Tag Archives: baking

Sunday Sneak Peek

I’ve been off on vacation for the last few days. I’ve been spending time with my family. Sadly, I didn’t get to write my posts ahead of time. I opted to finish up one last dress before our vacation started instead! I remember thinking, oh, I’ll write it during our layover in Denver. Silly me, these things never quite work out that way!

While it is technically still Sunday as I type this, most won’t be reading until Monday. My posting schedule will be a little off this week.

I’m going to start things off with the missed story from last week about my new pyjamas. I’ve been wearing them the last few nights, and I am loving them!

I’ll be showing off my recent practice using yeast to make bread. Sometimes, I think I’ve got it down, then disaster happens!

Finally, I’m going to end with a tutorial with a unique use for a serving tray.

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Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

Blueberries happen to be in season now. At least I believe this to be true based on the price at the grocery store. I don’t think they are Florida blueberries since I know that happens in May just after strawberries in March and April. Since they are in season, we can currently purchase them in much larger quantities than normal. We usually pick up a pint and that will last me for a week of breakfasts. This last time, we picked up a quart of blueberries! No way I could eat that many in a week. 

I had recently found a recipe for blueberry zucchini bread on Intimate Weddings. I’m sure I pinned it because of my love for the chocolate zucchini bread I make on a regular basis. I was hoping this would be just a yummy. With a few tweaks to the recipe, I think they turned out quite lovely.

Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

(adapted from here)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (next time I’m planning on using Coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar (next time I’m going to reduce this a bit)
  • shredded zucchini (I think I used about 3 cups, I don’t measure my zucchini, but used 1 1/2 medium-sized zucchini)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (you could also use frozen blueberries)

Line or grease muffin pans (I used 2 cupcake pans and had enough to make a mini-loaf as well). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shred zucchini. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Stir in zucchini. In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the egg and zucchini mixture in thirds stirring until just mixed each time. In the empty flour bowl, gently mix the blueberries with a sprinkling of flour. This will help prevent the blueberries from bleeding into the entire batter. Very gently, stir the blueberries into the batter. Scoop the batter into the muffin pans, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 2 dozen cupcake sized muffins

I also had enough to fill a mini-loaf pan. Which is good or there would not have been any photos. My fiance and I ate the few I kept for pictures before I took any photos! They were that good!

I share this link on Tuesday Talent Show.

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Sunday Sneak Peek

I’m excited about this week. I have some really cool projects to share with you. To start and end the week, I’ll be showing off some awesome antique camera fabric I found at Hobby Lobby. When we have a house (hopefully soon!), this fabric will be the inspiration for the decor in one of the rooms. I got a jump-start on making the pillows.

With the remaining bits, I made new pyjamas for myself. I may have to buy more fabric and make a pair for my fiance!

To round things up, I have an amazing muffin recipe to share. I had no idea blueberries and zucchini would taste so wonderfully together!

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Pavlova

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with making something sugar-free. I usually have no need to limit sugar intake. However, when a request is made, I will do my best to create something that is just as wonderful had I used sugar. This means deciding on the perfect recipe and then researching how to modify it in just the right way.

I, of course, would choose one of the only desserts that must have sugar; a pavlova. For those who don’t know, a pavlova is a meringue based dessert named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. The dessert was created in New Zealand during one of her tours. The best way I know to describe it would be to call it a meringue cake. When baked properly, it has a crisp outside and a soft inside. (Information found on Wikipedia.)

My basic understanding of making meringue is that the egg whites react with the sugar to create the crisp outside and the soft inside. There is not yet an artificial sweetener that can yet react exactly the same way sugar does with egg. So the pavlova will look amazing before going into the oven, but instead of rising and becoming crisp, it flattens a bit and becomes a spongy, cookie-like disk. Though it still tastes quite good.

After much research and finding claims from a few blogs that they had found the way to make a sugar-free pavlova, I decided to give it a try. I used Truvia as my sugar replacement since it was touted as the best substitute. I added a bit of cream of tarter. In one version, I even added corn starch as suggested. None of my three attempts came out quite right. Though we still ate two with gusto! The third was like a flat sugar disk.

The first attempt was the most successful. While it didn’t have the crisp crust, it did maintain the most body (it stayed nearly 2 inches thick).  Since the first version wasn’t perfect, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit a few weeks later. The second version was a disaster! I added corn starch and the thing flattened like a pancake. It came out of the oven not even an inch thick! There was no was I could serve this version, so I quickly whipped up a third. For the third attempt, I lowered the amount of Truvia, and added in some real sugar. I don’t know that this helped any. This version was slightly thinner than the first version and a bit spongier.

Sugar-Free Chocolate Pavlova

(adapted from Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova with suggestions for sugar-free baking)

  • 6 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 1 cup Truvia Baking Blend
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (cut into chunks) – I used a 60% cocoa candy bar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a piece of parchment paper, trace a 9 inch circle with pencil. Place the parchment paper pencil side down (you will still be able to see the circle).

In a clean mixing bowl, begin to whip egg whites and sprinkle in cream of tarter. When egg whites form peaks, begin to sprinkle in Truvia a spoonfull at a time. Then beat until shiny, about 5-8 minutes.

Gently fold in baking cocoa, red wine vinegar, and dark chocolate chunks. Make certain to mix cocoa in completely.

Carefully mound the pavlova onto the parchment inside the circle. Shape the pavlova to the size of the circle. Smooth the top.  Alternatively, you could also make 6 individual pavlovas.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pavlova in the oven and bake for about an hour. When done baking, the pavlova will have a little give in the middle. DO NOT REMOVE FROM OVEN YET! When done baking, turn off oven and leave in oven until cool. Because of the delicate nature of the dessert, it needs to cool very slowly or it will collapse completely. I found the best results when leaving it in the oven overnight, but 3-4 hours will suffice.

I usually top the pavlova with homemade whipped cream and raspberries.

 

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Sunday Sneak Peek

I have had a busy week around my house. My brain (and probably soul) is loving the time I am giving it over to being creative. If this week is any indication to what they rest of my summer is going to be, I may put a really good dent into my fabric stash! Trust me, that is a very good thing. This will also mean I have plenty of content to keep my post coming well into the school year.

To help remind myself that I need to take more photos of what I am doing. And as a way to organise my posts, I’m testing out Sunday Sneak Peak. My original thought had been to show you what I plan on working on during the upcoming week, but then you wouldn’t see the results for some time depending on how many projects are queued up in front of it. So I’ve settled on showing you a little glimpse of what I’ll be posting throughout the week.

This week, I’ll be talking about: embroidery, sugar-free baking, and a new dress!

I’ve dug out my embroidery supplies! What inspired me to do so?

I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, but sometimes there is a really good reason.

I’ve made another dress! I love this fabric and the pattern!

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding

Thanks to my efforts in learning how to bake yeast bread, we have found ourselves with an excess of bread. Most of the recipes I use create 2 rather large loaves of bread. Since neither I nor my fiance eat very much bread, we often have at least a loaf left before it begins to go stale.

Rather than amass larger amounts of croutons, I decided to make bread pudding. I’ve never really been a fan of bread pudding. I didn’t particularly enjoy the mushy, liquidy feel I’d experienced when tasting them before. Mind you, these were never home made, I don’t believe. At least I don’t recall my mum ever making us bread pudding. I thought I would give it a go anyway!

Bread pudding is essentially bread soaked in milk. Then mixed with egg and sugar before baking for an inordinately long time. At least that was what my nose kept telling me! I used a Bread Pudding Recipe from Simply Recipes as a guide and altered things from there.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding

  • 1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread (nearly stale), cut into cubes
  • 1 quart milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Melted butter to coat baking dish

Use melted butter to coat your 9×13 baking dish. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak the cubed bread in the milk in a large bowl. Stir occasionally and press down on the bread to make certain all of the bread is soaked with milk.

While the bread is soaking, mix together (in another bowl) the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and allspice. When you feel your bread has soaked up enough of the milk, carefully mix the egg mixture into the bread.

Bake in oven for 30 – 45 minutes. The bread pudding will be done when the edges are brown and pulling away from the sides.

Note: If you aren’t using cinnamon raisin bread, you can add: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup of raisins.

Bourbon Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

In a saucepan, melt the stick of butter. Then add the sugar and egg. Whisk to blend well. Keep over low heat, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. To prevent curdling, do not allow sauce to simmer. Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat. Whisk sauce again before serving.

Adding the sauce makes all the difference. And, your office staff will love you forever!

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I’ve been slowly reading my way through the beginning of The Bread Baker’s ApprenticeI have found it to be quite interesting. I’m excited to master the art of baking using Baker’s Math. It’s an entire system using percentages based on the type of bread you are making. Apparently, every bread has a formula. Once you learn the basic formulas, you can easily make any type of bread with a few calculations. I would try to explain it further, only I fear I would confuse myself trying to put it into words for you to understand as I am just starting to grasp the concept. As I learn more about this wonderful Math ( I always knew liking math would help me with baking!), I’ll share more about applying it to making bread.

To go along with using Baker’s Math, I will also need to switch from measuring cups and spoons to weighing ingredients when baking. We have a small kitchen scale already and I’ve used it a few times to measure flour and sugar. It’s not nearly accurate enough to measure teaspoons. I guess I’ll be shopping for a different scale soon.

 

With some of my newly acquired knowledge,  I decided it was time to make another loaf of bread. I had been leaning towards a sourdough bread, but that is a multiple day process. I only had one day to make bread. Since it was Sunday morning, I had breakfast on the brain. My stomach and my brain settled on Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I’m not certain how my stomach agreed to this since I don’t like raisins. I’ll eat them occasionally as a snack, but never in anything or on anything and most definitely not baked or cooked in any way! BLECH!!! Thankfully, my boyfriend does enjoy raisins and is a happy recipient of most everything I bake.

Unlike the first bread, this one started with mixing all the dry ingredients together, then mixing in the wet ingredients. The wet ingredients only had to be a room temperature for mixing. I quite like that as I always stress out that the water is a little too hot and I’ll mess up the entire loaf of bread!

I feel I was a bit more successful in this attempt at making bread. The loaves still aren’t perfect. One even looks mangled. Though this time around, both loaves rose quite well. The only reason they don’t appear to have risen properly is due to me having the wrong sized pans. It appears that I am going to have to add bread pans to my shopping list as well!

The original recipe also includes walnuts, which I left out because I forgot to pick them up at the grocery store. The bread was quite delicious. Yes, I did taste the bread. I even tried a bite with raisins! I didn’t particularly enjoy that bite, but the rest was wonderful. Having cinnamon mixed into the dough adds a little surprise taste even when you don’t get a bite of the cinnamon/sugar swirl.

Next time I try this recipe, I’m going to make one loaf without raisins and add the walnuts. I’m curious to see if the bread will turn out without raisins in the mix. When adding the swirl, I plan to roll the dough out a bit further to get a longer swirl in the middle.

If you are curious to try this recipe, you have a few options. Once again, I’m opting not to share the recipe due to copyright concerns. I know I wouldn’t like it if someone took what was mine. Your first option is to purchase The Bread Baker’s Apprenticeit is a wonderful book and you will enjoy making bread from it. Second, you can Google Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread Peter Reinhart and you may just find a copy.

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Anna, Damn Her!

So legend (or folklore) has it, my latest attempt at yeast bread making came from a namesake of mine. As the story goes, a Gloucester fisherman/farmer/hunter/woodsman (I’ll stick with fisherman), had a wife who was a terrible cook. Everyday, he came home to cornmeal mush and molasses. Upon returning home one evening to yet another meal of cornmeal, he took matters into his own hands and mixed in some flour and yeast to make bread. The entire time muttering “Anna, Damn her!” Thankfully, despite having the same name, I am fully capable of making many delicious meals. Though I do often leave the cooking to my boyfriend!

I started my bread making with this particular loaf for a few reasons. First, it has a story and it involves a person I share a name with. I don’t know about you, but I always feel drawn to something that shares my name. Second, it was close to the front of my new bread book. I have had this particular book on my wishlist for over a year. I finally received it for Christmas. There are a multitude of bread baking books out there. To the point where you can choose a book on a specific type of bread. When I was researching the best bread book for me, I settled on The Bread Baker’s Apprentice  for its detailed instructions in the recipes and the massive introduction to bread baking at the beginning.

The author, Peter Reinhart,  is passionate about baking bread and it shows in his writing. This book wasn’t just a way for him to share a few recipes (nearly 100), he wanted the readers to learn how to make good bread. Through his writing you can see that he isn’t just a baker, he is also a teacher. If you want to learn how to make good yeast bread, I recommend this book. My only complaint about the book is that the recipes are in alphabetical order rather than by bread type. Though, I have a feeling as I grow more familiar with the book, this will stop bothering me.

Back to the recipe and the third reason I tried this bread first. It has molasses in it. We rather enjoy the flavor of molasses, yet we only use it around Christmas. I feel this needs to change. The recipe also uses corn meal, which I found very intriguing. Really, this was a recipe that demanded to be baked.

You begin by soaking the corn meal in water overnight. This is to soften the meal and help release its flavours. While I was researching the background story, I also discovered that some people bake the cornmeal, some boil it, and other just pour boiling water over it and soak until it reaches room temperature. Though I’m sure any method will work, I like the archaic feel of soaking something overnight in preparation of baking bread. I’m sure there is some sort of epiphany in there somewhere, but I’m sticking with it just feels right!

Also thanks to my research, I may have discovered why I think my loaves ended up being short instead of fluffy. According to Spoonful, using All-Purpose flour rather than bread flour will result in a denser bread due to the difference in gluten. I think I will pick up a bag of bread flour before my next bread baking adventure. I may have also rushed the last rise a little in my excitement that my bread was beginning to look like bread.

I’m sure I’ll have many more bread making adventures and helpful suggestions as the year progresses. Once again, I won’t be typing in the recipe for copyright reasons, but you can visit this link that share the same recipe I just made (hers looks better than mine!)

Anadama Story Resources:

Spoonful

A Taste of History

The Sour Dough

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake…I Mean Bread!

After cookies, quick breads are one of the first memories I have of learning to bake. My dad had a banana every day. Sometimes, his weekly bunch of bananas would turn too brown for eating before he got to them. My mum would stick them in the freezer until we collected enough to make a couple loves of banana bread.

My love for making quick breads has stayed. It’s almost like healthy baking because there is nearly always fruit or nuts in the recipe. I am always on the lookout for new variations on quick breads. I found one on Simply Recipes a few weeks ago that I knew I had to try. She posted a recipe for Chocolate (already have to try it) Zucchini Bread. This recipe doesn’t use just one or two cups, it calls for four cups of freshly grated zucchini. She even stated that fresher in-season zucchini will make a moister bread.

Within a couple of days of spotting this recipe, I picked up a pile of zucchini from the local grocery store. I think we are a little past zucchini season here in Florida, but I had to try out the recipe. My first question came as I was preparing the zucchini. Did I need to peel the vegetable, or could we eat the skin? Good thing google knows all the answers. The zucchini was grated washed skin and all! I did cut the ends off. As instructed, I left the gratings in a sieve over a bowl, but I didn’t have an excess moisture (which led me to believe it’s not quite zucchini season).

Despite the fact that my zucchini wasn’t dripping excess moisture, the bread was amazing! I honestly felt as if I was eating cake for breakfast. The chocolate wasn’t overpowering, but the darkness nicely hid the flecks the zucchini would have left a lighter bread. I have every intention of using this recipe for my next chocolate cake! I highly doubt anyone will notice.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
(Simply Recipes)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups grated zucchini (from about a pound and a half of zucchini)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 Tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks), melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Grate zucchini into a sieve over a bowl to catch any excess moisture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans with baking spray or butter.
  3.  Vigorously whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk until there are no more clumps and the ingredients are well combined.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth, about a minute. You can do this with an electric mixer on medium speed, or by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter, instant coffee granules, and almond extract and beat until smooth.
  5. Mix the shredded zucchini into the sugar egg mixture. Add the flour to the zucchini mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine after each addition.
  6. Work quickly, and divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. (Work quickly because once the dry ingredients have mixed with the wet ingredients, the leavening has begun.) Place into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and easily. Remove to a rack. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges to separate the bread from the pan. Remove from the loaf pans and let cool completely on a rack.

Despite the temptation, wait until the bread has cooled completely before slicing or it gets all crumbly. After a couple of days, I had stuck the loaf in the fridge. Keeping the bread this cool gave the bread a slightly fudgey taste. It took me a little over a week to eat the entire loaf (restricting myself to only breakfast). Even on the last day, it was still moist.

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Ambrosia Candies by Melissa

Every now and then, I come across a confection that is better when someone else makes it. This doesn’t happen often since part of the enjoyment for me is in the making. Melissa from Ambrosia Candies makes the perfect treats to just eat and enjoy. I’m sure you could spend hours making similar items, but she has tweaked the recipes in such a way, that I would rather just eat hers.

I met Melissa about a year ago when we shared a vendor booth at a convention. We had a marvelous time helping each other sell items. Melissa is a great person to spend the day around. I had a marvelous time getting to know her and her delightful boys last year. We recently had another opportunity to share space at a convention, giving us the opportunity to catch up. This also gave me the opportunity to taste her sweets again!

I thought they were good last year. She has been working diligently to perfect her recipes. She has tested different options. She has tasted many additives. The end results are amazing! I’m sure she has a few more ideas up her sleeve.

Her grandmother’s soft peanut brittle is what started her venture off. I highly recommend you start off by trying this. It is melt in your mouth delicious! Unlike regular peanut brittle (which she also makes), this peanut brittle is flaky rather than hard, so it won’t stick to your teeth. It crumbles a bit into your mouth. You really only need to chew a few times before it melts into a delicious flavour in your tummy. It is naturally gluten free, dairy free, preservative free, and cholesterol free. It is possibly the healthiest good tasting junk food you will ever try. She also mentioned working on a diabetic friendly version. Don’t bother trying to get the recipe from her, it is a family secret. As long as she keeps making the Gourmet Soft Peanut Brittle, I can handle that.

If you are a fan of peppermint, then you need to try Ambrosia Candies’ Peppermint Pasties. They begin with a thin cookie center. Melissa then hand dips each cookie into semi-sweet chocolate flavoured with peppermint. She then sprinkles the top with crushed peppermint candies. The end result is delightful.

Ambrosia Candies’ Cake Truffles are amazing! They were good last year, but Melissa’s changes have made them awesome. Rather than making regular cake balls, she has conjured a way to create cake truffles. She created a mix that includes cream cheese (I’ve heard her mention that to customers, so I think that is okay to share), and then adds a few extra ingredients to accentuate the flavour.

Of her many Cake Truffle flavours, I was able to try three. The first I tasted were her Dragon Balls. As the name suggests, they are a little spicy! They have hints of Jalapeno and cinnamon. They reminded me a bit of Mexican hot chocolate. She doesn’t make them overly spicy, but they do have a bit of a burn.

Melissa also makes a line of fruity Cake Truffles, including strawberry. My favourite fruit! There was just enough of a taste of strawberry without being overpowering. I think I may have to go eat my last Chocolate Strawberry Cake Truffle right now!

I saved the best for last, this is the Cake Truffle that will have you clicking the link in no time at all! Melissa recreated the flavour of Harry Potter’s ButterBeer! She mixes butterscotch and cream soda with a couple of secret ingredients into perfection.  I love visiting Universal and grabbing a glass of ButterBeer, but not everyone has that option. If you find yourself craving ButterBeer, order yourself a package of Ambrosia Candies’ ButterBeer Cake Truffles.

If I haven’t convinced you to try out her confections yet, head over to her Etsy shop and read her descriptions. She has more items available in her shop, I’m sharing the ones I brought home and got to photograph. I’m already thinking I need to order a few more treats!

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