Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Okay, so we didn't wake up in the late afternoon, and there was no Mr. Pibb or Red Vines involved, but it was still a fabulous lazy Sunday. (Ooh, and we did use Google's the best.) And SNL, it would be really great if you didn't sue us for unauthorized use of your material...thanks in advance!

Before I get to explaining our wonderful day, I'll do my usual recipe post from market yesterday. It was incredibly slow, which surprised me a little considering that there were 18,000 people downtown for the Bix7 and the Bix Jazz Festival. Laura, however, had an awesome day selling beef at the Sawyer Beef booth...but then, who can resist a pretty blond selling bovine products? Apparently plenty of people can resist an even prettier brunette hawking baked goods. Whatever. Here are the recipes before I get too depressed to type:

I altered the procedure from the original recipe a lot, so I'll post my version here:

adapted from the National Honey Board

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (1/4 oz.) package fast-rising yeast
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
honey for glaze

In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, cinnamon and salt. Heat milk, honey, water and butter until very warm (120° to 130°F); stir into dry ingredients. Stir in egg and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Knead in apricots.

Divide dough into six equal parts, then divide each part into four pieces. Roll each piece to a rope about six inches long and 1/2-inch in diameter. Braid these groups of four, then place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Go here for a video of how to braid with four strands. (Of course, you could also divide each of the six pieces of dough into three and do normal braids.) Once all braids are completed, cover them and let rise until doubled in size, about 40-60 minutes.

Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Remove from oven; brush top of loaf with honey. Remove from sheet; cool on wire rack.

Bread machine variation: Measure 3 cups all-purpose flour and other ingredients into bread machine pan as suggested by manufacturer. Process on dough/manual cycle. When complete, remove dough to floured surface; knead in additional flour if necessary to make dough easy to handle. Shape dough and proceed as directed.

I used cornstarch instead of potato starch for this recipe, and I substituted butterscotch chips for the chocolate chips. Oh, and I used plain old canola oil instead of coconut oil. This made a very thick batter, and the craggly tops of the dough globs didn't even out in the oven. To make sure the tops are smooth, I suggest evening them out with a wet finger just before popping the muffins into the oven. Cupcake liners also tend to pull away from these, so you might want to forgo them altogether and just use a muffin tin sprayed with nonstick spray.

Root Beer Cupcakes

This recipe came from my Taste of Home Cupcake of the Week newsletter. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try these little beauties. I don't turn down a recipe that gives me an excuse to use all my strength to shatter something to bits (this, among other reasons, is also why I will never go to Dairy Queen to buy a Butterfinger or Heath blizzard...much more fun to buy a candy bar and whack it to smithereens yourself.). In this case, the shattering victim is root beer barrel candies, which then get stirred into frosting to top the cupcakes. I didn't use whipped topping, as called for in the original recipe. Instead I made vanilla buttercream and swirled in the crushed candies before frosting the cupcakes.

Pineapple Muffins

The original recipe calls for a specific brand of fancy yogurt, but our store doesn't carry it, and even if it did, I don't think I'd be able to afford it, so I used plain old Yoplait Light Pineapple Upside-Down Cake flavor. I imagine any exotic-flavored yogurt in the mango-pineapple-coconut family would work out just fine. The recipe made way too much glaze. Next time I'll probably just mix a couple tablespoons of yogurt with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and then down the rest of the yogurt myself.

White Chocolate and Cherry Scones

This recipe comes from dessert guru David Lebovitz, who adapted it from an Alice Medrich recipe. Buckwheat flour and cornmeal give these an interesting texture and nutty flavor. They don't rise as high as normal scones, but they're delicious nonetheless.

Apple Pie Bars

I love any excuse to use a cast iron skillet. There's just something about hearing the sizzle that can only come from food cooking at the high temperature made possible by cast iron's amazing ability to hold heat. After preparing this easy homemade apple pie filling, you'll never use that icky high fructose corn syrup-laden canned stuff again. A short-crust bottom and oatmeal-walnut crumb topping round out the recipe. Truth be told, these would probably be best in early September as an after-school treat, but as I had bushels of apples sitting in my refrigerator begging to be used, I couldn't resist trying the recipe.

And now on to my amazing afternoon. To give you a little background, I'll let you know a little secret about Laura and me. We were born in the wrong century. Right place, just about 150 years late. Both of us feel this indescribable pull toward mid-nineteenth-century Midwest farms. Honestly, we have a running dream of owning adjacent farms...separate acres, but still neighbors. Anyway, today we had the opportunity to visit our dream farm (this is where the aforementionedGoogle Mapscomes into the picture--we used it to make the twenty-minute drive to the farm). See, our friend Cathy was having a birthday bash (a homemade ice cream social, actually) to benefit the CCC food pantry. It was really neat, with donations being used to buy Freight House Farmers Market gift certificates, which will then be given to the food pantry, which will then purchase local foodstuffs to stock their shelves. What an ingenious idea...not surprising, because Cathy is full of ingenious (and generous) ideas. This particular farm also happens to be home to a U-Pick flower garden, and half the proceeds from the day's sales also went to the food pantry.

So we spent the afternoon roaming around Cathy's farm, admiring the gorgeous flowers, eating homemade ice cream in the Corn-zebo (just what it sounds like--a corncrib repurposed into a gazebo...again, ingenious!), and gushing over how perfect the farm was. The afternoon ended in Cathy adopting us (don't worry, Mom and Dad, we still really love you guys too...but there's always room for more positive parental influence, right?).

Cathy also raises chickens. She introduced us to a few, including one named Cruella de Vil and another named Napoleon (I resisted the urge to ask whether he had earned his name by staging a chicken coup). As Cathy explained it, he has a real "Short Man's Complex." Apparently he untied her husband Cliff's shoes today, which I personally think is nothing short of amazing.

Here are a couple pictures of the gorgeous flowers we picked today:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Camping Capers

Not much baking going on this week. That's because we're CAMPING! It's been a long time since I've felt so close to nature...our site is coverd in white clover, so needless to say, the honey bees have become my good friends. Anyway, I thought I'd share a few pictures and such. We're at Bob Shetler Campground right next to Saylorville Lake and Dam. We were going to stay at a nearby campground called Acorn Valley, but as we had decided we needed electricity and none of their tent sites had said amenity, we decided to move on over to Bob Shetler. In retrospect, we probably should have stuck with Acorn Valley because their sites were prettier and the only thing we've used electricity for in the past three days is to make three pots of coffee. All in all, it's been a great trip, despite the fact that I've gotten lost in Des Moines a couple times, and the fact that the couple next to us had a couple of those tiny yippy dogs that make sleeping such an impossible feat (they left yesterday morning...a hilarious ordeal to listen to).

Our lovely tent under the tree. Laura was able to rent it from work. Unfortunately tent stakes do not come with the tent. We didn't realize this until we had set the tent up. But the nice park rangers came to the rescue with some make-shift rebar stakes that are about six feet long. They get the job done, but getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night has become a dangerous affair.

The view from our site:

We're right next to the playground...

...and the bathroom.

One major highlight of the trip was the opportunity to see an Iowa Cubs game in Des Moines. One of Laura's high school buddies plays on the team, and he got us great tickets. Unfortunately it started raining at around nine o'clock. As we were behind by about six runs, Laura and I decided to be true fair-weather fans and leave before it started pouring on us. Good news, though: Laura's friend got us tickets again for tonight's game...we're going to try our best to make it all the way through this one! Here are a few pictures of Principal Park. Steve, eat your heart out! (Steve, for those of you who don't know, is our baseball-loving little brother.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Market Madness

Today's market was amazing! So busy at times that we could barely keep up...but we love it that way. Thanks to all the customers who visited us today. We really appreciate your business! Now, on to business. Here are the day's recipes:

Sugar-Free Apricot Sticky Muffins
I made quite a few modifications to the original recipe, so I'll post my modified recipe here. They sold out, so I can only assume they were good!

  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup dried apricot halves, finely chopped
  • 1 3/4 cup white all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dry farina (Cream of Wheat)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Margarine, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites , lightly beaten
  • 8 oz nonfat peach yogurt (substitute vanilla or plain if desired)
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Microwave apple juice and apricots in a covered and vented microwave safe bowl until mixture boils (about 3 minutes on high). Let mixture rest and keep covered until fully cooled. Strain mixture in a colander set over a bowl in order to save juice.
  3. Mix flour with farina, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of saved apple juice (from previous step), margarine, vanilla, egg whites, and yogurt. Gradually mix flour mixture into apple juice mixture. Then, mix in apricots.
  4. Divide batter among a 12-cup muffin tin coated with cooking spray. Bake muffins for 20 minutes or until set. Let muffins cool on a wire rack. When cooled, dip tops of muffins in saved apple juice and scatter with sugar.
These sold out as well. They kind of reminded me of that oh-so-delicious Girl Scout cookie known as a Caramel Delite. Instead of chocolate chips, I used Nestle Swirled Milk Chocolate and Caramel Chips. And I used these adorable baby bananas because they were the only ripe ones at my grocery store.
Oh yeah, and instead of baking mix, I used 1/3 cup each of tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and brown rice flour, plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

The weather has been cool this week, and I guess it got me in the mood for autumn, because these muffins definitely evoke September/back-to-school feelings. I guess other people were in the same mood, because there were only two left!

Yet another great BakingBites recipe, this coffeecake was a big hit. I forgot to layer the chocolate into the cake, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly.

I guess I was in a bar cookie-type mood this week, because these were my third. A super easy, six-ingredient recipe...only two left!

This week's scone recipe was a real winner...they turned out flaky and beautiful. Laura hand-picked the blackberries while working(!) in Peoria.

The original recipe for these calls for Corn Flakes, but I didn't have them, so I used Corn Chex. Again, only two left!

And now for the Sprouted Grain Bread update. There was a little mishap regarding the first grains I sprouted. Long story short, I visited Laura in Peoria for a couple days, leaving my poor grains to ferment. Oops! Some of them literally carbonated their sprouting water. It was not good. Anyway, I ended up re-sprouting, with the exception of the amaranth because I didn't want to deal with trying to drain it (see my earlier post about this). I also sprouted some wheat berries, because wheat is the only grain that has the necessary protein on which yeast feed (I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I hate dangling participles). Also, after a little more research into the subject, I discovered that it's preferable not to leave the grains sitting in water between rinsings. Also, I realized that the anaerobic environment created by screwing the lids/rings onto the jars probably does nothing but encourage fermentation, so I just left the jars with their window screen covering them, and no lid. I sprouted half a cup (dry) of each of the following grains: wheat berries, barley, rye, oats, millet, and red quinoa. To actually make the bread, I combined two tablespoons of instant (not fast-acting) yeast with a little warm water and a little honey. Although it's not technically necessary to dissolve the yeast when using instant, I wanted to give it a little head start since the bread contained such a small amount of wheat. After the yeast mixture was nice and foamy, I poured it into the food processor with the drained grains, a little salt, a squirt of honey, and a couple handfuls of spelt flour. When the mixture formed a dough (of sorts), I scraped it into a bowl and let it rise for about two hours...longer probably would have been better. Then I scraped it into a 9x5-inch loaf pan and let it rise again for about two hours. I then baked it in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes...the tap test (you know, where you tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow) doesn't really work on this bread because of its density, but the finished bread is dry yet still slightly springy. To prevent a rock-hard crust from forming, I wrapped the loaf in a clean kitchen towel and enclosed it in a gallon-size Ziploc bag for about 45 minutes. After this, I removed the bread and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Here's the finished product:
Stay tuned for further experiments with sprouted grains. We're camping in Saylorville this week...I can't wait to see the cute sprout jars sitting on our picnic table!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trials in Sprouted Grain Land...and Some Applesauce Cocoa Cookies

There's an awesome couple that visits us at the market every week, and a couple of weeks ago, they commissioned me to try making sprouted grain bread. My first attempt was a hilariously awful round rock consisting of nothing except sprouted wheat berries ground into a dough-like paste and then baked in a crock pot for upwards of eight hours. I had success the next week, with a loaf modified from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (always a great read for getting in touch with your inner hippie). This one had yeast, a little honey, and some salt in addition to the wheat berries, resulting in a couple of loaves of pleasantly dense, chewy bread. The customers enjoyed it, but they asked for something made without wheat, so I'm on to trying a six-grain sprouted bread. I'm going to try to basically follow the Laurel's Kitchen recipe, but I have no idea if the combination of grains I have is going to work. Here's a picture of the grains I chose (from one of my favorite stores in the area, Greatest Grains):

Starting at the left and going in a clockwise spiral: rye, amaranth, millet, oat groats, barley, and red quinoa.

First soak: The basic idea here is to soak the grains for a couple of days, rinsing them 2-3 times per day, until they "sprout" little tails. Different grains take different amounts of time and grow different lengths of tails. I learned today that quinoa sp
routs really fast...the other grains haven't done much but it's only been a day so I'm not worried yet.

This ingenious set-up makes it incredibly easy to drain the soaking water from the's just window screen cut to fit inside the ring of the mason jar so that it can be tipped to drain the water without dumping the grain. The only problem is that I chose to use amaranth. Amaranth is the smallest grain. So small that it goes right through window screen. Not exactly sure how I'm going to deal with that, but I'm probably going to end up trying cheesecloth to drain the water.

In between drainings the jars should stay covered, so I just put the lid under the window screen and screwed the band on.

I plan on making a variety of mini-loaves of this bread with different flavors like cinnamon-raisin, sesame seed, everything, etc. Stay tuned for the results!

And now on to those applesauce cookies. As I mentioned before, I make something naturally-sweetened every week. Today it was these cookies, adapted from a recipe from The original recipe called for artificial sweetener, but I try to stay away from that when I'm baking for the market, so I substituted honey and cut back on the water by about two tablespoons. They turned out very cakey and spongy. Anyone with a desire to make whoopie pies would probably have good success with these.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This one's for you, Mom!

Today's post is half about knitting and half about a certain Norfolk Island Pine. First, the pine. When I was baptized, my godfather gifted me a Norfolk Island Pine. It was tiny, and as I was growing up I watched it grow into a 5 foot tall tree. We even decorated it for Christmas, and each summer moved it outside to enjoy the Wisconsin weather. It was cumbersome to move, and my mom even "lent" it to my dad's office for awhile. I know she was getting sick of it, but I promised her that as soon as I had my own place, I'd take the tree off her hands. I really liked it and liked the fact it was exactly as old as I am. Anyway, here's where the story gets a little fuzzy. I'm not sure if the tree never made it back from the office, or if the Wisconsin weather was a little too windy, but on one trip home from college, the tree was no longer there. I was bummed, to say the least. But today, all that changed. I purchased the little beauty pictured below, and in 23 short years, I'll have my own 5' pine tree to decorate every Christmas!

Now, for the knitting. I'm still working on the vest, but it is going quickly, despite the fact that I have to make it at least 4 inches longer than the pattern calls for to accommodate for my ridiculously long torso. I also keep messing up the diamond pattern, resulting in a lot of mistake fixing with the crochet hook. I am getting really good at fixing mistakes with a crochet hook, though!

I also have a new market bag in the works. It was special ordered by some of Em and my customers at the market. Em is working on sprouted grain breads for them, and now I've been contracted to make a bag with lots of color changes and a new open-work pattern. I'll scan and post a sketch soon!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

To Market, To Market

So today was the Farmers Market. A little slow at first, but it picked up towards the end. Here's what I made, with short descriptions and links to the recipes:

Every week I make something gluten-free. It's surprising (and really gratifying) to see how many people with wheat allergies are able to enjoy things they don't usually get to indulge in. This is a basic chocolate cake, with cherry pie filling mixed into the batter, marshmallow creme on top, and a few chocolate jimmies for the finishing touch. I didn't have gluten-free flour mix, so I used equal parts brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca flour--for this recipe, that's about 2/3 cup of each flour.

The original recipe for these cupcakes calls for cranberry juice and fresh cranberries, but I substituted orange juice for the cranberry juice and dried cranberries for the fresh. The recipe is also written for standard-size cupcakes, but it made the right amount of batter for six jumbo cupcakes, which I baked for about 25 minutes. I used a cream cheese frosting with gold sanding sugar on top, followed by a molded white/milk chocolate swirl shell. These were a top seller!

Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes

Light-as-air angel food cake with a touch of lemon zest just to change things up a bit. I used a simple powdered sugar glaze with fresh strawberries on top of the cupcakes.

Dark Chocolate Muffins

Another great recipe from Baking Bites, these muffins get a double dose of dark chocolate: some melted and stirred into the batter, and some in the form of dark chocolate chips. They came out with beautiful domed tops due to a large dose of baking powder.

I also make something naturally sweetened every week. These granola bars were good, but I had to add quite a bit more honey than the recipe calls for in order to make the dough stick together enough to shape them.

Ginger-Orange Scones

For some reason, scones are incredibly popular at the Farmers Market. To make these, I added chopped crystallized ginger and orange zest to a recipe for Coffeehouse Scones.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Big Mistake, Fella...Biiig Mistake

Align Center^Don't tip this guy^

I'm just going to put it out there: this post has nothing to do with knitting or baking--although I can think of a few things I'd like to do to the above pictured man, and several involve knitting needles and an oven. This post has everything to do with how much it sucks to be nineteen sometimes. Before tonight, the only reason I have ever wished I was 21 was that I wanted to be able to make whiskey cake without asking Mommy or Daddy to supply the alcohol. But tonight Laura and I went to the Quad Cities River Bandits game, as we've done every Thursday for the last couple weeks. The night started off well, as it was Obama bobblehead night (score!). But it quickly turned (whiskey?) sour when we headed over to the Tiki bar behind the outfield. This is where we always sit, and there has never been an issue before. But no sooner had we sat down when Matt, the River Bandits employee from the picture, informed us that I was not allowed to sit in the tiki area because I was not twenty-one. Now, if the Tiki bar were the only place alcohol were allowed, I would understand the over-21 policy. However, there is beer everywhere at this park! The excuse Matt gave was that "they treat the Tiki area like a bar." This is where I will point out that there actually is a bar inside the lovely Modern Woodmen Park, and I was more than welcome there, as was the adorable four-year-old boy munching french fries with his father. Matt also told us that this policy has been in place all year. I would believe him, but for the simple fact that I have been sitting in the same chair for the last few weeks with nary a glance from any of the workers. I would also like to point out that I had no desire to drink; I simply wanted to be able to sit with the people I came with. Laura and I were upset, and I felt about three years old, but we didn't really argue with the guy. Our friend Kim, however, was, frankly, incensed. She was awesome sticking up for us and asking any employee who could listen what the deal was. She didn't get many answers, because none of the other employees had heard of this policy. We sincerely thank her for the effort, though!

Ok, so now that I've vented a little about this whole fiasco, I'm going to add a little disclaimer here: I fully understand that Matt was probably just doing his job (or maybe he just didn't like the looks of me? No, that can't be it...). That does not, however, change the fact that he made my night considerably less fun than it would have been...I can't imagine what I would have done if I hadn't had my Obama bobblehead to assuage the pain of rejection. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is: Matt, I kind of think you suck, but I don't hold it against you. That much.

P.S. Also, thank you Kim for supplying the picture...and thank you Matt for happening to look just as Kim snapped the shutter (at least you did something right tonight).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frozen Yoga(urt)

Lately I've been slightly obsessed with yoga. I've been taking advantage of the fact that I have access to cable for the week by watching FitTv's Namaste Yoga and In Shape with Sharon Mann every morning. Although I don't enjoy it as much as my weekly Yoga Happy Hour at the Davenport School of Yoga, it's still a nice way to begin the day. Anyway, this morning I was inspired to share a frozen yogurt recipe because 1)the two words sound similar, allowing for a nice word pun in the title of this post, and 2) both are healthy and aid in digestion. After a lengthy web search, I chose this Blueberry Frozen Yogurt from Simply Recipes because I love blueberries and they should be coming into season soon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On the Road... With Knitting

So I've been traveling a lot for work lately, which actually gives me a lot more time for knitting. This week I'm touring all of the locks and dams on the Illinois Waterway. When I'm not showing up unexpectedly at the locks and asking the very hard working crews there to drop everything and give me a tour, here's what I've been up to:

Project #1. Sexy Vesty from Ravelry. The yarn I'm using is Cascade Yarns Rustic, a mix of linen and wool. This is in the beginning stages, but I'm already loving it!

Project #2. Children's Market Tote. This tiny tote bag is knit out of cotton, and was custom ordered by a fellow vendor at the Freight House Farmers' Market.

Speaking of the Market, here's a photo of our set-up. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!!!!

It's Ok, the Graham Crackers are Low-Fat...

At least that's what I should have written on the sign for these S'more Bars, originally from Baking Bites. See, I sell baked goods at our local Farmers Market, and these bar cookies were one of my wares this week. I thought they'd be really popular, considering that it was the Fourth of July and s'mores are an integral part of the all-American summer. I was wrong. I only sold one, and I think it's because the patrons of the Farmers Market are, in a word, healthy. Which spells bad news for bakers like me who enjoy combining copious amounts of fat and sugar to make delicious, albeit artery-clogging, desserts. Anyway, if you're not on a diet, I encourage you to try these bars. And if you are watching your weight, do what I did and substitute low-fat graham crackers for the regular ones, even though I'm pretty sure it makes almost no difference in the nutritional value of the end product. Oh, and marshmallow fluff also happens to be fat-free...who are we kidding, these are practically health food!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Here's the Deal

Hey there! We're Laura and Emily, sisters from Wisconsin who love to knit and bake, respectively. Just to clarify, this blog, despite what its name may suggest, will not be full of recipes for bran muffins or other fiber-laden baked goods. Rather, the "Fibers" in Flours & Fibers refers to Laura's medium of choice, and, of course, "Flours" refers to the main ingredient in many of the goodies Emily creates.