Going crackers for oatmeal!

It’s been a long time since I’ve baked crackers. I like them, especially with cheese or spreads, but usually take what seems the easy way out. I buy them at the store. My sister-in-law recently reminded me that many years ago, when she and her family were visiting, I’d made graham crackers. I’d totally forgotten about that until she nudged my memories. And it was all the nudge I needed to try out a recipe for oat crackers from a new cookbook

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark.

In the cookbook, the recipe was actually named “Port-Glazed Stilton with Homemade Oat Biscuits”. But I was interested in the “biscuits”, which really sounded more like crackers to me when rolled out thinner rather than thicker.

So, last night I measured out the white whole wheat flour and rolled oats, added a little sugar, baking soda, salt, then cut in some butter. Blending in the yogurt brought the dough together. I rolled it out, baked them as directed in the recipe. Then tried one. Yum. Tried another just to make sure. Yup. Still “yum”. Then ate a few more because they were still good. (If you look ahead to the recipe and see the ratio of butter to flour and oatmeal, you’ll not be surprised that they tasted good!) I had only made half a recipe, because I just wanted to try it out. I should have made the full recipe, as by morning we had finished them all up.

No photos to show as we gobbled them up before I had a chance to get out the camera.

Here’s the recipe:

Oat Biscuits

1 cup whole wheat or white flour
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the oats, and using your fingers (my FAVORITE part), rub in the butter to form a coarse meal. Fold in the yogurt.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 3/16 inch thick. Cut the dough into 20 rectangles and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle with addition salt, if desired, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are dark golden brown. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight container. (laugh out loud. There won’t be anything to store if you’re like me!)


No Knead Bread with the Minimalist

My old e-Mac had been slowing down, until it was about as slow as molasses. Thought I should work in a food related reference! So last week I decided to get serious about seeing if I could get it back up and working well. I am not happy to report that my many hours of effort have resulted in the computer now not working at all.

Good thing that my baking efforts have been more successful. As I continue to work my way through Mark Bittman’s favorite 25 recipes, I revisited a recipe I’ve made before for No Knead Bread. He calls it “My most popular recipe, and it isn’t even mine. Credit Jim Lahey.”

When I came upon this recipe some years ago, I really wanted to try it, but didn’t have the right baking pot. It was my excuse to buy a beautiful blue Lodge dutch oven.

I had some sourdough starter in the refrigerator that I have been messing with the past month.

It’s gradually getting more sour, and I hoped that I could use some for no-knead bread. So I searched a little on the internet and found what looked like a way to do that. Since the sourdough starter has yeast, along with flour and water, I adjusted the recipe to omit the added yeast, and reduced the flour and water to account for the sourdough starter. Things went great! Wonderful tasting bread with a crackly crust. Still not as sour as I’d liked, but that will come with time.

Mt Rainier winter adventure!

We have reservations at the National Park Inn that is located in Longmire, within Mt Rainier National Park, for Sunday and Monday night. I made the reservations a while ago, as a birthday celebration, with hopes for good winter snow play weather.

So, weather forecast is for snow tomorrow, then partly sunny on Monday. Hip Hip Hurrah! Maybe we’ll even see “THE MOUNTAIN”. That’s how we refer to Mt. Rainier. It’s spectacular when you can see it. The surroundings are spectacular even if you can’t see it.

So, I felt I’d better be prepared with some food for our expedition. While the Inn has a restaurant, I’m not reading great reviews, plus I’m still kind of frugal and don’t want the cost of eating out every meal. So I’ve packed some food to bring along. Granola for breakfast. I’m partial to recipe from Alton Brown. The maple syrup and nuts are perfect.

I also decided we need some rolls for sandwiches. I tried a recipe from King Arthur Flour for Ham and Cheese Buns.

Some wrote into the King Arthur Flour webpage “Holy Moses” when she saw how they turned out. I’ll second that. Wow!

Well, I won’t know until tomorrow what they taste like as I’ve forbidden Dave to sample any until we “hit the road”. But they sure look good.

Success at last.

Grilled Naan

My sister Becky pointed us to way to a recipe for buttery seeded naan, an Indian flatbread, on the King Arthur Flour website. If you haven’t figured this out by now, I love this site. Love it, love it, love it. If I lived nearer Vermont, I’d be applying for any jobs they have open so I could work there. But, I really like living in the Pacific NW, so unless King Arthur Flour starts up a west coast place, I’m out of luck and will just have to keep making apple juice.

But this recipe kept creeping into my mind. I wanted to make it, but it’s hot. I mean hot, like blazing hot, desert scorching hot. I don’t want to heat up my oven to bake some naan and end up heating up our house also. So, this just stayed dormant until I suddenly realized that you could probably make naan on the grill! I did a little internet sleuthing and found many agreed with me. SO, I proceeded, as usual not quite following the recipe. Knead by hand. No, not me when my bread machine will step in. I added the ingredients during my lunch break to my bread machine, placing the egg, milk and yogurt at the bottom, covering it with the flour, then adding the yeast, baking powder and other ingredients. Pushed a few buttons so that it would start up mid-afternoon, with hopes of bread dough ready to handle when I got home from work. And – it worked! I rolled out the dough as the recipe said, heated up my little grill, and WOW, here’s freshly grilled naan.

Ok, so it doesn’t look like the naan on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but it really did taste good. All I need…. add some grilled chicken and salad and it’s a meal.

Bread even better!

My sister Becky turned me on to King Arthur Flour’s web site.
I’m glad she did. It’s a great place to get inspiration for baking, and some skills needed to do it right. Becky shared their ciabatta bread recipe, which I’ve made, as has my Uncle Dick. TOG tried the recipe recently, and it came out pretty flat. Yet was still good enough to use with his dipping sauce. He shared it with me, and I want to share it with a broader audience (the other two readers of this blog?). Sound so good that I’m ready to try it out for myself once we return home!

Here’s the recipe for dipping stuff. Not too scientific, just add what you

Herbed Oil For Dipping (Like Carrabba’s)

Yield: 1/2 cup

Prep. Time: 0:05

1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

-Combine all ingredients, except oil, on a shallow bowl or plate.
-Pour olive oil over.

I used the 1/2 cup of EVOO and watch the red pepper If you don’t want
it too hot.

Baking Becky’s Bread

Well, really this should be called “Sue is baking Becky’s favorite bread”, but I liked all the B’s together.  So it’s Baking Becky’s Bread.  The Three B’s.

OK.  The refrigerator smells better, although there is still some lingering weird smell.  Thanks, Brad, for suggesting I check to see if there is a dead mouse under it.  Good idea, but I think that the whole kitchen and house would have smelled bad if that were the case.  In years past, with cats who loved bringing in wounded but still live mice to play with, that would have been a pretty real possibility.  But I haven’t seen many mice around lately.

Back to bread.  My sister Becky has shared that her current favorite bread to bake is King Arthur Flour’s ciabatta.  I made it last weekend, and tried it again this weekend. I think it turned out well, even if I didn’t exactly time our time home and away from home the way I should have. I ended up sticking the dough in the refrigerator half way through it’s first rise as we headed out for a hike, and removed it to continue it’s rise when we got back home. Here’s how the bread looked when it was all done baking. Looked good; tasted even better!

So, it turned out well, but I did have one part that gave me trouble. This is the part of the recipe that I thought I read carefully:

4) Lightly grease your work surface, and a half-sheet baking pan (18″ x 13″) or similar large baking sheet. Grease your hands, as well.

5) Very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface; you don’t want to deflate it. It’ll lose a bit of volume, but don’t actively punch it down.

6) Using a bowl scraper, bench knife, or your fingers, divide the dough in half. You should have two fat logs, each about 10″ long x 4″ wide.

I read this and heavily greased the work surface, baking sheet and my hands. Then I grabbed my sharp knife, not noticing the part about a “bench knife.” Isn’t a knife a knife? I mostly was thinking you needed a sharp knife. Well, as my heavily greased hands grabbed the sharp knife, perhaps you can see the problem. Greased hands just can’t hold a knife. So it slipped. At least I didn’t cut any skin or clothing or even the countertop. But it did get my attention.

Next time I’ll use my hands to divide the dough in half!   More mishaps in the kitchen.  Join me at your own risk!

With visions of …..

The correct ending would be “sugarplums”. It’s almost Christmas, and my kitchen should be filled with a variety of special cookies, like my sister Becky has made. I haven’t done much special baking… yet. Instead I continue to waste my time watching videos on the internet from Mark Bittman, a writer for the New York Times. His regular column, the Minimalist, is a favorite of mine. A recent piece was about Popovers. Or Yorkshire pudding without the roast beef.

My favorite part in watching the video is when he said (and I quote him exactly) “it’s not imperative that you make a mess, but don’t worry about it”. I had to watch the video a second time just to make sure I heard it correctly. My kind of cook!

How to win friends (or, My “signature” cinnamon rolls)

I LOVE to bake. Cookies. Pies. Bread. But I haven’t done hardly any baking for many months. My midsection had outgrew my clothes, and I needed drastic measures. So, I quit baking. Week after week, I stuck to my resolve to lose weight. And gradually, very slowly, it has been coming off. But the urge to bake hasn’t gone away. So I decided a few nights ago to make up a pan of cinnamon rolls to bring to work. That way I get to bake, but don’t have a dozen cinnamon rolls to tempt Dave and me to indulge too freely. The rolls are ones I’ve made dozens of times. I use a bread machine, and they are easy for me to make the night before, refrigerate, then bake in the morning. I consider them my “signature” baked goods, what I make over and over again and that people have come to expect (or at least, hope for) from me. I think with pleasure of what I consider other people’s “signature” recipes – my mother’s almond kringles, my sister’s Amish potato rolls. But these pecan cinnamon rolls are mine.

It’s a recipe I clipped from a Better Homes and Garden magazine years ago (decades ago, really). I’ve revised it to use a bread machine, but you can make them the “old fashioned” way if you’d like. Also, the original recipe was named “raisin-pecan cinnamon rolls”. I don’t like raisins cooked into anything, so I leave them out!

Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

In bread machine, add all ingredients. Program machine for dough setting – press start and come back in an hour and half or so. Take dough out of bread machine, punch down and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. While dough is resting, prepare filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine all filling ingredients, cutting in butter till crumbly.

Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough square; top with pecans. Roll up jelly roll style; pinch edges to seal. Slice roll into 12 one-inch pieces. Arrange dough slices in a greased 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Cover dough loosely with clear plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes (or until nearly doubled in size – it sometimes takes longer for mine to finish raising). (or, for immediate baking, don’t chill dough but let rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 45 minutes). Bake in 375 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. If necessary to prevent overbrowning, cover rolls loosely with aluminum foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. Remove rolls from overn. Cool for 1 minute. Invert onto wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert again onto serving platter and drizzle with Powdered Sugar Glaze: Stir together 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp corn syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla and enough half and half or light cream (or milk) to make of drizzling consistency.

Serve warm and make new friends.

So yesterday morning I brought the refrigerated pan of cinnamon rolls into work, let the rolls raise, and then baked them in the lunchroom of my building. Mmmm. Love that smell of baking bread, especially when cinnamon is included. And I kind of like how it seems to drive a lot of people kind of crazy – smelling bread baking but not knowing what’s going on.

When they were ready I let my department (of sorts) know they were ready, and some of the quality assurance folks and engineers sat down with me to enjoy them. So nice to hear how much they love them. And almost even funnier to notice the Director of Information Services poking into the lunchroom multiple times, kind of hovering around. But I didn’t invite him to join us. Am I mean or what???

I’m not quite sure…. I like sharing. I like baking. But I also like to choose my “guests”.

All readers of my blog – this invitation goes out to you. Be my guest and join me for some fresh from the oven baked goods. Please!