Have you ever baked your own bread?

No-Knead Bread - Finished Loaf (294068096)

No-Knead Bread – Finished Loaf (294068096) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve baked bread for years…learned to do it when I was a kid and my grandfather loved the basic white bread I made for him.  He would just rave about it (and what kid doesn’t enjoy that?) and talk about how it was just like what his mom used to make.  For many years, that was the only bread I made…well, that and corn bread.

I love artisan style breads, but always bought them from a bakery.  Sheesh…do you realize how expensive that is?  And being on medical leave has caused me to be just a bit more cautious with my spending.  Who really knows how long I’ll be off work?  I sure don’t want to waste money on things I don’t need, especially things I can make for myself.

I’m on Pinterest and have a bread pinboard…have pinned a ton of recipes but hadn’t tried very many of them.  Until earlier this week when I was out of bread and didn’t feel like going to the store.  Yes, I certainly could have asked someone to pick up a loaf of bread for me, but I hate to ask people to do things like that.  So…I started searching through the recipes I’d pinned.  There were a lot of them that required ingredients I didn’t have on hand…again, didn’t feel like getting out, so I kept searching.  And then I came across a recipe for peasant bread…an easy to mix up recipe with only basic ingredients…and no kneading.  Now there are times that I find kneading bread to be therapeutic, but not when I don’t feel well.  So I decided to give this recipe a try.

It really was so easy…the bread dough was a little stickier than I’m used to, but it didn’t matter.  Let it rise in the mixing bowl, divide it into 1-quart glass baking dishes, let it rise again and bake.  And it’s delicious.  How can you go wrong with a recipe that’s quick and easy and then turns out to be yummy as well?

I’ve been exploring the blog where the recipe was originally published…love it…check it out for yourself…

http://www.alexandracooks.com/2012/11/07/my-mothers-peasant-bread-the-best-easiest-bread-you-will-ever-make/

I’m always amazed at the various talents that people have…this woman is an amazing cook and writes a blog that makes you wish you could be in the kitchen with her.

So…I’ve found another go-to bread recipe..I have a feeling I’ll be making this frequently.  Let me know if you try it, okay?

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Bread baking

trio of bread

trio of bread (Photo credit: kidmissile)

First, let me say, I love bread…but not just any old bread.  I like the artisan style breads…homemade breads…breads with some texture.  So you won’t see me buying a loaf of pre-sliced pre-packaged fluffy, spongy white bread…you know, the kind that is so loaded with preservatives that it will keep for a couple of weeks.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate that stuff (see, I can’t even call it bread).

I like the bread made with whole grains and seeds, but have you ever noticed how expensive that kind of bread is?  Well, I have.  That got me thinking about making my own bread.  I used to do that a lot, then working a lot of hours kind of got in the way.  But now I’ve decided to go ahead and start baking bread again.  That decision led me to wondering about bread machines.  I’ve never used one, don’t own one, am not sure that I really want one.  Yes, it would be convenient to be able to just throw the ingredients in and have the machine do all of the work.  But…there again, there’s the cost involved.  So what’s a girl to do?

I’ve looked online at the local “yard sales” on Facebook as well as some of the trader sites…so far nothing.  I’m going to stop at Goodwill one of these days and see if they happen to have one.  See, I’m kind of hesitant to spend much on something that I may not like…so looking to go the cheap route until I’m sure.  So, I guess my question for you all is, do you use a bread machine (if, of course, you bake your own bread) and what kind do you recommend?

Oh…I did bake some bread when I got home from work today.  Corn bread with stone ground cornmeal from Spring Mill State Park in my old home town of Mitchell, Indiana…stop by if you’re in the neighborhood…very cool place to visit.

What in the world am I going to do with all of this zucchini?

I’ve been gardening long enough to know that even one tiny (?) zucchini plant can provide you with more zucchini than you can possibly eat.  All week long I’ve been saying I was going to do something with the zucchini on my one plant.  The abundance of zucchini on my one plant.  After being shamed (thanks, Patti) for not following through with my zucchini plans, I decided to tackle it today.  I only picked the two largest fruits on the plant, knowing full well that those would be more than what I needed for my purposes today.

So the plan was to bake a loaf of healthier zucchini bread and freeze the rest of the shredded zucchini in 2 cup freezer bags..then I can have zucchini bread all winter long.  I had printed a recipe for a healthier type of zucchini bread from backtoherroots (thanks, Cassie), so figured I’d give that a try.

So I set about shredding those monster zucchini, ended up with enough for the bread and three bags to put in the freezer.  I had some left over and decided to try oven “fried” zucchini.

The bread recipe was easy to follow and used ingredients I already had on hand…I love it when I don’t have to buy special ingredients for a recipe, don’t you?

Now on to the oven fried zucchini…when I was a kid, we ate a lot of fried foods.  That’s something I’m trying to get away from in my quest for a healthier lifestyle.  But fried zucchini sure did sound tasty to me.  Soooo…how can I get that taste and texture without all of that fat? 

I bought Panko bread crumbs a while back and had yet to open the box…so that’s where I started.  I read the box and saw a recipe for baked breaded shrimp…figured that would probably work for zucchini too. Why not?  Took a couple of eggs and beat them in one bowl.  Mixed some flour, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese in another bowl.  Then poured some of the Panko into another bowl…Dredged the zucchini rounds through the flour mixture, then dipped into egg, and patted Panko crumbs over that.  Placed on a baking sheet, baked in a 350 degree oven.  I checked them after 10 minutes, decided to leave them in for another five minutes.  Then I turned them and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

I can not believe how seriously good these things are…crispy, tasty and so not fried…wow!!  Will I be making these again?  You betcha!!

I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do with my zucchini…that and more today…I’ve got a lot of little zucchini on that one poor plant…there has to be more oven fried zucchini in my future!

My version of focaccia

I read a blog yesterday where the writer had made the most beautiful focaccia…  http://foodblogandthedog.wordpress.com/ Did I ever mention how much I love good bread products?  Or how I find baking my own bread, kneading it, the aroma, one of my greatest cooking pleasures?  Or how my dad actually taught me to bake bread (between his leaving us and coming back multiple times)?  That’s one of the only pleasant memories I have of him, but hey, at least I can dig one up, right?   So anyhow, after reading that lovely blog, I decided I wanted to make my own focaccia today.  I’m going to use it as the base of some mighty tasty veggie sandwiches for work this week.

One of the things I’ve discovered about bread making is that you don’t really need a recipe.  Provided you don’t kill the yeast but do get the liquid used to the correct temp (warm to the touch), your bread will turn out fine.  So…today’s focaccia consists of whole wheat flour, a little white flour (I’ve never tried whole wheat bread flour, but have heard wonderful things about it, let me know if you’ve incorporated this in to your bread recipes), a small amount of sugar, oil, yeast, and warm water.  I also added some dried basil…the blog I referred to earlier showed the basil cut into strips and placed over the top of the focaccia before baking…I told you it was beautiful.  Mine isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but oh my, did it ever taste good.  I mixed everything together, then kneaded it for a while.  Once it was the right consistency, I put it on a pizza stone and spread it flat to cover the stone.  I then covered it with a towel and let it rise for 45 minutes or so (I told you this isn’t exact, didn’t believe me?).

Once it had risen, I uncovered it and poked holes in it using my finger.  I then spread a little canola oil (olive oil would have been good too) over it, sprinkled more dried basil and grated Parmesan cheese (the real deal, not the stuff in the green can) over the entire focaccia. 

 Then baked it at 350 degrees for 10 or 15 minutes.  I didn’t want to overbake it, and the time was closer to 10 minutes than 15.  Took it out of the oven and placed the baking stone on a wire cooling rack…this is totally unscientific, but I think things continue to bake when you leave them on the baking stone, even out of the oven.  Anyhow, this turned out nice…soft, fluffy, not too dense, great taste.

How’s that for a quick bread that is oh so much better than what you can buy at the grocery store?

 I do have one little question…I’ve seen it spelled both foccacia and focaccia…is one right and one wrong, or are both acceptable? (Spell check here at word press doesn’t even recognize the word…hmm…)

Why are you putting bacon in cookies?

The BLT is a variety of sandwich containing Ba...

Image via Wikipedia

Seriously, I do not understand this combination.  I’ve been reading blogs about people using bacon in all kinds of recipes.  I don’t get it.  Bacon in cookies, bacon in cupcakes, bacon in brownies…really?  How can this taste good?

I guess I should admit that I’m not a big bacon fan anyhow.  I like bacon in a BLT…about once a summer.  I can tolerate bacon on a pizza, but it’s far from my favorite.  I used to cook dry beans with bacon, but I’ve lost the taste for that.   So I’m having a difficult time imagining how bacon could possibly enhance the taste of sweets.  Yet every week I read another blog about just that, bacon taking the flavor of sweets to new heights.  I just can’t see myself liking that combo though.

So, for any of you out there who have jumped on the bacon band wagon, is this something I should try?  Will I fall to the floor in ecstasy after the first bite of a chocolate/bacon anything?  Hmm…I’m just not feeling it.

What can you do with over ripe bananas?

A bunch of Bananas.

Image via Wikipedia

I had some bananas sitting on my kitchen counter for several days.  Every time I noticed them, I thought I should do something with them…but I didn’t. Usually I’ll just peel them, break them up and freeze them so they’re ready to throw into a smoothie.  I guess I must have been lazy last week.  The bananas just kept sitting there, looking worse and worse.  Finally, this morning, I decided I was going to do something with them…went online and started looking at recipes (yes, I have a huge collection of cookbooks…love the Gooseberry Patch ones….but it’s so much easier to just do a search).  Wow…there’s a lot you can do with those icky looking, mushy bananas.  Cakes and cookies…dessert  bars and pies..and about a million recipes for banana bread.

I finally decided to go with banana bread, making one loaf of bread and a dozen muffins.  I like to freeze the muffins so I can keep them fresh, pulling one out of the freezer to take to work whenever the mood strikes me.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not the best recipe follower in the world…I’m always replacing things, adding things, whatever.  This particular recipe (http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/banana-bread/51427396-6764-4b0a-a73a-78c683c703d2/?p=1) called for 2.5 cups of regular old white flour.  I decided to try to make the recipe a little healthier by replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat flour and reducing the amount of salt by about half.  I thought about adding some applesauce in place of some of the butter, but didn’t have any applesauce (what?  better add that to my shopping list), so used a stick of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in place of the regular butter…then totally negated the whole healthier thing by adding a handful of mini chocolate chips

Have you ever noticed that quick breads or muffins don’t really look like much before they’re baked?  And honestly, who in the world first decided to use rotten…I mean, over ripe… bananas in anything that they wanted to eat?  How does that thought process come about?  Did they say to themselves, “Hey, I’m really hungry and all I have left is this bunch of rotten bananas and some flour and eggs…what can I do?  I know, I’ll mash the bananas up and make kind of a cakey bready thing.”  Well, however and whoever, it worked.

They look good and taste good…these will be a great morning snack for work over the next few weeks…and a few chocolate chips never hurt anything.

Bringing back memories of old Little Italy

Today I did something that brought Little Italy to mind (for those of you who don’t know me, I owned a pizza place called Little Italy many years ago…in a small town in Indiana, not an Italian neighborhood of a big city).  I prepared pepperoni breadsticks to take to work tomorrow for our Italian themed pitch in.

First I spread the dough (and here I really cheated.  I didn’t make my own, I used Pillsbury pizza crust…not quite as good as homemade, but a lot quicker), cut it in half and started placing the pepperoni.

Roll the dough around the pepperoni, cut and seal the edge.

Repeated process until I had a little over 3 dozen…still need to seal the ends on these!

Sprinkled some with garlic salt and left some plain, baked at 400 degrees for maybe 10 minutes.  In trying to save time, I baked some on my pizza stone and some on a metal cookie sheet (heavy one, good quality).

The one on the left was baked on the pizza stone, the one on the right on the metal cookie sheet…hmm…lesson learned…don’t take shortcuts…use the stone at all times.  Have to admit, i did sample some of both and both taste pretty good.  Those crazy people I work with will be all over these!