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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grandma's Potato Bread

Homemade bread must be the epitome of comfort food.  Just the aroma of the yeast dissolving in water is enough to make my husband say "I love that smell".   I'd been making bread for a few years when Grandma explained to me how she made hers and I caught right on.  There are no measurements so if you are a novice breadmaker, this isn't a good place to start, try a recipe from a cookbook first and make it a few times so you understand how the dough should feel, then give this one a try when you feel confident of your skills and ability to eyeball your ingredient quantities.  If you're a bread baker, you should have no trouble with this at all (and the results are worth it). 

Grandma's Potato Bread

The night or morning before:  
Peel & quarter a potato (any kind, any size).  Place in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.  Turn off the heat but DO NOT DRAIN.  Mash it up and let it sit until morning. 

In the morning:  Dissolve 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) yeast in lukewarm water and let it sit 5-10 minutes until it gets foamy on the surface.  Heat potato-water mixture until just about the same temperature as the water you dissolved your yeast in (if you get it too hot, just let it cool until the temp matches the yeast mixture or is slightly cooler).  Add yeast mixture to potato-water mixture.  Add salt & sugar or honey, stir until combined.   Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well as you go, to form a sponge.  Continue adding flour gradually until you can't stir it anymore & when you knead it by hand, it won't stick to your hands or the board.  Place in a bowl & cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place until doubled in size.  Punch it down, knead it back into a smooth ball.  Allow to rise until double once more.  Punch it down again and divide into the desired number of loaves or rolls.  Cover & allow to rise again, until doubled.  Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown on top & until it sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingertip (it should also be lightly browned on the bottom).

Grandma had a wide variety of loaf sizes from long loaves like you buy in the grocery store, to short, extra wide pans to small, individual loaves.  I'm lucky enough to have those bread pans - although I don't use them nearly enough these days.  She told me that the number of loaves she ended up with depended on how much water she added, so you'll just have to eyeball it.  For rolls, I usually make balls of dough about 2 inches in diameter, then put them in round cake pans & let them rise - they're always popular in our house during the holidays. 

I usually only just cover the potato with water and get about 2 standard loaves.  Typically I end up using about 1 tsp salt & 2 TBLS sugar or honey when I make it this way.  You can also use milk instead of water for a sweeter dough for cinnamon or breakfast type rolls plus as much as 1/4 - 1/2 C honey.   The longer you let the potato mixture sit prior to adding the rest of the ingredients, the tangier the dough will be - I recently read that this was one way sourdough was made in the pioneer days. 

I hope you enjoy the bread!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Italian Zucchini Casserole (Tiella)

I suppose since it's still winter and fresh zucchini from the garden is still several months away, it's a bit premature to post this recipe - but I thought it was time to post another casserole and these days you can purchase zucchini pretty much year-round at the local grocery store.  Grandma notated this one "V.G." as is the case with pretty much all of the recipes I have posted to date.  This sounds pretty tasty and I'm sure we'll get around to trying it at our house eventually. 

Italian Zucchini Casserole (Tiella)

First, make a layer of sliced zucchini in the bottom of a casserole, then sliced potatoes & hamburger.  Salt & pepper.  Then sprinkle over all, a mixture of diced bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, garlic & oregano.  Add tomato sauce over all alternate layers.  Bake at 350 degrees until done.

Chris' notes:  This recipe is pretty vague on instructions but it certainly sounds good.  Clearly there are going to be multiple layers, so alternate zucchini, potatoes, hamburger, then season and add bread crumb mixture & tomato sauce.  Repeat.  Aunt Linda Carbone uses a similar method in her zucchini casserole - which I'm sure will get posted at some point too.  You should end up with something along the lines of lasagna but without noodles. Also, I'm pretty sure you'll want to use browned hamburger.  Sausage would be yummy too!

I hope you try it - and like it!  Happy cooking!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Squares - source unknown

Since I'm a bit behind on entries, I thought I'd post a recipe today in addition to my notes on the Chocolate Fudge Cake.  I'm not sure if I've ever had these squares before, but they sound great and I think they'd be a perfect lunch box addition. 

Peanut Butter Squares

3 1/2 C Flour                        1 tsp Vanilla
1 tbs Baking Powder            1 C Peanut Butter
1/2 tsp Salt                            1/2 C Honey
1 C lard (shortening)            1/4 tsp Salt
2 C Brown Sugar                 
2 Eggs, beaten

Sift flour with baking powder & 1/2 tsp salt.  (in a separate bowl) Cream lard (shortening) and sugar gradually.  Add eggs & vanilla & beat thoroughly.  Add sifted dry ingredients & mix until well blended.   Place 1/2 of the dough in a 9x14 in. greased pan.  Mix peanut butter, honey & 1/4 tsp salt & spread over dough.  Press other 1/2 of dough on top.  Bake in moderate oven - 375 degrees for 20-25 min.  Cut in uniform pieces about 1 1/2 in. squares.  Yield - 4 dozen.

Grandmas Notes:  I put mine in a 350 oven.  I also like more honey - 1 Cup.

Chris' Notes:  It seems from the notes that this isn't one of Grandma's own recipes, but I could find no mention of source and she signed her name to it - perhaps she'd intended to give it to someone.  She mailed me recipes pretty regularly.    Grandma once noted on a recipe she sent me that she was a "great one for changing recipes"- thus the additional honey in this one. 

Enjoy and until next time - happy baking!

Chocolate Fudge Cake - Chris' Results

I made the Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe last Thursday into cupcakes.  The recipe went together very quickly.  The girls & I had invited some friends over Saturday night since I had Sunday off and so I knew the cupcakes would keep well for that.  The batter was very dense and the resulting cupcakes were too.  Very fudgy and dense, but still moist.  For frosting, I made tiny batches of both cream cheese-vanilla frosting and chocolate.  I made both frostings very thin, then just dipped & swirled the cupcakes in the frosting - very quick.  The cream cheese frosting was really too thin to hold up against the chocolate, so I would make a proper batch next time & mix it to a thicker, spreading consistency, then put a nice layer on.  I found a recipe for chocolate frosting on the back of the Ghiradelli baking cocoa can and modified that - it was VERY yummy.  It came out glossy - but stayed soft and had a good, chocolatey flavor.  The chocolate frosted cupcake were the clear favorite.  This recipe is every bit as good as Grandma said - a definite keeper!