Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My favorite dough recipe

Freshly baked bread has got to be one of the best smells ever.  Nothing says "homey" more than the scent of hot rolls straight from the oven wafting through the house.   As with most of the things I do, I only do them half way homemade.  While I DO make homemade bread... I let my bread machine do the hard part.  Here's the recipe I use the most in my breadmachine... I believe it comes from Betty Crocker's Dinner Roll recipe, however, I use it for so much more than just dinner rolls.

Put ingredients into the bread machine in the order they are listed:

1 egg
1/2 stick butter (1/4c.)
1/2 water
1/2 c. warm milk (I usually mix the hot water and milk together and call it warm)
1/2 tsp. salt
 3 3/4 cups flour... often I use half wheat flour and it gives it a nice sweet taste.
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast (or one packet)

Set your machine for "dough"

When the dough cycle is complete, take the risen dough out of the machine and divide it into portions.  I like to use a scale to make sure I'm getting equal sized rolls.  Once the dough is divided I start to roll it.  This particular day, I was making small hamburger buns so the portion sizes were 3 oz.  Normally, if I was just making dinner rolls, they would be 2 oz. each.  

My senior year in highschool I started working at a bakery. (The Heavenly Bake Shoppe now A.J.'s on 10th St. in Tracy, CA).  I worked there for three years and gained a wealth of knowledge about bread and cakes.  I watched the baker roll the dough and eventually learned how to do it myself.  It's quite easy and makes the dough look very professional.  

Here's an attempt at videoing the process of forming rolls.  You'll notice I'm not as proficient with my left hand as I am with my right.  Serves me right for trying to show off using both hands at once! lol

After the rolls are formed, put them on an ungreased baking sheet.  I use a silpat liner.  Cover them with a light towel and let them rise until double... about an hour.  If you're making the 2 oz. rolls, bake them at about 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  I lower the temperature to 375 and bake for 15-20 minutes when I'm making larger rolls.  My family does not like their rolls done... In fact, they'd be happy with gooey dough in the middle  if I let them...ugh.  So you might find you want to bake them for longer if you like that truly golden brown tint. (Which is how they should be baked... just sayin'.)     

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
Like I said in the beginning, this is my favorite dough recipe. Some other things I do with this dough:

  •  I will roll out 2oz.into a flat circle, slap a piece of cheese on it, roll a hot dog up and bake them for 12-15 @375. "Vwah-law", a family favorite.  
  • Frozen:  Make 2oz rolls like above, only instead of letting them rise, I put them on a baking sheet and freeze them.  After they are frozen, I put them in a ziploc bag to use later.  
    • To thaw:  I take them out in the morning, putting them on a baking sheet and covering them with a light towel.  They take all day to rise, then just bake them like normal. 
    •  If you need them quicker, put them frozen on a baking tray, spritz them with a little water and lay a piece of parchment paper over them.  Put them in a 250 degree oven with a small oven safe bowl half full of water.  This will make your oven more like a proofing oven, causing the dough to rise and not dry out.  After they have risen-about an hour-, remove the bowl and parchment paper and bake as normal.
    • Hamburger buns
    • Fresh is always better, so don't expect these to be as good... but they are certainly convenient.
  • Garlic bread sticks.  Shape the dough into sticks instead of rolls.  After baking brush with melted garlic and butter.  
  • I've even used this dough for pizza. 

A collection of Four Fall Flowers

These mums were planted in the spring as just a small "filler" of sorts.  I seriously had NO idea they would do so well, grow so big and be so beautiful come fall.  They are planted in the front garden at the base of the front porch and scah-ream "FALL IS HERE!"
Looove 'em.

Purple Asters.  I was given these by a very thoughtful lady in our church.  They are actually a split from another church garden.  Hmmm don't usually like to use the words "split" and "church" in the same sentence.
Well, these beauties came from Immanuel Lutheran church in Charlotte, Iowa.
(That's shar-LOT, not SHAR-let for all you non-locals)

So impatiens aren't generally considered fall flowers, but this one deserves some recognition.  I actually have had this plant since summer '09.  I over wintered a few and this guy survived them all.
Impressive Impatiens.  

Clematis.  This is the first year for this guy.  I can't wait to see what he does next year :)

That's it for now.  Almost time to put the garden to bed.  Still have some tulip bulbs to plant, and some delicate bulbs/tubers that need to be dug up and stored for winter.  I've never done that before... we'll see if it's worth the trouble!
Happy Fall.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Puttin' up with Peaches

I LOVE peaches.  And I've never canned them before... how crazy is THAT?  This year I was prepared.  A pastor friend of ours just a town or two over does a fundraiser with the youth in his church.  They sell Grand Junction peaches.  O.M.goodness!  I adore Colorado peaches,  and Grand Junction is cream of the crop.  We made sure to buy two boxes of them.

The only problem, was that my kitchen was still kinda in the middle of a reno.  This made finding a time to can a little tricky... which meant that the unprotected boxes of peaches were vulnerable to poachers.  Even having been the victim of snackers, I was able to put up 14 pints of peach jam, 6 quarts of peach pie filling, and 6 quarts of packed peaches.  Not bad.  

Because I'd never done peaches before, I decided to go with the recipe that came with the SureJell powder I bought.  In hind sight, I'd go with the no sugar needed kind.   See, you HAVE to use the 5 1/2 cups of sugar PER batch (yes, 5 1/2 cups) with the regular kind or the jam won't jell... but with the no sugar kind, I can control how much sugar and it won't affect the setting of the jam.  Live and learn, I guess.  So for this batch, we get free tooth decay! ::smirk:::                                                                                                                         
Whether I made jam, filling, or just left the peaches alone, I peeled and cut all the peaches into wedges.  To peel the peaches, I put them into simmering water for a few minutes.  They have to be completely submerged for this to work.  After they had gotten hot, I spooned the peaches out of the water and took them to the sink to put them into a bowl filled with cold water.  This basically caused them to split their skins, making it very easy to just slide off the skin and throw it away.  
My blender.  Nothing fancy, but it gets
the job done.
A "rolling boil" is when you can't stir
the bubbles away.

These peaches were so perfect for canning.  They  were juicy, but not mushy, ripe but not overripe.  They were remarkably easy to cut and the pits just fell out of them.  So for the jam I took the peaches and chopped them using the blender.  The idea was to leave some chunks in the jam.  I took the four cups of peaches and one package of SureJell and heated it to a rolling boil over high heat.  I wanted so badly to double the batch, but never having done it before, I was afraid of messing the "science" up and not getting good jam.  This meant I painstakingly made batch after batch after batch of jam.   Once the jam came to a rolling boil, I added the sugar...Made my teeth hurt.

Peach jam.

I filled the pint sized jars with jam, wiped the lips clean,  then put the seals and lids on them.  Of course what I didn't mention was that I ran the jars through the dishwasher cycle to sterilize and heat them... I don't like to run the risk of a jar breaking because I put something hot into a cold jar.  This is why I always have them heated in the dishwasher.
The peach jam took 10 minutes to process in the water bath.
3/4 cup of sugar 
1/4 cup of water
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 TBS lemon juice
3 TBS cornstarch

I whisked all this while heating it to a boil in my large pot, making sure the cornstarch didn't lump... (For one batch I had to use flour because I ran out of cornstartch... seemed to work just fine.)
Once it was mixed I added 5 cups of peach wedges, and let that all heat up till bubbling.
I packed the peaches in quart jars with 1 inch head space.  Wiped the lips and sealed the jars.  They got a 30 minute bath.
The last 6 quarts of peaches were just heated up with some water and 1/4 c. sugar to sweeten them a little.  Once they were bubbly, I ladled them into their jars, wiped and sealed them.  They got a 15 minute bath.  

Well, I can proclaim with confidence that this year's peach pilgrimage was a success!  We have tasted the jam... and it is good!  Now... about all these tomatoes...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crochet Ole!

I've attempted knitting a few times.  I think my earliest memory is of my mom trying to teach me how to knit when I was around... 7?  I quickly forgot, but tried again, much later.  Last winter I made my third (and final) attempt at knitting.  I knitted a scarf.  Which no one will wear because it's too short... and it took me FOREVER.  I'm sorry if I offend any die-hard knitters out there... but I need results way quicker than what knitting produces.  

    After my last epic fail at knitting, I decided to look into crocheting.  After all, my sister, Katie was with me in our first knitting class with mom... and she's abandoned it all together for crocheting. Perhaps she knew something I didn't.  

       Off to Ohio for a crochet lesson! Katie got me started on some basic crochet lingo and stitches. At first, I just practiced on old yarn until I felt that I could handle a project.  It dawned on me that perhaps youtube would have some educational videos that showed how to crochet.  Jackpot!  For an uber visual person such as myself, these homemade how-tos were perfect for me.  One You-tuber: "tjw1963" even does slo-mo!  She's awesome.  I followed her project instructions closely, "rewinding" over and over to make sure I was doing everything just right.  By the time I was finished with my project, it was so cute, I wished I had used higher quality yarn!  Wanna know what I made???
A Tam...a beret, if you will... A HAT.

This is my daughter, Emily.  She's not real thrilled with how I made her wear the hat.
I get this look a lot. :)

The most important thing, is that someone
actually wants to wear it!  
Top view

Here's the link to the written instructions. 
You can find all of Theresa's videos by going to and searching for The Art of Crochet.

Aww, now she's happy.  Of course I can't see the
hat... but she's so darn cute.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Chip Scones

Chocolate chip scone and iced mocha.
There is no such a thing as too much chocolate!
Oh My Goodness. I just made THEE yummiest scones.

 Betty Crocker Rocks.

Cooler weather always sends me to my kitchen with a strong desire to make something sweet and yummy.  I don't know if it's the fact that I'm no longer sweating in the humidity... or because I feel the need to "store up fat" for the long winter ahead... heh.  Either way my nesting instincts set in and I bake.
    Today, scones were on the menu.  I'm not sure I've ever made scones before. I've certainly eaten them many times.

Keeping my family in mind, I ignored Betty's suggestion of  raisins and opted for Dark chocolate chips instead.  No nuts're welcome, Eric ;)

Here's what I did.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1/3 c. butter
1 3/4 c. flour
3 TBS sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup currants or raisins ...or dark chocolate chips ;)
4-6 TBS half and half*
1 egg, beaten (yes, another one)

* I didn't have half and half, so I substituted with "homemade" buttermilk... a trick I learned from my Better Homes and Garden cookbook.  To make a buttermilk substitute, I put a tablespoon of lemon juice in 1/2 cup of milk.  Let it sit for a few minutes.   Basically, you're making curdled milk.  I use it when the recipe only calls for a small amount.  In this case it worked out just fine.  

Cut 1/3 cup butter into flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar until resembles small crumbs.  Stir in egg then chocolate chips.  Stir in half and half one tablespoon at a time until dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl.

Drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 10 times... I have no idea how much one knead is let alone 10 kneads, but I think the idea here is just not to over knead it.  Now, I like the triangular shaped scones, but not the pizza-cut isosceles triangle.  I rolled the dough out into a 1/2" thick long rectangle and made more of  a right angled triangle and even a couple scalene triangles... yes, I googled "triangles".

Put the scones on an ungreased baking dish, brush with (second) beaten egg and bake for 10-12 minutes.  I baked mine for about 15 min., but my oven is like that.

Betty didn't say to drizzle with powdered sugar frosting, but c'mon, it's a no brainer!   Powdered sugar + little bit of milk+ little bit of lemon juice. I made mine a little thicker because I drizzled it over the scones while they were still hot and I didn't want it to just melt away.  You can always add powdered sugar if it's too thin or more milk if it's too thick.

I enjoyed mine with some iced coffee... hmmm...maybe another day I'll share how I make my iced mochas.
Oh, and by the time I finished this post, all the scones were gone.  :)  Success!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How do ya like THEM apples?

Earlier this month my dear husband ran and completed his first half marathon up in Dubuque... he did a great job btw!.   On the drive home we stopped off at a "mom and pop" apple stand.  This place was so very cute.  They had pumpkins, gourds, apples all displayed in cute ways... wish I had gotten a picture of it.  We were slightly disappointed that they couldn't let us pick our own apples... something about not being insured for it... oy.  So we got a few bags of apples to take home and make applesauce with.

So this is what I do when I make applesauce.  Now, I'm taking a risk here by showing just how easy it really is to make your own applesauce.  I can feel my Martha status slowly slipping... ;)

    First thing I do is fill my HUGE canning pot 2/3 full of water and set in on the stove to boil.  Keeping the lid on will keep the heat and vapor in so I don't boil away the water. Plus, it seems to help the water reach a boil quicker.  Next I put all my canning jars into the dishwasher and send it through a cycle.  This not only sanitizes the jars after they have been sitting in my pantry for three seasons... it also keeps them nice and hot until I need to fill them with hot applesauce.  
Quart sized mason jars sterilized
and heated in the dishwasher.

My canning pot... got it at a garage sale back in California
for next to nothing and never used it until I moved to Iowa!

Let me just say this is the greatest canning invention. EVER.
 $50 well spent.  You'll see later just what it does.  

I set up my food strainer on the dining room table.  I have to do that in there because the countertop in my kitchen doesn't have a wide enough overhang for the contraption to grip onto.  I use some rubbery drawer lining and kitchen towels to keep from marring my dining table.  It works really well.  Now that I'm all set up... it's time for some apples.

Apples get washed in my new sink!
Although, I think organic is a great choice, these apples are just your run of the mill, pesticide infected apples... so make sure you wash all that waxy buildup off!  

Why yes, yes that is my new granite composite, espresso colored sink... thanks for noticing :)  Updates on THAT project are coming soon... but back to them apples.

All I did was quarter the apples and throw them into a pot... I really need to invest in a stock pot or something bigger than the one I have now.  Anyway, no need to core or peel.  Seriously.
 You'll see....

Death of an apple.

 I like to put in something to compliment the flavor of the apples.  Usually it is cinnamon sticks.  This time I just bundled them and tied them with a twisty tie.  Sometimes I make a pouch with cheesecloth and put in some cloves along with the cinnamon sticks.  This goes into the pot with the apples and I put in a few cups of water to help steam the apples.

 I cover and cook the apples at medium high until they start to get soft and mushy... about 10 minutes.  Let me tell you, this makes your house smell WONDERFUL.  It's about now that the kids will make their way into the kitchen to see what I'm doing.

SO after the apples are softened, I put a colander over a bowl in the sink.  I do this because I want to reuse the steaming water with the next batch. ... I'll explain later why.

 Drain the apples.
Aerial view.

The apples then get put into the large funnel on the strainer.  The red plunger helps push the apples down into the moving parts of the strainer.  Eric loves to help with this part.

Here is where the magic happens.  As the handle is turned and the apples are plunged down into the strainer, the meat of the apple gets strained into one bowl (pink) while the peel, seeds, core, and stem all get pushed out into the yellow bowl.  This contraption saves me sooo much time.

Wide mouthed funnel and jar tongs.

While another pot of apples is steaming, I take the first batch and begin to ladle it into quart jars.  Once those are filled (leaving about 1/4 inch head space), I wipe the lip of the jar clean to ensure a good seal,  drain the second batch of apples like the first, then put another pot of apples on the stove to steam.  When I have six or seven filled jars, I  put lids and rings around them and put them into the canning pot for 15 minutes.  There needs to be about 2 inches of water covering the jars.  If I don't have enough I boil some quickly in my tea kettle and fill the pot.

After the fifteen minutes is up, I pull up the jars and use the tongs to take them out of the water.  I put a double thickness of towels on the counter and just let the jars sit there until I hear them POP.  That's when I know they've sealed.  You can re-process the jars if they don't pop... but mine always do!

So I'd say the hardest thing about making applesauce is the clean up!  Now I have applesauce in my pantry to enjoy all winter.

  Oh! The reason I saved the water from the applesauce bath is because I will strain it and use it as apple juice to make apple jelly another day.  I just seal it up in a container and put it into the fridge.  :)