Breads & Baked Goods

Remembering Moby and celebrating Daisy

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Yes, my dogs wear sweaters. But it does get cold and snowy here.

This time last year was the start of a very sad period in the household.  After a very quick, very sudden, very severe illness, one of my dogs named Moby had to be put to sleep.  He was 10 years old, but he definitely didn’t act like a senior dog.  He was always active; he’d chase squirrels all day in the backyard if you let him.  Which made it that much more difficult.  One day, he’s running around chasing leaves, two days later he’s gone.

He was rescued from a shelter in Mason, MI where I found him sitting in his own filth.  Sitting at the front of his pen, his face was just pressed against the gate, and he was just looking down at the ground.  All the other dogs in the place were barking and yelping for attention, all except for him.  He clearly was not used to being in a place like that.  So how could I turn away the saddest puppy in the place who was covered in his own crap?  Of course, he would celebrate his new freedom by throwing up into the middle console of my truck on the drive home.

Moby didn't like Daisy at first, but they worked it out eventually.

He was a member of the family for over 10 years and I wasn’t ready for him to go.  I had spent years trying to prepare for when Licorice, who was the elder dog at the time, would pass away (Licorice died later on in the year on December 13 at the age of 16, so my holidays just plain sucked last year).  But this wasn’t supposed to happen to Moby.  That was definitely a horrible day for us.  I was at the vet for hours listening to him howl in pain; even morphine couldn’t ease his suffering.  So on September 27th of last year, we said goodbye to our little buddy.  I was a mess for months; even know I can’t help but get emotional as I’m writing this.  What made things even worse, I ended up forgetting Daisy’s 1st birthday which happened to be two days later on the 29th.

As is a tradition in this house, all the puppies get a special cake or meal on their birthday.  I know that they probably have no clue as to what’s going on, but it’s important to me to celebrate it.  So this year we’re making sure to celebrate Daisy’s 2nd birthday with one of Moby’s favorites.

This recipe for the “Very Berry Drooly Dreams” cupcakes was taken from the Three Dog Bakery cookbook.  This cookbook is actually a very good resource if you do like to bake goodies for your furry friends since it contains a nice list of non-dog-friendly ingredients.  I’m sure everyone knows about chocolate and onions being toxic to dogs, but did you know that macadamia nuts could have adverse effects on the digestive and nervous systems of your pooch?  Grapes / raisins also contain toxins that could damage the kidneys if eaten in sufficient amounts.  Just a couple of facts that might be useful for folks out there.  Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

  • "Very Berry Drooly Dreams" cupcakes

    1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

  • 1 c. quick rolled oats
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 1 c. berries, fresh or frozen and thawed

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Coat a standard muffin tin with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl stir together the flour, oats, and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and milk.  Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.  Fold in the berries.

3.  Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake for 30 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

4.  Cool on a rack until room temperature before serving.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  You can freeze them, where they can keep for a couple of months.  Just thaw before serving.

Peachy Scones

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There’s still some last grasps of summer up here in the midwest.  Today may be the last “warm” day we get for a while — it got all the way up to 76 F today, which is way better than the 105 that we got over the summer.  And although autumn is pretty much here (which is my favorite time of the year), I still want summer to hang around for just a little bit.  So that brings me to some peaches.

Now originally some peaches were picked up at the store cuz they were really on sale (which is grocery-speak for “ready to spoil”) and I got inspired.  Initially one thing popped into my head — Peach Soufflé!  But I wanted a quick easy fix so that recipe will have to wait for another time.  So what’s next? — scones!  But apparently I figured it out too late and those peaches did end up spoiling.  I was still inspired so I went to the store and got some new, not quite so nearly-rotten-but-still-sellable as the old peaches.

This was taken from the King Arthur Flour website.  I made some minor changes, but it still stays true to the original.  I did follow a couple of suggestions:  1) to just drop some of the batter into a greased muffin tin, and 2) cut the amount of nutmeg in half — it originally called for 1 t. of nutmeg.  It doesn’t make for the prettiest scone, but it makes it a little easier to divide the portions out, at least for me.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. galangal
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. diced peaches, fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sugar

1.  Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a divided scone pan, a 12-cup muffin pan, or a baking sheet.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and baking powder. Cut in the butter, using your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt or sour cream, and the almond extract. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the peaches and stir just until everything is well-combined. This is a wet, sticky dough, good for drop scones.

4.  Divide the dough among the compartments of the scone pan, or drop by the scant 1/4 cupful into the cups of a muffin pan or onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the scones with coarse sugar, and bake them until they’re golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes (on a baking sheet), or 18 to 20 minutes (in a pan). Yield: 8 to 12 scones.

Notes — The original calls for 6 T. of butter, but I was using some low-fat sour cream so I added the last two from the stick to call it even.  Not sure if that makes everything square, but it tidies everything up — I didn’t want 2 T. of butter lying around the kitchen just waiting for some toast.

Labor Day with the family

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Batten down the hatches!!!  My parents and my brother are driving up from Florida to visit me for Labor Day.  Plus I got some other cousins and aunts and uncles coming in from about an hour away.  Lord help!  It’s not that I don’t want them to visit — it’s the planning that can be tricky.  And figuring out a menu isn’t going to be easy.  Maybe I can talk my cousin into bringing something to help with the menu.  What would be nice is having a whole roast pig, but since that ain’t gonna happen I’m going to have to improvise.  And too bad my grill just busted.  Good thing there’s still the trusty Smokey Joe. . . and as a side note, here’s what the Department of Labor says about Labor Day.

Luckily, another aunt and uncle (also from Florida) came in for a visit a few weeks ago so the meal they had here was essentially a trial run.  But since there’s gonna be more people, I’m going to need to expand a bit.  I do want to make some stuff focused on local goods and made in Michigan things, but I also want to make some things that I know they’ll like.  I did find some Labor Day ideas at Grilling.com, Martha, and Yum Sugar.  So here’s what I might end up doing (which I hope to post on these new ones soon):

Roast pork shoulder

Sautéed green beans with mushrooms

Ratatouille

Grilled corn

Fresh Lumpia

Bibingka

Zucchini Ribbons with Garlic Confit

Empanadas

Steamed Mussels with Glass noodle

Koegel’s viennas

Something with Rhubarb (probably a Raspberry and Rhubarb tart)

San Miguel

Oberon

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Of course all this planning might just go out the window, so I’m going to wait until the last minute to do any shopping.  There’ll probably be a trip to Windsor in the making.  Or maybe a quick jaunt to Toronto (if I’m lucky)!

Beer Bread with Bacon and Chives (did I mention the bacon?)

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July is Craft Beer Month here in the state of Michigan, so to honor this wonderful month I wanted to make some Beer Bread.  Did you ever want a nice loaf of bread but didn’t want to deal with the hassle?  It’s a pretty involved process — proofing the yeast, mixing and kneading the dough, letting the dough rise, letting the dough rise again, and whatnot.  Don’t get me wrong, making a nice bread from scratch is something to be proud of.  Not a lot of people can do it well.  But what about the rest of us?  That’s why I like this recipe.  It is one of the easiest recipes that I know, and plus it involves beer!  Well, at least the base recipe is very simple; just take out the butter, chives, and bacon.  But come on — it’s butter and bacon!

So let’s talk about beer for just a second.  I only have a couple of summer favorites — 1) Old Speckled Hen from Suffolk, England, 2) San Miguel from the Philippines, 3) the fabulous Allagash White from Portland, ME, 4) Newcastle from Scotland (I think), and 5) a Michigan beer from Bell’s brewery called Oberon.  Oberon has kind of a cult following with some pubs and fans celebrating when the first batches come out for the year.  I used to have a calendar that marked the “opening days” of all their beers.  Not sure where it went though.  But I luv Oberon; nothing goes better with Michigan summers than a slice of orange and an ice-cold glass of Oberon!

But back to the bread.  This is a fairly hearty bread.  It can hold its own against bigger flavors, but you don’t necessarily want a competition for your attention.  This is great just on its own.  Maybe put a couple of slices in the broiler or toaster for a couple of seconds and you should be all set.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 bottle of beer (I used Bell’s Oberon)
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. chopped chives
  • 4 strips of crispy bacon, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 stick of butter, melted

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-in loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Put all the ingredients except the butter together in a bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, mix the batter well, until combined.  The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

3.  Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and pour the melted butter on top.  Bake for about 1 hr and 15 minutes, until nicely browned on the top.

4.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  If done correctly, the bread will be pretty dense and crusty.

Notes — You can try a whole bunch of different herbs in this one.  I just use chives because I have them growing out back. . . Also try a whole bunch of different beers and ales.  Guinness makes a wonderful beer bread as does a Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic. . . Like I said above, take out the butter, bacon, and chives (not that you would) and you have the base recipe.  You can take the base and modify it as you like. . . maybe a little cheese on top because butter and bacon apparently isn’t enough. . . PS — the ends are the best cuz those slices have the most crust, which has been surrounded by butter for over an hour!  Look, I never said that this was healthy. . .

Gougere (aka Cheezy Poofs)

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Happy Bastille Day!  So to celebrate I thought I’d make some Gougere.  That’s just French for “cheese puffs”.  Well, probably not, but that’s what they are.  But I was thinking one day about making certain sweet items more savory.  Cream puffs came to mind, so I was thinking about what would be a way to make them less sweet.  And — Bam! — cheese would work.

After doing some digging, it turns out I’m not all that much of  an innovator.  Looks like the French did this like millions of years ago.  Maybe I should read more French cookbooks.  This recipe basically follows your simple pate-a-choux recipe which is essentially a 1-1-1-4 combination.  That is 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of flour, and 4 eggs.  Plus any salt, pepper, and sugar you might add.  This makes about 40, depending on how big you make them.

Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. grated Gruyère
  • 1/2 c. grated cheddar
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 T. fresh herbs
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Make an egg wash by mixing together one egg and 1 T. heavy cream; set aside.  Bring 1 c. water, the salt, sugar, and butter to a boil in a saucepan.  Cook until butter is melted.  Add in the flour all at once and stir to combine.

2.  Cook the flour combination for about 5 minutes, until there is a film covering the bottom of the pan.  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  Add the cheeses to the mixture and mix well.  One at a time, add 4 eggs, mixing after each addition.  Now add the herbs and black pepper and incorporate.

4.  Using a piping bag, pipe out 1 – 2 inch rounds onto a lined baking sheet.  If needed, dip your finger into a bowl of water and smooth out the tops.  Brush the puffs with the egg wash and top with a little cheese if you have any leftover.

5.  Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until golden and puffed.  Serve immediately.

Notes — A couple of things:  (1) Now I was watching a clip on-line from Martha and they said that you could bake these and freeze them.  I certainly hope that’s the case since I will have a lot leftover.  I have frozen some pies before with no problems so I’m guessing it should work out fine.  (2) Also, you can just drop the puffs if you don’t want to pipe them out.  Just smooth out the tops to get a nice uniform shape.  (3) You can substitute a variety of cheeses, but I’d figure you want some kind of good melting cheese at least.  I wonder what using a Stilton would be like.

Gooseberry Grunt

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Nothing says “Happy Birthday America” like a Gooseberry Grunt.  Gooseberries are native to North America, but there are also species with origins in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  They are closely related to currants and can have cross varieties between the two.  I found a University of Minnesota article with some info about both.  It has useful info on how to grow and harvest them.

As for grunts, they are one of the many types of cobblers.  I could do a whole series of stuff on different types of cobblers, but you’d probably not get 100% consensus about how to define all the different varieties.  Sometimes referred to as slumps, grunts get their name by the sound they make as they cook.  Traditionally cooked on the stovetop , the dough or crust is basically a steamed dumpling.  You use a biscuity type dough for this type of cobbler.  This recipe was baked in the oven so it probably should be called a slump, but alliteration-wise “Gooseberry Grunt” sounded better.  Which is probably why “American as Apple Pie” was more popular than “American as Gooseberry Grunt”.

This dessert has its roots in colonial New England.  I remember reading somewhere that grunts were from Massachusetts and the everywhere else in New England called them slumps.  These were attempts to recreate the steamed pudding that could find in their home country of England.  Of course, they could only use the fruits that they could find locally.  Yay! — another cultural / historical nugget!

Anyhoo, back to the recipe.  There were some raspberries mixed in so this isn’t just gooseberries.  The flavor of the gooseberry is on the tart side, but there is some sweetness there.  It’s kinda hard to really describe the flavor since it is so unique.  The texture is close to that of a grape.  There is a pic on Wikipedia showing a sliced gooseberry.  There’s also info available at the site, but you can never trust Wikipedia 100% since anyone can change the info.  But I digress. . .

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 c. gooseberries
  • 1 c. raspberries
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 1 c. self-rising flour
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 c. boiling water

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the berries into your baking dish.  This one used an 8×8 glass dish.

2.  In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and 1/2 the sugar until fluffy.  Alternating with the half the milk, add the flour in thirds so that you start and end with the flour (hope that isn’t confusing because I can never figure out how to state that clearly).  Spoon the batter over the berries.

3.  Mix together the remaining sugar with the cornstarch and nutmeg.  Sprinkle over the top.  Pour the boiling water over everything.

4.  Bake for 1 hour.  Cool for about 15 minutes before serving so that it can set.  You can serve with ice cream or whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Bibingka — Cassava and Coconut Custard

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Here’s a recipe that is always a staple at pretty much all of my big family get-togethers.  I was trying to track down a recipe so that I could list it on the blog, but there was just a problem of getting everyone on the same page.  So luckily I was able to finally find one that was relatively simple (some recipes involved lots of different tropical fruits and cheese, which was a little weird to me — in my experience, SE Asia isn’t big on the whole cheese thing).  You will need a food processor though, but I guess you could grate the cassava by hand.

This recipe I found on the Saveur Magazine website.  From the picture in the article, this looks pretty close to what is done in my family, but I think the family recipe has some macapuno in it (here’s a link to a blog that nicely describes what macapuno is).  The topping is different, too.  The one my aunt makes is a lot more caramelized on top, almost like the topping on creme brulee, but softer.  Now, I did make one change to the recipe, mainly for time constraints.  I was making this for a party and I wanted to do most of the prep ahead of time so I mixed the batter together the night before and put it in the oven just before dinner was served.  Worked out great for me!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs. peeled cassava, cut into chunks
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.

2.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the sugar, salt, butter, eggs, and coconut milk.  Whisk until smooth.  Set aside.

3.  In a food processor, chop the cassava pieces until it is finely shredded.  Stir into the egg mixture, and pour the combined mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

4.  Bake for 40 minutes until set.  Baste with the heavy cream, and then bake for another 40 minutes until browned.  Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes — I think I might put in a little citrus zest in the next batch.  I’m still trying to get closer to what my family version of the delicacy is, so maybe I’ll add some macapuno.  You should be able to find some macapuno preserves in any good Asian grocery.