Tag Archives: baking

Molasses, Mozzarella, Mountains, and Mom Time…

1. Molasses.  In one of my very first blog posts, I talked about my Grandma Shoots’ yummy molasses cookies.  Hope and I decided to make some yesterday, since it had been quite some time.  Here’s the recipe (I have no idea who “Shirley” is):

Shirley’s Cookies

1 cup molasses

1 cup water

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup melted lard or shortening

4 tsps. baking soda dissolved in 1 cup boiling water

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

10 cups flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together and beat gently with a wooden spoon (add flour a cup or two at a time).  Roll out to 1/8″ thickness, and cut with large round cutter (I actually use a plastic tumbler).  Place on cookie sheets, and bake about 10 minutes, until puffy but not hard.  Makes about 6 dozen BIG cookies.  Keep them in the refrigerator.

Working on cookies...Hope threw some flour on my face for extra authenticity...photo by Anna

Molasses Cookies...these are only 3" in diameter...Grandma's were about 5" or 6" across! Soft and awesome...they'll also keep you regular! (photo by Anna)

2. Mozzarella.  I was in the mood to cook last night, but had planned a fairly boring menu of chicken burgers, curly fries, onion rings, and green beans (from the garden).  Then I remembered the fresh mushrooms and mozzarella cheese I had in the fridge, and the huge onions I’d bought at Costco…why not make Philly Cheese Chicken?  I cut the onion into long, thin pieces and sautéed them with the chopped mushrooms in a little bit of butter in a non-stick pan.  Then I laid on slices of processed mozzarella cheese (I would have used real cheese if I hadn’t been pressed for time).  After the cheese melted, I stirred it and spooned the mixture on top of the chicken burgers.  If you try this, make sure you use real chicken burgers (not the breaded ones!).

My lunch today...yummy!

3. Mountains.  We had a little more snow on Friday night…slightly more than a foot.  Weather forecasters had dubbed it the “worst storm of the season”, but I think it failed to live up to their expectations!  I sent Anna out with her camera yesterday to show what kind of snowfall we had:

This is Hope and Jake in our driveway yesterday...photo by Anna

This is Brianna (about 5'4") standing next to a snowbank...photo by Anna

4. Mom Time.  Jim took the girls to see Gnomeo and Juliet this afternoon, giving me a 3-hour break from bickering, pop music, and general hubbub…thanks, Honey!  I am using the time to do laundry; write this post; practice my new addiction game, 4 Elements, on Facebook (I just about cried when I found out Dad had closed my window on the computer this morning when he checked his email…luckily, it remembered where I’d left off at midnight last night…attempt #8 on Level 15…aarggh!); and get ready for Kaylee, Scott and Elise to come over for supper.  I’m making Barbecued Chicken (in the oven – the barbecue is under two feet of snow!), mashed potatoes, corn, and carrots.  The kids are going to be home soon, so I’d better get to cooking!  Happy Sunday!

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The Sweet Smell of Success, Sort of…

Yesterday, I took advantage of having a relatively slow day (only two loads of laundry, two cheerleading practices, a cheer parents’ meeting, and a dinner invitation at Jim’s parents) to make molasses brown bread.  I had mentioned making bread on Saturday to Jim on Friday night, and he’d requested brown bread made with molasses.  Since we went to a movie and out for supper on Saturday, I didn’t get to the bread until Sunday.

Never having made Molasses Brown Bread before, my first step was to find a recipe…I went to my well-stocked cookbook shelves (I probably have only about 200), and selected a cookbook from a local church.

Brown Bread

2 T. quick-rise yeast

1 T. sugar

3 T. shortening

1 cup raisins

1 egg, beaten

1 cup warm water

1 cup oatmeal

2 cups boiling water

3/4 cup molasses

1 T. salt

6-7 cups flour or enough to knead

First, I put the oatmeal and raisins into a bowl, and poured the boiling water over them.

Oatmeal and Raisins Covered in Boiling Water...

After the oatmeal/raisin mix was cool, I put 5 cups of the flour, the yeast, the sugar, and the salt into a large mixing bowl, and stirred to mix them around.  I put the warm water and the shortening into a measuring cup.  Then I got out the molasses…problem!

A little bit short of molasses...needed 3/4 cup!

I didn’t have quite enough molasses, so topped the cup up with honey…it’s all liquid sugar, right?  Then I added the warm water mixture to the bowl with the flour in it, and stirred it in.  Next, I added the egg, and finally the molasses and the bowl with the oatmeal and raisins.  I added two more cups of flour (used the full 7 cups), and kneaded the dough until it was smooth.  Then I oiled the dough, covered it with plastic wrap and left it to rise.

Dough before first rise...

About 45 minutes later, it looked like this:

Dough after first rise...

 I punched it down, covered it, and let it rise again, until it looked like this:

Dough after second rise...

I greased a 9 x 14 cake pan, and then punched the dough down again.  Then I formed the loaves, and put them in the pan:

Newly-formed loaves in pan...

I left the loaves to rise again, until they looked like this:

Loaves after third rise...ready to bake!

I turned the oven on to 375 degrees, and put the bread in for fifteen minutes.  Then I reduced the heat to 325 degrees, and baked for another 25 minutes (our oven is hot – others may find it works better with 400 degrees for the first part, and 350 for the second).  After the allotted amount of time, I took the bread out of the oven, and out of the pan.  I had a minor issue with one loaf sticking to the bottom of the pan, and slightly squishing another on the top.  This is the finished product (cracks and all):

Finished loaves of Molasses Brown Bread...

I sliced one piece each off one of the loaves for Jim and I to sample…we wanted to take a loaf to Jim’s parents, and had to make sure it was okay.  It was delicious!

I had left the loaves on the dining room table to cool, and realized after we got to Shirley and Gordon’s that I’d forgotten to bring them some.  I promised to leave one for them to get this afternoon when they drop off Bri after her orthodontist’s appointment.  We had a lovely dinner: chicken, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, rolls, apple pie, and blueberry pie.

We had to leave Jim’s parents’ at 7:15 because there was a meeting for cheerleading parents at Hope’s school after her practice. 

We got home about 8:30, narrowly missing a skunk which had just ambled across our driveway!  I went into the dining room to put the bread into plastic bags, and was horrified to see what Jake had been up to while we were gone!  He had eaten almost half the bread (the only loaf he hadn’t touched was the one I’d cut to sample).  I salvaged what I could (I might have said a bad word or two, too!)…six hours of work was ruined!  I guess there’s no point crying over chewed-up brown bread…

"But they smelled so good, Mom!"

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Little Wendy Pie-Maker…

On Friday, I was home waiting for the carpenter to come to finish installing the new drywall and tub surround in the bathroom.  I decided that since it was our Thanksgiving weekend, that I would make pies for the occasion.  The first step was the pumpkin…I went out the the garden and chose the smallest one (the only one that would fit into the microwave)…it was about 10″ tall and 8″ in diameter.

The Pumpkin...

I put it into the microwave to soften it up so I could cut it in half and scoop out the seeds…then I put it in the oven and baked it.

Cooked pumpkin...

The carpenters commented on the wonderful smell…I told them I was making pumpkin pie from scratch, and they were suitably impressed.  I also got a couple of bags each of blueberries (from our bushes) and blackberries (picked in my secret patch on the West Side) out of the freezer.  I scooped the meat out of the pumpkin…four cups of fresh pumpkin!

Unfortunately, the carpenters took about four hours to finish the bathroom…procrastination kicked in…I didn’t think it would be a good idea to make piecrust near where so much drywall dust was flying around, so I decided to wait until Saturday to make the actual pies.  I had also promised to make “West Side Wendy’s Brownies” for a reunion of my old call center workers on Saturday night.

The bathroom looked 100 times better when they were done (and they cleaned up pretty well after themselves too!).

New shower stall...yay!

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early.  After a quick breakfast, I started baking right away.  The brownies were first…two pans of deliciousness which everyone who tastes them raves about.

Brownies...yummy!

Then I started the pies.  I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for a pumpkin pie that used 16 oz. of pumpkin (it said it made one single crust pie)…I figured that if I doubled it, that would use all of my four cups of pumpkin, and I’d have two pies.  Wrong!  I ended up with enough filling for three big pies and one small pie!

Pumpkin pie...

 

There were also way more berries than I thought…once I had them in the bowls with the sugar and flour, I realized I’d overestimated in taking out two bags of each kind.

Blackberry pie before top crust put on...

Blueberry/Blackberry pie before top crust...

I sent Jim to the Co-Op for more lard.  Another recipe of piecrust was necessary.

Finished blueberry pie...

Finished blackberry pie...yes, that's my poor rendition of blackberries carved in the top...

Finished blueberry/blackberry pie...those are two "B"'s in the top...

So, after eight hours of baking, I ended up with two pans of brownies and eight pies: four pumpkin, two blueberry, one blackberry, and one blueberry/blackberry.  We’ll take a blueberry one to Jim’s mom’s today for our combo Thanksgiving/Devin’s birthday dinner (he turned 17 on October 4th).  On Monday, we’ll have the other blueberry one and a pumpkin one for our own Thanksgiving dinner with Kaylee, Scott and Elise.

Jim and I had fun at the reunion last night.  Not many people made it because of the holiday weekend, but the food was great (anybody who knows me knows how much I love to eat!).  It was nice to see my old co-workers, many of whom I hadn’t seen for a year.  We talked about having another gathering in February…looking forward to it!

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I Owe It All to Pig Fat…

Item #9 on my “bucket list” reads: “Learn to make edible piecrust.” https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/my-bucket-list/  Well, I can cross that off my list, because, wonder of wonders, I actually did it last night, thanks to my friend Eleanor!  She felt sorry for me after reading this post: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/can-she-make-a-cherry-pie/  The next day, there was an e-mail from Eleanor with a “No-Fail Piecrust Recipe” (my friend, Nancy, said she had one too, but was unable to locate it).  I was skeptical: after (unsuccessfully) attempting to make piecrust many times over the past 35 or so years, I thought I’d successfully caused every “no-fail” recipe to fail…

On our way home from work the other night, I told Jim I was going to try Eleanor’s recipe – I couldn’t remember if we had any lard or not.  Trying to be helpful, he said, “Can’t you just use shortening?” 

My reply was, “Well, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be any problem, if the recipe was for anythng besides piecrust, and it wasn’t me trying to make it…however, I think I’d better follow the recipe exactly, in this case!”

So we stopped at Giant Tiger and picked up two boxes of lard…the recipe only called for one, but I wanted a backup!

I got two boxes for good measure...

We stopped at Jim’s mom’s yesterday afternoon, and I asked her what she put in with her blueberries when she made pie.  She said she’d only made one blueberry one (her specialty is apple), but Jim’s dad had found a couple of recipes on the Internet – some used tapioca, and some used cornstarch with the sugar. 

After supper last night, I pulled out my trusty “Joy of Cooking.”  It’s never steered me wrong (except for piecrust!).  It also gave the tapioca or the cornstarch options.  I went with the cornstarch, being “fresh out” of tapioca (it’s not my favourite thing!).  I was to use 2 tbsp. of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of water or fruit juice, and 2/3 to 1 cup of white sugar for every 4 cups of berries.  The berries were supposed to “cogitate” (my word)  in this mixture for at least fifteen minutes before putting them into the pieshells.

This cookbook has been my friend for more than thirty years...

I had enough berries for three pies, which was perfect because the piecrust recipe makes double shells for 3 pies!  I mixed the berries with the sugar and cornstarch mixture, and went off to make the piecrust.  I preheated the oven to 425 degrees (the recipe said 450, but my oven is HOT, and I didn’t want to burn them).

I asked one of my personal photographers (Anna, in this case) to document my pastry-making journey.  I mixed all the ingredients carefully together, using the exact amounts and method given in Eleanor’s recipe.  Not having a pastry cloth (my mom had one), I used some sheets of wax paper to roll out my dough, liberally sprinkling them and my rolling pin with flour first.  Gingerly, I started rolling the little ball of dough…wow!  It didn’t cling for dear life to the rolling pin, or fall apart into a million tiny pieces, or stubbornly refuse to become somewhat oval (all scenarios that I’ve witnessed too many times before in previous attempts).  I hesitated to say it out loud, but thought to myself, very quietly,  “I think this is actually working…”

My first rolling...

My first oval was beautiful…I rolled it carefully up on to the rolling pin, and with only a couple of minor stickings, was able to lower it into the first pie pan.  Ta-da!

Putting first crust into the pan...

First crust successfully in pan...

Trimming off the excess dough...

I did two more crusts, and put them into the pans.  I brought the fruit in, and dumped it into the waiting crusts.

Three pies ready for their top crusts...those are my dad's knees in the background...he was supervising...

Then I made three more ovals for top crusts, some more beautiful than others, but all serviceable.  I laid them on top, and squished the edges together with my thumb (I remembered vaguely that you were supposed to use a little bit of water to seal them, but decided I didn’t want to bother with that).  It was after I had the top crusts on that I remembered that “Joy of Cooking” had suggested dotting the fruit with a tablespoon or two or butter before covering it up…oh, well…my hips would certainly not miss that extra fat!

Pie with top crust on...

Before I put them in the oven, I knew that I should make some holes in the top crust to let steam escape…I might as well do something artsy!

My pretty flower pie...

I even had some pastry left over, so I did what my mom used to do, and made little sugar pies in pot pie pans: a little melted butter, some white sugar, and lots of cinnamon. 

I put all the pies in the oven, setting the pans on cookie sheets in case there was any filling overflow.  They were to be cooked for ten minutes at the higher temperature, and then for 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I spent the next hour running back and forth to the oven, checking, rotating pies from top to bottom rack and back, and from left to right side.  Near the end of the cooking time, I realized my folly in not sealing the crusts together with water: there were blueberry rivers running across my preventative cookie sheets (thank goodness I did that – otherwise that goop would have been in my oven burners).  The stuff was burning on the cookie sheets, and smoking like crazy.  I turned the oven fan on to prevent the smoke alarms going off, and pulled the finished pies out of the oven.

Jim and I “tested” one of the sugar pies while the big ones were cooling…the pastry was really good – not too dry, but a little bit flaky.

I’ll be serving the blueberry pies tonight when we have Jim’s parents and his favourite aunt over for supper…I can’t wait to taste them! 

My beautiful finished pie...

For all my piecrust-challenged sisters out there, here is Eleanor’s (courtesy of Canadian Living magazine) recipe:

NEVER FAIL PASTRY

Lard based pastry- can take a lot of handling, makes a large quantity that can be stored in fridge of freezer.

5 cups all purpose flour or 6 cups pastry flour

1 TBSP salt

1 pound lard

1 egg

1 TBSP vinegar

In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt, cut lard until mix resembles coarse crumbs.

In a mixing bowl combine egg and vinegar, add enough water to make 1 cup. Gradually pour liquid over flour mixture until dough clings together, press into ball.

Pastry maybe rolled out immediately or wrapped and stored in fridge for 2 weeks, or can be frozen. Makes 6 pie shells or 3 double crusts.

Enjoy!

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Deck-reation…

This afternoon, I took some time to relax on our back deck with a glass of iced tea…

It had been a busy day:  I made luscious homemade rolls for a double graduation potluck tomorrow.

My Perfect (I hope) Homemade Rolls...

There were going to be 32 of them, but I accidentally dropped one on the floor while I was knotting it…I grabbed it before the dog could scoop it up…

I did three loads of laundry (not folded yet – that might happen tomorrow morning).

I went for a bike ride with Jim, Anna and Brianna…I guess I might be getting a new bike for my birthday after all…the one Jim’s dad gave me is too big for me, and there are issues with the mechanism.  I borrowed one of Jim’s today…his seat is more comfortable than Anna’s (gel-filled seat cover…nice).  However, I was having great difficulty getting it into gear (the bike, not my butt!).  My birthday is two weeks from today…

I returned from our ride with sore thighs and a dry throat…bring on the iced tea!  Our dog, Jake, joined me on the deck…our neighbourhood chipmunks had fun tormenting him.  He would stand at the edge of the fenced deck, and watch as one of his little buddies approached.  Jake would wag his tail in welcome: “Are you coming to play with me?”  Then he realized they were coming closer.  He would growl and bark, and the chipmunk would flee to safety around the corner of the house again.

Our presence on the deck deterred the birds who would have loved to visit the birdfeeders…goldfinches took turns doing reconnaissance runs past them to see if the coast was clear or not…spying us, they would sail back up into the trees.  One brave little chickadee lit once, but didn’t stay long enough to grab a bite.

Soon after I sat down, I saw a neat little ladybug – not the traditional colours, but dark brown with cream-coloured spots…it was something like this one (I thought Anna had taken a picture of it, but her camera batteries were dead):

My bug friend looked something like this...

As mentioned in previous posts, I like bugs that don’t bite me…I let this one crawl around on my arms and hands for a good half hour!  She seemed to prefer to crawl away from me, no matter which way I turned my hands or fingers.  Every so often, she would stop and perform some mysterious ritual with her front legs on her face (?).  Stuff like this fascinates me…

Soon, it was time to go back in and start the potato salad for supper (we also had ham, and Jim made salad from the garden and strawberry shortcake for dessert).  I left my new little friend on the patio table…when I went back out a few minutes later, she was gone (I hope she flew away, and wasn’t devoured by a bird!).

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Doh!

Preface: I am not a novice bread-maker…I taught myself to make it about twenty years ago as a way to relieve stress.  I do not own a bread machine…I make it the old-fashioned way (except for using quick-rise yeast).

The other day, I stayed home from the bookstore to try to get caught up on some household chores.  One of my plans for the day was making some cinnamon raisin bread…I’d been craving it since seeing some at the grocery store earlier in the week.  It had also been a few weeks since I made bread, the last time being Easter when I made Buttermilk Rolls (https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/no-use-crying-over-spoilt-milk/).

I went to the flour canister, which was nearly empty.  I brought the big bag of flour up from its home in the basement stairwell, and refilled the canister.  I measured six cups of flour into my large stainless steel mixing bowl, added the half cup of sugar, the tablespoon of yeast, the teaspoon of salt, three tablespoons of cinnamon, and a cup of raisins.  I stirred everything together.

In my four-cup glass measuring cup, I put a half-cup of shortening, and 2 1/2 cups of boiling water.  I stirred it around until the shortening had melted, and let it cool a few minutes.

I made a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and poured the cup of water and shortening into the flour.  I stirred it until all the flour was moistened, and then added an egg and stirred some more.  Then I kneaded in two more cups of flour.

After oiling the dough, I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and left it for the first rise.

Dough Before First Rise...

I went away and worked on laundry for the next hour…when I came back, the dough had risen nicely…

Dough After First Rise...

I punched it down, kneaded it some more, covered it up, and left it for another hour.  It was even more beautiful!

Dough After Second Rise...

I then punched it down, greased a 9 x 14 cake pan, formed the dough into three loaves, and left it to rise again.

Loaves After Third Rise...

They were absolutely beautiful.  I turned the oven on to 400 degrees, and put the pan in the oven.  Five minutes later, I smelled something burning…the tops of my wonderful loaves were a lot darker brown than I intended!  I shielded them with some foil, and put them back in for another ten minutes.  I then reduced the heat to 350 degrees and baked them for an additional 25 minutes (this is the process I’ve used for twenty years, minus the foil shielding part – I’ve only been using this particular oven for a little over a year – I’m still getting used to its idiosyncrasies). 

When I took the bread out of the oven, I took a fine grater and attempted to “sand” the dark bits off the top.  That worked to a certain degree.  I flipped the loaves out of the pan onto a tray to cool, and then righted them.  In the process, they pulled apart a little.  That’s when I realized they weren’t done.

So I put them back in the pan as best I could, and returned them to the oven for another ten minutes.  When I took them out again, I realized I was beat.  My once-beautiful cinnamon raisin bread was now half its original thickness…it resembled some poor rectangular brown balloon which had sprung a leak.  I sliced a piece off the end and spread some butter on it…it tasted okay, but it still wasn’t done.  Totally disgusted, I chucked the whole thing into the compost bin!

Someday, I will try again…I’m blaming this failure on the oven…

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