Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Deep-Dark Fudgy Brownie Mix

I like making my own baking mixes because they're cheaper and taste better than most of what you can buy. And if I make more than one mix at a time, it saves me time cleaning up the measuring mess.   I've printed the mix ingredients on one side of a laminated tag, and the wet ingredients to add later, along with basic baking instructions, on the other.  I tape the tag to the baggie and store it until we want a chocolate fix.

I based this recipe on one from the King Arthur Flour website.

Deep-Dark Fudgy Brownie Mix

Measure into a quart size zip-top baggie:
2/3 cup double-dutch dark cocoa (I used 1/3 c. special dark, and 1/3 c. regular cocoa)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. espresso powder (optional, but this is part of what give these a dark, rich flavor)

When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan.  Whisk or sift the mix into a large bowl.  Add:
3 large eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. water
1 cup. toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup semi-sweet or 60% dark chocolate chips (optional)

Spoon into the baking pan, smoothing the top.  Bake about 35 min. for 9x9 pan and 45 min for 8x8 pan.  To see if the brownies are done, stick the tip of a knife in the center.  Wiggle it to see what's going on:  is the batter still shiny, wet, and smooth?  Continue to bake.  Is it ultra-moist, but not shiny, and "crumby" looking?  Take them out, they're done.  Place on cooling rack, and if you have a powerful lot of self-control, allow them to cool 1 hour before slicing.  You can tell from the photo that I prefer to eat it as soon as I can keep from burning my tongue.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mixed Berry Tart

This photo comes from Z's 16th birthday party, which was a "Monte Pie-a-thon".  They watched Monte Python and ate pies.  Loads of pies.  Their parents were happy to help finish the pies off, too!

I got this recipe from my dear friend Susan at a homemaking meeting back when they were called that.  This is about the easiest kind of pie.  So casual, yet it is different and becomes elegant.

Mixed Berry Tart

1 recipe Pate Brisee or butter pastry crust
1 lb. berries (frozen is fine)
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1-2 Tbs. flour

Prepare pastry, set aside.  Line a baking sheet with foil or silpat.  Sprinkle lightly with flour.  Roll pastry to 13 inch circle atop baking sheet.  (If yours has rims, like mine, roll it out on the foil/silpat, then move it to the pan.  Gently mix berries, sugar, lemon zest and flour in bowl.  Mound berry mixture in center of crust, leaving a 2 inch border.  Fold border up over berries.  Combine egg and 1 Tbs. water; brush onto the top and sides of the crust.  Sprinkle crust with a little sugar.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or till crust is golden.  To prevent over-browning, cover edge with foil the last 10-15 minutes of baking.  Cool 30 minutes on the baking sheet.  Dust edges with powdered sugar.  If desired, serve with whipped cream.  Serves 8.

Pate Brisee (shortcrust pastry)

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-4 Tbs. ice water

1.  Stir together flour, salt and sugar.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter till pieces are pea sized.  Sprinkle 1 Tbs. water over the flour and gently toss with fork.  Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl.  Repeat moistening dough, using 1 Tbs. water at a time, until all dough is moistened.  Press dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and slightly flatten the dough into a disc.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before using.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

Cinnamon Rolls or Sticky Buns

Zoe and I made a quadruple batch of these for Zoe's classmates last week.  They were a big hit.  We had the sticky bun version for Christmas morning (just shape the night before and refrigerate overnight then bake in the morning), but Zoe thought they would be too messy for school, so we served them plain with frosting on the side.

This recipe is adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking

Cinnamon Rolls

If you have a breadmaker, just combine all the dough ingredients (up through the 6 Tbs. butter) in the breadmaker and run the dough cycle. When the dough is ready, follow the instructions for shaping, rising and baking.

If you don't have a breadmaker, combine in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (105-115 degree) water

1/2 cup cake flour (all purpose is ok)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix by hand or on low speed until blended.  Gradually stir in:
2 cups bread flour (all purpose is ok)

Mix for 1 minute until the dough comes together.  Knead by hand for about 10 min. or with the dough hook on low to medium speed for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl.  Add:
6 Tbs. very soft butter

Vigorously knead in the butter until completely incorporated and the dough is once again smooth.  Place the dough in a large buttered bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours. (Refrigerate if you need more time before you shape it).  

Punch the dough down and roll it out on a floured surface into a 16x12 inch rectangle.  Brush the dough with 
1 Tbs. melted butter

Sprinkle with 
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Starting from the long side, roll up the dough as you would a jelly roll.  Cut crosswise into 12 slices.  Arrange the slices cut-side down in a greased 9x13 pan, spacing them equally in the pan.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Top with cream cheese frosting if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature.

In a medium bowl, beat until just blended:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tbs.unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
Add one third at a time and beat until just smooth and the desired consistency:
2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

If the frosting is too stiff, beat for a few seconds longer.  Do not overbeat.  This keeps, refrigerated, about 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.  This is going to be a lot more than you need.  So you can freeze the rest to use later, or just make a half recipe.

Sticky Bun Variation:
(Instead of topping with frosting) 
Bring to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar: 
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 Tbs. butter
1/4 c. honey
Remove from heat and stir in:
3/4 c. chopped pecans
Pour the hot syrup into the baking pan and spread it evenly.  Let cool while you shape the dough.  Use brown sugar instead of white inside the cinnamon rolls, and proceed as in the other recipe.  When done baking, let cool 5 minutes, then invert the pan onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil to catch the hot syrup.

Food Storage Introduction & a recipe for Whole Wheat Bread Mix

I freely admit to spending too much time thinking about food.  When you combine that with my fascination with end-of-the-world scenarios, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I have food storage. Though realistically, I imagine that long-term food storage will be more likely to benefit us in the case of food shortages or loss of employment.

I want our food storage to allow us to eat quality foods, foods that are healthy, economical, and delicious.  Cooking with food storage generally doesn't lend itself to food that fits both those criteria and that of being fast.  If you have long term storage ingredients that are fast, they tend to taste gross, cost more, and be filled with all kinds of preservative chemicals that I don't want to eat.  So I have made a transition in the kinds of foods I'm willing to store.  I no longer purchase things like MREs, dehydrated meals or dehydrated meats or TVP.   I've greatly reduced the amounts of things like powdered milk and eggs.  I prefer to stick to the basics, the things that I know will be good for us, like dried beans and whole grains.  I like that rotating my food storage gives me another incentive to cook from scratch and use real ingredients.

Let's start with whole grains.  The cheapest option is really whole wheat, so I'm going to focus on that this month.  At the LDS Home Storage Center, you can buy bags or #10 cans of whole wheat for less than I could find anywhere else.  If you use a lot of wheat, it might make sense to buy a 25 lb. bag and use that before you use the sealed cans, because it's cheaper un-sealed.  However, since I already have a lot of wheat that I bought in the past, I prefer to cycle through the older wheat I have and replace it with the fresh cans annually.  It's supposed to maintain most of its nutritional value for 25+ years, but I've found that older wheat (especially when it hasn't been stored in a cool enough place or properly sealed) tends to make bread that is bitter and tough and won't rise properly, so I try to rotate what I have all the time and avoid storing anything longer than 10 years. If you have older wheat you're trying to use, then I'd recommend three possibilities for making it more palatable: first is to use it in small proportions with fresher wheat, second is to try sprouting it (and then bake with it - you've seen those sprouted wheat loaves in the stores) and the third is to use it in sourdough, which helps break it down for you so it's easier to digest.

I prefer to bake with hard white winter wheat, because I feel like I can use a higher percentage of whole wheat flour and still make breads that my family enjoys.  I have a wheat grinder and I just grind wheat whenever I run out.  I keep a container by my white flour and sugar and also usually grind an extra batch to throw in the freezer, since it keeps better in the freezer once it's ground.  Lately I've been making my own mixes for the things I bake and cook most regularly: pancakes, muffins, whole wheat bread that I throw in the breadmaker, etc.  I'll have to do another post about mixes.

If your family doesn't currently eat whole wheat bread, then start by gradually adding a little bit, like replacing 1/4 cup of the white with wheat in your recipes.  Keep increasing the proportion of whole wheat until you/your family wants more white, then back off a bit and get used to that amount for a few months and then try increasing again.

However, if you don't bake, then storing lots of whole wheat will be wasteful, because there aren't a lot of other good ways to use it.  Store other grains like rice, oats and pasta instead.  As for ways to use wheat other than baking, I find that boiled whole wheat is a little too tough on the jaw to eat a whole bowl for breakfast, but my parents highly recommend cooking up a mix of 1/3 brown rice, 1/3 barley, and 1/3 whole wheat.  I haven't tried it yet, because oatmeal is so much easier, but I think I would like it.  I've come across recipes that use whole wheat in weird ways, but I prefer to just use it in baking.  One exception is a recipe I have for a burrito filling that's made with lentils and whole wheat in a tomatoey sauce.  I've also occasionally thrown some into vegetarian chili because it has a chewiness that is similar to ground beef.  I recently came across recipes in Fine Cooking for grain salads that can be made with cooked wheat berries, that sound pretty good, but I haven't tried one yet.  Has anyone tried making their own graham crackers or wheat thins?  I have some recipes I've been meaning to try.

So today's #1 recipe for whole wheat is for our everyday whole wheat bread.  You can grind the flour and measure out several bags of this mix at once, slip in a piece of paper printed on one side with the ingredients and on the other with the instructions, label the bag, and store it in the cupboard (or freezer for longer periods) until you're ready to use it.  Then when we need a new loaf of bread, it only takes moments to throw a batch in the breadmaker.  Measuring out all the dry ingredients at once means that I only have to clean up the mess of measuring once for several batches of bread.  I actually got a little fancier by laminating the instructions and taping them to the outside of the bags (leave the bottom loose so you can flip it up and see the ingredients on the back).  You can even re-use the same bags for the same recipes without washing them, since they just have a bit of flour on them.  I fold them in half and clip them together with a large clip and re-use them when I'm ready.

Some notes:  you could use part white flour.  I use hard white winter wheat.  The flax is optional, but a healthful addition.  The gluten and dough enhancer help the loaf have a little more of a spongy chew, but it works without if you don't have any.  Potato flakes help the loaf last longer before it gets stale or moldy.  And I suppose you could also skip the milk powder and substitute flour for the oats.

100% Whole Wheat Bread Mix for the Breadmaker
adapted so much that this one I can call my own recipe

Measure into a quart-size zip-top baggie:
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. oats
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. ground flax seed
¼ c. dry milk
¼ c. potato flakes
2 Tbs. gluten
1 tsp. dough enhancer

100% Whole Wheat Bread Mix
Add mix to breadmaker with:
1 ¼ c. water
2-3 Tbs. oil or butter
2-3 Tbs. honey or molasses
1/2 Tbs. yeast (active dry)
Add more flour or water as needed.
Use whole grain cycle.

If you don't have a breadmaker, you can use this recipe to make bread by hand or with a mixer.  Just put the wet ingredients in a bowl, mix in most of the dry mix, and slowly knead in the remainder of the dry mix until it is all added and the dough is tight but moist.  Let it rise in a greased bowl, covered, until double, then shape and let rise in a bread pan until a good loaf shape, then bake at 350 until 180 degrees in the middle (best way to tell if bread is done!), about 40 minutes.