tap, tap. is this thing on? and pumpkin bread

ok, I know I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. My last post was December, 2013. Having three children in school really threw me for a loop. The driving. The homework. The crying. Its not that I stopped cooking–I just stopped taking pictures of it and telling you about it.

I know that my absence has been noted. Even WordPress has changed things around.  I’ll have to get used to the new editor and remember how to put pictures into this post.

And so I bring you pumpkin bread.  We love the stuff. My son, Adam, eats two pumpkin muffins for breakfast EVERY morning. Yes, every morning. And I am more than happy to supply him with that breakfast. I like this recipe because it calls for oil and not butter. I like that because if I decide to make pumpkin bread RIGHT NOW, I can, and not have to wait for the butter to soften.

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The muffins (or loaves) freeze beautifully, so don’t worry that you can’t use several dozen muffins before they go bad. Stick ’em in the freezer and defrost as you need them. I take a few out at night and in the morning they look like they just came out of the oven.

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I hate it when I get batter on my muffin pans, and I also hate when the muffins aren’t all the same size. I finally figured out if I use two scoops of batter in each muffin cup. I use the same scooper that I use for scooping cookie batter. This is the scoop I use. It’s purple. They come in tons of sizes, and I found it in my local resturant supply store. The scooper is a life saver. Also that resturant supply store is a life saver–but that is a topic for a whole other post…

Pumpkin Bread
makes about 3 dozen muffins or 3 loaves

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
3 cups flour (I use a mix of AP and White Whole Wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup water or milk (or a combination)

Mix sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs and pumpkin together
In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices
Add the dry ingredients into the wet in three additions, alternating with the milk.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes for muffins, or about 50 for loaves.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Croissants

I was so excited….SO excited to make this recipe, and am so dissapointed with how it turned out.

Last week wasn’t too warm here and I had finally found some fresh yeast from our local italian market, and so I got to work. I made the dough and encorporated the butter by rolling and folding, rolling and folding. Finally, FINALLY, it was time to shape and bake the pastries.

I cut them out and shaped them. Not very well I might add, and then I put them in the oven to rise. As instructed, I also included a pot of steaming water. And when I opened the door to the oven, I found this:
a lot of the butter had seeped out of the dough from the heat of the steaming water.

I pried three croissants out of the pool of butter and put them on a fresh pan and baked them. Fresh out of the oven, they tasted great, but as they sat they became heavier and more bread-like.
This was my first real culinary disaster….ever. I guess that’s lucky because I cook a lot, and most of it is more than edible.

I still had the other half of the dough sitting in the fridge and waiting for me. I ended up putting it in the freezer, thinking I would try again over the weekend. Guess what? I didn’t. and I tossed the rest of the dough yesterday. It was actually sort of freeing to toss it. Even if I avoided the puddle of butter again, I knew that the results were not going to live up to the ‘croissant in my head.’ and I decided that it was okay to quit.

Should you decide that you want to try to make croissants on your own (best of luck to you) the recipe can be found on page 185-186 of the book. You can also see how our host did at Girl + food + love, and the rest of the bakers links can be found here. I’m sure that many of them had a better time than I did!

Power Balls

Now, don’t laugh at the name of this recipe. They really are balls of power. How could they not be? They’re filled with peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, ground flax seed, and dark chocolate. Balls of deliciousness might be more accurate.

I first tasted these at an event hosted by my running group, Tampa Bay Fit. We had a run at a park in Clearwater, and after, a potluck breakfast. one of the coaches brought these. And I HAD to have the recipe. I made them for the first time to let my Ragnar team taste them, because I planned to bring them to the race. But once my husband tasted them…well, they’ve been a staple in our house ever since.
The most important thing to remember when you’re making them is to wet your hands with a little water when forming the balls. It works like a charm. Nothing will stick to you.
They’re great for a quick, on the run breakfast, or a nutritious afternoon snack. Make them soon, and then go out and go for a run!

Power Balls
Adapted from Coach Sheila’s recipe
I’ve added metric measurements, so you can go ahead and take out your cooking scale if you have one. Then you only make one bowl and one fork dirty. My kind of cooking!

1 cup natural peanut butter–smooth (285 grams)
1 cup honey (350 grams)
3 cups oatmeal (old fashioned–NOT quick cooking or instant) (350 grams) (or if you’re going without nuts–420 grams–an extra 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (60 grams)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, see above)
1 3.5 or 4 oz bar good quality dark chocolate–chopped finely (or 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Mix the honey and peanut butter until smooth
Add the oats, flax seed, chocolate and nuts (if using) and stir until well mixed
Wet your hands with some water and form into balls of about 1 tablespoon in size. They don’t have to be exact. Re-wet your hands as necessary.
Refrigerate balls on a sheet pan overnight. When firm, put in a covered container and enjoy at will. Keeps practically indefinitely in the fridge, but they don’t last long in my house!
Makes about 45 balls

A Newer, Better Pumpkin Bread Recipe?

And possibly healthier, too. Unbelievable, since I really felt like the Joy of Cooking pumpkin bread recipe wasn’t going to get any better. I already had a recipe that my kids like to eat, so why would I muck around with it. But you know what? They never even noticed. This one is easier because it doesn’t require me to defrost butter, so I can bake it at a moment’s notice.

We were at the playground with the kids several weeks ago and a friend mentioned that she had the ‘starbuks pumpkin bread recipe.’ I was intrigued, Starbuks makes darn good pumpkin bread. Later that day she read me the recipe over the phone. I was pretty excited because it could be made dairy free. I made it once as she had given it to me and then began to tweak. I replaced half the oil with applesauce and I used the spice measurements from the Joy of Cooking recipe. The orginal spices were not nearly aggressive enough. I like my pumpkin bread to wake me up with its spiciness. Once I did that I was happy.

Amd would you believe I don’t have a picture of the finished product? Its true. Life got in the way and the bread ended up in the freezer and we’ve been eating it, but I haven’t gotten around to photographing it. But trust me, This is good pumpkin bread.

Go. Grab the pumpkin from your pantry. Gather the spices and start baking.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bread
Makes two loaves

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 eggs
1 16 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

3 cups flour (I mix all purpose and white whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup water or milk

  • Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour (or use cake release) your pans
  • Mix the sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, and pumpkin together in a large bowl
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together
  • Add dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the water or milk (flour, water, flour, water, flour)
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Bagels

This week, our assignment is to bake bagels. I’ve done this before, though not from this recipe.

I have used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe a few times, which came from Peter Reinhardt (the bread baker’s apprentice, I think). Like this recipe, it’s also a two day affair, but it uses a sponge, then you make the dough, then rise, then make the bagels and let them chill out in the fridge until the next morning.
This recipe is simpler. There’s no sponge, and it is nice to eliminate a step. I put the dough together before making dinner on Saturday night. It only took a few minutes and I didn’t take any pictures because you’ve all seen me make bread dough before.

I decided that I’d finish the bagels before lunch on Sunday. I divided the dough in half and left one half in the fridge while I produced bagels from the other half. I divided that half into 5 roughly equal pieces, and made a ‘purse’ before making a hole in the middle and then shaping them into bagels:
I placed the unboiled and unrisen bagels on a floured towel
before boiling them off, a few at a time. I let them boil for about 30 seconds on each side once they floated to the surface
Then they rested and drained for a moment on a non-floured towel and then onto the parchment-lined baking sheet they went to be brushed with egg and then topped (or not)
They went into a 500 degree oven with some ice cubes and water to produce steam, the temperature was immediately turned down to 450, and they baked for 25 minutes. Then the oven was turned off and they sat for 5 minutes. And then the oven door was opened and they sat, still in the oven, for another 5 minutes.

And then I began the process again with the second set of bagels that were still to be shaped.
Then I had to re-heat the oven for the 2nd batch. Really, my biggest problem with the recipe is the part where I had to keep the oven door open for 5 minutes. Its still summer here in Florida and that really heated the kitchen up. Clearly, the next time I do this, it will be the dead of winter, when I don’t mind extra heat in the kitchen. But on a 90 degree (or more) day, I really don’t want to be heating my kitchen up like that.

Other than that complaint, its a good recipe. The next time I make them, I’ll add whole wheat flour into the mix.

I sliced the un-eaten bagels and put them in the freezer the same day I baked them. Since then I’ve been taking one half of a bagel out every morning, letting it defrost slightly and then toasting it a little. Then I butter it, cut it in half and put it in Dorothy’s lunch box. I ate half an onion bagel the other morning for breakfast, toasted with cream cheese. It was still delicious.

If you like bagels (and lets face it, who doesn’t?) you should try to make your own at least once, and this is a good recipe to start with. I’ve baked bagels at least 3 times now, and my kids and husband get a huge kick out of it. You can find the recipe on page 87 of Baking With Julia, and check out our host for the week, Heather, who blogs at Heather’s Bytes. She’ll have the recipe posted as well. There will be lots of delicious bagely posts at our home base, Tuesday’s with Dorie.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Popovers

Welcome! I’m very excited to be hosting this edition of Tuesday’s With Dorie.  I have the pleasure of hosting this week with Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes. The recipe is by Marion Cunningham, who died last month at age 90.

Before making this recipe I’d only had one opportunity to eat a popover. It was in Dallas, TX, about 9 years ago. My co-workers from the Jewish Federation took me out to lunch on one of my last days with them to the original Neiman Marcus. The resturant there serves lunch, and instead of bread, they served popovers.

The other day, my friend Caroline posted a picture on facebook of some crepes that her son Cal (age 10) had made, and I asked if he’d like to come over and make popovers with us. He did, and they came over to bake on Wednesday morning. I was pretty happy to be baking on what would have been Julia’s 100th birthday. AND I couldn’t have found an easier recipe to make with kids than this. Cal was very good at cracking eggs, but needed a lesson in the correct way to measure flour.IMG_1422
Once the batter was in the pan,
and while the popovers were in the oven, Cal busied himself by making oragami hats and figures with Dorothy.IMG_1428
he made the crown at home for her, it was really super cute and thoughtful of  him.

And then….finally….the popovers were done! They really grew while they were in the oven.
But, the popovers were stuck! Either the pan wasn’t buttered well enough, or my old and tired muffin tins are ready to be replaced. We got one out without any trouble, but the others required a bit more elbow grease, and got a bit mangled in the process. But it didn’t matter! They were delicious IMG_1431
I served them with butter, and the kids chose what to go with it…honey, strawberry jam or peach/bourbon/vanilla jam. I tried all three, and they were each delicious. The popovers rose amazingly high and were hollow and slightly custardy in the middle. So much fun! They only took a minute to mix up–you should make some this weekend! When I bake them again, I might add a bit of vanilla to the batter, and cut down on their total time in the oven, but not by much.

From their name, which inspires smiles, to their puffing power, popovers have magical appeal. many of us have fond memories of the messy thrill of eating popovers dripping with butter and honey. Here’s a method that turns out beautifully puffed popovers with golden crowns, crispy crusts, and custardy interiors.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole or 2% milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

melted butter, for greasing the popover cups (or muffin tins)

Position a rack on the lowest rung of the oven and preheat the oven to 425. Butter or spray nine 3/4-cup glass custard cups or 10 1/2-cup muffin cups. If you’re using custard cups, place them on a jelly-roll pan, leaving space between each cup. If you’re using muffin pans, you’ll need to use two 12-hole muffin tins because, to give the popovers ample air circulation, you won’t be filling all of the holes.

Pour all the ingredients into the container of a blender and whirl until smooth. (this can also be done in a food processor or in a bowl, using a rotary or hand held beater) Strain the batter if it is at all lumpy.

Baking the Popovers For the custard cups, pour 1/3 cup batter into each cup, dividing any extra batter among the cups. For the muffin cups, use 1/4 cup  of batter for each cup, filling alternate cups in each tin so that every popover has puffing space. Bake, without opening the oven door, for 25 minutes, until the popovers are puffed, nicely browned and crisp on the exterior. Turn the temperature down to 350 and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes to help dry out the interior, which, no matter what you do, will always be a little doughy in the center. (some people love this part, others pull it out) Serve immediately

Storing Popovers are at their puffiest right out of the oven. You can hold them at room temperature for a few minutes, or wrap them airtight, freeze them for up to a month, and reheat them in a 350 oven for 10 to 15 minutes, and they’ll taste good–but never as good as just baked.

note: I baked them a second time this past weekend, with a bit of vanilla–which I couldn’t taste, and less time at 350, I definitely liked that texture better, I think they were in the oven for 10 minutes at 350. I also tried buttering the tin with non-melted butter, and they still stuck. It might be time for new muffin tins. Mine are VERY beat up. Anyone want to send me Williams-Sonoma gift cards?

Tuesdays With Dorie: Sticky Buns (and Brioche)

I didn’t take very many pictures for this week’s recipe. In fact, I only took one….for the finished product. Our assignment this time was to make Pecan Sticky Buns (recipe on page 190.) But first, we had to make Brioche (recipe on page 43)

The brioche wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming. First we had to make a sponge, and that had to sit for 40 minutes, then the dough, and that had to rise for 2 hours, and then overnight in the fridge. But the thing about this dough that I really didn’t like was the fact that the recipe called for  1 1/2 sticks of butter to be added to the dough. It only had 3 1/2 cups of flour, so we’re not talking about a huge amount of dough here….so it was intended to be VERY buttery. I cut it down to just one stick, I just didn’t have the heart (pun intended) to encorporate that much butter into the dough. As it was, I had to add much more flour into it because the butter was making it so sticky. Only once the dough was finished having its overnight rest in the fridge was it ready to be formed into the sticky buns.

And we had to add yet more butter to the dough. The recipe instructs us to roll and fold the dough as for puff pastry twice, so that we get layers of butter in the dough, thereby making these the “ne plus ultra of sticky bundom.” I had already decided to cut the recipe in half, and turn the balance into just plain brioche. So I divided my dough in half and only used about 2 tablespoons of butter (the recipe calls for 3/4 of a stick per 1/2 of the dough) to ‘laminate’ the dough. And then it rested in the fridge for a while. When I was good and ready, I rolled it out, and brushed on an egg wash, spread some cinnamon/sugar and nuts over it, and rolled it up. Into the freezer it went.

And it stayed in the freezer until this afternoon. I trimmed off the ends and baked them up with some (more) butter and brown sugar in two individual muffin cups. They came out looking beautiful.
But they were so sweet, they made my teeth hurt. I’m looking forward to reading how other people dealt with the recipe and perhaps find some modifications for when I bake off the rest of them this weekend for brunch

But, here’s the thing. I baked Challah last week using the recipe on page 93. The recipe is suprisingly similar to the brioche. It has more milk, less butter, and makes more dough. I can’t tell you how much more I liked it than the brioche. The dough is so easy to work with, and made a beautiful challah. I brought it to a potluck dinner and the best compliment I heard was “it looks like it came from a deli, but I bet you made it”

So, I’m not planning on making this brioche again, and sticky buns don’t exactly fit into my life very often, but the challah recipe is definitely a keeper. Lynn and Nicole are the hosts for this week. They’ll have the recipe on their blogs, in case you have any desire to try it after my glowing review. As always, there will be a LYL (leave your link) post on the Tuesdays With Dorie website. I know I’ll be curious to see how everyone else liked this recipe.

borekas–putting it all together

Once your filling is made, clear off your work surface and your schedule. Its time to fill the borekas. I like to do this in the evening, or when the kids are at school so I have uninterrupted time….you know what I mean.
Here’s a video that shows how I seal them. The method I use is the first one she shows:

it takes practice, and the first ones you make probably won’t be beautiful. I seal mine with my right hand, and the boreka is in the left hand. find a way that works for you. you can do it. I promise!

3/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

put the oil, water and salt into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to cool slightly

When tepid, add to flour and blend throughly. This will not be a beautiful bread dough.

Break off portions about the size of a walnut (golf ball) and roll on lightly floured board into rounds 3-4 inches in diameter and approximately 1/8 inch thick. The dough is easiest to work with when still warm. So, work quickly.

fill with 1 tablespoon of filling and follow directions from the video to close. Make sure it is completely sealed  so the filling will not run out while baking

place on a parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until a light golden brown. Once cool, they can be frozen.

makes approximately 45 borekas. I sometimes have leftover filling, and I make 1/2 of the dough recipe to finish it off.

What’s for dinner? Breakfast!

It was a waffle kind-of night here. Yesterday he asked me to make waffles for dinner. He’s carbo-loading for a triathalon on Sunday, so today I picked up some buttermilk and put it together for dinner tonight.

I’ve been making waffles from the buttermilk pancake recipe in The Joy of Cooking for years. I think the buttermilk helps make them lighter, and I like the tang that the buttermilk brings to the party. When the boys started eating, and we moved into our current home (it has an enormous fridge/freezer) I got tired of doubling the recipe and then having an odd amount of buttermilk leftover. I’d freeze it, but that got tiring, and I wasn’t a huge fan of making waffles almost every weekend. So, I gave in and scaled the recipe to use the entire quart of buttermilk. I use Friendship. And, as always, I replaced about 1/2 of the flour with white whole wheat flour.

It sounds totally crazy to make that much waffle/pancake batter. But I have enough freezer space so that its not an issue in terms of saving them, and the kids love to have waffles for breakfast. I end up with about 22 waffles if I make the quart of buttermilk.

I’m sure they’d be delicious with bananas or blueberries mixed in. I dare not try that with my children. they surely won’t eat something that good.
Basic Pancakes/Waffles
measurments for making the recipe with the whole quart are in parenthesis

1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 cups) flour     you can replace up to 1/2 with whole wheat flour)
3 Tablespoons (3/4 cup) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (1 Ttablespoon + 2 1/4 teaspoon) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 1/2 teaspoons) baking soda      omit if using regular milk
3T (one stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups (one quart) buttermilk
2 (7) large eggs
vanilla extract

In a large bowl (especially if you are making the larger version) mix the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla.

Mix well, but do not overmix.

I like to let my pancake batter sit for a few minutes before cooking

cook according to the directions for your waffle maker, or make pancakes.

Blueberries, fresh from the field

Yesterday we went blueberry picking. It was the first day of the season, so it was a little like a treasure hunt to find the berries. Still, though, we came home with just over 3lbs of beautiful blueberries. it was really a perfect day. not too hot, a nice breeze, and the berry bushes still had dew on them, so when you walked in between the rows of plants, you got a little shower! I’m sorry I didn’t have my camera with me to take pictures. Adam didn’t contribute a single berry to the ‘pot’ they all went directly into his mouth. he’d say, “I got a berry” and deposit it directly into his tummy.
Today, I went to publix with dorothy for some stuff, and she asked me if she could have little bites, and she had to explain what they were to me. Once I understood what it was that she wanted, I told her no, but we could make our own blueberry muffins. We could even make them tiny, if she wanted.

I’m not 100% sure that tiny muffins really work here, since the blueberries are so big, and the muffin cups are so small. If you go the ‘tiny’ route, don’t do what I did. I overfilled them. big mistake.
once the cups were full….I took the batter that was left and fished out the berries, and added them to the already full cups. Don’t do that. I should have baked what I had, and then done another few muffins. But I didn’t. Don’t be like me.

my mother found this recipe in the New York Times Magazine a long time ago….I think I was still in college. Its been with us ever since

½ cup unsalted butter
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (I replaced 2/3 cup AP with 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour. Can’t taste the difference)
2 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt (omit if using salted butter)
1½ cups fresh blueberries (I often use frozen. DO NOT DEFROST BEFORE USING)
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. Using an electric mixer combine the butter and lemon zest.  Add one cup of sugar and beat until light.  Mix in the egg and then the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Place the blueberries in a bowl and toss with ¼ cup of the flour mixture.  Add the remaining flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just to combine.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups.  Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them about ¾ full.  Sprinkle the tops with the remaining sugar.  Bake until muffins are lightly browned and spring back when touched in the center, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Makes about  11 regular sized muffins, and about 30 minis

**If you don’t have field fresh blueberries….just use frozen. Keep in mind, though, the batter will get very stiff when you mix them in, since you’re effectively re-freezing the butter. And you’ll need a little extra cooking time. But they’ll be just as good. I promise.