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...