Bread Machine Basics: One Good Loaf

Happy Loaf, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Since my first bread machine post I’ve enjoyed the chance to successfully prepare several loaves of bread. I’ve learned a few troubleshooting techniques, and I’ve settled in to a comfortable groove which begins each Monday with bread baking among my other week-starting activities.

My very first loaf tasted nice enough, but it rose high and then fell in the middle. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I remembered that the clear, simple user manual includes a useful table at the back: the Troubleshooting Guide. Listed there are several recommendations for adjustments in ingredients, portions, and techniques in order to correct ill-fated bread loaves. I have since reduced the water in my recipes by a few tablespoons, and my loaves come out perfect every time.

I started with the simple white bread recipe offered in the manual, and quickly found that I prefer a modified version of the Italian Herb Bread recipe for my daily bread. This recipe uses olive oil rather than butter, no dry milk, and less sugar. Take out the herbs and add in garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and nutmeg – all in tiny quantities – and I find myself with a simple loaf that easily accompanies most meals.

Now that I have an easy confidence with loaves, it’s time to try the next step: dough. The user manual for my bread machine includes simple techniques for dough making so that I can try my first homemade croissant: my goal for next week.

Ahead at AppleJade: cold frames have returned to Jade’s house, vegetables are sprouting on the fridge, and affordable home improvements are being planned. I look forward to sharing more!

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Bread Machine Basics, Take One

Bread Machine Take One, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For Christmas my mother provided me with an exciting kitchen tool: a bread machine.  (Thanks Mom!)

I’ve been trying to learn how to make breads and pastries for several years.  While I have finally mastered sauces, cookies, and many main course dishes, I seem to fail with most breads.  Perhaps it is because of my casual measuring methods.  Perhaps it’s my lacking upper-arm strength.  Ultimately, I’m inclined to believe that my real trouble with breads is that I haven’t had enough success to a) build confidence and b) understand the real mechanics of bread.

Mom knows I’ve been trying to learn to do things for myself in the kitchen, and most folks know that if there was ever a time to tighten the belt and save money, it’s now.  My goal with this new bread machine is to learn to successfully make homemade breads and other goodies that I would normally pay more to purchase prepared at the grocery store.

Shown here is my new ZOJIRUSHI Home Bake Supreme.  Mom knows her stuff:  this machine also makes jams, cake breads, sourdough starters, and bread doughs for pizza and such.  This morning under a dark 5am sky, I carefully combined the ingredients for a Basic White Bread in the prescribed order, and pushed “Start.”  This might not be the handmade, elbow-greased bread to which I ultimately aspire, but it’s a start.  Plus, my bread is being made while I get to work around the house… not a bad deal!

I’ll follow up to share my successes (or challenges) as I familiarize myself with my new bread machine.  Your comments and experiences are welcome!

Carrot Cake a la Cold Frame

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

For the New Year I baked a carrot cake using the last of the carrots from the cold frame.  Moving the carrots gave some much needed light-and-breathing room to the baby greens, and we enjoyed an excellent cake.

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The pictures here do not do justice to the treasure we found when I pulled up the old carrots – one mammoth carrot, which likely weighed a full pound, and was over an inch in diameter!  It comprised half of the 3 cups of shredded carrot needed for the recipe.

I used the “Best-Ever Carrot Cake” recipe in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (p.159), substituting in 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.  I also added my own spices, which is something I enjoy.  For dishes like carrot cake or pumpkin pie, I find it hard to resist adding a pinch of ginger, a dash of nutmeg, and perhaps a touch of lemon.

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I was careful to use the finest side on my four-sided grater when shredding these carrots – if the carrot shreds are too heavy, they can sink through the cake. The cream cheese frosting was a snap, but unfortunately I made too much: remember that if you’re doing a single-layer rectangle cake instead of a two-layer round cake, you only need half the icing in the BHG recipe (p.171).

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Note: If you’re looking for something different, Geraldine Hartman offers “Carrot Cake with a Twist” and “Cream Cheese Icing” from her book Not Just for Vegetarians (p.165), and she also likes “Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake” available at Allrecipes.com.

Coming up in February at AppleJade: we will talk more about cold frames and composting, continue our discussions on health and attitude, and we will also begin exploring the world of Geraldine Hartman’s Not Just for Vegetarians.  I’ll be posting once or twice per week – stay tuned.

How to make homemade pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin for the first time ever.  We grew several varieties of pumpkins in our garden this year, including Sugar pie pumpkins (which are smaller, and sweeter).

I remember how proud I felt the first time I made pumpkin pie “from scratch” using canned pumpkin and canned condensed milk.  At the time, the concept of baking a pumpkin pie with an actual pumpkin seemed completely intangible – however appealing.

I’ve been teaching myself to cook for about 10 years, and I feel good about slowly navigating away from prepared foods and becoming comfortable with cooking in ways that our ancestors from just a few generations back may well have taken for granted.

Making your own pumpkin pie from scratch using a fresh pumpkin is WAY easier than it sounds, and it is loads of fun too.  Below are some simple steps to follow with pictures from my Thanksgiving last month.  (Note: this is a photo-heavy post.  If you have trouble loading the page, please let me know).

Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Fresh Pumpkin

Recipe

The Pumpkin Pie Recipe I used comes from Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini (an fantastic site – give yourself time to browse).

Wood also includes an excellent article Pumpkin Pie from Scratch, and includes a recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, as well as a simple crust recipe accompanying her Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Directions

1.  Select your pumpkin

Select a fresh pumpkin for your pie.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Hand to Scale, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Ours was about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) in diameter.  In the first picture of this post you can see where this pumpkin grew – on a little dish in the garden next to the bird bath where I like to put seeds and crumbs of bread for the birds.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin on Stove, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Pay no attention to the time on the oven – we have a policy in our house that all clocks must never show the actual time).

2.  Prepare your pumpkin

Give your pumpkin a good wash (especially if you picked it at the grocery store).  Using a serrated knife (and possibly a strong friend), slice your pumpkin in half.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin First Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Second Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Third Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Split Open, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Seeds, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds Removed, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Scoop out the seeds and stringers and set that part aside (for roasted pumpkin seeds).

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds for Roasting, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

3.  Bake your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cooked Halves, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I baked mine shell-side down for about an hour at 350 F, although many recipes suggest baking them shell-side-up.  I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was still nice and hot and squishy when I was done.  This picture shows them flipped shell-side-up: I pushed on the shell so you can see how soft it became.

4.  Scoop out your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Scooped Out, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I scooped out the pumpkin with my icecream scoop.  It rolled right out like butter.  I know that many recipes suggest you blend the pumpkin with a food processor at this point.  I don’t own one (and the blender died in a margarita adventure this summer), but I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was as soft and smooth as if it had come right out of that can!

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Compost, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Remember to compost the parts of the pumpkin you won’t use.  If you don’t compost and want to learn how, check back in the Spring – I’ll be posting easy-to-use compost information here at AppleJade).

5. Prepare your crust and your pie filling per the recipe directions

Crust: I stuck with my usual pie crust recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (but substituting in one half-cup of whole wheat flour for my own personal taste).

Filling: As mentioned above, I used Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini recipe for Pumpkin Pie.  During my initial search for pumpkin pie recipes online, I found that some folks needed more sugar in their pies than their recipes suggest.  Since I’m pretty sure my pumpkin was just a small Howden, and not an actual Sugar pie pumpkin (our husky got to the Sugar pies first), I added 3/4 cup of brown sugar to my recipe – the sweetness was just right.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Filling, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I also did not use quite as much cream as the recipe requested.  If you’ve made pumpkin pie using canned components, it’s easy to gauge by sight whether the consistency is correct.  (By the way: fresh, heavy cream is sometimes called “whipping cream” – thanks Mom for the last minute help on that one!)

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Prepared from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

6. Bake and Party

Pop your pie in the oven and bake as directed.***

***Greetings from 2012: over the years many have asked me about oven baking temperatures. Here is the info you need:

The recipe I used for my pumpkin pie blog post at AppleJade comes from Rebecca Wood, Kitchen Daikini: http://www.rwood.com/Recipes/Pumpkin_Pie.htm

Rebecca instructs us to:

a) preheat the oven to 350 F while we make the crust and bake our fresh, halved pumpkin

b) increase the temperature to 425 F just before we mix the pie filling

c) bake the pie at 425 F for the first 15 minutes of baking

d) reduce the temperature to 350 F for the remaining 45 minutes of baking, or until pie is done.

For European ovens, I think these temperatures are:

350 F = 180 C = Gas #4

425 F = 220 C = Gas #7

Remember to cool completely, and for a delicious complement, whip up what’s left of your fresh cream with some confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Baked from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday, and remember to give thanks (regardless of the celebration) for the fruit of the Earth, the skill of your hands, and the power at your fingertips with an in-home stove and oven.  I might think I’m pretty cool for making a fresh pumpkin pie, but it’s not like I had to gather kindling, start a fire, and keep it stoked while my pie was baking, nor did I have to feed, muck, and milk the cow whose cream blessed my meal.

I think I’ll save that for next Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater