Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The need to knead...


Every once in awhile I need baking therapy and yeast bread is just the cure!

This one has been making appearances in my home for years - it's my daughter's favorite and yesterday it rewarded me, even though I took out my frustrations on it, with some soft, tender, slightly sweet, golden loaves that disappeared very quickly.

There's nothing like the smell of yeast...watching that dough rise high above the bowl and whoooooosh down when you touch it. The way it yields and molds to your touch and settles into a pan with a contented sigh, ready for it's warm nap.

The homey goodness that is represented in a loaf of homemade bread is precious and rare, these days.

Do your family a favor and give to them a labor of love!

(I have kneaded bread for years - I like to feel the dough, and know when it's ready to rest. But I've also got a big KitchenAid mixer and sometimes that is the way to go. Throw the ingredients in and mix for three minutes with the bread hook. PRACTICALLY INSTANT!!)


1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
Two 1/4-ounce packages active dry yeast (the "quick rise" ones are wonderful)
Drizzle of honey
1/2 cup warm water (warmer than lukewarm, but not hot-hot)
1 egg
3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl (or bowl of your big mixer) stir together the boiling water, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, molasses, honey, salt, and butter.

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast and drizzle of honey in the 1/2 cup of warm water. Let rest for one minute.

Mix the dissolved yeast and egg into the oatmeal mixture until well combined. Add one cup of flour and stir in until incorporated. Add another cup and repeat. Repeat for the third cup. At this point, if you aren't using a mixer, you will start kneading by hand.

Flour your hands and pull the dough to one side of the bowl. Add 1/2 cup of flour to the bottom of the bowl and lay the dough on it. Bring up one side of the dough and fold it over, pushing down with the heel of your hand, hard.

Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and pull the top edge of the dough up and fold it over, pushing down with the heel of your hand. Continue doing this, adding flour as needed, until the dough is very elastic - about 6-10 minutes.

(If you do it in the mixer, add the three cups of flour and mix on medium until incorporated. Feel the dough. If it's very sticky, add the other 1/2 cup. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Dough will still be slightly sticky.)

Drizzle some oil into a big bowl. Gather the dough into a ball and roll in the oil, coating the surface. Place in a warm place, covered. (I turn on the oven just until the elements are red. Turn it off and place the bowl in there.) Let rise until doubled and very light.

Lightly grease two large loaf pans, or 4 mini pans. Set aside.

Punch the dough down, removing as much air as possible. Form into loaves and let rise until doubled again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees during this rising. Bake for 35-45 minutes for the big loaves, 25-30 minutes for the minis, or until golden brown.

Remove from pans to a wire rack and brush the tops with oil while still warm. Cool completely and store in plastic bags.

These are adorable little mini loaves...
just pretending to be bigger!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Falling in love with you...


Fall is my favorite time of year, simply for the smells that come from the kitchen! Spicy, warm, sugary, comforting...all leave you feeling loved and cared for.

These cookies are super soft and rich. I added more spices than the original recipe, and topped them with simple cream cheese fluffiness.

I split some of them and made pumpkin whoopie pies with the filling-topping and those were a big hit, although not as gorgeous.

When I don't have a lot of time, spreading the dough into a 9x13 pan and baking into bars is quick and easy. Frost and sprinkle with spice - you're out the door to a potluck or party with a pan of homemade deliciousness bar none!


adapted from the Libby's recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Linda's Pumpkin Pie Spice
OR 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract
3 cups sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture just until combined.

Drop by very rounded tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden and set. Remove from sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling:
In a medium bowl whip the cream cheese and the extract until fluffy. Beat in the whipped cream, just until combined.

Either frost the cookies with the cream cheese mixture or split the cookies and fill. They must be refrigerated if frosted/filled. I kept the filling in the fridge and used it as needed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lemony Lovliness!


Luscious, lemony, speckled with zest and very moist.....

This started out as cranberry lemon loaf...but when it came time to fold in the ruby-red, dried cranberries, alas I was out. So, into the oven it went - without a key ingredient.

It would have been nice to see those chewy little bits snug in their bed of moist, tender crumbs...but the flavor was still bright and tangy, and I don't have much to complain about!

This bread gets better as it sits - cakey and the flavor more pronounced. I'll give you the recipe as it should be - but even alone and'll do just fine!


2/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
OPTIONAL - 2 cups diced, dried cranberries or fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries - go wild!

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 4 mini loaf pans (or 2 regular size) with vegetable cooking spray.

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the lemon juice, zest, and eggs, and vanilla until well combined.

In another bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add alternately with the milk to the egg mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Fold in berries, if using.

Divide batter among prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes if making mini-loaves. Remove to a wire rack, but leave in the pans.

In a small bowl combine the glaze ingredients. Pour over the hot loaves and allow to cool completely before removing from pans. Wrap tightly to store.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009



Cookies and milk...cookies and coffee...cookies and cookies for all I care - nothing is more comforting than a homemade COOKIE!

The cream cheese in this dough makes it flaky-tender and very easy to work with. I swirled mine with cinnamon-sugar, but adding finely chopped nuts or chocolate would be wonderful.

(The dough itself has no sugar, so using it for savory fillings would be great. Leave out the vanilla and add garlic and parmesan, maybe? How about a little cayenne or chipotle? )

But back to sweet cookies...these would be beautiful on your holiday platters - and made larger and filled with chopped raisins or cranberries could be eaten for breakfast!!

What? That's within the realm of possibilities!

adapted from Taste of Home

1 cup butter, softened
One 8-ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large bowl beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until fluffy. Combine the flour and salt and gradually beat it into the butter mixture.

Divide dough in two and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour. Combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a rectangle - about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the sugar mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Roll up tightly - starting at either the short or long edge. (Starting at the short edge will give you a fatter log, and bigger cookies.) Wrap log tightly and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice logs into 3/8 inch slices and place two inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

TIP: I like to take a 12-inch piece of sewing thread and use that to cut things like this - keeps them from being squished with the knife. Simply hold the thread in both hands and slide it under the log. Bring both ends up and cross them, pulling until it cuts through the dough. Perfect!

Ready for an oven nap...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Spice-spice, Baby!


There are few spice blends that I use more than Pumpkin Pie. It's so good in everything - from my Pumpkin Protein Shake, to Greek-style yogurt, cheesecake, quick breads, spice cookies, sprinkled on oatmeal...the list goes on and on.

The one that you can buy is good in a pinch...but nothing beats the hand-picked cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, high-quality ginger and all the LOVE that goes into making your own!

I know there are higher-end places you can buy spices, but I love Penzey's. They are super fresh and affordable, and have a big variety.

(I like to be on a budget, but if you know of great finds that you can't live without...let ME know, too. A girl's gotta network, right?!)

Making your own blend means you can choose the flavors you love to dominate, add just a touch of this or that and go heavy on something else. This recipe is the ratios that I love - add, subtract...use a stronger or milder cinnamon - whatever makes you happy in your heart!


For the standard, Libby's-everybody-loves-it pumpkin pie recipe (two pie-big can) I use 3 1/2 teaspoons of the mix.

12 teaspoons China Cassia cinnamon
6 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons cloves - grind your own if you can
1/4 teaspoon allspice- grind if you want
1/4 rounded teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all and store in an airtight container, if you don't use it all at once. (Like jumping in and wallowing around...ooops...sorry. Got carried away.)