Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old Fashioned White Bread

Sunbeam ain't got nothing on me. There. I said it. What's more, I meant it. I have stumbled upon the best recipe for old fashioned white bread. Folks, this bread is the real deal. It's simple. It's wholesome. It's the kind of food that'll send you back to a different time altogether. I could go on and on and on and on.....but I won't. I'm just going to give it to you straight so you can march yourself straight to the kitchen and get started.
Before I go any further I want to provide you with a link to where I first found the recipe on All Recipes.com. Got to give credit where it's due, you know.

Ingredients
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp of white granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
6 - 7 cups of bread flour

Dissolve the yeast and the sugar into the warm water. Take care that your water isn't too hot or it will kill off all the little yeasties. And, that's not what you want. After your yeast has proofed and your water has a nice creamy froth on top add the oil, salt, and flour one cup at a time. Once the dough has pulled together, generally around the 5th cup of flour, turn it out onto a well floured surface.

This dough is a sticky dough and I always end up adding more flour than what the recipe originally called for. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I use oil instead of lard which the recipe also originally called for. Whatever the case I tend end up using around 7 cups of flour.
Knead the dough for roughly 8 minutes till the dough is smooth. Be mindful not to handle your dough too much. Learning to bake bread calls for walking a fine line. Kneading is a wonderful tool for working out some built up frustration, but if you handle your dough too much then it can turn out tough. My grandma told me that kneading dough was a lot like learning to dance. I'm still not exactly sure where she was going with that.

Using butter, and I mean real, honest to goodness butter, lube up a large bowl. I even go a step further and butter the dough round. Then place in the buttered bowl, covered with a well moistened kitchen towel.


Here's one of the reasons I truly love this bread. It rises beautifully and quickly in little less than an hour. I've never seen a more beautifully risen bread. I'm not even sure the grammer was correct in that last sentence, but who cares? Just look at that rise!

After rising for an hour, punch down your dough and turn out onto a well floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and place into buttered 9x5 loaf pans. Let rise another hour covered with a well moistened kitchen towel. When waiting for dough to rise, I preheat my oven to 425. I leave the dough sitting on top of the stove and the warmth helps the dough rise so very quickly.

Bake at 375 on the top rack for half an hour or until golden brown on top. I often have to pop one out of the pan and check the bottom for doneness. And, often they have to go back in for a bit longer. Once they've reached your desired doneness turn out onto cooling racks.

The only thing left to do now is slice and butter.

Or, slather it with goat cheese and some sweet red onion marmalade. I swear this particular slice jumped off on its own free will and demanded those toppings. What was I to do but oblige?

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cowboy Candy, the Texas Taste Teaser


Cowboy Candy, candied jalapenos, bread and butter jalapenos; no matter what name you give them these tasty taste teasers really pack a punch that leaves your mouth wondering which way to twist.
I'd never heard of them till just a few months after moving to Texas. Then it seemed every which way I turned I was faced with testimonies of pure, unadulterated love for the these sweetly brined peppers too many to count. Being something of a pepper head I was intrigued. The facebook canning group I belong to was all a twitter over the recipe listed in the documents section. It seemed each day there were new photos of recently processed half pints on display. I knew I had been converted without ever having taken a taste when my friend Amy sent me a link to a similar recipe.
I was so sold on the idea that I was determined to make a double batch my first go round. And, boy am I glad I did. I had to make another double batch this week since I was almost sold out of my first batches.
The first thing you'll want to do is wash your peppers. Well, that's a lie. The very first thing you should do is put on a pair of gloves and then wash the peppers.

Then you will cut the stems off and slice the peppers into 1/4 inch slices.

I don't know if it's the environment or the fact that everything in Texas is bigger, faster, spicier, but the jalapenos from my first go round were super hot. And, that's coming from someone who has been known to hold a habanero above her opened mouth all the while taunting the pepper with shouts of, "Bring it!"
I had someone ask me if I could leave the seeds out the next time I made Cowboy Candy because the heat was so intense. I didn't want to slice the ribs out of the pepper and lose the integrity of the "spoke" so I opted to soak the peppers in a sinkful of water to coax more seeds out. It worked pretty well. But, it's really a matter of preference. If you want to scoop out the insides, be my guest.

Next you'll want to gather all your ingredients together as well as prepare your jars and canner. Organization will be your best friend in canning. Besides the three pounds of jalapenos sliced, you will need two cups of apple cider vinegar, six cups of granulated white sugar, one half teaspoon each of turmeric and celery seed, three teaspoons granulated garlic, and one teaspoon ground cayenne powder.

My go to cooking pan is an 18 inch Calphalon dutch oven. It's a work horse and always gets the job done. It heats quickly and has plenty of room. Of course this is not a necessity, but a large, and in charge saucepan is. Add all the above listed ingredients except the peppers, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Next you will want to add the jalapeno slices and simmer exactly four minutes.

Using a slotted spoon pack your hot jars to within 1/4 inche headspace.

And, a quick word on how I get my jars hot:
I fill my jars with water and then place the jars within the canner and fill the canner with water. I always add two to three more jars than I think I will use, because again, organization is your best friend. And, it really sucks to be in the middle of ladling yummy goodness into jars and realize you need more jars. Place your canner on the stove, cover, and heat till boiling while you're working on said yummy goodness. Just let it boil away happily while you work.
After you've packed your jars with the peppers turn the heat up on your syrup and bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for six minutes. Ladle the syrup into the jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Using a chopstick or your handy dandy, Ball tool remove air bubbles by running around the entire inside of the jar.

Wipe the rim with a papper towel moistened with white vinegar, center lids, and tighten bands. Pop these peppers in the canner and process 10 minutes for half pints and 15 minutes for pints.
Now, for the hard part. You really need to let these guys sit and mellow out for a month before tearing into them. Easier said than done. You'll be woken from peaceful slumber as they call out to you through your dreams. I promise.

I'd like to give a big thank you to Bev Dobson for posting this recipe in our group documents. This stuff is awesome!

Cowboy Candy
Yields: 4 half pints
Prepare canner and jars
* 3 pounds Firm, fresh jalapeno peppers, washed and sliced into 1/4 inche slices ***WEAR GLOVES***
* 2 cups cider vinegar
* 6 cups white granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
* 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
* 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients except peppers to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer roughly 5 minutes. Add peppers and simmer exactly 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon ladle peppers into hot jars leaving 1/4 inche headspace. Turn heat up on syrup and bring to a full, rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes. Then ladle syrup into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace again if necessary. Wipe rims down with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar. Center lids and tighten bands to fingertip resistance. Then tighten a scosh more. Place jars in canner and process in boiling water for 10 minutes for half pints and 15 minutes for pints.
After processing remove lid from canner but leave jars in for another 5 minutes. Slowly remove jars to a quiet resting place. If you remove jars too quickly they will hiss at you. They might even boo a bit if they happen to be the sassy mouthed type.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yup. That's Why.


Thanks to several great ladies on my Facebook canning group that shared this. I just love it.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mmmm, Poptart Pastries with Firstborn

With yesterday being a holiday and Firstborn out of preschool for the day, I knew some sort of project would be in order during Secondborn's nap time. I decided that we should bake homemade poptarts.
Firstborn was ecstatic as I'd not bought the Kellogg's brand in some time. In fact, I'd not bought any in some time in efforts to really watch what I was feeding my kids. Now, I'm not the "food police" and I don't pretend to be. I believe in most things in moderation. We do grab the occasional fast food grub every few weeks or so. We even keep candy in the house, in small portions. Right now we're blessed with a store of Russian type candies thanks to my sweet sister-in-law. The next time I see her I'll have to ask the names of all the different types since I have no idea how to read the labels. But, I digress. What I am trying to say is I do try to be conscientious of all the additives in convenience foods.
I let Firstborn pick out all the fillings we'd use in our double batch of poptarts. He chose Nutella, Monkey Butter, strawberry-banana freezer jam, and blueberry butter. Poptarts, what a great way to use up some of those extra jars of homemade jams!
We set to work by buzzing two cups of all purpose flour, one teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, and two sticks (one cup) of butter cut into pieces in the food processor. If not using a food processor you could work the butter in by hand till your dough is pulling together nicely.

Once it's sort of pasty add two tablespoons of milk and one egg that have been mixed together. This is going to get really wet. I ended up adding more flour. Once you're satisfied with your pastry dough turn it onto a well floured surface, divide into half, and roll flat one portion into a rectangle, roughly 9x13 in shape and about 1/8in thick.

After the dough has been rolled out cut nine rectangles, 3x4 in shape and brush an additional beaten egg onto the entire surface of the dough. Think of this as your binder.


Next comes the filling. Place one heaping tablespoon in the center of each rectangle and smooth outward but not all the way to the edges. For some reason I was really excited about this part. Firstborn was as well. And, between our excitement it seems we may have administered more than the heaping tablespoon the directions required. Ooppsy.

A crucial step to making poptarts is tasting your work as you go. I discovered this the hard way once I realized we weren't going to have enough dough to cover all the poptarts we'd jammed. Note to self, do not leave Firstborn in charge of the tops of poptart dough next time.

Once you've jammed your rectangles, roll out the remaining dough into a 9x13 rectangle. Cut out nine 3x4 rectangles. Place the tops onto the jammed rectangles and press the edges together. Using the tines of a fork crease the edges together all the way around. You will also want to prick the tops of the poptarts to allow for steam to escape and puff up nicely.
Place the poptarts on a lined cookie sheet. Here's a tip my grandmother taught me. Save the empty butter wrappers and place in a baggie to keep in the freezer. When you need to grease something pull a wrapper out and use that.
And, since you will have two empty wrappers from this project why not go ahead and use those to oil your cookie sheet or aluminum foil. Normally I'd use parchment paper, but I was out.
After you've placed your poptarts onto the cookie sheet, tuck them into the fridge for a thirty minute chill while your oven is preheating to 350 degrees. This is also a great time to clean up.


Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.
We found our recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Check out her perfect poptarts and suggestions for fillings and other variations.
While our poptarts were far from perfect, in appearance, nothing could beat the taste, nor the time spent with my little chefs. Plural? Yes, Secondborn has an uncanny ability to always wake prematurely when there's a project she's not been included in. There were many hands and much love that went into these pastries, not only filling my belly, but my being as well.



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