Apple Walnut Streusel Muffins

(Ha, spellcheck tried to turn ‘streusel’ into ‘stressful’. I can’t imagine muffins being stressful. Really? They are anti-stressful if you ask me. The cure for stress. A couple of these and some tea? Or a glass of milk or even coffee…)

First, Happy Mothers Day to all Mothers, grandmothers, foster mothers, God mothers, and anyone involved in mothering. 

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Since it was Mothers day, I figured I would make some of my own personal favorite muffins, apple walnut, although I do not have a go-to recipe really, like I do for some other recipes. This one is always hit and miss. So I dug through some of my favorite baking books.

This one is a hit! Continue reading “Apple Walnut Streusel Muffins”

Rustic Nut Bars

I have the greatest gratitude to Barbara Driscoll of WI for submitting this recipe to Taste of Home. It is amazing, if you like nuts, which I do. Nutty, salty, sweet, cookie-ish. Great for bake sales, family gatherings, school lunches, pot lucks, etc.

IMG_3062 (1024x765)With “Captain Ron” and “Romancing the Stone” alternately blasting in the background, I will share this great recipe for these nutty bars with you. And with the future me when I think to myself, “remember those nutty bar things? Where the heck did I put that recipe?”

Rustic Nutty Bars

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups cold butter
  • 2 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Topping:
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp.  heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups mixed nuts chopped.

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil or parchment so ends extend out. This is so you can lift the bars out when done, but still soft.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.This could be with a pastry cutter or food processor.
  4. Stir in the egg until blended. The mixture will be dry. Firmly press into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Take 18-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. In a heavy saucepan,combine honey and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil 2 minutes without stirring.Stir in butter and cream. Return to a boil.
  7. Cook and stir 1 minute or until smooth. Remove from heat and add nuts. I used a large can of chopped nuts plus some shelled pistachios I had lying around.
  8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until topping is bubbly.Cool completely in pan. Then lift out with edges of foil or parchment to rack.
  9. Remove foil and cut into bars.
  10. Yum!

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..

The main character, Katniss, is thinking back to when she was about 12 years old and was starving, along with her little sister and mother. She had been walking in the rain, looking in trash bins, looking for scraps to take home. She was out behind the bakery, next to the pigs, wishing she would just die.

“There was a clatter in the bakery and I heard the woman screaming again and the sound of a blow, and I vaguely wondered what was going on. feet sloshed toward me through the mud and I thought, Its her. She’s coming to drive me away with a stick. but it wasn’t her. It was the boy. In his arms, he carried two large loaves of bread that must have fallen into the fire because the crusts were scorched black.

His mother was yelling “Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!”

He began to tear off chunks from the burned parts and toss them into the trough, and the front bakery bell rung and the mother disappeared to help a customer.

The boy never even glanced my way, but I was watching him. Because of the red weal that stood out on his cheekbone. What had she hit him with? My parents never his us. I couldn’t even imagine it. The boy took one look back to the bakery as if checking that the coast was clear, then, his attention back on the pig, he threw a loaf of bread in y direction. The second quickly followed, and he sloshed back to the bakery, closing the kitchen door tightly behind him.

I stared at the loaves in disbelief. They were fine, perfect really, except for the burned areas. Did he mean for me to have them? He must have. Because there they were at my feet. Before anyone could witness what had happened I shoved the loaves up under my shirt, wrapped the hunting jacket tightly about me, and walked swiftly away. The heat of the bread burned into my skin, but I clutched it tighter, clinging to life.

By the time I reached home, the loaves had cooled somewhat, but the insides were still warm. When I dropped them on the table, Prim’s hands reached to tear off a chunk, but I made her sit, forced my mother to join us a  the table, and poured warm tea. I scraped off the black stuff and sliced the bread. We ate an entire loaf, slice by slice. It was good hearty bread, filled with raisins and nuts.”

Pages 38 & 39, by Suzanne Collins

The bread turned out good too. I even burnt the bottoms so you could cut them off. Be real hungry when you eat it. Fast for several days before hand. It is full of raisins, cranberries, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

My own version of Peeta Bread

Makes 1 loaf. You can start it in the bread machine. Be sure to check the dough for wet/dry factor. You want it tacky, but not too sticky and certainly not too dry. If so, add flour/water as needed to adjust.

Whisk together:

·         1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

·         ½ cup rye flour

·         1 cup bread flour

·         2 Tablespoons brown sugar

·         2 ½ teaspoons of yeast

·         1 heaping teaspoon of salt

Set these aside.

In a large mixing bowl, bread machine or Kitchenaide mixer, whisk together:

·         1 ¼ cup water

·         2 Tablespoons of oil or melted butter

·         Big blob of molasses. I don’t measure, but more or less a heaping Tbsp.

Once the liquids are mixed together, add the dry ingredients. If using a bread machine you usually put the wet ingredients in the bucket first, then the dry and set to ‘dough’ setting.

If using a mixer or doing by hand, start with a wooden spoon and mix and mix and mix, until it is too difficult to mix by hand. Cover and let it rest about 10 minutes. This is because whole grain flours take longer to absorb moisture and you might think it feels too wet and add more flour when it just needed more time to hydrate.

Times up! Now you do the keading. Using the dough hook of the mixer, start mixing at #2 speed. Or use your hands. As it mixes, if it feels too rough and dry, drizzle in a little more water. If it is way too sticky, sprinkle in a little bread or all-purpose flour. After just a few minutes of this, add the following:

·         Chopped walnuts

·         Dried cranberries

·         Raisins

·         Sunflower seeds

I add just a handful of each. In total you probably do not want more than 1 to 1 ¼ cup of add-ins. Now let it keep mixing until these are all incorporated.

By the way, I love adding left over mashed potatoes to bread. I add it in with the liquids, maybe ¼ cup to 1/3 cup per loaf. If you have some lying around, or have dehydrated potatoes in your cupboard, you can use them. If using the dehydrated, be sure to add a little more liquid to compensate. It makes the loaf a bit more moist and tender.

If you have caramel coloring you can add that for a darker bread.

Anyway, now once it’s all mixed and kneaded, let it rise, covered for 1-1 ½ hours, or until double or until you poke a finger in it and the indent stays. It depends on how cold your kitchen is. No rush.

Of course if it’s in the bread machine, you just wait until it beeps.

Gently deflate it the dough and on a lightly greased or floured counter, shape it into a taut, round shape. Tuck the sides under to tighten the ‘skin’.

Now, get a piece of parchment and lay it in a large skillet (this is what I do anyway.) Put your shaped dough on this, lightly oil and cover with plastic. . After 45 min to 1 hour the bread should be ready for baking. In the meantime…

Either put a baking stone in your oven, or use a large iron pot, like La Cruset or La Kirkland brand covered dutch oven, putting it in the oven and preheat at 400 degrees. Do this before the bread is ready, at least 20 minutes before baking so it is nice and hot in there.

Slash a cut in the top of the dough if you so desire. Brush with an egg wash. If you want, sprinkle with flour or wheat germ or bran for looks.

If baking on a stone, slide the dough with the parchment onto a pizza peal or the back of a cookie sheet and slide it onto the baking stone, closing the oven quickly to hold in the heat. If using a large pot, carefully take it out of the oven, lift the lid and gently lift the parchment ‘sling’ with your bread in it into the pot. Cover with a lid and put back in the oven. Take the lid off after 20 minutes of baking. This helps hold in the steam, creating a superior crust.

Bake until the loaf registers 200 degrees on your instant thermometer, I would say about 30-40 minutes. I cant remember because I always check with my thermometer.

Let it cool and then slice, eat, enjoy! Then go see “Catching Fire” when it comes out.

Oh Bananas!

This morning I woke up to the realization that these organic bananas I bought to have with my yogurt and granola were past their prime and well on the way to gnat-hood and an early death. I hadn’t even eaten one yet! Guess I dwaddled. So I peeled them, broke them in half and put them in a freezer bag. I am going to take these wholesome, nutritious fruit of the tropics, freeze them and, when the time is right, turn them into decadent cream cheese banana bread with streusel topping, or banana-chip muffins. I should be arrested for what I will do to them. On one hand I elevate them to glorious breakfast/dessert treat, but on the other, cover them in sugar and white flour, bringing them low on the healthful eating spectrum. Ah well. I could make a smoothie out of them. That would help them to maintain their dignity of healthfulness. It’s just frozen bananas, o.j., frozen strawberries, blueberries or whatever fruit I have handy with a few ice cubes. Brrrzzzrp in the blender. Voila. What? It’s too cold out for smoothies? Well, back to banana bread.

Actually, tonight it’s pumpkin, pecan and pear-cranberry pies so I better get busy.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!