Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Simplified Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Why do I call this "simplified" lemon poppy seed bread? The original post goes into such excessive detail, you begin to wonder if author lives in a white home with padded walls. I'm telling you, it's on the side of ridiculous. So I'm going to take this post from CookingClassy and try to simplify it for you. It's delicious bread so I don't want instructions like, "Allow to cool 5 minutes in loaf pan (and no longer than 8 minutes)" to deter you from trying it out yourself because of how annoyed you are by their instructions!

Here's what you'll need:

1 2/3 cups of flour
2 Tablespoons of poppy seeds
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of lemon zest (they say 3 lemons, I used 2 without any problems)
1/2 cup of unsalted butter at room temp.
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons of sour cream (see what I mean?)
1/4 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

For the glaze:
1/4 cup of sugar
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice

Start by preheating your oven to 350, take your bread pan, coat it with PAM (or butter) and flour the inside of the pan. Trust me, it'll make it a lot easier to get it out of the pan once all is said and done.

Grab a medium size bowl (not your mixer) and whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt until combined (they say 20 seconds but honestly, who's counting??).

In your mixer, add your sugar and lemon zest.

Here it gets kind of ridiculous but using your fingertips, rub the lemon zest and the sugar together until the sugar becomes pale yellow. Hey, at least your fingers will smell delicious!

Add butter to the mixture and mix until it's fluffy. Be sure to scrape the sides to get it all whipped together. Add one egg at a time and finally, add the vanilla. Note: if you drop an eggshell and then accidentally put it on high instead of turning off the mixer, it's really frustrating getting all the shell pieces out... or... so I've been told... ahem...

In a small bowl, whisk together your milk and sour cream and heat in the microwave until warm (30 seconds and it'll start to curdle!)

Now here is where the instructions really start to annoy me. They want you to add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, then 1/2 of the milk mixture, then 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, then another 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the milk mixture, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, then the rest of the flour mixture. If you want to add all the ingredients this way, it's up to you, but I honestly don't see how this is going to affect the way the bread tastes. My advice? Just don't add the flour mixture all at once or you'll have a big mess to clean up!

Pour the dough into the bread pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 40 minutes, cover it with foil (making sure the foil doesn't touch the bread), and then bake for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Now as I mentioned earlier, they want you to wait 5 minutes before removing the bread from the pan. While it's cooling, add your lemon juice and sugar in small bowl and heat for 15-30 seconds, or until the sugar has dissolved. This will serve as your "glaze".

Take the bread out of the pan and brush the top with the glaze. Give it a few seconds to absorb the first coat, and then add on another coat of glaze. The more glaze, the better (considering it's not very thick).

And there you have it, folks. The simplified version of lemon poppy seed bread! Try not to devour it all at once before your drug test...

TOTAL COSTS: About $25 (if you don't have any ingredients - prices from Vons)
$3.29 for flour
$6.29 for poppy seeds
$1.99 for baking powder
$.99 for salt
$2.69 for sugar
$.99 for 2 lemons (used lemon juice from lemons)
$.99 for butter
$2.79 for eggs
$1.99 for sour cream
$2.29 for milk
Used homemade recipe for vanilla extract

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 1 hour, 30 minutes
30 minutes to prep the dough
50 minutes in oven
5 minutes to cool
5 minutes to glaze

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
Making bread isn't difficult, I assure you, it's just instructions like the original that make it sound more complicated than it actually is. The hardest part is making sure you don't burn the darn thing. Keep an eye on it and you'll do just fine!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mini Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins

I'm from Kalamazoo, MI (odd name, I know) but they're home to some of the best donuts (doughnuts?) in the country - Sweetwater's Donuts. I have found no real comparison in Los Angeles, so when I saw this recipe on AverieCooks, I thought I'd make my own as a nice morning treat with a cup o' coffee. If you have half an hour to spare and a mini muffin tin, you should definitely give these a shot (I may or may not be typing with one hand with a mini doughnut in the other...)

To make 24 mini donuts, you'll need:
1 large egg
5 Tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of buttermilk (I used 2% and they came out fine)
1 1/4 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Pinch of salt

For the sugar coating you'll need:
3 Tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (the more cinnamon you use, the darker they'll look)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 and spray the inside of your mini muffin pan with PAM.

Add the egg, butter, sugars, and vanilla to a stand mixer and beat until it's light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape the sides to it's all whipped together. Add the (butter)milk and beat to combine.

Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt on low until just incorporated. Expect it to be a little lumpy and thick.

Add the mixture to your mini muffin pan until each cavity is 3/4ths of the way full.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and the center comes out clean. Let them cool for 10 minutes in the pans before removing, at which point, you can make your sugar coating.

To make the sugar coating, use two bowls - one with the melted butter (about 20 seconds in the microwave should do it), the other with the sugar and cinnamon. Do not combine the two!
Once the donuts have cooled, dip the tops into the melted butter bowl and then roll around in the cinnamon sugar bowl so the tops are completely covered. If you want to cover the entire donut with cinnamon sugar, just make sure you melt enough butter and have enough cinnamon sugar on hand! Note that depending on how much cinnamon you use will depend on how dark the donuts look.

You can eat these right out of the oven, refrigerate them for later, or freeze them for up to 3 months for another morning snack (though to be honest, I'd be surprised if these lasted for more than a couple days in any household!)

TOTAL COSTS: About $24 (if you don't have any ingredients - prices from Vons)
$2.79 for eggs (though you only need one)
$.99 for butter
$2.69 for sugar
$2.29 for milk
$3.29 for flour
$4.79 for cinnamon
$1.99 for baking powder
$3.98 for nutmeg
$.99 for salt (though you only need a pinch)
Used homemade recipe for brown sugar and vanilla extract

15 minutes to prep mini donuts
10 minutes to bake
10 minutes to cool
5 minutes to dip all in butter and cinnamon sugar

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The hardest part is making sure they don't burn in the oven but as long as you keep an eye on them, they'll be fine. My favorite part? They're enjoyable for any season!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Flower or Fruit Ice Bowl and Flower Ice Cubes

You know what looks pretty on a spring table or a summer tea party? Flowers or fruit inside of ice bowls. They're gorgeous in photos, but how practical are they? Are they as easy to make as people say? Well, I found this post on Squidoo and figured it couldn't hurt to try. In all honestly, they're easy enough to make... but are they worth the effort? Take a look...

Here's what you'll need to make a flower ice bowl:

1. Fruit slices or flowers (obviously) however I made the mistake of using a sunflower, which I don't recommend - see why below...
2. Two bowls that can fit inside each other with 1/2"-1" separation around the sides. Trust me on this, I'll show you what happens if it's more than that!
3. Tape (optional) - not necessary but it doesn't hurt to have it on hand

Start by filling up the larger bowl 1/3 of the way with cold water. Note: I didn't do this but if you boil distilled water and let it cool completely before adding to the bowl, the ice will be clearer!

Gently place the smaller bowl inside, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom, and start adding your flowers in between the two bowls. Now I'm a multi-tasker so I decided to make multiple mistakes at once:

#1 - The bowls should have been closer in size - see that big gap between the two? While it makes it easier to place flowers between them, you'll have a much smaller opening for your ice bowl.

#2 - The sunflower was too thick so when the small bowl was placed inside, it sat on top of the sunflower!

#3 - I used double-stick tape to help center the smaller bowl (see above)... if I had used regular Scotch tape, it would have been fine, but as it was the tape kept sticking to my fingers and ultimately fell off when the bowls were placed in the freezer.

After 24 hours, you'll need to remove the ice from the bowl. I recommend filling your sink with warm water and placing the larger bowl in the water. In a matter of a few minutes, the ice will have melted around the edges of the bowl and you'll be able to pop it out by flipping it upside-down.

So needless to say, when I removed the ice from the bowls, it was a bit of a disaster. A pretty disaster, but a disaster nonetheless. So I waited for it to melt, took those same flowers (minus the sunflower) and tried again!

This time, I used bowls that were closer in size and had a very thin gap around the edges. I also used paper-thin flowers for the bottom.

24 hours later, it looked a LOT more like a bowl!

Something to note, though, is if your flowers float, they might stick out the top.

Also, in the 45 seconds I had it sitting on the table, it left a nice pool of water underneath it. If you do decide to make this, either keep it on ice, leave it in the snow, or be prepared to have a big wet mess. Pretty? Yes. Practical? Nope.

Bowls and flowers already on hand

You'll want to give it enough time for the water to freeze completely before removing it from the bowl.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The hardest part is getting the flowers to fit in between the two bowls without having them float to the top. If you're using anything thicker than a daisy, you're going to have uneven sides. Be patient and use a ruler or a knife to push the flowers down if they start to float to the top!

Flower ice cubes are pretty but again, not very practical.

First, if you plan on having these in drinks, you need to use safe, edible flowers (in case any are consumed) like roses, pansies, violets, or geraniums. You could also use herbs like mint or rosemary, if flowers aren't available.

Second, they're time consuming. You have to pour a little water into the ice cube tray, place your flower, let it freeze, then pour a little more water into the tray, let it freeze, and keep repeating this process until the flowers are completely covered in frozen water. If you don't, you're going to have little pieces sticking out (which is going to happen anyway when they melt, but whatever).

Finally, unless you plan on boiling distilled water, you're not going to be able to see the flower from all sides. So unless you have a LOT of time on your hands to boil the water and freeze/pour/freeze the water in stages for hours, I'd skip this project. All your hard work is just going to melt away in a matter of minutes, anyway... but hey, it's pretty!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hammered Flower Prints

I live in Hollywood, otherwise known as Cement City (ok, only I call it that but it's an accurate description, since only the rich can afford grass and flowers in this drought!). I rarely see grass, let alone flowers. Tell me, do you see any nature here, other than some trees and the occasional overgrown bush?

Welcome to my world.

So when a friend of the blog asked if I could try this BuildMakeCraftBake post about hammering flowers onto watercolor paper, I felt awful. I wanted to try it, however finding flowers in my neighborhood is practically impossible. So one day, out of the blue, this beautiful bouquet appeared on my doorstep with this note:

At first I was confused, then speechless, then in absolute hysterics. As the daughter of gardeners, I can honestly say I've never taken a hammer to flowers before, so this was going to be a first! I enjoyed them for a couple days before pummeling them to the ground.

Here's what you'll need to do the same:

1. Flowers or leaves (you'll need to experiment to see which work better than others)
2. A hammer
3. Watercolor paper
4. Paper towels
5. Scissors (optional)
6. Tweezers (optional)

I started with the sunflower, since I figured that would make the best impression on paper. If you're going to try this with a thick flower as well, do yourself a favor and cut off the stem first, otherwise it'll just get in the way.

Place your flower on your paper and cover with a paper towel (or two). You'll want to cover every inch of that flower or your hammer will soon be covered in petal juices!

If you want to trace the outline of the flower on the paper towel, that might help you when it comes time to hammering the plant into the paper. Since the sunflower was so big, I had a pretty clear understanding of where it was under the paper towel.

After 10 minutes of hammering, here's how it came out. Notice that not all petals transferred, so I knew this big of a flower wasn't going to work. Onto the rose!

I arranged a few of the rose petals artistically on the paper and placed the paper towel over.

Using the hammer and 6 minutes of good hard pounding, the juices had transferred on the paper towel and...

...not so much onto the paper. Sigh. Ok, bring on the chrysanthemums!

After cutting off the stems, I figured these definitely would have to transfer. I placed the paper towel over them, banged them out for 3 minutes, and using the tweezers, carefully removed the petals from the paper.

Brown blobs. I got brown blobs. Not green. Brown. Alright then, bring on the purple statice!

Now this isn't a plant that has soft petals like the chrysanthemums but I figured it was worth a try. It was apparently worth less than that. Maybe a glance, but not a try.

You know what worked like a charm? Alstroemerias. I know, not a very popular name, but they're a gorgeous flower with polka-dot tongues that produce the most interesting pattern when hammered onto paper!

I did the length of the paper with multiple alstroemerias and it really did look like a watercolor painting. This probably took about 45 minutes to complete.

Lastly, I tried the only flowers I could find in my neighborhood, plucked from an overgrown bush - bougainvilleas. They transferred the color of the stem perfectly. Not bad for being pummeled for 4 minutes straight.

As you can see, this process of transferring flowers or leaves to watercolor paper works beautifully and horribly, depending on what you choose. It's really a matter of trial and error, however the results can look beautiful and would make a wonderful homemade card or print. What flowers would you recommend trying?

TOTAL COSTS: Free! Thanks again to Karen for the beautiful bouquet!

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Varies based on flower

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
I certainly wouldn't recommend a child do this because I did managed to whack my fingers a few times with the hammer but it's a relatively easy project to try and experiment with!