Monday, November 28, 2011

Apple Nuttie Cream Cheese Braided Bread

I hadn't made braided bread in awhile, so I'm a bit out of practice on the braiding part. The loaf on the left was my first attempt and I think I got it pretty good on the second loaf on the right side. It really doesn't matter how pretty the braid, really!! They are delicious!!

I adapted the recipe from a website called The Fresh Loaf whom I believe adapted the recipe from a book called The Bread Bible   by Beth Hensperger. I really only made a few minor adjustments. The other recipes were calling for berries and I chose apples. I also chose to change all the sugars to dark brown sugar and the butter to unsalted. And for the salt I chose sea salt. That is really pretty much all the adjustments, other than I really didn't see the need to refrigerate the dough over night when I had the time to put it all together during the morning hours. The dough was so nice and satiny, that it was very easy to roll and work with..

I had all the fixins for making these this morning and all the conditions were right too! It was cold in the kitchen and I needed to warm it up. So as usual my favorite way to do that is baking. I had most of a cream cheese block left over in the refrigerator from Thanksgiving pie crusts. I had lovely apples looking cheerful in a bowl. And I had that quart jar of pumpkin cream cheese frosting in the fridge left over from making those delightful pumpkin carrot cupcakes. All I had to do was thin out the frosting a bit to make glaze.

So what are we waiting for? Let's Bake!! First things first...the ingredients. This recipe makes two loaves. You may go ahead and prepare the glaze at any point if using the pumpkin cream cheese frosting that I used, or you can wait and prepare it in the end if you are just making a normal glaze of your choice.

1 tbsp. dry active yeast
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup warm organic whole milk
2 cups unbleached organic bread flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 1/2-3 cups unbleached organic bread flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Apple Nuttie Filling
4 large chopped Granny Smith apples
2 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup walnuts, crushed
1/3 cup corn starch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Cream Cheese Filling 
3/4 cup organic cream cheese
2 tbsp sugar
 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

See Recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting by clicking this link.


1. First we make the sponge. Simply warm the milk in a small sauce pan and add it to your bowl. Add the sugar, yeast and flour to the warm milk and whisk until well combines. Cover it with plastic wrap and a towel and place it in a warm place for about 30 minutes. It will become nice and bubbly.
2. While the sponge is fermenting, we make the filling. Add the crushed nuts, butter and sugar to a medium sauce pan on medium to medium low heat. Stir frequently until the nuts become a bit toasty and everything is well combined. Add the apples, lemon juice, cornstarch and spices and stir well until everything is well coated. Place the lid on the sauce pan and stir every now and then. I turned the burner off and set the pot aside to cool. The apples do not need to be completely cooked at this stage. They will finish while baking.
3. When the time is up for the sponge we can make the dough. I transfer the sponge to my mixing bowl and use the dough hook. Add the eggs, salt, sugar, and one cup of the flour to the sponge.Turn on mixer to speed 2 and mix until smooth. Begin to add the butter in small pieces and continue to knead with dough hook. The butter will not be completely incorporated at this time. Go ahead and begin to add the rest of the flour a little at a time. The dough will be slightly sticky, but will be smooth and will pull away from the sides of the bowl. The butter will be well combined as well.
4. Place dough in a warm and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Place in a warm spot until dough becomes double in size. Mine took about one hour.

5. Beat the cream cheese filling until light and fluffy.
6. When the dough has risen, dump it out on a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll the first half into a nice rectangle shape. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center and then spread the apple filling on top of it. 
7. Cut strips along the sides about one inch apart, leaving the ends wide to tuck in first.

8. Next, tuck your ends over. Then just alternate the strips by pulling them over one at a time. The first one I did, I didn't hide the ends with the next strip, but really did it pretty nicely on the second one. I think I need to make these more often for more practice. I don't think the family will mind one bit. 
9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slide your loaves carefully onto a large jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Cover them with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
10. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. After taking them out of the oven, I slid the loaves onto a wire rack and then placed the wire rack back onto my jelly roll pan. That way when you glaze them the drippings will go onto the pan.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.
Happy Gardening and Happy Baking as well!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homemade Pizza Pie

 This is a pizza mountain when there are a lot of goodies in season from the garden. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and summer spinach. Fresh herbs, onions and garlic. And in fall I love using kale. I just pre cook it a bit before I add it to the pizza. Makes two pizza crusts.

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups warm tap water
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 cups organic unbleached flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp. active dry yeast
Pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp of honey or sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 sprigs of fresh Basil flowers (Cinnamon is my favorite)
3 sprigs of fresh Oregano ( chopped)
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan Cheese

Place water, yeast and sugar in bowl and whisk gently while you prepare your other ingredients. This makes a nice dough starter and you will notice it begin to foam or bubble a bit when it is ready.
Place all the rest of the ingredients in your mixing bowl. Add your dough starter and mix with hook until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and the place a towel on top to cover for extra warmth. Let rise until double in bulk.
I use two 12" round pizza pans. First I prepare my pans by lightly oiling them with extra virgin olive oil. Then I sprinkle a little corn meal on them. Roll out the dough as close to the size of the pan you are using as possible. After I slide the dough onto the pan I shape the edges a bit. It doesn't have to be perfect because it is homemade!! Lay a towel over the whole thing and put it in a warm place to rise. You should let it get double in size. It usually takes about an hour.. After it has risen, preheat your oven to 400. Your going to pre-bake the crust for about 10 minutes in a hot oven. I always pre-bake the crust before I place toppings on it. This will ensure your dough will be completely baked when it's all finished. Just don't over bake it at the pre-baking stage.
After they are pre-baked you can begin adding your toppings. I like to go ahead and freeze one of the crusts for later, unless we have company and need two pizzas.

My sauce and toppings are seasonal to what is growing in the garden. When I have plenty of tomatoes I will cook them down for the sauce, but that is not always the case.

Pizza Sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
add water, maybe 1/2 the paste can size or to the desired thickness
salt to taste, but at least 1 tsp.
about 1 1/2 tsp. of brown sugar (regular sugar is fine)
a good dash of garlic powder
fresh herbs, Basils, Oregano, Fennel Seed

Take all the ingredients and stir it in a bowl. Cover your bowl and place it in the refrigerator. No need to pre-cook it. It will marinade in the refrigerator if you prepare it ahead of time. I usually make mine in the morning.


When your ready to put your pizza together you will first add the sauce and then place pepperoni's on top.

I like to saute an onion (finely chopped) with 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves. If spinach is available in the garden I will add a ton of it and saute it with the onions. Sprinkle a little salt if your using spinach.

Other toppings I have used from the garden include grated Japanese Eggplant, sliced tomatoes, all kinds of peppers (mainly sweet varieties) mushrooms (from the store) and black or green olives.

Then it's time for the cheese. I love to use Monterey Jack Cheese. Yummy and you will need to grate at least 1 lbs to finish topping off your pizza.

Bake in preheated oven at 400 just until the cheese is barely turning brown.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Garden Fairytales And Candy Corn Cookies

“Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson

I try so hard to remember my own fairytale dreams from when I was a child. I sometimes wish I could live that dream of a little girl. I think that is what makes Grandchildren such a blessing and keeps us young in mind and spirit. What a delicate and beautiful age when everything can seem so magical and majestic. It must be why I love my garden so, because I can dream there like no other place I know. 

And is time for the goodies. Grandma made Candy Corn Cookies.
I found this lovely recipe from Stylish Cuisine as it seems she adapted it from Martha Stewart. The only thing I changed is the flour. I just can't go bleached and as well, I used all things organic. The Grandbabies absolutely loved them.
Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Unbleached Bread Flour (spooned and leveled)**
About 18 pieces of candy corn
** For chocolate cookies, reduce the flour to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter and sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Add flour (or flour and cocoa if you’re making chocolate cookies), and mix until a dough forms. Scoop out level teaspoons of dough, and roll into balls about the size of a walnut. (chill dough briefly if it becomes too soft to handle). Place balls on baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are firm and cookies are dry to the touch (do not let cookies color), 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove from oven; gently press a candy corn into center of each cookie (surface of cookies may crack slightly). Cool on sheets 1 minute; transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Yield:  18 cookies
Happy Gardening!!