Saturday, June 28, 2014

Baking "Friday" - Cookie # 6

At least I'm only 1 day late this time instead of 6!

And I have a really good excuse!  We had our 2nd and hopefully final bake sale yesterday to raise money for the neighborhood association, so I was elbow deep (vs. knee deep, which when it comes to food is just a very bad, distasteful analogy) in 4 cakes, 4 pies, brownies and chocolate eclairs.  Then afterwards, G & I had a movie date that then ended at Walmart at about midnight.  I gotta tell ya - if ya want to go to Walmart when it is not crowded, midnight is a good time.  Also if you want to get lost in a Walmart, go to one that is in transition from a "regular" Walmart to a super center just prior to their new grand re-opening when they are moving groceries from the right half of the store (where the "Market" sign still is at this point) to the left half of the store (as you are looking at the front doors from the parking lot), because then there will be temp gates blocking off the floor sections that still need shelving setup for the new planogram sets.  (And yes, just for the record and for those who talk planogram sets and resets, Google Chrome does not recognize this word in their dictionary.  Just thought you'd like to know that.)  Plus you have to appreciate my lengthy, run-on sentence there, agreed?

So was all of that a good enough excuse for why these cookies are a day late?  I don't think that they are a dollar short, too, however, for those of you familiar with that phrase.  (How old does this reference date me?  I am not sure I want to know the answer to that question.)

Anyway, back to our cookie story.  Except, wait, did I ever even start the cookie story? No, I don't guess that I did.  So I will start here.  A friend who tasted 2 of these 3 cookies had these stories to tell:

  • The molasses ginger cookie was "over the top" especially when paired with the vanilla coffee that they had in the department that day.  Apparently the combination was quite good, and had I not had a few tummy issues myself on Thursday, I would have tried it, but was afraid the coffee would have worked some wonderful "magic" on my system, so I didn't.  But I still appreciate the story!
  • The oatmeal reminded her of "some old time fairs in the summer...[and] the Colonial cookies people stand in line to eat. Down in Prairie du Roucher they have an old time brick community oven from the 1700’s, apparently back in those days they would light the brick oven early in the morning and all of the towns women would bring the bread, cookies and pies to bake in the oven all day long since most people did not have an oven in their own homes.  They make an oatmeal cookie that is very similar to yours. I like yours better since it doesn’t have the wood smoke flavor like the brick oven does."
Could I ask for a better segue since my reason for choosing these cookies for 4th of July was to find cookies that could have been made during our Colonial and American Revolution days?!  It was almost like she read my mind, I tell ya!

Each of these 3 cookies (4 if you count the one variation I did to the snickerdoodle dough) is made from the kind of ingredients that our colonial mothers could have had on hand.  Applesauce.  Oatmeal.  Molasses.  A bit of spice from the treasured spice shelf like cinnamon and ginger.

One thing I know that they did not have?  A gas or electric stove with a thermostat.  Nope.  These bakers from our past would have only had their own hand to serve as their thermostat.  That is one pretty stinkin' impressive feat in my mind!  So if you had consistent baked goods results with a wood burning oven and no thermometer to measure the heat much less a thermostat to regulate the heat, then you get way major cool points from me!

So while these cookies don't necessarily sport a Red, White and Blue appearance, they speak of America to me - old-fashioned, classics that have stood the test of time and proven to satisfy.

I chose 3 cookies, but I will only share the recipe for 2 of them.  I will share the link from the KAF website for our first - a simple, buttery, Snickerdoodle that may remind you of an after-school snack from childhood or visiting grandmother's house over summer vacation.  The only thing I did slightly differently is to roll a few in plain sugar to decorate with red, white and blue frosting, but otherwise, I followed the recipe as you see in the link.  (Oh, and this didn't make any where close to 3-1/2 dozen cookies for me.  I got about 2 dozen, so I may have been scooping larger than 1" balls.)  Here are a few pics from making these:

Shaped into balls (I used my small ice-cream scoop) and rolled in sugar (on the left) or cinnamon sugar (on the right) and flattened slightly with the bottom of a glass.

And baked!

And here is my attempts to "4th of July" the ones that were rolled in regular sugar:

We have our 1960's Red, White and Blue "Sunburst" - that I decided didn't really work so good...

So then I went more military stripes, except that my lines weren't very straight...

Which then made me remember that I simply do much straighter lines using the shell motion rather than to drop strings.  Duh!
And so we had a couple of different versions of this design.

Now, if you were my friend, S, he would tell you that you needed to do your tasting in this order when I brought in everything on Thursday:

So I will move along now to his # 2 - the Molasses Gingerbread.  These are also from KAF but I made a couple of modifications - minor, but a couple.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses (I didn't have quite that much, so I used all of my molasses and then sorghum to bring it to 1/2 cup)  (I did not make the ginger syrup, but I want to sometime!)
2-1/4 t. backing soda
1 t. salt
1-1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves (not a huge fan, so cut this spice way back)
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. allspice
2 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Sparkling white sugar for rolling

I creamed the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Then I beat in the molasses, baking soda, salt and spices.  I beat well after adding the eggs and finally beat in the flour on low speed until mixed.  Using my small ice-cream scoop, I shaped them into balls and then rolled them in the sparkling sugar.  (I actually just added sparkling sugar to the cinnamon sugar mixture left over from the snickerdoodles.)  Then I baked them on parchment covered baking sheets at 350 for 10 minutes. Finally I let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing for final cooling.

These cookies are soft and spicy but not too sweet.  If you like ginger and molasses, you should like these!  If you are like my daughter, B, then you will like these zapped in the microwave for about 7 - 10 seconds to warm them just slightly.  According to her, then they are the best!

But if you are like my friend, S, or my son, D, or my hubby, G, then your favorite from this set of cookies will be our Applesauce Oatmeal cookies.  I found the recipe on Barbara Bakes, a blog that has been around way longer than this here baby blog.  There are a few versions of applesauce oatmeal cookies on the net, but this one seemed to be the most promising to me, so it's the one I went with, and I'm glad I did!  I've made these twice already, and I only found them about a month ago!  As G said, these are a keeper!  They are soft and chewy and full of healthy things like oatmeal, so they count as breakfast, right?  The maple glaze that goes on the top just sorta puts these over the top in my opinion!

Here is what I did:

4 T. butter melted (although I forgot to melt the 2nd time, and they still turned out good!)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup chunky style applesauce (I used Grandpa G's famous homemade cinnomon-y red hot applesauce!)
1-1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon (my addition, but I forgot it on the 2nd batch, so I added it to the maple glaze instead!)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or 1 cup total of either one)

Beat together the butter and sugars until well combined.  Add the egg and applesauce and mix until blended, 2 - 3 minutes.  Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well combined and then stir in the dried fruit on low speed. Using my small ice-cream scoop, I dropped the dough on parchment covered baking sheets about 2 inches apart since these spread.  I baked for 13 - 15 minutes at 350, and then let them cool on the sheets about 5 minutes before cooling on the parchment.

2 t. softened butter
Dash of vanilla
1/2 - 1 t. cinnamon (especially if you forgot it in the cookie!)
Dash of salt
3 T. maple syrup
1-1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Mix together until smooth and drip-able from the end of a fork or spoon.  Drizzle over the cooled cookies and then let set until dry before packing the cookies between sheets of waxed paper in plastic containers.

Since these are all the same shape and don't have any soft icings on top, then putting these together on a platter is very easy, but they still come out rather attractive.  And garnishing with the decorated sugar ones, makes them "officially" 4th of July fare!  (Even if that includes the 1960's Red, White and Blue "Sunburst"!

One more week for Independence Day (a cake!) and then we will be exploring some "special" holidays from now until Halloween.  For example, do you like to celebrate National Nude Day?  If so, don't forget that will be coming up on July 14th!  Or perhaps you are more of an Amelia Earhart Day on July 24th?  See what we have to look forward to?!  I am having a good time deciding which ones of these to choose and just the right baked good for each one.  (PS - I do not anticipate celebrating National Nude Day.  I run the risk of being called into HR enough without totally pushing it!)

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to be back on Fridays again by next week!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baking "Friday" - Bread # 6 - Part C

And FINAL part!  The shaping, rising, baking, glazing and serving part - the really FUN part!

I'm pretty much just going to let the pictures speak for themselves here.  I love serving these.  I don't make them all that often, but every time I do, I am reminded why I make these.  They are that yummy!

I chose to shape these in pinwheels, but once they rise and bake, they don't necessarily retain their pinwheel shape.  Does that make them a fail?  I don't think so since they taste so amazing!  One sweet lady did an impromptu pastry throw down between one of these and one from a famous baking company - and she graciously gave the nod to these, even using the word "perfect", so I'm pretty sure that means she would agree that whether they stay pretty pinwheels or not doesn't really matter.  Another gentleman said that it was the best Danish he'd ever eaten.

So here goes.  (Should I tell you that I shaped these at 3am since they need time to rise and I wanted to serve them as soon after coming out of the oven as I could?  I shouldn't?  Ok, good.  I won't tell you that.)

I rolled the dough into a rectangle about 1/4" thick.
Then using a pizza cutter, I cut this into 8 "squares" if you don't use the strict geometric definition of a square.
Then I cut diagonals at each corner towards the center but not all the way.
And then I folded every other corner into the middle...
...and repeated with all of them before setting them on a parchment covered cookie sheet.
A full recipe gave me 16 pinwheels of this size, so I did 6 blueberry, 5 cherry and 5 cream cheese raspberry.
Then I gave them a tent of plastic wrap, and went back to bed.  Er, wait, since I'm not telling you what time I shaped these, let me rephrase that and simply say, "I let them rise for about 2.5 hours."  (Pay no attention to the time you see from my stove.  I'm sure that must be a malfunctioning clock...)
When I returned, here is what they looked like.
A couple of other close ups...
Can you tell the difference from rising?  Can you see the layers forming?
Oh, and I added some fresh blueberries and raspberries just prior to baking, too.

I slid them into a 350 degree oven and let them bake for 30 minutes...letting the heat create that wonderful steaminess from the butter and just look!  Look at that golden brown flaky goodness!
And then I glazed them once...
...and once again after they had cooled about 10 minutes.  And behold!  They were ready to serve!
Since I used red and blue fruits plus a white glaze plus a red tablecloth, they count for Independence  Day, right?  I hope so, cause I LOVE these things!

Does it count as causing you to covet if I post another pic or two of these?
It shouldn't if I show you ones that didn't come out perfectly, right?
I didn't think so.  Thank you.  So here's one more...
Are you hungry yet?

Thanks for stopping by!  My plan is to be back on schedule with tomorrow's cookie post!  Seeya then!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baking "Friday" - Bread # 6 - Part B

Yep, you're right.  Still not Friday.  I'm still making up for last Friday.

Did you see the pics of putting together the croissant dough yesterday?  Did I mention why croissant (and puff pastry dough, too, for that matter) is "laminated" with layers of butter between the dough?  It's because the butter causes this steam to happen in the oven magic which is what makes all of those luscious, flaky, buttery yummy goodness layers that we all love so well.  Do I understand all of that chemistry of heat and butter and dough and steam?  Shoot, no!  I just know it works, and I love that Helen has taught us how to combine the ingredients to make it happen!

Part B is all about the fillings/toppings for the danishes.  I have three - two of which are cooked and one that is too easy to be as good as it is.  Let's start with the cooked ones.  They both follow the same basic formula of sugar, juice or water, and cornstarch.  I like to use pineapple juice for this sort of thing.  Since we don't drink pineapple juice regularly, I try to keep a six-pack of these guys on hand to use in cooking and making special occasion drinks for the hubby and I.
I cooked up a blueberry filling using 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 T. cornstarch, a pinch of salt and one of these cans of juice.  I whisked together the sugar and cornstarch and salt and then added the juice and set it over heat - a medium high heat.  And then I added a bunch of blueberries.  How much is a bunch?  About this much?
(You pretty much can't get it wrong.  Is there really such a thing as too many blueberries?)

I cooked and stirred this mixture until thick and for about another minute or so beyond boiling to fully cook the cornstarch.  And since I still have some of that wonderful blueberry amaretto syrup from my hubby, I finished this off with a splash of that and a pat of butter.

For the cherry filling, I began by pitting a bunch of bing cherries.  (Yummy!)
No, not the pits!  Those aren't yummy, but these are.  (I managed to lose the picture of the cut up cherries before they got in the pan, because I've got a new phone and stuff happens when I get a new phone.  What can I say?  I'm phone file challenged...)
Same sugar, cornstarch, salt and juice ratio as for the blueberries, and cooked over medium-high heat until thick and then for about a minute or so longer to fully cook the cornstarch and to soften the cherries.

I finished this off with a pat of butter and quick splashes of vanilla and almond.  And poured both up to chill until ready to use.
My final filling is simply a combination of softened cream cheese with strained raspberry jam.  And like the chopped up cherries, that pic is lost in phone La-la-land, but I can show you what this looked like spread on the dough....pretty much equal parts.  Oh, and I like to strain the seeds out, so I warmed the jam and pushed it through a fine mesh strainer before mixing with the cream cheese.
I will post pics of shaping and serving the danishes tomorrow, and then that should bring me up to date by the time Friday rolls around with our 4th of July's a sneak peak at one of those....
...except I need to turn it 90 degrees before I post it again on Friday....grrrrr...

I still seem to have SOOOOO much to learn about this blogging world!  Thanks for stopping by and being patient with my learning!

Talk to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baking "Friday" - Bread # 6 - Part A

It isn't Friday.  I know that.  And I missed last Friday.  I know that as well.  Shortly after I published the post last Wednesday, I heard from my daughter, S, that she was in a great deal of pain from a surgical hernia. So she went to an urgent care facility and then thanks to our good friend, C, she was able to get worked in with the surgeon, and had the surgery on Thursday to repair it.  Since S is not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for the next few weeks, (and J-man weighs a bit more than 10 pounds these days!), we've been helping her and K out as have K's parents.  Combine that with other things like work being really rather difficult these days and preparing for another bake sale, and you end up with a Deb that doesn't have much brain leftover for writing on this here blog.

But I'm going to attempt to write something worth reading now.  We finished Father's Day, and our next holiday is the 4th of July, so our bread for the 4th is danishes.

Wait, did Deb just say danishes?  Aren't danishes...uh...danish?  How can she do danishes for the 4th of July?

Well....they will be made with red raspberries and white glaze and blueberries, so that makes them All-American, right?

OR...we could think of it this way...America is the melting pot nation, so Deb is making a bread that combines French croissant pastry dough with a danish shape and American grown fruits.  Add a sparkler on the top, and we have Independence Day, right?

Right?  Or maybe at least Independence Day breakfast?

Ok, so maybe not, but this is what I making...uh both actually!  I made a small batch for the family since I didn't go into work last Thursday or Friday, but I will make them again this week, since I "owe" my work taste testers a Baking Friday bread from last week.  Right?

So enough of that.  I will share the finished pastries later, but I wanted to spend this post bringing you up to date on stuff going on and showing you the pics of making the croissant dough.

This is totally Helen Fletcher's croissant dough recipe, and it isn't the traditional method of laminating the butter into the dough and rolling multiple times.  This is a genius method that Helen developed over 25 years ago using the food processor.  It WORKS!  Almost like magic and makes some pretty amazing croissants when they are all said and done!  If you don't have a food processor, then I wouldn't bother attempting these.  But if you do and you're game, then by all means find a copy of Helen's The New Pastry Cook book online and give them a test drive!  Helen goes into much greater detail than I will, and all of that detail is way good stuff to know, so I cannot recommend her cookbook highly enough.  It is, after all, the one and only cookbook that ever changed my life.

The recipe ingredients are pretty simple:

1 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1-1/2 T sugar
1 package yeast
1 t. salt
2 T. vegetable oil
3 cups bread flour
1 cup frozen butter

You mix everything except the butter together in a food processor and let it knead for about 30 seconds after it forms a ball.  Form the dough into a disc, and wrap the dough in plastic wrap.  Place this in the freezer with the butter and let it get frozen around the edges - about 90 minutes to 2 hours is what works for me.  It will depend upon how cold and empty your freezer is how long it may take.

When it's ready, then cut the dough into 12 wedges and each stick of butter into 16 pieces.  Working in thirds, cut the butter into the dough using the pulse button on the food processor.  You don't want it to come together; you simply want the pieces to break up and become uniform in size.  Like this.
You can still see bits of dough and bits of butter, but they are not a cohesive unified dough yet.  But once you push these bits all together...

...then you can roll them into a rectangle like this.
Next (and a pastry bench knife is really helpful here) you fold the top to the middle and the bottom to the middle.
And then fold the whole thing in half and turn it 90 degrees ready to roll again.
It doesn't look like much here, but lather, rinse, repeat, and you get this.  (And by "lather, rinse, repeat" I mean roll the dough out to the long rectangle again and then fold both ends to the middle and then the whole in half and turn it 90 degrees.)
And then lather, rinse, repeat once more, for a total of 3 rolling times, and you have this smooth dough, ready to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or a couple of days until you are ready to form your danishes.
Wrapped in a plastic bag, and you are one rich person, let me tell you!  Oh, the possibilities!

Part B on this bread will get posted tomorrow, and then I will post pics of the finished danishes before posting our Cookie # 6 on Friday, at which point I will be all caught up, right?

That is, unless something unexpected occurs again...but such is life!

PS - S's surgery went very well, and she is healing great!  J-man is still a big confused with why Mommy is not picking him up like she used to do, but he is being quite the little trooper - just looking over at whoever is around to be picked up and taken to Mommy for snuggles.  Cause while others can do certain things for the J-man, nobody else snuggles quite as good as Mommy....and that is just about perfectly normal for this age.

Thanks for your patience as I get caught up!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Stuff I Want to Share

A - What we make D do when we're celebrating birthdays, including his.  But he did such a good job so that makes it ok, right?

This is the "ladder" we set up for him.  Cause we're safe like that...
But he's quite sure footed, so it's all good.  Again, right?  This counts as a birthday party game in your world, too, right?

7 - J-man may or may not like watermelon.  The jury is still out.

But with a smile like this, the jury has fun deliberating.

We think he likes the green side better than the red side...

But we know for sure that he likes to share whipped cream with GG.
(GG was just trying to make sure that the bath Mommy was running for J-man was truly needed - beyond a shadow of a doubt!)

L.3.5 - We are looking forward to meeting our 5th grandSON sometime after October 27 of this year!!!  Woo-hoo!  A-man and O-man are excited to have a brother coming, too!  R&E shared the news with A-man and O-man by wrapping 3 blue balloons in a box.  I won't share their video here again since it is their video to share, but just look at A-man's smile in this screen shot from the video!

And here's your first look at Baby L-man!!!  Such a cutie, don't you think?!

S.1.3 - 2014 is a year for babies in our family!  J&G's youngest daughter, L, and her husband, B, are due with their first at just about the same time as Baby L-man is due!  Woo-hoo!!!  Looking forward to meeting you Baby S!

C.1.6 - And finally 2014 is a year for babies in our family!  We are looking forward to meeting our 6th grandCHILD sometime in November of 2014!  S&A are due with their first baby the day before Pie Night 2014!!  (One of the very few valid excuses for missing Pie Night, I might add.)  They caught their first glimpse of Baby C just yesterday, but they are intentionally finding out the old fashioned way, so for purposes of this here blog, their little one will be simply known as Baby C rather than Baby C-man or Baby C-lady.  Here is their FB announcement from Father's Day - very appropriate for Baby C's musical, sound pro and ultra-cool parents!
I have been wanting to share this exciting news for a while now, but I've been a good Mimi and kept my fingers quiet...until NOW!  I want to share this little story of how they told us Baby C was on the way.  We were talking about the news of Baby L-man's arrival and Baby S over dinner one time, and I could see A across the table.  I admit it.  I was watching her - cause I was sorta kinda maybe sorta hoping that they might also have some news to share...maybe kinda sorta.  But A just smiled and didn't say a word.  Sigh.  

But then!  We were out on the patio at S&K's house talking after dinner and the conversation turned to the sleeping habits of each person and how babies have a way of affecting sleeping habits, S&K speaking from experience now that J-man is in their lives.  And I turned to my son, S, and said "I'll be curious to see how you do with a baby waking up in the middle of the night" to which he calmly, non-nonchalantly, offhandedly and totally coolly replied, "I guess we'll find out in December."  A-HAH!!!  YEA!!!!!  <insert way happy hugs all around here>

I love babies!  They are just the best way for people to start!  I'm so glad God thought of babies!  

And that concludes the stuff I've wanted to share for now.  Thanks for stopping by!