Beyond Easy Recipe For Fresh, Hot Bread

bread-and-jam

I love this recipe, it is so easy. I was looking for a slow rise bread – they are thought to be easier to digest for people who have trouble with yeast or gluten sensitivities. And it has the added advantage of being super easy and almost fool-proof to make. Instant yeast is a must here, because the idea behind the slow rise is that the yeast has time fully flavor the bread and become more easily digestible.

Crusty Slow-Rise Bread

  • 5 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (instant is important)
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (about 95 degrees F)

Add yeast to water and allow to proof for about 1 minute. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Let rest uncovered for 5 minutes.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for two minutes. The dough should be smooth, tacky, not dry or sticky. Adjust by adding flour and water as needed.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to four days.

It makes two loaves. If you’d like to make loaves separately, you can divide into to equal pieces, cover and refrigerate separately.

To bake:

Two hours before baking, remove from the refrigerator. Shape into desired loaf, spray lightly with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise about 90 minutes until it’s increased 1 ½ times its original size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and remove plastic from bread. Just before baking, score with three slices across the bread with a sharp knife. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in hot oven. I add sesame seeds on the baking sheet and place the loaf on that so it doesn’t stick and has a nice sesame seed crust.

Add a tray of ice to a baking sheet and place on the rack underneath the bread to create a steam bath for the bread.  This will give you a crispy, chewy crust.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the bread reaches and internal temperature of 200 degrees F.  For crisper crust, turn off the oven and leave the bread in an additional 5 minutes.

Remove to a bread board and let cool for 45 minutes (ok, seriously, if you can wait that long, you’re a better person than I – I’ve scorched my fingers more than once sneaking a fresh hot slice).



 

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Snow Is Gonna Fly So It’s a Cream of Chicken Soup Night

Cream of Chicken Soup2

They are predicting a quick hitting snow storm for tonight and tomorrow with some locations having blizzard-like conditions. Seemed like a good time to make a batch of soup.

Because I have a vita-mix,  most of the soups I make start with a thick vegetable broth. It gives a great depth of flavor. It’s also chocked full of nutrients and anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t eat enough vegetables, so I do what I can to up my daily veggies. But you may not want to go to that trouble, so you can substitute 4 cups of chicken broth for the vegetable broth in the recipe below.

Cream of Chicken Soup

Stock:

  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves), rough chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, rough chopped (or frozen sliced)
  • 1 cup cut green beans (I use frozen)
  • 4 cups of water

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  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless, doesn’t matter it will be shredded)

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  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk

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  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

small saucepan, dutch oven or large saucepan, blender

Stock: In the blender, add rough chopped carrots, celery and green beans, spices, 2 cups of water and blend until smooth. Add to dutch oven or saucepan.

Add chicken breasts and 2 additional cups of water to the saucepan. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Add diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the liquid and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in the saucepan, add onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes or more. Turn the heat up to medium-high, slowly stir in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. The easiest way to do this is to use two forks and pull across the grain of the meat in different directions. You can then use your fingers to break apart any large pieces.

Once the vegetables are tender crisp, whisk in the white sauce and then stir in the chicken. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.

Makes about 6 cups.

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Holiday Gifts Ideas: Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. 🙂 I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.

festive-holiday-wreaths

 

Holiday Gift Ideas: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m busy baking for my annual gift boxes. These won’t be in them, because I”m working on two new cookie recipes I’ve never tried my hand at before. More on that later…

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie

These are pretty and very tasty.  They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or peanuts), chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Sift together salt, soda, flour and cocoa, then add to butter mixture, blending well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack.

cropped-flower_poinsettia_d2.jpg

Originally posted Nov 2011

Thanksgiving Files: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

In preparation for next week, I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite Thanksgiving ideas. Also, to see all of them, click on this link: Thanksgiving Files.

This is by far the most requested dessert I make.  This time of year every dinner I attend, this is what I am asked to bring. I’ll be making two tonight to take to various get-togethers  this week.  Easy, easy, easy and foolproof, but always a beautiful presentation.  If you’re looking to wow, try this one.  From 2009:

Cranberries are on sale!  Buy them now, because I’ve got some great cranberry recipes coming up.  I’m starting with this one, because if you’re going to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, this is the dish to take.  It’s pretty to look at and it’s both sweet and tangy, perfect after a big dinner.  You’ll wow everyone with it and it’s foolproof to make.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, chopped*
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange zest (rind)
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk

Topping

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp orange juice (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp butter, softened

8×8 glass baking dish & mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350°

Melt 3 tbsp of butter and pour into baking dish, spread to cover bottom and up the sides. Add ½ cup sugar, mix with butter on bottom of pan. Add cranberries & walnuts, spread over bottom of pan. Cream remaining butter & sugar, add vanilla, egg, orange zest, mix well. Add flour, baking powder & milk, mix until well blended, don’t over mix. Pour batter over cranberry mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and center bounces back at the touch. Invert on plate. Let cool.

Topping: Mix together butter, orange juice & powdered sugar, pour over cake and serve.

* if you don’t have a food processor, you can leave cranberries whole.

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Thursday Recipe Exchange: Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Finally got down to some cooking. I started the week out with Pumpkin Squares (recipe here), a real favorite with everyone, so a big pan goes pretty quickly. Then it was on to a good spicy pumpkin cookie, the featured recipe tonight. The photo shows both a crumble topping and a cream cheese frosting, but since I really preferred the crumble topping, that’s what I included in the recipe. These freeze well, so they can travel to Thanksgiving dinner with family.

I really wanted to make a Pumpkin Bundt Cake this year, so I went searching for recipes and adapted one to use buttermilk, click here, which I thought created a very moist, flavorful cake.

And finally, Pumpkin Cream Pie with a brown sugar whipped cream topping, which I am really enjoying at Thanksgiving instead of the traditional custard pumpkin pie. Pictures and recipe here. I’ll probably make it again this year.

For the pet lovers, Bixby update is here. He’s five months old this week and a wild thing. And as I was writing this, JeffreyW put up some adorable photos of shelter puppies in sweaters, click here. Please keep your squeals to a minimum.

Now it’s your turn. Are you a fan of pumpkin? I know it can be one of those ingredients that inspires a very strong response, either positive or negative. What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or product this time of year? If not pumpkin, what treat really puts you in a fall mood?

Tonight’s recipe:

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Cookies

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice

Cream together butter and sugar; add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together dry ingredients and slowly mix into pumpkin mixture and mix until well combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then drop by spoonful on a baking sheet. Top with crumble topping, pressing gently into the dough. Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to bake.

Bake for 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 2 dozen

Topping

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly

That’s it for this week. Stay warm – TaMara

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Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Cake Slices

This was a much more successful pumpkin recipe. Very moist, very flavorful And if you’re creative, you can make it look like a pumpkin. Because I’m at high altitude, I should have remembered to add 2 tbsp extra flour. Next time.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

  • 2-1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp buttermilk powder
  • 3 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup water

Icing:

  • 1 -1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk (more or less as needed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

bowls, bundt pan

Butter and flour bundt pan generously. In bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes), add eggs, beat 1 minute. Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat on low until incorporated, scraping sides frequently. Alternate adding the flour mixture and water until all are incorporated with the pumpkin mixture and batter is smooth.

Spoon into the bundt pan and gently tap pan on the counter to remove any bubbles and even out the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert on a plate and remove from bundt pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

Icing:  Add vanilla to powdered sugar  and then slowly add milk until mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over cooled cake. (I added yellow and red food coloring for some Halloween fun)

 

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Pumpkin Squares Revisted

I make these every year and they disappear quickly. This year was no different. Not all my pumpkin creations are a success. Playing around with an oatmeal pumpkin cookie, I came up with an inedible concoction. Luckily Bixby and his playmates were not quite so discerning, so it wasn’t a complete waste of ingredients. I was glad to whip a batch of squares up after that to restore my faith in my own cooking.

Pumpkin Squares

Cake:

  •  4 eggs
  • 1-2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil or butter
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice (less if desired, I like them spicy)

mixing bowl & 13×9 baking dish, greased

Beat eggs, sugar, butter & pumpkin together, add dry ingredients, mixing well. Spread into baking dish, bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cool & frost (frosting below). These are rich, so I would cut them into at least 24 squares.

Frosting

  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups powdered sugar

mixing bowl

Mix together cream cheese, sugar & vanilla. Mix until smooth.

You can frost & freeze in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Enjoy.

 

Originally posted 10/2011

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