Monday, April 29, 2013

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

I have been searching for the perfect sandwich bread recipe since I first started making homemade bread about 5 years ago.  I tried multiple recipes, but they were always lacking something.  They were either too small, too soft, too dense, or too much work!

Even after learning how to make great bread like homemade dinner rolls and homemade pizza crust, I still didn't have a good sandwich bread.  We've been buying cheap Aldi's bread with lots of corn syrup and preservatives, yuck!  So, I tweaked, adapted, and increased a basic bread recipe to come up with this delicious honey wheat bread.  It's simple, and is the perfect size and texture for sandwiches.
This recipe takes about 3 hours from start to finish.  But don't panic, almost all of that is rising and baking time.  All you have to do is the initial mixing and kneading (and if you have a stand mixer, this is done for you), shape the dough into loaves, and pop it in the oven.

What you need:  for 2 loaves
  • 1 Tbs yeast
  • 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
  • 4 Tbs oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
Let's get cooking:
1.   Combine yeast and water.  (You can sprinkle with 1/8 tsp sugar to help activate the yeast).  Let sit about 5 minutes, until foaming.  Then add oil and honey.

2. Combine flours and salt in a stand mixer.  Use the dough hook attachment.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the yeast mixture. 

Note:  if you don't have a stand mixer, you can still make this simple dough.  Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture as in step 2.  Mix slowly until well combined.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead about 6 minutes by hand until dough is smooth and elastic.  Then continue with step 5.

3.  Increase mixer speed to medium for 3 minutes.  Then turn off mixer and let dough rest 5 minutes.

4.  Turn out dough onto a floured surface.  Knead about 50 times by hand, until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

5.  Place dough in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Punch dough down.  Divide in half and let rest 5 minutes.

6.  Meanwhile, grease the bottom and 1 inch up on the sides of two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans.

7.  On a lightly floured surface, push one piece of dough out into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle.  Starting with a short edge, roll the dough into a log shape.  Place seam side down in a greased loaf pan.  Repeat with the 2nd half.  Cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes.

8.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Cover top with foil the last 20 minutes so the bread doesn't over-brown. 

9.  Remove from pans and allow to completely cool on wire racks.  Store on the counter-top for several days in an airtight container.  Or, wrap tightly with foil and freeze for up to 1 month. 


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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Simple Dinner Rolls Recipe

Mmmmm, I love homemade bread.  And my husband loves it even more. I don't think I can overstate how much he loves bread.  To him, a multi-course gourmet dinner is not a complete meal without dinner rolls.  

I am a victim of my own success in the kitchen, and we are now food snobs:  since I have started making these rolls, we can barely stand eating rolls from a can or plastic bag.  They just don't have the delicious flavor and texture.  I always try to keep a stash of these delicious dinner rolls handy, so we can eat them with our chicken soup, ham and bean soup, or just about every other dinner I make. 
I love this recipe because it's so simple.  Many dinner roll recipes have you heat milk, add eggs, let the dough rise overnight, etc.  Compared to those recipes, this one is very basic (similar to my simple pizza crust).   I like to make a double batch and freeze half.  That way we always have rolls on hand, just as convenient but much more delicious than a can-o-rolls.

What you need:  for 12 rolls 
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/8 tsp plus 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  •  1 cup milk
 Let's get cooking:

1.  Add 1/8 tsp sugar to water.  Mix in yeast.  Let sit about 5 minutes, until beginning to foam.

2.  Meanwhile, mix sugar, salt, and 3 cups of flour in a medium bowl.  

3.  Add milk to the yeast mixture.  Stir into the flour mixture.  Stir until well combined.  Dust a flat surface with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.  Knead until dough is smooth.  Form into a ball.
I like to knead my dough on a plate.  Then, when I'm done I can put the plate in the dishwasher--no mess!
4.  Place the dough in a large, greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

5.  Shape dough into 12 smooth rolls.  If you like pillowy soft rolls, place them in a well-greased 9 x 13 glass pan to rise.  If you like golden brown rolls, place them 2" apart on a floured surface. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes.

6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  If you're baking in a glass pan, bake 15-20 minutes until the tops are turning golden.  I like to bake my rolls on a preheated pizza stone for about 15 minutes.  Then they're golden on the outside, but still soft inside.  

After they're completely cool, store in an airtight container 1-2 days on the counter.  Or, put them in ziplocs in the freezer and they save at least a month.  I don't think I've ever had them sit in the freezer longer than that.  They usually disappear in a few days. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reversible Two-in-One Little Girl Skirt

As we all know, I have two little boys, so I always love a chance to sew for little girls.  One of Buddy's friends turned three, and I whipped up this fast and easy skirt for her.  The beauty of this skirt is, it's actually two skirts in one!  I've made skirts similar to this one before, and it doesn't take any extra effort to make it reversible, just a little careful planning (which I have conveniently done for you). 
Another advantage is that this skirt is double layered.   Many little-girl skirt patterns are not lined, they just use a single layer of cotton fabric.  In my experience, a single layer is too see-through to make a good skirt.  Last time I made a similar skirt, I lined it with white cotton.  Then it dawned on me:  if I had used patterned fabric, the skirt would be reversible! 

This skirt is a great beginner project, it's really just a few straight seams and comes together quickly.  The hardest part is deciding which two cute fabrics to use! 

I made mine for a three-year-old, the final measurements were 18 inch waist and 11.5 inch length.  It's pretty easy to adjust the measurements, though, if you're making this for a younger or older girl.

What you need:
  • Fabric A, cut 14" by 42"
  • Fabric B, cut 11.5" by 42"
  • 19" length of 3/4" elastic
  • Coordinating thread, I used Coats and Clark All-Purpose
If you want to adjust the skirt length
Cut Fabric B the desired length.  Then cut Fabric A 2.5" longer.  For example, I wanted an 11.5" length, so I cut Fabric B 11.5" x 42".  Then I cut Fabric A, 14" x 42". 

For the waist, I just added 1" to my final measurement for the elastic.  I wanted an 18" waist, so I cut my elastic 19". 

Let's get sewing:

 1. Pin the 14" ends of Fabric A right sides together.  Sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.  You should now have a tube.  Press the seam open.  

2.  Pin the 11.5" ends of Fabric B right sides together.  Sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.    Press the seam open. Your fabrics should look like the pic below:  Fabric A is the floral and Fabric B is the yellow gingham.

3.  Turn Fabric B right-side-out.  Slide Fabric B over Fabric A, lining up the seams.  The two fabrics should be wrong sides together.  You should have about 1" of Fabric A showing at the bottom and 1.5" of Fabric A showing on top.

 4. To form the bottom hem, press and pin Fabric A on top of Fabric B.  Press 1/4", then 3/4".  Topstitch 1/8" from the pressed edge.  You should be sewing through both fabrics. 

5.  To form the casing for the elastic, press the top of Fabric A in 1/2", then 1".  Topstitch 1/8" from the pressed edge, leaving a 3" opening in the back.   Again, you should be sewing through both fabrics.  Use a safety pin to thread the elastic through, making sure it doesn't get twisted.

6.  Overlap the ends of the elastic by 1/2" and sew together securely.  Then tuck the elastic into the opening, fold down Fabric A, and topstitch the opening closed.  Make sure you don't catch the elastic as you sew.

And that's it, six steps and you've made two adorable little girl skirts!


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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mistake Quilt...or, Compounding problems through sheer stubbornness

I refer to this as my "Mistake Quilt."   I didn't make a tiny, almost-invisible mistake.  I make plenty of those on all my quilts, that's part of their handmade charm.  No, for this quilt I made mistake after mistake, compounding the problems at each step.  And did I stop at any point?  No, I kept forging ahead, thinking that somehow willpower and stubbornness would fix it.

 My dear husband says it still looks nice but I suspect he's just being a super-nice husband Or maybe he just does not have my refined sense of quilt style, ha! 
Here's a partial list of the problems with this quilt:

1. Using minky fabric in piecing.  I hadn't used minky much before this project, and it was so hard to cut and piece accurately.  Plus, I forgot that I wouldn't be able to iron the seams flat.  Inside this quilt is a mess of disordered seams, yike!

2.  Not using fabrics I loved.  Some of the fabric was super-cheap clearance, and others were ones I had in my stash, and then there's the minky...looking back, I think, why, why, why??

3.  Making my own pattern.  Now, this isn't always a mistake.  I love making up my own patterns, and usually it works.  But, when trying new things, you win some, you lose some.  On top of the other problems with this quilt, this pattern wasn't a keeper.

4.  Not listening to myself.  After I put together a few blocks, I was really iffy about this quilt coming together.  I should have cut my losses and started a project I loved.

5.  Letting it sit in the closet for three years.  After finishing the top, I thought it was the ugliest quilt I'd ever made.  Rather than just donating it and forgetting all about it, I put it in my closet.  Then, every time I searched through my stash I let it gnaw at me how ugly it was and how I should really finish this project. (I hate stacks of unfinished quilts hanging around).

6.  Not basting.  I've been practicing my hand-quilting skills because I want to hand-quilt two quilts I'm making with my great grandma's quilt blocks.  Digging through the closet one day, I ran into this quilt (again) and thought it would be a great practice quilt.  I wanted to get straight to quilting, so of course I didn't have time to baste properly.  But, now I've had so many problems with the backing bunching up while I'm trying to quilt.  Note to self:  don't skip vital steps!

7.  Hand-quilting minky fabric.  That dratted minky, coming back to bite me again!  Apparently it's awful trying to hand-quilt through minky, I don't recommend it.
The good news is, I only have a few more lines of quilting to add, and then I'll be finished with this quilt!  The bad news is, what am I going to do with it??  I don't want to keep it, it's just a reminder of all the problems I've had with it.  I think I'll donate it, and a baby girl can enjoy it regardless of how many mistakes I made :)

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