Mar 21, 2011

A Little "Green" in my Baking Week!

It rained in California this week. Rained and rained and RAINED!! Then the sun came out and I think I spotted a rainbow over my local Green Bargain store. Even though St. Patricks Day is over, I'm sure the Leprechauns were responsible for my bit of good luck THIS week!

My husband suggested a trip to the Green Bargain to search for a "new read". After I found my book I started browsing around and saw what appeared to be a bread machine.

"What is this??!! A Zojirushi!!!?? At the Green Bargain??!!"

What a find! I mean, just look at the operating pad.... it still had the protective plastic over it!

Protective Screen Hadn't been removed

Looking good inside too!

Only missing its paddles

My husband looked at me like I was crazy!

"But you just got a new breadmaker a couple weeks ago."

"I know, I KNOW, but..... Honey.... its a Zojirushi!!!! Do you KNOW how much these things COST new?? Most of the time over $200! How much are they asking?"

Being Sold For $22

"Honey, grab it quick, grab it!!"

"Well, let me see.... is it complete? There MUST be something wrong with it if it's being sold for THAT little. See? It's missing it's little paddles"

We can replace those easy. The internet, I mean, how much could they COST???

Beautiful view of inside without paddles

So I finally talked him into grabbing it just the way it was and we head up to the front with our "find".

Hubby says, "We'd like this and oh, by the way, do you happen to have the little paddles up here at the counter somewhere?"

"No, it is being sold as is.... BUT, I can knock a bit off the price for you."

(My jaw was almost on the ground now. Isn't $22 low enough??)

She says, "How about $15 and we call it a sale? You can probably find new blades for that price."

I am happily dancing the jig and about to POP trying not to look TOO excited and here is the proof of my purchase......

Marked Down to $15!

Hardgoods..... $15.

I came home, turned it on to make sure it worked, which it DID, downloaded the user manual from the internet, ordered 2 paddles for the total of $12 + shipping and handling and I can't WAIT to try it out!!

Thank you Reilly Hoolahan Seamus O'Manny my beloved little Leprechaun!!!

Mar 16, 2011

Using The New Bread Machine

Over the last week, I've used my new Hamilton Beach bread machine 3 times. The first was a loaf of the basic white, which was eaten up in a DAY! The second loaf was made using spelt flour along with Better For Bread flour. I added just a Tbsp. of vital wheat gluten to that to ensure a nice rise and it was perfect. Then, there's the current loaf that is filling my home right now with the scent of home... a cinnamon raisin loaf requested by my son-in-law, Matt.

I'm impressed by the way the machine mixes even the large 2 lb. loaves I've been making effortlessly. With today's bread, I tried adding in raisins after the initial dough kneading. The machine has a feature that beeps when you can add in ingredients. Worked like a charm to incorporate my raisins completely throughout the loaf.

Here's today's recipe

Cinnamon-Raisin 2lb. Loaf
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk
3 Tbsp. butter or vegetable oil
3 1/4 c. Bread Flour
2 tsp. Cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp. Bread Machine yeast
1 c. raisins.

And here is the luscious loaf after baking. Wow, looks and smells so good and homey!

cinnamon bread

The HomeBaker Breadmaker has 12 different cycles available;
  • Basic 1.5 and 2 lb. loaf size
  • French 1.5 and 2 lb. loaf size
  • Gluten-Free 1.5 and 2 lb. loaf size
  • Quick
  • Sweet 1.5 and 2 lb. loaf size
  • 1.5 lb. Express
  • 2.0 lb. Express
  • Dough
  • Jam
  • Cake
  • Whole Grain 1.5 and 2 lb. loaf size
  • Bake
Pretty enticing huh? When I read there was a jam cycle, I was intrigued! Sure enough, there is a recipe for making Strawberry Jam in the booklet that makes 4 refrigerator cups worth. I'll be making that in May when the California strawberry season hits!

Another cycle that looks interesting is the Cake cycle. You take a boxed cake mix and dump it in along with the called for ingredients and the bread maker whips it all together and cooks it. Now THAT must make for an interesting shape!!

The recipe book also contains a recipe for gluten free rolls featuring Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix and the Dough Cycle of the breadmaker that looks really tasty!

The dough cycle is also a great way to make one of my family's favorite foods from scratch, Pizza crust for both my everyday pizzas and for summer outdoor grilling. I'm REALLY looking forward to that!

Mar 12, 2011

A New Breadmaker!


Yesterday this was on sale at my local Sears at a price I couldn't refuse! So I will be making some bread in it this week and letting you know how it compares to my older Panasonic model.

  • It is newer and has several more settings than my older model. It is even supposed to be able to make a refrigerator jam!
  • It makes a 2 lb. loaf in a more traditional shape
  • It is actually somewhat smaller than my current model and looks like it will sit on my counter easier
  • Allows the addition of dried fruits and nuts at a particular cycle and will beep to let you know when to add

  • A 2 lb. loaf with only one dough blade makes me wonder if the dough will be completely mixed
  • Cycle notification "beeps". My current model only beeps when the bread is completely done. That means I can program it to make fresh bread in the morning when I get up and the beeping isn't keeping me awake through the night or early morning
  • It appears to use only Bread Machine yeast. My model now uses any kind as well as sourdough
I really can't wait to try something new and see the progress in bread machines since I bought my first about 15 years ago.

Stay tuned..

This weeks' bread will include Irish Soda bread for your St. Patricks Day celebration and a cinnamon raisin loaf for my dear son-in-law.

Mar 7, 2011

Oh My... Itsa Pizza Pie!!

Pizza. One of America's all time favorite foods. We know it originated in the Mediterranean around Italy, but want to hear some cool historical facts about Pizza? Check out today for more recipes for dough, toppings and sauce!

Here are a just a few facts as taken from the history page:

  • The history of pizza goes back to the time of Virgil, who died in the first Century BC, but not before writing down a pizza recipe for posterity.

  • Around 1000 AD the word “picea” started to appear in historical records in Italy , it was a circle of dough and the topped with a variety of fillings then baked. The word pizza came into common usage at about the same time.

  • The pizza as we know it today began to originate in Naples; they were flavored with oil and garlic, cinciielli (a small fish), or anchovies, and mozzarella cheese.

  • Up to 1830 the pizzas were sold from Neapolitan market stalls. The first pizza restaurant was called Port' Alba. It had installed an oven fired by volcanic rock from Mount Vesuvius as these reach the high temperatures that help to make the best pizza.

  • The sixteenth century Bourbon queen Maria Carolina loved the tri colored green red and white pizza (the forerunner of the Margherita pizza) so much that she convinced her husband King Ferdinand IV to allow the pizzas to be made in the royal ovens. She had a problem because pizza as a food was associated very much with the peasants.

  • No history of pizza would be complete without the classic story of the pizza Margherita. Modern pizza history was made in 1889 when Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort of Umberto I, visited Naples with her king. Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, was asked to prepare a special dish in honour of the Queen's visit. Esposito consulted his wife who was the real pizza expert and together they developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the city's guest of honor.

Making pizza dough is pretty easy. Often, I will use my Kitchen-Aid mixer to mix a double batch of dough for me. The great thing about pizza dough is that it can be made up and refrigerated or frozen for later use. And since pizza is good for just about every meal, depending on how you top it, we go through a lot of pizza!!
Our Local Oceanside Restaurant's Recipe For Pizza Dough

With today's normal recipe of dough, I tossed in a Tbsp. of finely grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tsp. of Italian herbs. It adds extra flavor to the crust and makes it look so pretty!

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough

Remember, Pizza dough can be used for more than just Pizza! Today I'm trying a brand new recipe for Chicken Spinach Calzones taken from the Our Favorite Take-Out Recipe book by Gooseberry Patch and found HERE.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 c. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (I used fresh)
2 t. dried basil
3/4 c. pizza sauce
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
3.ozs. mozzarella cheese, cubed
10 oz. tube refrigerated pizza dough (mine was homemade)

The Filling Ingredients

I went ahead and gave my chicken a little Italian flavoring as well with Italian herb seasoning. Yum Yum, it looks good already!

Grilled Chicken Tenders Chopped

Once you cook up the filling, it looks more like this.

The filling

Simply divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each into a large circle. Fill with chicken and filling on one half of the circle being careful to leave a half inch border around the edge. Fold the dough over making a large half circle and press around the edges with a fork to seal. Brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle on a few more herbs and pop in a 400 degree oven for about 15 min.

Ready for the Oven

They turned out GREAT!! Huge, but great!

Yummy! The Finished Calzone

My husband and I split one in half and put one away for another meal this week. Use your imagination on what to put in the middle. Anything that tastes good on a Pizza will taste good in a Calzone. My other favorite filling is sausage, pepperoni, onion, green bell peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese with just a bit of red sauce filling.

The Finished Calzone

This was absolutely delicious! So make up some dough today and make extras. They are a great Friday night, movie night meal at our house. When the weather turns a bit warmer, we'll make up this dough again and show you how we make pizza on the grill outside. It's SO good!!

Mar 6, 2011

Baking Bread With Sourdough Starter

A couple of weeks ago, I found this listed on my local Craigslist.....

100 Year Old Starter!! Right up my breadmaking alley!!

So I replied and, lucky me, I was gifted by Cathy with my first sourdough starter!! She also shared some recipes and directions for "feeding" the starter so I could make enough to use and share with others. I got busy right away! Within the week, I had enough starter I could make my first loaf. You need about a cup and a half of starter. The cup goes into your recipe and the 1/2 cup gets fed more water and flour to continue its growth.... but I will share THAT with you later in this post.... Onto the recipe....

The night before you plan on making the bread, you want to take the starter out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature overnight. Here's my mason jar full. I hear some people name their starter.... hmmm, Clementine maybe? After all, it is the way most miner's were able to have bread during the 1849 gold rush in California. I'm sure you've heard of San Francisco Sourdough??

Ready To Be Used

After sitting out all night the wild yeast in the starter is happy, HAPPY! How can I tell? Well, take a look at all those little bubbles there on the top. It's ready to start making some bread.

Sourdough Starter ready to be used

The recipe I chose was found on HERE on YouTube and consists of the following ingredients.
1 c. sourdough starter
1 c. water
2 tsp. salt
3 c. flour (I used bread flour)

That's it, easy so far isn't it?

A simple recipe

I mixed the wet ingredients together first until combined then added the flour and salt.

Mixing in the flour and salt

Less than a minute later I had this soft, rather "wet" texture of dough. But that's how it's supposed to look so onto the "rising". The rising for sourdough takes 12 hours. That seems like a long time but if you are a working person, it gives you a chance to put the ingredients together and pop it into a warm place for the day and then come home and bake it up.

Dough before rising

And here is after 12 hours. It has doubled in size!

Dough after a 12 hr. rise

The next step is the baking process. I use a dutch oven to bake mine in. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Put the dutch oven and its lid, separately, into the oven to preheat as well. I added a little non-stick to my dutch oven.

While you are heating things up, take your dough gently out of the bowl for minimal shaping. As the dough is in front of you, fold the left side into the center, then the right side into the center. Turn the dough 1/2 turn and do the same again. You will end up with a small shaped loaf.

The Lodge Pan I Cook My Bread In

Open the oven and place the shaped loaf into the dutch oven and quickly put on the lid (using hot pads of course.... THIS IS A HOT OVEN!!)

Bake with the lid on for 20 min. Then with the lid off for another 15 to 20 min. Mine was getting a bit dark so I decreased the temperature to 425 and stuck with the 15 minutes.

Can't you just SMELL it???!!! Yummo!

Sourdough Loaf

I'm going to have to calibrate my oven before the next time I bake this because it was good but really too dark for my liking. You could really taste the sourdough, the crust was nice and crunchy and the crumb was moist and so VERY tasty!

The finished loaf - just a bit dark

It's hard to believe the dough was this light with absolutely no other yeast but the wild yeasts of the starter.

I will definitely be baking this about once a week if not more often and I can't wait to try some pancakes or pizza dough with it too. My kids are all begging me to give them just a bit of starter so they can make their own bread.

Nice and airy

So speaking of managing starter....this is what I had leftover from baking. From this point I added 1 c. of warm water and 3/4 c. of bread flour and stirred it all in. I like to add about a Tbsp. of mashed potato flakes too.

Ready to Feed

I cleaned out my jar and added back in the starter. I'd like to say that you do have to be rather careful with what you save your starter in. It really doesn't like metal at all. So I stick with a glass jar. Crocks do well too. And you should use a wooden spoon to stir not metal. Cover the jar with a piece of Saran Wrap and screw on the metal lid. Then poke a few small holes in the saran wrap with a toothpick to allow the starter to "breathe". My starter sits out after this "feeding" for about 4 hours before I put it back into the refrigerator. It's also OK if you see the starter separating with a liquid on the top and the white on the bottom. All you need to do is stir gently to reincorporate everything. If you are trying to make enough to share, simply feed your starter every couple of days with about 1/2 c. water and 1/4 c. flour stirring and allowing the jar to sit out for a few hours. Before you know it, you will have enough to share too!

You can find more information on how to make your own sourdough starters, the history of sourdough and some great bread, roll, pancake and waffle recipes HERE.

A nice clean jar and some added water and flour

See how happy the starter is after getting it's new feeding? Look at all those happiness bubbles!

Happy after being "fed"

I hope you give this a try. It's really easy, very tasty and digestible and can also be made in a bread machine.

And Thank You SOOOOO much again Cathy for allowing me to share your "wild yeast". I've had so much fun and can't WAIT to make some pizza dough with it!

Mar 1, 2011

The History (and Recipe) For Pretzels

The history of the pretzel dates back to 600 AD when a monk in the area between France and Italy was playing with dough left over from the daily baking. While he was playing he came up with a unique twist that looked like arms crossed in prayer. This baked "pretiola" was given to children as a reward for their reverence.

This treat gained in popularity, and as was the culture of the time, spread to other monasteries over the Alps into Austria and Germany where it came to be known as the "pretzel". It became more popular with time becoming a symbol in marriage (broken like a wishbone at the ceremony), saving a city (pretzel bakers heard the Turks burrowing under the walls of Vienna in 1510 A.D. and called out the alarm and saved the city), and becoming a religious symbol (a page in the prayer book used by Catharine of Cleves depicts St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels which were thought to bring good luck, prosperity and spiritual wholeness.)

The pretzel first appears in America in the record of, what else, a court case. It seems a baker named Carl Carmer and his wife in 1652 were charged with selling Pretzels to the Indians. The problem wasn't that the Indians were eating pretzels (which they loved), but that the pretzels were made from the good flour from milling while the bread sold to the good people of Beverwyck, New York was made from the left-overs. As recorded in the town's history "The heathen were eating flour while the Christians were eating bran."

The Pennsylvania Dutch Hard Pretzel was made and sold as a side-line by bakers in the Lancaster area since the early 1800's. The first American pretzel bakery supposedly start with a tale of altruism. It seems that a baker in Lititz gave a drifter a free meal in the 1850's - in return for his kindness the tramp gave the baker a recipe for pretzels that eventually became the recipe of the baker's apprentice - Julius Sturgis. This style of Pretzel became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch Hard Pretzel.

So without further ado... Here is the Blue Ribbon Bread For Today... Pretzels.

Using the recipe I found HERE by Alton Brown, TV Food Networks Chemistry Food Guru, I set out to make, what I hoped would be, the best soft pretzels around.

This recipe starts out with 4 simple ingredients; salt, sugar, yeast and water.

Salt, Sugar, Yeast & Water

As with most recipes, it is crucial to the yeast to have it at the proper temperature which was 110 degrees today.

Must get the water temperature correct.

I must confess, I usually don't put the salt into the water with the yeast because I've heard that yeast doesn't like it. But because this was Alton Brown's recipe and he has already tested it, I went exactly with the recipe.

The Water, Sugar, Yeast, Salt Mixture Before The Bloom

And 5 minutes later, I was blessed with "The Bloom".

My Blooming Yeast

At this point, I needed to add in some melted butter...

Melted Butter

And the AP, or All Purpose Flour (I just found out today that AP was All Purpose).

All Purpose Flour

Mix all the ingredients up with whatever tool you have. Kitchen-Aid is my "best friend" when it comes to kneading the dough. I can turn it on at the correct speed and basically walk away with the timer.


Yup, 6 minutes was just about right.

After 6 Minutes of Kneading

The next step calls for the bowl and dough to be oiled just a bit, cover with damp towel and then left to rest for an hour.

After Kneading

It was rather cold in my kitchen today so I went for the warmed oven. Turn on your oven set to 350 degrees for just 3 minutes then shut it off. Check to see how warm that made it because you don't want it to be too hot. I left a stoneware pizza plate inside my oven to try to absorb some of the heat and let it out slowly over the hour.

The Rise

Now here's the great thing about bread dough. I had errands to run. More than an hour's worth. The dough was put into the oven at 11:11 am and I did not get back to it until 4:00! And when I did get home, the dough was absolutely perfect!

Let Rise For An Hour

The next steps are to form the pretzels, boil them for a short 30 seconds in water that has backing soda in it take out to a parchment paper lined pan, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. It sounds like a lot of things to do at so I just got EVERYTHING ready. I started the water boiling...

Putting the Baking Soda Into the 10 Cups of Water

Made up an egg wash (one egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water) and even a little extra flour just in case they stuck to my board.

The Egg Wash and Flour For The Work Surface

I got this all ready and then didn't even wind up using it. It rolled around too much and the dough was easier to work with right in my hands.

Flour Your Work Surface

Once the parchment paper is in the pan, you want to spray it with a little Pam or oil.

Get Your Parchment Paper Ready

The recipe says it makes 8 large pretzels so I took out the rounded dough and simply cut it into 8 equal parts.

Cut Into 8 Large Pieces

Soak in the baking soda water for 30 sec.

The Water Bath

Here's what they look like right out of the water.

Shaped & Boiled

Here it the pretzel brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with salt ready for the oven.

Oven Ready

Then placed in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Into The Oven

Aren't they beautiful!! They tasted so good! But then every recipe needs a bunch of victims... I mean taste testers to know if they were really good.

The Finished Pretzels

Enter my grandsons, Danny and Scott, my daughter, Rebecca and my husband, Wes. "So you guys.... how are they?"

My Victims... I mean Taste Testers!

A BIG 4 thumbs up!

Results of Taste Test? A Big Thumbs Up!

You HAVE to try this recipe. It's so EASY and quick and your taste buds will thank you for the fresh, soft, homey taste of these pretzels. We tried them dipped in a Nacho Cheese sauce like they do at the movies, but they were so good, they really didn't need anything else.

Stay tuned for our next little history lesson and a trip to Italy.....

Later during the day I wrote this....
I made an egg salad sandwich with the soft pretzel and it was THE BEST! The salt on the pretzel was the perfect compliment to the egg! This is definitely a MUST TRY recipe! To see what others are cooking this week, head on over to YeastSpotting.