Monday, November 24, 2014

My Mother’s Peasant Bread: The Best Easiest Bread You Will Ever Make

Note: This is not my mother's bread. This is from  in BakingBreadOlallie Cafe recipes

  • 4 cups (510 g | 1 lb. 2 oz) all-purpose flour* (do not use bleached all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water**
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (I use 2, my mom uses 3 — difference is negligible)
  • 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast***
  • room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons

    * My mother always uses 1 cup graham flour and 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour. Also, you can use as many as 3 cups of whole wheat flour, but the texture changes considerably. I suggest trying with all all-purpose or bread flour to start and once you get the hang of it, start trying various combinations of whole wheat flour and/or other flours. Also, measure scant cups of flour if you are not measuring by weight: scoop flour into the measuring cup using a separate spoon or measuring cup; level off with a knife. The flour should be below the rim of the measuring cup. 

  • ** To make foolproof lukewarm water that will not kill the yeast (water that's too hot can kill yeast), boil some water — I use my teapot. Then, mix 1 1/2 cups cold water with 1/2 cup boiling water. This ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature for the yeast.

    ***I buy Red Star yeast in bulk (2lbs.) from Amazon. I store it in my freezer, and it lasts forever. If you are using the packets of yeast (the kind that come in the 3-fold packets), just go ahead and use a whole packet — I think it's 2.25 teaspoons. I have made the bread with active dry and rapid rise and instant yeast, and all varieties work. If you are interested in buying yeast in bulk, here you go: Red Star Baking Yeast Also, if you buy instant yeast, there is no need to do the proofing step — you can add the yeast directly to the flour — but the proofing step does just give you the assurance that your yeast is active. I loveSAF instant yeast, which can be purchased from King Arthur flour as well as Amazon.   
  • Mixing the dough:
    • If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. There is no need to stir it up. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Mix until the flour is absorbed.

    • If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Mix until the flour is absorbed.

  • Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour. (If you have the time to let it rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, do so — this will help the second rise go more quickly.) This is how to create a slightly warm spot for your bread to rise in: Turn the oven on at any temperature (350ºF or so) for one minute, then turn it off. Note: Do not allow the oven to get up to 300ºF, for example, and then heat at that setting for 1 minute — this will be too hot. Just let the oven preheat for a total of 1 minute — it likely won't get above 300ºF. The goal is to just create a slightly warm environment for the bread. My mother always covers the dough with a tea towel that she has run under hot water and rung out so it's just damp.

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Grease two oven-safe bowls (such as the pyrex bowls I mentioned above) with about a tablespoon of butter each. (My mother might use even more — more butter not only adds flavor but also prevents sticking). Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl, which it will be clinging to. As you scrape it down try to turn the dough up onto itself if that makes sense. You want to loosen the dough entirely from the sides of the bowl, and you want to make sure you've punched it down. Take your two forks and divide the dough into two equal portions — eye the center of the mass of dough, and starting from the center and working out, pull the dough apart with the two forks. Then scoop up each half and place into your prepared bowls. This part can be a little messy — the dough is very wet and will slip all over the place. Using small forks or forks with short tines makes this easier — my small salad forks work best; my dinner forks make it harder. It's best to scoop it up fast and plop it in the bowl in one fell swoop. Let the dough rise for about 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop near the oven (or near a warm spot) or until it has risen to just below or above (depending on what size bowl you are using) the top of the bowls. (Note: I do not do the warm-oven trick for the second rise. I simply set my bowls on top of my oven, so that they are in a warm spot. Twenty minutes in this spot usually is enough for my loaves.)

  • Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and make for 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. If you've greased the bowls well, the loaves should fall right out onto the cooling racks. If the loaves look a little pale and soft when you've turned them out onto your cooling racks, place the loaves into the oven (outside of their bowls) and let them bake for about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Variations:
    #1. Cornmeal. Substitute 1 cup of the flour with 1 cup of cornmeal. Proceed with the recipe as directed.
    #2. Faux focaccia. Instead of spreading butter in two Pyrex bowls in preparation for baking, butter one 9x9-inch glass baking dish and one Pyrex bowl or just butter one large 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish. If using two vessels, divide the dough in half and place each half in prepared baking pan. If using only one large baking dish, place all of the dough in the dish. Drizzle dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (if using the small square pan) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if using the large one). Using your fingers, gently spread the dough out so that it fits the shape of the pan. Use your fingers to create dimples in the surface of the dough. Sprinkle surface with chopped rosemary and sea salt. Let rise for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes at 425ºF and 17 minutes (or longer) at 375ºF. Remove from pan and let cool on cooling rack.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Texas Senator Kirk Watson's Grammy''s Cornbread Dressing

Thanks to Kirk Watson for sharing memories of his Grammy and her recipes with us.


Happy Thanksgiving

I do believe in ghosts.

Vesta Bryant Watson Cranor, a/k/a “Grammy,” made the best Thanksgiving and Christmas dressing. Second place isn’t close. Actually, there is no second place, because everything else really isn’t even dressing.Billye Faye Vanderslice Watson, Grammy’s daughter-in-law and my mother, made the same dressing — usually in the same kitchen with Grammy. Every time they made it, they’d ask my father to taste it before it went in the oven.
The exchange was always the same.  Grammy would say, “Don, would you taste the dressing?” He’d always dip a spoon into the soupy mix, put it in his mouth and say, “There’s not enough sage.” Every single time. And every single time, they’d put a little more sage in and then ignore anything else he had to say. I still wonder if he even knew what sage tasted like.
Mother died in early 1999. Grammy wasn’t making dressing by that time and died a little later. We messed around with different dressings but they were never the same.
One holiday season, Liz and I were mourning the fact that we didn’t know the recipe and had lost the historians. We sort of chastised ourselves for not writing it down when we had those two around.
That night, Liz pulled a book off a high shelf and a 3 X 5 card fluttered out of it. On the card, in my mother’s handwriting, was the recipe to what she labeled “Grammy’s Cornbread Dressing.” It was very spooky. It felt like those two old women had been listening and sent us that recipe to take care of us again.
Here it is.

Grammy’s Cornbread Dressing

I’ve bolded what the old gals told us was important. Use WHITE bread for the toast and cheap biscuits, no butter or flaky stuff (not Grands). You MUST use bacon grease to cook the cornbread in … and you just make the cornbread plain.Also you MUST use a glass baking dish. We’re convinced that if we don’t, they will haunt us and say: “I could have sworn those boys were smarter’n that…..”
  • 1 recipe of Cornbread (Cornkits is the best — you can get it at HEB; Jiffy and others have too much sugar in them), preferably made with buttermilk or soured milk and greased in pan with bacon grease
  • 3-4 Large Biscuits
  • 3-4 slices toast
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 cup celery
  • 4 eggs – well broken
  • 2-3 cups fresh stock or 2 cans chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons sage
  • 1-2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper
TWO DAYS BEFORE:
  • Prepare cornbread and white bread 2 days in advance and crumble fine. Let sit covered with a dishtowel to dry out in a bowl.
DAY OF:
  • Mix all ingredients.
  • Mixture should be very soupy in order to make a dressing that is not dry.
  • Season to taste.
  • Put in glass baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until lightly golden/brown.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

FLAKY CHEDDAR BISCUITS

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp shortening, chilled
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the cheese and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the olives.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and toss gently with a fork until the mixture is just moistened; do not overmix. The dough will be sticky.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead once or twice with floured hands, sprinkling dough lightly with flour. Pat the dough into a half-inch thickness.

Dip a 1 12-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut the biscuits, pushing the cutter straight down into the dough and pulling it out without twisting. Arrange biscuits about 1-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Re-roll the scraps for more biscuits.

Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Best served warm.

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen biscuits.


Friday, November 14, 2014

LATEST POLL RESULTS

In our poll regarding old fashion recipes at Thanksgiving 40% of respondents said they use mostly old fashion recipes while preparing their Thanksgiving meals while 60% said they use a few.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

HOMINY CHEESE CASSEROLE

1 can yellow hominy, drained
1 can white hominy, drained
1 small can diced green chilies
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Put the chilies, garlic, and soup, in a bowl and mix and add the hominy and cheese. Stir to mix well.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Note: File Photo


Friday, November 7, 2014

CHICKEN 'N' RICE CASSEROLE

1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups milk
1 cup cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 cup sliced mushrooms, drained
1 small jar pimentos
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup French-fried onions

Bring the soup and milk to a boil in a large saucepan; remove from heat. Add the rice, chicken, mushrooms, pimento, 1/2 cup of the cheese and 1/2 cup of the onions to the soup mixture; stir to combine well. Pour into greased pan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove top and add rest of cheese and onions. Cook 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

WHOLE-GRAIN PUMPKIN YEAST BREAD

This recipe is from King Arthur Flour and it is not a vintage recipe. It does, however, remind me of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at my grandparents homes so I am putting it here. It most definitely reminds me of vintage times.

While you can certainly add all of the ingredients straight to your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket as listed in the recipe, I like to break it into two stages. First add:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons instand yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup canned or puréed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) King Arthur Whole-Wheat Flour (white whole wheat or premium)
Mix everything together by hand and let the mixture sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. There’s a lot of moisture here, and it takes time for the flour to fully hydrate. By giving the ingredients a chance to sit, the flour can get a jump-start absorbing the liquids, which can save you from adding too much flour later on.
Once you’ve let the initial mix sit, you can add the rest of the ingredients:
1 3/4 to 2 cups (7 1/4 to 8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Now at first I was skeptical about adding spices to the bread. I didn’t want to end up with something that tasted like pumpkin pie, as much as I love it for dessert. Happily, the spices don’t overpower but instead play lovely background notes against the pumpkin. Like a whisper instead of a shout, they get the point across right when you need it.
Continue to knead the bread by hand, in your mixer, or using the dough cycle of your bread machine. Check to be sure the dough isn’t too wet and sticky, and add more flour by the tablespoonful as needed.
This dough will still be softer and moister than that of regular sandwich bread. As long as it doesn’t stick to you like glue, you’re good to go.
Some bread doughs are going to be naturally more sticky and wet than others, and even as you work more flour into them, it will keep getting absorbed; so it’s easy to add too much. By stopping here and working the dough gently by hand until smooth, you’ll have much better control over the final outcome.
Can you keep going in the mixer or bread machine? Absolutely! For me, I still like a little hands-on during the process.
Set the dough aside to rise, covered, for about 45 to 50 minutes. Be patient as you watch the dough; it doesn’t start to rise for about 20 minutes or so, but will be full and puffy by the end of the rise time.
Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a smooth log. Place itin a greased 9" X 5" loaf pan and cover again for the final rise.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a digital thermometer reads 190°F when inserted into the center of the loaf. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after a couple of minutes transfer it to a rack to cool.
Brushing the finished loaf with melted butter is completely optional, but yields the softest crust. Be sure to cool this bread completely before slicing, otherwise the interior can be gummy. I know it’s torture, but sometimes we just have to suffer for our art.

A baked loaf will keep in the freezer up to 3 months.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MICROWAVE FUDGE FILLED PEANUT BUTTER BARS

This is one of my old recipes I have had since I first had a microwave many years ago. Not exactly a vintage recipe but an old one.


Click on pictures for easier reading.

FRUIT PUNCH WITH ACTUAL FRUIT

1 large can Hawaiian Punch
Approximately 3/4 of a 2-liter 7-Up
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can (11-oz) mandarin oranges
1 pkg frozen strawberries

Stir together in a large punch bowl.

Monday, November 3, 2014

POLL RESULTS

Our latest poll question ask which is your favorite Fall Holiday in the kitchen.

100% of the respondents choose Thanksgiving over Halloween.