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.
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.
The culinary world is one traditionally dominated by men. In most families, however, it is the women who take charge of nourishing their families. Growing up, I guess I had the best of both worlds. I have fond memories of both my grandma and my uncle cooking away in the kitchen. My grandma never cooked with a recipe. To this day, I still have no idea how she made her gingerbread and sadly, she is no longer around to ask. My uncle, however, is still around and has passed on some recipes to me. One such recipe is his apple praline bread. I’m not sure where this recipe comes from but I know he adapted it from its original form. When I went to make this, I made a few changes of my own. For one, I decided to make it into muffins. For another, I replaced the sour cream with plain yogurt. I also played around with the amount of apples and pecans. My uncle also cuts his apples into rather large pieces. I wanted smaller pieces. Partly because they needed to be smaller since they wouldn’t bake as long as a muffin and partly because I wanted them more evenly distributed within the muffin.
The result is a moist, if a bit dense (though not unpleasantly so), muffin. Although there is definitely a difference in texture between the muffins and the apples, the apple all but disappeared in the muffin. I don’t, however, find this a bad attribute. On the contrary, it seems to work, although next time I will probably add more apple. I topped each muffin with a sugar-coated pecan (I told you they’d turn up again!) but I think next time I will mix pecan pieces right in with the glaze. I think this will give it a more praline taste to them. As for the glaze itself, I used the same amounts for the bread but found I needed a bit more. I will give the amounts I used, but I would add an extra half of the amounts if I were to make it again. The glaze really makes the muffins — so no skimping!
I really liked this bread as a muffin. They are a very pleasant treat. Despite the apple they don’t have a particular fall feel to them, making them good year-around. The yogurt gives it some nutrition and boosts it up to a snack you can feel pretty good about. It was delicious with milk for breakfast. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to last around here much longer.
That’s okay though…there’s always another muffin to be baked.
Apple Praline Muffins
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups tart apple, peeled and chopped (I used granny smith and will probably use 2 cups next time)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
14 pecan halves (preferably sugar-coated)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray 14 muffin cups.
In a mixing bowl, beat together white sugar, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla on low until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir this into the yogurt mixture until just barely mixed. Add in the apples and pecan pieces and gently stir in.
Divide batter among the 14 prepared muffin cups and bake for about 2o minutes. When they are done, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes. After that, remove muffins from the cups and rest on the rack.
While the muffins continue to cool, melt the butter and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and let come to a boil. Boil for one minute. After a minute, spoon the mixture over each muffin. Top with a pecan half.
Alternately, you can add another 1/4-1/2 cup of pecans to the butter-brown sugar mixture before pouring over muffins.
If you’d like to make this in as one loaf, bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.
For a while now, I have been considering including different recipes other than baking ones here on The Fabulous Baker Girl. The biggest reason for this is that it will enable me to post here more often. As much as I love to bake, I just can’t do it every single day or all I’d ever eat is baked goods. Now that I say it, that wouldn’t bother me in the least, but I think my waistline might suffer.
Like it isn’t already.
I’ve come up with a great idea though. Upon looking at my vast cookbook collection, I have decided to try at least one new recipe from each of my books each week. Now if I used all of my books, it would take me about 10 years to finish so I decided to use only the books that are currently on my bookshelf and those I might get after this day. That said, it will still take me two years to cook just one recipe from each of the 104 cookbooks on my shelf each week.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, to get us started I chose a recipe from a cookbook I got over the weekend. The book is called Recipes for Hope Cookbook, Tasty Recipes from our Home to Yours. All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to benefit breast cancer awareness and research at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. It is available at local (local to me, anyway) Kroger stores for $9.99. If you happen by Kroger and see one, pick one up. Pick up two and three and share with a friend!
I found several good sounding recipes to try, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. I decided to leave it to chance and made Howie pick a number between one and 133 (the number of pages in the book). He chose 121. I turned to page 121 and found recipes for homemade marshmallows and sugar-coated pecans. Hmmm….still a tough choice. Neither were exactly the type of recipe I had wanted to kick off this new project, but I was committed to whatever page Howie had given me. And he gave me page 121…homemade marshmallows or sugar-coated pecans. I decided on the sugar-coated pecans.
This is an incredibly simple recipe. I mixed it all together in about three or four minutes (although is seemed longer since a small war was raging over whether or not we would soon be watching Yo Gabba Gabba or Maggie and the Ferocious Beast). It does take an hour to bake but the actual work part is nothing. The result is crispy, almost airy nuts that are sweet and lightly spiced. These would make great holiday gifts or a nice addition to a holiday buffet. You could even play around with the spices for another version. I’m thinking chili and cumin…I definitely think these are worth the minimal effort!
By the way…keep your eyes open. You may just see these treats resurface later in the week!
I promised you some big news so here it is. The Fabulous Baker Girl will soon be moving! I have gotten my own domain name and pretty soon you’ll be able to find me at http://www.thefabulousbakergirl.com. I am so excited about this move and I hope you’ll visit me there often. I’ll let you all know when the big move will happen so keep watching!
And now for the reminder. As I said earlier, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month so ladies…don’t forget to check yourself out! And gentleman, be sure to remind the women you love. If you are over 40, schedule a mammogram today. Breast cancer is best treated with early prevention. So go on…prevent!
And go nuts…or at least eat some!
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 pound pecan halves
1 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt (I forgot to add the salt and they are still yummy!)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy. In another large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the pecans to the egg whites. Stir to coat. Remove the nuts and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Cider and doughnuts. It’s a seasonal right of passage for so many of us. A beacon that lures us over a bridge from warm, sunny summer to the crisp, clean air of fall. And what a delicious beacon it is!
Some of my fondest memories of cider and doughnut are from Halloween. As a child, my hometown would have a Halloween parade and then we’d all congregate in the municipal parking lot waiting for the judges to announce the winners of the costume contest and eat cider and doughnuts. As an only child, the only “siblings” I had were my cousins so we’d all be together along with our parents, not really feeling the chill since we were warmed by our costumes and our slight sugar buzz.
These days you won’t find me in any costume parade but I do love a trip to the apple orchard with my family and two years ago I discovered an organization that sponsors “Apple Days”. There, you can taste test apples, watch applesauce being made and press your own cider. So yesterday we loaded the kids in the car and went to make cider!
The process is quite fun. First you visit the local farmer who is on hand to buy your apples. He has a variety on hand and it’s best to mix them up. Afterwards, you wash your apples, something the girls really enjoyed. Next, you have to grind up your apples into what is called pumice. You get a choice of a hand-crank machine or electric. We chose to do both and make the best of the experience. After that, you dump your pumice into the press, squeeze, and watch the sweet, amber liquid pour into the bucket.
Since we made our own cider, I figured we should make our own doughnuts too. I did a little research online and found a recipe for pumpkin doughnuts that I wanted to try. It comes from Food Network stars Pat and Gina Neeley. While the dough does have a lot of ingredients, many of them are just spices. The dough comes together quickly (even when you have three children helping) and easily. All you do is mix together the dry ingredients, mix together the wet ingredients, and combine. You don’t even have to roll it out. The soft, sticky dough pats out easily into the required half inch. Once there, you cut it with a round cutter, making a circle in the middle with a another smaller cutter. After that, a nice warm bath in hot oil…viola…doughnut!
The best sign of a good doughnut (or anything deep-fried) is that it isn’t oily at all. When you cook at the right temperature the oil cooks the food but any excess didn’t get absorbed into it. These doughnuts turned out perfectly. Not an ounce oily just a nice, deep brown. They were perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and drenched in a sweet maple glaze. They were exactly what you want a doughnut to be: the perfect texture, not too sweet and just, well, just delicious. Ella took one bite of them and declared them “perfect”. I had to agree. After that, it got pretty quiet. Everyone was too busy eating.
Maybe that’s the best sign of a good doughnut. Silence.
You can view the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/neelys-maple-glazed-donuts-recipe/index.html