Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to "How To Bake Bread...and other homemade goodies"! I'm so glad you stopped by!

Please take some time to look at my recipes, read about my bread making adventures, and review my recommendations on kitchen products and tools.  I also like to share my gardening experiences, and as a result, you'll find lots of recipes using fresh garden produce and herbs here!  I hope you enjoy what you find and that you'll leave me a comment.

Fine print:  The recipes you find here are copywrited material.  You may re-post only with a link back here to the original recipe.  You may publish in publications with permission only.  Thank you!
(This post will remain at the top of my blog until I've decided it's not needed at the top. Smile)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We started our seed Saturday night

I’m so excited to start the garden I can hardly stand it!  Hopefully, by the end of the month we’ll be able to plant potatoes, onions and peas.  We will plant them as soon as the ground thaw and can be worked easily.  For the things we need to start indoors, we started our seed on Saturday night and got 72 pods planted.  On Sunday, we planted the other 72 pods.  We chose to use seed starting soil instead of those little pellets that expand in water.  We didn’t like the way they worked and just seemed to create garbage in our garden.  But we did re-use our Jiffy greenhouses from last year. I probably should have cleaned them out before I re-used them, huh?
Because we chose to do it THIS way we’ll probably have to transplant everything to at least 3” pots before they’ll be ready to go outside, because there isn’t very much soil in these little pods.  Here’s a picture I took as we were sowing the seeds on Saturday night and a picture that I took just about an hour ago.
I think the seed you see here are tomato seeds.

That’s cabbage coming up already!  It’s so exciting!  I’ll give you a complete list of our starter plants in a later post…I promise.  Check back later to watch the progress! Are you starting seed?
Till later,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread-Success!

I've been having a little trouble lately with my bread making and really, baking in general.  I made some bran muffins this weekend that turned out completely flat.  I was super bummed and I have no idea what went wrong.  They puffed up then fell...oh well, if I ever figure out what went wrong, I'll let you know.

So yesterday, when I baked a successful loaf with a new recipe I was super EXCITED!  This bread is soooo delicious, not to mention the amazing cinnamon aroma that fills your house while it's baking! I don't like the way the jelly roll is kind of coming apart, but I'm going to try this recipe in a smaller pan and see if that fixes that problem.

This is another Bernard Clayton recipe which I altered slightly as I do everything these days.
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 Tablespoons brown sugar (his recipe calls for honey, but I was out)
1 Tablespoon molasses (his recipe calls for brown sugar, which I actually increased)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 mini box of raisins, I would guess about 1/4 cup (Bernard calls for 1/2 cup)
1 package rapid dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature (put them in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes if they're fresh out of the fridge)
4 to 5 cups bread flour (I ended up using almost exactly 4 cups)
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 rounded teaspoons ground cinnamon (he called for 2 Tablespoons)

Grease 2 medium (8x4") loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats and boiling water.  Stir to blend, add the butter, brown sugar, molasses, salt and raisins.  Let stand for a few moments to be certain the oats have absorbed the water. 
Let the mixture cool to no more than 130 degrees F.  (That's because the rapid yeast requires that high temperature to activate it) This cooling doesn't take more than a minute or two, so keep a close eye on the temp.  This is not the time to go off and drink some coffee.
Add the yeast, eggs and 2 cups flour.  With a wooden spoon stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes, or use your mixer (mine is sad).
Work in additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time, with the spoon first and then with your hands.  Once the dough starts holding together and cleaning the sides of the bowl, turn out onto a floured surface. (I added 1 1/2 cups of flour before I had to turn it out). Knead with a strong push-turn-fold rhythm. Add more flour if the dough is slack or sticky. Knead for 8 minutes.
Put the dough in a buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Set the bowl of dough aside to rise until at least double in size, about 1 hour. I turn my oven on to the lowest temperature (for me thats 170) and as soon as the oven reaches that temperature I turn it off.  I let my dough rise in that warm oven.  It's too cold in my house to do otherwise in the winter.
Turn the dough out and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece into a rectangular shape about 8 x 12".  Spread half the melted butter over each piece.
In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar and 2 rounded teaspoons of cinnamon.  Sprinkle over butter on one rolled piece.  Repeat this step with the second piece.
Roll each piece up jelly-roll fashion.  Place in prepared loaf pans seam side down.  Press dough into corners with fingertips.
Cover the pans loosely with wax paper and set aside to rise.  The center of the dough should be just above the edge of the pan. 
Bake loaves in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for about 40 minutes.  Remove when the crusts are nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  Be careful when removing from the pans, the sugar that leaks out on the bottom will be HOT, and it will STICK to you.  Brush the tops with more melted butter and cool on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!  I know you will!
Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any ideas why my baked goods have been falling on me, I'd love to hear your theories!
Till later,
P.S. I'm really glad I choose to reduce the cinnamon...mine was plenty cinnamon-y even with the reduction. Now is the time to go drink your coffee! Mmmm! Mmmm!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

10 Things I've learned about baking bread...

10 important things I’ve learned about baking bread…

  1. A good bread making book by an expert bread maker will make a huge difference in your skills, if you read it, that is.
  2. A Kitchen Aid is a God-send when you’re learning to knead.  If your recipe says to knead your bread for 10 minutes then you can turn your kitchen aid on to a medium low speed with the dough hook on and let it work its magic for 10 minutes.  Your bread will be kneaded satisfactorily.  Check for the “baker’s window”* to see if it’s done.  Allowing the Kitchen Aid to do the kneading for me, allowed me to understand what fully kneaded bread looked and felt like.
  3. When my Kitchen Aid stopped working, I became an even better bread maker.  If you want to make a better loaf, knead by hand.  I followed the kneading advice of an expert bread maker (from his book) and found that when I knead by hand, my bread has uneven holes which is what I prefer.
  4. Start with pizza dough. You’ll be wasting fewer ingredients if you mess it up.  And you can still use it even if it doesn’t rise properly.
  5. Perfect a loaf of white bread, then attempt wheat.  Using whole wheat can be a little tricky; you’ll feel better if you ease yourself into it.
  6. Once you can REALLY bake a good loaf of white bread, you can bake dinner rolls, which is just kind of fun.
  7. Don’t give up! You CAN learn how to make a good loaf of bread with a little practice.
  8. A pan of water in the bottom of your oven during baking creates a lovely crispy crust on French and Italian breads. Spritzing the bread and the oven is totally unnecessary.
  9. Always read the recipe thoroughly, all the way to the end, BEFORE beginning.
  10. Yeast is very sensitive. 
*A baker's window is a thin window pane of dough that is created when you stretch a small handful of dough.  If the window pane is created (you can almost see through it) before the dough breaks, then you have kneaded the dough long enough.
Baking bread is very rewarding.  If you want to learn how to bake bread, buy a book and start practicing. 
Thanks for stopping by today!
This is the book I read and highly recommend!  See if your local library has it and read a bit and even try a recipe before you buy.  Then you'll know it's worth adding to your own library.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spicy Ranch Beans with our own homegrown pinto beans!

Here's another recipe I developed using our homegrown pinto beans. (click to read more about our growing experience)  Watch out! These beans are spicy and addictive and unintentionally low-fat!  If you prefer a little less heat, just cut back on the jalapenos or eliminate all together, although, I wouldn't advice no heat because as the recipe states, this is a recipe for Spicy Ranch Beans.  Please enjoy and your feed back is appreciated!

Spicy Ranch Beans
Printable version
1 lb pinto beans that have been soaked and cooked in water and salt until tender. The yield from 1 lb of dry beans will be about 7-8 cups of cooked beans.  Make sure that there is at least 2 cups of cooking liquid in with the beans before proceeding with the recipe.
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 onion finely diced
2 garlic cloves finely minced
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste (if you cooked your dry beans with salt, you may not need to add more salt to the ranch beans)
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon beef base
1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons canned diced jalapeƱos (use 1-2 fresh jalapenos depending on the heat factor you desire)

Combine all ingredients with 1 cup of water in a large deep pot and cook over low heat for at least 1 hour until onions are soft.  Remove bay leaf and serve.

This is fabulous stuff and a staple in my refrigerator at all times .  I keep all three on hand, chicken, vegetable and beef bases.  Try adding a little of the vegetable base to your next stir fry for a nice low-fat yet rich addition of flavor!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Strawberrry Comfort Martini

I was making strawberry cupcakes on Saturday and was using frozen strawberries in the mix which inspired me to create this drink recipe which turned out to be better than my cupcakes!  I'm calling it the Strawberry Comfort Martini.

Strawberry Comfort Martini
Serves 2
In a blender combine:
1/2 cup semi-frozen sliced strawberries with sugar
3/4 ounce amaretto (I made my own!)
1 1/2 ounces Southern Comfort
1 cup ice
Blend until smooth.
Pour into two chilled martini glasses and top with 7-Up or gingerale. Stir and enjoy.

I imagine these will be enjoyed more this summer than in the dead of winter, but if you want to do a little summer dreaming, this strawberry comfort martini should  help!
AND it's PINK!!!

Need a stunning martini glass?  Try these Luigi Bormioli's!  Or search for others on Amazon...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The BEST Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

The BEST Crock pot Spaghetti Sauce!
I made this spaghetti sauce yesterday and right after the first bite Shawn asked me if I had written it down yet.  He's such a good husband! (It couldn't just be that he wants to make sure he gets to eat this again, could it?)  I appreciate his praise and his reminders!
This spaghetti sauce turned out spicy and as Shawn described it, the perfect blend between sweet, spicy and Italian flavorings.  It's rich and thick and SOOO easy to make!  I used to doctor up Prego, but now I'm sticking with this recipe! (At least when I can remember to put it in the crock pot first thing in the morning.)
I was able to use our own onions, garlic, and green pepper in this recipe.  I never got around to drying any of our basil this year.  The green pepper was diced and frozen in vacuum packed bags.  The garlic, I keep in a paper bag in my pantry.  The onions are kept in a box in grandma's basement where it's cool, but not cold.

The BEST Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. package of Jimmy Dean Italian Sausage
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (preferably sweet) onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 cans Italian style stewed tomatoes (I think Italian style diced tomatoes would work as well)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can  tomato paste (6 oz.)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (I recommend Ricky and Lucy's Italian Seasoning Blend, everything is grown just a few miles away from here, fresh, organic, hand picked...awesome!)
2 teaspoons dried basil (Again, use Ricky and Lucy's Basil Blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (If you don't use large grained kosher salt, start!  But if you insist on that iodized small grain stuff, you may need to reduce the salt to 1/2 - 3/4 tsp.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
When you are ready to serve, prepare some Hot Cooked Spaghetti (Ricky and Lucy's sells this too, but I've never tried it) (Don't buy cheap off brand spaghetti, the difference in taste is not worth it.  Costco sells a good one)

In a large skillet (I prefer my iron skillet for browning meat) over medium high heat, brown the sausage.  Make sure you actually brown some of it, not just cook till no longer pink.  Carmelization=Flavor
Transfer to a 5 qt. slow cooker.  Stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the hot cooked spaghetti. Break up the stewed tomatoes into bite size pieces while stirring.
Cover and cook on high for about 6 hours.  The onions should be translucent when done.  Note:  The sauce will not taste as sweet when it's finished as when you first mix it together.  Taste and adjust for seasonings as desired.  Enjoy!

Please let me know if you try this recipe and if you like it!

Click here for printable version of this recipe.