Raisin Bread

I had an urge for raisin bread on Sunday morning and searched through my recipes to find one that looked good. I flipped through my James Beard and Father Dominic cookbooks and ended up combining the best of both worlds.

I set everything up before the New Orleans Saints kickoff so it was ready to be put it together during halftime. The dough rose during the second half and I divided the dough before overtime started. Once we won the game, I preheated the oven and began to bake.

A couple of notes:

I make my own cinnamon sugar by combining 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. For this recipe, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar, so store the rest in an air tight container for another use.

If you don’t want to cook both loaves at once, after the first rise and once you’ve divided the dough, press the bubbles out of one half and wrap it in plastic and put in an airtight bag. You can now freeze the dough. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking as described below.

 

Raisin Bread

2 packages of instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl and stir gently to mix. Let proof for 10 minutes.

Soften raisins by putting them in a steamer basket over boiling water while yeast proofs. Set aside once plump.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is almost entirely melted. Pour into a bowl of an electric mixture and let cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture, sugar, salt and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add five cups of flour, one cup at a time and stirring after each addition. Mix until dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Stir in raisins.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Add additional flour in half cup measures, as necessary, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place (I put mine in the oven with the light on) for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and form into two loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Brush the top of each loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

After the loaves have been rising for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake loaves for 10 minutes. Loosely cover the loaves with foil and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more. Loaves should sound hollow with tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans and let cool on wire racks.

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Blueberry Muffins

I tried a new blueberry muffin recipe and they were pretty good. I usually make this Double Blueberry Muffins recipe, where you mash part of the blueberries. With less smashed fruit, the muffins in this recipe aren’t a strange grey from the blueberry juices, which was a plus as I brought them for the Forum for Equality Candidate Interviews for the upcoming election. Only problem was they didn’t want to come out of the muffin tins, so I ended up with a lot of muffin tops (which is frankly the best part). Next time, I’ll put these in cupcake papers, though.

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 – 12 cup muffin tins

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the extracts and mix to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then add the eggs one at a time.

Add in one third of the dry ingredients. Pour in half the milk. Add in half of the remaining dry ingredients and then the rest of the milk. Add the final bit of dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Rotate and switch the pans midway through baking.

Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Brandied Peach Ice Cream

Summertime in the South means putting up with heat, humidity and mosquitos the size of small cars. As a consolation, summer also brings us peaches. It makes my soul happy when I hold its softly in my hand, breathe deep of its perfume before biting into it and letting the succulent juice run down my chin.

Saving a few of them for ice cream makes me even happier. And, adding a little brandy to the mix can make a person nearly expire from happiness! Of course, if you choose not to use brandy, you can replace it with 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

Brandied Peach Ice Cream

2 pounds peaches (about 5-6 large peaches)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy

Peel and pit peaches; cut into chunks. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.

After it has set for a while in the refrigerator, blend everything one last time to ensure it is well mixed. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to plastic container and freeze until firm.

Blackberry Bellinis

We are having fried chicken and waffles for dinner and decided we ought to kick the meal up a notch with a cocktail. Michelle has been out picking wild blackberries, so we decided to have blackberry bellinis.

This recipe makes 4 average drinks or 2 generous ones.

Blackberry Bellini

1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons honey
Champagne, moscato, prosecco or other sparkling wine

In a blender, puree blackberries, mint leaves and honey. Let sit in blender for 15 minutes. Pulse again and then pour in a sieve over a bowl. Use a spatula to press out the juice from the seeds and leaves. Discard pulp. Let the juice sit in a bowl for another 15 minutes. You should end up with about a 1/2 cup of delicious juice.

Put 2 tablespoons of juice in a glass and pour over your choice of sparkling wine. Pour only a little at first and let the bubbles calm down before slowly filling the glass.

Garnish with mint and toast!

A Fine Strawberry Eton Mess

Both Prince Harry and William attended Eton. It seems only fitting, as the older brother is best man when his younger brother gets married to Meghan Markle, to make another British dessert created at that school. The Eton Mess has layers of whipped cream, meringues and rough chopped strawberries.

Strawberries in whipped cream can be pretty darn romantic. At least as romantic as when the prince says to the commoner, “I’m so lucky.”

I could probably come up with a recipe but, seriously, this is a super easy dessert to make, especially if you use store bought meringues. Whip the cream with a little sugar and vanilla. Mix the chopped strawberries some sugar to get them juicy and to keep things sweet.

Crumble the meringues and mix with the whipped cream. Your choice to either mix the strawberries with the cream to make a more traditional mess or to layer the whipped cream and strawberries in glass for a prettier presentation. In any event, prepare to gobble this up!

If you’re like me and make yours in a glass, you can raise it to the newlyweds. My toast to them is: “A toast to love and laughter, and happily ever after.”

Sticky Toffee Pudding

In celebration of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I decided to make a decidedly British dessert. Of course, I’m going to put a southern American twist on it, too. Sticky toffee pudding is one of those things I’ve read about in novels and thought that it would good to eat in the early morning hours.

I started with this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food but then had to make a number or substitutions and conversions (and translations). I don’t have treacle, but I did have molasses. I don’t have the demerara or muscovado sugar but I did have brown sugar. I had no dates but I did have figs.

The result is a figgy spice cake that is very rich with complex flavor.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 cup whole dried figs
¾ cups boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 stick butter, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses (or black treacle)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon rum

For the toffee sauce

¾ cups light brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon molasses (or black treacle)

Chop the figs into small and pieces and then put them in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water over and leave for about 30 mins until cool and well-soaked. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the figs. Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside.

Use two tablespoons of the butter to butter and flour seven ramekins or a small bundt pan and sit them on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together. Beat the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter and sugar together in a large bowl for a few minutes until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the molasses. Gently fold in one-third of the flour, then half the milk, being careful not to overbeat. Repeat until all the flour and milk is used. Mix in the rum. Stir the soaked figs into the pudding batter. The batter will be soft and thick. Spoon it evenly between the containers, allowing room to rise. Bake for 20-25 minutes for ramekins and 35-40 minutes for a bundt pan, until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, put the sugar and butter for the sauce in a medium saucepan with half the cream. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the molasses, turn up the heat slightly and let the mixture bubble away for 5 minutes or until it is a rich toffee color, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Take the pan off the heat and beat in the rest of the cream.

Remove the puddings from the oven and set on a wire rack for 5 minutes before loosening them from the sides with a small knife before turning them out. They can be served now with the sauce drizzled over, but they’ll be even stickier if left for a day or two coated in the sauce. To do this, pour about half the sauce into one or two ovenproof serving dishes. Sit the upturned puddings on the sauce, then pour the rest of the sauce over them. Cover with a loose tent of foil so that the sauce doesn’t smudge (no need to chill).

When ready to serve, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Warm the puddings through, still covered, for 15-20 mins or until the sauce is bubbling.

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

I’ve been trying to find more recipes for my sister that are lower in sugar and friendly to diabetics. I’m still working on desserts she can enjoy but, in this recipe, the bananas (high in fiber) and peanut butter (low glycemic index) are a good start. I put them in small ramekins to help with portion control, too.

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups 2% milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium banana, one smushed the other sliced
1 1/2 cups ‘Nilla wafers

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and milk and stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into eggs before pouring the eggs into the pan. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter, butter and vanilla. Stir in smushed and sliced bananas. Let cool slightly while you prepare the dessert dishes.

Crush all but 6 ‘Nilla wafers and sprinkle them into ramekins or pudding cups to cover the bottom. Pour in peanut butter and banana pudding. Place any additional crumbs and a single ‘Nilla wafer on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.