Recording my latest baking adventure

It’s fall, so I’m baking All the Things even when I maybe could be doing other, more conventionally creative activities. This recipe started years ago as a basic sweet roll recipe, but I keep adjusting it and tinkering, and it keeps getting better.

So I’m sharing.

Ingredient List (all measurements approximate)

  • Yeast starter:
    3+ tsp active dry yeast (when I’m working with old yeast, I get v generous & use 4+)
  • aprox ½ c. 110 degree water
  • a heaping spoonful of flour

Wet component:

  • ⅓ c. butter
  • ½- to ⅔ c. milk
  • ¼- to ⅓ c. honey

Dry:

  • 3 1/2+ c. flour
  • ½ tsp salt

Filling

  • 1 c. dried cranberries soaked in hot water until plump
  • 1 c diced up fresh apples

(or whatever fruit or other filling you want in the bread. I do a cinnamon goop version without fruit, diced apples w/cinnamon & ginger, and another favorite is butter-top rolls w/diced-up dried apricots inside.)

Steps:

1. Stir together yeast, the spoonful of flour & warm water in a big bowl (this is the one you’ll use for rising the bread) until yeast & flour lumps are dissolved. Set aside. It should start bubbling up and get frothy/spongy-looking

(I know, I know, yeast doesn’t need proofing these days, but doing this gives the yeast a growth boost before putting it in a too-sweet environment. Also, there have been times it didn’t start bubbling because the yeast had..expired. ANYway.)

2. Put butter, milk & honey in a container you can microwave, zap until butter melts. Stir it all up & set aside to cool.

3.     Prep your fruits/filling & set aside to kill time.

4.     Stir together the 3 1/2 c. flour & salt in a bowl

5.     Add the flour/salt mixture & the cooling milk/honey/butter to the bowl of bubbly yeast. Stir just until well mixed. Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper or whatever.

6.     Let. It. Sit.  An hour, a couple of hours, however long the dough needs to double up.

* It rises best in warm rooms, so in winter, I use this as an excuse to bump up the thermostat. Or I start it while I’m roasting something in the oven. 

** It’s often a super-sticky dough at this point, wet and annoying. Bear with it, the results are worth the hassle. Wet your hands when handling it. I know, that’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

7.     Knead it until it gets stretchy and stops quite being so ANNOYINGLY STICKY (about 10 min in my stand mixer gets it to about the right state)

8.     Form into a ball & let it sit AGAIN until it doubles in size. Because it gets more flavo the longer you let it rise. …Or skip straight to step if you have better things to do.

9.     Punch it down, squish out all the bubbles and shape into a rectangle about 1/2–1”  thick. About twice as long as it is wide.

10.  Spoon all the fruit on top and spread to cover evenly.

11.  Roll up from the short end, fold the ends under & pinch the dough to seal — or knead and fold again several times to evenly distribute fruit through the dough. However you want to have you  filling. There’s no one right way.

12.  Set the resulting round loaf into an oiled 8×8 baker…

*or shape in some other way, I sometimes make 4 small loaves out of a batch, or a pan pf pull-apart rolls or a small loaf and freeze half…whatever suits my mood. Have fun with it!

13.  Turn on oven to 375 degrees.

14. Let your shaped dough sit about a half-hour to settle & proof into shape

15.  Bake for 45-55 minutes–or less or more depending on what kind of loaf shape you went with.

This is how the latest batch came out. It gets stale fast but then makes EVEN BETTER toast than when it’s fresh.

 

Until later, all!

The fun of making things

Today I played.

Okay, I also read things and took a nice long (FREEZING, BRRRR) walk with Spouseman, but mostly I played with my new Instant Pot.

I had some perishable foods I’d been neglecting because March totally got away from us, and we scrounged for meals several nights I planned on cooking. The list”

  • a full bag of yummy Yukon potatoes on the verge of going sprouty.
  • too many sweet potatoes because I kept forgetting I still had a couple and bought more every time I shopped.
  • Cream cheese & Greek yogurt tipping past their best-by dates. Ditto some eggs.
  • Some bell peppers I had to turn into something before they got soft spots.
  • various “‘I’m tired of this variety but there’s a couple left in the bag” apples going wrinkly and soft.

So there was that, and when I went to the desk to write Scooter looked at me from my chair with this LOOK that said, “Please no, Mom, I’m comfy here,” and I needed to take my brain mostly offline for a recharge today anyhow.

So. Playtime. I rummaged around the pantry & freezer, set up the Instant Pot, and Kitchen Magic happened. 

The pressure cooking function meant I could do a lot of slow-cooking dishes…fast. I didn’t use any recipes, exactly. The Instant Pot came with a little recipe book, plus I hunted around for ideas online. Various blogs helped me cobble together an estimate of  how much pressure-cook time each food needed , plus I learned how to use the steamer rack that came with the pot.

The peppers joined forces with chicken tenderloins from the freezer, canned tomatoes & tomato paste, plus some garlic to become italian-style chicken for tonight and tomorrow plus a batch for the freezer.

Butter plus the aging dairy products & potatoes transformed into a big ‘ol batch of cream-cheese-golden mashed potatoes. Again, some for now, the rest for later. Big win!

(Yes, I know it’s weird to eat chicken in tomato sauce with mashed potatoes, but I like mashed potatoes with everything, and Spouseman prefers it to pastas as a sauce base.)

Apples got fast-cooked to soften, and then slow-cooked with the lid off to become smooth, sweet, delicious applesauce. There’s always a use for that.  And the sweet potatoes got steamed and then peeled once they were cool. So now I’ll have sweet potato mash available for reheating at lunch time all week.

Also, while grabbing the chicken from the freezer, I found blueberries from last summer and some bananas. Well. Couldn’t ignore a hint like that, could I?  Of course not. I turned those into blueberry banana cake and baked it while one of the other things was working up a head of steam in the pot.

Because why NOT make cake too, right? Of course right.

Today was about letting the brain rest, for tomorrow, it’s back to the hard stuff. Revisions & additions.  It’s also the fun stuff, but still. W-O-R-K.

Until later.

Inside my head right now

Recent random doings:

Read:

Ardulum Book 1. Juicy space opera goodness. I saw a recommendation by Seanan McGuire online,  and I second the recommendation and third it and give it many thumbs up.

Other than that, I’ve been reading seed catalogs, longform online articles about sunscreen & vitamin D. Also re-reading my own writing a lot in the process of revisions.

View:

Venom. Much more fun than I expected. Tom Hardy was entirely believable as a loser coping with an alien parasite. Slight letdown at the end with the alien.

 Smallfoot. Um. It could’ve been worse? I don’t feel the 90 min of my life were wasted.

First two seasons of The Good Place, and caught up with the current season.

Kitchening:

It’s “eat all the summer’s saved fruit!” season. I am perfectly willing to eat frozen blueberries as-is, raw & rinsed off, but Spouseman much prefers me to bake them into things. So. Faux cobbler gets made a lot (what’s that? I take a baking dish, pour in some rinsed frozen fruit w/a little sugar & lemon stirred in, dig out a couple of frozen apple doughnuts, enough to cover the fruit when chopped up and sprinkled on top, and bake until bubbly, browned on top, and delicious.)  I make it with sliced, peeled apples too, but mostly berries.

Gardening:

Garden things in January? In Chicagoland? WEIRD, right?  I helped with a seed bank seed-sorting project at Chicago Botanic. It was lovely. I got to play with screens, and pans, and an air column . Bergamot, penstemon, and prairie dock. My hands smelled like summer all day long, both times. Hoping I get to do that again.

 

Flashback cat pic:

dsc_0223
Atop the chair, Bruce the Magnificent. Beneath it, Scootercat in Lurking Evil mode.

No Context WIP snippet. I post these because I like them but am uncertain whether they work, by the way.  Yes, I would like to know if they’re totally meh, or if you like them too.

Jack saw the rising column of smoke in the distance as soon as the teleport haze cleared around him. The tree-lined neighborhood street was empty, but shouts and wailing sirens were audible at a significant distance.

He bit back a snarl. The smoke meant they were going be late to the incident site no matter what they did, when every second counted.

And that’s a wrap.