Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baking for a crowd

I took on the assignment of baking 125 cookies for a church conference back in February.  The weekend arrived of the meetings and it was time for me to start baking.  Fortunately my 14 year old daughter, Nan, wanted to assist me.  Cate, 16, helped with the packaging later on.  I had chosen my Chocolate Oat Crunch cookie recipe because it is one of my favorites. It  is a yummy substantial cookie, consisting of oats, coconut, chocolate chips, with a hint of cinnamon.   I decided white chocolate chips would be a nice addition.  This recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and 3 cups of oats, so it makes a large batch of cookie dough.  Three recipes would do the trick, I decided.
We began baking at 1 pm and until 6 pm the oven was in full use.  As the cookies cooled, I drizzled each one with white chocolate.  Once that had hardened, each individual cookie was place in a cellophane bag and tied with a pastel ribbon. Cate, Nan and I formed an assembly line and soon the job was finished.  I arranged them in my long wooden basket and set them on the table for a final count by my husband, eighty exactly, so I threw one more in for good measure.
The next morning he was going to the conference breakfast at the church and was able to deliver them for me.  How nice to complete the job.  I really do have a deep love for baking.  It was not a burden at all, but a joy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Soft Pretzels

There is nothing better smelling than bread cooking in my oven and for someone who is wheat and gluten free it is a smell that I don't often get to experience .  It is tortuous anyway!  But on this Friday afternoon, Nan, my 14 year old daughter was in the mood to "cook something".  And since she and her older sister have a teen function tonight that required them to bring a snack, I told Nan she could cook something for the party, serving two functions at once.  We looked beyond the usual chips and dips, cookies and brownie recipes, especially since Nan is hypoglycemic and can't have sugar, and I found the perfect recipe for soft pretzels.
The recipe is quite simple, and she is used to making bread, having made pizza dough before.  I will say it was time consuming process because the pretzels had to rise for 45 minutes, then immersed in almost boiling water for 30 seconds and a final baking at 475 for ten minutes.  But it was well worth the wait and I am sure they will all be gobbled up quickly tonight.  Ahh, for just one taste....
The pretzels rose for 45 minutes.

The hot water bath.

The finished product with cinnamon sugar.

Closeup of pretzel with kosher salt.

Nan with her creation.

Soft Pretzels for 12

1 1/3 c hot water
2 1/2 ts dry yeast
1 1/2 ts sugar
Mix these well and let proof for 5 minutes.

4 c flour
2 TB butter
3/4 ts salt
Add ingredients to yeast mixture and mix well, I used my kitchen aid mixer for this.  Cut dough into strips and roll into ropes and shape into pretzels.  Place on greased baking sheet, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

4 c water
1 1/2 ts baking soda
In a cast iron or other non aluminum pan, bring water and baking soda almost to a boil.  Gently lower pretzels into water for about 1 minute, turning once.  Do not let water boil.  Remove pretzels and return to greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake at 475 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy a hot pretzel--just like the ones in the mall!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Miracle Mixer

Last May 29th my daughter, Claire married a wonderful man, Witt Davis.  We love having another son in the family.  So about this time last year my life was full of wedding plans.  It was a lot of fun, but a great deal of work and it's nice to be able to reflect upon it all this spring.
I remembering being so excited when I found Claire the "perfect" shower gift.  But I really cannot take the credit for this find, God led me there.
Hart and I have a lunch date every Friday that we are free.  We normally go to our local Chinese restaurant.  They serve a delicious hibachi shrimp dish, my favorite.  But this was a Tuesday and I must have just gotten back from running a lot of errands, because I talked Hart into taking me to lunch that day.  As we were eating, we talked  about the shower coming up and how I wanted to get Claire something really special.  Hart , knowing what I'd really like to get her , said he wished we could afford a Kitchen Aid Mixer, but the cheapest are around $200.00  to $300.00....  When you are paying for a wedding, you count every penny and an extravagant shower gift was not in the budget.  Yet, I knew,  a Kitchen Aid Mixer would have been perfect.  You see Claire is the one who loved to cook of all of our girls.  And Hart says, even now, he can tell when Claire is home, because the mixer is running!  She was accepted into culinary school in Paris, but for various reasons, did not go.  Oh, much for my dreams, I thought.
After we eat on Fridays we usually go by Goodwill for Hart likes to look for first edition books.  I usually browse the housewares.  So as I was walking through the appliances on this particular Tuesday I noticed a dirty, large mixer on the bottom shelf.  I bent down and lugged it onto the floor, frantically motioning for Hart to come over.  It was a Kitchen Aid Mixer!
I found an electrical outlet and we plugged it in, it worked!  All three beaters were there.  The bowl was in perfect shape.  And did I mention the color was almond.  That's the unusual color that Claire had chosen in her Bridal Registry.  The only problem I could see was that it had some grease on it.  Best part?  It was only $25.00.
We were so excited and couldn't wait to get home to clean it up.  And it came clean beautifully, not a scratch on it anywhere.  In fact if I had had the original box there is no way anyone would have known it was not new.  Amazing?  Yes, because I have an amazing God.  It reminds me of  Psalm 37:4,  "Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart". I told the story of the mixer at the shower and the women had tears in their eyes.  We call it the Miracle Mixer.
I still browse the appliance section on Fridays, but I've never seen another Kitchen Aid Mixer.  God surely works in mysterious ways.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

A good breakfast  is yogurt with walnuts, fruit and a drizzle of honey.  If  I'm really hungry I'll have a gluten-free muffin as well.  It's quick, easy and nutritious.  I love Stoneyfield Organic plain yogurt, but it's expensive so I decided I'd like to make my own.  I was in Goodwill and as I was perusing the appliance section I came upon a  Salton yogurt maker for just 2 or 3 dollars.  I figured since it was intact and cheap, I could take the risk of whether it worked or not.
After a good scrub, the ceramic cups are dishwasher safe, I searched for  recipes and found one from the Salton  website that I liked.  I successfully followed the instructions and poured the ingredients into the 5 cups of the yogurt maker and plugged it in.  Voila!   Ten hours later I had rich, creamy yogurt and it's delicious too.

My Goodwill Salton Yogurt Maker

Plain Yogurt Recipe

1quart organic milk
1 TB plain yogurt (this is your starter).
Bring milk to a boil ( heat until 185 degrees).
Cool milk until it reaches 110 degrees.
Add the TB yogurt starter.  Stir well.
Pour into the 5 serving jars, cover.
Plug in yogurt maker and set the dial for 10 hours.   

I'm looking forward to some freshly picked strawberries to put on my yogurt:)