Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Sprinkle of Chrstmas Spirit

     With Thanksgiving just days behind us the bakery is beginning to prepare for the Christmas holiday and i get to help! Today we baked, frosted, and decorated 6 dozen sugar cookies. We just sat around their kitchen table and talked and laughed and made a mess!

An Adapted Song That I love In Primary:
   Once there was a snowman, snowman, snowman, once there was a snowman. Yum! Yum! Yum!
   In the mouth he melted, melted melted, in the mouth he melted, Yum! Yum! Yum!

    As I frosted cookies with my Amish girlfriend and her mother they told me that back when the mother was little her mother owned a bakery and that about Christmas time they would have what they called Frosting Days. When fifteen to twenty women would come over and frost cookies all day. 
    My girlfriend's mother remembered that she loved listening to the women talk. There were so many mouths going and so many stories in the air that it was hard to keep up.
    Where have days like that gone?

     We had quite the variety when it came to sprinkles ... still, you did find yourself staring at your seventh Christmas wreath and wondering if you've exhausted all possible creative ideas.

     There was a bit of sweeping and wiping to do afterwards.

    Ta-Da! Lovely Christmas cookies brought to you by the one and only Mormish Girl ...
    Have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Apple Pie in a Zipock Bag

     Our family LOVES apple crisp and apple pie (apple, pumpkin, & pecan pies are my favorites!) ... but we like them in the winter when apples aren't in season, which means we need to preserve the apples in October/November when they are in season..

    First we wash them ...
    Insecticide, pesticide, and fertilizer don't agree with my stomach so it comes off in the sink

    The coveted job: Peeling and coring with the Apple Peeler Corer. his little tool is super nice to have for this process. it beats manually peeling and coring any day of the week ... but if all you have is a knife or a potato peeler then don't let it stop you.

    Ta-Da! The Apples are magically transformed into slinkys.

     Important Sanity Tip: These slinkys are not toys. They cannot do somersaults down the stairs or bounce from hand to hand. Attempting such things, may result in hot water and soap ... but they're good to eat!

     You can cut the apples into tiny pieces if you prefer. We cut the slinky in fourths but has we add the sugar and cinnamon they are cut up further with all the stirring and snitching. 


    The sugar we use is either sucanat or turbinado sugar
    Sucanat: A natural sweetener from the dry cold-pressed juice of organically grown sugar cane that has retained its molasses content and many vitamins
    Turbinado (Pictured Above & Below): White sugar that is only partially refined, thus leaving it healthier. It's courser than brown sugar but almost has the same taste, but it isn't the same because most brown sugar is made by adding molasses to fully refined sugar.            

    The amount of sugar and cinnamon is entirely up to you. How sweet do you want your apple pie/crisp? Of course you can add more in January when you pull the apple pie filling out of the freezer and thaw it. The reason sugar is added now is because it keeps the apples from turning brown, and sitting in sugar and cinnamon helps to sweeten/spice the fruit all the way through.

     Now it's off to hibernation in the deep freeze until the craving for apple pie drives the baker to the wake the silent sleeper.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Honey Whole Wheat Cheesecake

    As the years have passed health has outweighed taste ... but when we have a recipe as delicious as this cheese cake it is worth the years of tweaking it has taken to turn it into a healthy tasty holiday tradition.  Cheesecake is Dad's territory, it was his mom's original recipe and has now become his masterpiece. I paid close attention this year and learned a bunch of his tricks. 

   We have made our own whole wheat gram crackers before, but this year we were tired so we bought the organic whole wheat gram crackers from Kroger. Rolling them out is a favorite job that all the children love. We've found that putting the crackers in a plastic bag and usesing a rolling pin or the bottom of a cup works best. 

    Cracker crumbs ... take a nibble (I won't tell :)

     I love our masonry fireplace for softening butter. It softens it, but doesn't melt it .
     By the way, this is store bought butter. No Amish-made jersey butter today ... sorry.

    Honey is kind of hard to work with as a sweetener because it has a recognizable honey taste that is hard to mask. The secret: Baking Soda! The baking soda helps cut the honey's acidity down and thus the taste.    

     Spread the golden crust ... We like to make our cheesecake in a 9x11 baking dish, but we've done it in a circle cheesecake pan before. I don't know why we switched to a 9x11 baking dish.

    It's important to mix the dry ingredients separate from moist in order to avoid Baking Soda clumps.
    Really whip the moist ingredients, but once you add the dry ingredients you want to pour it over the crust as soon as it's mixed consistently because the soda and honey work together in a chemical reaction and you don't want that chemical reaction to quit before the cheese cakes hits the heat.
   You don't have to kill yourself over speed, but don't go and pick up a book at this point.

    See the bubbles? That's the chemical reaction. Sorry if I got your hopes up. No blue smoke or explosions today. I don't think Mom would have liked that in her kitchen anyway ...
    The baking soda and honey reaction also helps to make the cheese cake fluffier which offsets the whole wheat flour which usually makes things more dense.

   Baked to perfection (don't look at the bottom of the oven, those are not pieces of burned baked potatoe or cookie crumbs even though they may really look like it :) 
   Are we done yet??? Almost ... Don't give up!
   Now, as it chills in the fridge for thirty minutes, we make the sour cream layer (sorry, no photos of that in the mixer), layer it on the cheese cake after the thirty minutes are up and put it in the oven again. 

    Perfecto! It looks the best right out of the oven because it's so puffy and light looking, but it slowly falls with time. Maybe next year we'll cure the falling with another secret ingredient or chemical reaction :)

   Now it sits in the refrigerator over night. How are we going to find room with all the rest of the Thanksgiving stuff in there? Don't leave it uncovered it will absorb all the food smells in the refigerator and start to taste like that, whether it's onions, or chicken, or buttermilk ... we just spent forever masking the honey taste, let's not add a garlic taste.
   It's best to let it cool before putting plastic wrap over it though ... that's why the one on the photo isn't covered yet.

 Good morning! It's a new day. Thanksgiving Day! Happy Thanksgiving! Now we get to make the raspberry topping. We used to spoon the topping all over the cheese cake, but now that certain members of the family prefer plain cheese cake we let people spoon the topping over their own slices of cheese cake.

    And there you have it! You can now make my favorite dessert! Take a bite, chew it slowly, and make it a favorite of your own!  
     2 1/4 cups Gram Cracker crumbs
     2 TB Wh. Wheat Flour
     Dash of Baking Soda
     4 TB Honey
     4 TB Softened Butter
     4 PK. Cream Cheese
     4 Eggs
     1 Cup Honey
     1/2 Cup Wh. Wheat Flour
     1/2 tsp Baking Soda
     1 TB Vanilla
  Sour Cream Layer:
     3 Cups Sour Cream
     2 tsp Vanilla
     1/3 Cup Honey
     1/4 tsp Baking soda
     3 TB Wh. Wheat Flour
     10 oz. Frozen Raspberries
      Honey to taste
      Cornstarch if needed as thickener

     Crush the gram crackers until the preferred size is reached. Combine crumbs, flour, and baking soda completely before adding the honey and softened butter. Mix until consistent then spread evenly on the bottom of the preferred baking dish, whether 9x11, circle cheese cake pan, etc...     
     Blend cream cheese, eggs, honey, and vanilla until very smooth. In a separate bowl mix flour and baking soda. combine and mix. Pour over the cracker crust and get into oven quickly. Bake at 315 degrees for 45 minutes. remove from heat and place on hot pot holders of dish towel in the fridge. Let it chill for a half hour (thirty minutes).
  Sour Cream Layer:
     Mix sour cream, vanilla, and honey in a separate bowl than the Baking soda and flour. Combine mixtures once they are each completely mixed. Pour over the chilled filling layer and bake at low broil for 5 minutes. Once the timer rings tun off the oven but do not take the cheese cake out for twenty more minutes. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.   
     Thaw raspberries in a small saucepan on the stove. Once the berries are in liquid state add honey until reaching the desired sweetness. If the mixture is thinner than preferred, mix 1 TB of cornstarch to 2 TB water and dribble into the raspberries, stirring continuously, until the desired consistency is reached. If it's still not thick enough add more cornstarch and water. If it gets too thin add water. Let the topping cool, which will also thicken the mixture, before spooning over either the entire cheese cake or single slice.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oodles of Noodles

    One of the interesting things I've learned to make while working in the bakery is noodles. I love making them for lots of reasons. First just because it's neat to think I'm making noodles from scratch and second because it's super fun ... especially with the Amish girlfriend I have in the bakery.

    The BEST part is cracking the eggs and fishing out the yolks ... my friend knows that I love this part and lets me do it every time. I crack the eggs together (my friend showed me this trick :) and fill a whole bowl with them. When it gets to full I fish the yolks out with my hands. I love feeling the slimy whites drip through my fingers. It's important that the yolks don't break and mix with the whites because then the whites can't be saved.

    Noodles take a lot of eggs yolks (I've used 19 dozen in a batch before). We like to use brown farm fresh eggs because the yolks are brighter and the noodles become more yellow. Nothing is wasted in this bakery though. The whites are kept in half gallon jars for angel food cakes and the shells are slightly baked, then crushed, and come spring they're sprinkled around the lettuce and cabbage plants to ward off slugs and snails.   

Yolks, Salt, & Pasty Flour
Golden Dough
Use Those Arms!
       The large jars to the right are full of eggs whites and small one is yolks for tomorrow's rolls.

    Then they're cut into squares flattened with the noodle noodle flattener/cutter, and dried. You have to flatten them quickly because of you let them get to dry they flatten with a jagged edge rather than a smooth one and that's not good for the cutting process. 

Hanging out to Dry ... Can you see some dry jagged ones on the back?

Then They're Cut
    This is the same device that we used to flatten them, but i just didn't have any good pictures of the flattening process ... oh well.

     You can't let the noodle dry for too long on the rack either because then they'll snap and crack as you're trying to cut them. About the time you hang your last strip to dry the strip you flattened is ready to be cut. 

Dried AGAIN!
     And then they're dried a third time. After that they're bagged, weighed, and shelved ...   

Be Careful Not To Crack Them!
    Wasn't that fun? I feel like an all-out Scratch Baker!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lady Finger Popcorn

    This fun afternoon was spent with our Amish friends shucking their Lady Finger Popcorn. With a group of us working it didn't take long at all ... and it was super fun to do it with friends. Our family had to leave before all the corn was shucked, which was disappointing ... I'm a stick-it-out kind of person.

    All the corn was still on the stock so we had to twist it off, shuck the corn, and once all the corn was off the stock we stomped the stock flat so we could see our progress. 

    I was surprised at how small Lady Finger Popcorn is, truly the size of my middle finger. After it's all shucked our friends will dry it on the cob until ... until something ... I don't know much about drying popcorn. Then rub it off, and store it in Ziploc bags or mason jars for popping later. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Crisp Morning

     One of my favorite days of the year (second only to the first day of tapping season) is cider pressing day. It's crisp outside (pun intended :) but it's easy to forget how cold your fingers are when your heart is warm. I love times like this when the whole family is working together 

    We ordered four bins of apples and picked them up last night. There are 18 bushels in a bin and 38-40 pounds in a bushel. Three of them were yellow delicious and the fourth was red delicious. One of the crates was for friends who love to buy them at the bulk price and use them to make applesause, pie filling, etc... Of course we hold back a few for all our canning needs as well.  
    We like the two to one ratio of yellow and red delicious. Most people like a tart cider, but because we use our cider to make apple juice our family tends to like our cider sweeter.

    Our Amish friends wanted to see how we pressed the cider, so we had them along. Their help made it go by so much faster, and made the expiriance that much more fun. The apples were wet with dew so our fabric gloves were soon soaked and froze our hands rather than kept them warm. We were cold, sure, but we enjoyed it.

    A couple years ago we used to press our apples in a hand crank press of our own. This method took so much longer and when we discovered a cider press just down the road that would get us more cider out of less apples in a tenth of the time we decided it was a wash and never looked back ...

    The apples are dumped into the chute which lifts them up on a conveyer belt into the building where they are crushed up. We dump in two yellow crates, one red, two yellow crates, one red ... this keeps all of the juice tasting the same. 

Chunky Applesauce
     The crushed apples pour into large sacks where they are spread flat with a paddle and wrapped up. There can be only so many bags in a press so we did three pressings. The bags are stacked with a wooden pallet between each one. They are then slowly pressed flat.

  It's a victorious feeling to see the juice just flood off of that rack and into the basin. From the basin it drains through a hose into our barrels in the truck bed. This year we pressed one hundred and fifty four gallons. That will last us until next October-November when we press again. 
      The press sells one-gallon jugs and we buy one every year to help us measure the juice into our blue barrels. Seventeen gallons to a barrel ... those things get HEAVY!

Empty Bins & Full Barrels
What's Left of the Apples?
Half Gallon Jars of Cider
     Then it's the long haul!
     This year Mom and I stayed up until three o'clock a.m. preserving our juice.
    We love to drink the fresh cider, but it has to be kept cool or it will start to ferment and start to taste sharp. So we freeze all we have room for in our chest freezers and can the rest. We had room for seventy half gallons this year.  

     I dragged the barrels in one at a time on a bathroom rug (one without the grippy rubber underneath layer) and we used pitchers to transfer it from barrel to pot. We warm the juice to a near boil before ladling them into half gallon jars, putting the sterilized lids on top and securing it with a ring.
With all the lifting and pouring and hefting there is to do your arms feel like strings of spagetti by the end of the night. 

    We do the canning itself in our green house where we can spill and drip and not worry because we'll just hose it off afterwards. The juice seals in a hot-water-bath for ten minutes before we pull them out and let them sit overnight on rag towels on the floor. 

    Now all we have to is wipe them down, label them, and take them down to the basement, not to mention scrub the barrels, clean the caners, and take the crates back to the orchard ... but that's another day.