Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Rewind.... White Loaves!

Since there were five Tuesdays this month, this last one gives the Tuesday's with Dorie bakers a chance to re-do a recipe or make one up that we missed.  I made the White Loaves, which were actually the very first recipe that the group ever made, back on February 7, 2012!  I started the group a bit later, so I missed the first few recipes.  I think I am totally caught up now, though! 

Anyway, I am not sure why it took me over 2 years to make this bread, because it is delicious.  I don't generally buy white bread, because I don't care for the white generic squishy Wonder-bread type white bread that I think of.  This is still nice and soft in the middle, but has a much better chew.  And the flavor is very mild and nice.  This bread is fantastic for a piece of toast in the morning,  for a sandwich, slathered with butter and garlic for garlic bread, you name it!  I was so proud to send the clever girl to school with a sandwich with homemade bread in her lunchbox!  And that's because she ASKS for it.  She wants the new bread.  Yeah!

White Loaves
adapted from Baking with Julia

2 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups (approximately) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer.  Sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and whisk together gently.  Allow to rest for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy.

Using the mixer and dough hook, add the remaining water and about 3 1/2 cups of the flour to the yeast.  Go slowly, so you don't get a flour explosion all over your kitchen!  Keep that mixer on low speed.  Once these initial cups of flour are mixed in, slowly add the remaining 3 1/2 cups.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the dough comes together.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and hook as needed.  If the dough doesn't come together, add a bit more flour, one tablespoon at a time.  Add the salt and continue to mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes.  You may need to give your mixer a little hug to keep her from dancing off of the counter.  A reassuring hand should do the trick.  If your mixer refuses to mix this dough, no worries.  Mix it about halfway in the mixer if you can, and then dump it onto a lightly floured board and knead by  hand for 8 to 10 more minutes.  When the dough is thoroughly mixed it will be smooth and elastic.  Add the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until incorporated.  Your mixer will probably think this is just fine.  Butter makes everyone happy!

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.  Place in a large buttered bowl (something that can hold double the amount of the ball).  Turn the ball all around to cover the entire surface with butter.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it doubles in size.

Butter two loaf pans (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch) and set them aside.

Deflate the dough and turn it onto a work surface.  Divide in half and set one half aside.  Using your palm or a rolling pin (I used my hand) pat the dough into a rectangle about 9 inches wide and 12 inches long, with a shorter side facing you.  Starting at the top, create an envelope fold in the dough.  Fold the top edge 2/3 of the way down the dough, as if you were folding a letter.  Now fold it again, so the bottom of your page  meets the fold you made.  Pinch the seam together.  Turn the roll so that the seam is on the center of the dough, facing up.  Fold in the ends of the dough a little if necessary, so they will fit into the pan.  Pinch all seams to seal and turn the loaf over so all seams are on the bottom.  Gently pick up the dough and place it into one of your prepared pans.  Repeat with the second half of the dough. 

Cover the loaves loosely with buttered plastic wrap and allow them to rise in a warm place (about 80F) until they double in size again, about 45 minutes.  They will grow over the tops of the pans a bit. 

While the loaves rise, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375F.

To test if the loaves are fully risen, poke your finger in the top.  If the impression stays, they are done!  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until they are golden brown and an instant read thermometer stuck into the center of the bottom of the bread reads 200F.  To make this part easier, once the bread has baked for about 25 minutes, open the oven, tip the loaves out of their pans, and put them back in.  This will help them brown along the sides AND make it much easier to take the bread's temperature!  Allow to cool, removed from the pan, on a rack.  This bread should not be cut until they are almost completely cool.  Waiting is the hardest part!

The bread can be kept in a brown paper bag for a day or two before it is cut.  Once it is sliced, turn it cut side down on a counter or cutting board and cover with a tea towel.  To store a bit longer, wrap airtight with plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month.  Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.
Printable Recipe

I think my bread should have risen a bit more, maybe.  Though I am not sure why it didn't.  The crumb on the inside was good...  I did feel like the bread was pretty sticky when I set it out for the first rise, maybe I  should have kneaded it more??   It has gotten very humid here (can summer really be here already??  NO NO NO!!) so maybe the humidity is a factor as well.  Regardless, it was delicious and I will definitely make it again. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Another Twirly Easter Dress!

You may recall that I made the clever girl a twirly Easter dress last year.  She LOVES that dress.  I mean to say she wears that dress at every opportunity.  When looking over photos of the clever girl for the past year, in practically all photos, she is in that dress!  So it was abundantly clear that I  needed to make her another one!  This time, I changed up the bodice a little bit. 

In this photo, the original front bodice pattern is in the back.  On top, I placed the new pattern.  Essentially, I measured over 1/2 inch on the upper right side, which is the width of the bias tape trim.  Then I drew a diagonal line from there to the bottom left corner.  Use the same pattern for the opposite side, just flip it over so the diagonal is going the other way.  Done!  I first added the bias trim to the diagonal parts of the parts of the bodice and had the halter straps come up from the under arm section.   I recommend, however, doing it the other way.  First sew the bias trim to the under arm sections, only the length of those sections.  Then add the trim to the diagonal sections, and continue these up for the halter ties.  I think this will lay more smoothly.  Once the bodice front(s) and back are sewn together, sew again up the bias strip on the bodice front top layer, affixing it to the bodice front bottom layer.  This way the criss-cross won't gap as your kiddo dances around! 
I love how the elastic shirring makes the bodice fit nice and snugly, and the halter looks so pretty from the back.
The clever girl loves the twirliness of the dress.  Again, it is perfectly danceable!  She has already worn this dress several times.  It has quickly become a new favorite!

If you have a little girl who loves to twirl, I highly recommend making one of these dresses, either version!  They are very fast and infinitely rewarding! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Giraffe Shortall

I have started sewing for the clever baby!  Actually, I should probably now refer to him as the clever boy, as he recently had his first birthday.  I can hardly believe it!  How does time fly by so quickly??  Anyway, to celebrate his birthday, I made him a Giraffe Shortall/Romper/Jon-Jon.  What is the correct term for these things??  I am not sure, but I have become a bit addicted to them, so you will be seeing more versions from other patterns too.  I love the one-piece outfit for kiddos!

This pattern is from Stitch Magazine, Spring 2014.  Their pattern is called "Goldfish Shortall" however I vetoed the goldfish applique and decided on a giraffe one instead.  I am kind of in to giraffes for this little guy, as you can see here and here.  I actually used the same giraffe image for the applique as I did in the giraffe baby blanket, just much bigger.   And I learned something in the midst of this applique project!  I have done a decent amount of applique but this time, the fabric kept bunching up and it was not going well.  This may be because the outfit is lined, and both fabrics are cut on the bias, so maybe there was just too much going on.  Using a walking foot did not solve the problem.  So I brainstormed a bit and decided to use freezer paper.  Yes, indeed, I ironed freezer paper to the back of the fabric (so on the inside, on the lining) and then the sewing was a BREEZE.  Freezer paper to the rescue!  When I was done, I just ripped it off and I had a perfect (or perfect enough for me) appliqued giraffe!  So, note to self - when doing any sort of applique, go ahead and iron some freezer paper to the back side!  It provides a perfect stage on which to sew. 

I have some mixed feelings about this romper pattern.  The pattern itself does not call for the correct amount of material, and the cutting layout is also incorrect.  The pattern says to do everything on the bias, but the material amount and cutting layout is for doing so NOT on the bias.  So I had to return to the store and purchase more material, which irks me a bit.  Thankfully, I found the exact material I had already purchased, so it wasn't so bad.  Past that, the pattern was fine.  I found it to be a bit wide for  my little guy, so if I make this again, I will try to make it a bit more narrow.  He is in the low side of the weight scale for kids his age, so most things are a bit too wide for him. 

I made my own piping and I think it adds a nice touch, though I find sewing with piping to be a challenge!  Such a big bump in the seams!  I just need to practice more! 

Overall, I am thrilled as to how this outfit turned out.  The giraffe really makes it, in my opinion.  It was fun to finally sew something for my little man! 

I have already made another romper/shortall/jon-jon from another pattern, and will post that one soon! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Cantuccini

Today, Tuesday's with Dorie brings you Cantuccini.  Cantuccini looks exactly like biscotti, for the simple fact that it IS biscotti.  In fact, this is generally what you think of, when you think of biscotti.  As it turns out, the term "biscotti" is used for ALL cookies in Italian, and cantuccini are this particular form.  Ah, a bit of cookie education to start off the day!

These cookies are amazingly fast and easy to make.  There is no special equipment, and it is all mixed in one bowl, by hand!  You will likely be done preparing the cookies before your oven is pre-heated.  The dough is a bit sticky, so be ready to have some pretty darned messy hands, but I found that keeping my hands damp with water helped tremendously.  The recipe in the book claimed to make 8 DOZEN biscotti, and since I am not trying to open a coffee or tea shop here, I made 1/3 of the recipe and ended up with 18 cookies.  Perfect. 

Now, I will admit that at times my measurements for 1/3 of a recipe were simply pretty good guesses.  I did not take the time to weigh out the ingredients, I just approximated some of them.  So, my measurement for 1/3 of 1/2 of a teaspoon of cinnamon might have been a bit off, but I decided it was close enough!  If I make this again, I may change up a few things...  Instead of using vanilla extract, I would use almond extract (though a bit less as almond is more potent than vanilla).  Also, I think they would benefit greatly from a drizzle of dark chocolate.  How could it not? 

If you are looking for a good traditional biscotti recipe, I would suggest giving this one a try.  They are nice and crunchy, but not in the break-your-tooth family of crunchiness as I have found with some other purchased biscotti.  I had mine with a mug of tea, and it was a lovely complement.  Alas, I am not a coffee drinker, so I cannot attest to how the cookie pairs with coffee.  The recipe suggests serving with "vin santo", an Italian dessert wine.  That is definitely worth trying!

You can find the recipe for Cantuccini on pages 313 - 314 of Baking with Julia, or by going here

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Waffles

I recently decided to try out a new waffle recipe.  Why not spice things up a bit and see what else is out there?  Now, normally, I make this recipe.  But then I fell upon a recipe entitled "Waffle of Insane Greatness".  How could I NOT give this one a try???

Ok, seriously, this really is one amazing waffle.  Mr. Clever Mom's words were, "this is the BEST waffle I have EVER had".  Why?  I asked.  It was all about the texture. It is very light and crisp, not as heavy as other waffles tend to be.  Plus even after they were cooked and sitting on a plate ready to be eaten, they didn't get soggy right away as other waffles tend to do.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Or something like that.

The only sad thing about this recipe is that the batter has to sit for 30 minutes before you start cooking.  That is a long 30 minutes when you are anticipating waffles of insane greatness!  But we can all find ways to occupy our time in the  morning for 30 minutes, can't we? 

Waffle of Insane Greatness
adapted from Foodnetwork

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron.  You should not need to butter the waffle iron, the oil in the batter should be enough to release the cooked waffles.  HOWEVER, when I made these, Mr. Clever Mom was being helpful and went ahead and buttered the waffle iron.  Obviously we did not have a sticking problem.  But I can't vouch for what happens with no butter.  I'll try that next time!

Cook the waffles per your waffle iron's instructions.
Printable Recipe

Next time, I will double this recipe.  We could have eaten more.  If I could 1 1/2 it, I would do that instead, but doubling it will simple make us enough for breakfast and some left over for another morning! 

Check out this Waffle of Insane Greatness. With a  name like that, how can you go wrong?

Monday, April 7, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Potato Lefse

This post was supposed to happen last week.  However I just didn't get around to making the recipe until this past weekend, so I decided I'd post my Tuesday's with Dorie week as soon as I got to it, and not stress out about the whole thing.  No need for extra stress!
Anyway, the recipe was Potato Lefse.  Have any clue what that is?  Don't worry, I didn't either.  Essentially, a potato lefse is what you get when mashed potatoes and crepes get together and have a baby.  You get a potato crepe.  Now, I am not a huge fan of crepes.  That is not a good thing in my house as my daughter loves them and my husband enjoys making them for her.  I just find them to be a bit too sweet in the morning (of course all of the fillings is what makes it sweet) and there is something about the texture that I don't like.  It all comes down to the fact than when I was a little girl I happened to get ill one day that I happened to make crepes for breakfast.   Take that in whatever direction you care, and you'll understand, I am certain. 
I have to admit, I find potato lefse to be highly superior to crepes, but they take MUCH more time.  As in you have to make the mashed potato mixture and then let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  That's a lot of pre-planning.  They are also way, way, WAY messier, as instead of pouring batter (as in crepes) you are rolling dough (like a pie crust).  You could get all fancy here and buy some SPECIFIC lefse tools for this, but I did not.  Instead of having an official lefse canvas round, grooved rolling pin, and lefse stick, I used a silpat, rolling pin, and spatula.  I think it all worked out fine.
I did, however, take this as a great reason to purchase a potato ricer.  I mean, the book even says that it is an "old fashioned, inexpensive, effective utensil".  Obviously  I needed one.  I am certain I could have made these by making sure I mashed the heck out of the potatoes so there were no lumps, but I agree with the book, a ricer is a tool that I won't regret.  Plus it was super inexpensive. And since I was already late in making the potato lefse for the TWD post, why not just order a ricer and get on with it??  Yee-ha, Amazon Prime!  I mean, is there anything you can't find on Amazon these days?  I love shopping without leaving my house.  That is the perfect shopping experience. 
But I digress.  Here is the lowdown on making potato lefse:

First  you boil some diced potatoes until they are soft but not mushy, then set them out to dry a bit.  I am not sure why this picture looks like cheddar cheese, but trust me, it is actually diced potato.

Next rice those potatoes into a bowl. See my new ricer?  Very pretty, isn't she?  It totally reminds me of those things I used to use with play-doh to squish out "spaghetti" or "hair".  You could probably actually use that play-doh gadget, but it sure would take a while since it is so small! 

Mix in some melted butter, heavy cream, sugar and salt, get it all smooth and stick it in the refrigerator so it dries out overnight.

In the morning, mix in some flour and get ready to make a giant mess.  Well, at least it was at my house.  This needs TONS of flour on the rolling board and pin or else it sticks, thus I had flour everywhere.  Ah, well.  Roll a small portion out into a super thin sort of circle shape (mine were totally NOT circles, more like abstract blobs), roll it onto the rolling pin, and then place on a hot griddle.  I used my pancake griddle, which stretches over two burners, so I was able to cook two lefse at once.  Cook it like a pancake and then off it goes, onto a terry cloth towel.

Serve these warm, brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Mmmm.  According to the recipe, you could also put a hotdog inside and brush then with butter and mustard.  Then they are called potato lumpa.  I did the cinnamon sugar kind and it was very nice.  It has more oomph than a regular crepe, and a way better texture.  They are kind of like fresh flour tortillas...mmmm.  The next time you have some mashed potato leftovers, keep this recipe in mind.  They take a bit of work but they are quite nice!  Oh, and in case you have a tiny person at your house, the clever baby enjoyed these as well!

You can find the recipe on pages 165-166 of Baking with Julia, or here.  Check out what my fellow TWD bakers thought by visiting the TWD blog.