Monday, February 28, 2011

My favorite Apple Pie

So, Mom and Dad were here and the only thing I baked was my favorite Apple pie. Here's how it looked, coming out of the oven:
Everyone was eager to dig right in so I snapped a few pictures very quickly and cut 'er up! YUMMY!

Since it was still hot from the oven, what better way to serve it than with some vanilla ice cream? The apples were oozing a little juice still, but the pie tasted great! It was gone in 5 minutes!
If you want to try it yourself, I got the recipe from some Kraft magazine a few years ago. I've made it so many times, here it is from memory:

Kraft Perfect Apple Pie
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening (room temperature)
5 - 7 Tbsp. cold water
Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until the size of small peas. Add 3 Tbsp. cold water and stir with a fork. Add more water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, just until the dough comes together in a ball. Do not overmix the pastry or it will become tough. Divide the pastry into 2 balls. Roll each out on a lightly floured surface or between 2 pieces of wax paper (NOTE: I always use wax paper - way easier!) Make one about 11 or 12" in diameter. Line a 9" pie plate with it. Make the other just a bit larger than the top of your pie. Keep it set aside and covered while you prepare the filling.

(I preheat the oven to 400 degrees F at this point)
6 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples (about 6 large apples)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. flour or cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Peel and slice the apples and sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine the other ingredients and sprinkle over the apples. Toss to coat evenly. Pour filling in the prepared shell. Top with the second pastry round. Crimp edges. Cut steam vents in the top crust.  Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes, until golden on top and apples are soft when pierced with a fork.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes (if you can wait that long) to let the filling thicken a little and prevent burnt tongues! Add ice cream to make a perfect thing even better! I highly recommend French Vanilla.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Bars

This looked like a simple recipe for things I love - peanut butter and chocolate. How could I go wrong? So I made them. They are "Peanut Butter Bars" from p. 82 of "Company's Coming 150 Delicious Squares".
They were simple to make and they look and smell wonderful. However, the comments I left in the margin of the book were "Looks nice. Not very exciting to eat. Too smooth. Crust is rather pasty in the mouth." I don't really know if I can suggest a way to improve them - maybe add chocolate chips to the crust, I suppose. Enough chocolate fixes almost anything!

Tomorrow my parents come for a visit so I may not be back until Monday, unless I whip up something so wonderful that I just have to share it with you!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

Yesterday I was looking at what was left in the freezer to bake with. I found the pumpkin I had pureed at Hallowe'en and decided it was time to use it so I made these muffins.
Of course, I added chocolate chips, as I do to so many things around here, but they are also really good with raisins or nuts or both, in place of the chocolate chips. The recipe makes 12 to 15 muffins and they remain pretty soft, even when fully baked. Best to eat these fresh or they can turn a little too soft.

Pumpkin Muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat together:
     2 eggs
     1 cup sugar
     1/2 cup applesauce
     1/4 cup vegetable oil
     2 cups pureed pumpkin
Then add:
     1 1/2 cups flour
     1 tsp. baking soda
     1 tsp. baking powder
     1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
     1/2 tsp. salt (or less, if you prefer)
     1/2 cup chocolate chips (or raisins, nuts or combination)
Mix just until moistened and scoop into greased or lined muffin tins 3/4 full.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until the tops spring back when pressed lightly. Ensure the bottoms have browned or they will still be sticky inside.

As a side note, if you saw my post yesterday, about making better bread on a sunny day, apparently my grandmother used to say, "Don't make bread if it is raining." I guess the barometric pressure affects bread. Isn't that interesting?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Raisin-Nut Bread p. 443

This should be called "Amazing Braided Raisin-Nut Bread". It mixed up beautifully, it used the amount of flour it called for, it rested and rose according to plan and it tasted light, fluffy, soft and delicious! Maybe it was the sun streaming in my kitchen that warmed the kitchen enough to make a perfect bread or maybe it was just a good recipe, but I can't say enough good things about it.
Here is what it looked like before baking. I was rising it in my sunny bay window in the kitchen. Ahhh, beautiful! Then I baked it for 25 minutes and it looked even more fabulous.

Every delicious braid filled with nuts and raisins. Then there is a glaze to top it off! What a treat. Reminds me of the Swedish tea rings my mother makes at Christmas. 
Look at that! It smelled heavenly. I didn't want to stop to take pictures - especially since it was noon.

I had to have a bite! I quickly took a picture before I devoured that piece. It was wonderful!

I've already marked this recipe "fabulous!" in the book! I hope for more delicious surprises like this as I go through the book.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Molasses Wheat Bread p.99

What smells like great bread, tastes like great bread but does not look like great bread? This Molasses Wheat Bread! It may be that I over-kneaded it, or that it was the wrong temperature but something made this one look ugly. Which is a shame, because it tastes good.
The recipe said to put all the ingredients and 2 cups of flour together and then "stir to form a thin batter." Now, I don't know if my measures are COMPLETELY different than theirs or if something as thick as play dough is considered a thin batter, but that's what I got! It was a big, fat lump. So I added another 1/2 cup water and kept going. It did not want to knead nicely and I was uncomfortable with their instruction to twist the loaves, but I wanted to follow the recipe. I think that made the bread look really strange. I liked what went into this bread, however, and will probably make it again because it tastes really good. I will use the extra water and I won't twist the dough and I'm sure it will be great!
Tomorrow, I'm planning to bake a nut bread. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blueberry Bran Muffins

Ahhh, so the wonderful smell of baking bread surrounds me as I tell you about the muffins I baked first this morning! Chocolate Chip Blueberry Bran muffins. The recipe came from the back of the milk bag a few years ago. They didn't include the chocolate chips, but I added them anyway. They are simply delicious!
The recipe made about 2 1/2 dozen muffins, so you might want to bake half a batch if you only want a dozen. These muffins have some sources of fiber and milk and with or without the chocolate chips, they taste great!

Blueberry Bran Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together and let stand:
     1 cup bran
     1 cup boiling water

Combine in a large bowl and make a well in the center:
     2 1/2 cups flour
     2 cups oats
     1 1/2 cups sugar
     2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
     1 tsp. salt
     3/4 cups chocolate chips

Whisk together in a small bowl:
     1/2 cup melted butter
     2 eggs
     2 cups milk
Combine the bran mixture, the milk mixture and 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries into the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. The mixture will be quite soupy. Fill greased or lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the tops spring back when pressed lightly.

When you steal the first muffin, be careful not to burn yourself on the scorching hot blueberries and chocolate chips as you take the first bite! You won't be able to resist!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Orange Oatmeal Cake

When we moved to our new house, my aunt gave me a cook booklet called "Company's Coming coffee cake classics".  It has lots of enticing coffee cakes in it. I randomly opened it earlier this month to the first one for which I had all the ingredients and came to page 26 - Orange Oatmeal Cake.
It turned out nicely, but it's a good thing I checked on it early. I guess the convection was really working in my oven that day since I baked it 30 minutes, instead of 40 and it was done! The orange flavor was mild but tasty. The topping was separate and a bit fiddly and I think the walnuts would have been better in the cake than on it so I doubt I'll make this one again. I'll keep trying other recipes from this book, though.  They all look good!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


What do you do with your left-overs? Often, especially with left-over meat, we make pizza. Tonight was a good example. We had left-over pulled pork and chicken breasts off the smoker BBQ. These meats were cooked to a delicious perfection and made into equally good toppings for two pizzas.

This pizza had tomato sauce, pepperoni, pulled pork, pizza seasoning and a generous amount of mozzarella cheese.

The crust was from a recipe my child got from a visit to Superstore's in-house baking class.

Superstore Pizza Crust (for a 12 or 14 inch pizza)
1 cup hot water
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt

Mix hot water, yeast, sugar, salt and 1 cup flour together. Knead in more flour, a bit at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Rest, covered, in a warm place for 20 minutes. Stretch over baking stone. Let the crust rise while you prepare the toppings. Top with your favorite pizza toppings. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes.

This pizza had tomato sauce, pizza seasoning, BBQ'd chicken breast, carmelized onions, apple slices and mozzarella cheese.

The children enjoyed the pepperoni pizza, while my husband and I ate half of the chicken pizza.  It was great!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Another favorite muffin of ours is the "Oatmeal Apple Muffins" from page 40 of Company's Coming  Mostly Muffins. I think they are popular because they have a topping of brown sugar, rolled oats and cinnamon. They remind me of apple cake. What's not to love?
The apple gives them a nice softness, the oats, a nutty flavor and a little texture. You'll note that they are in silicone wrappers. I bake them in these wrappers in the muffin tin. I find they need the oven to be 10 degrees warmer to form a nicely shaped muffin that gets properly baked on the bottom. When I don't increase the temperature, they become highly peaked, or lop-sided muffins with white bottoms.

I'm sure these muffins would be great with nuts too, but I try to make nut-free muffins so my children can bring them to school.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Originally, this was a recipe for Oatmeal Banana Loaf. I just bake it for a shorter time and added the chocolate chips so my family would love them. I love that I can get my son who doesn't eat bananas at all to eat these.
Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cups sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
4 medium mashed bananas
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Mix together first 8 dry ingredients. In a small bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix in oil, milk and bananas and vanilla. Pour into dry ingredients.
Stir just to moisten. Batter will be lumpy.
Fill greased or lined muffin cups 3/4 full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops spring back when pressed gently.
Yields about 18 muffins.

These are so good right out of the oven with a tall glass of milk! I feel that they are even healthy enough that we eat them as lunch! The chocolate chips make a beautiful mess of my 2 year old's face when we eat them still warm. Yum yum! They are also fantastic if you make them with raisins or walnuts (or both) instead of chocolate chips. I've even tried them with blueberries and that works too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simply Apple Crisp

Since you liked yesterday's recipe, I thought I would share tonight's dessert with you. It is my version of an apple crisp recipe a friend gave me years ago. It is hard to get a picture that does this simple dessert justice, but trust me when I say it is a really yummy way to get in some apples and a little fiber, without the work of a pastry shell or the calories of an apple pie!
Simply Apple Crisp
5 cups apple slices
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

Sprinkle the apple slices with the lemon juice and arrange them in an 8" x 6" baking dish. (A 6 or 8 inch pie plate would work fine too).
Combine the other 6 ingredients in a small bowl and mix until everything is combined. A few clumps is a good thing. Loosely cover the apples with the oat mixture. Do not pack the oats down or you will get a hard mass on top of the apples when it's cooked.
Bake for 14 minutes on half power in the microwave (or until the apples are soft).

When I want to bake it in the oven (next to my favorite casserole or french fries perhaps) it can be baked at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes instead. The oven baking yields a crispier topping.

We love our apple crisp with a little vanilla ice cream on top, while the crisp is still warm! Yummy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mom's Whole Wheat Flax Bread

This is the bread I grew up eating.  I made two batches yesterday, because it is still what my family prefers. It turned out beautifully, as always!
Here is what goes into 5 loaves:
Proof the yeast:
     1 cup hot water
     2 tsp. sugar
     2 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
Add that to:
     6 1/2 cups hot water
     1 cup dry milk powder
     1/3 cup shortening
     1/3 cup molasses
     1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
     1/4 cup ground flax seeds
Whisk together until the shortening is melted. Whisk in:
     3 cups whole wheat flour.
Mix in with a wooden spoon:
     3 cups all purpose flour
Now mix in a bit more flour at a time until it becomes a shaggy mass that you can knead or pick up. Knead in more flour. My recipe says 9-11 cups of flour, but I just keep adding until the dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky and don't pay any attention to how many cups that actually is! I even have my 2 year old add the flour most days. It's fun for her and keeps her out of trouble elsewhere!
Cover, and rise in a warm spot for 40 minutes.
Punch down and divide into 5 greased loaf pans.
Rise for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, 20 minutes before baking.
Bake the loaves for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped. (These times are for my convection oven).

There you have it! Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rich White Bread p. 41

I almost would call this "Rich Yellow Bread", since it did have a very slight hint of yellow due to the eggs in it. It turned out two beautiful looking loaves - see:

We decided it tasted rather plain. It was definately my prettiest loaf yet! I getting used to making just two loaves at a time. I used to always bake 5 at a time. It is a different experience.  I never get in as much flour as the recipe calls for and this one was no exception. I started with 2 cups of flour rather than the 3 they called for and I ended up only getting in 4 1/4 cups.  Should I be worried that the recipe called for 5 1/2 to 6 cups? anh, it tasted fine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day Cheesecake Pie

I was planning to do a beautiful 2-layer chocolate cake, covered in white fondant and little pink hearts but I went to bed last night with a slightly sore throat instead of making a cake. So, this morning, I scoured my cookbooks for something easier. Here is what I came up with:
It was from a cookbook called Nestle Classic Recipes. The recipe is called "No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Pie" (p. 89). I modified the recipe to fit my 7" heart pan, from the 9" round pan size they provided. It fit beautifully! Rather than a whipped cream topping, I went with strawberry slices. This was a delicious, thick cheesecake! I only needed a small piece to be satisfied. Yummy and super easy.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jambuster Muffins

These are "Jambuster Muffins" from page 37 of Company's Coming Mostly Muffins. I made them with Strawberry Jam instead of Rasperry Jam.
They look fine here, but the muffin tin was an absolute mess! All of the jam baked up and out of them. It was all over the tin and hardly any in the muffins. As a result, they were a bit disappointing. Without enough jam to explode out of them, they were rather plain. If I make them again I will be extra careful to seal the jam into the batter better. Realistically, however, I will stick with a tried and true recipe before I use this one again! (At least the children liked them better than the pizza muffins!)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread - p. 77

This Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread made two nice, small loaves of tasty bread. It certainly tasted of whole wheat flour, but also subtly of the buttermilk.

It had a good texture but the top crust was a little too crispy. The recipe did warn to watch that it doesn't burn, but I didn't check soon enough! We still all enjoyed it. I loved that this recipe only had one rising - in the pan. That made for a quick loaf. I'm always looking for a good, quick loaf. I will make this one again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jo Goldenberg's Bagels - page 506

My husband is from near Montreal, Canada. This place generates some serious food snobs. They like "Their" bagels. I've tried making bagels before and they were acceptable. I tried this new recipe, and it doesn't have honey in it. These were not Montreal style bagels. But me and the children each ate two of them when fresh out of the oven and they were very good. Much too salty, when you consider we're used to bagels with no salt in them. So, once you mix the dough and let it rise and shape it, you need to boil the bagels.
This was the last bagel to be boiled. What a tricky process. Too cool of water and they go mushy, cook them too short a time and they become a hard, thick gloppy mess. Thankfully only one of mine failed badly enough to discard.
I covered my bagels in sesame seeds, because it is just the way to do it! This was a pan full before they're baked. Not bad at all. Then I baked them much less than the recipe said and I thought they looked perfect!

There you have it! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine Chocolate Cupcakes

As promised, here are some cupcakes that I made today. They were a hit. I made enough for all the children in my school children's classes (45) and 4 extra. My 4 children wanted to eat them all!
Once they were cooled, I covered them in chocolate butter cream icing and added fondant hearts.
Each cupcake has a monogrammed fondant heart with a child's initial. I used my Wilton press set of letters again. These were a lot of fun! I hope the children enjoy them tomorrow!
Happy Valentine's Day (a little early)!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pizza Muffins

I made these pizza muffins on February 1, before I started my blog. I thought they were really yummy, especially fresh out of the oven! They were from "Company's Coming Mostly Muffins", page69.
I didn't have the full plum tomato they called for so I used the half I had and a bit of salsa to make up the difference. The muffins turned out with a lovely texture and size. My husband and children were not so fond of them. They never expected a savory muffin. They like sweet better, I guess. Wait for tomorrow's post and I show you ones they did love!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Muffins, Rolls, Bread and Squares

Wow! What a day of baking. It was snowing, and I had nowhere that I had to go so I baked until lunch time. I made four recipes I've never tried before. The first recipe was Orange Cranberry Muffins from "Company's Coming Kids Cook!" page 32. They were easy enough that my 8 year old could have made them, for sure. They were delicious to anyone who likes orange and cranberry. I thought it was odd to blend up a complete orange so I grated in the rind, sectioned the orange and just used the sections and the rind. After a chat with mom, I found out I could have really used the whole orange - that it works well. So I will - next time. I like that I can send them to the peanut-free school with the children.
After the muffins, I was on to Lenora's Yeast Rolls from THE bread book, page 474. This recipe had the unexpected ingredient of mashed potato. But I've been planning to make these since I made my weekly menu on Saturday so I had some mashed potato in the fridge. I mixed them up and this is how they looked just after kneading. The recipe said to knead "until it becomes smooth and velvety under your hands." That's exactly what it did! It was so soft and velvety - beautiful.

While these rose, I mixed up "The First Loaf" recipe from page18 of the book. It was a standard, white bread recipe. While everything was rising, I played "school" with the children. My pre-schooler was the teacher. I learned some numbers today! Then I had to shape the  rolls. There were 8 types of rolls to choose from. (Growing up, I was only really familiar with pan rolls, so this choice was exciting.) I chose 4 that seemed easy and made 6 of each. The top pan has Bowknots and Rosettes, then there's Crescents and finally, Cloverleafs in the muffin tin.

I brushed them with melted butter before rising and after baking. Then we tested them. They were HEAVENLY! I could not believe how delicious they were. Was it the melted butter coating them or the potato in them? I don't know, but they were soft, delicate and absolutely wonderful! Even the ones that got a little dark on the bottom still tasted great. I did make a note for future to only bake them one pan full at a time so as not to scorch them. 

"The First Loaf" bread turned out nicely too. The recipe says it makes 3 small or 2 medium loaves. I made 2. They look lovely. Only my oldest had room to eat a piece and she said it was great.

To finish my baking I made "Chocolate Chip Squares" from "Company's Coming 150 Delicious Squares" page 123. They were exactly like making chocolate chip cookies, but easier because you just put them in a square pan. They tasted just like cookies too. We all Loved them!

Now I must go for a walk and burn off some of those delicious calories!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Surprise Birthday Cake

This is the result of my finding out about a friend's birthday the day before it happens. What fun!

On Thursday evening, she invited me and a few friends over for coffee on Friday morning. So, I went to sleep thinking, "I should make a cake for her!" I woke with the children at 6am, fed them crepes like usual and started baking my standard chocolate cake at 7 am.

The cake was out of the oven and cooling in a snowdrift at 8:00. I made up a batch of chocolate fudge icing and a batch of buttercream icing while the cake baked. Then I hustled 2 children to the bus stop, filled the almost cool cake layers with the fudge icing and put the cake in the fridge. I took the third child to pre-school and returned to decorate the cake (I used the time in the van to think of how I would decorate the cake).

When I returned to my kitchen, I slapped on a crumb coat of buttercream and quickly rolled out the white fondant. I used the Wilton's "wide glide rolling pin" and their "roll and cut mat".  Those tools made my job easy. I used the Wilton "Italic Make Any Message Press Set" to imprint "Happy Birthday Melissa" on the white fondant. I rolled out a few pink fondant/gum paste hearts and a length of "ribbon" and applied them to the cake with a dab of water. My drive called saying she was on her way which meant I had 10-20 minutes so I added the blue piping at 9:30, to finish the cake. Melissa was very surprised and delighted!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Old Order Amish Bread

For my first recipe, I opened the book to a random page and made the first recipe for which I had all the ingredients. (Old Order Amish Bread, page 48). As a weekly bread-maker, finding the ingredients for this bread was no problem! I even had bread flour in the pantry - not always the case. The recipe called for 5 - 6 cups of bread flour but I could not knead in more than 4 cups! No matter, though, it turned out lovely, light and fluffy. The loaves were smaller than my "usual" loaves of bread, but perfectly acceptable to my husband and 4 children. The first loaf was eaten before it was even cold! As a final note, this bread was time consuming to make, since it needed a third rising.