» Baking «


Homemade Dinner Rolls


To continue my attempt at stocking our freezer (Lower Grocery Bills & Freezer Meals), I decided to bake homemade rolls to accompany our soups. I usually direct all bread-making ventures to Jack because, unlike me, he is patient. When I bake I want to prepare the food, put it in the oven, wash the dishes, and pull the food out of the oven. Simple, easy, no hassle, and no waiting between steps. All that to say, these are the characteristics I look for in a bread recipe–I know, it’s sad, but this time it worked!

homemade rolls

This recipe is incredibly easy and really doesn’t take long. I followed it to a tee, but changed the seasonings on top.

“My Favorite Buttermilk Dinner Rolls” from The Bread Bible (slightly altered):

Ingredients:

1 tbsp dry yeast
Pinch of Sugar
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. warm buttermilk
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. butter
1 large egg
2 tsp. salt
4 c. all-purpose flour (plus some for dusting during kneading)

Directions:

1.) In a small bowl combine yeast, sugar and water. Dissolve and let stand until foamy, roughly 10 minutes.

2.) In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, sugar, butter (melted), egg, and salt. Mix in 1-1/2 c. flour and yeast mixture. Beat on high for 2 minutes.

3.) Continue to add the remainder of the flour 1/2 c. at a time with a wooden spoon.

4.) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 4-7 minutes by hand. Use flour to prevent sticking, 1 tbsp at a time.

5.) Grease a large bowl and place smooth dough inside. Turn dough over so top is greased. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1-1/2 hours.

6.) Deflate dough and turn out onto floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each into a 2 to 3 inch cylinder. Cut each into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a small oval.

7.) Lay dough balls on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

8.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush each roll with egg glaze (1 egg, 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp milk). Sprinkle the top of the rolls with garlic, thyme, sesame seeds and pepper (or choose your own combination).

9.) Cut small diagonal slashes on top of each roll. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If using 2 baking sheets, switch top to bottom halfway through baking process.

10.) Allow to cool before serving and enjoy!

These rolls freeze beautifully. Just make sure you seal them up nice and tight and try to get all the air out of the bag or container you store them in to reduce the chance of moisture getting trapped inside.


Lazy Chocolate Spice Cake


After a rigorous year of classes, I can finally say my hardest year of nursing school is complete! Today was my last final and I can’t express how much relief I am feeling right now. Here’s a small glimpse into my life these past few weeks… as if finals aren’t bad enough with cumulative nursing tests, we had a grand total of 12 tests piled on for our last three weeks of classes. Can we say “insane?!” That’s what I thought. Anyways, it is over and I am relieved and ready to finally be in my final year of nursing. This degree (and the attempted others) has been a very long time in the making and I am so excited to be so close to the finish line.

Now, I say all these details about my finals to butter you up since my posts the last few weeks have been scattered and brief. But guess what? All that is about to change! Jack is helping me with some exciting changes for the blog including, a new title and domain, new categories, design changes and hopefully a much better posting schedule. You can look forward to all these changes taking place in about a month (poor Jack still has classes to finish).

Now on to the fun stuff…

This weekend, in the midst of all my studying, I had one of those moments where I simply couldn’t go a minute longer with being crafty. I settled for baking since it is quick and I get to enjoy it for days to come (this cake didn’t last that long). Since I was short on time I cheated and brought out a boxed (gasp), yes, boxed Dunkin Hynes spice cake. Of course, I couldn’t just make a boxed cake so I added 2 tbsp of chocolate baking powder and 2 tsp of vanilla. I then added all the ingredients on the back of the box (3 eggs, oil, water) and threw it in the oven for 25 minutes.

This was a huge success. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this haphazard baking attempt but the finished result was tasty and moist–really, what else matters? I also had half of a package of cream cheese in the fridge so I softened the block, added about 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tsp of vanilla and a smidge of milk. And voila! Delicious cream cheese frosting (spread between the cake layers). Chocolate spice cake, cream cheese frosting, pear slices on top–trust me, this is a winning combination.

So there you have it, my lazy chocolate spice cake for those of you with crazy lives like mine. Keep checking back with us, lots of fun projects coming up. Happy baking!



100 Posts + Lemon Cake


Today we are celebrating our 100th post! What better way to celebrate this milestone than with a moist lemon cake and meringue-ish frosting? Hooray!

When I realized last week that I had just published post #99, I couldn’t decide what project was worthy of #100. So I finally decided to allow my hectic schedule to dictate the project depth, and thus my free time this week allotted enough time to bake a single cake.

I chose to bake a lemon cake for two reasons:
1.) I had leftover Meyer Lemons from an impulse buy (they were so pretty).
2.) I had never attempted a plain lemon cake.

Plain lemon cake may not seem like much in the way of motivation, however, as an ex-hater of all things lemon, I now feel the need to devour as much citrus-flavored goodness as humanly possible. So, that’s the story of how I came to bake a lemon cake.

While scouring the internet for lemony treats, I decided to abide by three rules for choosing the recipe:
1.) Simple
2.) Legitimate source
3.) Already purchased ingredients

As typically happens, my friend Martha Stewart came to my rescue. Martha’s lemon cake is a slight variation of her vanilla cake, which was perfect considering, I love her vanilla cake. Really, you can’t go wrong. She also used a whipped frosting on top which looks meringue-like but is actually lighter, almost foamy.

This lemon cake was incredibly moist with just the right amount of lemony goodness. So, if you’re looking for a simple, fail-safe, and super-moist cake recipe, Martha’s Lemon Cake is the way to go.

And so, here we are–100 posts down and hopefully many more to come. Thank you to all my diligent readers who hang in there with me through the good, the bad, and the ugly posts.

On another miletsone note, we are quickly coming up on the one year anniversary of The Kitchen Curtains and I would love to hear from you. Please shoot me an email or leave a comment letting us know what your favorite post has been so far.

Happy 100!


Guest Post: Cookbook Reviews


This week I am welcoming back the talented Mary Jackson who recently updated you on Google Recipes. Today she is sharing a little bit about herself as well as a few reviews from cookbooks she has used throughout the years. I went ahead and included one of my own photos for you as well. Hope you enjoy!

I am Mary Jackson, wife of John Jackson, Milligan Bible/Humanities professor and mother of two teenagers, Quincy, 16 years old and Grace, 13 years old. I fortunately have a job I love as the Research and Instruction Librarian at Milligan. I work 30 hours of the week most of the year, but take time off in the summers and during holidays. All of that would keep me pretty busy, but I am also the fellowship coordinator along with other responsibilities at my church, Hopwood Christian Church, and teach an online course several times a year.

My hobbies are reading, traveling, internet fun and for purposes of this blog, cooking and baking. I was raised by a mother trained in all the traditional home economic arts, culminating in a Masters’ degree. Most of my childhood, she worked as a registered dietician. In another era, I think my mother would have chosen more of a science oriented path. While completely lacking in creativity, my mother knew how to do lots of things involving cooking, sewing, and crafts. More importantly she was willing to try just about anything. If she didn’t know how to do something, she was more than willing to find out how and buy the supplies necessary to do it. My childhood had plenty of art supplies, cooking ingredients, and sewing materials.

I lack much artistic ability and I am, at best, a very basic seamstress—I can usually get 75% of a project completed before the pattern completely baffles me and I just don’t enjoy it. But what I love is baking and cooking. I also married a man with very few cooking skills, but who was very keen on learning. We now cook well together. He took a great interest in yeast products, which I don’t enjoy, and has become an excellent bread man.

Baking is my favorite activity and baking in large quantities is my specialty. To give you some idea of what I consider “normal”. I make treats (usually two-three choices of cookies, bars or muffins) on test days for my husband’s classes. He has 100+ students most fall semesters. Needless to say I have some standby large quantity recipes and a good work routine. I have also been cooking for church groups and potlucks for most of my adult life. I’d like to blog on recipes/tips/strategies on cooking for large groups and as the owner of a large collection of cookbooks, I’d like to review a few that I love…

Since I work with college students, I get invited to a lot of weddings. Shortly after one of this year’s crop of weddings, one new bride posted on FB asking for recipe suggestions and cooking advice. This got me to thinking about what cookbook I would give to a couple just starting out.

Two classics deserve a bit of discussion. Back when I got married, 28 years ago (oh, my!), the traditional book for all new brides was The Joy of Cooking. I still have mine. The book went through a number of editions, some better than others. I used to refer to it occasionally as it is packed with lots of useful information. But with the rise of the Internet and other newer cookbooks, it is no longer my book of choice. Many of the recipes now seem dated.

Another of my wedding gift cookbooks, was The Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book in the three ring binder. It is truly a cookbook with only a little additional information. I love several features of this book. The inside front and back covers have one of the best equivalency charts (1 lemon = 3 Tbsp juice) and emergency substitutes. Very handy and I still use them. I like the three ring binder as the book lays flat, but now after all these years and several big moves, the pages are starting to fall out and have gone missing.

However, the book that I have gifted to many people and the one we most, is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Bittman is a long time food writer for the New York Times. He just stopped writing his weekly column this year. We have both the original edition (falling apart) and the revised 10th Anniversary edition. I have given this as a gift to everyone from experienced cooks to beginners.

Most of the recipes are straightforward and use ingredients commonly found in U.S. grocery stores. If the ingredient is more exotic, he tells you and usually gives a more readily available alternative. What I enjoy most are his many ideas for how to change up ordinary foods. He includes snazzy boxes labeled: 19 Thirty-Second Ways to Jazz Up Plain Rice, 12 Alternative Toppings for Pasta, and lists over 20 ways to cook chicken cutlets. Who hasn’t looked at a package of chicken breasts in the fridge and hoped for some dinner inspiration? He provides basic information about fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans including buying, storing, preparing and best cooking methods.

My only criticism, and it is very minor, is the desserts section is weak. If you need a desserts cookbook, comment on this post or just keep reading as I’ll soon be submitting dessert reviews.


Crumble Top Zucchini Bread


Working in the Milligan College public relations office has given me the opportunity to test out various recipes on the hardworking individuals in my building. Luckily, they make it easy for me as a few days ago, a bag of squash and 3 very very large zucchinis were left on the back table for whomever wanted to take them. I, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity and decided to try my luck at baking my first batch of zucchini bread.

After perusing 30-or-so zucchini bread recipes, and realizing I could not, in fact, choose just one, I instead decided to combine a few recipes and techniques for my very own version of zucchini bread.

The finished result was very moist and sweet (would you expect anything else?). I am in love! This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread. The zucchini was so large I only ended up using half of it to get my 3 cups worth of shredded zucchini. However, I believe 2 normal-sized zucchinis should be enough for you.

Bread Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. vegetable oil
dash of nutmeg
3 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
3 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Crumble Topping:

4 tbsp. butter (melted)
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease 2 bread loaf pans. I also sprinkled flour in the bottom of mine to help keep it from sticking.

Whisk eggs until frothy. Add in sugar, vanilla, applesauce, and oil. Combine well. Add in 1/2 of the flour mixture, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Grate zucchini and add to mixture. Add remaining flour. Mix well. Pour mixture into 2 loaf pans.

Combine crumble topping ingredients well. You want the flour and sugar to kind of stick together into little granola-like clusters. Sprinkle on top of batter.

Place loafs into the oven for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Update: I received a comment recently about difficulty getting the center of the loaf to cook through. I’ve made this recipe a few times and it was always cooked through so I’m thinking it could be my oven which tends to run a bit hot. I’d recommend testing your loaf with a toothpick and adjusting the temperature and cook time accordingly. Thanks for the feedback!

Allow to cool and enjoy!


Frosted Banana Bars


These banana bars were absolutely delightful. I added a hint of rum to the batter and topped them off with rum frosting. Best of all, they are actually not too terrible of a calorie killer, sitting at about 130 calories per bar.

Banana Bar Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. applesauce
2 or 3 mashed ripe bananas
2 tsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Frosting Ingredient:

1 stick of butter (1/2 c.)
1-1.5 c. powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp. rum

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar on low with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in mashed ripe bananas (3 will make them more moist). Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Pour batter into a large dish. These bars rise quite a bit. I used a 9×13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting, barely soften the butter and blend with powdered sugar until the sugar binds to the butter. Add rum. If the consistency looks too runny, simply add more powdered sugar until the mixture is spreadable.

Once the bars are baked, let them cool completely before cutting and frosting.

Happy baking!