The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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dstroy

 I made a traditional Polish Piernik (Honey Cake) for the holidays this year and it came out as nice as I remembered them being from childhood. The whole house smelled like Christmas when I was baking too - so many fond memories!  

 
I used my grandmother's recipe - here is a photo of my grandma Irena's instructions written over 30 years ago:
 
 
It says:
 
Mix 15 dkg (150g) of butter or margarine with 35 dkg (350g) of heated honey (it should be liquid, not boiling, but warmer than room temperature).
While mixing, add 6 egg yolks and 40 dkg (400g) of sugar.
Then add 2 tsp or 2 tablespoons (depending on how spicy you like it) of ground pumpkin pie spices
         (I didn't have officially labeled "pumpkin pie spices
         so I added about 1 Tablespoon of a mix of ground
         ginger, cloves, and cinnamon).
Pour in 1 cup (250 ml) of dark beer.
Then add 3/4 kg (750g) of flour mixed with 15 g of baking soda.
 
Add dried fruits and nuts (as much as you like and what you like- my mom would usually add 2 cups of predominantly raisins and candied orange peel but this year I opted for straight honey-cakes so I skipped the fruit). The traditional fruits and nuts include: raisins, walnuts, almonds, candied orange peel, dried apricots, figs, dates and so forth)
 
 
 
At the end add stiff foam from 6 egg whites. Mix carefully- so the batter is "light and airy".
 
Divide into several bread-baking pans, greased with butter (about 3 standard loaf pans, or you can make the miniature loaves and they make super gifts) and bake about 1 hour at 350 deg F
 
 
 
 
 
You can keep piernik at room temperature for weeks! Some claim it gets better with time. In old time traditional Poland they used to bake piernik when a girl was born, then bury it underground to preserve it and eat it at her wedding. These days it is a traditional Christmas time treat. 
 
 
 
 
In my opinion it is better to go easy on fruits and nuts. In Poland people think - the more of fruits and nuts, the better is the piernik, but I just love the taste of the honey cakes and it's especially tasty with some cream cheese for a snack.
 
 
 
 
 
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dstroy

Ah November... for me, as a mom, this is the one time of year I start to dread all the sugared temper tantrums that are bound to become a regular thing now that the season of non-stop candy and sweets is upon us.

I still want something sweet, but I would rather see all the *sugar, sugar, sugar!* that the kids are bringing home get thrown out, so today I made Guilt-Free Hippie Cookies.

No sugar, no butter, just honey and applesauce, vanilla, walnuts and carob for flavoring. I don't even usually like carob, maybe because usually when I have it it's in something replacing chocolate where chocolate would frankly have tasted better, but in this recipe, it's like carob is acknowledged as it's own thing, slightly sweet and salty, and it just goes really well with the cookie. 

And, despite their Halloween baskets still overflowing with candy, the kids are really into these, and I don't mind them when they indulge as much.

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dstroy

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dstroy

So this year my son turned 10, and he requested a cake that was all sorts of "half-and-half".

Half of his cake, he wanted "hockey" themed. The other half, he wanted "warrior cat" themed. (He's been reading a series of books about fighting cats)

And he wanted strawberry AND chocolate cake as well.

I wasn't up for making a layered cake, so I asked if he'd take a strawberry cake with chocolate chips in it - and then found myself having to make something up since I couldn't find anything that matched that description online. The boxed strawberry cake mixes from the store are pretty...meh.

So I found a bunch of strawberry cake recipes that called for a white cake mix and a package of Strawberry Jello, or I'd find ones that were totally from scratch that had crushed berries in them but which weren't pink, so I decided to go with something in between since I'm not fond of the boxed white cake mixes and wanted something in between.

I am very pleased with this one, because I've never messed with a cake recipe that much before.  It came out very strawberry flavored, not too sweet, with just the touch of chocolate.

Pink Strawberry Chocolate Cake:

This is the recipe I came up with when making a 9x13 "hockey rink" cake:

I put some frozen strawberries in a ziplock the day before I made the cake, so they'd thaw before I made it.  Then for the cake, the first thing we did was to mash up those berries. This was a great job for the littlest helper who was excited to help make her brother his special cake.  The leftover mashed berries can be thrown in a container and used for smoothies later - bonus!

cream together:

  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup)

then add:

  • 4 eggs
  • about a Tablespoon vanilla extract

when this was all ready, dump in and mix gently:

  • 3/4 cup of the mashed strawberries

mix the dry ingredients FIRST, and add to the batter mix:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 small package of Strawberry Jello gelatin mix (this stuff basically gives it that ice cream parlor taste, along with the crazy color)

And finally, after youve mixed all that stuff together, add in

  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips (the mini ones were perfect for this!)

Fold it together and you're going to have some pretty shockingly pink stuff to cook with.

 Pour it into your pan, having greased the sides with some butter beforehand.

Oh - and I discovered an awesome trick which is kind of a "duh" but which had never occurred to me until I ran across it searching for recipes - line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper and your cake will be a snap to pop out of the pan! 

Bake @ 350 for 1/2 hour and then start checking the cake with a toothpick to check when it's ready (toothpick won't come out mushy) - mine took about 40 minutes.

THAT'S A PINK CAKE! Your house should be smelling pretty "strawberry" now.

parchment paper, I love you!

Once the cake cools, it's time to frost:

Take

  • 2 packages 8 oz cream cheese  
  • 2 cups confectioners' powdered sugar in a mixing bowl, and whip with an electric beater until smooth. 

(*DONT DO THE NEXT PART UNTIL THE STUFF IS SMOOTH, or you'll end up having to "zamboni" your ice rink like I did and start a new batch because it'll end up all powdery )

Then add about 

  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and beat again until you have a spreadable consistency.

Decorate as desired, in my case, it was with a hockey rink and some printed card cut-outs of pictures of cats playing hockey. :)

  

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dstroy

OK you guys, I'm kinda excited  - everyone knows the baker around here is Floyd, and with him doing all the breads, I haven't had to venture into the kitchen to deal with my mageirocophobia. I don't know what it is about baking but I have always tended to shy away from anything baked beyond the occasional cookie and cake.

For all that I'm on here every day for the last 6+ years, I still had never actually baked any sort of yeasted bread myself - I've only made simple quickbreads  -  one anyway: banana bread.

Well, Floyd and I have been working on a project for the last couple of weeks, which I'll let him talk about probably in the next week, but it required me to get over my fear of baking and get in there and bake my first loaf, all by myself.

And here is what I made :)

Well, it's nothing as pretty as Floyd's breads, and I know my shaping and scoring are ehehehe...leaving a lot to be desired,

but HEY! It's my first loaf! I am actually pretty psyched about it.

 

My dough was just a bit more sticky than I expected it to be - I had to be reassured that this was, in fact, OK...

Here's me kinda freaking out about the mess hahaha. And yes, I took the photo using the handle of my wooden spoon to click the shutter button on my camera which was sitting on the counter. :D

Also, what is it some kind of Murphy's Law or something, that the stupid phone will be silent all day right up until you've got your hands plunged into a big pile of sticky dough?

I think the lady on the other end thought my not-so-happy reaction about her call was because she was reminding me about a dentist appointment (which she'd forgotten that she'd already reminded me about anyway!), when in fact, it was just that I was not sure now how to actually hang up the phone and put the receiver down without getting myself stuck to the buttons.

How many of you pace when you put your loaves into the oven? I certainly did... like a new father-to-be at the hospital waiting for news from the doctor :)

But the news came out great, all things considered! Here's what you expert guys like to call "the crumb shot":

Obviously I have lots to learn, but not too shabby for a first time in the kitchen, eh?

And the kids were giving it thumbs up, and since they were raised on Floyd's breads, I consider that a pretty awesome compliment.

They polished off the entire loaf before Floyd even got home to taste it - good thing I'd made a second loaf!

 

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dstroy

I ran across this today and had to come over and post about it here!

 

The Breadou® Loaf baguette is designed to look like a loaf of bread but is, in fact, made from flexible polyurethane foam and meant to be used as a computer keyboard wrist rest. The site also says they smell like the real thing too.

How many folks are thinking that the person who came up with this idea was having some tough times getting their doughs to work out right? XD

Also, I'm intrigued by the idea of a baguette "custard caterpillar" - kinda would like to see a recipe for the non-foam version!

Those loaf thingies can be found over here, by the way.

 

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dstroy

Our kids are huge fan of the appropriately named "Annoying Orange" guy. His latest adventure involves bread dough.

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dstroy

So, it's time for my bi-annual decorated birthday-cake post! Our son turned 9 last weekend and as is our tradition, I made his birthday cake in the theme he selected.


This year, he was super into Greek gods and mythology after having just finished a 5-book series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He wanted his cake to have a labyrinth, water and a Trident (because the main character in the series is supposed to be the son of the sea-god Poseidon), the Greek god Pan, a black pegasus, a cyclops, Percy's sword, and a "blue triangle that glows and opens the secret doorway to the labyrinth when pressed by a half-bloods hand. 


Well, that's a tall order! Here then, is the cake that he got:



I used marzepan for the sculptures, some gel icing which I dyed blue for the water, and the rest was the cream cheese icing which we've all become so fond of. The cake was two layer - Devils Food chocolate for the bottom layer, and the top layer was the delicious white cake recipe I used for his sister's rainbow cake with swirls of blue in it because there's stuff in the book series about blue food.


The labyrinth walls were made of fudge icing, and the rocks were chocolate rocks that I found at a cake decorating shop.


 




The boy was particularly pleased with the detail of skulls and bones scattered in the labyrinth. ;)


 



I learned that making a horse shape out of Marzepan is really super hard. The flower thingies were there to add stability.


 





ahahahah... OK I know, I know... Looks like Pan has really been letting himself go lately.


I had no idea how to make a Pan - but doesn't he look pleased with himself?



There ya go - glowing triangle. Age 9 gave us the perfect number of candles to make it happen too.



And there's the birthday boy, with sticky hair, blowing out his candles. (His hair is all funny like that because this year's party was a pie-fight in the back yard. Yes, that's right, a pie fight! Floyd bought 14 pounds of pudding and four super-sized cans of non-dairy whipped cream at the Cash and Carry and the kids made "pies" with the pudding which they ladeled onto kid-hand sized paper plates, adding some whipped cream and sprinkles on top. Then they had fun lobbing them at each other. I think the parents had as much fun watching as the kids did throwing the pies, and then we were blessed with several days of rain afterwards which helped clean up the mess on our lawn - it was a ton of fun!)

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dstroy


not your ordinary "Ciabatta".


 


(image not mine - found online via reddit - shared for your amusement)

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dstroy


Found this over on the bitsandpieces site - thought his "caption contest" idea was one you guys might find amusing :)

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