Sad Sack or “Why Flour Matters”


Isn’t this just the saddest thing ever? Continue reading “Sad Sack or “Why Flour Matters””


Peeta’s Bread inspired by the “Hunger Games”

(Here is an older post that was without its recipe. So now I am re-posting with a recipe included.The next movie installment is due out soon. So start baking now and be ready!)

Have you read  it? Or have you watched it on the big screen? I just finished reading the second book. (one day, easy read). One of the main supporting characters grew up working in a bakery (Way to go!) I think of Peeta (pronounced like the bread, pita) as a type of Samwise Gamgee. He is brave, does the right thing, is confident about who he is. Here is a bit from the book. But first, a picture of the loaves of bread I made today.

a hearty bread filled with raisins and nuts..

Continue reading “Peeta’s Bread inspired by the “Hunger Games””

Bread Baking tips 2: digging in

(This is also a reprint and update from an earlier post a couple of years ago. Since I updated part 1, why not part 2 and think about a part 3?)

Here is where we get to the fun part: the mixing, the kneading, the rising, the shaping. Bringing about life from the humble ingredients talked about in Baking Tips 1. And I got lots of pictures this time. OH, don’t miss the YouTube video!!

Really, as long as you follow a recipe, you should be fine baking any kind of bread. Most of it is in the waiting. Waiting for it to rise. Waiting for it to rise again. Then anxiously wait, hovering around the stove, for it to bake to perfection, with any luck.

But here are a few things I have learned that apply to most bread making. To help keep my thoughts in order, I will use a standard white bread recipe as an example.

Lets see. Mix, knead, raise, shape, raise, bake.

There, that pretty much covers it. Done!

Well, okay, not quite done.

This one turned out a little on the large, Godzilla of all bread side.

So lets say we assemble the following ingredients to make a learning loaf of basic white bread. We can use a bread machine to do the mixing and first raising if you want. We can use your mixer to do the manual work for you, or just dig in and do it by hand. For this recipe and for learning purposes, we will do this one by hand. It is good to get your hands in there and feel what it should, and should not, feel like. Continue reading “Bread Baking tips 2: digging in”

What to do with fresh tomatoes: Bruschetta

No matter how you say it: Broo-sketta or Broo-shetta, it is a wonderful way to use up some old bread and fresh tomatoes from your garden.  A friend of mine said her Italian mama (or was it grandmama?) told her that bruschetta was something you made at the end of the week to use up the stale bread. Thrifty and tasty. Since I have tomatoes coming out my ears, now is the time to get out this recipe. Something other than salsa.

Simple rustic ingredients.

I am walking away from our Dr. Who marathon long enough to make up some bruschetta to have with dinner. I happen to have a plethora of hamburger and hot dog buns left over that I made for a party and they will grill up nicely for garlic bread, cheese toast and bruschetta. Continue reading “What to do with fresh tomatoes: Bruschetta”

Quick n Easy Breakfast, California style

It doesn’t get easier than this.

Only 3 ingredients, about 3 minutes…

And isn’t it pretty too?  Yellow and green and white.

To be even more colorful we could have added salsa on top. But nah…

It is a piece of toast, topped with part of a ripe avocado and then topped with a fried egg. The avocado was mashed on to the toast with a fork. You could conceivably mash it onto a plate first if you are afraid of ruining the toast, then slide it onto the toast.

But whats makes this breakfast so mega-spectacular is….it’s all home grown and home made. Thats some of our wheat/white bread I baked a couple of days ago, the avocado was from a friends tree, the egg was fresh from our chickens bum! Okay, not too fresh. I didn’t exactly go out there at 6am to gather eggs. I did go out just now, at 4-ish to collect. Here is todays haul:

The white ones are from Lefty, the large brown ones are from Ginger, the small brown ones are from Llana…

That is a bit dishonest. It is not actually todays haul. I like to collect every few days, so it looks like more. Then I am less likely to start pointing fingers with a “Alright, who’s not pulling her load” attitude. If I space out the collections, I am very happy with what I find. Instead of 2, 3 or 4, I find 7, 8 or 9. Happy, happy.

Okay Renee, I know you probably could collect about 25 per day. You should too and sell them. Start a roadside stand. Really!

Challah Bread

Now here is a holiday bread. Originally Jewish Sabbath bread, it is wonderful for any holiday table. I have the recipe here for you and you can adjust it to have a sesame topping, a poppy-seed topping, both, neither or how to make it a cinnamon raisin challah.

Festive Holiday Challah

But before I get started I just had to share a funny. Chicky-doodles is a little banty chicken that, due to her small size, usually stays away from the other girls. She got out this morning and was roaming the back yard. Seems she knows how to get out of the pen area, but has not figured out how to get back in.

Anyway, there she is, wandering around, pecking at Continue reading “Challah Bread”

ta-da! ta-da! ta-da! 1st gluten free loaf of bread a sucess ta-da!

Ah-ha, I have conquered my fear! I have scaled the highest peak, braved the monsters under the bed, sneered in the face of failure. Even missing the 1/2 cup brown rice flour I was supposed to put in there, my first loaf of gluten free bread came out a success!

Gf loaf #1

(Have you even gone to use an ingredient, or maybe to put it away, noticed it was not open yet and have that “oh-oh” moment? Like when the brown rice bag wasn’t even open and the bead recipe called had for it.)

#2 is about to come out of the oven. I will include that picture when it is done, cooled and I have tasted it. Not that I am a GF bread connoisseur. The only reason I am making it is I have had several people ask me about it due to their special dietary needs. I put this off for a looooong time! Bread without wheat flour, bahh! Thats like wine without grapes, bubble without gum…But I yield to the needs of my friends.

You may remember my brief interlude with gluten free eating. I didn’t even give it a chance. But I have faced my fears and finally made bread with rice and sorghum flours among other things. As you can tell, I am very excited. Now I better get back to the oven and take out loaf #2.

gluten free loaf #2


Gosh, this looks a lot like loaf #1 doesn’t it? Hmm. Very strange. Well, there you go. I have one other recipe I am going to try on sat. and that one includes sunflower seeds for crunch and flavor.

Wish me luck!

Oh yeah, we got “Hugo” in the mail today. Can’t wait to watch it tonight. Will make special popcorn and everything. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

“Fast Food Fridays”, and Italian Rolls

Well it’s that time of year again. Flowers around here are all in bloom, cats are howling in the alleyways and chickens are laying more eggs. It’s almost spring and as far as southern California is concerned, it is well into spring. And this means…Lent.

I didn’t do a post on Ash Wednesday, but here it is Lent again. For many Christians and especially Catholics, this means times of fasting, extra prayers and some sacrifice as a means of denying our physical side in an attempt to strengthening our spiritual side and, hopefully, finding ourselves in a closer walk with God.

Along those lines, our church has, on each Friday night during Lent, the Stations of the Cross and “Fast Food Friday”. This by no means has anything to do with golden arches or drive through windows. But as a way of “fasting” and abstinence, we gather together and have homemade meatless soup and home baked bread. Tonight it is Pasta Fagioli (pronounced “fazool”) and Italian dinner rolls. Guess who is making the rolls. Well, aren’t you the smart one! I am making lots of them and a friend is making some as well. I will try to recruit some helpers tonight. But for those who want to make some crispy dinner rolls of their own at home, here is how I go about it. Continue reading ““Fast Food Fridays”, and Italian Rolls”

Using Yeast in baking

Just a quick note or two on using yeast in baking.

First, it is cheaper to buy it in bulk and it freezes beautifully.

Second, It does not like to be too hot. If the liquid you add is much over 110 degrees, they will die a deadly death. Their little screams are beyond human hearing, but hot water kills them. If you need to, toss a small ice cube in your liquid before adding it to your yeast.

I generally add the yeast to the flour and sugars, whisking them all together with the salt and any other seasonings. Then I stir in all the liquids together, whisk a bit and let the standing mixer do the rest.

Generally you let dough raise once, press it down, shape it and let it raise again just before baking. The pressing down redistributes the yeasties, giving them new feeding ground while letting you shape the dough into a loaf or rolls or whatnot.

If worse comes to worse and you let the dough rise too much the second time, maybe you fell asleep or stayed blogging too long, you can redistribute them again by punching down and reshaping your dough, putting it back in the pan and covering it. After the 3rd time though there is a chance they can run out of food.I have never tried more than 3 raises.

When you first put the shaped loaf  in the oven, the sudden heat creates a frenzy of activity,  called a bloom. And that’s what your bread does, it blooms up, then the crust hardens as it gets hotter and hotter. The yeast gives its life for your bread. They are your buddies, laying asleep in their little jars and packets, waiting for their prince to come and wake them up. (so to speak). I buy the 1 lb. bags at Costco, freeze half and put the other half in a glass jar with a sealed lid to keep in the fridge. Its half the price of those little bread machine yeast jars, and the same type of stuff.

Do not fear the yeast..

Flour is flour…or is it?

Or… do you really care anyway.

I mean, most people’s hearts do not go pitter-pat when their favorite brand of flour goes on sale.

Most people do not get an adrenaline rush seeing a back stock of assorted flours lining their shelves.

But you don’t have to get all that excited about it to want to know a little more about the mainstay of your baking repertoire. Anyone who bakes at all for their families has to eventually deal with what kind of flour to use  and whats the difference between this and that. I did do a post a while back, intending it to be a series on baking bread. It did mention flours. But it petered out. Okay, techniquely, I petered out. So here I am again.

And yes, my favorite brand of flour was on sale and I bought them out.

Keep in mind this is just a brief nod to flour power. You can find entire chapters in baking books going on an on about flours. But I figure you probably don’t really want to know that much. Just the facts ma’am.

So, what brought this whole flour thing on? How about  watching several loaves of my cinnamon raisin swirl bread bake up beautifully, then sink or collapse sideways after getting it out of the pan unable to sustain its own structure. And that was using bread flour! it looked like a mighty zeppelin running out of gas and listing to port.

And my white bread: soft, velvety texture, but so soft it too leans over and mushes down from its own weight.

remember sad sack?

What is going on? Continue reading “Flour is flour…or is it?”