Sunday, October 26, 2008

Here's an easy dessert - Chocolate Chip Bars

Every once in a while I will stray from the oven to make a dessert. This is one of my favorites that my mom would make when we were kids - Chocolate Chip Bars. She got the recipe from a cookbook she used in a microwave cooking class many years ago. I don't remember the exact name of the cookbook - I think it may have been published by Hotpoint.
I started making these when I was in college - I remember a friend of mine would come over on Wednesday nights to study macroeconomics, and I'd have the bars ready for our study session.
I've made these bars so many times I have the recipe memorized. They are so easy and do not take much time to make. I will start making dinner and put a stick of butter out to soften as I prepare other food. Then after everything else is done, I can whip the bars together.
As an experiment, I tried baking these in the oven once. This recipe is definitely created exclusively for the microwave!

This is how the batter looks when it is spread out in the pan.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

7 minutes later, you will have chocolate chip bars! They are best when they are served warm. However, I've never been able to wait for them to cool when I eat them!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My new favorite yeast bread project - Cinnamon Rolls

UPDATE: Here's the recipe I used, from Better Homes and Gardens. I didn't want to post this earlier because I didn't want any students to get confused about the recipe they used in class.

I decided to try my hand at cinnamon rolls this coming year at the fair. The first time I made them they turned out very nicely. The second time I made them, Mr. Findlay-Lampkin requested that half the batch be caramel rolls. After eating them, he requested that all future batches be caramel rolls. Well, I still need to practice for the fair, so I'll still make a few plain rolls. But I like the caramel rolls too, so I made more this time.

St Anthony students might find this interesting - I believe you have your last yeast breads lab this week.

I use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk so the yeast activates properly.

The dough hook on my Kitchen Aid mixer helps to knead the dough

I hand knead the dough for a minute or two, just enough to make it manageable. Then I put it in a greased bowl to rise.

Punching down the dough after the first rising. After punching down the dough is divided in half.

"Resting" the halves of the dough.

The dough gets rolled out into a rectangle (about the size of a sheet of paper), then brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with a cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Rolling up the dough with the filling.

In order to have well shaped rolls you cannot cut them with a knife. I use a piece of heavy thread, put it under the roll, and pull the ends in opposite directions to slice the rolls.

A slice of the roll.

When I enter the cinnamon rolls in the fair, I plan to bake separately on a cookie sheet, as pictured below.

This will be how my fair entries look.

This morning I made 2 pans of caramel rolls. To start, you spread the caramel mixture in the bottom of a round pans. I sprinkled mine with pecan chips.

Then I place the slices of the roll on top of the caramel.

The rolls rise again. I think I will try to see if I can get 3 pans the next time I make these - this pan is a little crowded!

The rolls after baking. I loosened them along the sides, and inverted the pan onto a plate.

The finished caramel rolls!

I really enjoy making and eating these rolls. I need a whole morning to make them - they take about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. But you'll never go back to store-bought or a can again!

Re-entering the foray of yeast breads

It's been a while since I made bread. I used to make my own bread all the time. Unfortunately, I had a jug of water leak while stored under my sink, right next to my Kitchen Aid mixer and its attachments. My uncoated dough hook became a casualty, as the metal oxidized and the finish was compromised. I could no longer use that dough hook; then it took me almost 3 years to replace it. I am now the proud owner of a new coated dough hook, and I'm back in the yeast bread making game.

I tested a recipe for white bread from a cookbook I bought in Jackson, MS. I thought the recipe came together well, but I thought the bread could have been a little more tan on top.

After the bread had cooled and had been wrapped up, I sliced a loaf tonight. I realized that I didn't push enough air out of the dough when I formed the loaves. There are too many air pockets, and the bread looks almost porous. I will be working on my dough techniques through the year.

2009 Minnesota State Fair Entries

It might sound a little crazed, but I have already planned my entries for the 2009 State Fair. I'm feeling even more ambitious and have 20 entries selected. Hey, if you're going to win a ribbon in every category lot, you have to bake a lot of entries!

Here are the scheduled entries thus far:

Yeast Breads, plain dough: Bread, White
Yeast Breads, plain dough: Bread, Herb (Onion Bread)
Yeast Breads, plain dough: Bread, Raisin
Yeast Breads, sweet dough: Coffee Cake
Yeast Breads, sweet dough: Sweet Rolls, plain
Quick Breads: Other fruit bread, may use nuts (Blueberry Almond Bread)
Egg Cakes: Angel food, white
Egg Cakes: Sponge
Cakes with Shortening: Cake, pound
Cakes with Shortening: Vegetable or fruit type (Pumpkin Cake)
Cookies: Chocolate brownies with nuts and/or frosting
Cookies: Cookies, icebox (Chocolate Icebox)
Cookies: Cookies, ball type, not flattened before baking (Gingersnaps)
Cookies: Cookies, chocolate chip
Cookies: Cookies, peanut butter
Cookies: Cookies, oatmeal, no fruit, nuts, chips, or icing
Pies: Pies, Apple
Pies: Pies, Mixed Berry
Pies: Pies, Peach
Ethnic Baking: Ethnic Baking, bread (Julekage)

Some lots were entered in 2008, with results that could be improved. I also finally replaced my dough hook for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer so I could start making more yeast breads. I will be practicing these recipes for the next 9 months!

2008 Minnesota State Fair: Banana Bread

(middle shelf, yellow ribbon)
Quick Breads: Banana Bread, nuts, no other fruit lot: 5th place

I used the same recipe for banana bread as I had in 2007. This time, I made sure I had very ripe bananas, and I used 4 bananas. Three isn't really enough to give the best flavor. The loaves must be a certain size to enter in the fair. I made 4 smaller sized loaves so I could pick the most attractive. I won the 5th place ribbon this year, and my score was much higher than last year.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 Minnesota State Fair Entries

I was decidedly more ambitious at the State Fair this summer. After my successes in 2007, I decided to enter 13 lots, with a goal to win 8 ribbons. My overall goal for my State Fair baking is to win a ribbon in every baking lot. I did not enter in the three lots I won ribbons in 2007, but I did enter the other two. There are many lots to enter, so it will take quite a few years to accomplish my goal, but I will enjoy trying!

I spent 2 days baking (immediately after taking a final exam in a summer course at the U of M) pies, cakes, cookies, and bread.

This is how my kitchen and table look when I'm baking so many items. Somehow, I manage to fit them all in!

Here are the final entries.

One item of interest this year...I was not aware that not all entries are scored in a lot if there are over 25 entries. Unfortunately, some of my entries fell into that category. I plan to reevaluate my entries and hopefully this will not happen too many more times!

Quick Breads: Banana Bread (5th place)
Egg Cakes: Angel Food Cake (DNP)
Cakes with Shortening: White Cake, with egg whites (2nd place)
Cakes with Shortening: Spice Cake (2nd place)
Cakes with Shortening: Chocolate Cake (4th place)
Cakes with Shortening: Not otherwise specified (1st place)
Cookies: Brownies, with Frosting, Nuts, or Chips (DNP)
Cookies: Chocolate Chip (Not Scored)
Cookies: Ball type, not flattened before baking (DNP)
Cookies: Bar cookie, with Nuts, Fruit, and/or Chips (Not Scored)
Pies: Apple (Not Scored)
Pies: Mixed Berry (DNP)
Pies: Peach (DNP)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ms. Findlay-Lampkin wants to hear what YOU have to say.

To all my St. Anthony students,

I have a questionnaire that I hope you might take a few minutes to fill out for me. I will be using your responses in a paper at the U of M.

Paper copies are available from Mrs. Billeadeau. I also have an online version that you can do.

To go to the online form, click HERE.

Thanks again!

What would YOU like to see on Bake-straveganza?

To my students and their parents at St. Anthony,

Some of you have been introduced to the blog in class, and recipes are available if you would like to make some of the 2007 State Fair entries. I plan to post the 2008 State Fair entries this weekend.

I am also going to post the process of making an apple pie. There are so many apples in season for fall that it's a great time to bake with them! I have some Haralson apples I will be using.

Also, if you have any requests for an item you'd like to see on the blog, feel free to comment and let me know! I am hoping to put some of our class labs on here as well, so people can see what we do in our foods labs at different levels.

Have a great 4 day weekend!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2007 Minnesota State Fair: Opportunities

Well, not all my entries made the grade at the fair in 2007. I decided that I needed to re-enter the categories the next year so I could improve my skills and products.

Quick Breads: Banana Bread
(Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1996)

I knew right away what happened with this entry. My bananas were not ripe enough, and I should have used one more. I did not have a great score for flavor. I liked the recipe, so I decided to make the same one in 2008....just with riper bananas.

Cakes with Shortening: Chocolate Cake
Devil's Food Cake (Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1996) with French Silk Frosting (Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969-1980)

I thought this would be a good choice for a chocolate cake entry, but I didn't realize how competitive this lot would be. It wasn't even my favorite chocolate cake recipe that I use - I like the Cocoa Fudge cake recipe from Betty Crocker (1969 - 1980) with Vanilla Butter Frosting (Betty Crocker, 1969 - present) best. There was nothing special about this cake. It was just a plain old chocolate cake. I decided to make my favorite in 2008 and see if I could improve my showing.

2007 Minnesota State Fair: Toffee Bars

3rd Place: Cookies: Bar Cookie, Plain, Frosted lot

This one was a no-brainer entry for me. I have been making these toffee bars for over 10 years, so I knew was I going to enter them. These are a Findlay family favorite. They don't take very long to make - it's an easy recipe. You can use walnuts on top, but I'm partial to pecans.

2007 Minnesota State Fair: Pumpkin Bread

4th Place: Quick Breads: Vegetable Bread lot

This recipe was in a cookbook my aunt made from my grandma's recipe collection. I made the pumpkin bread with pumpkin from my mom's garden. I like to think that was my secret weapon.

2007 Minnesota State Fair: German Chocolate Cake

3rd Place: German Chocolate Cake lot

This was remarkable, as I really had to bang the pans to get the cake out. One of my layers almost came apart. After regaining a semblance of my sanity, I went ahead and constructed the cake, making sure to even out the sides a bit. I got high scores for flavor with this one. My tip: ALWAYS use butter for everything, even when it says you can use margarine. I'm from Wisconsin - it just wouldn't be right without butter.

2007 Minnesota State Fair Entries

2007 was the first year I entered the fair. I choose 5 entries I would be comfortable making, and spent the evening before drop-off day baking up a storm. The next morning at 7:45 am we were in line outside the Creative Activities Building at the fairgrounds waiting patiently to drop off two cakes, two quick breads, and one bar cookie entries. The results were posted on Thursday morning (opening day of the fair), and I found my name listed as a ribbon winner in two categories. When we went to the fair, we saw a third entry displayed with a ribbon that had not been posted in the online results. I was very excited about the ribbons, and couldn't wait to start planning for the next year.

2007 Entries

Quick Breads: Banana Bread (DNP)
Quick Breads: Vegetable Bread (Pumpkin Bread) (4th place)
Cakes with Shortening: Chocolate Cake (Devil's Food Cake/French Silk Frosting) (DNP)
Cakes with Shortening: German Chocolate Cake (3rd place)
Cookies: Bar Cookie, plain, frosted (Toffee Bars) (3rd place)