Thursday, December 11, 2008

I FINALLY WON SOMETHING!!

I have entered more giveaways on so many blogs that I couldn't even begin to tell you the number! But, I have finally won one of them! I won some Progresso Broth, a recipe card holder, a recipe box, wicker basket, a set of serving utensils and a spoon rest. YEAH, who couldn't use some new utensils? Thanks much to THE LIFE AND LOVES OF GRUMPY'S HONEYBUNCH BLOG, not only does she have a great blog, but she is also a fellow Daring Baker too!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

SOLDIER'S ADDRESS


Hello Everyone!

HAPPY FRIDAY!!! I received the address of our soldier and if you are still interested in doing this, please email me so that I can send you his address. I don't want to post it to the site because I don't think that it should be public knowledge. So, email me and I will send the address back to you!! Easy as that!

I am going to be baking next weekend. I am a working woman next week, so that really craps my style...but this "job" of mine is only 3 weeks a year, so I can deal with it. I just wish that one of the three weeks wasn't in December.

Give me the heads up when you are sending your packages and also please take some photos of your boxes. I would like to post photos of everyone with their boxes on the site for everyone to enjoy...who knows, maybe the soldier even has access and would like to see all of you beautiful people!

OK, gotta go, I have a sick kid home from school today and I am running out of things to entertain him with! EMAIL ME!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

***SOLDIER INFO***

I received some information on the soldier that we will be sending our goodies too. Here is the note that I received from Val (Team Just Add Nuts):

I have gotten info on this round's soldier: Dustin Forbush. He is a 20 year old marine stationed in Iraq for his first tour. He's expected to be home in April and will be marrying his high school sweetheart, Faith, soon after he gets home. Dustin's favorite goodies are chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. I asked Dustin's dad if there was anything in particular he would like to receive other than baked goods, in case someone has leftover space. He said phone cards and anything fun to raise group moral. I read something once about needing to send special phone cards to the troops though, or else they get charged way more minutes than they use. I'm trying to gather info on that to share, or if any of you know more about phone cards for troops, please forward the info. I had a question about what to send...that is always the question. I wish I had an easy answer but I'm kind of new to this too. Go with your gut. I would say send mostly what you're sure will travel well and maybe experiment with a couple of maybes...we will gather information about how things arrived where we can and together we'll build a list of good candidates for our shipments. On that note, if any bakers from previous rounds have received feedback, please pass it along to the rest of us. For my part, I have learned that the troops seem to prefer baked goods that are packaged individually or in small portions so that they can grab some and go about their business, so I am going back to individually wrapping my cookies for this round. I think I'll be including a self-addressed stamped envelope with a request to our soldier to give us some feedback about how things arrived this round, so we have a little more to go on next time. If I do that (and it works!), I will post the results for round 6. I know the soldiers are busy though, so we might just be left to guessing and learning from the rest of the bakers as we go.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

It's the end of another month and yet another Daring Bakers Challenge. This challenge marks my eighth challenge with Daring Bakers. I have learned so much about baking with making just one different recipe a month. These recipes have ranged from the Filbert Gateau, a really heavy decadent dessert, to lavash crackers and a vegan dip. I not only have gained knowledge from the challenges, but also confidence and about 3 extra inches on each thigh! (Time to start exercising!!!) This months challenge was to make a Caramel cake with a caramelized butter frosting! Yeah, if that doesn't make you run to the Weight Watcher's Meeting, I don't know what will! Since it was my 29th birthday (for the 6th time) just last week, I decided to treat myself to this cake.

This month's challenge was hosted by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater featuring her signature Caramel Cake Recipe with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Co-Hosted by, Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/). And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/).

I got all of my ingredients together and started in on making the cake. With doing so, I had to make a simple caramel syrup, which I burned because I had little distractions! (Have any guesses who and what they were?) Burning the caramel sauce/syrup proves to be my strong point with recipes...check out the Filbert Gateau post and you will see that I burned up the praline hazelnuts! I quickly made another batch and it came out just amber in color and not burnt. I creamed up the butter, sugar and salt. Next, I added the syrup, eggs and vanilla. At this point I encountered a problem, I poured all the flour/baking soda mixture into the Kitchen Aid bowl all at once.....needless to say I have a gooey mess flour ball. I got the milk out and redeemed myself..I thought it was a goner! I needed to follow the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method....I followed the hurried Lori method and I wouldn't recommended that!

I finally got the cake in the oven, a BUNDT for this recipe, and got started in on the frosting. I wonder how many WW points just a lick of this stuff is! 12 Tablespoons of Butter, 1 Pound Confectioner’s Sugar, 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream, 2 Teaspoons Vanilla, 2-4 Tablespoons Caramel Syrup and some salt to taste. I didn't think that I really liked the taste at first, but it quickly grew on me and I put away more than I am willing to admit! Now, you are wondering just where are the photos of this Caramel Cake with the fine Caramelized Butter Frosting? They are only in my mind....since leaving the camera at my son's school Turkey Day Party I only have mental images. It was yummy, I don't know that it is something that I would crave, but it was yet another challenge for me to defeat! I love ya, Daring Bakers! Bring on the December Challenge!!!
Here is the recipe~


CARAMEL CAKE with Caramelized Butter Frosting

10 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, room temp
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup*
2 each Eggs, room temp
splash Vanilla Extract
2 Cups AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 C Milk, room temp

*Caramel syrup recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall 9" cake pan.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.
2. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
3. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl.
4. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5. Sift flour and baking powder.
6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dries.
7. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time.
8. Add another third of the dries, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dries. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
9. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds. making sure batter is uniform.
Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days unrefrigerated

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 Cups SUGAR
1/2 Cup WATER
1 Cup water for "stopping"

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand.
2. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
3. Turn on heat to highest flame.
4. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
5. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and prepared to step back.
6. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Pound Confectioner's Sugar, sifted
4-6 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2-4 Tablespoons Caramel Syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

1. Cook butter until brown.
2. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
3. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Friday, November 14, 2008

List of NEEDED items by our Soldiers!

I have compiled a list of things needed by the soldiers from the website. www.anysoldier.com I was stay away from liquid products because of the chance of the container breaking during shipping. They also don't recommend highly scented items being sent with baked goods.

Products to stay awake during missions
Blank greeting cards
Paper
Toothpaste (Colgate) & Toothbrushes
100 calorie snacks
power bars
Lip balm ( chap-stick)
Envelopes
Deodorant
Blank cards
Notecards
Stationary
Laundry powder
Gatorade singles or ANY beverage drink powders
Cd's of country or rock copies are fine
Cheese and peanut butter crackers
DVD movies
Beef jerky
Magazines
Books
Board games or anything to keep us entertained
Tinactin foot spray/powder/ointment
AA batteries
Microwave popcorn
Splenda
Hand Sanitizer clothes
Nail Clippers
Razors & Shave Gel
Ink pens

Beanie Babies!
No kidding! A really good excuse to get rid of those things (don't buy new ones, collect them from your house and ask your friends)!! Send some in every package to ALL units as they are really easy for the Soldiers to carry with them and give to the local kids who love them. These are better then small plastic toys which will break easily and are not as easy to carry in a pack. There is NO more effective ambassador for our country than a Soldier helping the local folks. This is done far more often then the press shows, and quite probably the most important thing a Soldier will ever do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More info on Operation Baking Gals

I am posting this letter that I received from Val over at Just Add Nuts. This is the "Team" that we will be working with on the Operation Baking Gals website. Go to Operation Baking Gals and click Join a Round 4 Team Here then click Join a Round 4 Team (26) and then select the Team Just Add Nuts. You can see the other members of the team. If you want, you can sign up on the site or I will just let them know the number of bakers that we have that will be sending packages. Or, I will let them know the number of packages that we are sending, make sense? Here are a few emails that I have had with Val:

Hello,
That's great that your friends want to get involved! The way Baking GALS works is that each team sends to a different soldier. That soldier receives 10+ boxes, depending on the number of people participating for his host's team; he or she then distributes the stuff to the other soldiers around him. I have a thank you letter that I just received from Alex's wife saying he had begun getting boxes and was sharing with other soldiers. I'm going to ask her if I can post the letter on my blog so all of you bakers can see it.

As for a team having too many people, Susan tries to keep it to around 20 bakers per team. We had about 10 on our team this round who actually baked, so that would leave 10 slots to fill. I do have a couple of bakers who do the actual baking as pairs or groups but only sign up as one baker and send one box. That tends to work nicely for some because a lot of people want to bake but the shipping costs can get out of hand if you send too many boxes. The first round that Randy and I baked, we filled five boxes (one on our own to a friend of his), so we joined four separate teams, that way different soldiers got our variety, rather than sending all the boxes filled with the same stuff to the same soldier. So if you're all sending the same goodies, that's another option for you...not that I want to lose you from my team!!!!

Keep me updated as far as how many bakers you're getting and how you and they wish to handle it and I'll work with you. If we end up with too many bakers, I have more than one soldier who would love to receive boxes, so maybe I could give you two addresses kind of on the side. After the December round, if your people want to continue to bake, you might consider becoming a team host yourself. It's a little bit of work and organizing, but since you have a blog already (one of the requirements) you'll be half way there already. If you decide to go that route, let me know and I'll put in a word with Susan for you. If you think your people will only want to bake once in a while or if you don't feel like being a host, feel free to stay on my team and we'll just work it out each round.

Round five's mailing will be taking place from December 5-18, just in time for Christmas. I know the soldiers do like other things besides the baked goods, especially letters from home or just things to remind them of home. One of our team's bakers included some strings of Christmas lights in Alex's package this round and his wife mentioned in her letter that he especially enjoyed those. For ideas, check out www.anysoldier.com. They list soldiers who ask for the things their unit needs. If you read a few requests, you'll see that most of them ask for the same kinds of things, so you'll have a good idea what to include. The only thing is, don't send anything scented (dryer sheets, air fresheners, etc) or anything liquidy that could break (shampoo, hand cream, toothpaste) along with baked goods because it contaminates the cookies no matter how well you pack it according to reports. And with the any soldier site, they don't let you send home-baked goods to the soldiers there. It's all about keeping our soldiers safe...they aren't supposed to accept baked goods from people they don't know. That's why Baking GALS hosts have to come up with their own soldiers, so they can write ahead and let the soldier know the goodies are coming. That's also why I ask my bakers for their own address before I give them the soldiers....I don't want anything funny going down!

I think the thing besides baked goods and letters that they most like to get are fun things or things to fill their down-time. The services do a half way decent job most of the time of getting them the necessities like socks and soap, it's just the "extras" that they're missing. I like to send Holiday items, joke books, pictures from my four year old niece, toys (they hand them out to the kids there), games, DVDs, magazines, stationary (another favorite, so they can mail letters home), small sporting equipment, nail files, little posters, chap sticks (I'm iffy on that one but I think it would be safe to send with the baked goodies)...whatever you send, someone will appreciate it. Oh, and if you can find a good deal on those little packets of drink flavors to add to water bottles, they LOVE those! I'm trying to figure out how to make them.

As for suggestions for things that ship well, we're probably both in the same boat there. I'm doing guess-work at this point too. I have found a recipe for an oatmeal bar cookie that I've been making. They contain a lot of oil, so I figure they'll stay moist. The first round, we individually wrapped them; this round we cut them and reconstructed them as one sheet and packed each batch on top of the other. I got four batches in the box that way and we packed the sides with boxes of Christmas cards and some individual drink mixes. I'm trying to do some research on the net to find recipes that travel well, so I'll post my findings on my blog. I'll also ask Alex's wife for his input about what came over to Iraq in the best condition. If you come up with any good ideas in the meantime, please share. I'm thinking things that are dense and moist will be good. We sent some pumpkin pound cake to Randy's friend this month, so I'm waiting to hear how that turns out.

And another one:
Hi,
The cost varies a little depending on what you send, but the postage would be $10.95. That's the cost of sending a flat rate priority mail box (12 by 12 by 5 1/2 inch size) to an APO address. The boxes are free from the post office and you can just stop in anytime to pick one up. Also, grab yourself a customs form while you're in there. The forms are easy to fill out, but we'll include instructions with the soldier's address just in case.

I will have to ask Randy how many cookies we got into each box, since he did the counting (and hopefully the remembering since I didn't!), but I think we got about 75 cookies in each box and also we put in some old DVD's from my dad and a few magazines from Randy.

I hope that helps!
Val

So, I am ready to start planning!!! I thought that I would kit the dollar store for little puzzle books, water bottle flavorings and whatever little things I can get. Let me know if you are interested!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

OPERATION BAKING GALS


Have you heard of Operation Baking Gals? They are a group of bakers who bake goodies and send them to soldiers who are serving our country. After finding out about this group, I was very interested in joining. Most of my family members have served in the Navy, Army & Air Force and most actually served while a war was taking place. I would love to get a group together to do this for their December Round. I thought that December would be a great month since these soldiers are away from their families during the holidays. Please take a look at the Operation Baking Gals website for more information and please let me know what you think. I was also thinking that maybe we can all bake one type of cookie and then exchange cookies amongst ourselves so that each of our soldiers would have a variety of cookies. Please let me know what you think and if you can help out in any way if you are not interested in baking. I was told that they also appreciate Magazines, Cd's, Movies, Personal Hygiene products and other things that they might not be able to get while in another country.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have I yet again lost my mind? What have I gotten myself into???

My creation up above~
Her Frankenstein is below~
OK, I tend to find all of these crazy fun things that I want and feel the NEED to do. Here is one of the things that I decided to do for G2's Halloween party. I told G1 that he could take one of these to each of his teachers and he would take chocolate dipped pretzels to his classmates. He agreed to this deal until he saw the finished product. I had to stick to my guns because my girlfriend and I had a heck of a time making these. I found these in the Paula Dean's Halloween Magazine. Yeah, OK Paula please let me know HOW yours turned out so perfect.....well, she probably didn't do them at all! That is what I think! Anyhow, they turned out so very cute I sure hope that the kiddos will love them tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Flour Garden Pizzeria- October Daring Bakers Challenge

That's right, I turned my kitchen into a pizzeria last night! This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Peter Reinhart's Pizza Dough. This recipe comes from his book, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread". The challenge was hosted this month by Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums and in honor of a past Daring Baker, Sher at What Did You Eat, who suddenly lost her life to a massive heart attack in July. Never in Daring Bakers history have they made Pizza Dough, so let the challenge begin!

I printed the recipe and directions and carefully planned the perfect toppings for my family and their pizzas. I decided for my pizza I would like to recreate a BBQ Chicken Pizza from a Gourmet Cafe that I just loved when I lived at home. For my kids, that was an easy decision, sauce and cheese for the one; and sauce, cheese and pineapple for the other kiddo. They are not quite the food critics that I would like, but the oldest is starting to appreciate the finer things. The husband likes his pizza just as boring; sauce, pepperoni and cheese. So, I just needed a few toppings that I didn't have in the pantry and I had everything for the pizza dough since I have been the bread Nazi lately.

This recipe is a little time consuming since you have to let the pizza dough rest over night. This is not something that you just decided to do 15 minutes before you want the pizzas going into the oven. But the recipe is straight forward and very basic. If you can operate a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, you can make this recipe.

Day One: I broke out the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and made the dough. This dough consists of Chilled Flour, Salt, Instant Yeast, Olive Oil, ICE Water and Sugar. Very basic! I was all ready to put the ingredients together and had completely forgotten to chill the flour. Chilling the flour makes the dough blend better from what I understand. I tossed the measured flour into a Ziploc and then into the freezer to chill. About an hour later, I had chilled flour to work with. I mixed the ingredients and then put the dough hook on the mixer and "Kneaded" it for about 6 minutes until the dough was smooth. I pulled the massive dough ball out of the mixer bowl and then divided it into 3 large balls. Then, I transferred it to a greased pan covered with plastic wrap and tossed it into the fridge to chill overnight.

Day Two: The FUN begins. I took the dough out exactly two hours before I planned on making my kitchen a complete mess! A mess that surely made even the Husband want me to clean it up! (That is something that doesn't often happen) I placed 2 of the dough balls onto my floured counter top and pressed the dough into disks and then had to wait for two hours so that the dough was able to rest. About 45 minutes before I was going to make the pizza, I had to preheat the ovens (Yes, I used both ovens) to 500 degrees with the baking stones in the ovens. This is where the story becomes interesting. The little guys starting screaming, the house is on fire. The smoke alarms were going off and the smoke was thickening the air. Ok, I only like putting my oven on "SELF CLEAN" in the winter so that it also heats my house. So, here you find that I obviously have had some boil overs and maybe some fallen crusts that didn't take well to the 500 degree oven. The Husband rolls into the house complaining to whomever will listen, which wasn't any of the three of us, that the house is smokey and the alarms are still going off. Yeah, like we didn't realize that....need I say more? MEN, they just don't get what a woman will do to try new things, they just don't get it! The windows had to be opened, 34 degrees here now, the fans were put on and smoke alarms stripped from the ceilings...yep, the man took control.

Shortly after the smoke settled, we continued on with making the pizza's. The kids gathered their toppings and were all excited about making their own pizzas. I was also excited. I got the camera out to capture the moment when the pizza dough would land onto my head after attempting to toss it, this actually didn't happen, but did come very close! I put the dough onto my knuckles and started trying to stretch it. I then got up enough guts to toss it into the air. It went sideways and folded into an unknown shape that didn't resemble anything I had even seen at a pizzeria! I smooched the dough back into a disc shape and let it rest for about 15 minutes and reattempted. This time I was successful! It wasn't a toss that was 5 feet into the air, but it did stay into the shape that I desired. Next it was time for the kids....did you think that they weren't going to be involved? Oh yeah, this is when the fun really began! My little guy, G2 we will refer to him as, threw his dough in the air and it came right down on his face. We all couldn't stop the laughing! G1, our oldest son, had a great laugh once his turn came around. He was successful and it didn't take him as much time to get the nak of it as it took me!

G1 and his attempt to toss the pizza
G2 just before his dough landed on his face!

After we got our dough all stretched and spun, we were ready to add the toppings. The directions told us to flip over a jelly pan and then cover it with corn meal and place the dough onto the corn meal. After placing it just right, we were able to add our toppings and place the pizza in the oven. This is where the real challenge started. Once it was time to transfer the pizza from the pan to the 500 degree preheated pizza stone the pizza dough didn't want to move from the pan. I had to pull the dough onto the stone and one of the pizzas was just a disaster and it just happened to be G1's pizza. He was at least mature about the devastation and helped me replace the toppings and pull the dough back onto the stone. Boy did the stone smoke after all the cheese and toppings hit it!! The Husband thought he saw smoke when he got home, not a chance this was smoke!

We cooked these pizzas in my two ovens and once one would come out, we would put another one back in. We had hot pizza that tasted so AWESOME!! I couldn't believe that I actually replicated my favorite BBQ Chicken Pizza from a Gourmet Cafe and I didn't dig myself 6 feet down by doing it either!!!

BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA
Cheese Pizza

This challenge was so very exciting and really brought us together at dinner time. I have already suggested having a pizza making night with my cousin and her children so that we can really a great time and awesome pizza that is truly homemade! Thanks Daring Bakers for challenging me to make something that I never thought of doing. I had a great time this month and cannot wait to see what new recipe November will bring.
Here is the recipe for this awesome crust!
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
~Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer)

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap



7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator

DAY TWO
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow it to rest for 2 hours

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and re-flour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully, then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes

Friday, October 17, 2008

Win a BEAUTIFUL quilt!

Hurry on over to http://pigtailsandsnails.blogspot.com/ and all you have to do it leave a comment about her quilt post! That only earns you one entry. For more entries, sje will give 5 additional entries for posting about the giveaway on your very own blog. She will also give another 5 entries for posting the banner below in your sidebar. If you don't win the quilt, she will be giving away a very special 2nd and 3rd place prize, THE PATTERN TO THE QUILT. I know just how complicated making a quilt is, so I really appreciated the fact that she has taken the time to complete it, and then GIVE IT AWAY! I hope I win or even you too! HURRY, it ends today ;}

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH!

October 1st marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a very important month to all women and especially those that are high risk due to family history. One week before I was born, (29 years ago +/-) my maternal grandmother had a mastectomy. She won her battle with breast cancer and went on to live another 16 years until she lost her life to another form of cancer. Without having her yearly exam, she wouldn't have known that she had breast cancer. She caught it in time to be able to go on with her life and to see 5 grandchildren born.
It is very sad to think that I could lose my mother to this horrible disease too! This is why you should make sure that you have a physical and mammogram done on a yearly basis. If you don't have insurance or your insurance doesn't pay for it, click on one of the links I have posted.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

DARING BAKERS Lavash Crackers with LoneStar Caviar

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Lavash Crackers and create a dip/spread/salsa/relish to accompany it. I was like a deer in head lights, what do you mean?? Crackers, seriously, no cake, danish or other baked sweet goods? I had a bad attitude about it until I really started thinking about what I would make. I started digging through the recipe box and looking at all my saved goodies online. I finally decided to make whole wheat lavash crackers topped with garlic powder, kosher salt, poppy seeds and also some sesame seeds. I decided to make a salsa recipe called LoneStar Caviar that my dear friend Laura had given me years ago for the topping.

I got going on the crackers only to find that another trip to the store was in my future. I didn't have the instant yeast that it called for. When I returned, I got down to business and mixed up the lavash dough. It looked much more complex on paper than it really was. I let the dough rise for about a hour and a half and then rolled it out. I placed it on parchment paper on a large cookie sheet and then put the toppings on. In order to make the toppings stick to the dough, you have to mist the dough with a little water first. I cut the dough prior to baking with a pizza cutter and then popped it in the oven. 15 minutes later, I had crackers. GOOD TASTING crackers too, if I do say so myself.
For the LoneStar Caviar I had to chop, dice and just open up a couple of cans of beans. HOW EASY. The caviar was so tasty that I was eating it by the spoonful! This was a very fun challenge this month and I am glad that I was able to make something that was not only tasty, but also was a bit healthy too! LONESTAR CAVIAR
Combine the following ingredients in a 1-quart bowl.
2 cans Black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
½ c. Green pepper, finely diced
½ c. Tomato, diced
½ c. Red onion, finely diced
½ c. Carrot, finely diced
¼ c. Cilantro, finely chopped
4 Cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 JalapeƱo peppers, minced

Marinade: Whisk the following ingredients together and pour over dip ingredients and let marinate for 1 hour in refrigerator.
½ c. Olive oil
4 tsp. White vinegar
1½ tsp. Worcester
1 tsp. Lime juice
1 tbs. Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s)The recipe for 1 sheet pan of Lavash Crackers is as follows:
* 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp instant yeast
* 1 Tb agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to pre cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Monday, September 15, 2008

PINEAPPLE ZUCCHINI BREAD


I even got help grating and mixing this recipe!

A few years ago I decided I wanted a new and improved Zucchini Bread. I searched the web and my cookbooks and came up with several good recipes, but nothing that really made me want to make them again. I decided to take what I liked from a comglomeration of recipes and make my own zucchini bread recipe. I think that this recipe is super good and have had nothing but rave reviews from my family and friends that have tried it. CHILD FRIENDLY is what most of my friends are VERY excited about!!! How many little ones do you know that eat zucchini? Hide it in this recipe and they will no matter the age! Hey, you never know, it might be a hit like at our house and the kids want to help you make it!

PINEAPPLE ZUCCHINI BREAD
3 large eggs
2 C. Grated Zucchini
1 C. Vegetable oil
1 C. Crushed Pineapple
1 C. White sugar
1 C. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 C. All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
3/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg (optional)
1 C. Raisins, Craisins or Dried Cherries(optional)
1 C. Chopped Nuts (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla together until thick, then add zucchini & pineapple
3. Gradually add flour, soda, salt, baking powder, spices, raisins, and nuts into the egg mixture; blend well. Mixture will be running in consistency.
4. Pour batter into two 9x5 inch greased and floured loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread

When I started my sourdough starter a few months ago, I would have never imagined all the recipes that I would make with it. I came across this recipe while I was on one of my favorite recipe websites, Allrecipes.com . For all of you that don't know me, I can tell you that grains are NOT something that I am attracted to. I am a WHITE bread person and don't feel like pushing grainy bread into my mouth nor my children's mouths. The DH rips on me all the time about this issue and I am now trying to turn over a new leaf.


So, while the search for ways to create new "Herman" creations was underway, I found this recipes for Cracked Wheat Sourdough bread. It was given 5 out of 5 stars and almost every review just raved about the wonderful taste and texture. I thought to myself, "Hum, this might be a way to butter up the husband". I printed the recipe and went on a little trip to the grocery store. Well, the trip turned out to be a long one because I didn't know where to buy 2 of the items on the list. I needed cracked wheat and RAW sunflower seeds. I went to the health food store here in town and the lady had never even heard of the cracked wheat (real rocket scientist, huh?) and didn't have the raw sunflower seeds. After 4 stores, I went home and started calling places. I finally found the cracked wheat at a market that is just north of town. The brand of the Wheat was Bob's Red Mill and it was called Cracked Wheat Hot Cereal. The raw sunflower seed I found at a health mart about 15 miles from home. Well, this bread better be worth it is what I was thinking when I had to travel to several different places just to get the ingredients!!!!

All ingredients were now all purchased and waiting for me to whip up this beautiful grainy bread that wouldn't probably pass through my lips. I got the ole' bread machine out and started adding all the ingredients into the loaf pan. I then selected the dough cycle and pressed START. Well, since this bread machine had never seen anything but white flour I didn't know how hard the machine was going to have to work.....needless to say, I transferred it to my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and used the dough hook. It really worked well in the Kitchen Aid mixer, so I will steer away from the machine for heavier breads next time. I got all the flour mixed in and then had to allow the dough to rise twice and then transfer the dough into two 9X5 loaf pans and allow to rise again. After all the waiting, the bread dough was ready to bake. The smell that was coming out of the oven was very pleasant and made me feel like I was in a bakery. I pulled the bread out of the oven after about 30 minutes and transferred to wire cooling racks. I left the loaves for the husband to enjoy the next morning.
The next day when I woke, I found a note from the husband telling me that the bread was GREAT! I even ate several pieces....can you believe that???

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My new friend, HERMAN (Sourdough Starter)

About 2 months ago I came across a recipe that called for HERMAN for one of the ingredients. I mentally dug back into the achieves of my childhood and remembered my mom doing something with a substance named Herman. I asked her about it and then all my memories of Herman became vivid. Herman is a sourdough starter that she used to make bread, coffee cakes and other baked goodies. She would stir it everyday and "feed" it every five days. Then she would also take some out and pass it along for her friends to "grow" in their refrigerators too! One time Herman was a little neglected and decided to grow out of his bowl and make a complete disaster out of our clean fridge. These are the memories that became so vivid to me about Herman. So, you ask what I did next? Well, I searched the web for the recipe to begin my own Herman, of course! What was I thinking? I was thinking that all the work that she put into making this starter proved to be worth while since everything that she made with it was awesome.


After searching for the recipe I came across the Herman Sourdough Started Recipe on Allrecipes.com. I quickly whipped it up and eagerly waited for the starter to be ready, this took only 15 days....imagine my anticipation!
15 Days later my starter had "brewed" with an alcohol content that is probably more than a normal bottle of beer has! Now it was time to start feeding and looking for recipes to turn Herman into. The feeding schedule is quite easy:

DAY 1: (Day you receive Herman) Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup flour and 1 cup milk. Stir well. Store in refrigerator and cover lightly. Stir every day.
DAY 2-4: STIR
DAY 5: Add the same as above and stir. Stir every day.
DAY 6-9 STIR
DAY 10: Remove 1 cup of Herman for yourself and one cup for a friend. Give your friend the above directions on how to care for Herman.

Well, it all seems easy until you open your refrigerator and say to yourself, "When did I stir (or in my case, squish the Ziploc bag) or feed Herman last? Herman is very forgiving, so I am lucky for that!

I have had Herman for over 2 months now and have made so many awesome baked goods with it. The recipes range from coffee cakes, pancakes to lots of great bread recipes. Next week I will post some of the great recipes that I have used with Herman.
Let me know if you want a cup of Herman to get you started!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

DARING BAKERS Chocolate Eclairs

This months Daring Bakers challenge was Pierre Hermes Chocolate Eclairs. I quickly made time to make these because I was so anxious after reading the recipe. I have to admit, I thought that this challenge was going to be a piece of cake. So, off to the store to stock up on the ingredients that were needed. And luckily I did just that, you know, the stocking up thing. The choux proved to be the most difficult thing. One time, two times, three times and finally on the fourth time I end up with choux that finally puffed. The four times of making it were over about a week period. On the final effort I was intending for these to be a dessert that I would take to my cousins house for dinner that night....wrong! I finally got the shell made and then had trouble making the filling....wow, this was proving to be the most difficult challenge yet for me! After many efforts and lack of time left in my schedule, I cheated. I pulled out the vanilla instant pudding and whipped that up. I finishing it off with making a chocolate glaze out of some Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips that I had in the pantry. I would love to try this recipe again once my kids are in school just to see if I can actually make them correctly.

Ready to add the eggs to the choux
Piped them so small and still didn't puff
Looked good in the oven still!
Finally, they stayed puffed after
35 minutes in oven
One almost chocolate eclair!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wild Blueberry Pie Cook-off

At the beginning of August we usually travel to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to vacation and visit with the in-laws, as they have retired there now. One of the things that I especially love to do while we are there is to pick wild blueberries. This opportunity came again this year while the husband took off with the youngest of our 2 children to do some backwoods exploring. So, with the mother-in-law and oldest son in tow, off we went to find the perfect blueberry patch. We hit the jackpot of all blueberry patches right off the 2 track road that my father-in-law uses to go cut wood. We picked for over an hour and came back with enough to make 2 nice size pies. Pies that we made from just winging it with no cookbooks.


The mother-in-law only added sugar, butter and corn starch to her pie and used a refrigerator pie crust.


For my pie I made a double batch of super yummy food processor pie crust that I found on cooks.com. I added sugar, flour and lemon juice to my berries and covered with the double crust.