Tag Archive | baking

Cranberry Pecan Muffins: The Baker’s Equivalent of Erectile Dysfunction

Remember how I was telling ya’ll how it was hard to find a good jar mix recipe? Well, here’s another one I tried. It’s called Cranberry Pecan Muffins. It sounded really promising. Dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar. What’s not to love?

It was one of those recipes in my organizer I’d never tried, and I’m always up for finding jar mixes cause they are so damn easy to keep in the cabinet and grab and make at a moment’s notice, so I figured, why the hell not! Plus, muffins are so easy to freeze. Instant lunch snacks.

So I grabbed and lined my muffin tins.

I had greased them prior and then decided against that and went with muffin cups. God I hate how my tins always get so stained. Anyway! Then I added the sugars and flour.

Add in the yummy cranberries and pecans, with some baking powder.

Then I added the wet stuff

Mixed it up

Plopped them into the muffin cups

Put them in the oven. Baked them. And took them out.

I was slightly disturbed at this point because they didn’t really “rise.” They kind of kept the same shape as the batter when I plopped them in. Oh well, I figured, there’s a lot of food that doesn’t look good but tastes dreamy.

Since my blood sugar can’t handle a whole muffin, and I was about to eat dinner and couldn’t afford the carbs, I called the Texan down to try one.

“Try one of these muffins!” I exclaimed

“They look weird.” he muttered

“Yeah, yeah, just eat them!” I demanded

He picked one up, took a bite. And then he got that look on this face. Not a look of “ew” but a look of “what the hell.” And he cracked a little smile.

“Try one.” he said

“I can’t, too many carbs. How are they?”

“No, really, I insist, try one.”

This couldn’t be good.

I broke off a quarter of one of the muffins and popped it in my mouth.

It was warm cardboard with a sort of cranberry after taste. F*#king great.

I picked up the tin and dumped them in the trash. SONOFABITCH. WHO in their RIGHT MIND actually came up with this recipe but then decided it was good enough to actually put in a recipe book? Are you freakin’ serious?

Ok, was it gross? No. It wasn’t puke gross. But it was nothing. It was like dry brittle pecan cranberry crap. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS! It’s gotta be the baker’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction: You get so excited at the prospect only to find out the damn recipe is completely flaccid no matter how much you are attempting to will it into deliciousness. And even if it’s NOT your fault because it’s not your recipe you still FEEL like it’s your fault and you start apologizing and turning red faced to the other party:

“I’m sorry, honey, I really tried, I don’t know what’s wrong with my muffins. Why does this keep happening to me?”

And if the party is worth anything as a human being they will respond “It’s ok, dear, it happens to every baker.”

UGH! Martha Stewart I am not.

Advertisements

White Cranberry Bar Mix: Oh How Easy It Is

I must have a million recipes for “jar mixes.” You know, the ones where all the dry ingredients are layered in a jar and you just gotta add the wet stuff. I love them because they are easy to do and I can grab and bake, but let me tell you coming across GOOD recipes for jar mixes is not easy.

That is until I figured out DUH. You can just convert your already awesome recipes into jar mixes. BIG FAT DUH!

Say you’ve got a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe. Just layer the dry ingredients in the jar, stuff that won’t go bad, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, and attach a tag (or not if it’s for your own use) for what to add to it to turn it into cookies. DERP! I never thought of that before. I’m an idiot. Mind you you don’t HAVE to make these into jar mixes, but it’s an option.

But, anyway, a few years ago I ran across this recipe for White Chocolate Cranberry Bar Mix. It’s actually REALLY good, not that I can eat it because it’ll send me into, you guessed it, a diabetic coma. But I have taken nibbles and DAMN, it’s good.

Now, traditionally you layer the ingredients in the jar all nice like. Mostly because you are giving them as gifts. But this was for my cabinet. I made it probably about a year ago and totally forgot it was in there until I dug it out of the back. Not so pretty, but still works:

Then grease up your pyrex. I used cooking spray. The picture came out kinda weird, but it’s cool so I’ll show you.

Now you go ahead and dump your mix into a bowl and add the wet ingredients like eggs, vanilla, etc. Whatever the recipe calls for.

Then you mix the hell out of it and pour it into the pan. Well, for this recipe it’s not pouring, it’s more like “pressing” cause the batter is kind of thick.

And now you bake the hell out of it. After you stuck your fingers in the batter and tasted it of course.

As you can see, these don’t last long. At all. Not in my house anyway.

They are REALLY sweet and REALLY rich so be prepared. Even if they didn’t send me to blood sugar hell, I doubt I could eat a whole bar of these because they are so rich. They’re evil. And they are SO worth making!

—————

White Chocolate Cranberry Bar Mix

Layer in a quart mason jar:

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup buttermilk biscuit mix

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup regular brown sugar

To Make You’ll Need:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

Dump jar mix into a bowl and add the butter, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Spread into a greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Stupid. Freakin’. Bread.

Right. So. By now you know the seething hatred between me and bread. Or you only have to look back some posts to figure it out. And here I am again. Trying to make it work.

You can’t say I’m not putting my part into this relationship!

I ran out of bread, store bought, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. The Texan also loves Hawaiian bread, and I had the ingredients for it. Stupid bread. I figured it’d do just fine as a PB&J sandwich bread.

So I held my breath and tried not to cuss too much. I grabbed out the ingredients. And I started. Again.

You’d think I would learn.

So, add the water and the butter to the stupid bread machine.

Now add the stupid cake mix. This is supposed to be what makes hawaiian bread different. Whatever. Stupid bread.

Now add the stupid flour. And the stupid yeast. In a stupid well inside the middle of said stupid flour mix.

I set the stupid bread machine to light crust and walked away.

I didn’t peak. I swear. I swear I swear I swear.

I walked away and did other things so I didn’t go mad.

And THIS, dear readers, is what I get!

Are you F*@(ING SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? What is THAT? It caved in?

This is the part where I normally curse a lot, complain, tell you that God hates me and try to figure out what happened.

I’m not doing that today. I’m on FREAKIN STRIKE!

Ugh.

I don’t care. They’re gonna eat it anyway and LIKE IT!

Pioneer Woman’s UNREAL Nantucket Cranberry Pie

Very, very few times have I ever made a recipe and gone HOLY CRAP! Maybe it’s because I’m used to eating a primal style diet, so whenever I go “HOLY CRAP” about something it’s an apple, or a steak, or something that runs or grows.

I’m diabetic, so I have a serious limit on anything processed. I’m also a huge fan of Pioneer Woman. If you don’t know who she is, go look her up. She has amazing recipes.

There’s a little app on my IPad that lets me custom import recipes. So I was browsing through her site one day and came across Cranberry Pie. Interesting, I thought, especially since the recipe had no crust whatsoever. No pie crust I mean. It confused me. I asked a fellow PW fan about it, to see if she had made it, because we were both confused about the lack of crust. But ok, I thought, challenge accepted.

I like cranberries. I do. They aren’t my favorite, they are so dry. Most of the time I’ll take something strawberry over something cranberry but it’s the holidays and hell, it’s worth a shot. The recipe seemed fairly easy, which is why I didn’t really take pictures of me making it (sorry!).

As I was making it I was going “this is far too easy.” I expected it would come out “meh” or “good enough.” I was wrong.

This freakin pie made me go “HOLY CRAP.”

There is no way to describe it really except that it’s the perfect blend of sweet and tart. It’s just damn good. Good enough that I had an entire piece of it. A big ole my-vision-is-going-blurry-and-I’m-feeling-hyper-and-boy-do-I-know-the-come-down-from-this-is-gonna-be-hell-but-it’ll-be-worth-it blood sugar sky rocketing diabetic coma inducing piece. And it was worth it.

This recipe reminded me SO MUCH of a cake/pie type thing my Polish grandmother used to make with blueberries. I wouldn’t say it’s a dead ringer, but it’s damn close.

Here’s a pic of the pie half prepared:

Half of that is batter, the white stuff is pure sugar. Sugar. SUGAR I TELL YOU! And more sugar goes on top. But that’s what I love about her, she’s not afraid to half kill you in her recipes.

Here’s a pic of it done:

Yup, that’s more sugar.

This baby was GONE in a flash, didn’t even take a full night. Tex told me it was good with chocolate peppermint ice cream on top, but he’s weird, and I think that sounds gross. I didn’t even try it. But between 3 people, with me only having 1 piece, that bad boy scarce lasted 8 hours in my house.

It’s a new favorite. It’s a new holiday pie, it’s a new “ya’ll done good here’s a treat” pie and it’s one of my favorite sweet desserts now. That says A LOT for me because I generally, for all that I like to cook, tend to like eat simple things. Berries and cream are like top 5 on my list, simple and delicious. So you know it’s gotta be DAMN good for me to say that.

It’s orgasmic. Try it.

————————-

From thepioneerwoman.com site. This is HER recipe not mine, and it’s GOD like. Apparently it’s adapted from a recipe by Laurie Colwin.

Ingredients:

butter for greasing

2 heaping cups of cranberries (I used thawed frozen, hers doesn’t specify)

3/4 cup pecans, chopped (measure, then chop)

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 whole eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp pure almond extract

1/4 tsp salt

1 T sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350.

Generously butter a cake pan or pie pan.  Add cranberries to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on chopped pecans, then sprinkle on the 2/3 cup of sugar.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and salt. Stir gently to combine.

Pour batter slowly over the top in large ribbons to cover the surface evenly. Spread gently if necessary.

Bake 45-50 minutes. 5 minutes before removing from oven, sprinkle surface with 1 TB sugar for extra crunch.

Cut into wedges and serve with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Hershey Kisses Cookies Can Kiss My…

I actually really love Hershey Kisses cookies. My mother made these every year for Christmas as well. Being diabetic however, it’s another coma inducing cookie. But hell, what’s Christmas without a little diabetic coma here and there!

Problem is, Mr. B really likes these too. So, I have to be sneaky with these as well. Make a couple dozen, freeze the rest of the dough. Because if I were stupid enough, AGAIN, to make the 30 or 40 dozes I normally do they’d be all gone by the time Christmas came around and my loved ones would be cookie-gift-less.

Must be nice to be a person to whom sugar is not a poison but a source of fuel…..

Just kidding. It’s a poison to everyone. A yummy, yummy, poison.

There’s nothing about these damn things not to love. It’s chocolate. It’s peanut butter. It’s rolled in sugar. And it has a big ass dollop of chocolate on top. Hmmmmmmm. Coooommmaaaaa.

So let’s do this.

First, put in your sugar. Mind you I make like double batches of everything, the recipe is for a single batch. If you don’t have a stand mixer then you are a lost cause. I’ve been bugging you to get one for the last 10 posts!

Actually, if you don’t have a stand mixer I envy you. You are one of those people who doesn’t have a kitchen gadget habit and you feel like doing things the old fashioned way is really satisfying. So do I actually. I’m just exceptionally lazy.

Right, so, sugar.

Now put in your butter

Blurry butter. The best kind. Ok, now add in your brown sugar.

Now you are going to add your peanut butter. Peanut butter is a BITCH to get out of the measuring cup. So, there’s a trick for that. Line your measuring cup with a nice spray of Pam. Then measure the peanut butter and it’ll slide right out. In a strangely vulgar way actually.

Now you are going to cream all those together until it’s a really disturbing, creamy, lovely consistency. I usually do this with my paddle attachment on speed 2 for about a minute.

Now you need to add your egg and your vanilla.

Mix that together until nice and creamy.

Then you want to add in your flour, salt, and baking soda. Here is where the stand mixer comes in handy. The dough, once you add the flour, gets a little difficult to mix.

But once it incorporates it turns into a lovely, heavenly dough

Now you roll the dough into balls and roll them in sugar. Bake them. Press kisses into them. And bake them again. In just a few minutes, you have coma inducing material that’ll have you singing all the way to your saline drip.

See? Book your passage to the ER now all my diabetic friends.

You can freeze the dough on this too, especially if you live with cookie stealing gluttonous mongrels like I do. Again, it’s a softer cookie dough, so you want to store it in a freeze safe bowl with a lid and wrap it in some foil so it doesn’t get freezer burn. Then just defrost, roll in sugar, etc. etc. It’s that easy. And if those grubby fingers try to sneak cookie dough you’ll know because they will have to thaw it out first! HA! See! You’re smart, you got this…

Here’s the recipe. I sincerely hope you enjoy these. They are a classic and there’s a reason why. They should call them F&*@ ME THESE ARE GOOD cookies…just my opinion.

—–

Hershey Kisses Cookies

(from my mom’s recipe book that she no doubt probably got from the back of a bag of hershey’s kisses or something)

Cream together:

1/2c sugar

1/2c brown sugar, packed

1/2c peanut butter, creamy

1/2c margarine or butter

Then add:

1 egg

1 TB of vanilla

Stir together

Blend in:

1 3/4c flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix until well blended.

Shape into balls, roll in granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven. Press unwrapped hershey kisses into cookies and return to oven for 2-3 minutes.

Amazing Disappearing M&M Cookies

I make lots of Christmas cookies. Every year. Lots. Loads. Tons. No exaggeration, I’ll make nearly 1,000 cookies in any given Christmas season. And they are all gone. How can that be you ask? Well, there’s one simple answer:

I have mostly men in my life. Large ones I live with 3. I am friends with dozens more.

They all have their separate favorites. And I happen to be in the holly jolly spirit at that time of year. Yet, there was that one thing that always pissed me off about the whole enjoying my Christmas cookies thing. They ate them all.

ALL.

BEFORE I was ready to hand them out to OTHER people that weren’t them! I always plan on giving some away as gifts. When my brother was living with me I had made a batch of over 100 M&M cookies (his favorite). I left them on wax sheets to cool overnight, glad to be done with THAT batch of cookies. I woke up the next morning and there were about 15 left. He. Ate. That. Many. Cookies. Over. Night. When I ran to him nearly in tears asking him what had happened to the cookies he replied

“Yeah, sorry about that. I was hungry.”

Mother#$@(er!

Eventually, I got smart. Make some Christmas cookies EARLIER in December and sneakily freeze some of the dough to make LATER in December. This way I can make them and quickly package them up as gifts without having to worry about them going stale or being eaten. That’s right. Genius.

I make a bunch of different cookies every year, including candies and fudge. I try not to do more than one per day because it can get pretty exhausting and after all it’s supposed to be FUN. So here is the M&M cookies I made. The recipe is altered a bit I know, it was my mothers.

First thing before I give you the recipe is my use of margarine. I hate margarine. Margarine is not actually a food. It’s one molecule away from plastic. Don’t believe me? Leave a tub of margarine outside open and leave a tub of butter outside open. Wait a month. The butter will be moldy, sticky and have critters in it. The margarine will not have changed at all, no bugs, no nothing. It’s not good for you. Butter is good for you. The problem of course being that butter is like 10x’s the price of margarine. Now, normally, in everyday life, this diabetic wouldn’t EVER feed her family (or herself) margarine under any circumstances. For Christmas, when you are baking THIS many cookies, margarine is only .79 for 4 sticks as opposed to $4.00 for 4 sticks. You can do that math.

Cookies are super carbed chocolate laden sugary goodness. Not exactly the best thing for you so I kinda figure adding in some franken food ain’t gonna hurt anyway. And in baking, unless it’s something like a pound cake, the use of margarine isn’t usually detectable in taste.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, here is what you are going to need:

1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

1 12 oz bag holiday m&m’s  (full size, don’t get the wimpy mini ones)

A stand mixer (optional, but if you are lazy and smart you’ll have one)

Before I do anything, I always fill the sink with warm soapy water. This makes kitchen clean up so much easier because you can soak, dunk and rinse and when all is done load up the dishwasher.

Now gather up all your stuff. God my stuff is filthy, gotta wipe those off. Geez.

First thing you are gonna do is cream together the sugars and the margarine until they are kind of fluffy. So add the butter.

Add the sugars

And beat until it’s nice and fluffy.

Then add in the egg and vanilla. Beat that for a minute. I almost never use a measure for the vanilla, it should be noted. I find the cap on the vanilla bottle (small ones) works just fine. 2 capfuls of the tiny bottles, or 1 capful if you have a big bad dog bottle like mine. Just a random side note.

Then you add the soda, salt and flour.

Flour

Soda

Salt. If you don’t have one of these you should. It’s an under the cabinet spice rack with a wheel that clicks, each click is 1/4 teaspoon of spice. I love it. It’s on the “I’ll never regret I bought this” list.

It’ll turn into a kind of very soft, sticky dough. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be this way. These aren’t typical cut and shape cookies. Mix that until it’s well blended into dough and if you are using a mixer, make sure to scrape the bowl a couple times.

Now you are going to add the M&M’s. If you are using a stand mixer, BE CAREFUL. You may choose to fold them in by hand OR put the setting simply on “stir” because the mixer is powerful enough to break the M&M’s. Turn it on just long enough to fold the candies in. If you are doing this by hand, obviously, this isn’t an issue.

Now you’ve got some nice dough. So grab your cookie sheet.

I prefer to use a cookie scoop. Useless gadget I know and for quite some time I swore at it every time I used it. It was just as easy to use a spoon because the dough stuck to the damn cookie scoop anyway and you had to slide it off your finger. So what was the point? Then, I found a trick.

Coat the cookie scoop with some non stick spray. This makes super quick work of putting cookie dough on the cookie sheets.

If you don’t have a cookie scoop, heaping spoonfuls are just fine. You don’t want these huge, but you don’t want them really small either.

Space them about 2″ apart since they spread on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes. That having been said, I don’t care WHAT any cook, expert or guru tells you all ovens are NOT the same. Even your oven isn’t the same most likely from one time of the year to another. They are supposed to be. They are not.

So I suggest you check these at about the 8 minute mark. You don’t want them overcooking. They should be ever so slightly golden on the sides and a lighter golden on the top. You don’t want to overcook these because if you do, once the cookie cools, they’ll turn into marble rocks.

Remove them to cool on cooling racks. I know that this is usually an optional step (well, it is if you are lazy like me) but do this. Sincerely. If you don’t they’ll stick like hell to your cookie sheet.

Now do it ALL again and freeze the dough. Since it’s a soft dough, it won’t freeze in a roll like most doughs. I just use a cheap ziploc bowl container, put the lid on, cover it with foil and stick it in the freezer. Then when I want to make it, I’ll let it thaw overnight and go for it. I freeze it WITH the M&M’s in it, but of course, you don’t have to do that.

Now quickly go over to the cooled, baked cookies and shove as many as you can into your mouth within a five minute span before anyone realizes you’ve made them. This is assuredly the one way you will get ANY cookies at all. By the time they find the single cookie left, you’ll be comfortably in a diabetic coma and you won’t care.

Bread is a moody bitch

Bread and I don’t get along. It’s not just the diabetes. It sincerely hates me.

I love bread. No. Let me correct myself: I love eating bread. Probably because I can’t have it. Bread and peppered olive oil is my favorite thing ever. I mistakenly thought I would love making it too. I don’t. Mostly because out of the 500 times I’ve tried to make it, I’ve had about 5 good loaves. No. I’m not joking.

My obsession with making bread started with a bread machine I bought at a thrift store about ten years ago. It was 5 bucks and it seemed like such a cool idea. I even bought a bread machine cookbook with it. Yet, I couldn’t get consistently good loaves. I followed the recipe exactly. I even busted out the thermometer to check the temperature of the water. Nope. Still crappy loaves.

About every ten loaves it’d throw me a good one. Just enough to keep my hopes up. Eventually I got pissed and gave it away.

A few years later I ran into my kitchen aid. Boy do I love my kitchen aid. One of the main reasons I got it: the dough hook! Hey! I could do this! It was the machine making crappy bread not me! Yeah. Right.

Consistently crappy loaves still. I tried every recipe known to man. Same thing. Maybe one or two good loaves.

To make matters much worse, Mr Super, former pastry chef turned truck driver who also happens to live here, decided to give it a try on one of his days home. I watched him. He didn’t even follow the recipe exactly! He was throwing pinches here and handfuls there, not even measuring. I gasped at this blaspheme. I giggled cruelly to myself: couldn’t wait until his bread came out all nasty so I could say I told you so and feel better about myself.

But it didn’t. It came out perfect. Boy was I pissed. So. I did what any green with envy aspiring bread artist would do. I made him do it again. And again. One more time. Perfect golden loaves each time. The bastard.

Next I made him supervise me. I made him tell me what to do, just like he’d done it. Door stop bread.

I made him write down the recipe so I could try it when he wasn’t home. Same thing. Crap bread.

He swore to me that bread just didn’t like some people. That his mother couldn’t make bread to save her life but his step dad, who didn’t do much cooking, could bake bread like a pro. The goofy trucker he is he insisted that I don’t talk nice enough to the ingredients while I’m doing it. That he whistles tunes and is all happy while he’s measuring and so is his step dad. So I tried that.

No. I’m not kidding. I really did try it.

I stood in my kitchen forcing a smile and appealing to the yeast. “I just want to be able to make bread for my family, you see” I appealed to the evil flour.

Yet another doorstop.

At this point he claimed that the yeast, which was a living thing after all, could sense my insincerity. That was it. I’d had enough. If I needed bread, I’d just buy it. I don’t expect you to understand how hard that was for me. I don’t just “buy” anything. If I can make it, I make it, and I like doing it too. Bread was quickly becoming my nemesis.

So my dough hook sat lonely in a drawer for another couple years.

I tried my hand a few times at making bread kneading with my own hands. Nope. Still messed up every load in some way. Didn’t rise. Too doughy. Too dry. Too heavy. I added flour, I added water, I added more yeast. I bought all new ingredients. Nothing. Yet Mr. Super would do it and out comes perfect bread even when we worked side by side out of the same damn cookbook.

Maybe there was something to this yeast not liking certain people thing.

I repeated this cycle yet again with another bread machine I found at a garage sale. It was a super fancy one that could make rice and jam and everything. I made rice and jam like once. I made bread.  Loaf after loaf with yet again only a few good loaves. Yet Mr. Super’s came out perfect.

So I eventually gave that one away too. Stupid machine.

I tried again the old fashioned way. I tried sour dough rye. The instructions read to me like Greek but I have it my best shot. The starter was great. The bread itself sucked. Was blood awful in fact. It smelled like socks and beer and it didn’t rise.

I tried the kitchen aid again and back to the old fashioned way again. Nothing was improving my odds no matter how fresh my ingredients, how perfect the recipes, how adjusted my techniques. And all I kept hearing was maybe yeast just didn’t like me. I thought I was beaten. I was pretty sure I was. I had accepted it for the most part: I suck at making bread.

Then I, completely by happenstance, came across a machine called the Zojirushi Home Bakery. It’s a bread machine. It’s THEE bread machine. This puppy was like $300 and I had convinced myself, as desperate people will do, that this was going to solve all my problems. It made jam, it made cake, it made meatloaf for the love of God. And most importantly it made bread.

The Home Bakery

I fancied myself not a fool this time. Perhaps it was my bread  machines all along, and not me! Mind you I completely ignored the fact that Mr. Super seemed to be able to make perfect bread in the same bread machines that gave me crap.

Smug and self assured, I researched it like crazy. It always got good reviews. There were a few peppered here and there about how the blades needed replaced too often, but nothing about door stop or non risen bread. This was the one for me. So I bought it. And I used it. I used to make cake. Make jam. But I was afraid to use it to make bread. Until one day I got the balls to do it just using the manual’s recipe. By God, it came out great.

Alright, alright. I talked myself down. Maybe it was just a fluke. So I made another loaf. It was good. By the time I got to my fifth loaf, it had once again descended into bread hell. Door stops, unrisen, too doughy. But I was get MORE good loaves than I had before, that’s progess.

That’s where I am at right now. More and more good loaves. Just like anything else I learned I had to improvise but not mess with the recipe TOO much. Some of the really funky breads I tried didn’t come out but then I didn’t really expect them to. Just for reference: Cheesy Jalapneno Cajun Bread…not so good.

So here I am, still making bread. I learned what dough should look like. It should bounce around the maker, nice and elastic, once it’s on it’s second knead. Too dry or too doughy and it won’t rise. More important, peaking constantly at the bread by opening the top isn’t a good idea. It really does affect it. This machine has a preheat cycle, so I don’t have to worry AS much about the temperature of the water. I still make sure it’s luke warm though. As far as wheat bread goes, I don’t know. I’m the wrong person to ask. Not a single loaf of wheat bread I’ve ever made has come out. Go figure.

I recently ran out of bread flour. I bought a 25 lb bag of it awhile back and used that up trying to figure out how to make the perfect loaf. So now I’m stuck with white flour only. I don’t tend to USE a lot of flour unless I’m baking, which I do mostly around the holidays, so I don’t opt for the super expensive stuff. But I’d heard all bread flour is is regular flour with gluten. About a year back I found Gluten on clearance at the grocery store, super cheap too. I bought a bunch of it thinking it would help my bread making adventures. Note to self: Adding TOO much gluten makes the bread rise too much and then it falls. Just like yeast. I’ve had that happen a million and one times.

Yesterday we were out of bread for lunches, so off I went to make some more. I altered the recipe from the manual a bit.

1 1/3 cups of water

4 1/4 cups white flour

4 TB Sugar

2 TB dry milk

2 tsp salt

2 1/2 TB butter

3 tsp active dry yeast

3 TB gluten

Don’t just throw everything together, there is actually a method to this madness. Whereas most recipes call for bread flour, like I said, this one is altered by the addition of gluten AND an extra teaspoon of yeast. If you’ve got bread flour, skip the gluten and reduce the yeast by a teaspoon.

Dual Paddles Baby

Ok, now you can’t just go all willy nilly and throw the stuff in there. Because it won’t work. It really won’t I’ve tried it. You have to add the liquid first. Make sure it’s roughly room temperature, maybe a little warmer. Too hot and it’ll kill the yeast. Too cold and it won’t rise. Don’t let the liquid ever come in contact with the yeast when you put the stuff together. Why, I dunno. But it does make a difference.

Then add your flour. Kind of sprinkle it around the machine so it’s even. It’s worth noting here that if you have more than one paddle on your machine make sure they are both facing the same way or you’ll get lopsided bread.

Now you add your dry stuff, save the yeast. The dry milk, the salt, the sugar, the gluten. It’s important to sprinkle these ingredients around the sides of the pan so that they don’t come in contact with the yeast prematurely, especially the salt.

Now add the butter. Chop it up into little bits and pepper it around the sides.

Now comes the yeast. I like to make a little well in the middle of the flour, kind of like you do when you are making pasta, and put the yeast in there. Set it on a regular crust cycle (depending on your taste) for white bread.

Make a well to put the yeast in

You are done. Now you hold your breath and pray. Now you decide to leave the house because you can’t stand waiting 3 hours to find out if you are a total failure.

I peaked. It was looking a little lumpy, but it was only the first knead so I held out hope.

It might look lumpy at first

One holiday shopping trip later and my bread is done.

And it actually came out good. This time. It was a LITTLE more crusty than I’d like, but hell I’ll take it.

The bread cooling. It didn't suck! Yay!

Thank God this machine makes loaves that look somewhat normal instead of those weird vertical loaves

I put the crust setting on medium and I wish I would have done light. But I was afraid to do that, what if it didn’t cook? When I’ve toasted up home made bread before it gets MUCH harder than regular store bought bread so make sure if you are gonna toast it, you use a lighter dough cycle, that seems to help. Or if it IS too hard when it’s toasted, make milk toast. Again, not something I can normally eat (BUT DEAR GOD I LOVE IT), but it’s so damn good, and something that you really can’t do with store bought bread. Just toast up your home made bread, put it in a bowl, cover with milk and butter, and microwave that bad boy until the butter is melted. Then eat it. It’s like a soupy, yummy, milky, buttery bowl of goodness. (Made myself go into a carb fit overe here).

Storing home made bread is a bitch too. Let me save you a bunch of heartbreak by giving you these pointers. There’s nothing worse than getting a great loaf that goes crusty and moldy in 2 days:

Don’t bother with fancy bread holder tupperware nonsense. Yes, this is me, the kitchen gadget QUEEN telling you this. Don’t waste your money. No matter how many vent holes it has, it’ll either mold or go hard.

You can wrap it in foil and leave it on the counter but keep in mind it’s really annoying to wrap and unwrap. Ditto on plastic wrap.

Don’t put it in the fridge, it’ll dry out.

Don’t put it in the freezer, same thing.

Linen bread bags are ok I guess, but they are usually too small and kind of a pain to get the bread in and out of.

Just as an FYI, I’ve never successfully frozen unbaked bread dough no matter what I do to it. It doesn’t rise once it’s out of the freezer. If I could pull this off I SO would.

THE BEST method I’ve found to keep home made bread fresh, soft, and anti moldy for the longest time is putting it in a grocery bag. Just a regular old plastic grocery bag on the counter. Simple, effective, and free. It works perfectly. All my years of buying this and that and trying to invent a bread holder and it was staring me in the face the whole time. So simple. Damnit.

Also, don’t slice it before you use it. Slice as you go. Otherwise the bread is stale. Mind you, slice thinner than you think. We have a tendency to slice REALLY big slices when it’s not needed.

Speaking of slicing, I have a gadget for that. On my second bread machine garage sale purchase they had this. A wooden fold up bread slicer. Just put your knife in the grooves and perfect slices. Cut the bread when it’s cooled down a bit, otherwise you run the risk of it deflating. And use a serrated long knife. They work the best.

Fold Up Bread Slicing Guide

Here it is open

Only problem is, for me anyway, once you do this long enough you don’t need the guide to slice any more. You just do it naturally. I don’t know why I kept this thing. It is cool though.

Free Hand Slicing

If you followed this recipe and your bread came out screwed, please don’t blame the recipe. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame the machine. It’s fate. It’s God. It’s bread, the cruel bitch. She’s moody. Just try again. And again. Eventually, you’ll probably get it. Maybe you won’t. Maybe bread really IS one of those thing some people can do and others can’t, but you never know until you try. God knows I’ve been trying. I suspect I’m NOT a person bread likes, but maybe I can play pretend with it.

And if you don’t have the patience to keep trying, then start buying stock in wonderbread, grab your machine, go to your driveway and drop kick your machine before you drive over it. No one will blame you.