Monday, February 28, 2011

Beer Bread: Yeast Feast, Part 4

I know, I know, beer bread doesn't have yeast in it. It has beer.

But I thought I'd include it in the Yeast Feast because it falls under the category of Recipes-I've-Always-Wanted-To-Try-But-Was-Scared-To.

Now that I've whipped up a beer bread, I feel silly that I was ever afraid to try a recipe so Simple And Bound To Succeed.

For starters, there are only a few ingredients.

Then there is no rising, kneading, or anything remotely complicated. Check out how a 4 year old can make this.

Mix in a large bowl:

3 cups all-purpose flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar

Then pour in 1 (12 oz) can of beer (or other carbonated beverage). Stir.

Optional: mix in 2 tablespoons dill, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or 1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar.

Scoop the batter into a bread pan.

Pour ¼ cup melted butter on top.

Pop into the oven and bake for 50 - 55 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool before slicing.

This bread was so yummy, that Music Man has forbidden me to make it again for fear that he will devour it.

But what am I going to do with the rest of the Heineken?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Use What You Have, Part 5

When I came across the book Sock and Glove in our local library, I was charmed. Mesmerized. Completely taken.

Then a friend passed along some unwanted socks.

And look what happened: A Bird Friend

Then my younger daughter came across an idea for using empty oatmeal tubs and tree bark. It just so happens that we've got no shortage of either.

And look what happened: A Fairy House

Who knew that leaving us alone with wool socks and tree bark would give these results?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pizza Dough: Yeast Feast, Part 3

This pizza dough is so common in our house that I almost overlooked it. A friend passed it to me years ago and it's been a staple ever since.

Toss in the bread maker in this order:
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon whole flax seeds (optional)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or 1 packet)

Set the bread maker to the Dough setting and start thinking about the toppings. I usually put on some canned pizza sauce (freeze the rest in ice cube trays for the next pizza time), turkey pepperoni, sliced green peppers, and about 12 oz shredded mozzarella. Sometimes other toppings make their appearance depending on their availability and my energy level (caramelized onions, snipped fresh spinach, sliced mushrooms, chopped olives, roasted broccoli, feta cheese, or goat cheese). You can get creative here.

I should remember to make 4 personal pizzas because everyone in my family prefers different toppings, but usually I make the 2 pizzas, and personalize each half. Look out if you accidentally eat from someone else's half!

When the dough is done (about 1.5 hours later), I split the dough roughly in half and stretch it out on some cookie sheets or pizza stones into 2 circular-ish crusts. Then layer on the toppings and pop into the oven at about 400 degrees for maybe 15 minutes. Rotate the pans, see if the cheese looks good and melted, and cook for maybe 5 minutes more.

When the cheese is starting to brown on the edges and the crust is looking crusty, you're done!

Slice and enjoy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Use What You Have, Part 4

Some of you may remember that I've got a new mantra. Use What You Have!

Recently a friend suggested that we bring our extra stuff/junk/treasures and have an informal swap. The idea being - if you can't use what you have, maybe someone else can. I was excited to be getting rid of a pretty full and heavy bag of unnecessaries, when I realized I was going home with an equally full and heavy bag of someone else's.

But look how inspiring a few hunks of fabric can be!

I've been looking for a way to preserve this rare sweet-nothing that was whispered to me a few weeks ago.

If it's not beautiful, at least it's precious.

Big Baking Weekend

I'm not quite sure how this happened but before I knew it, I was baking Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies,

and another Chocolate Babka. All in one weekend.

Somebody stop me.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Yeast Feast, Part 2

Just the thought of cinnamon raisin toast sends me back to fun, family vacations at the lake during my childhood, so when I came upon this recipe for cinnamon raisin swirl bread that claimed to be simple, I just had to give it a try. Plus, as I scrolled down and saw the ingredients, I noticed whole wheat flour, an added nutritional bonus for me, who considers white flour to be dessert.

Once again, the bread maker comes to the rescue. That thing may just be earning a permanent spot on my counters these days.

Dump into the bread maker, in this order:

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 1/2 cup oil or melted butter
  • 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast

When dough cycle is finished, take dough out and roll out into a rectangle. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with raisins, if desired.

Roll up dough and tuck ends under. Place in a greased bread pan and cover and let rise in a warm place for 20-45 minutes (until doubled).

At the last second, I decided to cut off the uneven ends and pop them in the oven as cinnamon rolls.

Clever, I thought, until I heard a chorus of "Where's the frosting?" Shaped as a bun, this dough does beg for some simple glaze, but sliced as bread, it's beautiful with butter and tea.

Anyway, bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Next time, I will adjust the bake time though, maybe to 35 or even 40 minutes.

Despite being golden on top and brownish on the bottom, the inside was too moist and doughy for my taste. That might also explain why the loaf sunk a bit when we cut into it.

That, and not waiting till it was completely cool. That not-waiting seems to be a common problem for us.

I love how this bread brings back all the memories of breakfasts at the lake, without tracking in all that sand.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh, boy. She made Babka. Yeast Feast, Part 1

I've recently broken free of my fear of yeast. It's really not that hard to do. My secrets are 1) get ahold of some great recipes and 2) use the bread maker. Is that cheating? Oh, well.

The latest yeast venture was an amazing Chocolate Babka. I'm not exactly sure what a Babka is, but it's really fun to say, super fun to smell, and even more fun to eat. Actually, they say Babka is a sweet yeast cake eaten around Hanukkah. I'm ignoring that Hanukkah was about 2 months ago.

Here's the recipe (modified from Cooking Light, December 2009, yes, I've been meaning to make this for over 2 years now):

Put in the bread maker, in this order:
3/4 cup warm 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons butter, almost melted
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 2/3 cups white flour
1 1/4 cup bread flour
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
Set the bread maker to the Dough setting and, for the next 1 hour and 28 minutes, feel very proud of yourself for making something inexpensive, ethnic, and scrumptious.

Meanwhile you can get the filling ready. Toss together in a small bowl:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or mini chocolate chips)

When your bread maker is done mixing the dough, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 16 inch square-ish shape. Sprinkle the filling on the dough to within 1/4 inch of the border.

Roll up tightly and pinch the edges to seal.

Then take the dough in both hands and twist like it's a wet towel, but not that strongly. Twist a few times along the length of the roll.

Place in a greased 9x5 inch bread pan (put parchment paper on the bottom and you'll feel especially proud of yourself when the babka comes out of the pan later). The roll will be too long, but that's OK, just tuck the ends to the side and fantasize about how interesting the marble will be inside.

Cover and let this rise for 45 minutes or so. *OR* Cover and place in the fridge overnight. The next day, let the bread dough come to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. The original recipe calls for spreading a streusel on top (2 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon softened butter, all mixed together), but I was not in love with this and will probably omit this next time.

Pop the pan in the oven for 40 minutes or until the bread is starting to brown and it seems hollow when you tap it.

Cool completely before serving.

We cut into it too soon and the chocolate oozed out. The oozing chocolate was so decadent that Music Man actually said "I think this bread is illegal."

All of us loved this bread. However, I'm tempted to try it with different fillings. Cinnamon and raisin comes to mind. Or peanut butter and jam. Peanut butter and chocolate. Nutella. Oh, boy. I may have to make this right now.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trash-free lunches, with a side of granola bar

About halfway through this Year of the Boxed Lunch, fell Christmas. And one of my main issues with Christmas is the trash. Have you ever driven through the neighborhood on trash day after Christmas and noticed the mounds and mounds of stuff people through out after the holiday? Mostly packaging.

Well, I started to see a box full of granola bars as a box full of trash with a little granola thrown in. And I got to thinking. How hard could it be to make my own granola bars? That would probably be cheaper and for sure produce way less trash. Then I remembered my trusty Super Baby Foods book by Ruth Yaron.

What follows is a variation of her recipe for Granola Balls.

1 1/2 cup rolled oats (oatmeal)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground nuts (I use peanut butter)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
5 tablespoons honey
1 beaten egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (normally I use raisins or cranberries, but this time I must have been feeling tropical because I used dried mango and a handful of coconut)
optional: 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, or 1/4 cup Grape Nuts cereal for crunch

Mix all this in a medium bowl. Add more honey to moisten or more oats to dry, if necessary. Press into an 8 x 8 glass pan or pie plate.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I was feeling very virtuous about the trash-free aspect of these granola bars until I realized that I'm covering the dish with plastic wrap. Hmm. Next batch I'll cover with a plate.

Anyone want to join my Trash-Free Lunch Campaign?

Update: we like these granola bars so much that I make a double batch in a 9 x 13 inch pan, keep it in the fridge, and snack off of it all week!

Use What You Have, Part 3

What I don't have: warm legs.
What I do have: an old felted wool sweater, ribbon, scissors.

Who knew an old sweater could make such sweet and sassy leg-warmers?!