinking.  Yes…yes, I know I have said in the past that fruit is not a dessert and that if it doesn’t have chocolate, it can’t be a dessert.   I still stand by that statement but there are some clear exceptions to this rule.  Strawberry Shortcake, for instance.  And pineapple upside down cake.  I don’t know why.  That’s just the way it is.

There.  That should clear up everything.

Now…back to my story.

Between making our pork chops and gnocchi, I whipped up the cake.  I knew it looked easy, but in execution — it was even easier.  All you do, is throw all the ingredients (well…except for the pineapples and cherries) in a food processor.  That’s it.  The batter comes out all smooth and creamy and quite frankly I wanted to take that up to my room, curl up with a good book, and eat that for dinner.  But…three hungry children always brings you back to reality.

So now you see what I mean about Nigella being fearless in the kitchen.  Right?  I mean, who but Nigella uses a food processor to make a cake?  Okay maybe you don’t see what I mean… just trust me.  She is.  Fearless.

This recipe doesn’t make a lot of batter, just enough to cover up the pineapples.  It goes into a fairly hot oven which I felt made the top (wait, I mean the bottom) a bit too brown for me.  It wasn’t by any means burnt but it was well beyond golden brown.  Still, the cake was moist and spongy (in a good way) and not too sweet.  It was the perfect pairing for the pineapples.  All three of the girls liked it.  Even my husband ate a piece.  I really wanted two pieces, but restrained myself.

Normally, this would be the end of my tale.  However, it just so happened that my oldest daughter wanted to bring in a treat for her class to celebrate her birthday.  Since this is the last week of school, I needed to act fast.  My problem is this…

Wait…can you keep a secret?  I don’t want this getting out…My problem is…well, I can’t really bake cakes.  I’m just not any good at them.  I know this may seem strange since I always seem to be talking about cake but I always over mix them.  Even when I know I over mix them — I still over mix them.  It’s annoying.  I only have one recipe (God bless Martha Stewart) that always turns out.  It’s chocolate, but my daughter doesn’t really like chocolate cake (if she weren’t so much like me, we’d be in the process to see if she’s really my child) but I don’t know what else to make.

But as I look at this tasty, pineapple upside down cake…I think I’ve found my solution!

The next day, I make just the cake batter (substituting milk for the pineapple juice) and bake it up in cupcake pans.  I was so excited!  I even named them — Blender Cupcakes!  I know, they aren’t actually made in a blender, but that sounds so much better than Food Processor Cupcakes or, worse yet, Processed Cupcakes.

I couldn’t wait to see my perfect little cupcakes.  All moist and spongy (in a good way) and perfect.  Except…except they weren’t perfect at all.  They were a little weird looking, actually.  The edges seemed to have cooked and risen more quickly than the rest of the cakes and then fell over onto themselves.  I asked my teacher during my cake decorating class what the problem could have been.  She said I probably oiled my pans too much.  Curious.  Who knew you could do that?  Next time I’ll be more careful.

Luckily, the cupcakes came out tasting just as delightful as the pineapple upside down cake.  My daughter thought they were delicious — and that was without frosting.  If you don’t have children, you have no idea what a complement that is!

Of course, I did add icing later (my go-to simple buttercream, see my post “Congratulations Salli”).  I tinted it a pretty pink and swirled it on in big rosettes and then topped it off with a small bit of sprinkles.  They looked very festive and not one bit weird.  I think they will be a big hit.

When I took them in, one of the mom’s asked when Ella’s birthday is.  I told her it isn’t until summer.  She laughed and said, “Any excuse to bake!”

Should I tell her my secret?  I don’t need an excuse.

I don’t think Nigella does either.

Edited to added:  Ella told me that her class thinks I make the best cake and cupcakes…in the world!  How cool is that?  I know they are only eight and nine, but I trust that they have highly sophisticated palates when it comes to the sweet stuff.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

from “Nigella Express” by Nigella Lawson

Butter for greasing pan

2 tablespoons sugar (I actually used about 4 tablespoons of brown sugar)

6 slices canned pineapple rings (be sure to get the ones canned in juice, not syrup)

1/3 cup candied cherries (a.k.a Maraschino cherries)

2/3 cup flour

1 stick of butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons juice from canned pineapple slices

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a tarte tatin tin pan, cast-iron skillet (what I used), or a springform pan (all 8- or 9-inches).  Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan.  Top with a single layer of pineapple slices.  Fill each pineapple hole adn each space between pineapples with a cherry.

Put flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder, and baking soda into a food processor and run the motor until the batter is smooth.  Then pour in the pineapple juice to thin it a little.

Pour mixture carefully over the pineapples.  This will only just cover it, so spread it out gently.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Ease a spatula around the edge of the pan, place a plate on top and with one deft move, turn it upside down.

"Blender" Cupcakes

“Blender” Cupcakes

Amy’s “Blender” Cupcake Variation:You won’t need the pineapples, cherries, or the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Substitute milk for the pineapple juice.  Blend the flour, butter, sugar, and eggs in a food processor until smooth.  Thin out with 3 tablespoons milk.  Fill well-greased (but not too well-greased) cupcake pans with batter.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.  The original amounts will only make 6 cupcakes.  Double them for a dozen.  Triple for 18.  Quadruple for…well, I think you get the idea.

 

The History of a Happy Accident June 2, 2009

Let’s face it.  I can be pretty uptight at times.  I let myself get all stressed out about things over which I have no control.  I’m working on that.  However, there are things that just make me shudder and I feel perfectly justified in letting myself get all worked up over them and their horrible-ness.   Adam Lambert, for example.  Or when people drive sideways down parking lots instead of driving in the designated lane.  Or, whining children.

Or…the  Atkin’s Diet.  (Good grief…what was he thinking?)

Bread has a fascinating history and has been a part of the human experience since ancient times.  In fact, bread is one of the oldest foods known to man.  Yes, I know berries, seeds, and meat came first.  But bread was essentially the first food that man created.

Most likely, bread came about by accident.  Early Humans would gather wild grains,  toast them to get off the hard outer shell, and then pound them into a meal.  They would then mix the meal with water (ancient oatmeal?).  It was later discovered that when this paste was left by the fire, it turned into a type of flat bread.   Leavened bread came later when the paste was left to stand and collect wild yeast that caused the paste to ferment (again, all an accident).

Eventually, man learned to grow his own seeds and harvest his own yeast and the ancient baker was born.  For years bread was made only by master bakers and eaten by the elite because it was so expensive.  As technology developed, grains were more easily mass-milled and became more affordable to bakeries and for the first time, the home cook.  From there, it was an easy jump from complex, artisnal bread to mass-produced, squishy, flavorless bread that has found it’s way to most of our tables.  Mine included.

Few things have followed human history in quite the way bread has.  By looking at the development of bread from ancient times on, you can pretty much trace the path of human development, agriculture, technology, and sociology.  It has been a staple of our diets and the center of our social circles since ancient times.

I, for one, am glad diets like the Atkins are falling from favor.  While I agree that we should move away from mass-produced “wonder” bread and other high-carb bread products (if only my kids agreed), giving up well-made, fresh bread is just, well, it’s just plain wrong.

Wrong!

I won’t go into the reasons why bread should be a part of our balance diet, but I will say that eating a really good piece of bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter is soul-satisfying.  It fills up more than your stomach.

And if you agree with that — just think what actually baking a loaf can do for you!

One thing I love about baking is that you take a few basic ingredients and with some care, turn them into something special.  Bread is the epitome of this.  It basically consists of flour, yeast, and water but when you add a little salt, maybe a little honey and knead it all together it becomes something that engages your senses and draws people together.

If you’ve never baked your own bread, I urge you to give it a try.  The whole process is a lesson in patience, but it’s so very satisfying at the same time.  Be prepared to have to bake a few loaves before you get a feel for what to do.  Once you’ve got it, you won’t be sorry and there will be no going back.

You can find recipes all over the Internet.  I suggest trying to find one on a blog.  Those usually come with reviews so you’ll get a good idea whether or not the recipe is a good fit for you.  I also highly recommend getting a good bread baking book.  My current favorite is “Brother Juniper’s Bread Book”.  While this book offers much for the seasoned baker, it’s simple enough for the beginning baker as well.  I’ve made a few of the recipes with great success.

Bread does more than just nourish our bodies.  It feeds our souls, joins us together with a commonality, and gives us a link to our own human history.  What other food does this?  And how can you stay away from it?

Take it from me.  Don’t even try.

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book

Makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves

6 cups high-gluten bread flour

3 cups coarsely ground whole wheat flour (I just used regular whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup dark malt crystals or powder (or use equal amount of honey or 3/4 cup brown sugar)

2 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast

4 teaspoons salt, preferably sea salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

Approximately 2 cups water

Mixing and Kneading

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, and water, reserving a little water for later adjustments.  Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10-12 minutes (yes, you must do this).  The dough should be soft and elastic.  It should be tacky but not sticky and easily pressed out.

Proofing

Place the kneaded dough in a clean bowl and cover with a damp wrap.  Put in a warm place and allow 45 minutes for rising.  Allow between 1  and 1 1/2 hours if you leave the dough at room temperature.  When the dough has doubled in volume, shape into 2 equal-sized loaves by flattening each half, folding it over itself, sealing the seam and then rolling it slightly, seam side down.  Place loaves in greased 9 x 4 1/2  x 3-inch pans.  This loaf can be baked naked on top or brushed with a mild egg wash (one egg mixed with 4 cups of water) and sprinkled with sesame seeds or rolled oat.  (I used poppy seeds and wheat germ.)  Cover and let rise another 45-60 minutes or until dough crests over the top of the pan top.

Baking

Bake loaves at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until bottom when thumped yields the famous thwack sound.

Note:  I usually take my bread’s temperature.  I look for at least 190 degrees internally.  Be sure to let your bread cool for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting or it will become doughy.   Yes…I understand that’s asking a lot of you.  Just be patient, Grasshopper, and you will be rewarded.