Friday, August 19, 2016

"The Birthday Cake"

Maybe it's a little strange, but I bake my own birthday cake pretty much every year. That way, I get exactly what I want. Tomorrow is the big day, so I'm getting this done tonight.  Now, usually I end up with a fresh strawberry cheesecake, but this year, I was in the mood for some serious chocolate.  So, rather than make one I've made before, I decided to be daring in my old age and try something completely different.  I went online (Pinterest... one of my favorite go-to places for browsing delish looking stuff to eat) and came upon a recipe for "Nanny's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cake".  Ok... I like chocolate fudge!  I like brownies!  I like cake!  By cracky, I'm gonna try this.

Now mind you this was weeks ago.  After all, you have to plan in advance for something so earth shattering as your GASP...... 63rd birthday.  Ok, I said it, and it's the truth. 

I passed the recipe on to a couple of friends, just because it looked good and it was so darn easy to make.  One of them passed it along to her sister, who made it.  She said it was a keeper, so right then and there, I decided this was it, I'm making this thing for my birthday this year!

Here's the ridiculously simple recipe:

In a large bowl, combine the following 5 ingredients:

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Devil's Food)
  • 1 box Duncan Hines Decadent Brownies (I went with the California Walnut one)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 & 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
Now, the recipe said, "In a bowl add the cake mix, brownie mix, oil, eggs, and water. Pour into bundt pan......  

I decided to mix all the ingredients up with my hand mixer before pouring it into the pan. :) 
Anyway...  back to the recipe....  

The recipe said.... Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and a light coating of flour or you can use Baker's Joy.

I decided to prepare my pan the way I like, which is coating it generously with non-stick cooking spray and then mixing about a half a cup of sugar and a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon up and dumping it into the sprayed pan to coat it all over.  The cinnamon ends up mostly on the bottom, and the cake will absolutely not stick to the pan.  You don't need flour.  This creates a really nice light crunch of cinnamon and sugar all around the cake, and it's so good!  I do this with just about every recipe I think cinnamon would work well with, and that's lots of them.

The recipe said... bake 50 to 55 minutes, and that was pretty close to how long it took mine.  I used my good old trusty shiny tube pan.  If you use dark pans, your baking time will probably be a bit shorter, so use a toothpick or cake tester for doneness.  Nobody wants a dry cake, although I didn't think that would be possible here, considering it called for an entire CUP of oil... oh well, it's a birthday cake..... happens once a year, so I'm splurging already....

After you remove the cake from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove it to a cooling rack.  While it's still warm, you use the final ingredient, which is a ready made container of your favorite chocolate icing.

 The recipe said... put 1/2 of the tub of icing in a small bowl and microwave it for 30 to 45 seconds until it is able to be drizzled over the cake.  Well, this is America, and it's my birthday, and it's a Friday night, and it rained today, and, and....I used the WHOLE thing!

So, there you have it.  I can officially say that it's good.  I agree with my friend's sister... it's a keeper.

Happy Birthday to ME!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Amish White Bread

As I was searching for a new recipe for white bread today, one that would be simple, but not a no-knead recipe, I stumbled upon this one when I did a search for "fresh breads" on Pinterest.
It's named "Amish White Bread", but who knows where it actually originated from.  As I continued to glance through all the fresh bread options, this one popped up many times, pinned and re-pinned, so I decided to take a look and check out how it's made.

I was pretty pleased when I saw the list of just 6 ingredients, and that it would only take about two and a half hours of my time to make it happen.  The other plus was, I already had everything I needed to make it, so I decided to give it a go.

Here it is, ready for the first rise.

Here are those 6 ingredients:

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F  /  45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 & 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

and the directions are:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water and then stir in the yeast.  Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.  You should see some bubbles on top.
2. Mix the salt and oil into the yeast.  Then mix the flour one cup at a time. I just mixed the first three cups of flour in with a sturdy wooden spoon one at a time, and then after that, used my bare (clean) hands. Not quite all of the flour was picked up by the dough, there was a thin layer still left at the bottom.  This worked just fine.  You don't have to use a stand mixer to get your dough to come together.  Just be sure to knead properly.  Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.  (about 8 to 10 minutes) Place dough in a well oiled bowl and turn to coat all over. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, which should take about an hour.
3. Punch dough down and knead for 2 - 3 minutes, then divide in half.  Shape each half into loaves and place into 2 well oiled  9 x 5 loaf pans. I just sprayed mine generously with non-stick cooking spray and it worked perfectly.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 30 minutes, or until dough has risen about an inch above the pans.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes, then invert pans and remove loaves to a cooling rack.
Brush them with room temperature butter (real butter, people!!!) while still warm.

I've got plenty of bread recipes that take longer than this one to make, and I think this is a great recipe for anyone new to bread baking, so next time you get a hankering for some fresh hot bread right out of the oven, try this one.  It's worthy.

Here are a few words of advice from someone (me), who learns something new with just about every baking experience.....
  • Use fresh ingredients, especially the yeast.  Check the expiration date on the yeast and don't use it if it's expired or days from being expired.
  • Use a thermometer if you aren't sure about the temperature of the water.  If you get it too hot, it will kill the yeast, and if it's not hot enough, the yeast will not activate.
  • "Fluff" your flour a few times by filling your measuring cup and emptying it back into the flour container before you measure your flour in the measuring cup, and do this for each and every cup you add to your recipe.  Level the flour in your measuring cup with your finger or the edge of a butter knife before adding to your recipe.  These simple steps will prevent your dough from being too dry due to too much flour being added.
  • Knead the dough for the specified time.  It develops the gluten and it's what gives you a nice texture and elasticity.
  • If using dark colored metal pans, you will probably need to adjust your baking time since they bake faster than regular pans, and for that reason, if you use metal, I recommend shiny, regular and not the dark non-stick kind. It's easier to overbake stuff in those dark pans!!
  • Don't place your dough in a drafty place to rise. 
  • Brushing the loaves with butter while warm softens the top crust and makes the loaves more appealing to the eye...... oh... and it tastes so good!
Nice texture... we could hardly wait to taste it!

So.... having said all of that, I only made one small change in the recipe for this bread.  I didn't have 6 cups of bread flour, so I ended up using 3 cups of bread flour and 3 cups of all-purpose flour.  I was concerned that the texture may be too dense because of that, since bread flour is a finer grind, and lends to a lighter texture, but it was actually perfect, so next time I may even try it using all-purpose flour only, just to see what kind of difference it makes.  After all, this is a recipe I plan to hang onto and make many times in my bread baking future, so I may as well find out if I can just go with all-purpose if I don't happen to have any bread flour on hand. 

To wrap this up, I'll just say that, other than the flour, I followed this recipe exactly.  The dough behaved exactly as it was supposed to.  It took an hour for my first rise, and 30 minutes for the second one.  They baked to perfection in exactly 30 minutes.  I did use glass pans, which I prefer for bread baking, rather than metal ones. 

I hate to blog and run, but I think I should go see if there's any left, or if the "lover of hot bread right out of the oven" man that lives here has already gobbled it all down.