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Hey Kids!  Yea, I know it’s been awhile.  I haven’t had a lot to say, perhaps. Have no fears though, I still cook and bake like a fiend, trust me, every glance in my mirror attests to this fact.

This month, however, when I made my pilgrimage to the Daring Baker Forum I was immediately reminded of this guy….

...time to make the donuts!

I figured if he could drag his begrudging butt out of bed daily and make thousands of donuts so could I…well, a small batch at least!

A HUGE Thank You to Lori of “Butter Me Up” for a fantastic challenge, which has brought me out of my hiatus with the DB.

Being that I have been lax with the whole bloggy thing, I feel the need to go slow with getting back in the saddle.  So expect no tome this go ’round nor any outrageous wit just a few pretty pictures and a kick ass recipe!

First Pretty Picture….Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Candied Bacon.

The recipe I used was one Lori suggested and can be found here.  I made a couple changes, first I halved the recipe, fifteen doughnuts and fifteen holes would not make my mirror any happier!  I also added 4 TBS. cocoa , 1 TBS. melted butter and omitted the nutmeg.  Being I have never made the recipe before I can’t say my substitutions had any ill effect but I know that I was very pleased with how things worked out.  I did have a little concern the “dough” was too moist but a little time in the fridge to chill and firm it helped in making it very workable.

Before a trip to the fridge...

...out of the fridge, rolled, cut and ready for a hot oil bath...

I managed to get 6 doughnuts and 6 holes out of the halved recipe, which I fried 3 holes at a time and 2 donuts at a time.    After the second batch of holes came out and cooled a bit, I just could not resist a little taste.  Hmmm, I was a little concerned, it seemed as if the dough had soaked up way too much oil.  Fortunately, it was just a case of not letting the oil temp up after the first fry.  I really didn’t think a few degrees off would be a bad thing…it was… 375° all the way kiddos!!

...fry , Baby, fry...

...off to the racks, just call me Torquemada!

glazed, topped and ready to go!

And that my friends was my time in the kitchen for this months Daring Baker Challenge.  Short and oh so sweet!!  Again, big Thank Yous go out to Lori, you brought me back!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

This is not going to be a post of many words…actually as few as possible.  The most important words here will be…..

The Killer of Yeast is no more!!!

Yep, you heard that kids, I will no longer refer to myself as that person.  Packets and jars of yeast are a thing of the past for me, not that I was ever any good with them!  To cure my yeast woes I went old school, as seen here, and did the whole “Vini, Vidi, Vici” thing!! I came, I saw and I will be damned I CONQUERED!!!!  I bred and fed my very own sourdough starter, thanks to John Ross, and here you will see my first go round using it!

In the beginning.....

.....there was the sponge and it was good.....

Sponge, 1.5 hours old, pretty active little one, isn't he?

Knead baby, knead!!

First rise, check out those dimples!

2nd rise, a "bun" about to be in the oven!

My little monster's first born... many more to come!

First Steps!

Look at that face....so handsome!

This was a fantastic trip and well worth the time spent.  My little Monster is still growing and I hope getting stronger each day, I am hoping he will be with me for many years!!

Is he MAD???

I am going to make this short and sweet to start, because I truly think I may have lost it!!  As, some of you may know, I have but one kitchen enemy; my attempts to conquer it have resulted in mediocre results, at best.  I have always been told it is best to start with the basics and at the beginning and that is exactly what I thought I had been doing each time I attempted to beat this beast.  Tonight it hit me that perhaps I had the basics but at the beginning was really not where I was starting.  Hmmm…..

So old school it is going to be, way old school, like 1000’s of years old school!!!

For those of you that know where this is headed, wish me well and cross every available appendage you can!!  For those that don’t follow along!!!!  Hopefully, all will be revealed in about a week.

The Basics.

Goin' Old School.

Till Tomorrow.

Chalk one up for the Bear!!!  As you may well know, I spend a bit of time in the kitchen and very few things scare me in there.  I am always game to give new things a try and I usually succeed.  There is one ingredient in the kitchen which has caused me much grief….I have attempted its use numerous times and my success rate is minimal.  In fact my failure rate is so high that I have dubbed myself…..SleepingBear-Killer of Yeast.   Not tonight kiddies!!!

Ray and I were off today and we used it to do a few things around the house, as the day progressed thoughts of dinner came to mind.  Truthfully, I had no plan so it was one of those look in the fridge and see what needs to be used soon kind of days.  The freezer revealed a couple of chicken breasts and the deli drawer contained 3 thick cut slices of applewood smoked bacon and a smallish chunk of cheddar….”yea, what am I going to do with that?”.  Finish up the last of the household chores and think.

The wheels began to turn and bechamel came to mind.  Pasta came to mind.  We are getting there!!  After just a little more thought, I came up with a “white lasagne”.  Dice the bacon, fry it up, slice the breast into thin crosscuts, fry them in the bacon drippings.  Use a couple Tbs. of the bacon drippings as a starter for the roux for the bechamel.  A quick batch of fresh pasta sheets, layer it all with a bit of cheddar and dinner will be served.

As of late Ray has been on a bread baking kick, which he is actually getting pretty good at (unlike moi!) and we have a little less than half a loaf of his bread leftover from the other day.  Homemade bread, unfortunately can get dry rather quickly and this half loaf is currently in the “only good for toast” stage.  I wasn’t getting cleaned up and dressed to run to the store for something to sop up the excess bechamel but I also wanted that exact thing.  What the hell, give the yeast thing another try!   hahahaha

A quick search for a simple and quick breadstick recipe and I was on my way.  The milk and onions were sweating on the stove awaiting to become the sauce.  The chicken was browning wonderfully in the bacon drippings.   The pasta sheets were drying just slightly awaiting to be layered.  And the kitchenaid was kneading the dough for the breadsticks.  Everything was happening at once, not a moment to breathe….one task to the next and then again on to the next.  The breadstick dough is a single rise for approximately 50 mins, so I got the lasagne together, set it aside and then formed the sticks.  Into the oven the lasagne went and onto the counter went the sticks… but will they raise or have I once again killed millons of yeast spores in one fell swoop???

50 minutes later this is what I saw…

Living Yeast at it's best!!!

The lasagne came out of the oven and in went the sticks.  15 minutes of rest for the lasagne and bake time for the sticks and dinner was served!!!

Fresh out of the oven "John didn't kill the yeast" breadsticks.

Dinner is served.

I am a bad, bad, bad Daring Baker…ok, well not really but perhaps a lazy one this month!!!!! Here it is 11 hours into the 29th and I am just starting to write my post…50 lashes with a pizza dough cat o’nine tails!!!!! I would soooo love to say I have been busy beyond belief or that “something came up” but really, no!!!!! I have just been unfocused and LAZY!!!!

This month’s challenge comes to us from Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums, initially she was to be co-host with 2 others, unfortunately though that was not to be. I won’t go into the hows and whys of that, as most of you are already aware… I will say however, her choice to continue forward was a wonderful tribute and provided us all with a great challenge.

And this challenge was what, you wonder? In case you missed the cat o’nine tails reference earlier, it was Pizza or more specifically the dough on which any pizza is built! The recipe comes to us from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart. All in all it was a rather simple endeavor even though it is a 2 day task, most of that time consisting of proofing and resting. Aside from staying true to the recipe as it was written, our only other requirement was to attempt to photograph the tossing of the dough…now I promise I really did toss the dough and I am not trying to use the old “my dog ate my homework”excuse but……The pizza was served for this month’s game night and my designated photographer was more involved with cocktail hour than me tossing dough!!!! And truthfully, even with a self-timer or remote controlled camera, taking one’s own photo whilst tossing dough really doesn’t work!!!! I did attempt, truly!!!!

With only the 2 above requirements, the rest was a free-for-all…sauces, toppings, sweet or savory and on and on!!!!! I will say this about being unfocused, lazy and writing this 11 plus hours into posting day…Daring Bakers RULE!!!!!! I am reading between my thoughts other’s posts and I am running across some damn HOT pizzas!!!!!!! For instance

Plum, mascarpone and stuessel topping…what else can I say but, “You GO Girl!!!!”

Now, since I have been lazy this month and I have not paid much attention to this here little ole bloggy thingy, I noticed upon starting this that WordPress has a nifty new feature… so to reveal my pizzas for this challenge I am going to attempt a Pizza Personality Poll.

And now for your viewing pleasure a diptych, or in this case…”quad”tych. Which is your Pizza Personality?

What's Your Pizza Personality?

What's Your Pizza Personality?

And now 14 hours into posting day I finish the prose!!! 16 hours into posting day and this one is all done, happy tossing y’all as I am sure we will all give this another go!!!!!

Here we go again kiddies, DB reveal time!!  (Well, uhhhh, ummmmm, John screwed up!!  Typical post is the last sunday of month but these girls threw all kinds of curves at me and did the last saturday, ahh see if I would have read it all and thoroughly… you’ll understand soon!!)

So, as is typical, the beginning of the month had me dashing to the DB forums to see what awaited me!!  What could it be this month?  Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shelly, of Musings From the Fishbowl came up with a great one!!!  I saw the word lavash and instantly my heart leapt…joy, joy, joy!!!  I come from a very ethnically diverse area of western PA and knew what was in store.  I have had this many a time in my younger years and it was always accompanied by one of my all time favorite meals….Kibbee!!!  The joy truly was overwhelming, as this is not a meal I could ever, without good reason bring to my table.

Let me back tread just a bit…if you have yet to ascertain this from previous posts or if you don’t really know me….Patience is not one of my virtues!!!  That being said let me continue….

Having read the word lavash and it bringing such joy, I read no further.  I was off googling recipes, I was planning shopping lists and I was definitely looking forward to the moment when I would present this meal, lavash and Kibbee, and promptly say, the peanut butter is in the cupboard!!!!  For those of you that have no clue what Kibbee is, let me ‘splain!!!!  Basically it is ground lamb (sometimes beef), cracked wheat and spices, it can be prepared in 2 ways.  The first being it is formed into a loaf and baked…Viola lebanese meatloaf!  The second, and the way I eat it, it is formed into large patty, then slapped onto a plate, drizzled in olive oil, topped with pepper rings, throw a few scallions on the side and serve with a side plate of lavash!!!!!!!!  Yep kiddies you read that correctly, there was no mention of an oven, a stove or even a match!!  Red, raw and rockin’!!  True, not for the faint of heart but if you get the chance, go for it….DELISH!!!!!!

At full throttle I forged ahead, thinking, planning and scheming but then a voice said, go back a read further perhaps these girls have something further in mind.

skim, skim, skim….crackers and dip!!!

HMMMM, the lavash I know is soft, more pita-ish but the way raw Kibbee is eaten can almost be considered dipping.  Not so bad, I will bake a little longer and have a harder lavash, no biggie.

skim, skim, skim….VEGAN?!?!?

OMG!!!  My heart sank…oh hell, it fell out of my ass!!!  My Kibbee out the door it flew… I CRIED!!!!!!!

Ok, I need to read and read thoroughly I thought!!!  Lavash and dip. Lavash baked till cracker stage.  Lavash can be wheat flour or gluten free.  Dip must be vegan but anything you desire.  Ok, I got the basics, I got the recipe but vegan….what’s a carnivore to do??

Cry?

Hell no, a Daring Baker’s Challenge at it’s best for me…I just needed to regroup, wipe a few tears and rethink it all.

Here in the northern hemisphere and in western PA the nights are becoming cool and crisp, the days still get a bit sweltering and this is an indication that fall is upon us.  The colors of the trees are beginning their flamboyant change and the gourds and squash are making their way to the markets.

Squash, hmmmmm, butternut, HMMMMMM, roasted garlic, AHHHHHHHHH!!!

Yea, the lavash was the easy part, it was the vegan dip that was causing me grief but that combo of butternut and garlic got me going.

The lavash recipe can be found here or on numerous other Daring Baker blogs.  As for the dip recipe, well, baking is a precise science, cooking not so much.  Basically, I prepare meals like a grandma…a little of this, a touch of that, throw in a healthy dose of some other…so here you will find but a vague outline of my dip.

  • 1small/medium butternut squash, split, seeded, drizzled with some extra virgin and a smattering of salt and pepper, throw it in a 350 degree oven till soft.
  • 1 large clove garlic ( I’m italian, so large for me is most likely “gi-normous” for most other folk), slice the top off the head, drizzle with EV, wrap in foil and throw in the same oven, again till soft.
  • When both are done, squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and put into a food processor.  Scoop the pulp from the butternut ( I did this as soon as it was out of oven, as I wanted the heat to assist with incorporating the next ingredient) and throw it in the processor as well.
  • 1 4oz block of Tofu diced, throw it in the processor!!
  • I had some leftover hazelnuts and I thought they would add a nice texture, so I threw about 1/2 cup of those in as well.
  • S & P to taste.
  • Process on high till smooth.

What emerged from the processor, well it wasn’t Kibbee but this shiznet made this carnivore cry once more!!!  It was very much like a golden, slightly sweet hummus.  In the lavash recipe we were given the option to sprinkle the crackers with seeds,  spices and so on, I chose for mine….get this!!!

Kosher Salt and Cinnamon.

The salt balanced the sweetness of the butternut and the cinnamon complemented, oh so wonderfully, the warm richness of the roasted garlic!  The tofu gave the creaminess any good dip should have.

Now if the truth be told, as I thought of this it sounded wonderful but as I was processing, I began to fear the outcome.  I didn’t do any research for dips and the whole vegan thing had me out of sorts.  I thought, “what catastrophe awaits?”. Again, there was none and I have only Natalie and Shelly to thank for getting me to stretch as I did on this one.  In the past I would not have thought along these lines, there would have to have been some sort of cheese in this or something that would not fit the bill; actually I came damn close to throwing in some honey, luckily something stopped me and I thought it through and came to the forum to find that would have been a no-no.  Obviously, the vegan lifestyle is not for me and luckily I have no worries with gluten but the truth is some very rich and tasty dishes fall into these categories.

For those of you that have visited before and are wondering….yes I do cook things other than cake!!!  Seems I have been on a cake binge as of late, but really I haven’t made anything worthy of a post till this one!

This particular recipe came my way through my browser’s reader and immediately I knew I was gonna give it a shot.  Not because it was terribly different, terribly hard or any such madness but because it sounded terribly up my alley as far as taste goes!!!

Now I love lobster, filet and all the culinary stars but my favorite meal of all time, ALL TIME I say is…

The Hamburger!

No turkey burgers or veggie burger for me, I absolutely adore the good old fashioned 100% beef hamburger!!  So are you aware yet that I love hamburgers??  Well if not….hamburger, hamburger, hamburger, beef, beef, beef, YUM, YUM, YUM!!!

Now I am not gonna bore ya with the recipe details, as I said it is terribly simple, so check it out here!

What I did do differently this time was bake my own hamburger buns.  I am learning my way around yeast and I wanted to give it a go.  I sent out a request to my baking buddies and was rewarded with not one but 5 easy yet tasty recipes for breads that could easily show off a good burger.  I decided upon Bread Chick Mary’s ” No Fail Farmer’s Bread“.  I did an eeney, meeney, miney, moe kinda thing to choose which recipe to use but I was pleased I landed on this one.  The reason being it said no fail, well, I am not yet steady on my feet with yeast, so I figured this would be a test.  If I screwed this one up, then maybe I should stay away from the yeast.  Well, it is truly no fail and now I am working my way through the other for recipes I received.

That being said, I am just gonna go for the quick menu, a picture or two and a skedaddle out the door here….

  • Cheddar burgers with balsamic onions and chipotle ketchup
  • Watermelon Salad with Balsamic, basil and red onions
  • Busch’s Baked beans (concession to Ray)
  • No Fail Farmer’s bread
Buns awaiting a rise!!!

Buns awaiting a rise!!!

Done Buns!!!!!!!

Done Buns!!!!!!!

Now that's a burger!!

Now that's a burger!!

Ciao for now…..or would that be CHOW!!!!

No, I am not burnt!!!!

No, I am not burnt!!!!

“What the Hell?” you ask???? “Did he go and fall asleep with the oven on?”

Not at all kiddies!!!!! First let me say this…I HAVE been sitting on this post way too long! I baked my 3rd go round of the DB danish just a few days past last month’s reveal but I am just gettin’ around to telling ya about it!

Now as you may know, once upon a time I was “afeared” of the old yeast beast… not no mo’!!!!! I am perusing 5 recipes at the moment for some crusty bread I am baking tomorrow, more on that later though! So after reading many many DB blogs and their adventures down the Old Dane trail, something kept gnawing at me. One ingredient that is so often apart of DB challenges made it into the filling on this one but not the dough (at least in the blogs that I managed to get to, if anyone else did the same as I, then all I can say is “Great minds…”) I saw it as a stand-alone filling, I saw it combined with fruit, nuts and various quantities of both but again I didn’t see it in the dough.

“Is there a reason for this absence?”, I asked. “Does this one ingredient have some ill affect on yeast?” I laughed at that one, hell I had been killing yeast for years, whats the worst that adding this could do? But I thought about it and realized I had seen many a yeast product done using this, so it was not harmful to the little buggers.

Well, buckaroos it is summer and I decided it was time to dive into the pool! The chocolate pool, that is!!! Yep you got it, that isn’t a “burnt to a crisp” braid you see up above, that is a Chocolate Braid!

And boy what a Chocolate Braid it was!!!! As for the dough I followed the original DB recipe with only one omission (the cardamom) and one addition (1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa). As for the filling, well that was just an on the fly kinda thing…

  • 3/4 cup fine chopped Hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt

I mixed that altogether, mounded it down the center of my dough and braided away! I didn’t do the dual temps called for in the original recipe but just gave it a good 27 mins at 350 and all was well!! Again the topper was a simple powdered sugar glaze but instead of water I used Frangelico!

Frangelico and Coffee the breakfast of Champions! Well, perhaps this one categorizes better as a dessert but a thin slice with a strong French or Italian Roast would definitely send one off to the office with a smile on their face!

Glazed and ready to rumble!!!

Glazed and ready to rumble!!!

Ok, so I am not a food stylist but damn it was good!!!!

Ok, so I am not a food stylist but damn it was good!!!!

I have half of the dough in the freezer and since the oven will be kicking it tomorrow, I think I may just bake it as well. Maybe fill it with marshmallows, graham crackers and dark chocolate…..s’more Danish anyone????

As for the Post Title…Well if you weren’t there then no explanation would even make sense!! Sorry , but that’s the best I can give ya!!

It is said the journey is often better than the destination.

The destination here being a wonderful sunday evening meal of…

Garden Salad w/Olive Oil and Lemon
Chicken Piccata Ravioli
ButterHorn Garlic Knots

Dinner Done Done

The salad of course was a simple endeavor, garden greens tossed with a light lemon and olive oil vineagrette. The ravioli were a take on classic chicken piccatta, instead of scallopine of chicken, I made a filling of two ground breasts (chicken of course), sauted ’em up in a little O.O., added a touch of lemon zest and grated Parmigiano. Then onto total psychosis, I have made homemade pasta quite a few times but this time I decided, “let’s do it Nona’s way” hand rolled, no pasta roller. FEH!!!! How those ladies did it, I’ll never know! I rolled, I sweated and then I rolled some more, I was rather pleased as I could actually make out the grain in the counter under the sheets of pasta. That being said, it was quite tasty in the end, however it was a far cry from Nona’s micron thick angel hair!!!

“What?” you ask would inspire such madness…

The Bakeanistas

and their quest for the Ultimate Garlic Knot recipe. A garlic knot is pretty easy to explain, a yeast dough, formed into a rope, tied into a knot, baked and then SLATHERED in garlic butter.

A Bakeanista however is a little more difficult to pin down. I believe the text book definition is a small collective of friends and online buddies that get together to bake and chat…

Kinda like a 1950’s “Coffee Klutch” updated for the 21st century via Cyber Space.

You may ask, “how much can y’all chat about baking?’… well I have only been around for 2 scheduled bakefests and one or two impromptu chats and I would have to say… not alot!!! Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of good info discussed but this group gets onto topics that would make Sophie Tucker blush!!!

Boy Toys and Penises and Breasts, Oh My!!!!

Hint Hint: Check out the title of the post again!!

OK, so onto the meat (or in this case dough) of the matter, it all started when Lis and Mary were discussing garlic rolls. Now this is a bit of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg situation here…

Lis has a restaurant close to her with SUCKY food but great garlic rolls

and

Mary found a great recipe for garlic rolls from King Arthur Flour.

And thus our bakefest for June was born!!

10:30 am, a bit late, I joined the baking and bawdy chat.

We had a choice between two rolls, the King Arthur or ButterHorn versions…

Both recipes, as well as my pasta and piccatta recipes can be found here.

I went with the ButterHorn version, as I am but a novice in the ways of yeast and the KA version had some ingredients I don’t have readily at hand. Altho, with two yeast victories under my belt, this one and one you will hear of soon enough, I fully intend to give the KA version a go!!! The day had quite alot of things going on, so I was back and forth with chat, kitchen duty and life in general but what it ultimately produced was pretty damned good!!

And now my “tassleless” garlic knots!

No Yeastie Beastie gonna scare me no mo\'!!!!

After Ray and I sat down to dinner and cleaned up, I went back to see who if anyone was still hanging on. Damn near 8.5 hours later from original sign on, the free for all was still in full swing.

Last I recall there was some talk of penis turds or turd penises (or would that be penii?)

And that is but a glimpse into the great journey that ended in a Fantabulous Sunday dinner!!!

And with a Herald of trumpets here they be…

The Bakeanistas

Ben

Christina

Helen

Ivonne

Kelly

Laura

Lis

Marcela

Mary

Sara

Stephanie

Tanna

and Myself