Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Wow, two revelations. The first, bagels are not all that hard to make. The second. They are WAY better when you make them yourself, and they are fresh from the oven! The host and recipe keeper for today's bagel recipe can be found on Heather's Bytes, or of course in the Baking With Julia Cookbook.

The forming of the bagels was almost theraputic. As usual I cut the amount of time necessary down, only chilling the dough for 2 hours instead of 4, but I can't see how it affected the outcome. These were some of the best bagels I've eaten. As one commenter said on my last post- there really is nothing like fresh bread from the oven!

Then came the boiling of the dough for a few minutes in water with....sugar? and baking soda. I cut the amount of boiling time in half also, as suggested by some others.

They came out all cute and fluffy.

Now for the toppings. I love my everything bagels. But I didn't have the necessary ingredients handy. And it was the hubby's lunch today too, so I made what he would like- green chile and cheddar. I sprinkled the dough with some garlic and onion powders, and sea salt first, then piled on the green chiles and cheddar.

We each got one smothered with butter, and the second was made into a ham sandwich. The bagels were moist, warm, and didn't have the outer hard crust I tend not to like. I know, bagels were meant to be tough and chewy. But mine weren't, and they were just right! Glad I was forced to make these today to stay in the hosting game (not that I've felt confident enough to throw my hat in the ring just yet), otherwise I might have missed out on the bagel goodness that was our lunch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Loaves~ BWJ

Mmmm, good stuff, and I don't even like wheat bread. I could really taste the honey. I smothered a couple pieces with butter, and then I made grilled ham and cheddar sandwiches for lunch. I cut into it far too early, but it didn't seem to matter. The bread held up to the cutting, while still being fairly light to eat. Hostess Michelle's post and recipe can be found here, and Hostess Teresa's post can be found here

Much more of a process than baking the wheat loaves is that I'm trying to learn to post my blog completely from my phone. The picture aspect has been the hardest to work out. I think I'm almost there, but I'm going to go ahead and post without pictures to make the deadline, and add them once I get google+ all figured out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Popovers~ BWJ

Today's recipe was a welcome distraction to my heartache as of late. My youngest has gone off to full time school and left me all alone for 7 hours a day. I know, everybody says I should be happy to have some time to myself. Apparently no one told my heart that. Yesterday I unconstructively spent my Monday morning watching a movie called My Life Without Me about a mother who learns she is dying of cancer in 2 months and decides not to tell anyone but enjoy every last minute she has. Too bad there wasn't any Ben and Jerry's in the house. So having the recipe and a craft project to focus on today was a good thing. 

The host of these cute little popover treats as well as the recipes can be found on Paula's blog and Amy's blog. They can also be found in the cookbook Baking With Julia.

Hmm, little bread muffins. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around eating bread muffins, although the dripping with butter and honey description in the book sounded good. But that would mean they would be a side for lunch. So instead I decided to alter the recipe a bit and make a lunch out of them. 

I happened to have a popover muffin tin and baking cups I picked up from my last IKEA trip. I made 6 with half a slice of prosciutto and gruyere cheese in the middle, and the other 6 with 3 slices of turkey pepperoni and mozzerella cheese. For those I put some pizza sauce in a dipping cup.

 I only baked them for 25 minutes at 425, not any additional time at 350 as suggested, and they came out perfectly cooked. I'm sure that's because the middles were stuffed full of goodness instead of dough. For me the pizza stuffed popovers edged out the prosciutto stuffed ones, since I found them a bit salty. Perhaps if I tried that combo in the future, I'd cut down on the salt the recipe called for.

And they were filling too. My husband and I each had 6 to begin with, and I pawned off my last two to him because I couldn't eat anymore. He complained he was full at 6, but ate the last two anyway. I'll probably try these plain with jam for breakfast sometime, but I would like to experiment more with different fillings. Brie and mushrooms is next I think.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberry Nectarine (but really plum) Pie ~ BWJ

My pie is in the oven as I write this, and I can't wait to try it. I've got a feeling that my "must have as your go to crust" did not turn out, but the fruit filling and cherry vanilla ice cream will cover that up anyway.

I'll admit I almost didn't make the crust. I happened to have bought a pie crust for a chicken pot pie dinner one night this week, and thought to myself how easy it would be to just use that. Then I read that this crust, above all others, should be in our baking repertoire. Something about the perfect balance between butter and shortneing. I think maybe I added too much shortening, because even after a 9 hour chill, it never really hardened up and stayed moist. And when I tried some of the raw dough, I found it a little bitter. Butter never has that effect on me. Shortening does. Above is my first attempt at rolling out the dough. Not too terrible, but getting it off the countertop and into a pan, not good.

No way was my dough hearty enough to hang over a bowl as suggested! I had to fix the cracks, easy enough when you have dough as flexible as this. I just patted it into my pie pan. Then I gave it a 10 minute bake because I didn't trust it holding up to the fruit and juices.

Instead of rolling out my top crust, I patted it out with my hands. I'm thinking that it's not a good sign I could even do that. But it did stay together a little better when I put it on top.

Not having prepared for this bake session, I lucked out in having bought blueberries on my last shopping trip. I did not, however, purchase nectarines. But I did have a truckload of plums since my oldest child has been eating several in a sitting lately. Sounded like a good combo to me.

So my only changes were somehow screwing up the crust, using plums instead of nectarines, and prebaking the bottom crust for 10 minutes. Otherwise it's the same Baking With Julia recipe you can find either in the book itself, or at these host sites: Liz of that Skinny Chick Can Bake! and Hilary of Manchego's Kitchen.

Oh @#*! The timer just went off and I forgot the important step of putting a cookie sheet underneath. Grrr. Guess the oven has been past due for a cleaning anyway. I'll be back to post pictures of the finished product and my verdict after it cools off.

Verdict- blueberries and plums, great together in a pie. The crust, good on impact with all the flavors mingling, but after each bite there was an oily coating from the shortening in my mouth. So far my least favorite crust we've made. Maybe I overworked it? Maybe I put too much shortening in? After that last bit of water that made it seem too moist, should I have added flour? It certainly wasn't a complete failure. My husband went in for a second piece right away (after he made me cut into it 15 minutes too early because he couldn't wait). But knowing how great our other crusts have been, I doubt I'll be revisiting this one. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Semolina Bread~ BWJ

No recipe changes this time! Well, as long as you don't count going crazy with the razor. Again with unclear directions, I just took it to my level of enjoyment. You can find the recipes from the Baking With Julia book here ~ Anna takes some beautiful pictures, and here from Renee, whose added Rosemary looks devine.

I'm proud of myself for squeezing in fresh baked bread on top of the insane running around that come with being a stay at home mom of two kids involved in several summer activities. I had to skip the last post because I was out of town with a friend, and feeling very removed from the group, I was making this bread today no matter what. I just enjoyed a warm piece slathered with butter, accompanied by a glass of red wine for dessert. It was good. Not great like our first White Loaves post, but good will do. Especially since my bread maker is on the fritz and I haven't made bread in a long time. This blows the Wonder Bread I've been buying out of the water.

I was expecting something a little more.....wheat-y? I'm glad I didn't run out and buy semolina. It's too "white" for my husband's taste, and not white enough for mine, to call it amazing anyway. But, I do think it will grow on me. My friend-baker-blogger gave up 3/4 cup of semolina flour so I could complete the recipe today. (Thank you Bridget!) She turned me on to the world of baking together and blogging about it, and for that I am grateful. But I'm more grateful that I get to call her a friend. Who else would make sushi with me and party plan for weeks on end? Or have semolina flour and an owl cookie cutter on hand and get them to me in less than a days time? All unique qualities that I admire. Yes B- I did just finish that glass of wine, so this is your nice drinking text.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

French Strawberry Cake ~ BWJ

Woo Hoo, I got to decorate a cake this time around! I knew I bought that 55 piece cake decorating kit for something. And we found it delicious as well. My Mother-In-Law, who doesn't care for strawberries, even went in for a second piece. The original recipes from the Baking With Julia cookbook can be found by Sophia, a 15 year old baker in our group here, and by Allison here.

There were changes of course. First, I didn't read the directions clearly. I'd like to blame the directions themselves for not being clearly written, but had I read them over a few times I would have known the butter was to be saved for last instead of heading into the mixing bowl right away with the eggs and sugar. Jumping head first into these complicated recipes tends to get me in trouble. Luckily it usually works out in the end. While they were quite thin, they were still tasty.

Then there were my planned changes. I decided to make 2 separate cakes instead of one cut into three layers. That is the cut corners and make life easier girl in me coming out. And I changed the frosting to my favorite Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting. I didn't feel 2 tablespoons of sugar was much sweetness in a frosting.

Finally, I decorated it the way I wanted to. I had extra strawberry compote since I only had one layer to fill instead of two, so I used it on the top of the cake as well. Hopefully we'll have more cake decorating projects in the near future. It was my favorite part of this endevor. Well, maybe a close second, only to eating it!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pecan Sticky Buns~ BWJ

While I have made an attempt to bake with you this week, I am unable to eat these yummy smelling, still in the oven as I write this, Sticky Buns until Saturday. So, my children and their teachers will get to try these out tomorrow and tell me what they think.

I made a lot of changes to this one. My sticky buns are more like cinnamon rolls. I eliminated the "sticky topping" and plan to put a powdered sugar drizzle for tomorrow, and a cream cheese frosting on my Saturday delight. I changed the filling to incorporate the 1 cup of brown sugar, I upped the cinnamon to 1/2 a tablespoon, and used 1 stick of butter instead of two. I'm just not a nuts in my dessert girl. For me, it ruins my carrot cake, turtle cheesecake would be great without those darned pecans, fruit breads are so much better without nuts, and probably anything else baked. Candy bars, however, rock the nuts! I am not at all a nut hater. Quite the opposite. I can snack on almonds and cashews all day. Just keep them out of my desserts.

Hopefully tomorrow my children will consider them edible. I'm fairly certain they will. Who doesn't like a cinnamon roll, er...um, I mean Sticky Bun minus the pecans! Check out the original recipes~ here is Lynn's post and here is Nicole's post.

Finally done and out of the oven long enough to not completely melt the topping. Boy, would I like to shove it in my mouth right now!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Banana Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

I have found "the one". The recipe that edges out all others and will become my go to Banana Cake recipe. As three bananas sat and ripened for a week~ a week in which I could not eat them~ and I knew flour, which is also restricted 6 days a week would need to be used, a desire for banana cake was born. It was so good it became breakfast, lunch, snack, and company dinner dessert on my "cheat day" the weekend before last. Then it became breakfast again for last weekends cheat day since I was smart enough to make and freeze an 8 inch round cake on top of the 16 cupcakes. I used that to make the banana cake dessert below since my 7 year old son is very into all the food network competitions and he often grades me on my plating. Most days I fall short of the perfect 5, but this day he easily gave it to me.

As if finding the grand master of banana cake recipes wasn't enough, I stumbled across the perfect cream cheese frosting. Most are heavy. When I ran into one called whipped cream cheese frosting, it had no chance of escaping me. Now it is my prisoner. Truth be told it's the other way around. This frosting has got quite a hold on me. I love how light it is without giving up any flavor. It unfortunately doesn't give up any calories either. How unfair that something so light and fluffy still has a huge caloric downfall. I think it would also double nicely as a fruit dip.

The boys loved it. So did our dinner guests. Cruz wanted to make fondant decorations for the company cupcakes, darn that food network!, but I didn't have the fondant, or the time, so we made everyones initials in melting candy. It was just the right touch of cute.

Banana Cake recipe- adapted from Allrecipes A-Number-1 Banana Cake

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 - 9 inch round pans. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cake rack to cool.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting- adapted from Allrecipes

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese- at room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  1. In a mixer beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
  3. Add cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream and beat on low just until incorporated.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hungarian Shortbread~ BWJ

I am dieting. That short little statement has no business in this insanely rich and calorically dense dessert post. The good news, this diet runs for 6 days a week, and the 7th day I am allowed to go crazy and eat anything I want. That day is Saturday. It was always high on the list of favorite days, but now it has moved up to 'best day ever' status. It also means I plan ahead to what I am going to make on Saturdays. Wow, I feel like I'm breaking tradition here when I say I made this dessert in advance of posting Tuesday. Luckily it didn't have a superstitious negative effect on this.... this cookie-like, cake-like, blondie-like dessert. Perhaps I should try not procrastinating in other areas of my life. (I'm snickering in my head.)

I made them late Friday night and the smell was so yummy. Shortbread for sure. Not the Lorna Doone kind, or the Girl Scout kind, but somewhere near the buttery goodness of the Chessman kind. Uh, could that be because we used 4 sticks of butter in one dessert?! Ah well, another rich dessert for special occasions that the whole family really liked. That's not such a bad thing.

That question and answer section we have before baking the dessert is such a help to me. New to all these made from scratch techniques, I was more a Sandra Lee type gal in the dessert arena before starting this BWJ project. So the bakers who make theirs well in advance and post on their experience help me to avoid pitfalls I may have succumbed to due to lack of experience. When the lady from Hungary posted the bottom was always baked first in their country after so many posts about uncooked dough, I took the advice of others and baked the bottom layer of shortbread for 20 minutes. What I did not do was follow the recipe's instructions on freezing and grating the dough. Sounding like a monumental task, I skipped it and just spread the dough in my 9x13 ungreased pan. Because why would you need to grease a pan that has contents with 4 sticks of butter? I'm always looking for the faster, easier way, without sacrificing flavor. Perhaps it's why I got a cakier, blondie like version and not a crumbly shortbread like crumb. But it sounded like many who did follow those instructions got the same thing.

Since this dessert was made to be eaten on Cinco de Mayo, half of the shortbread base was spread with guava preserves, and on the other half I used raspberry preserves. The raspberry edges out the guava by a hair, but both were good. Then I decided maybe I wasn't playing by the rules enough and became my own shredder for the top layer. I took bits of dough and chucked them onto the top. I suppose maybe the top layer was more airy than the bottom layer, but if so, not by much. They both tasted the same to me.

I baked the shortbread for another 40 minutes. Although everything was cooked through, the jelly gave it a bit of a gooey texture in the middle. I wonder if that was why some people likened it to uncooked cookie dough? Other than baking the bottom, cutting out the dough shredding, and leaving off the powdered sugar since I had used sweet fillings instead of tart, my recipe is the same as the recipes found here , Cher is a wonderful blogger whom I enjoy reading and takes the time to comment on many of our posts, and Lynette's can be found here.

Big Side Note: And now I am seriously laughing at myself after posting my link. I thought I was getting this done EARLY, and it turns out I'm a week late. The 8th felt like more of a date we would have used than the 1st, obviously I didn't even check. Lovely. The procrastinator is still in the house!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 21, 2012

My oldest, Cruz, turned 7 on Saturday. I have only had 3 birthday parties between both boys outside the home. A Cosmic Bowling Party, a Chinese New Year/Ninja party we held at a dojo, and a hotel pool party. So out of 12 parties, 9 have been at our home. While I loved the "uncraziness" of having the parties at other locations, I also love to host parties. Eventually, the day before clean up, all the food prep and decorating, and the day after clean up all fade away from memory, and you are left with a warm feeling of sharing your home with people you like. I enjoy creating a happy experience not only for my children, but their friends and parents as well.

We had our Family Birthday Celebration Friday night because his party actually fell on his birthday this year. I had made a chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake with chocolate ganache to be auctioned off on Thursday at a Cub Scout charity auction with the proceeds going to 2 of our Cub Scouts whose mother had just been killed. I was proud that Cruz decided he wanted my cake above all others. He ended up paying $26 for a plain old bundt cake, but he was happy, and the money went to a great cause. And it worked out perfectly as our family birthday cake.

He said he didn't want anything this year. While it makes it a little harder to buy for him, I hit the nail on the head. He got his favorite book series, and is now all set up to learn to play baseball, down to the batting gloves and bases. He has expressed an interest in trying baseball instead of soccer next year, so we'll need to get him up to speed with the kids his age that have been playing for years. It's really a present to all of us since it is something the whole family can do together on a Sunday afternoon.

I gently guided him in the direction of a Scooby Doo party. He was obsessed with the show when he was little. When I promised him a mystery would need to be solved, he jumped right on board. I got lucky once again with a sale on the 4x8 photocards at Walgreens and photoshopped a 4x6 picture of my son with the gang and added the party information in the additional 2 inches of text space.

We bought a waterslide to keep the kids occupied until the dinner and mystery, so it became a beach Scooby theme. He wanted a red velvet cake, which I had never made before. I didn't realize how much red food coloring goes into one! Already at the food coloring step, and only having an eighth of the food coloring I needed, it surprisingly turned out a shade of red, even if it wasn't the bright red normally associated with the cake. The frosting I altered to include as much butter as cream cheese, and much less sugar than most recipes called for. Butter is good!

While the kids had some waterslide fun, the parents got to mull around the appetizers and drink cherry moonshine. After about an hour, hamburgers and hot dogs were put on the grill and it was time for our beach BBQ to begin. I made a lemon cashew rice, hawaiian coleslaw, cowboy beans, and a fruit salad for the sides. I of course forgot to take pictures of the food this time. I'm blaming the cherry moonshine on that one. But here is a picture of the food station before the guests arrived. The chip bowls went on the tables outside for kids to munch on while they played.

After dinner the kids had a mystery to solve. Cruz got wind of what the mystery was because a little girl had asked me if there would be a mystery and I showed her the note that the Birthday Phantom had left in the place where the cake used to be saying that he stole the cake and if the kids wanted it back, they would have to solve the clues. He was up in arms that his cake was gone. Since the adults had fed the kids before themselves, we were still eating, so the kids took it upon themselves to search for the cake until we finished. Luckily I did a pretty good job hiding the clues and cake, so nothing was found.

The first clue was the letter from the Phantom explaining he took the cake and told the kids to look where you lay down at night for the next clue. They found that one in Cruz's bed, and had to hold the clue up in a mirror to read it. It told them to pop the balloon that was Cruz's favorite color. After popping the green balloon, the next clue was a number code they had to decifer that told them they had to catch the Phantom in order to get the last clue to the cake. My husband dressed in a Halloween costume and I gave him a letter addressed to Cruz. But when the Phantom appeared, Shawn decided to ad lib some scary roars. Men. Luckily only one child was scared out of his mind by the Phantom.

After opening the last letter, the clue said the cake was in a place where groceries, luggage, and a spare tire go, and was the color of snow. Cruz screamed, "My mom's car is white!" and all the kids went running outside. They opened the trunk and found the cake. I told them they were all excellent mystery solvers. I think the kids had just as much fun with the mystery as they did with the waterslide! And it continued throughout the party as the kids tried to solve the mystery of who the Phantom really was.

After the case was solved it was time for cake and presents. I accidentally bought trick candles- I swear the word trick was unbelievably small and I had no idea they were. So of course the candles kept lighting back up. The joke ended up being on me.

After cake and presents the kids started a game of hide and go seek, which gave the adults a little more time to get their party on. It was a great mix of adults as well as children. As the guests left they were given a Scooby backpack filled with Scooby snacks and treats.

Another birthday down, man they come fast! Most importantly Cruz was happy all night. No small feat for my perfectionist son.

Happy 7th Birthday Cruz!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lemon Loaf Cake~ BWJ

Well, I made the loaf cake on posting Tuesday at 6:30am. I planned to post after my crazy day in the evening, but even with mental reminders as I sat at the computer working on some photoshop pictures for my son's upcoming birthday, it managed to slip my mind. Hopefully it's still Tuesday somewhere.

The link for this easy recipe can be found here and here. While I'd argue the 5 minute assembly the book Baking With Julia claims it takes to prepare, 20 minutes isn't too much for a fresh, springy feeling dessert such as this. I liked the texture of the Lemon Loaf, not quite as thick and buttery as pound cake, but sometimes less dense is a good thing.

The only changes I made were to make my loaf into mini loaves, which baked for 25 minutes. It makes it easier to give the calories away! And like many others I felt it needed a little something on the top to finish it off and make it more dessert like. A friend had just posted her lemon pound cake recipe, which had a topping of fresh squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar. I dipped the tops of the mini loaves into the juice/sugar mixture, and it gave it just the right sweet yet tart flavor, while helping them retain moisture.

I had a loaf for breakfast and planned to get a shot of the cake cut in nice slices and reveal the texture of the loaf. Apparently it was too good to stop eating and remember to do that. In the future I can see a berry compote and fresh whipped cream on top of a slice for company dessert. A keeper recipe for this family.