Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Rhubarb Time...

I just love this time of year.  We have access to really fresh tasting produce instead of the plastic tasting stuff we've had all winter.  One of the first items that pop out of the ground is rhubarb.  I love rhubarb.  As a kid we would go to my grandmother's garden to pick a bunch of rhubarb and then we would run home to get some sugar.  Yummy... it always tasted so good.... sweet and tart at the same time.  It could have been the fact that we had been starved all winter for something that tasted fresh.  Rhubarb is the start of everything wonderful for summer.... strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, yummy, yummy home-grown tomatoes...
Last year I tried a new recipe,  Rhubarb Crumb Bars from Martha Stewart.  They were delicious.  This is a very versatile recipe.  You can substitue other fruits for the rhubarb and have a different taste.  I tried making them with some frozen raspberries I had left over from last year and they turned out just as delicious... 
Rhubarb Crumb Bars by Martha Stewart


For the streusel
6 T. unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

For the cake
1/2 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T. light-brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour.
  2. Make streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Make cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.
  4. Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake from pan. Cut into 16 bars.
I also tried another recipe from Martha for Rhubarb Meringue Pie. This was also a big hit! I used my own pie crust and made the rhubarb juice from a recipe I found on
If you get a chance to try either one of these recipes I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
     Rhubarb Meringue Pie adapted from Martha Stewart
but I made a few changes....

Before you start making the pie, you will need to make some unsweetened rhubarb juice...

1 lb. rhubarb
1 qt. water
Juice from 1 lemon

Cut rhubarb in 1 inch pieces.  Cook until soft.  Strain.  Add lemon juice.

Now it's time to make that pie crust...yummy!!!

Barb's Best Ever Pie Crust

1 1/4 c. lard (yes can find lard in the meat section of your favorite
market or just ask the butcher)
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

Cut the lard into the flour and salt until when squeezed in your hand the mixture holds it's shape.
1 beaten egg
5 T. water
1 T. vinegar

Add this to your flour mixture.  Don't over work your dough.  Form into a disk and put in the refrigerator for about a half hour.

Remove from refrigerator and cut dough in half.  This recipe makes 2 pie crusts.  Put the other half in the refrigerator for a later pie.  Or you could roll it out and put in a pie plate, wrap it up and freeze for another day.  That's what I usually do.  Anyways, place some flour on your counter and roll out your pie crust.  Fold in half and place in pie plate.  Trim the edges and crimp the edges.  Dock the bottom of the pie shell.  That means take a fork and put a lot of holes in the crust.  Place a piece of parchment on top of crust bottom and pour some beans or pie weights on top.  Bake in oven at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  Remove weights and parchment.  Return to oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until bottom is golden brown.  Let cool.

Pie filling:

2 cups rhubarb juice
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Coarse salt
3 large egg yolks
plus 4 large egg whites (for meringue)
2 T. unsalted butter

Whisk together 1 cup sugar, the cornstarch, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Whisk in juice, bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking.  Cook for 1 minute.  Place yolks in a bowl and whisk; gradually whisk in the hot mixture a little at a time.  This is called tempering.  If you pour the hot mixture into the eggs all at once they will curdle.  Once you have added about half of the mixture to the egg yolks pour it all back into the pan.  Cook over medium heat, whisking, until thick about 1 minute.  Whisk in butter and pour into cooled pie crust.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat broiler with rack  about 6 inches from heat source.  Heat whites and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot (160 degrees), about 2 minutes.  Transfer to the bowl of a mixer. Whisk on high speed until medium peaks form. Dollop meringue onto pie.  Pop in oven and broil until browned, about 1 minute.

I do hope you will try these recipes.  They really are excellent...

Until next time...enjoy!!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls - Just like Cinnabon's.... Absolutely the best!!!

Cinnabon Copycat Rolls

This past week I was a little under the weather.  So this weekend I decided to stay low, rest and just hang out at home.  I made the first posting on Bread, Bread, Bread yesterday and decided "ah what the heck, I'm home I might as well bake"...
I also cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer.  I found lots of fun stuff that really needed to be cooked before I would have to throw it away because of freezer burn. So first there were some shrimp.  I thawed them out and made shrimp with tomato basil sauce with pasta (that will be another post, someday).  I had that for super and froze the rest for lunches.  I had a ham bone left over from Easter and lots of broth from roasts and chickens that I had cooked awhile ago.  I threw them all together and made a wonderful bean soup.  It turned out great.  So I have super for tomorrow night with bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and several individual servings that I will take to work for lunch.  (My favorite lunch, bean with bacon soup and a braunschweiger and mustard sandwich)... My mom use to make them when I was little.  When I eat them it reminds me of her.  I also chopped up a bunch of rhubarb to make some rhubarb bars which I will have in my next post.
This morning I woke up and went to church and then came home and decided to make my favorite cinnamon rolls.  I love to bring them to work.  It always puts a smile on everyone's face.  I thought I would show you how I make my rolls.  They always turn out and are such a treat.  This recipe is a copy cat recipe for Cinnabon's.  They taste just as good and the recipe makes 18 rolls.  So there's always enough for everyone.

Let's start...
To make these rolls you will need the following: 

1/2 cup warm water (roughly 110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 T. sugar
3 1/2 oz. package vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup margarine, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
6 cups flour (plus a little more)

I'll give you the frosting recipe at the end.

In a measuring cup combine 1/2 cup warm water with 2 packages dry yeast and 1 T. sugar. (Add the sugar to the dry yeast mixture.  It makes the yeast guys wake up faster)  It should start frothing within about 5 minutes.  (See picture above... the yeast is ready to pour into the mixture)
In a large bowl make the pudding according to the directions on the package.  Once it starts thickening, add 2 eggs, the melted margarine, the remaining sugar, the yeast and salt and mix really well.

Start adding the flour 1 cup at a time...

It will start looking a little lumpy, but that's OK.  I usually add 5 cups of flour at this point and add the other cup while I'm kneading.
Again, it looks kind of lumpy and messy, but that's OK.  Start kneading.  If you have never kneaded before, pretend like you are giving someone a massage.  Work the dough with the heals of your hands.  Keep adding flour until the dough is not sticky anymore.  You might need even more flour to achieve a non sticky mass.  That's OK.  Just keep adding until it sticks together, but is not sticky.
Fold your dough over and over kneading with the heal of your hand...
After a very short while, you will have a beautiful ball of dough that's not sticky. 
Now it's time to proof...
Oil (cooking oil) a large bowl and drop your ball of dough into the bowl.  Flip it over and add a little more oil to the top of the ball and rub it all the way around.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise.  I learned a little trick from Alton Brown.  I'm sure you are wondering what the bowl is sitting on.  It's a heating pad sitting inside a large casserole dish.  This keeps a constant low heat on the dough and it rises much quicker.
Once the dough has risen (about an hour or so), punch it down in the middle and let it rise again.  The second rise will go much quicker than the first rise. 
At this point, put about a cup of flour on your counter and turn your ball of dough out on the counter and start rolling with a rolling pin.  Your finished measurement should be approximately 36" wide by 21" long.

Once the dough is rolled out, take about 1/2 cup of softened butter and brush it all over the dough.  Then take about 2 cups of brown sugar and 2 or so tablespoons of cinnamon in another bowl and mix.  Spread this mixture over the dough and butter.  Then start rolling the dough into a 36" log.  I use a measurng stick at this point so I cut the rolls equally.  Each roll should be 2" wide and you should have 18 rolls when you are done.  I also learned another trick from I'm not sure where, but it works really well.  Take some sewing thread or meat twine and slice the rolls with it.  Loop the thread around the dough and pull.  It cuts them perfectly.
Because you have 18 rolls when you are done it's hard to figure out what kind of pan to put them in.  After many different trys, I finally came up with using 3 brownie pans.  Each pan holds 6 rolls.  You don't want too many more than that in each pan because the rolls in the middle won't cook completely and you will have a big doughy mess. 
Take your 3 pans and place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of the pan and place 6 rolls in each pan, cover and let rise one more time.
As Alton Brown always says, "you're patience will be rewarded"!  (LOL!!!)

Once they have pretty much risen to fill the pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  I bake each pan separately.  I suppose you could cook them together, but I don't.
The final product looks wonderful... and tastes even better....

Look how pretty and yummy!!!! They're the best!
Now for the frosting....
You will need the following:
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup margarine (I use butter, because I can)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1 T. milk

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until creamy.  Frost your rolls when they have cooled and enjoy!  You will get a lot of smiles out of these rolls and once they bite into them they're eyes will tell you that you did good! 
I do hope that you will try these rolls, they're the best!  They were definitely sent from heaven...
until next time....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bread, Bread, Bread....Yummy!!!

"3" Wonderful Bread Recipes...

Bread Making Basics by Connie Q....the best!

Before Pinterest, I spent hours searching for recipes or videos on things that I would like to make, but didn't know how to do. I love to bake. The one thing I was not very good at was making bread. I wanted to learn more about it and see if it was really as hard as I had made it out to be.  Well.... boy was I wrong.  Like everything else it's just a technique.  Once you learn the technique, bread making becomes so easy. I have become proficient in making bread and rolls thanks to the wonderful contributors from Pinterest and a wonderful website by Connie Q.  I hope you try a few of these recipes.  They are easy and taste so good.  Your family will be amazed at your talent and you will be amazed at how easy it really is...enjoy!
- - - - - - - - - - -
One of the first websites I came across for learning how to make good bread was ConnieQ Cooking...  Her tutorial is wonderful. Her technique is easy.  Please check it out if you are a novice and would love to make some good homemade bread and cinnamon rolls.  Her website does not have any photos of the finished product, but has 4 videos showing you step by step how to make bread from start to finish.

Here are links to You Tube Videos by Connie Q

Bread Making Basics..... by ConnieQ

Bread Making (Part I)

Bread Making (Part II)

Bread Making (Part III)

Bread Making (Part IV)

Thank you Connie... I finally learned how to make good bread from your techniques!!!

Crusty French Bread
My husband's 60th birthday was in March.  I decided to have an Italian dinner for family.  I started with a Chicken Alfredo Lasagna recipe from Pinterest.  I made a great green salad and then I added Crusty French bread.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, of course.  This was without a doubt the easiest recipe I have come across to date.  The bread turned out beautiful.  I made several loaves and the family loved them.
There's nothing better than warm crusty French bread with butter.... yummy!!!!
I found the bread on Joan's blog,
She has a great tutorial on how to make this bread.  She does a wonderful job showing you step by step. 

Check out her blog for this great, easy recipe..... you won't be disappointed!

4 Ingredient Over-Night Bread
Last week I came across a bread recipe on Pinterest that intrigued me.  It used only flour, yeast, salt and water.  How simple!  It did however need to be cooked in a cast iron dutch oven.  I didn't have a cast iron dutch oven so I was on a quest to find one.  The gal on the blog was using a Le Creuset 5.5 quart dutch oven.  These puppies are really expensive.  I found this ad for them on Amazon.  The best price is $34.73, which is not terribly bad.  I do use mine all the time.  It's great for soups, stews and of course 4 Ingredient Over-Night Bread!
According to the recipe you have to leave the dough on the counter overnight.  So last night I mixed up the dough which took about 2 minutes and went to bed.  This morning I baked the bread in my new cast iron dutch oven.  OMG!!!! this bread is unbelievable.  It is like an artisian bread.  It is crusty the way I like it and wonderful. 
Here's how it turned out...

This bread was without a doubt the easiest thing I have ever made.  The taste is out of this world.  The recipe came from  Janet has many variations to make from this simple recipe.  Check out her blog for more ideas on adding different ingredients.  I checked out all the comments on her blog and everyone is in agreement that this bread is wonderful.  Some of the variations cheddar, Rosemary, lemon and gruyere and cranberry, orange and almond.  You could make your own variations.
Here is the recipe from Janet's blog...

Crusty Bread
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours.  Overnight works great.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool. 
This recipe is a keeper!

Until next time....enjoy!!!

"Life's dessert first!"