Monday, December 15, 2008

I Love Bread!

I really love making bread, because even though I get frustrated sometimes and feel like it's not coming out well, it's really really hard to mess up bread. I have to say, though, that I will never use a bread machine or electric mixer to make it, at least not an electric bread machine, I crank the dough by hand in a bread bucket mixer that I will never, ever give up.

This is how my mom taught me to make bread, and thankfully she had 2 bread buckets, so when I moved out she gave me one. I've been wanting to post about some bread that I made a few weeks ago, but I waited because I wanted to be able to show pictures of my process, as I know it's a little different from what most people use now.

The first thing I do, of course, is proof the yeast with sugar and warm water and let it sit for a few minutes while I make sure I have everything else ready to go.

When the yeast starts bubbling and foaming a bit, you know that it's active, if the top of the mixture stays flat, it's time to toss that one and try again. Next I add the butter, milk, and honey followed by the egg yolks, salt, and first of the flour, and this is when I dump it into the bread bucket to mix it.

I mix with the crank as I add the flour until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bucket, and appears to be forming a nice ball around the dough hook. Here's what the whole setup looks like:

Once the dough is mixed, it comes out onto a floured mat, I knead it a bit and then put it in a buttered bowl to let it rise. It usually takes about an hour for it to rise to double it's size, once there, I separate it into 2 even balls, knead it just a bit and form into loaves. They go in buttered bread pans and rise for another hour.

Growing up, when we made bread it always sat next to the wood stove to rise, because it was a nice warm place. The first time I made bread in our house I had no idea where to put the bread, as we keep our house around 63 degrees, and that's not nearly warm enough for the bread. I have recently discovered that the best place to keep it here is in the dryer after letting it run for a few minutes to heat it up.
I just wonder how Philip must have reacted when I sent him a message in the middle of the day to tell him that the bread was rising in the dryer.

Now, after all that work, all you need to do is pop the loaves into the oven and let them fill your house with the wonderful smell of freshly baking bread (in my opinion one of the best smells ever).

Well, if you made it through all that, I'll talk a bit about this particular kind of bread. I had always made the recipe that my mom taugh me, and I believe that particular recipe came from my grandmother, but I found this honey white bread recipe in Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home" and decided I'd give it a shot. It's good, we've really enjoyed it as a change from the other recipe because it's light and fluffy where the other recipe is a bit more dense. Each recipe has its place and I will probably switch between them from now on while maybe exploring some new recipes every now and then.

Now we're finally on to the recipe:

Honey White Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

½ cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups warm whole milk (110 degrees) I used skim, and it was just fine
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ tablespoons honey
2 extra-large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Place the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. If the bowl is cold, be sure the water temperature doesn’t drop below 110 degrees. I measure temperature by warming the water in the tap and when it feels warm on my wrist it's about the right temperature. Add the yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of the flour, and the salt. This is where I moved the mix to the bread bucket. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Add the flour slowly; you can always add more but you can’t take it out. Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel, and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with the egg white and bake the breads for 40 to 45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First attempt at chick-fil-a inspired chicken...

One thing that I'm working on doing is creating recipes. I've always been jealous of the people who can just grab a bunch of things out of the fridge, throw it in a frying pan or in the oven, and come out with something absolutely delicious because I've never felt I can do that. I've been stuck on the things that I know I can cook, those things being eggs, any way you want them, pasta (mainly easy stovetop macaroni and cheese), and bread. Those are the things my parents taught me how to make, and things that I've been cooking since I was a kid, however I'm now working on branching out.

On that note, here's what inspired me to try my hand at just throwing something together. I love Chick-Fil-A, it's really the only fast food I ever eat, but unfortunately, since my gallbladder surgery I'm afraid to eat it because it was the only thing before the surgery that actually made the pain unbearable, so I decided to try to make my own imitation. It was pretty good, but it definitely needs some more experimentation. I kept it pretty simple this time because I wasn't sure how well it would come out and now I have something to build on.

Here's what I did:

I took one large chicken breast (I thought it was 2 in 1 package when I thawed it, thankfully the one was big enough for both of us) and marinated it in Claussen kosher dill pickle juice overnight.
I put panko bread crumbs, with some onion powder and garlic powder, rolled the chicken in the mix to coat it. Then placed the chicken in aluminum foil and baked it at 350 for about 50 minutes.

Really, really simple, and really good, but next time I think I'm going to try regular bread crumbs. I also think I'm going to at least add some smoked paprika, and maybe a bit of white pepper to give it a bit more flavor. I would say that marinating the chicken in pickle juice gives it a good and different flavor.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Corn and Kielbasa Chowder

I've been really wanting to make soups lately (I guess it must be the weather), but haven't found many recipes that I've tried yet, this Corn Chowder was wonderful though. I don't often eat corn chowder, I think because I love clam chowder so much, but Philip can't eat seafood, and really enjoys corn chowder I thought I'd try this recipe that I found on I'd say it was a hit, especially since Philip has requested it be his dinner on Christmas eve. It's a tradition in my family that my mom makes clam chowder on Christmas eve, so we now have to make some corn chowder alongside that so Philip has something to eat.

This was another pretty simple recipe, with an easy ingredient list. The only thing that I changed was that I only used half an onion where it calls for 2. It worked out well but I think next time I'll use a whole onion, still not the whole 2 though.

Here comes the recipe:

Corn and Kielbasa Chowder

8 oz. kielbasa cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 onions finely chopped
1 T. butter
One 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 lg baking potato peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 c. half and half
1 1lb. bag corn thawed
Salt and pepper
Fresh dill for garnish (I omitted this)

Heat a deep skillet or a wide 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onions and butter to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes.
Add the broth and potato and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the half-and-half and corn and cook, stirring, until heated through.
Using a blender or food processor, puree 1 cup chowder until smooth. Stir the puree back into the chowder along with the browned kielbasa and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Top with the dill.

Apple Streusel

Well, I'm finally getting to posting the food, so here goes.

I found the recipe for this Apple Streusel on and thought it looked really good, and it's apple so I can pretend it's healthy, right?

Having really just gotten into baking and cooking more I decided to start with something very simple, and this definitely fit. It took about 15-20 minutes to prep, most of that was time spent slicing the apples, and I just had it baking while I fixed dinner on the stove.

Alright, now on to the recipe:

Apple Streusel
From Penzeys

As found on

3 good-sized fresh apples - Cortland or McIntosh are best (I used McIntosh)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 stick cold butter
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350.
Grease bottom only of small casserole dish (4 cups or so).
Peel and core apples and slice and place in a bowl.
Top with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, toss to coat. Set aside while preparing topping.

Make streusel by cutting the cold butter into a bowl, adding flour, sugar and cinnamon and rubbing it through your fingers until streusel is course texture.
Put the seasoned apples into pan and top with streusel.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until the streusel is golden brown and the apples are starting to bubble up through the topping