Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Party Cake

I've had birthdays on the brain lately. Parker has been so good as to remind me daily about his coming up on the 9th of July, (he's been asking about it for about a month now) and Andrew's is on the 26th. So when I saw this idea for a cake on Rookie Cookie, I had to try it. However, I really dislike boxed cake mixes, so I wanted to find a really scrumptious white cake recipe. I had tried one from a cookbook a while ago and was left a bit disappointed. Here's the recipe I tried this time. I think it turned out quite nicely; maybe a smidge too sweet with the buttercream frosting; I think next time I'd try a more mild frosting for sure.
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 large eggs whites at room temperature
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 in. round cake pans and line with waxed paper.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients, and add to sugar mixture. Whip egg whites and fold in.

For the crazy colors, divide the batter between a few different bowls, (I think I did 4 or 5) and add food coloring, (I've read that the store-bought cream colors give a brighter color than regular food coloring, but I'm cheap). Randomly drop spoonfuls of each color into prepared pans, (this will give a random splotchy color design; for a rainbow, drop each color into the center on top of one another until the pan is filled, and do it in reverse order in the other pan).

Does anyone out there have a smashing white cake recipe that they love? If so please share.

Friday, June 26, 2009

White Bread

Before Paige was born, I had gotten pretty good at always having homemade bread around; it's so much better than that store-bought stuff! But, alas, she came along and threw things off track for a bit. Today I ran out of Sara Lee and decided that I wasn't buying any more! Usually we prefer wheat bread, but I didn't have enough whole wheat flour on hand, and we're actually waiting to find out if Brandon has Celiac Disease, (in which case we'll be going gluten-free) so I didn't want to run out and stock up. If you like white bread, this is a pretty good recipe. The following post is an older one that I hadn't published previously for wheat bread if you'd prefer.

5-6 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 t. salt
2 pkg. active dry yeast, (4 1/2 tsp.)
2 c. water
1/4 c. oil or shortening
1 Tbsp. margarine or butter, melted

Combine 2 c. flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; blend well. In a small saucepan, heat water and oil to 120-130 degrees. Add warm water to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 min. at medium speed. By hand, stir in an additional 2 1/2 to 3 c. flour until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl, (I use a wooden spoon, but I know a lot of people actually do this with their hands).

On a floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 c. flour until dough is sooth and elastic, about 5 min. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise until doubled about 45-60 min.

Grease two 8x4 or two 9x5 in. loaf pans. Punch down dough and divide into 2 parts. Shape into loaves and place in greased pans. Cover, and let rise until dough fills pans and tops of loaves are about 1 in. above pan edges; 30-35 min.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover dough and bake 40-50 min. or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans; cool on wire racks. Brush with melted butter.

This recipe is courtesy of the Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking.

Wheat Bread

So, I decided that in an effort to be a better mother and wife, (my husband LOVES homemade bread, and he takes such good care of me that he deserves it!) and to have more nutritious food around for my family, that I would venture out into the world of bread-baking. To be honest, the reason I had never done it before was because I was intimidated! Everyone makes it sound like an art that has to be perfected over time. It just sounded plain exhausting. But I thought I better give it a go, so I pulled out my Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking and tried this recipe. It turned out fabulous the first time! And it seemed so easy! Now, I'm not saying that those who make this an art form can't make better, but for a busy mom, I think this is more than good enough for now. My husband loved it!! He's quite picky about homemade bread, because he doesn't like the "yeasty" taste that some breads have, but this bread had great flavor.
So here's the recipe:
2 pkg. active dry yeast, (one package is about 2 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 c. warm water
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar or honey
3 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. hot water
1/4 c. butter
4 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 3/4 to 3 3/4 c. all purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, (105 to 115 degrees). In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, hot water and butter; cool slightly. To cooled mixture, add 3 c. whole wheat flour. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Add remaining whole wheat flour and dissolved yeast; mix well. By hand, stir in an additional 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl.

On floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 c. all purpose flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 30-45 min.

Generously grease two 8x4 or 9x5, (I used 9x5) loaf pans. Punch dough down several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide dough into 2 parts; shape into loaves. Place in greased pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 30-45 min.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover dough. Bake 30 min. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake an additional 10-15 min. or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

A few things I learned; I read a few chapters from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and while I don't pretend to understand most of what she said, (and her recipes were definitely above my level!) I picked up a few things that helped.

1. Kneading too much flour into the dough is a no-no, (you're supposed to try and stay toward the lower end of the measurements given) and it's tempting when that stuff is sticking to your hands! So instead of coating my hands and the counter with flour, and adding more every time it felt sticky, I coated the counter and my hands with cooking spray, and just reapplied every time I felt the need to add more flour. This definitely made the dough easier to handle, and it was perfectly "smooth and elastic" without using the full amount of flour.
2. Also, if I understood correctly, the temperature at which the bread rises has more to do with the actual temperature of the bread, not the room. She recommended a slower rise than a faster one, because the longer the yeast has to do it's job, the more it will get used up and the better the bread will taste, without that yeasty tang. The yeast and action of the kneading already heat up your dough to about 75 degrees. Before I read this, I had tried another recipe and was all worried about the fact that my kitchen was only about 70 degrees, and the recipe said that it needed to rise, "in a warm place, about 80-85 degrees". A tip given was to heat the oven to 400, let it stay there for one minute, turn it off and then put your bread in to rise. Needless to say, my bread rose too fast and too much and I didn't know how to salvage it. Rose suggests that merely turning on your oven light creates enough warmth for the bread to rise, and I actually just let this batch rise on the counter, and it still rose in the said amount of time with no problems. Don't roast yourself out trying to get your bread to rise. Time will do it.
3. (This tip is complements of my Pillsbury cookbook, as are those that follow) For bread that starts to brown too quickly on top, cover with foil during baking, (I always have this problem, is my oven too hot, or are my pans too cheap?)
4. Butter brushed on the bread immediately after baking makes a deliciously yummy soft crust.
5. And finally for those of you amateur bread makers like me that have no idea how to tell if the dough has doubled, poke your fingers in, (lightly!) and the indentation will remain without springing back.
That's my two cents, any other tips from more seasoned bread makers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leftover Makeover

I thought I'd get the ball rolling here with a recipe we tried last night. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture.....that's how good it was. By the time I thought about it, there wasn't much left for a good picture. Anyway, this recipe was a "leftover makeover", which I love because we don't eat leftovers well at my house. I made a turkey dinner for Brandon on Father's Day, and even though it was only a turkey breast, we have turkey coming out of our ears. So in addition to all the yummy turkey sandwiches we'll be eating for lunch this week, we'll also be having turkey noodle soup, and last night we had this:

Turkey Tetrazzini
8 oz. spaghetti or angel hair pasta, broken and cooked al dente
5 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. flour
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 c. mushrooms
5 Tbs. minced green pepper
3 c. cooked turkey
1/2 c. grated parmesean
1/2 c. cheddar cheese

Melt butter and stir in flour to make a roux. Slowly add broth and milk, cooking and stirring until thick and bubbly. Add salt, pepper, spaghetti, peppers, mushrooms and turkey. Heat through. Put in casserole dish and top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cheese bubbles.

Notes: Because I don't ever cook a recipe exactly the way it says.....I'll tell you my alterations. First of all, I didn't measure out 8 oz. of spaghetti, I just eyeballed what I thought I would need to feed the four of us, (and it was probably more than 8). Second, I used about 8 Tbs. of flour, because Brandon's Aunt Mindy, (who was kind enough to give me this recipe) said that sometimes the sauce came out a little thin with only 6. Third, I sauteed the mushrooms and green pepper in some butter with about 1 Tbs. of garlic, (Mindy said that she thought she just sprinkled garlic salt for the garlic) before adding it in with the rest. Also again, I didn't measure out the green pepper, I just used a whole small one. Fourth, I forgot the salt and pepper, and it was still great, (we don't really eat much salt though, so that's probably why it didn't bother us). Fifth, Mindy said that sometimes she uses canned mushrooms; one can juice and all. I used fresh and diced them tiny so my family couldn't see them. It's all about the mind games. Last, but definitely not least.....who measures cheese? I just sprinkled on what looked good, and I can promise it was more than the recipe called for. Maybe that's why I can't seem to lose a pants size.


So, I've been thinking for a while that I wanted to start a blog to swap recipes, (as I am always looking for a good one) but then I thought why stop there? Why not swap craft ideas, cleaning tips, playgroup ideas, whatever is on your mind? If you have ideas and want to share....please join! Leave a comment with your email address and I'll get you added. Let's start sharing. And please tell your friends. The more ideas the better!