Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Patron Saint of Bread

Despite being raised by a mother who wasn't an enthusiastic cook, my Uncle George was a foodie.  My dad is probably the world connoisseur of bread, but George knew meals, the whole meal from cocktail to aperitif and everything in between.  Not only did he enjoy good food, he appreciated it, he savored it.  When everyone was full and clearing their Thanksgiving plates, he was still on his first helping and would soon be heaping on the seconds.  And my mother loved to cook for him because he was so appreciative, and it's nice to make someone happy, especially someone who never asked for anything.

I doubt a hot dog ever passed his lips, unless he was at a baseball game.  No, he'd opt for a slow-grilled hot sausage smothered in sauteed onions and peppers on a hoagie roll.  When he ate, he made it count.  He was also a good cook.  I don't think he cooked himself meals much, he was known for eating at his country club among friends/family.  But my mom loved this BBQ sauce he made occasionally and since he obviously didn't follow a recipe, he called her once while he was making it so she could write down what he put in.

Sadly, Uncle George passed away Saturday.  My parents were with their brother when he passed and were taking care of the arrangements and all the painful things one has to deal with when they lose a loved one and insisted there was nothing I could do right now.  (George was my father's brother, but I think if you cook someone's favorite holiday dishes for 45 years and stay up nights worrying about them you can drop the "in-law" bit.)  So I felt helpless for my parents and needed to do something, to accomplish something, so I baked bread for my daughter.  I began the long process of baking sandwich bread, a recipe I have failed at three times already, but since she was out, and Saturday was my only chance to bake, I had to get it done.  I was frequently distracted during the process and I swore over and over that I was wasting ingredients because I was forgetting things and it would be a disaster.

Well, it would take a member of my dad's family to ensure a loaf of bread was not wasted.  It came out perfect.  Thank you, George.  You are missed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another rash

Things have been going well so far.  The removal of eggs has been pretty easy.  I just picked up some Truvia (Stevia) to make a Valentines cake tomorrow.  I'll see how that goes.  I'm still working on a decent pasta sauce recipe.  My daughter didn't care for the sauce I made last night, and frankly neither did I.  I miss garlic.

A little over a week ago I noticed she had was looked like Eczema on her hands and wrists.  Ugh.  At first I wondered if it was a reaction to one of her allergens that hasn't been completely removed from her diet.  But then I started thinking about the location of the rash as opposed to the cause.  I asked if the school was using a new soap.  That could do it, since that was the cause of my eczema as a kid - soaps.  Nope, that wasn't it.  Then I realized she'd just started doing her bedtime routine by herself, which included hand washing.  Hmmm.  Since eczema is usually inflamed during washings, I gave her a pass to wash her hands without soap before bed until it cleared up.  I noticed it getting better in a few days.  I explained to her that she wasn't able to reach both hands under the sink at home well enough to rinse her soapy hands and it was causing her rash.  Now I help her with the hand washing again, but just the final rinse part.

So the message of this little story is... sometimes the cause is much simpler than we think.  If we look at ALL the details we may find an easy answer and solution.  There was no diet change, she just needed help rinsing her hands.  Phew!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recipe page added!

I'm not sure how many recipes I'm going to be adding, so I'm just using the one page for now.  My first recipe is gluten, egg, and sugar-free banana bread.  My daughter loves this and it freezes well. I cut it into 1" thick slices, put them into a freezer bag and take out a piece as I need it.

I may attempt the sandwich bread again today.  If I'm successful I'll post that recipe as well.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Latest GF+SF+EF baking projects earned a B, B, & D

Let's start with the least successful, the sandwich bread earned a D.  OK, maybe a D+.  I followed a gluten-free bread recipe I found online and subbed out the eggs for flax seed, the sugar for honey, and the custom baking mix for Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour.  (The BRM Bread Mix has sugar, too. crap!)  I chose this recipe because it I think the hardest ingredient to sub out is the flour because when baking GF bread you need to add xanthum gum and often cider vinegar and this recipe had that already measured out.

I followed the directions to a T, keeping all my ingredients separated as per the recipe, and my yeast was happily foaming when I added it.  When I put the batter in the pan it was airy, almost like a marshmallow fluff or mousse.  I let it rise, and it still felt light going into the oven.  After 40 min I checked on it to see if I need to tent it with with foil and it sunk.  The top had just caved in.  OK, I'll see how it tastes, it doesn't have to be pretty!  I let it cook until done, cut off a slice, Yuck!  Sour and yeasty!  Kate didn't mind it but then again, she's not picky.

I looked up my problem online and mentioned it to a friend of mine and I have a few ideas I can try for next time. The good news it I liked the consistency of the bread. It was moist and airy, not as dense as the other bread I used to make.  The primary problem is the yeast.  Possible solutions:
- Let the yeast warm up more.  I bought it in bulk and store it in my freezer.  Maybe I didn't let it sit out long enough and it was too cold when I started using it.
- Let it consume the honey longer.  Like I said, the yeast, water, and honey mix was foamy, but maybe honey takes longer for yeast to react with than sugar and needs more time to hang out together.
- Let me over preheat longer.  I don't have an inside oven thermometer so it may not have been hot enough when I put the bread in.
- As for the flavor, there really is none in this bread.  The woman at the natural food store suggested I use some almond flour and split the total flour amount between the BRM All Purpose and the almond flour.

One of the B projects was a cookie recipe I found, also online.  I followed the directions as far as ingredients except I made them tablespoon size rather than teaspoon size.  It's pretty much just butter, oatmeal, bananas, raisins and nuts.  I thought they looked kind of gross, and they didn't have much flavor, but Kate likes them and since she's the one who can't eat any other cookie at the time, it works for me.

The other B was pizza crust.  My husband was out skiing after work so it was just my daughter and I for dinner.  It seemed like a good chance to try something out and if it sucked we could just have waffles.  We used to make a great pizza crust from the Bisquick mix but alas the sugar.  So I used the same recipe, but subbed out the eggs for Egg Replacer (my first time using this) and the Bisquick for Pamela's mix.  It worked out great, except I assumed the oven temp should be 350 degrees, when it should have been at 425.  Doh!  So the crust wasn't as crispy as we like, but the flavor was great!  It would have been an A if I'd read the recipe more carefully.

All in all I'd say these were all successful endeavors, even when the success was learning what NOT to do!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow day baking

My daughter has a snow day tomorrow so I figured it'll be a good day to try out some baking recipes.  Bananas are a popular sugar substitute but my 4 days out of the store bananas just aren't ripe enough.  While stocking up on supplies at the grocery store I remembered I used to use Kate's Gerber Bananas if I had some kicking around whenever I baked, so I picked some up and can use that until my bananas ripen.

There's a Valentine's Party coming up at her school and I need to find a decent cookie I can send to school with her.  I'm going to try a recipe I found online that has banana, oatmeal, walnuts, and raisins, which are all things she likes.  And what better than a snow day than to try them out!

I may also take a stab at sandwich bread.  I have 2 recipe's I'm going to combine, one's gluten-free but has sugar and eggs, and the other is sugar and egg-free but uses wheat flour.  Hopefully I can cut and paste and create something that works.  Again, a day trapped inside is a good one for baking bread since the entire process can take a couple hours.

Once I come up with some successful recipes I'm going to create a recipe page on this blog and post anything worth sharing.