Food Friday – August 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge – Golden Focaccia

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from Kris B.

It’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong week again already!  This month’s challenge is Golden Focaccia.  In all of my bread baking experience, I have never made focaccia.  I always enjoy trying something new so was excited for this challenge.

As I read through the recipe for the Golden Focaccia the first time, I was surprised at how simple this bread really is.  The dough calls for minimal ingredients – flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt.  Like the Classic Baguette that was the June Bakealong Challenge, the Golden Focaccia demands a little bit of forethought in that it uses an overnight starter.  This consists of only flour, yeast, and water and can be put together quickly.

I had a plan.  My day was scheduled such that I could make the focaccia, homemade spaghetti sauce, and put together a nice salad using ingredients from our garden.  I’d photograph the focaccia and then we would sit down to a nice dinner.  Note: I had to buy the tomatoes for the spaghetti sauce because all of the beautiful tomatoes that I grew were “claimed” by our resident squirrels just before they were ripe enough to be picked.  That aside,  my plan was perfect and I even had plenty of time with which to execute it.

We all know what happens when we think that we have fail proof plans…

Let’s just say that I am vying for the job of cook on Noah’s ark because I seem to be, on a regular basis, making recipes for these blog posts two times!

Even having to use canned tomato sauce, the spaghetti sauce was delicious.  It’s almost impossible to make a bad green salad so there were no problems there.  That leaves the focaccia…It was terrible!  Despite cooking it the minimum time suggested by the recipe, my focaccia was way overdone, having a texture more like that of dry toast than the moist chewy consistency that I expected.  In trying to troubleshoot, the two things I knew would result in this kind of failure were overcooking and too much flour.  My oven cooks “cool.”  Most of the time when a range is given for cooking time, I have to leave things in the maximum time and sometimes then some.  If the focaccia was overcooked, which it seemed to be, I have to think that was an inaccuracy in the recipe in some way.

With regard to the problem being the use of too much flour, I weigh my flour rather than measuring by volume because this gives a more accurate amount.  And, no extra flour is necessary to knead this dough, so I was fairly sure that too much flour wasn’t the issue.  Solving my problem was going to take some more thought.

Dinner that night consisted of pasta and salad…no bread!

Not to be defeated, I tried again with the recipe for Golden Focaccia.  On my second attempt, I made two changes: I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and I cooked the bread only fifteen minutes.  Bread flour has a higher protein content and generally yields a higher rise and less crumb.  Success!  This time was much better!  I suspect the reduction in cooking time made the real difference.  I probably could have left the focaccia in the oven another minute or two and it would have perhaps gotten a little more crispy, but under no circumstances would I leave it in the oven for the 20-25 minutes as indicated in the recipe!

One other “substitution” that I made to the recipe as written is rather than using dried rosemary, in combination with salt in pepper, to season the focaccia, I used King Arthur Flour’s Pizza Seasoning.  Yum!

I’m glad that I gave this recipe a second chance.  It is a tasty bread that makes an excellent side to your favorite Italian dish.  As we discovered with my second batch, it also makes the perfect snack as the bread disappeared slice by slice from the counter once it was photographed.  It would also make great sandwich bread if you are looking for a change.

Speaking of photographing the Golden Focaccia…This was challenging also!

Tracey and I have a running joke about brown food and how much of it there is and how difficult it is to photograph said brown food such that it looks appetizing.  Don’t let the name Golden Focaccia fool you.  It is brown food!  The challenge in photographing it comes in trying to plate the food in such a way that it remains the definite subject of the photo, but the overall photo is not boring.  Yes, you can add all kind of props to liven up an image.  Often though, in the end the viewer’s eye is drawn to the pretty bowl or vase of flowers rather than the food item itself.

I will be the first to say that my photo of the Golden Focaccia is rather boring.  I will also admit that I struggled with exactly how to photograph it.  Perhaps I could have used a colored basket liner rather than white.  But, had I done that, the image would have been more clearly bisected.  I think that might have been distracting.  Maybe I would have been better off using a bottle of olive oil in the background instead of the remaining uncut bread.  Or maybe some nice green herbs in some water.  Here’s the deal…olive oil is also brown(ish).  If you happen to have one of those colorful display bottles for your olive oil, it will definitely add a pop of color to your photo…and likely will pull the viewer’s eye away from the bread.  The same would be true of green herbs.  So there’s the dilemma.  And unlike many other photo subjects, food photography cannot really be “saved” with processing.  It must look real.  It must look edible.  Obviously I came up with no real solution to this whole issue with my photo this week, but this second batch tasted delicious!

 

from Tracey G

I have truly come to love the King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge that they present every month. I’m also extremely happy to see that they are continuing it – I was afraid it would only last a year. This month marks the start of a new year of Bakealong Challenges, hard to believe we’ve done it for a year already! It has challenged me and stretched my knowledge and abilities more than I expected! Plus, it’s just downright fun! Yes, there have been frustrations along the way, the first one, off the top of my head, was the Berry Blitz Torte. That one pushed my perfectionist buttons to the breaking point, when in the end, I ended up deciding that the weather was just working too much against me, and it will be one I revisit in the winter, by golly, because I will get it the way I want it! LOL

This month’s KAF Bakealong Challenge, Golden Focaccia is super easy. But it also was a bit of challenge to get “right”. I know that makes it sound ominous, and it’s really not, lol. It IS easy. I just had issues when it came to baking it off. 🙂 There’s also a gluten-free version of the recipe, and I’ll include a link to it at the end of the post!

As Kris stated, the ingredients are simple: flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil, plus herbs of choice for seasoning it before baking. There is only the one part that makes it something you need to plan ahead for – the overnight starter. It helps jump-start your yeast AND it helps flavor the dough a bit. But it does need to sit for about 14 hours, so plan accordingly.

After you get it all mixed up, there’s a rising time in a bowl for about 30 min. Then, you prepare whatever pan you’ve decided to use, they do list a regular sheet pan, 9×13″ sheet pans or even round cake pans as options. I chose two 9×13″ sheet pans. There are a couple of rising times after you get the dough onto the pan, first one is 30 minutes, second rise is approximately 1 hour.  To prepare it to bake, you spritz it with warm water, then drizzle with olive oil. I too chose to use the KAF Pizza Seasoning on one, and the other was the traditional rosemary, salt and pepper.

After it was all spritzed, oiled and seasoned, into the oven it went. And out of the oven it came like a really tasty, light as air – crouton. I overbaked it. It was still lovely, and Jeremy and I pretty much ate both of the breads quickly despite the crunchy texture. I knew then, that it was something I’d likely make quite often, just to have it to nibble on. So, I decided to make it again, and adjust the baking time to see what I ended up with. Second batch was just as tasty, but, I experimented with the baking times – one pan I baked 17 minutes, and the other was 20-21 minutes. I preferred the 20-21 minute version – it had the perfect crunch and chewy texture. But, the bright side of the slightly under-done 17 minute version, is, that it crisps up nicely when reheated in the toaster oven!

All in all, I am so glad for this month’s Bakealong Recipe for Golden Focaccia, it’s something I too have never ever made in my own kitchen, and I am pleased to know how easy it is now to do it. It just seems to be one that you have to mess around with once or twice to get it the way YOU want it to be. And in all honesty, it’s so easy and inexpensive to make that’s not a problem at all, it’s an easy thing to whip up! Just don’t overbake it… LOL

Here’s a link right to the recipe: Golden Focaccia

And if you’re baking gluten-free, they’ve got you covered with a gluten-free version: Gluten Free Focaccia

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Food Friday – Let’s Eat Cake!

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from Kris B.

Have you ever thought about how your food choices, both what you like to eat and what you like to prepare, reflect your personality?  Over the almost three years that Tracey and I have been choosing recipes to write about, I have noticed a distinct pattern in my selections.  I am a down to earth, simple, no frills kind of girl.  In the kitchen, that translates into my preferences are really for home cooking and comfort food kinds of things.  That becomes blatantly obvious in my cake choice for this week’s post.

Though the Scandinavian Gold Cake has kind of a fancy sounding name, it really is a fairly basic cake, almost poundcake-like.  It uses the usual cast of characters – flour, sugar, butter, lots of eggs (6), salt and baking powder.  This cake gets its flavor from almond extract and King Arthur Flour’s Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring.  Use of this specialty flavoring is not necessary; vanilla extract can be substituted.  I wanted to give it a try because the King Arthur Animal Cookies recipe that a made awhile back called for it.  At that time I didn’t have it and did use the vanilla substitution.  I absolutely loved the animal cookies and wanted to make them again, so I ordered the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring to get the “full effect” of that recipe. The flavoring adds a bit of citrus overtone to the vanilla flavor.  In my opinion, it is a worthy purchase.

The one “secret ingredient” called for in the Scandinavian Gold Cake is a cup of toasted almond flour used in addition to the all-purpose flour.  King Arthur Flour does sell Toasted Almond Flour, but I didn’t have any.  (There’s always one ingredient!)  I had only regular almond flour.  What’s a girl to do?  Toast her own!  Spread the almond flour on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake it at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  You will see the flour start to toast and you will smell the nutty aroma.  I toasted mine for the full ten minutes.

The making of the cake is super easy.  Cream butter and add sugar.  Mix in the salt, soda and flavorings.  Then add the flours, followed by the eggs, one at a time.  Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10″ bundt pan and bake for an hour at 325 degrees. Cool the cake in the pan for fifteen minutes and then turn it out of the pan to continue cooling on a baking rack.

Confession time:  I actually had to make this cake twice because of the last step – the turning out of the pan part.  With my first attempt, I used a fancy “cathedral-shaped” bundt pan.  Apparently I did not get all of the nooks and crannies greased and floured well enough and the cake stuck.  It tasted great, but was not photo worthy. Lol!  Perhaps my failure with the fancy pan goes back to what I said at the beginning of this post about being a simple kind of girl.  With my second attempt, I used a regular bundt pan and made sure no surface was left un-greased.  This cake turned out of the pan perfectly.  All that said, my family was perfectly happy to eat the first cake that was served in “chunks” rather than slices.

The Scandinavian Gold Cake recipe includes a glaze that further amplifies the cake’s  flavors by using both the almond extract and the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring that were used in the cake itself.  Because I am not an icing fan, I did not make the glaze.  I simply dusted the cake with powdered sugar before serving.  For me, this was just enough sweetness.  If, however, you are an icing person, I have no doubt that the glaze would be a nice addition to the cake itself.

The Scandinavian Gold Cake has a satisfying flavor on its own, but it is not overpowering or overwhelming.  The cake could also be served with fruit or with ice cream.  If you are looking for a quick and simple summer dessert for a get together or a treat for yourself and your family, give this cake a try.  Its flexibility with toppings and garnishes make it easy to accomodate everyone’s likes.

 

from Tracey G

Before I get into my offering this week, reading the about the trouble Kris had with the cake sticking reminded me of an excellent article on the King Arthur Flour blog, Flourish. It’s an article devoted to preventing your Bundt cakes from sticking! Lots of handy tips, like using sugar instead of flour for the greasing/flouring step. It’s definitely worth a look! Here’s the link: How To Prevent Bundt Cakes From Sticking: 10 Simple Tips

And now onto my recipe of the week!

Ever since I was a little kid, blueberries have been one of my favorite things – in pies, desserts, muffins etc. And it’s funny because Harry is the same way – only he’ll not even wait for them to be made into anything, he loves just grabbing a bowl of frozen blueberries to eat as-is, lol! August here, as I’ve said before, is prime-time blueberry season for us, lots of local places to pick your own if you’re so inclined. Me, I prefer to send Jeremy and Harry to pick, then I’ll process them! They are also something I always have in my freezer, and again that actually goes back to when Harry was a baby, I made all his baby food, so frozen fruits – namely blueberries were a staple. And still are.

I was pleased to find another recipe to utilize them in, in the form of Blueberry Ricotta Cake on the King Arthur Flour website, in their recipe collection. Funnily enough, this is similar to last week’s Blueberry Breakfast Cake, but this is more “cakey”, lol. I’ve no other way to describe it! But it’s equally delicious!

The recipe is also very simple as well as delicious, which is always a good thing in book! It’s done in a few steps, but it’s super easy stuff. The batter ingredients include: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, shortening, egg and vanilla. Once you get the batter mixed, you pour it into your prepared pan and then layer the blueberries on top of the batter. Next, you make a “topping”. The ingredients for it include: eggs, ricotta cheese, sugar and vanilla. That gets mixed together, then poured over top the blueberry “layer”.  It then gets baked at 350° F for about 55-60 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

You can eat it as soon as it’s cooled to lukewarm, and I did. Let me say it’s become a favorite of mine – I will make this again!  You can, once again, use fresh or frozen blueberries, and I imagine you could experiment with other berries as well. I think raspberry would be a nice variation. This cake also keeps well, you can keep it in the refrigerator up to 5 days – and let me say it just gets better as it ages, in my opinion!

To sum it up, if you’re looking for a recipe to use up some of your bountiful blueberries or just in the mood for something with blueberries – this recipe for Blueberry Ricotta Cake is one to try!

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Food Friday – Start the Day Off Right with Cookies And Cake!

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Two words…breakfast and cookies…that when combined scream “you must try this” to me!  Breakfast is hands down my favorite meal of the day and when forced to play favorites with baked goods, cookies will always take the cake! 🙂  That said, sweet is not usually my norm for the first meal of the day.  Not because I don’t like sweets (obviously), but because if I start the day with sweets, I crave them all day long.  That said, I had to give the Breakfast Cookies from King Arthur Flour a try.

The base of these breakfast cookies is much like any cookie – flour, butter, eggs, milk (both liquid and powdered), vanilla, brown sugar, peanut butter, and a touch of cinnamon; it’s what’s added to these basic ingredients that gives these breakfast cookies their unique character.  The only ingredient called for that is out of the ordinary is Hi-maize Fiber.  Derived from corn, this dietary fiber acts as a resistant starch and aids in digestive health.  Hi-maize fiber can be ordered from King Arthur Flour.  A 12oz bag is $7.95.  This recipe uses 1/3 of a cup.  Once you’ve addressed this one not-so-mainstream ingredient, then the fun with making this recipe begins!

After you make this base, you add 4 1/2 cups of “add-ins.”  What are add-ins?  Almost anything that you like – seeds, dried fruits, nuts, grains, baking chips of any flavor, granola…  There is no specific ratio of types of ingredients suggested, only the 4 1/2 cup measurement.  Therefore, these breakfast cookies can be “customized” for you and your family.  In the batch that I made, I added oatmeal, coconut, dried cranberries, greek yogurt flavored chips, almonds, and some dates.  The recipe instructions warn you to not overbake these cookies as they will become dry and crumbly.  One of the reasons that I used the dates (3/4 cup), was to help retain some moisture.

When I make a recipe for the first time, I usually follow the instructions exactly as given.  That said however, after reading the comments about this recipe on the King Arthur website, I did make one adjustment.  The original recipe does not call for any leavening agents.  A number of people found this problematic and recommended adding a 1/2 tsp. of both baking powder and baking soda.  I did do that.

These Breakfast Cookies are hearty dense cookies.  The recipe suggest 1/4 cup of batter for each cookie, yielding 18-20 cookies.  Mine were a little smaller because I got 27 cookies.  Despite that, even for this cookie monster, one cookie is quite filling.  I ate a cookie and a banana (with my requisite big cup of coffee) at 7:30 in the morning and that was enough to hold me until after 1 pm.  Based on that, I think these will be a good breakfast for me once I go back to school and teach a six-hour stretch from 7:30-1:30. 🙁

This first time, I did bake off the whole batch and froze the already baked cookies  I think, however, that you could also freeze the pre-portioned but unbaked dough and pull it out in the morning and pop it in the toaster oven for a “fresh-baked” breakfast on those mornings when you may not be feeling totally fresh yourself.  Yes.  That is personal experience speaking! 🙂

I hope you will give the King Arthur Flour Breakfast Cookies a try.  If you do, please share your customized “add-ins” combinations with us!

 

When wondering what to do for our Breakfast offering for this week, I decided to flop around and see what recipes King Arthur Flour had using blueberries since August, here, is when they seem to really come out. That, and I was looking for a recipe that a I could also utilize frozen berries in, so it could be a recipe I could make year-round with fresh if I wanted or frozen, if that’s all I had. And that is how I discovered the Blueberry Breakfast Cake. (Here’s also a blog post on this recipe too from KAF’s blog, Flourish – Breakfast Blueberry Cake Flourish Post)

And it really is super easy to put together, and very yummy to eat! It uses basic ingredients that I normally have on hand, well, except for one. I just happened to have some ricotta on hand from another recipe, so this was a great way to use that up – no waste, but it’s not the norm for me to have it in the fridge, but after this recipe – maybe it will be!

The ingredients involved are: eggs, sugar, butter, small-curd cottage cheese OR ricotta, sour cream, Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor (you can find this on the KAF website if you want it) or vanilla (I used vanilla), flour, salt, baking powder, fresh or frozen blueberries and cinnamon sugar for topping.

Once you get everything thing all mixed up, you pour the batter into a lightly greased 8-inch cake pan – with sides at least 2 inches tall, or you can use either a 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round pan. You then bake it for about 50 minutes in a 350° F oven, until a tester comes out clean. Cool for about 30 minutes then serve. It’s just that easy! I might also add here that while it’s excellent warm, it’s good out of the fridge cold – plus the in between of out-of-the-fridge-and-warmed-back-up is fine too!! Once it was cooled in the fridge it almost reminded me of slightly aerated sort of cheese cake-like texture, it’s hard to explain! But it’s good to eat!

So, if you you’re looking for a different kind of breakfast fare, instead of muffins, quick breads etc, do give the Blueberry Breakfast Cake a try – it’s cake! For breakfast! Yay!

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Mix It Up Friday – July 2017

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from Kris Baker

Mix It Up Fridays often feel like “cheat days” for me because I don’t normally bake from mixes.  We all know, however, that sometimes you need for life to give you a break and reaching for a box is a reasonable compromise between homemade and store-bought.  I must admit that I felt a little guilty about making bread from a mix because bread baking is such a meditative, even cathartic, process for me.  I thought that I was slacking, or perhaps gypping myself, by not baking entirely from scratch.  After pondering these thoughts for a bit, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. It is really the kneading and shaping process that, for me, that provides the majority of the meditative quality with regard to bread baking.  That is still a part of making bread from a mix.  The convenience that the mix provides is knowing before you start that you have all of the necessary dry ingredients and that they are all pre-measured.  For me, having to pull all of the ingredients from the pantry is often the factor that determines whether I will make bread or not.  Perhaps I’m just lazy sometimes.
  2. The second positive for bread baking from a mix is that it provides the opportunity to try breads with ingredients that may not be staple items in your pantry.  That is the case for me with this week’s Mix It Up Scottish Toasting Oat Bread Mix.  This hearty bread contains barley flakes and oat berries, both things I enjoy in bread, but don’t regularly have on hand.

All that said, I totally enjoyed the process of this bread from start to finish, from the mixing, kneading, and shaping to the eating!

Honestly, I was surprised at how simple making bread really is when you don’t have to gather and measure ingredients.  Literally all I had to do was dump the package of dry ingredients and the included yeast into the bowl, add a cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of water, mix it up, and then knead the dough.

The dough rises in a lightly greased covered bowl for about an hour before it is shaped and placed in a greased loaf pan for the shorter 30 minute second rise.  With the second rise, the loaf should crown about an inch over the pan.

The Scottish Toasting Oat Bread bakes for 35-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then cools on a wire rack.

It is no secret that anything with oats or oatmeal in it is a favorite of mine.  So, it goes without saying that I love this bread.  And since I mentioned above my potential for laziness, I must add here that when I am feeling lazy in the morning and don’t want to expend the energy to make a “real” breakfast (eggs, hot cereal, even a smoothie), I am always content with toast, made with pretty much any kind of bread, with a little butter and jelly or peanut butter.  The Scottish Toasting Oat Bread feels like decadent toast. Lol!  It has flavor and substance.

I should add here that the “toasting” part of its name is important.  We tried a slice of the bread with just a little butter spread on it and found that it crumbled a bit, which did not happen when it was toasted.  Save and enjoy this bread toasted in the morning, but plan on another bread for your lunchtime sandwich.

Though I was leery of bread from a mix, I have to say that I am sold on this one.  It may become a pantry regular for me, sitting right next to the flour bin.  I have enjoyed not teaching this summer and being able to bake whenever I feel the urge.  When I go back to work in a few weeks (aargh), having this compromise option for freshly baked bread in the pantry may help ease me back into the real world of work!

Scottish Toasting Oat Bread Mix

from Tracey G.

I’m a cheesecake lover from WAY back! Ever since childhood, this was, I think, my first favorite dessert, until I met Tiramisu, but that’s another story for another time… LOL 😉 But, even with Tiramisu in the picture, cheesecake is still beloved by me no matter what. It’s one of the desserts I’ll order out after a nice dinner. I also discovered on a trip once that it goes great with a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale! Which, by the way, I just looked something up at the Sam Adams site, and the list of food pairings for this particular beer included cheesecake! LOL! So, I wasn’t imagining it was a great combo!

Anyway, this week I decided to try King Arthur Flour‘s mix for Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, from their Essential Goodness Line. I had been dreaming of pairing it with some of those fresh local strawberries I’d put in the freezer a few weeks ago, so that’s what I did.

The mix is super easy to make, I mean, super easy. And as Kris said, it’s nice to deal with a mix sometimes for the ease and for the fact that you may only have to add a few ingredients, and that’s it. It may contain some of those pantry items I don’t necessarily keep around, so it’s nice to not have to buy a whole lot of something I may only use once and then be stuck with, wondering what to do with.

The only things you provide with this mix is the cream cheese (and honestly, I used Neufchatel and it was just fine!), eggs and butter. It does call for two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, so I did buy those special for it. But of course, the butter and eggs I had on hand. I prepared mine in a 9-inch square pan, it’s kind of nice it doesn’t make a huge quantity for our household, which means none went to waste.

Putting together is easy, the butter gets added to the crust mix, pressed into the pan and baked for about 15 minutes. While it’s baking, you combine the cream cheese and filling mix, then add your eggs in one at a time until each are combined. When the crust comes out of oven, you pour the filling over the hot crust and bake for the time prescribed depending on the size of your pan, a bit longer for 8-inch than for 9-inch, but even the longest bake-time is about 36 minutes. After baking you cool at room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight, before cutting. Due to that cooling-then-chilling step, it’s best to plan ahead for making this particular mix.

Now, for the eating – not much to say here but YUMMY!! Wow, it far exceeded my expectations of a cheesecake-from-a-mix, I would love to serve this to anyone and let them think it’s homemade because it’s that good! It reminded me of cheesecakes I’ve had out in restaurants that I’ve adored. It’s not that expensive (under 5 bucks), easy to make and fabulous to eat. It will now forever hold a special place in my pantry and my heart!!! Do give the Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix a chance, I’m confident you’ll love it as much as I do!

P.S. Here’s a link to the product page that has some links on how to make some variations using this particular mix! There’s also some great ideas on the online catalog page for it too, I’ll share that link again as wel!

Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix Product Page

Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix Online Catalog Page

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Food Friday – July 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge- Blueberry Hand Pies

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I have come to love the week’s where we share our experiences with King Arthur Flour’s Monthly Bakealong Challenge.  I don’t have to figure out what to make and, often times, I am encouraged to make something that I may not have chosen to do on my own.  The July Bakealong Challenge, Blueberry Hand Pies, is one of those things that I probably would not have been drawn to immediately.  Pies are not “my thing.”  I love to eat them, but have never enjoyed making them as much as I do cakes, bread, or cookies.  My experience with this month’s Bakealong Challenge has changed my experience a bit toward the positive.

On first reading, the recipe may sound a little tedious, perhaps even daunting in that you first have to make the blueberry filling, make the crust and then cut all of the pieces, and then finally assemble the individual hand pies.  This is one of those recipes where the words are more cumbersome than the actual process of making the pies.  And, even if the process feels a bit cumbersome to you, the final product is well worth the effort!

The crust for these hand pies is rich, containing a full cup of butter as well as sour cream.  The dry ingredients are whisked together, the butter is cut in and then the sour cream is added.  The recipe says that once all of the ingredients are combined the dough should be turned out on a floured board and it should come together “with a few quick kneads.”  It definitely took more than a few quick kneads for me to get the pastry to come together.  I resisted the urge to add a little more liquid.  Eventually I had a nice crust that was easy with which to work.

For the blueberry filling, either fresh or frozen blueberries will work.  I used frozen because all the fresh blueberries at our house were used to top yogurt or in morning smoothies.  The berries, along with some lemon juice, sugar, salt, and a thickening agent are cooked down over medium heat.  They must cool to room temperature before the pies can be assembled.

I made my crust and put it in the fridge to chill while I made the filling and waited for it to cool.

To assemble, the pastry dough is rolled out to a 14v14 square and cut into sixteen 3 1/2″ squares.  Because I am a perfectionist, I used a 3 1/2″ square cutter for this step,  You can also use a ruler and a pizza cutter.  A heaping tablespoon is placed in the center of eight of the dough squares.  The edges of these pieces are then brushed with whisked egg.  The top pieces of the pies must be vented.  I used a small scalloped cutter to cut a hole in the center of each top.  I then placed the top crust, as well as the cut out piece, atop each of the eight pies.  The decorative aspect of the particular cutter that I used was lost in the baking.  something a little more pronounced, a star or a heart, might be a little prettier in the end.  The tines of a fork are used to seal the edges of the two pieces of crust.  The tops are then brushed with more of the egg mixture and sprinkled with sparkling sugar.  The pies are then transferred to a parchment lined baking sheet at baked for 18-20 minutes.  I split the difference and set my timer for 19 minutes.  The pies were perfectly done at that point.  I share this because I often have to cook things a bit longer in my oven.  So, if your oven tends to be “hot” you may want to check your pies before the eighteen minute mark.

I must say that the Blueberry Hand Pies were a HUGE hit with my husband.  Let’s just say that after my daughter and I sampled a pie, the other six were gone in two days.  Weber is not a big sweets person.  I think the fact that he enjoyed these so much is because the filling is not overly sweet; they are just sweet enough.

This recipe has been deemed “A Keeper.”

 

I am in complete agreement with Kris, I too have come to love the Bakealong weeks for the same reasons – I don’t have to think about what to make, and it does make me try something I may never have thought to make on my own. With this month’s Bakealong Challenge recipe though, for the Blueberry Hand Pies, the funny thing was I’d had the recipe printed off for a couple months and placed in my “to try” folder of King Arthur Flour recipes. I was exceptionally pleased to see it for this month’s Bakealong Challenge as it gave me the push and excuse to get it out and get going on it!

I won’t go into to much repetition here on the hows  – Kris did an excellent job describing the process, there was nothing different there for me! I too had that same thought of “a few kneads?”, when trying to get the crust ingredients to come together – and  I too resisted the urge to add more liquid, lol. I really loved working with this dough, though, it was so easy, even despite the work to get it to come together. Rolling was really easy, it wasn’t sticky and it wasn’t too dry, it was just right for easy working. They also came together easily, I used a ruler to cut my squares and my tablespoon cookie scoop to plop the filling in the middle. I used a knife to cut the steam-vent patterns on the top crust squares, sealed them up, brushed the top with beaten egg and dusted with regular table sugar because both of my guys dislike the large sparkling sugar. They don’t care for the crunch. I on the other hand love it, but since I was making these mostly for them, I chose the sugar they like.

And to say they like them, I think, is an understatement. Jeremy has eaten almost every one of them. I have only had a half, lol! The other night when I was getting his lunch together for him as he was running late, he didn’t ask if I put FOOD in it, he was more concerned with whether or not I put in the HAND PIES! It was hilarious. He’s declared them better than PopTarts, lol, which I take as a high compliment to be sure! I already have all kinds of fruit variations running through my head for these, they are just so perfect for easy eating and travel! No need to cut, no need for plates or forks etc. My next experiment with them is to try freezing the baked pies for future eating – to take a day and stock the freezer with them.

I, like Kris have discovered these to be a keeper, and something I will make often. I am so glad that this month’s Bakealong Challenge was the Blueberry Hand Pies recipe, it was fun to make and even more fun to eat! And there are oh so many variation possibilities!!!

And here’s a link for the walk-through and just the recipe:

Blueberry Hand Pie Walk-Through

Blueberry Hand Pies

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Food Friday – Getting Sweet With Bread

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from Tracey G.

I love bread, and that means in all its forms, lol. I love a good sweet bread, which is why I really loved the KAF recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread I made a few posts back. That bread was really reminiscent of the Hawaiian Rolls you buy at the store – and that made me realize I really wanted a recipe a LOT like the rolls at the store. Enter King Arthur Flour’s Hawaiian Buns. They are perfect in every way – the most important part of that perfection is that they are very easy to make!! Very, very easy! Plus, there’s a great walk-thru for them!

I will say that I used the SAF Gold instant yeast that I’d purchased from KAF as a way to help my sweet bread recipes rise a bit faster, but it’s not a necessary thing to have – regular instant yeast is just fine too. If you use a regular yeast, it will just take a bit longer to rise. And even then, this recipe is worth the wait! This recipe also uses a bit of canned pineapple juice. I made sure to purchase a six-pack of the little cans so I could have it on hand for when the mood hits to make this recipe!

This recipe starts with a sponge. You mix a bit of your flour, water and all of your yeast in a bowl or the bowl of your mixer etc, and let it stand about 15 minutes. After it’s rested, you add: pineapple juice, butter, brown sugar, eggs and yolk, and vanilla. In another bowl, you whisk together the rest of the flour, potato flour and salt.

Now, I’ll stop right here to say I never have potato flour on hand, but I DO have instant potato flakes always on hand, so those were substituted for the potato flour.  

Alright, moving forward… You add the dry ingredients to the mixer and start with your flat beater attachment for a few minutes, then the recipe has you switch to the dough hook and knead for a few more.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl to rise until it’s very puffy – 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Near the end of the rise, you grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. After gently deflating your dough, it’s now to time to shape your rolls.

Again, I’ll stop here to say it’s a sticky dough, and they recommend keeping your hands oiled when working with it if you’re having trouble – I had to keep mine oiled and it really helped!

Divide your dough into 16 portions, shape each into a nice smooth ball and place in the baking pan and they get to rise for about another hour. Before you bake the rolls in a 350°F oven for about 20-25 minutes, you brush the tops with a mixture of egg white and water so they get a nice shiny top.

This is another one of those creations that I can’t believe came out of my kitchen – they look and taste like they just had to have been by a “professional” somewhere else, lol!! They are so yummy it’s hard to stop eating them – I finally popped them into the freezer, to curb that! And I can say that they freeze AND thaw beautifully!! I know I won’t be buying the rolls/buns this year around the Holidays – I’ll be making them! Give the KAF Hawaiian Buns a try – you will not be sorry!!!

from Kris B.

Lately, I have been trying to curb my addiction to sweets, particularly sweet carbs.  So when it came time to choose my recipe for this week’s sweet bread offering, I wanted to make it something that I would really enjoy.  Two things factored heavily into my choice of King Arthur Flours’s Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread: The first was the mention of coffee in the name.  Anything that goes with coffee certainly must be delicious.  Secondly, my daughter and her family had just been blackberry picking and I had blackberries on my mind.  And, Weber loves blackberries.  I figured if I made something that he particularly liked, I would not feel obligated to eat it all myself.  Having said all that about the blackberries, the recipe does not specify what kind of jam that you use, so you can use whatever kind is your family’s favorite.

The Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is much like a danish with its braided crust and filling of fruit and cream cheese.  The dough recipe calls for pastry flour, which I did not have.  The difference between all-purpose flour and pastry flour is in the protein content of the two.  Pastry flour contains 9% protein whereas all-purpose has 10-12%.  For comparison, bread flour has the highest protein amounts at 14-16% and cake flour has the lowest at 7-8%.  To compensate for the fact that I had no pastry flour on hand, I used a mixture of all-purpose and cake flours.  This recipe calls for three cups of pastry flour.  I used two cups of all-purpose and one cup of cake flour.  Having never made this particular dough before, I have no means of comparison with the pastry flour version.  All I can say is that the dough was light and delicious.  Interestingly, this recipe did not call for SAF Gold instant yeast, often used for sweet breads, that Tracey mentioned above.  The dough only uses 3 TBS of sugars so perhaps it is not sweet enough to benefit from this yeast.

Both the dough recipe and the cream cheese filling call for KAF’s Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor.  “Our Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor is extra-buttery, with hints of vanilla and citrus; add a few drops of this flavoring to your favorite sweet bread recipe, and your family and friends will be clamoring for the name of the bakery you visited.”  I did not have this flavoring either, so I substituted vanilla, but I am going to order some Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor before I make this recipe again!

Once the dough has rested for 90 minutes, the Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is ready to be assembled.  The filling consists of a layer of your jam of choice and a cream cheese mixture.  I mixed both of these during the last few minutes of the dough’s rise time.  Again, I was lacking an ingredient called for.  The recipe calls for Instant Clear Gel to be mixed with the jam to help congeal the fruit juices.  The recipe offers an alternative of mixing all-purpose flour with the jam if you don’t have the Instant Clear Gel.

The final layer is a cream cheese base to which butter, egg, sugar, and flavoring are added.

To assemble, the dough is first divided into to pieces.  The first piece is rolled into a 10×15 rectangle.  In the recipe, a crucial step is left out at this point.  Put your dough on the parchment lined pan before you fill and assemble it!!!  It is almost impossible to move if you try to move it onto the baking sheet after it is assembled.  

Continue on.

Half of the jam mixture is spread down the center 2 1/2 inches of the dough, leaving one each clear on each end.  Half of the cream cheese mixture is then spread atop the jam.  The remaining dough on each side of the filling is cut about every 3/4 inches and folded onto the filling to create a braided top.  Honestly, the instructions in the recipe for this finishing step were not the greatest.  They leave out the fact that you have to discard the dough on each side of the center at both ends to avoid a big dough-y end to your pastry.  If you have never made a braided pastry before, here is the link with instructions that shows just how simple it really is.  Incidentally, in this video, the chef assembles the pastry on parchment and then moves the completed pastry to the pan.  You can see the potential for disaster as she does this.  This is why I suggest the entire assembly be done on your baking sheet.

This process is then repeated with your second piece of dough.

This is one of those recipes that sounds, and the final product looks, harder than it really is.  Sliced in about inch pieces, The Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is a delicious light treat to have alongside your morning, or afternoon or evening, coffee.  (Coffee is an all-the-time thing at our house.)  I’m looking forward to trying it with some different kinds of jam.  Watch for my version with pumpkin butter in the fall!!!

***

As an aside, I have also made the Hawaiian Buns that Tracey wrote about this week.  I was making a recipe for Asian Sliders that called for store-bough Hawaiian rolls.  At Tracey’s suggestion, I made King Arthur’s Hawaiian Buns instead of using the store=bought.  Everything that she says about them is absolutely true!

 

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Food Friday – Stick It To You Appetizers

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from Tracey G.

As you all know, I am always looking for ways to use my self-rising flour up before it loses its “zing”, so when I was on the hunt for an appetizer recipe for this week at the King Arthur Flour website, I was really intrigued when I read the title of “Self-Rising Garlic Sticks”….hmmm, a bread-stick item without yeast? That could be a fast treat make. So, then I read the recipe and was convinced this was the one to try. Self-Rising Garlic Sticks became the plan! (If you’re like me and can’t find King Arthur Self-Rising Flour, they do sell it on their website, here. Or if you’re feeling you’d rather make your own, here’s a link to Homemade Self-Rising Flour)

The ingredients were super simple and basic. Self-rising flour, milk, butter and fresh garlic. That’s it. It’s a biscuit dough that, with the way you shape it, becomes these wonderful thin crispy garlicky sticks. Granted, not exactly figure friendly, but I’ve already got designs on trying it with less of a butter bath, lol.

It directs you to preheat your oven to 450°F, then put the butter on a 9×13″ pan, and pop it into the oven until it melts, then you pull it and sprinkle your minced garlic and stir to distribute, then carry on making your dough. I melted my butter in a glass dish in the microwave, then added my chopped garlic. No real particular reason for this, it just fit into my method better, lol.

Next, you mix up your dough by combining the self-rising flour and the milk. You gather it into a ball and fold it over on itself a 3-4 times. Then place it on a well-floured surface and pat into a rather thin, 10×8-in rectangle. After you’ve done that, you cut the rectangle in half, creating two 8×5″ rectangles that then are cut into 16 sticks each, giving you a grand total of 32. The sticks are about 1/2″ wide, by 5″ long.

Once the sticks are cut, you’re ready to add them to the pan. Your garlic butter should be on your pan, waiting for the dough sticks. As you’re placing them, roll them in the garlic butter and crowd them in the pan. They will be rather tightly together, and seemingly swimming in butter. I was skeptical as to how it would all come together with all that butter, but it does!

Bake your sticks at 450°F for about 15-20 minutes until they’re a light golden brown. When they come out and as soon as you can handle them, pull them apart gently and place on a plate, or in a basket for serving. They most definitely are best served warm, and in my opinion reheat nicely in some foil in a preheated oven. I froze half of them, so we shall see how those come out after being thawed and reheated in the near future!

These little sticks are extremely yummy and extremely addictive! They have a slightly crispy crunch and a yummy buttery garlic flavor. They’d be good with some grated or shredded Parmesan cheese on top as well! I served them with a pasta and marinara sauce dinner, and they were wonderful! I highly recommend these Self-Rising Garlic Sticks when you need a fast bread-stick for dinner or a quick and fun dippable appetizer!

 

from Kris B.

Don’t judge a book by its cover or a zucchini stick by its photo!  I will be the first to say that these Baked Zucchini Sticks with Sweet Onion Dip did not photograph well.  (Probably due to photographer error or degree of hunger.)  That said, they are absolutely delicious!  Whereas Tracey is looking for recipes to use up her self-rising flour before it is no longer self-rising, I’m looking for ways to eat our abundance of zucchini so that they don’t go to waste.

The Baked Zucchini Sticks with Sweet Onion Dip is a two-part recipe.  It involves the making of the onion dip and then the zucchini sticks themselves.  The dip has a mayonnaise base to which honey, mustard, cider vinegar and caramelized onions, that all have been pureed in a food processor, are added.  Salt and pepper to taste and the dip is done.  It is best when made ahead and given time to chill and allow the flavors to meld.

The baked zucchini sticks are simple to make.  The one thing you need to know is that the sliced zucchini must be salted and allowed to drain before you can coat and bake them.  Once they are drained, the zucchini sticks are dipped in some form of egg; it can be egg substitute, whole eggs, or egg whites.  They are then dredged in a mixture of panko and parmesan cheese seasoned with King Arthur Flour’s Pizza Seasoning.  The coated zucchini sticks are placed on parchment that has been lightly coated with olive oil and are then baked in a 425 degree oven for a total of 20 minutes, turning them once after twelve minutes.  As with any crispy baked item, these are best served right out of the oven.  We had none left so I can’t speak to how they might be if reheated. 🙂

From the three zucchini called for by the recipe, I got 24 sticks.  The dip recipe made about 1 1/2 cups of the sweet onion dip.  We had lots of dip left over after enjoying the zucchini sticks.  Admittedly, I am not one who likes my food covered in sauce, gravy, dressings, or dips, so I probably used less than was expected for a serving.  My husband ate his fair share and there was still more than half of the recipe left.  When I make this again, I will definitely pare down the recipe.  As I said, we did manage to eat all of the zucchini sticks!  They are a nice alternative to chips or the dreaded french fries alongside a sandwich or burger.

The thing that makes this a King Arthur recipe is the use of the King Arthur Flour Pizza Seasoning, but you can also use any Italian seasoning or herbs that you have.  Don’t let the fact that you don’t have the exact ingredient called for deter you from trying this Baked Zucchini Sticks with Sweet Onion Dip, especially if you have a garden overflowing with zucchini!

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Mix It Up Friday – June 2017

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from Tracey G.

This week I opted to try a gluten-free mix. I like to try the gluten-free mixes whenever I can, because I think if I don’t have to eat them for my health, but want to eat them because they taste good, then it’s a win. And that’s how it is with this particular mix from King Arthur Flour. It’s in their line of gluten-free mixes, and it’s a muffin mix. Meet King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free Muffin Mix.

It’s a basic, plain mix that you can customize any way you like. I make fruit muffins all the time, and wanted to go a bit different with this, so I made chocolate chip. That said, chocolate chip muffins are not my first choice for muffins, but I thought Harry might enjoy the change-up. Well, let me say I LOVED these things!

Very simple to make, you use either butter or oil – I used oil due to trying to cut as much cholesterol as I can these days, especially in places where the butter flavor really won’t be missed, etc. I did use the 3 eggs the directions call for, 1 cup of milk and then you have your add-ins, which shouldn’t be more than 1 1/4 cups. That’s it. It all comes together easily, and bakes up lovely.

This is easily one of the best muffin mixes I’ve ever tried, gluten-free or not. The end result tasted like something I’d buy from a store, and I don’t mean that in a cheap-tasteless way, lol. I mean that in the way of those big beautiful muffins or baked goods treats you just know are yummy, but not figure friendly, but an excellent treat just the same. And these are it. They stayed fresh for a great amount of time, made nicely sized muffins and there wasn’t one left. Over the course of a couple of days, they disappeared fast.

Whether you need to eat gluten-free or not, do give this Gluten Free Muffin Mix from King Arthur Flour a try, you won’t be disappointed.

 

from Kris B.

Only I could be led down a rabbit hole, or two, by a boxed pancake mix!  This week I made King Arthur Flour’s Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes from their line of boxed mixes.  For most people, pancakes from a box should be a no-brainer.  This mix calls for the addition of 2 eggs, 2 cups of milk, and six tablespoons of either butter or vegetable oil to the mix.  For some reason, I got hung up on the either/or between the vegetable oil and the butter.  Which is healthier?  Which makes for a better tasting pancake?

I started by looking at the nutrition labels for both the butter and the canola oil.  Butter has 100 calories per TBS to canola’s 120.  But, canola oil has 1g of saturated fat and 0 cholesterol to butter’s 7g of saturated fat and 30g of cholesterol in the same one tablespoon.  Butter adds more flavor to a recipe than does the oil.  Canola oil adds more fat to the recipe because it is 100% fat whereas butter contains liquid and is only about 80% fat.  Therefore, using butter in baked goods will often result in a more dense, more dry final product.  When following a recipe that specifies that you use either butter or oil, substitutions can be made taking into consideration the difference in fat content between the two.  For example, a recipe that call for 4 TBS of oil would need almost 5 TBS of butter.  Since the King Arthur Blueberry Sour Cream Pancake Mix called for an equal amount of either, the assumption is that the batter is fairly tolerant and you’ll be successful either way.

So what did I do?

I made my pancakes using the canola oil instead of butter.  Why?  The primary reason is that I use almond milk instead cow’s milk almost exclusively.  Whole cow’s milk has around 8g of fat per cup, almond milk only has 2.5g.  Baked goods need fat so I opted for the oil over the butter to help compensate for the fat that I was not getting in my milk choice.

Once I climbed out of this hole, the making of the pancakes was simple.  Mix all of the ingredients, pour them by 1/4 cup scoop onto the hot griddle and cook until done.  The instructions on the box say to cook the pancakes at a medium-high setting.  I had better success cooking mine on medium.  I don’t know if this had to do with my fat and milk choices; I’m not even going to try to figure that out right now!

The King Arthur Flour Blueberry Sour Cream Pancake Mix makes 22 pancakes each made from a 1/4 cup of batter.  And they are delicious…especially with some fresh summer blueberries and a touch of grated lemon peel…and of course, butter (because I didn’t use it in the batter) and syrup.

Then came the second rabbit hole…

I wanted to photograph the pancakes with syrup on them and I wanted the syrup to be “pretty” as in cascading over the side of the stacked pancakes.  We all know that syrup   soaks into hot pancakes almost immediately.  I had already figured that I would shoot cold pancakes and cold syrup to try to avoid the soaking in of the syrup before I got the photo I wanted.  On a whim, I decided to do a Google search to see if there were any tricks that might help me to achieve the look that I was after.  I was not prepared for what I found.

First let me say that there is nothing “real” about professional food photography!  The photos may look good, but you would not want to eat what is on the plate.  Just saying…  I did find a trick that addressed the exact issue about which I was concerned…how to keep syrup from soaking into your pancakes.  Easy solution: spray your pancakes with a water-repelling fabric spray.  Seriously?  What a waste of delicious pancakes!!!  There was no way I was going to do that!  Once these pancakes had their picture taken, they were becoming dinner.  Yes dinner.  Breakfast…its what’s for dinner many nights at our house.  Did I get the beautifully dripping syrup in my image.  Nope.  Did I eat the pancakes?  Yep!

Most people either really enjoy food photography or they don’t like it at all.  The reason that many people are turned off by it is because they say “my photos never look as good as other people’s.”  That very well may be true; but not because you are not a good photographer, but rather because you are shooting exactly what is in front of you.  Food.  Just food.  No water-repelling spray or glue or cardboard or shoe polish…all the things that professional food photographers use to make the stuff they want us to eat more photogenic.  Remember this too when you are cooking and your rendition of the recipe doesn’t look like that in the cookbook!

All that said, I must now say that all of the photos that Tracey and I post here are of food that is 100% edible and most often is consumed shortly after its photo is taken.  Neither one of us is willing to waste food.  And, we are much to honest to spray our pancakes with water-repelling spray or top our pies with mashed potatoes intended to look like unmelted ice cream.  What you see from us is real food that is cooked, photographed, and eaten by real people.

Happy cooking, eating and photographing!

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Food Friday – I Love It, I Love It Not

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from Tracey G.

I absolutely love June – it’s one of my favorite berry seasons – strawberry!!! We have a few local u-pick berry farms, and this time of year people go pick, then sell them on the sides of the road for a nominal cost.  Totally worth it to me to not have to do the work to reap the rewards of fresh, local berries with flavor! Much more reasonably priced than the grocery store berries and way tastier too, since they weren’t picked and shipped across country to me, lol.

So, I found this recipe for Strawberry Cream on Shortbread in King Arthur Flour’s Mixed Bag recipe category under “Fruit Desserts”. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it! But I didn’t have any fresh berries to work with, the local sellers hadn’t appeared yet – I was rather bummed until I read in Tips From Our Bakers, to feel free to use frozen berries! Yes! I was good! I always have them on hand, either ones I’ve frozen myself or store-bought frozen strawberries. Game on! It worked out perfect – I had everything I needed to make this on hand! They even have a Strawberry Cream on Shortbread walk-through as well!

The recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients are simple. Perfect combination! For the crust you need: Butter, powdered sugar, salt, flour and vanilla. The filling ingredients are: strawberries (fresh or frozen), lemon juice, sugar, plain gelatin, water and heavy whipping cream.

Mix all the ingredients for the crust, and press into your prepared pan. And here you have a choice, either a 9-inch square or a 9-inch round springform pan. Since my 9-inch square pan was busy, and I wanted a prettier presentation – springform it was! The crust took a few extra minutes to bake, but no big deal.

While the crust was cooling, I made the berry-mixture. In a blender you combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice. After you soften and melt your gelatin in the water by heating gently either in microwave or on the stove, you add it to the blender. Blend until it’s all processed well together. You then refrigerate the berries, stirring every 15 min until they are moundable on a spoon. They said approximately 45 minutes, but it wasn’t quite that long for me. When they are ready, you whip your cream until stiff peaks form. Then, you carefully fold your berry-gelatin mixture into it thoroughly, and spread on your cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to serve and give it time to set.

To serve you can garnish it with fresh berries or crushed sweetened berries – or both! This is most certainly something I will make again, and likely often since I can use frozen berries. This was one of the best desserts ever and it’s super easy!! I also noticed that by using fresh chopped strawberries to garnish, that their juice in combination with the shortbread crust, was very strawberry shortcake-esque!! Wonderful! I will be making Strawberry Cream on Shortbread a permanent entry into my recipe book!!!

 

from Kris B.

Let’s just chalk this week’s recipe up to an exercise in self-realization.  I must say at the outset, I don’t like blue cheese.  That, however, is not part of the week’s self-realization; I already knew that thanks to a bout of food poisining caused by blue cheese salad dressing while on a college wind ensemble tour over thirty years ago. I still carry a grudge!  So why then did  I choose to make a Blue Cheese Spread?

I may have mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Vermont.  In addition to enjoying a day on the King Arthur Campus in Norwich, VT., we also spent a day on Bonnieview Farm with the Urie family making artisan cheese.  As a reminder of our fabulous time on the farm, we now subscribe to a monthly delivery of cheeses made on Bonnieview Farm.  It just so happens that this month, we had an abundance of blue cheese.  Because I don’t eat it at all and even Weber, who likes blue cheese a lot, can only it so much of it at a time, I needed to find some way to use it.  This is how I ended up with King Arthur Flour’s Blue Cheese Spread, a recipe found in their Mixed Bag collection.

The Blue Cheese Spread is simple to make.  Cream cheese and honey are combined using a mixer until fluffy.  Then the crumbled  blue cheese, thyme, and freshly ground  pepper are added.  Heavy whipping cream is then used to thin the spread to achieve  the desired consistency.  I didn’t mind making this recipe because Weber did the part I wasn’t keen on; he crumbled the blue cheese.

Here’s where the real moment of truth occurred for me.  I had a hard time photographing the cheese dip in a way that it looked minimally palatable let alone delicious.  Despite trying different angles and dishes and garnishes, it just never looked “right” to me.  I finally realized that the reason I couldn’t “make it work” is because I had no relationship with the food itself.  I always choose recipes for things that I will enjoy eating.  My “reward” for making and then shooting the food is then getting to eat it.  I know.  Sad. But oh so true.  This is probably an indication that I would not ever make a good professional food photographer.  You want me to photograph oysters???  I don’t think so!

Despite all that, the word from Weber, who does like blue cheese, is that the Blue Cheese Spread is quite tasty.  The one thing that I might do differently is add more thyme.  It is barely noticeable in my recipe.  Also, I probably should have made the accompanying crackers, but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for that either.

My final word on this recipe is that if you like blue cheese, try it!  Word on the street is that it’s quite good.

Blue Cheese Spread from King Arthur Flour

 

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Food Friday – June 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge: Classic Baguette

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from Tracey G.

After the simple, but what felt like many steps of last month’s Bakealong Challenge, I was really excited to see this month’s Bakealong Challenge: a Classic Baguette. The Classic Baguette is something that was on my list of “will try” – but with no specific time-frame in mind, so this pushed me into it. And I was ready!

I read the recipe, “Classic Baguette” and read through the Bakealong Baguette Walk-Through, and was itching to get started, this looked like a fun project. Any time I can create something at home, that I only usually buy in a the grocery store, I’m all for it. That makes it a fun challenge all the way around!

This recipe is easy and it’s simple in terms of ingredients – flour, yeast, salt and water. The only “extra step” is making a simple overnight starter out of flour, yeast and water. You have to let that sit for about 14 hours or so, so it works out really well to make it before bedtime and let it sit at room temperature overnight.

The next day you’re ready to rock! I mixed it all as directed, but then I followed the “slow rise” directions in the “Tips” section. Instead of almost 2 hours, I let it go 3. The rest I followed right along. The shaping was fairly simple too, I was pleased with my results for my first time ever making this classic bread!

As for the steam-baking, I didn’t use a cast iron pan in the bottom of my oven for the “steam factor”, as I’ve read a few things that it can ruin the seasoning on your pan. So unless you have a cast iron pan you’re willing to let serve the purpose without regard to it, give it a go! I used a cheap disposable foil 13×9 inch pan.  Seemed to work well!

Once my bread cooled, I couldn’t wait to try it! I sliced off a few pieces and was so excited and happy, not to mention astonished I’d made this in my OWN oven!! In my kitchen! Yeah!! You can bet I will be making these often, I think I at almost one whole loaf myself, plain, with nothing on it whatsoever. Just enjoying the taste of the bread!

This was a fun and instructional Classic Baguette Bakealong Challenge, I feel I now have a whole new skill, thanks to King Arthur Flour!

from Kris B.

Like Tracey, I was excited to try the Classic Baguette that is this month’s King Arthur Bakealong Challenge.  Baguettes in France are like tortillas here in Texas.  They are a simple bread that is served with almost every meal.  I remember when I visited France being thrilled by the fact that I could walk down the street and find a vendor selling baguettes in front of every market and on almost every street corner.  Sometimes they were even stuffed with hot dogs! The free-flowing baguettes and the street vendors who sold crepes with Nutella were some of my favorite things to see in France, only slightly less thrilling than Notre Dame and Chartres Cathedral.  Lol!  Yes.  Travel is all about the food as far as I am concerned!

Back to this week’s baguettes…

As is usually the case, Tracey read the entire recipe before I did and gave me the heads up about needing to make the poolish, or starter, ahead of time.  It is simple to make, consisting of flour, yeast, and water that are mixed together and then sit at room temperature for at least 14 hours.  Mine probably sat closer to eighteen hours before I made my baguettes.

As Tracey said, baguettes require a minimum of ingredients – only flour, salt, yeast and water, and the starter that was made ahead – making them a perfect bread for everyday.  All of the ingredients are mixed together and then kneaded.  I used the dough hook on my mixer and kneaded for about four minutes as suggested in the King Arthur Flour recipe.

Just so that we had a means of comparison, I used the shorter rise times for my baguettes.

As you may have figured, it is the shaping of the dough that makes it a traditional baguette, though interestingly, the lean dough (i.e. containing no fat) is dictated by French law, not the actual shape of the loaves.  The word “baguette” means stick or wand.  Traditionally, French baguettes are 2 – 2 1/2 inched in diameter and are usually about twenty-six inches in length, though they can be made as long as a meter, or thirty-nine inches.  King Arthur’s Bakealong Challenge recipe makes three fifteen inch baguettes because most of us don’t have ovens big enough to bake thirty-nine inch loaves of bread!  If you prefer, you can also make six smaller (7-8 inch) baguettes.

After the initial ninety minute rise, the dough is separated into three (or six) pieces and rests for fifteen minutes before the long loaves are shaped.  Each of my pieces was 12 5/8 ounces.

I was a little concerned that I might have trouble shaping my loaves correctly.  As I have mentioned before, my oldest daughter is a trained pastry chef.  I asked her if she had any helpful suggestions.  I should know better than to ask Brooke for help.  Though she is excellent at baking she is even better at sarcasm.  Her words of wisdom were, ” Make sure that your loaf doesn’t look like a snake that swallowed a rat.”  Umm…OK.  I take that to mean that the loaves should look like hungry snakes, long with an even thickness along the entire loaf.  The King Arthur walk-through shows exactly how to fold and then shape the dough.  I then used a baker’s lame, for the first time, to make the slits in the top.  Every now and then my daughter let’s me play with her toys.

A Lame (pronounced LAHM, meaning “blade” in French) is typically a long thin stick made to hold a metal razor used to cut, or score, bread dough to help control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.

I always like it when I learn something new, however, scissors or a sharp knife will also work just fine!

When I baked my loaves, I also was not willing to sacrifice the seasoning on my cast iron skillet so used a disposable pan for the water for the steam.  The steam is necessary to get the crackling crust associated with artisan loaves.

The bake time suggested in the recipe is 24-28 minutes.  I baked mine 25 minutes and they were plenty done.  I mention this because I often have to cook things for the maximum suggested time in my oven.  I was concerned that the tops of the loaves would get over-browned had I baked them any longer because I had my oven rack set a notch higher than I normally would for bread to accommodate the pan of water.  In the end, all worked out fine.  Like Tracey, I claim success with the King Arthur Flour Classic Baguettes Bakealong Challenge!

Though this recipe requires a bit of forethought because of the need to make the poolish ahead of time, the ingredients are ones that I always have on hand so I can see homemade baguettes becoming a frequent accompaniment to meals at our house.  Whether a cool salad in the summer or hearty soup during the winter, they are the perfect bread.

And if you choose not to eat all three baguettes at once, they can be frozen and reheated right before serving.  We had one left to freeze. 🙂

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