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Category Archives: Baking

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I adapted this recipe from one on epicurious.com several years ago and it has become a family favorite.  The shortbread would be great just by itself, but teamed with a layer of apricot and walnut filling plus a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar, it is simply delicious.  It’s easy to make with no mixer required.

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Shortbread and Apricot Bars

  • Servings: 8 to 12 bars
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Shortbread
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup chilled butter cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 9×9 inch baking pan, place the flour, sugar and salt, stirring with a fork to mix.  Add the butter and with your finger press the butter into the dry ingredients and then spread the dough in the pan, pressing down to flatten and smooth it out.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes until top is light brown.  Remove from oven and set on rack.

Make Filling
2/3 cup dried apricot halves (about 4 oz.) coarsely chopped  – place in small pan, cover with water and boil until soft – about 4 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp vanilla
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs, whisk in the brown sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, walnuts and apricots.  Pour this mixture on top of the baked shortbread.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 35 minutes until top is puffy and dark brown.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Cut into portions and lift onto a rack that has been placed on top of a baking sheet.  Allow to cool thoroughly.  Note:  I cut mine into 8 portions which turned out to be large servings of a rich dessert.  Cutting the shortbread into 12 squares might be better.

Topping
¼ to ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

After cookies are cool, spoon confectioners’ sugar into a fine strainer and lightly sift over the bars.
Makes 8 large bars or 12 squares 

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I started making these breadsticks in 1992, adapted from a recipe in my favorite bread cookbook, Clayton’s Book of Breads.  Be sure to use a good sharp, full-flavored cheese.

Italian Cheese Breadsticks

  • Servings: One to two dozen, depending on size
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2 Tblsp. Fast acting yeast
2 tsp salt
2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1-1/2 cups water, heated to 130 degrees F
¼ cup canola oil
1-1/2 cups good flavored cheese, grated

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, place yeast, salt, sugar and 2 cups of flour.

Heat water to 130 degrees F, add cheese and stir to melt, reheat mixture to 130 degrees F.

Pour water/cheese mixture into bowl with flour mixture, add oil.  Beat on medium speed with a paddle beater for 3 minutes.  Remove the paddle beater and insert a dough hook.  Continue to beat at medium speed, adding flour gradually for 6-½ minutes.  You may not need all of the flour.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Punch down dough and using ¼ cup of dough, form into a cigar-shaped roll 5 inches long.  Place on a greased baking pan 3 inches apart.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake breadsticks for approximately 12 minutes until they are golden brown.  Remove to a rack to cool.

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At Christmas time, I found  Hershey’s Sea Salt Caramel Chips which were new to me and put them aside while I was baking my standard Christmas favorites.  My daughter and I were going to attend an Appalachian “Ringin’ in the New Year” event and something was needed for potluck dinner.  There never seem to be enough cookies for children at these dinners, so I thought I would try out the new chips.

chips

There was a recipe on the package which may be very good but it was for a chocolate cookie and I wanted a vanilla cookie that would be easy to pick up, not crumbly and that would not spread out too much.  I adapted the recipe to meet these requirements and thought the cookies were delicious.  My younger daughter is not given to lavish praise and when she rated them “fabulous”, I figured I had a winner.  They went very fast at the dinner.

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Salted Caramel Chip Cookies

  • Servings: Approx. 40 cookies
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½ cup (one stick) butter or margarine, softened
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-2/3 cups (10 oz. pkg.) Sea Salt Caramel Baking Chips (Hershey)

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter/margarine, brown sugar and granulated sugar.  Beat in the vanilla, soda, salt and egg.

Gradually add and mix in the flour and chips.

Drop by tablespoon onto parchment covered baking sheets and flatten cookies very slightly.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 9 minutes until cookie is set.  Do not overbake.

Cool slightly, remove to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. 

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This recipe came from a favorite source in the 1980s – The Blue Ribbon Gazette, a newsletter with recipes from blue ribbon winners from all over the country.  I won a blue ribbon with this bread at the large Harvest Home Festival (Cincinnati) in 1989.

This is a hearty bread that stays soft for several days and is wonderful toasted or used for a grilled sandwich.

HONEY OATMEAL BREAD

  • Servings: Three 7-1/2 inch loaves or two 9-inch loaves
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1-½ cups milk
1 cup oats, quick
1 Tblsp. salt
2 Tblsp. canola oil
One 13 oz. can evaporated milk, undiluted
¼ cup honey
2 Tblsp. fast acting yeast*
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups all-purpose flour

**I use Fleischmann’s Instant Dry Yeast. I buy it in bulk (454 g) and the package says that it is made in Canada. I understand it is packaged under the name “Instant Dry” for distribution through stores like Sam’s, “Rapid Rise” in the U.S. and “Quick Rise” in Canada. The “Instant Dry”, “Rapid Rise” or “Quick Rise” yeast is especially formulated to be used mixed with the dry ingredients and can withstand the hot liquid.

Grease three 7-½ inch or two 9-inch loaf pans

Place 1-½ cups of milk in a pan, bring to a boil.  Add oats and salt and cook for 2 minutes.  Add oil, evaporated milk, honey and salt.  Cool to 130 degrees F. (cooling will take 10-15 minutes).

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, place yeast and 2 cups whole wheat flour.  Beat to blend flour and yeast.  Add 130 degree F milk/honey mixture and beat with paddle beater for 3 minutes on medium speed.

Remove paddle beater and insert dough hook.  Continue to beat for 6-1/2 minutes, adding all-purpose flour a little at a time.   You may not have to use all of the flour – the dough should be smooth and elastic after 6-1/2 minutes. Although a little sticky because of the honey.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn dough over once and cover with a napkin or tea towel.  Let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place that is free of drafts (I put mine on top of my microwave which sets under a cabinet).

After 45 minutes, punch down dough (press your knuckles into the dough to deflate it). Remove dough to a lightly floured board and divide into three portions for 7-½ inch loaves or into two portions for 9 inch loaves.  Roll each portion into a loaf, pinch seams to seal and place seam-side-down in a greased 7-½ inch or 9-inch loaf pan.  Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to  350 degrees F.

Bake 7-½ inch loaves for approximately 30-35 minutes and the 9 inch loaves for about 50-60 minutes or until bread is golden brown and has a hollow sound when tapped (200 degrees on a bread thermometer*).

Cover with a piece of foil if top is browning too fast.  Remove bread from pans immediately, cover with a napkin or a tea towel and let cool on a wire rack.

Yield:  Three 7-½ inch loaves or two 9 inch loaves

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I like this biscotti better than any I have had in a bakery or coffee shop.  They are not too sweet, have a light orange flavor and a lot of crunchy walnuts, and are very easy to make.

Everything is mixed by hand in one bowl – no mixer – and takes just a little handling to form.  The dough is divided and plopped in big globs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to make two piles.  Then, with water-dampened hands, the dough is formed into two rustic-looking logs.

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The slow baking takes a little time – 25 minutes @ 300 degrees F and then 30 minutes @ 275 degrees to make the crispy slices.

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I enjoy these very much just as a quick snack  (they travel well) or dunked in tea or coffee.

Orange and Walnut Biscotti


¼ cup light olive oil
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. grated orange peel
2 eggs
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1-¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, orange extract, orange peel and 2 eggs.  Whisk in salt and baking powder, then with a spoon, stir in the flour and chopped walnuts until blended.

Spoon half of the batter onto one side of the prepared baking sheet, making a rough cylinder.  Spoon the remaining half of batter onto the other side of the baking sheet, making a rough cylinder.  With water-moistened hands, form each cylinder into a a log about 12 inches long x 2 inches wide, allowing a space between the two logs.

Bake @ 300 degrees F for 25 minutes until dough is just cooked through and lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  REDUCE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 275 DEGREES F.

Remove each loaf to a cutting board and with a serrated knife, cut diagonally into ¾ inch wide slices.  Place the slices on their sides on a rack that has been placed on the baking sheet.  Leave a little space between slices.  Bake @ 275 degrees F for 15 minutes, turn slices to the other side and bake for another 15 minutes.  Biscotti should feel dry and be golden brown.  Remove rack from pan and allow to cool completely.

Makes about 16 biscotti. 

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mincebr-bot

This recipe is adapted from one in a favorite cookbook which I received from my son and daughter-in-law in the 1980s – Elsah’s Landing Heartland Cooking (Illinois).

I thought the reconstituted mincemeat was sweet enough to allow me to reduce the sugar.  The result is a soft, easy-to-handle dough and a loaf with interesting flavors from the orange peel and mincemeat.  It’s wonderful toasted and we also like it as a buttered, grilled sandwich with our favorite chicken salad.

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APPLE MINCEMEAT YEAST BREAD

  • Servings: Two 9-inch or three 7-1/2-inch loaves
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2 Tblsp. fast acting dry yeast*
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tblsp grated orange peel
1-½ tsp salt
1 cup water
½ cup apple juice
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup mincemeat (reconstituted)**
5-½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided

*I use Fleischmann’s Instant Dry Yeast. I buy it in bulk (454 g) and the package says that it is made in Canada. I understand it is packaged under the name “Instant Dry” for distribution through stores like Sam’s, “Rapid Rise” in the U.S. and “Quick Rise” in Canada. The “Instant Dry”, “Rapid Rise” or “Quick Rise” yeast is especially formulated to be used mixed with the dry ingredients and can withstand the hot water.

**This mincemeat comes in a 9 oz. block which is cooked with boiling water to make 1-½ cups of mincemeat comparable to the mincemeat that is prepared and sold in a jar.  Use just ½ cup for this recipe.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, place 2 cups all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar, orange peel, and salt.  Beat to blend dry ingredients.

Heat water, apple juice, applesauce and canola oil to 130 degrees F.  Add heated ingredients to dry mixture in bowl.  With paddle beater, mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Add mincemeat and beat for 30 seconds.

Remove paddle beater and insert dough hook.  Continue to beat for 6-1/2 minutes, adding flour a little at a time.   You may not have to use all of the flour – the dough should be smooth and elastic after 6-1/2 minutes.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn dough over once and cover with a napkin or tea towel.  Let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place that is free of drafts (I put mine on top of my microwave which sets under a cabinet).

After 45 minutes, punch down dough (press your knuckles into the dough to deflate it) and lay it on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough and form into two 9-inch or three 7-½ inch loaves. loaf.  Turn over and pinch the edges to seal.  Place loaves in greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake loaves 45-50 minutes for 9-inch loaves and 35-45 minutes 7-½ inch loaves until bread is golden brown and has a hollow sound when tapped or registers 210 degrees on a bread thermometer.  Cover with a piece of foil if top is browning too fast.

Remove bread from pan immediately, cover with a napkin or a tea towel and let cool on a wire rack.

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PinkCham (7)I saw a cake recipe on Hungry Mum’s blog and was anxious to try it.  She made a big, beautiful two-layer cake, but my daughters and I try to have smaller portions of dessert and I adapted the recipe somewhat to make 12 small cupcakes.  I just used a grocery store variety of champagne and I’m sure the flavor would be even better with a good quality bottle.  We all enjoyed the little pink cupcakes with just a swirl of frosting.  I changed the frosting a bit because I didn’t have time to let it chill for an hour as the original recipe suggested.

PinkCham (1)

MY PINK CHAMPAGNE CUPCAKES AND SIPPER

  • Servings: 12 cupcakes, 28 oz. sipper
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CUPCAKES
1-½ cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
Dash salt
4 Tblsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 egg whites*
1 cup pink champagne
2 drops red food coloring

FROSTING
3 Tblsp. butter, softened
1-½ cups confectioners’ or powdered sugar
Dash salt
1 Tblsp. pink champagne
1 drop red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 12-cup muffin tin or insert paper/silicone liners

To make the cupcakes:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and then egg whites gradually until combined.

Mix in flour mixture alternately with champagne, ½ cup of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour.

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups (about ½ cup of batter per unit).

Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.  Leave in cupcake tin for about 10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool.

To make the frosting:
Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer for one minute. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, salt, champagne and food coloring, beating until smooth.  Add a bit more sugar or champagne if necessary to get the consistency you want.

When cakes are completely cool, swirl a bit of frosting on the top of each cake.  This amount of frosting is just right for 12 cupcakes.

*If you want to freeze the yolks, whisk together with 1/8 tsp. of salt, cover, label and freeze.  Remove from freezer to refrigerator overnight when you’re reading to use.  Good for recipes that need only yolks or beaten together with one or two eggs to make an omelet or scrambled eggs.

P.S.  This recipe used about half of a bottle of champagne.  This tasty drink would be a good way to use up leftover champagne.  If starting with a full bottle, there are 2-¼ cups left which can be used to make this easy and delicious Pink Champagne Sipper.

PINK CHAMPAGNE SIPPER
½ cup simple syrup (recipe below – allow to cool)
3 Tblp. orange juice concentrate
3 Tblsp. water
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 to 2-¼ cups pink champagne

To make the simple syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and cook one minute longer.  Remove from heat, pour into container and refrigerate until cool.

When syrup is cool, add orange juice concentrate, water, lemon juice and champagne.  Chill until ready to serve.  Makes 28 oz.


PinkCham (3)

Although it makes a pretty picture to have the sipper and cupcakes together, the sipper has a much stronger flavor and could be enjoyed by itself while serving the cupcakes with some lovely tea.