Category Archives: Baking

Does the Flour Make a Difference?

Frankly, I never thought so until a couple of months ago. I thought that flour was flour. Although I didn’t really trust the store brands (except for Sam’s Club), I honestly thought that the type or brand didn’t matter. Usually, we just buy the 25 pound sacks of the Baker’s Secret (store brand) all-purpose flour at Sam’s and use it for everything from bread to cake to cookies, and the results are usually pretty tasty. But then I started thinking …

The first time I’d ever heard of King Arthur was when looking through one of those dreamy-wish-book-kitchen-catalogs. I don’t remember how much it cost, but it was pretty pricey. Then a few weeks ago, I saw their bread flour on the shelf at Wal-Mart for about $3.15, so I decided to try it.

Using the same recipe that we’ve used for years, suddenly the crust was really good. I mean really good. In fact, it was the best pizza I’ve ever made. And I used it for my Country White Loaf and it was noticeably better.


This week I bought a box of Swan’s Down Cake Flour.

What I’m expecting is a really lovely cake.

Founded in 1790, King Arthur is America’s oldest bread company. In 1996, it became employee owned and is headquartered in New England.

For more information on King Arthur –
general information: go here,
company history: go here,
baking blogs: go here,
recipes (including gluten-free): go here.

Swans Down has been around since 1894. For recipes on their website, go here.
This page has a pdf link for “Six Steps for Baking Success.”

So, to answer my own query: Yes. It does.

This post is linked to Food on Fridays @ AnnKroeker.com

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Filed under Baking, Food, Made in the U.S.A.

Country White Bread


This is the easiest and most dependable yeast bread I’ve ever made. The recipe came from a Country Living magazine almost 25 years ago. Lately I’ve baked some every few days.

COUNTRY WHITE BREAD

1 pkg. yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1 T. sugar

Dissolve yeast in sugar and water to prove.

Add:
1/1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
5 1/2 c. flour
1 c. water
3 T. oil

Mix together and knead for about 8 minutes.

Oil large mixing bowl, place dough in bowl and turn once.
Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Place risen dough on floured board, punch down, work out the air pockets.
Shape into loaves, and place into greased pans.
Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 350 until done; depending on your oven this could be from 35 minutes to 1 hour.

Notes
*When I want a wheat loaf, I dissolve the tailings from a bag of Raisin Bran cereal in a little warm water or milk, then add it to the mixture. Years ago, I bought regular bran and wheat germ, but when I added them to the recipe my husband said it gave it an unpleasant texture. For some reason, the fine stuff at the bottom of the cereal bag works well, which is especially nice because I don’t want it floating in my cereal bowl and it seems like a waste to just compost it.

*Contrary to what I used to think, it is possible to over-oil the bowl.

*For taller loaves, I use two different sizes of pans – one large and one medium. When I use both large pans, the loaves are smaller.

*For a nicer crust, I butter the top about midway through the baking.

*I have discovered the Best Place for the dough to rise. Well, at least in the winter. Under our Vermont Castings wood stove. I couldn’t believe it. It rose twice as fast but wasn’t too hot. Perfect.

*Sometimes I just don’t get a good rising. Maybe it’s a humid day. I don’t know. But when that happens, it can be used for croûtons. This was my husbands idea and it was a really good one. The big puffy loaves don’t make nice croûtons but a dense loaf is just right.

*My hands just aren’t what they used to be and I can’t knead the dough, so I use my heavy duty mixer. It’s a Kenwood (an English product), not a Kitchen Aid, but it works every bit as good and cost a fraction. I bought it about 1994 and didn’t want a Whirlpool product, because at that time they were contributing to Planned Parenthood (but not anymore, as I understand it). Here‘s a more current list.

This post is linked to:
Food on Fridays @ Ann Kroeker.
Frugal Fridays@Life as Mom

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Filed under Baking, Food, Hints, Home, Recipes, Thrift, Thrift

Shirley Booth’s Chess Tarts Recipe

Shirley Booth and Don DeFore

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34637380@N00/3193268492

From Good Housekeeping, December 1964:

“Shirley Booth, like the generous person she is, gives Sally Edwards credit for these tarts.

CHESS TARTS

l package piecrust mix or favorite pastry for 2 crust pie
2 eggs
1/4 c. butter or margarine
dash salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup snipped, pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped California walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
candied cherries
slivers of preserved orange peel
slivers of preserved citron
green seedless grapes

Make day before serving as follows:
1. Make up piecrust; then, on lightly floured board, roll it out 1/8-inch thick. For each petal tart shell, cut out 5) 2 1/4-inch fluted pastry rounds. Place 1 round in bottom of each of 6) 2 3/4’inch muffin-pan cups. Wet edges of rest of rounds, then press 4 of them to sides and to round in bottom of each cup, overlapping edges slightly.

2. Prick well with 4-tined fork. Refrigerate 30 minutes; bake at 450 degrees F. 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool; lift each carefully from cup; store at room temperature.

3. In saucepan beat eggs well; then add butter or margarine, salt sugar, raisins, dates. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Refrigerate this filling, covered with waxed paper.

~About an hour before serving:

1. Stir walnuts and vanilla into filling; then pile some filling in each tart shell. Whip cream; use to top tarts. In center of each mound of cream place a cherry; surround with orange peel and citron. Refrigerate.

2. Arrange tarts on pretty serving plate; pass, with tiny bunches of grapes. Makes 6.”

Jim Manago has written a book “Love Is The Reason For It All – The Shirley Booth Story”. You can read about it here. His site is very impressive with lots of photos of Shirley Booth as well as stories behind the scenes of “Hazel” and other celebrities like Whitney Blake, Karen Carpenter, and Joyce van Patten.

Don DeFore was one of my favorite actors and it was fun to read the interview with his son. It makes me like him even more to know that he was an active conservative.

For those interested in purchasing the book, Jim recommends that you go to bookfinder.com.

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Filed under 1960's, Baking, Books, Christmas, Cooking, Internet links, Vintage Magazines

Celebrity Recipes – Good Housekeeping December 1964

Yesterday I posted photos from the December 1964 issue of Good Housekeeping. Carol from Old Glory Cottage asked for the celebrity recipes referred to in the photo. (Carol has some great vintage Christmas images in her sidebar.)

There are too many for me to type all of them and they’re posted in the back of the magazine all chopped up, a column or two on each page so too difficult to scan. But I tell you what I’ll do: since Carol asked for it, I’ll include Lucy’s today, and list each celebrity and the name of their recipe and if anyone wants one, please leave a comment and I’ll post as many of them as I can.

Here’s what it says:

“Lucille Ball, one of Hollywood’s most hospitable stars, often treats dinner guests to this ‘happy ending’.

APPLE JOHN
Make about two hours before serving as follows:
1. Start heating oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole. Fill it with 8 cups thinly sliced, pared, cooking apples, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/4 cup water; then toss together with a fork. Bake, covered, 1 hour or until apples are tender. Now turn oven heat up to 450 degrees.

2. In bowl combine 2 cups packaged biscuit mix and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar; quickly stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine and 1/2 cup milk. Then drop, by rounded tablespoonfuls, around top edge of casserole, also one in center of biscuit ring. Bake, uncovered, about 12 to 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden and done. Cool slightly.

3. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream on top of each serving. Makes 9 servings.”

Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson: Pecan Pie

Julie Andrews: Striezel, Hot Mincemeat Pie with Rum Sauce

Doris Day: Green and Gold Salad

Bing Crosby: Wild Duck

Deborrah Kerr: Creamy Raspberry Cups

Patty Duke: Crunch Walnut Bread

Jack Benny: Superior Fried Chicken

Polly Bergen: Chili

Tony Curtis: Hungarian Kipfel

Shirley Booth: Chess Tarts

Fannie Hurst: Indienne Beef Stew

Peggy Lee: Hearts of Palm Salad

Johnny Carson: Christmas Waldorf

Eartha Kitt: Salade Nicoise

Danny Thomas: Homos Be Tahinee

Gina Lollobrigida: Christmas Wreath Cookies

Carol Channing: Golden Popcorn Balls

Rick Nelson: Beef Tartare, Stuffed Brussel Sprouts

Beatrice Lillie: Peel Fold Christmas Trifle

Raymond Burr: Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse

Carol Burnett: Chicken Casserole

Inger Stevens: De Luxe Rice Pudding

Hugh Downs: Nut Filled Cakes

Blanche Thebom: Doppa I Grytan

Walter Cronkite: Harvard Beets

Eileen Farrell: Citrus Froth

Elke Sommer: Christmas Stollen

Dick Van Dyke: Brandied Sweet Potatoes

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Filed under 1960's, Baking, Christmas, Cooking, Paper Dolls, Vintage Christmas, Vintage Magazines

Gingerbread Men

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1968 edition

My friend Merrily gave me this cookbook when I was 16. She was one of the best cooks I knew, and certainly the best cookie maker. The recipe for my sour cream pound cake came from her.

We have literally worn the cover off of this book over the last 39 years. Joe’s luscious fudge is in this book, and this is the only gingerbread man recipe I’ve ever used.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1968

Notes:

* If rolled thick, this recipe makes a soft cookie, which is what my family prefers. However, with the last bit of dough, I roll them thinner for a crunchy cookie which goes well with morning coffee.
* Plan ahead and chill the dough. It does make a difference. I’ve tried doing it in a rush and it just doesn’t work. The dough is sticky and then I add too much flour.
*I’ve never used shortening, I’ve always used vegetable oil (canola, etc.).
* Make sure the cookie cutters are well floured before each cutting, or you’ll start losing arms, heads, etc. that don’t want to separate from the cutter.
* Keep a pastry brush handy. Flour is needed to dust both the rolling pin and the rolling surface, but you don’t want that floury taste on the bottom of the cookies. It’s a hassle, but dust them off before placing them on the baking sheet.
* Parchment paper gives the best result. For years I Pammed the sheet, but the pp results in a better cookie.
* Press raisins into the cookie after they’re on the sheet. Frozen raisins work better. Soft, room-temperature ones don’t want to press in and will likely fall off.
* Sprinkle sugar over the tops before baking.
* Bake one sheet at a time, although it isn’t as important with this recipe as it is with chocolate chip type cookies.
* Turn sheet around half way through baking.
*After baking, let set for about 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

I store the finished cookies in a clear jar on my counter-top. If left out on a plate in humid weather for a long time they stay soft, but not as nice. Besides, it’s way too easy to pick up one from a plate everytime I pass by.

My grandsons love these. In fact, they asked me to make paper gingerbread men for them to play with last summer. I used my larger sized cutter for a pattern and we had the plain, regular gingerbread man, plus Gingerbread Batman, Gingerbread Robin, Gingerbread Joker, Gingerbread Superman. Construction paper was cut out to make their clothes and their faces were done with Crayolas.

This post linked to Food on Fridays @ annkroeker.

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Filed under 1960's, Baking, Books, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cookies, Cooking

Sour Cream Pound Cake with Chocolate Marble

Five O'Clock Tea, by Mary Cassatt

Five O'Clock Tea, by Mary Cassatt


My friend Merrily gave me this recipe over 35 years ago. It’s absolutely wonderful and would be perfect with either tea or coffee. My husband thinks that an icy glass of milk is the only suitable drink for cake, pie or cookies.
( Posted below this one is the half recipe which is just right for a loaf pan.)

Sour Cream Pound Cake with Chocolate Marble
(Full recipe – fits tube pan or bundt pan)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack to center.
2 3/4 c. sugar
1 c. butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
~
3 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. soda
~
1 c. sour cream
~
1/3 c. cocoa powder (not the drink mix)

1. Pour sugar into mixer.
2. Soften the butter, but do not melt. Add.
3. Break the eggs, 1 at a time into a separate bowl, then add to the mixture. It’s just too difficult to try to get chips of eggshell out of the mixer.
100_8260 Sour Cream Pound Cake
4. Cream together until light and fluffy.
5. Add vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
6. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and soda.
7. Add about a c. of flour mixture to batter, beat until well mixed.
8. Add about 1/3 c. of sour cream, mixing well.
9. Keep alternating until all the ingredients (except cocoa) have been added.
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10. Set aside 1 c. of batter into a small mixing bowl. Add cocoa & mix thoroughly.
11. Oil or Pam baking pan.
12. Spoon about 1/2 of batter into baking pan.
13. Spoon chocolate mixture on top.
14. Add remaining batter.
15. To marble, use a table knife and drag once around the batter.
16. Bake at 350 on middle rack. (This one took 1 1/2 hours.) Keep checking after 1 hour. Use toothpick test when it looks done.
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17. Let cool slightly and turn over onto serving plate. Absolutely needs no icing.
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Half Recipe
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
~
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. soda
~
1/4 c. cocoa powder (not drink mix)

Directions same as above. Use loaf pan.

*updated January 18, 2012

Linked to:
Food on Fridays at annkroeker
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed With Grace

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Filed under Baking, Cooking, Recipes, Tea

Snickerdoodles (and sort of a cookie tutorial)

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This recipe for cinnamon cookies came from a Bryan Chapel (Oklahoma) cookbook which my husband’s grandmother gave me in 1974. It is probably the most inexpensive cookie I make.

A little attention to detail and you can make cookies every bit as good as your favorite bakery. Probably better.

Snickerdoodles
(Makes about 3 dozen.)
~Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2 eggs
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
~Mix together very thoroughly (it will look creamy).

2 2/3 c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar (if you don’t have cream of tartar, see * below)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
~Sift together and add to creamed mixture, just until blended. Do not overmix.

2 T. white sugar
1 T. cinnamon
~Stir together in a small bowl and set aside.

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~Form dough into 1″ balls, then roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place 2″ apart on parchment lined cookie sheet.

~Place on middle rack in oven (only 1 tray at a time). Set timer for 10 minutes.

~After timer goes off, turn tray around and set timer for an additional 5 minutes. (see * below)

~When done, slide paper off onto table and allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

*****Notes*******
If you’re an experienced baker, then you may know everything I’ve written in this section. Most of it I’ve learned from making thousands of cookies. Please don’t be put off by how detailed this is. Baking good homemade cookies is not difficult but it does take focus. I’ve had some real disasters by trying to do something else while I bake, thereby being distracted enough not to set the timer, or thinking that a couple of extra minutes won’t hurt anything (when I haven’t even checked on them). Believe me, it matters. A good recipe is merely where you begin – it’s no guarantee of a good cookie.

*Most recipes call for an oven temperature of 350, but I’ve found that 300-325 (only you know your own oven) with a longer baking time (and turning the tray) gets better results.
*Shortening was listed in the original recipe, but I rarely use it and find that vegetable oil works great. It’s perfectly fine if you prefer it, but the texture and taste will change some.
*If you don’t have any cream of tartar, you can substitute 2 t. baking powder and eliminate the baking soda. This will change the flavor a little.
*I learned from America’s Test Kitchen to NOT overmix cookie dough after adding the flour. It will result in a cake-like texture, rather than a cookie one. Before learning this, I knew that sometimes I got that fluffy texture, but I didn’t know why. Just mix thoroughly, then stop.
*The original recipe calls for equal parts of cinnamon and sugar to roll the balls in, and sometimes I do but it will make them very cinnamony and darker.
*You don’t have to use parchment paper. You can lightly grease or Pam the baking sheet, but it will change slightly the way the cookie browns. I’m not much on buying speciality stuff for the kitchen, but I really like the result I get when using parchment paper. Before placing the paper down, I flick a few drops of water onto the baking sheet. This helps to prevent the paper from sliding around and landing the cookies onto the floor. This has happened to me.
*Placing them 2″ apart will allow them to expand without melding into each other.
*Another important lesson I learned by myself (and it was confirmed by America’s Test Kitchen) is to never bake more than 1 tray at a time. I don’t know why this is true, I just know that it is. For years, I’d bake 2 sheets at a time (or more if they were smaller) thinking that it would save both time and energy. Then each tray would turn out differently and some were just awful. As I’ve said before, science is not my forte and this sounds like a physics question. I’ll ask my husband.
*They’ll be puffy when you remove them from the oven, then deflate slightly.
*This part is just observation, not science: I can’t tell you exactly how long to bake them. This morning when I checked them after the second timer, they were still doughy in the middle and I put them back in for another 4 minutes, then they were just right. I had to break one in half to check it. To me, the best texture for Snickerdoodles is slightly crispy on the outside and chewy (not underdone) in the middle. There again, bake them to your own preferences.
*Sliding the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet prevents them from continuing to bake a little after removing from the oven. Placing them on a drying rack helps them to cool without drawing moisture to the bottoms and becoming soggy or heavy.

Now, let’s get the coffee started.
(This post linked to Food on Fridays http://annkroeker.wordpress.com/)

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Filed under Baking, Cookies, Cooking