Saturday, January 14, 2012

winter, in my kitchen

Ah, comfort food. Warm smells, filling tastes, perfect for cold winter days. And since winter finally seems to arrived here after an unseasonably warm December, I spent some time in my kitchen this week...

One of the key comfort foods in my book is bread, and I love playing with recipes, continuing to search for the perfect loaf of bread. This week I made a bread adapted from an Amish recipe I had from, um, somewhere (sorry, no original source). I am slowly making some changes in this bread because it is oh-so-yummy but perhaps not oh-so-healthy. I love that soft white-bread texture and the slightly sweet taste. So this is how I made it this time:
  • Dissolve 2/3 cups white sugar in 2 c.warm water (about 110 degrees), and stir in 1 1/2 T active dry yeast. Allow to proof until creamy and foamy (about 10-15 minutes, depending on how impatient you are!)
  • Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 c. canola oil and mix well. Add flour 1 cup at a time, starting with a spoon for the first few cups and then mixing well with the dough hook on your stand mixer. I find 6 cups total is just about perfect, and I've been adding a bit of whole wheat flour. This time I used 5 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.   Knead by mixer or hand until elastic and smooth.  Turn out into a large oiled bowl and let rise until doubled. (My original recipe says about 1 hour, this week it took about 3 hours, whatever it takes!).
    • hint for rising: you need a warm place. I use my microwave which is over my range, and by putting on the light that is under the microwave (that lights up the stove area) this creates just enough heat in my microwave.
  • Punch dough down, knead lightly and divide in half. Shape into loaves ( I usually flatten into a rectangle about 1/2-3/4" thick and then roll it up) placing loaves seam side down in two 9x5" loaf pans that are coated in cooking spray.  Allow to rise until about 1" above pan rims (this took about 2-3 more hours this week).
  • Bake at 350 F for about 30 min, until golden brown.  Cool 10 min. in pans, then cool on racks (or eat!).
My thoughts for next time: try increasing amount of whole wheat flour to 2 cups, replace sugar with honey.

I thought I'd also include my recipe for the Chicken and rice soup in the picture above!  
  • Cook a 6 oz box of Uncle Ben's Original Long Grain and wild rice mix, according to package directions.
  • While this is simmering, in a separate large pot, saute' 1 c. chopped onion in 3 T. butter
  • Add 6 cups of chicken broth, the rice, 2 c. cooked shredded chicken (about 1 lb), 1 drained 4 oz. can of mushroom pieces, and 1 c. chopped carrots, simmer until carrots are tender and flavors are blended well, about 30 min. 
  • Whisk 1/4 cup flour into 1 15 ounce can of evaporated milk (low fat is great). DON'T do this in the will make a mess. I use a 2 c. measuring cup to mix mine in!  Add this to the soup and heat through, just a minute or two, before serving.  

My last bit of baking this week was two loaves of  Blueberry lemon bread, doubling the recipe (and oh-so-glad I did...the first loaf vanished into all of our bellies so quickly). I love lemon and it is an instant "brightener" on a dreary day. 

What's cooking in your kitchen this winter?

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