Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My favorite bread! Well, almost.

Oh my goodness! Now this is divine. This bread is one I bake at least once a week and we never get tired of it. It is an adaptation on Rose's Hearth Bread recipe from the Gold Medal Better for Bread flour bag, I add a little more yeast and a higher proportion of wheat flour, otherwise it's the same as the printed recipe. Not only is it an almost perfect bread, it make great pizza dough! A clipped copy resides on the inside of my cabinet door so I can glance at it while I am baking in case my shred of memory fails me. If you've never baked bread or if it's been a while, this is a great one to start with since you almost never need to adjust the flour or water to get the right consistency of dough. It's fabulous darling, simply fabulous!!
Here is the dough in my mixer. I love this mixer. It was a gift from my mother-in-law. I love my mother-in-law. She has foresight. She realized that if I ruined my wrist making large volumes of bread every other day for our ravenous wolves, I mean kids, that she might have to assume the care of all her grandchildren. In a few weeks, I was the proud owner and grateful user of a beautiful Bosch mixer. My wrists thank you, Susan.
Now you certainly can make this bread by hand. Just mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, turn out onto your countertop and knead. If you've never kneaded dough you can find a video on Youtube. It's easy and fun but after about 1000 loaves your wrists may start to hurt and you should start looking around for a mixer or mother-in-law.
This is my kneaded dough set to rise in my dough bowl. I love my dough bowl. My mom gave it to me for Christmas. I love my mom. Don't be deceived, this is no ordinary dough bowl! It is hand made from Tupelo wood gathered in the snake infested swamps of Mississippi. For real!
Here the dough has risen for about an hour and it is ready to shape into the loaf. I make this into a round loaf by stretching it from the top to the bottom. Then you set it to rise for another hour. Be careful of small children on this step. If they come in and grab a handful of dough when the loaf is almost done rising, you will have to shape it and let it rise again. Not that this has ever happened to me or anything. My children always obey and never would grab my rising bread dough over and over. I was just thought I would give you a heads up that for some reason, rising dough is magnetic for some children, but of course not mine.
Please direct your attention to the shaped and lovely dough ball (and not to my cruddy/well used cookie sheet). It is ready to rise and be counted. After it rises, you have to dig out a really sharp knife and slash the top of it then slide it quickly into a very hot oven. Thirty minutes later, you have a beautiful crusty brown loaf of bread. My favorite way to eat it is warm from the oven spread with Nutella. Sorry Mom, it just is. If you don't know what Nutella is, oh my! Look for it by the peanut butter in your grocery store, you'll be glad you did!

Audra's Hearth Bread
1 1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon of honey
2 teaspoons of yeast, about one foil packet
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix the water, honey, yeast, whole wheat flour and white flour in a large bowl. Stir until it comes together. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit for 15 minutes. Add in salt and mix. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Put dough in a large bowl, you don't need to oil the bowl for this bread, and let it rise for about an hour until it's doubled in size. Turn out onto the counter and gently shape into a ball. While it is rising, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. When the dough is doubled again, about an hour, quickly slash the top with a sharp knife and gently slide it into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more. Take it out of the oven and cool on a rack. You need to cool bread at least 20 minutes before you slice it or the texture will be weird. My family hates me for insisting on things cooling all the time and for beating them off with sticks while the bread/pie/cake/whatever cool the prescribed amount of time. Sorry, I came that way!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Days Blueberry-Peach Jam

Peaches! My favorite fruit of all time! Lest you think I am one of those picky types who only likes one fruit or can't abide any vegetable besides potatoes, understand that I love almost any fruit I have ever put in my mouth, almost any vegetable too. So when I say peaches are my favorite fruit, considerable thought has gone into that statement. I'm serious now, peaches are nothing to joke about! That is why Friday was the most-wonderful-day-of-the-summer. I got my peaches. A whole bushel of round, sweet, fuzzy, perfumy delights. If you can't identify that description with peaches, you must not be acquainted with fresh-picked orchard peaches, Arkansas or Porter peaches, preferably. If you are a poor unfortunate soul who has only experienced those hard sour desecrations sold at grocery stores, well you have my sympathy. The end of July is marked by rabid consumption of peaches, any way you can imagine, I'm eating them, I can't stop, it's dangerous, my husband gets alarmed, the kids start to cry because mama is eating all the peaches, I just can't help myself! Yesterday the canning started, now there are 17 quart jars sitting on my counter, half for me and half for Joe's grandparents. They are almost as bad as me about it, they fight over them and hide them from each other. Really, it's just embarrassing! I ended up with 4 cups of peaches left over so I decided to make a batch of jam. If you have 4 cups of any fruit, you too can make jam. Now the jam was looking a bit blah in the pan and I remembered there were fresh blueberries languishing in the fridgidare and so I did this:
See the peach part is great and all but it was kind of boring. Don't tell the peaches I said that, but sorry it was. If you've never made jam before, it's easy as can be. Basically, you boil fruit with pectin (all grocery stores carry powdered or liquid pectin. I use powdered) and an insane amount of sugar, follow the directions on the box and you have jam. You can mix types of fruit as long as you have about 4 cups total. Every time, I am unsure of what a "full boil" means. This is a full boil:
No matter how much you stir, it doesn't stop boiling. It is mesmerizing to watch but a bit scary, especially if you have little ones around. Now, my dad's cousin spilled hot jam on her foot so my mom always makes you put on your shoes if you are jam-making at her house. Even at my house I hear her voice telling me to put on my shoes. Yes ma'am, I'll put on my shoes. You will notice the difference in the color of the two photos above. That is from the blueberries bursting and turning it pink. Boring color be gone!!
Here is the jam on the hot jars. After you ladle it in, you wipe the tops of the jars and put on lids and rings. These are found in the store by the pectin and canning supplies. So, here's the scoop. Boil some jars for 10 minutes (you can buy these new, find them at yard sales and thrift stores, or inherit them from someone who doesn't can anymore. I got mine off of Freecycle.). Put your fruit in a wide and deep pan with the pectin, bring this to a boil then add the sugar, bring to a full rolling boil (see above) and boil for 1 minute. Set the pan off the heat for a few minutes to stop boiling and skim off as much of the foam as you can. Put it in a small bowl. Give it to me if I am there or if I am not, eat it yourself or bestow it on a worthy child. My mom always gave us spoons to taste the foam, we must have been worthy children. Ha! Anyway, Ladle it into your hot sterilized jars, wipe the tops, put on the lids and rings. Then put them back in the pan you boiled the jars in and boil for 10 minutes. Set out on a pretty towel to cool and admire!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sun, fun, fire and girls.

This weekend we celebrated the end of a week off work and the beginning of a new adventure. Above you can see Her Royal Cuteness in her new swimsuit. I love it when you can see their armpit rolls!
There was a whole lot of this. These brothers are true pyros! Light a match and they are on you like a duck on a cheeto! And proving the truth of the Bible, you can't play with fire and not get burned. Dan is sporting a 1/2 inch wide blister on his finger, poor guy.
Here we are walking down the driveway to the cabin at dusk looking for blackberries. Sometimes I look at pictures like this and think "Those are all my kids! I am too young to have 5 kids!" But then I guess if you are efficient and have all 5 kids in only 6 years, you aren't too young.
Sisters! What can I say, these two girls are something to behold. In case you were wondering, They were only sitting still together in one chair because they were eating chocolate cookies. Like their mother, you can get them to do almost anything with a little chocolate bribe.
This is the porch swing on the back of the cabin we stayed in. It is surely the smallest porch swing I have ever seen. Aren't they too cha cha for words? Pictures like this make their Grandpa cry and have to restrain himself from speeding over here and kissing their darling faces. Sorry Dad!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pirate Baby!

Big brother recently acquired pirate patch and as you can see Cubby is game for a little fun on the high seas, or in the excersaucer. He's not too picky about his entertainment or what happens to him, thankfully. When your the 5th, you can't be too high-maintenance! The blurred picture is inevitable with this one, he never stops kicking and jumping. So fun to nurse, as you can imagine!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Grandma Helen's Potato Salad

Potato Salad has been consumed in my family since close to the time our ancestor stepped off the ark. My mom is famous for her salad which includes her home canned sweet lime pickles, she has probably made a thousand gallons of it. There is the infamous salad made by our adopted grandma for every occasion from a summer Sunday supper to Thanksgiving dinner itself. A few years ago, my mother-in-law copied down her mother's sacred recipe and I have to say, it may be my favorite. Now, the important thing here is that you follow the recipe and do just as Grandma Helen instructed. No dallying around! It is full of some of the southern things I love, diced pimentos, baby sweet pickles and celery seed. I have some in the fridge right now, I'll be right back!

Grandma Helen's Potato Salad
4 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled
1 small white onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, diced
1/2 cup sliced baby sweet pickles or sweet relish if you're in a pinch
Small jar of diced pimento
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Celery to taste
2 Tablespoons sweet pickle juice

Drain the potatoes and let them cool a bit in the colander. If you want to take some of the bite out of the onions, put them in a bowl with ice water and let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. If you don't like crunchy things in your potato salad cook the celery and onion with your potatoes. (Note, neither of these ideas were Grandma's. Please don't tell her I said them. I don't want to get in trouble.) Anyway, combine the potatoes, onion, celery, eggs, pickles and pimento in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir into the mixture in the large bowl. This is best if made several hours before serving so the flavors can blend. The potatoes will absorb lots of the dressing and be drier than when it was just mixed up. Try not to eat it all before dinner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My big life!

Yesterday I visited the eye doctor for 2 hours of torture. When I was 11 years old I started wearing glasses because I told my parents that I saw two moons, they being the with-it parents they are, decided I might have an eye problem. So I got my first pair of glasses, pink plastic frames, and spent the next few days amazed that I could actually SEE leaves on a tree and shingles on a roof. Except for 9 years of wearing contacts I have been a 4-eyes. Lately though I have started to go bonkers because of the delightful combination of babies/toddlers and glasses and decided to switch back to contacts. Which is why I "enjoyed" the 2 hours of quiet time at the optometrist. The bright lights, puffing air, probes ON my eyes (arghhhh), numbing drops, cholesterol tests, and questions resulted in my coming home with two plastic discs on my little red eyeballs. If you have gone between glasses and contacts then you know what I mean when I say that everything is BIG. My coke bottle glasses make things look slightly smaller and now the size of everything is freaking me out. My baby is huge, especially his head (ouch!), all type looks like large print, leaves and flowers are enormous, my thighs, well we won't go there.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vanilla Almond "Scotties"

Biscotti is everywhere these days but what lots of people don't know is how easy it is to make your own. This is one of my kids favorite snacks, it's cheap, easy and fun to dunk in milk. My dad gets several varieties every year for Christmas and it's my mother-in-law's preferred birthday gift. One of the best things about this recipe is all the variations you can make. This is vanilla and almond, my dad loves butter pecan, cranberry walnut is yum and orange almond is one of my faves along with golden raisin and spice. To make chocolate "scotties" as my kids call them just substitute 1/4 cup cocoa for and equal amount of flour. You can adjust the amount of cocoa up to 1/2 cup if you like more chocolate. Who are we kidding, everyone likes more chocolate! One thing I don't do is mix chocolate chips in the batter, they take too long to firm up and smear everywhere. So just cut to the chase and dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle them with chocolate or dip in white chocolate and drizzle with dark chocolate or dip in dark chocolate and drizzle with white chocolate or eat the chocolate while the biscotti is baking. Whatever you do, don't let your kids hear you unwrap the chocolate or you'll have to share!

Vanilla Almond Biscotti
1/2 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar, brown sugar for butter pecan biscotti
2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 Tablespoon orange zest for orange almond biscotti
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup almonds, chopped, or pecans or walnuts or raisins, you get the idea.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream butter with sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla, or zest. Stir in dry ingredients, then nuts. You can chill the dough now or go ahead and divide into 2 portions. On a greased baking sheet shape dough into 2 logs. Aim for 3 inches wide and 1 inch high. They should be about 12 inches long. If you are impatient like me and don't chill the dough you will have to flour your hands to shape it on the baking sheets. Put it in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are firm but not too brown yet. Cool for about 15 minutes on a rack and then carefully move them to a cutting board. With a bread knife slice carefully into 1/2 or 3/4 inch slices, diagonally is pretty, and lay cut side down on the sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more and then flip them over and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until they are brown and dry looking. Cool them and eat them dipped in a glass of cold milk or hot coffee. Yumm!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Check that...

A correction to my last post, there were two dirty diapers in the laundry basket, not one. Delightful!

Oops and a Game

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am hopelessly lame at entertaining my kids with activities and games. Stories I can do, stories can be told until their little blue eyes glaze over. So, I am pretty proud of the game I whipped out this morning. In a moment of inspiration, we made a fruit hopscotch game. Sheer genius, I know. But it's hot outside and hot makes my kids fight (blame it on the heat!) so even this simple thing entertained them for a bit. By the way, my ghetto patio is shown to make you all feel better about your patio!
Now for the oops part. All day I try to be really efficient and accomplish as much as humanly possible, with all my helpers my humanly possible isn't what it used to be but, anyway. This morning I gathered up the latest overflowing basket of the kids clothes and tossed the baby's dirty diaper on top of the basket (you know where this is going) intending to drop it in the trash as I went through the kitchen. Well, as I went to put the load over into the dryer, I realized that I couldn't remember if the diaper made it into the trash or into the washer. All I have to say is that I am thankful it was the baby's diaper and not his big sister's! Oh and that I am thankful that I didn't have to beat our clothes out on rocks down at the river. We must always be thankful for that!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let the fun begin!

Well now, I know this is so fun it makes your toes tingle but at this time I don't have any fabulous food pictures or recipes ready so I'll just tell you what I am working on now. There are 2 quarts of yogurt "yoging" in the kitchen. Sliced cucumbers and onions are soaking in the fridge waiting to be transformed into bread and butter pickles. Tonight we are having beef and black bean tacos for dinner with chips and my new favorite dip. More on that later. So, that's it for now. Have a great evening!