Monday, May 24, 2010

Tomato Basil Bread

My husband and I frequently eat at the chain restaurant Panera Bread.  They have pretty good food for your money and it is relatively quick to eat there without the greasy cheeseburgers.  I typically have their turkey sandwich on tomato basil bread.  It is a soft bread with a nice crust.  The tomato and basil flavors are there but subtle.  I decided that it should be a fairly simple recipe to try and recreate at home.

For my base recipe, I chose Peter Reinhart's White Bread Variation 1 out of his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It was purported to be a soft bread, ideal for sandwiches.  Exactly what I was looking for.  Also, it used powdered milk and water to tenderize the bread rather than liquid milk, so I could easily substitute tomato juice for water.  I chose to use V8 as my tomato flavor, because it is a bit thicker than plain tomato juice and it happened to be what I had on hand.  I was also able to use fresh basil from my tiny herb garden on my deck.  Because the V8 was thicker than water, I did need to use more of V8 than the recipe called for.

The bread turned out to be a nice soft yet sturdy sandwich kind of bread.  My husband said it tasted like tomato soup in bread form.  I think that it will make quite delicious grilled cheese.

Tomato Basil Bread  loosely adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

22.5 oz bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 cup nonfat instant milk
3T and 1/4 tsp sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups low sodium V8
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped up

Mix together dry ingredients.  Pour in wet ingredients and mix together.  Knead for 6-8 minutes or until dough passes the windowpane test.  Dough at this point is quite wet.  Allow to raise for 1 hour.  Turn out onto well floured board and knead by had 2-3 minutes.  Shape into loaves and allow to raise for another hour or so.

Egg wash if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees until done. (Approximately 30-40 minutes)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


These lovelies were a gift to my mother this year for Mother's Day.  She loves Turtles and I had never made any before so I thought I would give it a shot in honor of her.  I got the book Field Guide to Candy a couple of months ago, but had not had a lot of opportunity to make too many things out of it.  Candy is a whole different ballgame it seems, a more exact science than just yeast, flour, and water.  However, the Field Guide to Candy had great directions and these turtles came together quite easily.

They are a basic hard ball stage caramel dropped over whole peacans placed in the shape of a turtle.  The caramel is allowed to harden and then the whole thing is dipped in chocolate.  I fear tempering chocolate, and instead took the easy way out, Wilton Candy Melts.  Candy melts are easy to use and give you the firm coating that using chocolate chips lacks.  Someday I will venture into tempering chocolate, but this was not that day.

The only complaint that I had was that possibly the caramel was too hard.  It was a very chewy caramel.  It is likely that I cooked it a bit to long, however, everyone who ate them really enjoyed them.  Perhaps next time I will experiment with a softer caramel.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flavored Butters

For my little sister's wedding, she decided to have a bread bar for her appetizers.  If you know my sister, you know this is a perfect appetizer for her.  She is the queen of carbs!  Of course she wanted all homemade breads for this bread bar and that job fell to my mother and yours truly.  We also made several types of flavored butters to set on the tables to go with the breads.  We piped all the the butters into roses because we are silly, but they did end up looking pretty.  Flavored butters are very easy to make and make a nice addition to plain old bread.  Wrapped up, they also make nice gifts.  My grandmother liked the cinnamon butter so well, I made her some to keep in her freezer for Mother's Day.

Cinnamon Butter
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Vanilla Butter
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla (best to use real vanilla)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Italian Herb Butter
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Raspberry Butter
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
pink food coloring to the hue that is desired

Allow butter to come to room temperature.  Beat for a few minutes on high until fluffy.  Mix in the add-ins.  Use as desired.  The vanilla and raspberry butter were the easiest to pipe into roses.  The others had chunkier add-ins which occasionally would get caught in the tip.  Properly wrapped, butter can be refrozen for quite some time so these can easily be made ahead of time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blueberry Dessert

When I was a kid, my parents did a major remodeling job on our house.  Every spare moment, my father was reconstructing our rundown farmhouse into their dream.  They did all of the work themselves, with the assistance from various family members.  As a thank you to whomever was helping us that weekend, my mom would always fix a delicious lunch.  However, because she was helping my dad work, the lunch needed to be prepared ahead of time. This blueberry dessert was fast, easy, and tasty.  It also could be made the day before and ended up being one of my uncle's favorite desserts.

This is also the dessert that taught me what confectioner's sugar was.  I had never seen that particular nomenclature for powdered sugar when I was younger and so I assumed it meant granulated sugar.  It did not.  It was the grittiest pie my family had ever tasted!  But they are good people and ate it anyway.

The other day my grandmother called all of us together for a work day at her house.  She needed some painting, window washing, and general repairs done on her house.  My mom made lunch and I was asked to bring dessert.  I chose the blueberry dessert because it fast, tasty, and could be made the day ahead of time so that no time would be taken from work to prepare food.

Blueberry Dessert

1 10 inch Graham Cracker Pie Crust (this time I cheated and bought one, however I typically make them)

2 Cups Confectioner's sugar
8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
1 package Dream Whip already made up (Dream Whip is a whipped non-dairy topping that is made from a powder and milk.  You can probably substitute whipped cream or Cool Whip with good results)

1 Can Blueberry Pie Filling (or pie filling of your choice, my dad prefers cherry)

Mix together ingredients for filling.  Pour into pie shell.  Pour pie filling over the top.  Refrigerate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Really Awesome Choclate Frosting

I made these cupcakes for my friend Mandy's birthday a few weeks ago.  There is nothing special about the cake, I had several kitchen disasters that weekend and I could only squeeze out these yellow cupcakes from a box in time for my dinner party.  But this frosting is from scratch and it's from Martha Stewart and it tastes absolutely dreamy.  It is a cinch to make and pipes fantastically.

I was frantically searching for a chocolate frosting recipe that didn't involve too much time.  I found this one in her Cupcakes book and I think that it is my new go to recipe for chocolate frosting.  The best part about Martha?  She usually posts the recipes found in her books on her website.  You can find the recipe for this wonderful icing here.  Small hint though, don't let your butter get too soft sitting on your counter.  I had mine out too long and it was too soft.  This led to icing too soft for piping.  I whipped it in the fridge for 20 minutes and had no trouble after that.

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