Friday, February 7, 2014

Love in the Air and Slow Cooker Strawberry Bread Pudding

It's February! And we all know that means the month of Valentine's day! Now, I do hope this will not be the last post I get to before the 14th, but in the event that it is....I'll make sure it's nice and festive!

So a lot has been going on with me, which is probably why this blog isn't nearly as complete as it could be... I finally finished my Nurse Aide course only to realize that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with that sort of work, and so now I'm in the waiting game to sign up for more courses at the local CC to study what I actually care about. Hopefully the biochem courses don't fill up too quickly before I have a shot at them, because I definitely don't want to pay a four year Uni price for things I can get out of the way here...

So, here's hoping that works out. I've settled on nutrition and dietetics basically after 1000+ people have told me not  to do it, and elaborated on (well actually, didn't elaborate much on) why it would be one of the worst ideas I could possibly imagine (way to put a damper on things, right?), and you know, I am rather discouraged simply by the fact that I've wasted this long not going forward with it. I really do need to stop taking advice...well meaning or not -- it tends to frazzle me...

In any case, that brings to light another concern which is...money. Dinero. Argent. Whatever you want to call it, it eludes me in all its forms. I have been trying to get a job and it has been one Hellish battle; near enough to make me quit if I wasn't desperate. I guess I don't know the proper ways to go about getting one since clearly other people have more success than me...but I have to work with what I have in any capacity.So with any luck things will turn around in that department and I'll be able to focus less of my energy on worrying about it. In theory, of course.

In lighter news, I've been getting very deeply into DIY of all sorts as I am finally putting the house (and my room) together -- it's a wonderfully relaxing feeling to have things...settled, and just the way you want them! Plus it gives me something to do, and feel like I'm saving gobs of money by resisting the urge to by the expensive non-knock-offs in the shops. If I were a wealthy person, I can picture the sense of power associated with paying ridiculous amounts of money for material things...but I'm not in  a position to entertain those notions, as I've said.

I will definitely be blogging along with my crafts as well! I just have to get myself a little more focused.

Anyway, on to the recipe!

So I'm really not one to buy bread at the store, but I volunteer at my local cafe all the time, and each time I do they insist I take things home -- like the bread from the morning that they are otherwise going to throw away. Well, of course I can't refuse such an offer (actually I've tried many a time, always unsuccessfully) and so I find myself with a whole lot of bread just sitting on top of my refrigerator waiting to either be used or, sadly, mold.

In my efforts to conserve (waste not, want not!) I have devised another bread pudding -- I say devised because I sort of made up the "recipe" as I went along. I think it came out wonderfully, and was so easy because of the fact that I made it...in the slow cooker!
DunDunDunDun!


Without further ado....let's make some Bread Pudding shall we?! Like I said, this is perfect for using up leftover bread, so long as it's got enough of a crust to it to withstand being in the cooker for a few hours...so I wouldn't recommend using any Wonder-bread-shaped things for this... Get a nice artisan French or mild Italian loaf if you can, and you know, I think most grocery stores even have their own versions in the fresh Bakery departments... I used Pagnotta, which is a sort of round Italian loaf that tastes a little like a cross between Ciabatta and Miche... Basically, it's a country loaf. 
Pagnotta, courtesy Google Images
Look! There's one now!

Strawberry Bread Pudding

 Ingredients
  • 1 loaf stale country bread, cubed (or torn for that rustic look...) 
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (I used Dole sliced strawberries -- they come in a huge bag from Sams')
  • 2 cups milk (dairy/non-dairy doesn't matter -- whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, preferably real cane or turbinado - this will depend on preference and the quality of sugar that you use. If you use white sugar, you will need to add more for the same sweetness
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, grade B if you have it
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • coconut oil, for the pot and for dabbing (solid)
 Method
  1. Combine the milk with the lemon juice and set aside to curdle. In the meantime, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl (or carefully on the stove) being mindful not to burn it (which can easily happen -- browned is ok but burnt...you'll know, believe me)
  2. In a very large bowl, combine the cubed bread and strawberries.Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and toss with the bread in order to coat as evenly as possible. Reserve a little of the cinnamon sugar mixture to top the pudding with, or just make more when the time comes...
  3. Combine the beaten eggs with the milk, then add in the orange juice, maple syrup, and butter, making sure to whisk constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs (people would have you believe that can't happen once they're combined with the other stuff but...I have proven its possibility!)
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the bread mixture and gently combine, making sure not to stir roughly or you'll tear the bread into too small pieces. I have the best luck with a folding motion.
  5. Grease the interior of your slow cooker with coconut oil (generously). Carefully add the pudding mix to the slow cooker, and dollop with more coconut oil as much or as little as you want on top (the heat will melt this into the mix as it cooks - yum!). Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over the top.
  6. Here's the important part (which I will forget, believe me); plug in the slow cooker. Then, cook on low for about 7-8 hours. Be careful when you're opening it back up because it will be hot, and there will be quite a mist of hot air from all the moisture. 
  7. Serve warm or cold.
Bon app├ętit!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Burn-free Bread Pudding!


 Really, I should be calling this the "born free" bread pudding, considering how it was a child of my impulsive and rather fatigued mind, baked up at 9 something at night... No recipe at all... So I have looked at a couple bread pudding recipes online in my days, and I have to say that while they all look tempting, I've never been in the position to make them. I don't usually have bread in my house, so the idea of going out to get a loaf just to spoil it, as it were...isn't the best economical idea for me. Plus, if I did have bread, it would probably be some cheap (as in least expensive) plastic-wrapped commercial brand bread that wouldn't be fit for purpose anyway.

 On top of that, I will add that my experiences with bread pudding have been rather limited and anywhere on the spectrum between underwhelming and straight-up bad. Or downright bad - whichever you prefer. Before I really get into why that's been, I should tell you a little about myself as a person... More aptly, as a consumer:
A.

  1. I eat with my eyes. If you don't believe me, do take a look at exhibit A... So, moving on (I assume you know what the Hell I'm jabbering about by now) the way things look is very important to how I perceive them. When I look at tantalizingly yummy food..it gets me much more excited about trying it. This is key to my dining experience! It also makes me a prime target for Marketing Agents and all sorts of packaging ploys...
  2. I set high expectations...to a fault. When I think something is going to be good because my eyes have told me so, I expect that goodness to actually happen. Because my eyes wouldn't lie to me... My perception must be 100% accurate! (As I'm sure you can imagine, this sort of thinking has caused quite a deal of issues in my life...but damn does that hot rock look just like my elbow!)
  3. I catastrophize. Really. I always feel like Doomsday is right around the corner, and so when something doesn't meet my expectations, I take it as a sign from God. Now I don't really know why God decides to weigh in so much on half the stuff that goes wrong...but I spend less time questioning that and more time beating myself up for obviously not deserving whatever that faulty experience was!
 Moving on, I think I can now explain to you the nature of my experiences with bread pudding. I ought say lack thereof, because what I have had didn't tick a single box on my internally formulated definition of what the delightful little dessert casserole should be. In fact, my taste buds have been scarred mightily by soggy, goopy, omelette-y, yuck that's deceitfully attractive. That being said, I was a little afraid to actually try to master a version of my own, even though I know there must be some good recipes out there given all the love for it buzzing around the web. But alas, I have at last attempted! And it was...
Super amazing.

My only regrets are not making this sooner, or really writing down my measurements (er eyeball-isms) for you to recreate should you so desire. However, I'm proud to present a super easy and delicious bread pudding that can make you impress all your friends at the next potluck! This is really perfect for holiday parties too... 

 Bread Pudding 


 Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf artisan bread, cubed (I used oatmeal molasses from my local bakery, but you can use what you prefer, so long as it's relatively porous and chewy, not too light. Mine was freezer-burned, actually, but it tasted like fresh once baked!)
  • 2 1/2c milk of choice (I used almond)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 1t cloves
  • 1/2t cardamom (optional)
  • 1/3c demerara (turbinado or as unprocessed of sugar as you can find is fine -- just try to get big crystals!)
  • 1/4t butter extract (optional)
  • 1/2c additions of choice (I made mine with my homemade fig-nut larabar "batter" but anything would work! Just make sure to reduce some of the milk if you're using a liquid addition like syrup or honey, or fresh/frozen fruit)
  • coconut oil or butter (for the pan)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Grease an 8x8 brownie pan with the coconut oil or butter. Pack cubed bread loosely in the pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, cardamom, cloves, butter extract, and about half of the sugar. Mix until well combined and uniform in color; I would recommend a fork or a whisk. 
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs until a little frothy. Combine with the milk mixture and mix until  incorporated.
  4. Stud the bread with the additions of your choice, lifting up pieces and putting stuff under them before returning the pieces to their original place, moving things around, etc. You want to get everything peppered throughout the bread so that not all of your additions will be concentrated (and thus have a limited scope of appeal to most people...since one person will get it all in one slice! Unless this is you, and you're an unsavory sort - I guess that's why you bake sweet...). Just be sure not to put it all on top, else it won't seep in all the way and will burn (and we don't want that now, do we?)
  5. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the bread and press the pieces down lightly to enable maximum soak-age potential. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
  6. Bake in your preheated oven until golden and the tips of the bread peeking out from the milk mixture are toasted, about 20 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on it, though, because it can burn! If it seems almost but not quite done, turn the oven off after 20 minutes and just let it sit in there for a few more minutes to help it set.
  7. Remove and allow to cool...if you can... Otherwise...
CONSUME!
Nom!




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Best EVER Banana Bread

 I have a problem....and it's name is gluten. No, I don't have Celiac, however my roommate does and my mother is on some sort of Paleo-esque diet hoping to remedy her adrenal fatigue...
...easy to say that the baker in me has her hands full!
Look; it's smiling!

But despite having my taste buds revolt against some of the God-awful experiments I've turned out, I finally found one recipe that they appreciate -- a Gluten-Free Paleo-Friendly Cinnamon Banana Bread! You wouldn't expect me to have the sense to come up with one of these all on my own...but lo and behold, I have!

Actually, I owe 99.9% of this recipe's success to Sally at Sally's Baking Addiction: the woman is a genius. 'Nuff said, hands down; whatever you want to call it, I definitely have to give her the credit for the standard recipe. I modified it, I did, but there's no way intuition would have guided me hrough without her measurements! I love her blog too because she is careful to list the weight of the ingredients in grams; the incorporation of weighted measurements has made a world of a difference in my baking. I was shocked to discover how off my cup only measurements could be - even when I spooned the flour in, it could be a third more than it should have been! Seriously; if you're a real foodie baker at heart, invest in a kitchen scale. They have them everywhere (I got mine at Tuesday Morning for about $14): here are some from Walmart.com. Don't pay more than $20; really you shouldn't have to. 

*Ahem* now without further ado, here's the recipe!

Ingredients:

BANANA BREAD

  • 2 cups (250g) gluten-free flour blend (I used 140g Bob's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour and 110g Bob's Organic Coconut Flour) - Wheat flours are fine of course!
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend already has, or you're using wheat)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar, not packed
  • 4 Tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, softened (I used Kerrygold)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3-4 Bananas (I used 4 average/small, but you can get away with 3 if they're big...though why you'd want to get away with less is beyond me... 
  • 1/3 cup (80g) yogurt (I used plain greek yogurt, but I'm sure a flavored one would be lovely!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter extract
Cinnamon Swirl
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar (I didn't actually scale this)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, beat the brown sugar and butter with a stand (I have a KitchenAid) or handheld mixer on medium speed until well blended – about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a wooden spoon, stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Do NOT overmix. "Batter" will be thick, and by thick, we mean more of a dough (like cookies) than batter. This is what makes the bread dense and moist - don't give into the scared little devil trying to get you to add more liquid!
  3. Spoon and spread (it's very thick, after all) half of the batter into prepared loaf pan. With your fingers, flake the 1 Tablespoon of butter into the cinnamon and sugar until well combined. Spread the ingredients onto the layer of batter in the pan. Top with remaining batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.
  4. Top with frosting, glaze, or accompaniment of your choice....and CONSUME! (Ideally you'd get 14-16 slices out of this, but I won't hold it against you if you just tip the whole thing back into your mouth for a big ol' princess bite...). I didn't make the glaze that Sally has on her website, but I'm sure it would be divine! I like to have mine with Nutella or Peanut butter...or warm with a little ice cream/custard...


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