Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #4: Little House on the Prairie Flashback Whole Wheat Bread

Do you ever watch a movie or TV show set during the 1800’s or read a book from the same era and think,

“I wonder what it was like to have to wear long dresses all the time, even when it was a zillion degrees and crazy humid . . .”

or

“I wonder how people slept on mattresses stuffed with hay, grass, or cotton, ’cause I’m sure my allergies and back wouldn’t have tolerated any of those . . . “

or

“I wonder how often people got bladder infections in the dead of winter when the privy was below freezing . . .”

I wonder those things and more. Like how rewarding yet exhausting it must have been to make most foods from scratch since the word “instant” wasn’t in Americans’ vocabulary. And I’m guessing drive-thrus hadn’t been invented yet.

So every once in awhile I get in touch with what I imagine my 1800’s self would be like, had I been fortunate (?) enough to live during that century. I’ll make chunky apple sauce from scratch, can peaches, add veggies to my garden or plant another fruit tree, even bake bread from scratch.

My holiday endeavor this past year was making whole wheat yeast bread as gifts for some lucky people. I find freshly baked bread, with a crisp crust and soft, springy inside, to be delectable, so I thought others might appreciate it, too.

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You may think I was overly ambitious by taking on this task, especially since there’s a thing called a bread maker I have tucked away in a closet. You may even contemplate how looney a person must be to take on such a task during one of the busiest times of the year.

Apparently I was nesting, because we’d just moved into a new home a few weeks prior. So there you have it.

Should you also feel like nesting, getting in touch with your 1800’s roots, or want to try something new this year, the recipe is below. It’s really not as hard as it seems. Simply keep repeating, “Yeast is my friend, yeast is my friend” as you go and you’ll be fine.

Who knows? Maybe next December I’ll churn my own butter to go with the bread . . . or not.

Ingredients:

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

5 c. lukewarm water, divided

1/4 – 1/2 c. honey or agave (optional)

1/3 c. canola oil

1/2 c. sugar or 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. Splenda

2 tsp. salt

4 c. whole wheat flour

6 – 8 c. bread flour

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The dough will seem like it has too much liquid when you’re mixing it up.

Directions:

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 3/4 c. lukewarm water. If the water is hot rather than lukewarm it may kill the yeast. Add the remaining water, honey, oil, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour,

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The dough will be too sticky to work with if you don’t add enough flour before kneading it.

and 3 c. bread flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in enough additional bread flour to form a soft dough, which will be sticky.

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Place a decent amount of flour on a clean surface before you start kneading and keep adding flour on the surface as you knead so the dough doesn’t stick.

Turn onto a well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 – 8 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the

top or spray cooking spray on the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (like in the room where your water heater is located or by the washer and dryer) until doubled, about 1 hour.

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The dough balloons up nicely as it rises.

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To knead, fold the dough in half and do a 1/4 turn after you push down. Use your upper body weight to push down rather than just your arms so you don’t get tired fast.

 

Punch the dough down. Shaped into 4 loaves. Place in 9″ x 5″ x 3″ pans coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 35 minutes (depending on if your oven runs hot and whether you’re using glass pans, which bake faster).

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This is how the dough looks after you’ve finished kneading. It should no longer be sticky. I cut it with a sharp knife to divide it into 4 loaves.

Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #3: When Carrots Meet Scrumptious

I like carrots. They come in a size for all – bite size, rabbit size, stew size. They are a nice accent to many dishes, especially soups and roast. Raw carrots make a very satisfying crunch when you eat them. They apparently can turn you orange if you eat enough. And best of all, they meet scrumptious when baked into cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Yowzers.

If carrots are your thing, go crazy making a triple batch of these tasty treats so you can freeze some for a rainy day (like today in San Diego). If carrots aren’t your thing, I challenge you to bake the cupcakes and take just one bite – that’s all it takes to hook you. If it doesn’t work, and you still don’t like carrots, mail me the rest of the cupcakes so I can dispose of them for you.

DSC_0144Diabetic Friendly Cupcakes:

4 beaten eggs

2 c. whole wheat flour

1 c. sugar

1 c. Splenda or  Apriva

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

2 1/2 c. finely shredded carrots – do not pack them into the measuring cup

3/4 c. cooking oil

1/2 c. finely chopped pecans (optional)

Mix the eggs, oil, and carrots in a small bowl. I suggest using a food processor on high speed to shred the carrots. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir until combined.

I suggest using paper liners for your muffin pans because it saves time on clean-up and makes it easier to DSC_0148share the cupcakes with others. A tip: Michaels frequently has patterned liners in the dollar bin area. They are much fancier than the basic one color liners.

Fill the liners 3/4 full with the batter. Bake in a 350° F. preheated oven for 13 – 15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Place on a cooling rack. The recipe makes about 18 cupcakes.

Cream cheese frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened

1 tsp. vanillla

2 1/2 to 3 c. powdered sugar

Beat the wet ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until the mixture becomes spreadable. Frost the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle them with nutmeg or cinnamon.

Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #2: Taking Bonbons to a Whole New Level

Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bonbon as “a candy with chocolate or fondant coating and fondant center that sometimes contains fruits and nuts,” for purposes of this recipe they are “cookies with chocolate, cherries, nuts or other fun things in the center and icing on top.”  Sounds yummy, ehh?  Precisely.

Les bons gateaux by Holly Zuber

½ c. margarine (the consistency of the dough is better with margarine than with butter)

¾ c. powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. almond

1 ½ c. all purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt

Red and green food coloring

Combine the margarine, sugar, and almond.  Blend the flour and salt together then add them to the wet ingredients.  Divide the dough in half.  Add red food coloring to one half of the dough, and green food coloring to the other half.  Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. milk to the dough if it is dry.

For each cookie, wrap 1 Tbsp. of dough around 1 of or a mixture of the following fillings: 1 date; 1 pecan; 1 walnut; 1 cherry; 2 or 3 dried cranberries; 3 or 4 chocolate chips.  Bake 1” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350° for 12 to 14 minutes.  Cool.

Are you hungry yet? Photo by Holly Zuber

Make the icing by combining the following ingredients:

1 c. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. milk (any kind of milk should suffice)

1 tsp. almond

Divide the icing in half.  Add red food coloring to one half, and green food coloring to the other half.  Dip the top of each cookie in the icing.  You can do red on red, green on green, or mix colors.  Set the cookies on paper towels to let the icing set.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen, depending on how much dough you use for each cookie.

Enjoy with some hot chocolate, mulled cider, or another favorite holiday beverage.

What Christmas treats are you making?

It was confirmed that I was a natural blonde . . .

when I was in middle school and wanted to help my mom bake Christmas cookies.  I selected one of my favorite recipes – Bon Bons.  They are made of flavored dough that is wrapped around a yummy filling such as chocolate chips, a cherry, or nuts.  My younger sister, Holly, acted as my assistant baker.  We spent more than two hours making the cookies, even adding a beautiful glaze on each.

Deciding to taste our masterpieces before they were fully cooled, we both daintily picked a soft, steamy cookie and took a bite.  Our lips puckering, we uttered “eeeww” and spit them out.  This was not how our treasured treats were supposed to taste.  What happened?  Scanning the ingredients on the counter I saw a bottle of lemon extract.  Lemon?  Oh no!  I had accidentally used that instead of almond.  Feeling guilty for wasting my mom’s baking supplies, and devastated over my poor baking abilities, I acted like it was no big deal – like the cookies really weren’t that bad.  I forced my ever-obedient sister to eat two of the cookies as I followed suit to prove that I hadn’t really messed-up; that I was still the perfect daughter.

What baking blunder have you made?

Tune in tomorrow for the correct, non-lemony recipe.

The infamous Bon Bons as captured by Holly Zuber

Oh How Sweet Life Is

Hidden Identity Chocolate Cupcakes

My younger sister Holly and I enjoyed baking bars, cookies, and brownies when we were kids.  It worked out great because I generally did the mixing of ingredients which meant that Holly got to clean up the mess I created.  Baking wasn’t nearly as much fun when I moved off on my own, but I persevered despite my new workload of baking and cleaning.  Although sweet breads and bars were my specialty, every so often I was inspired to create a pie from scratch or some form of a cake that usually involved rolling it into a log.

My baking identity took a sharp u-turn when I met my husband.  Dale was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his early thirties.  This caused him to become cautious of what he eats and in what quantities – especially sweets.  Knowing nothing about diabetes but wanting to support his dietary needs and desire for periodic sweets, I decided to educate myself.

I used The Diabetic’s Healthy Exchanges Cookbook by JoAnna M. Lund to lead me in the right direction.  A bonus about this cookbook is that the introduction discusses the two types of diabetes and the following six myths:  sugar must always be avoided; artificial sweeteners are dangerous; fat is okay; fiber is only important for treating constipation; snacks are optional; and eating on time is good, but not essential.

The first recipe I tried was for double chocolate cupcakes.  My fears about low sugar sweets became a reality when I made the first batch: they were exceptionally dry and tasted like cardboard.  So, in usual form, I chose to modify the recipe so that the resulting cupcakes tempted the taste buds.  Below is my version of what are now moist cupcakes without even a hint of cardboard.

The true test of this recipe was taking the cupcakes to our Bible study.  Without sharing the low sugar nature of the goodies, I set them on the counter and sat back to observe the response.  Adults and children alike chomped away, eating them in record time.  The final indication of success was when one of the women asked me to share the recipe.  Fait accompli.

Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #1:  Hidden Identity Chocolate Cupcakes

Ooooh so tempting

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. Splenda or its generic version

½ c. sugar

½ c. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 c. water

1 c. unsweetened orange juice

8 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

2 Tbsp. white vinegar

4 tsp. vanilla extract

6 oz. of chocolate chips

Combine all dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips) in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix together all of the liquids.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  Stir just enough to combine.

Place paper liners in muffin tins.  This makes cleaning up much simpler.  Fill the liners 2/3 full with the cupcake mix.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of each cupcake.  Bake at 350° F for about 11 minutes or until their centers are no longer doughy.  Test with a toothpick – it if comes out clean the cupcakes are finished baking.  Remove them from the pan to a cooling rack.  This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.

Do you have a favorite low-sugar treat?  What tips do you have for baking with less sugar?

You can check out the cookbook here:  Diabetics Healthy Exchanges Cookbook

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

In December 2009, my mom retired from a rewarding forty-three year nursing career at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  She was a postpartum nurse for the majority of that time, and even helped in labor and delivery for a number of years.  To celebrate her retirement, my sister Rebecca and I flew back to Iowa immediately before Christmas to throw her a retirement party with our dad and other sister.

My job was to plan the food, including a special dessert. Purchasing a decorated cake from Hy-Vee would have been an easy route, but I decided to make a special, memorable dessert for her instead.  After racking my brain for ideas, I ultimately decided on a cupcake cake.  I scoured the internet for pictures of nursing related cakes.  Imagine my shock when I couldn’t find any.  The burden then rested on me to design something.

I slaved in my sister Holly’s kitchen for hours, baking the cupcakes, mixing up different colored frosting, and then creating and decorating the cake.  The end result wasn’t quite what I had hoped, but Mom seemed pleased and the kids at the reception sure enjoyed it.  What do you think it was supposed to be?  Have you ever attempted to make a cupcake cake?

The Infamous Cake by Heather Harshman