Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fig Upside Down Cupcakes

234. Lovely Figs! So many lovely figs!
Hand picked and just waiting to be used.
Fig Upside Down Cupcakes

1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal (almonds ground to grainy consistency)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 to 8 figs diced
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line paper baking cups in cupcake pans. Yields approximately 24 cupcakes.

In a large bowl mix together milk, sugar, oil, extracts and egg till blended. Add flour, almond meal, baking powder and baking soda, spices and salt. Mix until smooth.
Chop figs and cover the bottom of each paper liner with fig cubes.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of brown sugar over figs.
Then pour batter over filling 2/3 full.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool.
Buttercream Spice Frosting

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
5 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 - 3 Tablespoons milk or as needed for right consistency

Cream all ingredients together in a mixer and whip until smooth and sugar has incorporated. Adjust milk or confectioners sugar to desired consistency.
Pipe frostin onto cooled cupcakes and decorate as desired.
Fabulous Fig Upside Down Cupcakes!!!

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Applesauce Homemade

233. Homemade applesauce is a wonderful addition to a meat and potatoes meal.
With apples in season and fall rapidly replacing summer, it is time to consider all the possibilities you have in using apples.
My father loved to make homemade applesauce. He would gather his bag or basket of apples next to him. Spread out newspaper on the table. Collect his small paring knife and a bowl to capture all the apple slices. Then, would begin to peel every apple, without a peeler, but with his small paring knife. Round and round he would go around every apple making only one long curly peel from every apple. I loved watching him and would be amazed that he would never break the continuous peel and would get so close to the apple so as not to waste a bit of apple flesh. He would chop up his apples in hand right over the bowl and every slice or chunk was perfectly chopped. My father was neat and so particular. I would watch him make his applesauce. He would place the chopped, peeled apples into a saucepan and add about 1 1/2" of water to the bottom.
Then add about a cup of sugar...or more, depending on the tartness of the apples. He would sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and I hate to say, an entire stick of butter. I use about 2 teaspoons. He would turn on the heat to medium and place a lid on top.
The apples would steam and cook in the saucepan. He would check on them to make sure they wouldn't stick or to see if they were evenly cooking.
Once the apples were tender and rendered juice, he would begin to mash them.
A potato masher would work just fine. He would stir and mash the apples till they were smooth, and consistently mixed.
Now, I like chunks in my applesauce and do not like it puréed. The type of apples you use will dictate the finished product as well. Some apples maintain their shape even after baking or cooking, while others tend to fall apart and soften. This site, the Natural Hub, is helpful with understanding types of apples.
Applesauce is task oriented with peeling, coring and chopping. Once you place the apples on the stove to are home free. But it is the flavor that is the most rewarding. You will not reach for another store bought jar again. You may also make applesauce and process it in sterile jars to set aside for the future.
I love the fact that applesauce reminds me of my father and good memories as a child.

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table.
~ Ronald Reagan

"Why do we need so many different kinds of apples? Because there are so many different kinds of folks. There is merit in variety itself. It provides more points of contact with life, and leads away from uniformity and monotony."
-Liberty Hyde Bailey in 'The Apple Tree', 1922

Friday, September 9, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

232. For some, the thought of making home baked bread is a daunting task. For others, they have taken on the challenge and the finished product just didn't seem to measure up to their expectation.

Bread baking is not easy. For many years I would tackle bread recipe after bread recipe and just could not accomplish a stellar result. Now, my mother and grandmother were fantastic bread bakers. But what I realized, through trial and error, TIME is the most important factor along with the right touch. A good baker just knows when the dough feels right or just the right time to stop kneading and let the dough rest. I have always been impatient in the process.

I guess this can be a good life lesson as well. We are in a hurry, not willing to wait in our efforts, till our circumstances have fully taught us. We want the hard times to disappear and the happy, stress free days to roll on. But it is in the difficult, "kneading" times, that we learn the best lessons. Would I want my life to be a continual kneading! Would anyone? But when I look back over the times my life was filled with difficulty, I realize, it was for my good! I am a stronger person, wiser, more stable and determined than before. I am thankful for the "kneading" process.

So, why am I still tackling bread recipes? I have a wonderful secret and bread machine. Because our lives are so busy and full, and time is fleeting faster every day. I use my bread machine to make the dough for me. It has eliminated the most difficult step in the bread baking process. I admit...I can not make a good bread dough due to my impatience. The bread machine helps me to accomplish more.
When I use my bread machine, the key is to place all the liquid ingredients and salt in first; water, egg, butter, oil, etc. Then flour, yeast and sugar last. I take into consideration the size of my bread machine and I know that I can only place about 5 cups of anything into the cylinder.
I set the menu to the "dough" setting and push start. An hour and a half later, I have beautiful dough to make bread, pizza dough, doughnuts, rolls or sweetbread with.
The bread machine will spin the dough once more at the end of the raising process and then warn you that it is done. I like to stop the machine, right before this last spin because it breaks down the air and makes it more difficult to shape your dough especially. I want to be the first to take the dough and reshape it. This makes a big difference.
When the dough has raised, I pull out the cylinder and turn out the dough onto a floured surface, then shape it.
It has made life easier.

This recipe is from an old Fleischmann's Yeast recipe pamphlet.
Whole Wheat Bread

5 1/2 to 6 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 Pkgs Fleischmann's active dry yeast
2 cups milk
3/4 cups water
1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup

Combine flours unsifted. In large bowl mix 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
Combine milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat till very warm (120ºF). Butter does not need to melt completely. Gradually add liquid to dry ingredients and beat 2 min. at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 min. Scrap bowl and add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead till smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. (This is the torture spot!) Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel. Let rest 20 minutes.

*Divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 14x9-inch rectangle. Shape into loaves and place in 2 oiled 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Brush loaves with oil and cover with plastic wrap. You can refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

To bake, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, (puncture any gas bubbles with an oiled toothpick. Bake at 400ºF. about 40 minutes, or till done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Bread machine directions: Place all liquids in saucepan to heat or in a microwave safe container. Pour into bottom of cylinder. Add salt, flours, sugar and yeast. Set machine to "dough" on the menu and push start. Once dough is about 2 minutes away from being done, stop machine. Follow above directions from *.

The bread was beautiful! I cut this recipe in half to make just one loaf.
We sliced the hot loaf of bread at the table and enjoyed a bowl of Shaker Bean Soup to accompany it. My family said, "You get an A+ for dinner tonight".
Now, doesn't that make cutting out the "kneading" process worth it? It does for me...with making bread, of course ;o)

"The best work is not what is most difficult for you; it is what you do best."
~Jean-Paul Sartre

"Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem and personal satisfaction."
~Margaret Thatcher


231. Recently we had the wonderful experience of tasting freshly made, hot, New Orleans Beignets!
Puffy little fried dough with three sweet, luscious sauces to compliment these little babies.
When they arrived at our table, they were piled high in a wonderful napkin basket and dusted with powdered sugar.
When I broke open the first beignet, a puff of steam escaped and the smell was intoxicating! I just sat and smelled the beignet...I just couldn't get enough of the wonderful smell. And then the first bite. How can fried dough taste so good?
They arrived with three sauces, a chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce and a white cream whisky sauce. The raspberry sauce was my favorite!

If you have the opportunity to dine at a Grand Lux Cafe, make sure you order the New Orleans Beignets. The experience is unforgettable!!

1. (n.) beignet a square doughnut or fritter dusted with powdered sugar.
~Etymology: (1830-35, Amer.;


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