Posts Tagged 'baking'

Two Out of Three’s Not Bad

2 cranberry scones

I’ve been doing a bit of baking over the last several weeks. I’ve been having bread cravings. I tend to limit my intake of carbohydrates but when the calendar moves to fall, my body argues with my resolve. The first deep-seated trigger is the football on TV. For some reason my brain flashes back to the very first apartment with my then-fiance now-husband. I baked a batch of yummy brownies and we sat there munching them as we watched football. Apparently that imprinted me with football-fall-brownies. This year my inner voice is demanding fresh bread, and it doesn’t always want to wait for the weekly grocery shopping.

biscuits ready for baking

gluten free biscuits ready for baking

One quick fix for the bread-craving is to bake biscuits. I have good biscuit recipes. Biscuits are fast and easy and yummy. Back in October I was having a group of friends over for ladies-lunch-in-the-sukkah. One of my guests does not eat gluten. I was serving the red lentil soup and wanted biscuits with that. I did some looking at gluten-free recipes to see if there was any reason I needed to use a gluten-free recipe instead of merely substituting gluten-free flour in my usual recipe. There wasn’t, but I did come across a recipe that sounded delicious – Cauliflower Garlic Bread. It looked fantastic as well. I saved the recipe and one cold weekend day I made the bread. It looked great and smelled terrific. It tasted alright as well, although not quite as wonderful as I’d hoped. I don’t think I got the proportions correct or I did not bake it long enough. The ends of the loaf were okay but the rest was way too moist. We ate some of it that night, but ended up tossing the remainder. 😦 If I were to make it again I would tinker with the seasonings and definitely bake it longer than I did.
cauliflower garlic bread sliced

The next bread event was a yeast bread, not a batter bread. I had some brie in the house as well (another temptation to which I succumbed while shopping) so I looked for a french bread recipe. I remembered that I’d made a yummy french bread a few years ago but didn’t remember what recipe I had used. I found a recipe claiming to be the BEST homemade French bread made in 90 minutes. That convinced me! 🙂 That recipe lived up to its claim. Okay, maybe I did not make the BEST bread ever but it was delicious, fast and easy! Often yeast breads annoy me because they require repeated effort (mix, rise, punch, shape, rise, bake). The first rise/rest for this bread was very short so it was basically ready for the next step by the time I’d finished cleaning up from the mixing.
French bread

This morning I woke up craving scones. I love the combination of cranberry and orange. I mix them in with my apple pies as well. I have a scone recipe that is very tasty for plain scones, and works if I toss in cinnamon and cinnamon chips, but I thought I’d take a look at a recipe tailored for the cranberries. I had a bag of cranberries handy (it IS the cranberry season after all). I found one that included orange zest. I scanned the ingredients and directions, compared it to a few others, and knew this one would work for me. Oh my my my!!! These scones are FANTASTIC!!!!! My only change was using fresh cranberries instead of dried. I chopped them in the grinder with some sugar to absorb the liquid. I don’t actually use sugar anymore. I use a product called Tagatesse, which is a sugar substitute. But that’s a discussion for another post – my search for sugar substitutes for baking. For now – I’m going back to pour another cup of coffee and another scone. (They’re going fast.)
cranberry orange scones

Ahhhh! Morning treasures

buttermilk biscuits and coffee

Buttermilk biscuits hot from the oven and fresh-brewed coffee. Working from home. Day before a holiday and most of my coworkers are NOT working, which means a very quiet day for me. 🙂 My cats and my ‘guys’ are here, too. A morning full of treasures.

Latticed Apple Pie

needs a topOr, Using up leftover pie crust and aging apples

Or, another way to put-off doing the taxes

It’s a gray rainy morning, we had to do that inane “spring forward” with the clocks last night so it’s already later than I feel, and my agenda for today includes preparing the tax information for the accountant and filing the remainder of the 2018 paperwork. What an awful start to a morning, right????

apple pie ready for the ovenI made a quiche last weekend and my crust recipe makes 2 crusts. Quiche only needs one crust so all week I’ve been imaging ways to use up the remaining crust. Most of the ideas revolved around a veggie & egg pie but I never got around to doing that. In the meantime I had 4 aging apples that soon would be fit for nothing but the deer or compost. And I really don’t want to deal with my paperwork. What’s a poor girl to do? Make a pie!!!

baked apple pieI still had cranberries and sugar-free orange marmalade, both of which needed to be used or tossed soon. I pureed those with a tiny bit of Splenda brown sugar to help the mixture gel instead of run. I sliced up my apples, removing all the really aged areas. I layered the apples with the puree and sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg on each layer. I didn’t have enough crust to make a top and bottom crust so I thought I’d lattice the top with however much crust remained after filling the pie plate. I probably could have squeeeeeeeezed out 2 crusts, but I didn’t realize that until I was playing with the lattice. And yes, this is probably the worst lattice you will ever see on a pie. 🙂 I figured once it was baked and we were enjoying the pie, we wouldn’t mind the appearance.

It smelled heavenly while it baked, and it looks darn good to me now that it’s out of the oven. It tastes yummy, too. 🙂

yummy good apple pie

It’s Still Winter

Which means it’s WAY too cold for me. Waking up to 17 F degrees makes working from home much more appealing than going out in the cold to go to the office. I miss them, but not as much as I love being warm and controlling the thermostat. It looks as if my crazy-busy work schedule has eased up now. We got the product out the door, working, and no major updates or changes have been requested. YAY TEAM!!!! Between the cold and the work I haven’t really had much to say. 🙂 I know, hard to believe, right? *grin*

quicheIt snowed Friday evening into Saturday. The good news is our next-door-14-year-old got up and began clearing all the walks (4 houses in a row). The other good news was that my husband said he’d do the vacuuming for me. Oh yes!!! I decided that if he was going to be helpful that I would do something nice for him as well. So I made a cheese quiche. I used 3 cheeses: mostly swiss and provolone but I tossed in a little colby jack for some more color. I thought it looked beautiful and it tasted totally yummy. The pie crust was wonderfully flaky.

I had a very odd experience baking crusts for the New Year’s Day brunch. I NEVER have problems with crust, and for that party 2 of the crusts were in complete crumbles. I ended up using much more water than I like, and for the big quiche basically glued the pieces of crust together in the pan. It wasn’t the flour, because one of them used gluten free flour and one was my basic all purpose flour. Someone suggested that it was the butter, but I used the same butter I always do. Perhaps they changed the recipe. For this winter quiche I used my go-to recipe from The Settlement Cookbook (page 323 – my book opens right to it). driveway path thru snow I did play with the recipe a bit so I can’t verify if the butter was the culprit or not. I substituted coconut oil for the 1/4 cup of butter. I like the flavor the coconut oil adds and thought it would go well with the cheese and eggs.

I saw my young neighbor struggling to get my snow blower started in order to tackle the driveway. He wasn’t making progress and my husband was not home at that point. I said to not worry about clearing the whole driveway – just make 2 paths for the tires so that I could get the car out that evening without having to drive through the slush. He seemed quite relieved at that approach and set to work. I had to laugh, however, when I went out to see what he had done. *grin* Once he’d made me 2 beautiful tire paths, he’d done more than half the work – he should have just done it all. It was sunny, it was well above freezing, so I finished the job while the quiche baked.

I’m ready for spring and digging in the dirt.

Baking Beats the Blues

Ah, New Jersey in winter, when a glimpse of the sun is a rare and wondrous moment!

It was pouring rain yesterday. (That’s redundant, isn’t it? What else could be pouring when discussing the weather? Snow doesn’t pour.)IMG_9918 I was working from home and the gray and gloom was making me blue. I’ve seen several articles lately that baking and cooking lift depressed moods and I know it’s true for me. I didn’t have much time to do anything that would require multiple steps, but I knew I needed to get in to my gorgeous new kitchen (have I mentioned that I have a beautiful new kitchen, incredibly functional as well as gorgeous?) and create!

I opted for batter bread. Batter bread is so simple, fast and flavorful. It’s not the same texture as a yeast bread, but it works for sandwiches and yummy snacking. I didn’t really like any of the recipes I found online (to be fair, I didn’t spend much time looking).IMG_9920 I knew one of my cookbooks had a recipe. (We were out with friends last night and we talked about actual paper cookbooks – would they last?) I went and pulled out one of my trusty cookbooks (I have 3) and there was my recipe. My 3 go-to cookbooks are “The Settlement Cookbook” – my very first one and I love it, “The Joy of Cooking” – 2 copies of that, and “Woman’s Day Collectors Cookbook“. And that is pretty much the order I use when I’m searching for some basic recipe.

IMG_9921Batter bread it was – less than 20 minutes prep and it pops in the oven. I had some non-alcoholic beer for the riser and I used my herbs de provence for seasoning, with a touch of onion powder. Nothing better than smelling something good from the oven as you hear the rain thundering on the skylight. Okay – it’s better to actually EAT the yummy thing from the oven!

Back to Back Baking

No more falcons, no more live concerts, so it’s back to talking about cooking and baking in the new kitchen. *smile* I got to show it off today to someone new! He said “I want to go home now and redo my kitchen”. We sat in the breakfast room at my fun round bistro table. He loved that handle and the fact that it really can move up and down.

Besides contributing a vegetable side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, I am also “responsible” for sugar free desserts. t-day apple pie This goes back to when my father, who was diabetic, was alive. My father loved desserts and once the diabetes was diagnosed I spent a lot of time learning to make desserts he (and the others with diabetes) could eat. Then a few years ago (2013) Thanksgiving and Chanukah coincided. For American Jews this was a wonderful event and inspired much holiday and culinary creativity. It was known as Thanksgivukkah. Although I fell in love with the rye crust for the pumpkin pie, I don’t really like pumpkin pie. I decided to see what I could do with the Pecan Pie Rugelach recipe.

I made the first batch exactly as called for in the recipe so I could learn the proper textures. Then I began to reduce the sugar AND to remove the dairy – I needed to make it kosher. Since we were having a meat meal, I could not have dairy in the dessert (cannot mix meat and dairy) The dairy for the dough was easy – vegan cream cheese and pareve margerine. pecan pie rugelachThe brown sugar was a bit of a ‘cheat’, but was deemed acceptable by the doctor (who is also diabetic). I use Splenda brown sugar, which is half brown sugar and half sugar substitute. This means that although it’s not sugar free, it has less sugar and fewer carbohydrates than regular brown sugar. When you factor in the lower quantity used, and spread it over the entire batch, it is acceptable for the folks at my table. And even at that, I tend to be stingy measuring the sugar, instead of generous. I’m always VERY generous measuring vanilla extract. 🙂 The other substitution is with the corn syrup. I use agave. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of syrup, use 1/4 cup agave and increase the liquids. The first time I made the rugelach the menfolk for whom it was made went crazy. They loved it. And so a tradition was born. I make SF pecan pie rugelach for Thanksgiving.

My father was also why I started making SF apple pies. inside of pieI changed up my recipe for the T-day pie since I wasn’t happy with the puree made with dried apricots. I did put some dried apricots in with the cranberries and the cranberry juice, but I also used sugar free orange marmalade. That gave the puree the correct consistency and liquidity needed to soften the apples and keep the pie filling moist and tender. I did the same layering with apples/puree/cinnamon & nutmeg as I did in my pie the week before the holiday. This one was much, much better although I didn’t get to eat much of it. 🙂

I’ve also made chocolate pecan pie for my sister in the past. She really loves it and it is so easy to make. That one is sugar-full and I don’t usually bring sugar desserts to Thanksgiving. pecan pie Our friends are fantastic bakers and they bring a smorgasbord of great desserts. But I was having so much fun baking and I knew they did NOT make chocolate pecan pie, so I made that one too. I used the fantastic coconut oil crust from the kale butternut squash pie. I have NO idea how the pie came out, since I never got a piece. 🙂 I brought it to my sister’s house but we did not serve it at dinner.

The shortbread was simply me going over and beyond. My sister and I spend a LOT of time talking/texting/emailing as we prepare for holidays. I tried to bribe her to come over and visit me and promised her some shortbread if she came. shortbreadWell she didn’t come but now the idea of making shortbread was in my head. I got up early Thursday morning and made up a batch of shortbread. I sent half of it to her and kept the other half for myself. I can assure you that the shortbread was delicious. I think I used a different recipe this time than the last time I made it. But the last time I made it was years ago – I have no idea which recipe I pulled. This time I looked at 4 different recipes, figured out the commonalities and made 2 pans. Yum Yum Yum.

I LOVE my new kitchen!!!!!

The Pie Lady

It has happened – we handed over the final payment check. The kitchen ceiling was repaired after the pipe leak (yes, the pipe was repaired also). The floor was pulled up and redone in the doorway and the breakfast room. The kitchen is gorgeous and functional and I love every moment I spend there. I have been cooking and baking and trying out new recipes. I may have done more cooking in the last few weeks than I have done in the last few years. Okay, that WAS an exaggeration, but you understand the emotion there. 🙂

I’m not a vegetarian, I do eat meat, but I eat a lot less meat than I did in years past. That’s partly age/digestion and partly diet/weight. 🙂 Now you know all my secrets. kale pie openAlthough Thanksgiving dinner is not at my house (except for the fun of hosting it last year), I do contribute a vegetable side dish and sugar free desserts. This year I wanted to find something exciting and interesting, something that would ‘represent’ my gorgeous new kitchen. A FB friend posted a link to LiveKindly’s article “12 Meat-Free Mains for the Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving”. The picture looked so yummy I had to click through. The pictures of the entrees were GORGEOUS and nearly all the dishes sounded delicious. Some of them even looked as if they would not be too difficult to make.

There were still 2 weeks to go before T-day, so I decided to test out some of the recipes and decide which I should make. I got ambitious and made both the Kale Almond Butternut Squash pie and a no-sugar apple pie. I was in a hurry and multi-tasking, so I did not chop the kale as finely as it needs. cooked kale pieMy other take on this recipe, and I thought this while I was making it and after eating it, is that it needs liquid. Next time I will either puree some of the squash before adding it to the pie, or mix in some squash soup. The crust, however, is phenomenal. I’ve not cooked with coconut oil before (I’ve used coconut milk) and the particular brand I used was very solid (I gather some brands are not as thick). I foolishly put the dough for the top crust into the refrigerator while I was working and it was so thick/dry that it was very difficult to work it. That’s on me, however, not the recipe. The crust is delicious. My husband said it was like eating scones. He broke off edge pieces and munched on them. 🙂 I have to agree. Using the coconut oil for the crust added a dimension to the pie I’d never have imagined. Fantastic recipe (but add some liquid).

The apple pie was also an experiment. I used to make my sugar-free apple pie filling by pureeing raisins with some juice. There is a LOT of sugar in raisins. I had 2 ideas for this year. apple pie closeupI used dried apricots, which have a lot less sugar than raisins, pureed with cranberries and cranberry juice (diet). I misjudged that as it was my first time working with the apricots, and I did not have enough liquid there. I layer the apples, then spread some of the pureed mixture, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg, and do the layers again. On the top I put fresh orange zest. It tasted fine, but it needed more moisture. It also was not going to be sweet enough for my brother-in-law, who likes things much sweeter than we do (my husband and I). But we had a great dinner that night – pie for dinner and pie for dessert.

I’ll tell you about the other dishes and the apple-pie remake in another post. 🙂 I’m including the obligatory cat photo. I apologize for the horrible quality but I took it with my incredibly old iPad2 (7 years old already). Had I gotten up to get my camera, WC would have moved and I would not have this picture of her. She’s so cute when she is sleeping. Also QUIET. 🙂
wc sleeping


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