A cooking and baking journal

Baking Bread for the First Time

2/11/11: Grandma's Oatmeal Bread

If my younger sister, Catherine, was asked, "What is your favorite food?" She would say, "BREAD!" She adores bread in every shape or form and loves recipes that include whole flours or oats. She made bread in the bread machine before but she has never done it from scratch, and that is what she set out to do earlier this month. And I came along for the ride.

She chose Grandma's Oatmeal Bread from the Holiday 2009 issue of The Baker's Sheet, a magazine that is published by King Arthur's Flour. I wish I could write out the recipe here but it is copyrighted. Best thing to do is buy the back issue here.

The recipe includes rolled oats and molasses which I think is a great combination. Catherine did very well with following the recipe, the only problem that arose was the slow rising. The kitchen was probably too cold that day! Anyway, here is Catherine's first ever bread from scratch:


So is Catherine willing to make bread from scratch again? She says: "I'll stick to the bread machine." At least she gave it a go! ;)

Sweet Victory

2/08/11: Dulce de Leche Bars

I'm not sure why, but I always find it easier to write about desserts. Maybe it is because I cannot write a post without a picture and dessert photography is a piece o' cake compared to main entree dishes! I should try to change this habit and make sure I take some snapshots of dishes outside the realm of sweet.

So earlier this month I was planning on making Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares, but realized that we were out of graham crackers. Oh dear! And earlier that day I made some dulce de leche (sweet milk in Spanish), out of two cans of sweetened condensed milk. What will I do with it now?

A quick search on the internet brought me to Land O Lakes' website and their Dulce de Leche Bar recipe. Sounds good doesn't it? Knowing that we had all the ingredients, I whipped up a batch and then frowned over the leftover dulce de leche sitting in the double boiler. Leftovers. . .

Now what about frosting? Aha! Frosting! So after mixing together an 8 oz. package of cream cheese (for my family are lovers of cream cheese frosting), a few tablespoons of dulce de leche, and a tad bit of milk, I made my very own frosting for this cake. And the verdict? Sweet victory of course! The bars had a golden brown color and were tender, moist, and sweet; not cloyingly sweet, however. And the bars made a good contrast with the thin layer of frosting on top. Perfect match.

To dress the bars up a bit, I drizzled some dulce de leche over the top of the frosting.

Jam and Cake. . . Scrumptious!

2/4/11: Blackberry Jam Cake

Doesn't that recipe title sound so scrumptious? For me, putting together jam and cake (two of my favorite things), sounds like perfection. That title is actually what drew me to baking this cake last Friday. I found the recipe in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Cook's Country magazine that we subscribe to (check out what America's Test Kitchen changed with this cake, an Appalachian staple, here). I wish I could post the recipe here but copyright issues, ya know.

Anyhow, let me explain this cake to you a little bit. The actual cake is spiced with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves and it also has delicious blackberry jam added. The frosting that the magazine had teamed up with the cake was Caramel Miracle Frosting. And also chopped pecans were added to the side of the cake.

Let me tell you, I like frosting. And I like trying out new ones. So the Miracle Frosting was right up my alley! It is a cooked frosting that starts with a mixture of brown sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Then a load of butter is added and mixed until light & fluffy.

Did I make any modifications to the recipe? I didn't make a Caramel Miracle Frosting, I just made the 'original' version which has white sugar instead of brown. I also omitted the pecans and I used blackberry preserves instead of jam.

Both the cake and the frosting turned out very well and this cake is a great contender for birthdays! (I have two requests already!)

So are there any notes I should leave for myself? Yes.

1. There didn't seem to be enough frosting to cover the entire cake, probably should do 1 1/2 times the recipe next time.

2. I probably need to go a tad bit less on the amount of preserves used for the filling. It sort of leaked to the sides making it harder to frost.

So here it is. . .

Lemon Meringue Pie from Scratch

1/28/11: Lemon Meringue Pie

Last Friday my younger sister and I were trying to figure out a dessert to make for dinner. We chose a rather risky one: Lemon Meringue Pie. Because this pie is such a classic (it is right beside chocolate chip cookies, pound cake, and blueberry muffins in the realm of baking in my opinion), you would think that it is an easy recipe to execute. Not so. Especially for a person who has failed in the past with the meringue part!

We used Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook for the crust, the filling, as well as the meringue topping. The filling and meringue recipes worked out well, but we weren't happy at all with the crust recipe. There just wasn't enough dough to work with and we actually had to go back and make another batch. Next time I should use our traditional go-to recipe for a double pie crust and simply cut the recipe in half.

Now for the filling and meringue part:

Lemon Meringue Pie
Yield: Two 9" pies (my family likes their pie!)


Two 9" pie shells that have been blind baked
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups hot water
6 egg yolks, slightly beaten
6 tbsp. butter
8 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. grated lemon rind

6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
12 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. flavoring (optional)


In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and hot water. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute. Beat a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. Then move warmed egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture. Boil 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Continue stirring until smooth. Blend in butter, lemon juice, and lemon peel.

Onto the meringue! In a large, clean bowl, beat white with cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar, a little at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy.

Now to assemble the pie. Pour filling into the pre-baked pie shells and smooth top. Spoon the meringue on top of filling in large dollops. Try to smooth out--while not disturbing the filling below--and make fun swirls or peaks with your spoon.

Move pies to a 400F preheated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.


So that's the recipe but I do want to write here some things I would change next time. First off, Papa and Annemarie said that they would like more meringue on top as well as a stronger lemon flavor. So for next time, I will maybe use 5 eggs per pie and add the extra yolks to the filling; Annemarie said that the extra yolks won't harm the recipe. All they will do is make the filling slightly thicker. She's made this pie before so she should know!

And I will add a couple more lemons to the mix to get a real pucker sensation!

You may notice here that this meringue is darker than what you are used to. That is way my family likes it even if it causes "weeping."