Lemon Zucchini Bread: Thank you, Internets!

20140730_113457Awhile back, I had a huge zucchini that my mom gave me and I didn’t want it to go bad.  I looked in every cookbook I own, and all I found for zucchini bread was something that used boxed spice cake mix.  Not what I was looking for.

Then I went on Facebook and serendipitously one of my friends had posted a link to this Glazed Lemon Zucchini bread at Lil’ Luna.  The dearest husband loves lemon breads, so I thought it looked like a great candidate.  Then I read the recipe and realized I had no lemon zest, no buttermilk, and no cake flour.

I have a standard substitution for buttermilk that I use all the time, since I hardly ever keep it on hand.  1 tablespoon vinegar per cup of milk, let it set five minutes or so.  It isn’t as thick as buttermilk, but it thickens up a little and has the acid that baking soda recipes need.

Awhile back I needed cake flour for an actual cake, so I knew that all-purpose flour sifted together with some cornstarch would work, and a quick google search refreshed my memory of exactly how much cornstarch.  Another google search also revealed that 1/2 tsp. lemon extract would substitute for the lemon zest called for in the recipe.

Then I was in business.  The bread turned out really good.  Sometimes I think about how the Internet has changed how I cook, and what I cook, and it is pretty amazing.  I have quite a few cookbooks (and there are more all the time) but I rely heavily on the Internet for “quick, what can I make with ______” questions, and substitutions, and the mouthwatering descriptions and pictures of food on blogs are often the impetus for me to cook foods I haven’t tried before, especially foods from other countries, much more so than simply reading through recipes in a cookbook.

Come to the Waters

TreeStreamI used to think the Old Testament was boring.  Well, except parts of Genesis and the book of Judges.  While my eyes still glaze over at the genealogies, the more I study, the more my appreciation for the Old Testament grows.  There are so many connections between the Old and New, so many passages that can only be understood fully if you understand the Old Testament roots.  There are up to 500 Old Testament references in the book of Revelation.

Besides that, the Old Testament can show us the character of God more fully, not only his uncompromising righteousness, but also his grace, his lovingkindness and willingness to forgive his people over and over.

A particular passage in Isaiah has been resonating with me for a couple of months now:

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.

(Isaiah 55:1,2) NASB

What a wonderful picture of the grace God planned to offer through his son Jesus. What a wonderful expression of his abundance.  It is only in the last week that I realized this is also (possibly) one of the Old Testament references in Revelation.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

(Revelation 22:17) NASB

I’ve come across a couple of quotes recently that I felt also connected with the passage in Isaiah:

“We are bankrupt – we have nothing with which to pay.  To show grace is to extend favor to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never pay it back.” 

— Allen Webster, “Salvation Is Free But It Is Not Cheap”

“Pleasure without God, without the sacred boundaries, will actually leave you emptier than before.  And this is a biblical truth, this is experiential truth.  The loneliest people in the world are amongst the wealthiest and most famous who found no boundaries within which to live.  This is a fact I’ve seen again and again.”

— Ravi Zacharias

And that, to me, is what Bible study is all about, and what makes it so exciting, not just reading the pages in a book, but learning more about the character of God and what he wants from us, internalizing it so that when something comes up (whether in further study, in other reading, or events in our lives) we can make those connections.

Holey English Muffins, Batman!

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When I first started making English muffins from scratch, it really bugged me that I couldn’t get the big holes that store-bought English muffins have.  Then I just sort of accepted that it wasn’t to be, and forgot about it (I’ve never had any luck getting ANY bread to have an open crumb).  Yesterday, I cut open a nice fresh English muffin to find this: 20140624_071215

Nice, big holes, all over.  I don’t know why this batch of muffins turned out with holes and none of my others did.  I have been using the same Sourdough English Muffin recipe almost exclusively for quite a while now.

I have two guesses: one, I really kneaded the dough instead of just stirring/lightly kneading as I have other times, and two, I let them rise not strictly at room temperature, but in warm spot on top of the stove.

Or, maybe the dough was a little wetter than usual.  Maybe I’ll try to isolate the cause, maybe I’ll be too lazy.  Having accepted that my English muffins would have a tight, even crumb, I’m not as worried about it as I was at first.

I used the English muffins to make the Make-Ahead Muffin Melts from Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I’m not even an egg person, and I liked them.  My husband thought there was too much mustard for a morning food, and so next time I’ll leave out or reduce the mustard.  I am really excited about this recipe, because I am always on the lookout for make-ahead breakfasts for school mornings.  You can do all of the preparation the night before, and in the morning just spread the egg mixture on an English muffin (or toast, or bagels; the bread product of your choice) and broil for a few minutes.

And lest anyone think all my baking turns out great (which it doesn’t, but I’m not usually motivated to take pictures of failure) here is a cake fail:

20140610_140946Of course, “fail” is a relative term.  I wanted it to look nice for a birthday party, and had to bake an entirely new cake to replace it.  On the other hand, the cake itself tasted delicious., and cooking isn’t a total failure if it still tastes good.  It did not go to waste.  I used the devil’s food recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

Barley Banana Bread

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20140618_074129This recipe came from the New Complete Book of Breads, by Bernard Clayton.  There’s a similar recipe online here.  I realized I had barley flour I needed to use up someday soon, as well as some rice flour, which the recipe also calls for, and everybody here likes banana bread, so I tried it.

It’s another recipe that requires lining the pan with buttered waxed paper, which had put me off before.  Some days I just don’t feel like fiddling with anything extra.

I realized after I put it in the oven that the recipe didn’t call for any vanilla, and then when I was about to serve it the next morning (he says it is better the second day, and besides, I always make breakfast banana bread the night before) I realized it didn’t call for any cinnamon or other spices, either.  That made me a wonder how it would taste, since my favorite recipe has vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves (as well as shredded coconut).

In the end, I think that if it had all the spices, it might have overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the barley flour, and if you’re going to use barley flour, you might as well taste it, I suppose.  Because there was no wheat flour, the bread was a little crumbly, and a little dry, with a fine texture.

As I have no plans to buy more barley flour, I don’t have any plans to make this bread again.  It is good ( I gobbled three pieces the first time I tried it), but I like my regular recipe better, which uses wheat flour.

 

Loyalist Bread, from the New Complete Book of Breads

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20140605_075422I like recipes with a history, and Bernard Clayton says that this bread was a recipe saved by the families loyal to King George III when they fled to Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary War.  Presumably the recipe underwent some changes over the years, since I’m pretty sure that baking powder and baking soda as we know them were not in use at the time of the revolution.

It’s a very easy recipe, and quite good.  I used whole wheat flour for half of the flour amount, giving it a heartier texture.  It isn’t very sweet, which made it good for breakfast.  I would definitely make it again.

There is a similar recipe here, though Bernard Clayton recommends lining the pans with buttered waxed paper.  I did, and probably would next time, as well, even though it is a little more trouble, because the blueberries burst during baking and baked-on blueberry juice has the potential to cause a lot of sticking.

 

 

Portuguese Sweet Bread (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

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20140523_200324Of my bread cookbooks, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has been least used. It’s just that most of the recipes take so long, and I haven’t been doing many new recipes lately. But I was flipping through it recently, and the Portuguese Sweet Bread caught my eye.

It wasn’t a recipe that required overnight or multi-day resting and fermentation periods, and that was nice, though I did have to buy lemon and orange extracts, which I didn’t have on hand.

I used my mixer to do the kneading, and due to not reading the recipe all the way though before beginning, I just dumped the eggs, sugar, and butter all in together before I realized it called for creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs. Oh well. It didn’t seem to hurt it any.

I also cheated a little by letting the dough proof not at room temperature, but in a warm oven for part of the time, speeding things up a little. With the eggs, butter, sugar, and extracts, I’m not sure that the extra time would have really resulted in a noticeable flavor improvement.

It says bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, until the center reaches 190 degrees F in the center. I have dropped my thermometer one too many times, so I just went by color, which the book says should be a “rich mahogany brown”. I baked mine about 50 minutes, the lower end of the given time scale.

The bread was good. Not too sweet, and thus more versatile than I expected. It was excellent with marmalade, but also very good in a ham sandwich. It got high marks from my family, too. The recipe made two small boules, and I put one in the freezer, but the first loaf went so fast that I shouldn’t have bothered.

Next time I will not bake it so long, though. The crust tasted fine, not over-browned, but the inside was drier than it should have been. I’ll also probably bake it in a loaf pan, just because it makes more consistent slices.

Marmalade

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20140308_100717Home canning is a slippery slope.  One year, you decide to can a few pints of green beans, so they don’t go to waste.  Then, you’re making canned corn, and pickled okra, and the next thing you know, you think “Hey, I can make jelly!”

A neighbor gave us a bunch of oranges and apples.  More apples and oranges than we could eat, for sure.  So I gave some away, but there were still apples and oranges, and we were about to go for a vacation.  I started flipping through my recipe books, looking for recipes, and came to the home canning section, where “apple butter” and “marmalade” caught my eye, there on the same page.

It sounded easy enough…

Two days of frenzied canning activity later, the pile of fruit had been converted into 10 jars of marmalade, and 6 jars of apple butter.  I’m not sure that I want to do it again soon, but homemade marmalade, y’all, it’s SO much better than the store-bought stuff.

I actually made two different batches of marmalade.  One used packaged fruit pectin (I used the Certo marmalade recipe), the other relied on the natural pectin in the oranges (and a couple of lemons).  Relying on the natural pectin did not work so well for me.  I have several jars of marmalade syrup.  I had hoped that they would eventually set up, as a couple of sources mentioned that it might take a while for the natural pectin to fully activate or something, but even after a month or so they haven’t set up.

I think in the future I’ll be relying on store bought pectin.  It takes too long to zest all of those oranges to end up with bread that is unsatisfactorily soggy because of the runny marmalade. Runny marmalade worked wonderfully in Pioneer Woman’s Yogurt-Marmalade Cake, though.

The apple butter turned out fine, too, if a little too sweet.  I’m not the biggest fan of apple butter to begin with, though.  My darling husband has fond memories of his mom’s apple butter, or I wouldn’t have bothered.

Christmas Baking Season!

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Coconut Haystacks

I must confess that I haven’t been blogging much because I haven’t been baking much worth blogging about, just sticking to my tried and true recipes that have already been covered here.

The Christmas season is here, though, so I’ve been doing a little more fun baking/cooking lately.

For the writing group Christmas party, I went with my current flavor combination obsession, chocolate and coconut, and made coconut haystacks from Martha Stewart.  They were good, but I used bittersweet chocolate, and I think semi-sweet would have been a better choice.  And as a bonus it is a gluten-free recipe, so everyone could eat it.  Putting it in the mini cupcake liners looked cute and made it less messy.

I made small loaves of pumpkin bread for people at church. The recipe was a new one I had copied from my mother-in-law’s copy of Simply Delicious Amish Cooking by Sherry Gore.  It makes a big batch: two full-size loaves.  It calls for three cups of flour and an equal amount of sugar, which I reduced to two cups.  I found the recipe online here.  I think it is my new favorite pumpkin bread recipe.

I’ve also got a bunch of ingredients purchased for fudge and homemade caramels.  Those are my traditional Christmas candies.  You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten homemade caramels.  The storebought ones don’t even come close.

 

Coconut Brownies (Box mix add-in)

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Some may argue that brownies are nearly perfect as it is, even box mix brownies.  And I can’t argue with that.  But sometimes you want a little something different.

Awhile back I posted a recipe for Coconut Brownies. This is a variation on that theme, for use with a boxed brownie mix.  It’s very simple: stir in 1 teaspoon coconut extract with the liquid ingredients  (oil, egg, etc.) and after mixing the wet ingredients and the mix , fold in 3/4 c. shredded coconut.

Sprinkle another 1/8 to 1/4 cup coconut on top for fancy (and to warn non-coconut lovers), and bake as the package directs.

Mmmm.  Tastes like Mounds bars. A sprinkle of almonds on top and in the mix might make it Almond Joy.

Buttermilk English Muffins

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20130903_073359I’ve been sticking with a sourdough recipe for English muffins lately, because I really like the flavor, but I had some buttermilk to use up, so I decided to try a new recipe.

The buttermilk gives it a flavor very similar to sourdough, and there is the bonus of not having to set out an overnight sponge.

Sometimes I just don’t think ahead enough for sourdough.

The recipe came from The Kitchen Whisperer.  I did not get very impressive nooks and crannies, but then, I never have with any English muffin recipe.

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