This year she’s baking up a few favourites, and a few twists, that I can’t go into because I know that the recipients of our ‘goodie’ baskets occasionally read this blog.
However, all is not lost. My friend Ally, of Ally’s Notebook posted this wonderful 3-ingredient cake recipe that Mrs Widds had to try. All it is, is dried fruit, ginger ale, and self-raising flour.
We had all sorts of dried fruit left over from various snack-a-lots, so in went some dried papaya, (pawpaw) prunes, dried apricots, craisins, (sweetened dried cranberries) raisins and all the other usual suspects, and some roasted pecans for crunchyness.
Once everything was assembled it went into the oven and came out looking like this …
Crisp and crunchy on top …
… and perfectly baked everywhere else
We (the Baker, and the quality control expert, which would be moi) decided that next time we’d like it to have a tad more cake and a smidge less fruit, but other than that, it was truly scrumptious. Thank you, Ally!
The very next day … this happened …
Look at that. Some leftover pastry and a bit of roast chicken. Whatever shall I do with it?
Throw some veggies and gravy on top …
… cover with a bit of pastry and into the oven they go
And this is what comes out the other end. Perfect one-person chicken-pot-pies
We grabbed one each and retreated to our separate corners where a tastefully controlled amount of snarfing occurred.
It’s that time of the week in the Widder household, and as promised, or threatened some might say, I finally managed to remember to take pictures of the process from start to finish … so without further ado, Mrs Widds bakes bread.
First up, boil up ½ a potato with the skin on, until it’s cooked. Drain the water off and set it aside.
Taters about to be boiled
Mash the taters, and set them aside too.
Then assemble your dry ingredients.
In a big measuring bowl, add …11½ cups of flour/ grains mix (can be whole wheat/white/unbleached, whatever takes your fancy) Mrs Widds uses unbleached. 11½ cups go into the dough mix and 1½ cups (flour only) will be used in the kneading.
Grains: Mrs Widds throws in a handful of oats, some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some flax. You can experiment with all sorts of things, but don’t overdo it. There has to be a whole lot more flour than anything else.
Mrs Widds says: Different flours will change the texture/consistency and taste of the bread. You might need more flour during the kneading process, it depends on how the dough feels.
Add, 1 tblsp salt – the salt helps with the leavening process. i.e. helps the dough to rise.
Add 4 sachets of bakers yeast, or 4 slightly-less-than full tblsp.
Next … toss into the bowl 2/3 cup of sugar, or whatever sweetener takes your fancy – honey. maple syrup, molasses.
Mrs Widds says: Any liquid sweetener you use needs to be added to the total amount of liquid you put into the mix, and will also alter the texture/consistency and taste of the bread.
Which brings us to the liquid part of the equation:
You need 5 cups of liquid – including any liquid sweetener you might’ve added – use the potato water you set aside earlier.
Add ½ cup (10 tblsp) marg/shortening/butter to the still warm water, and once it’s melted add the mashed potato.
Mrs Widds says: Butter makes a ‘shorter’/richer loaf.
Now comes the fun bit:
You put the liquid in the dry ingredients, and you mix ‘em all up … to the tune of this song …
Heh, heh, heh … love the Muppets!
Mrs Widds … mixin’ ‘em all up
Make sure all the ingredients are wet.
Mrs Widds says: It looks more like a thick batter than dough at this stage.
Batter-y dough, or doughy batter – ahh, semantics
Cover with a light cloth and let it ‘rest’ (everyone needs a nap now and then) until it doubles in size.
Mrs Widds says: As a rule of thumb, each ‘rest’ period ought be long enough to allow the dough to double in size.
Voila, doubled in size
Mrs Widds says: All the liquid has been absorbed and the gluten has been released.
And it looks like this
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use the flour from the 1½ cups you set aside at the beginning.
All floured up and ready for my close-up
It’s nice to be kneaded
Still a bit sticky
Sprinkle more flour on and knead some more. Until it looks like this …
Ahh … that feels better
At this point you’ve probably used up a cup-ish of the flour, but it’s OK if it’s still a bit sticky-ish.
Mrs Widds says: Side note … you can put all sorts of ingredients in your mix, but be aware it will change the dough. e.g. dry cereal (Corn Flakes, Cranberry Crunch, yum) for instance, already has sugar and salt in it, leftover porridge (oatmeal) has liquid in it. But, don’t be afraid to experiment.
Pour 1-2 tblsp light oil (not olive oil) into your mixing bowl, place your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times so it’s coated in the oil.
Mah oily self
Cover and let it rise/rest until it’s doubled in size.
And then: Don’t do this, but if you do, it’s OK, neither you nor the bread will be harmed. (We got into a discussion about something or other and forgot about the dough)
Time for another kneading.
Mrs Widds flying hands
Mrs Widds says: When in doubt, more kneading is better than less. And, pop any bubbles. That’s where the holes in baked bread come from, unpopped bubbles in the dough.
Then, back in the bowl, coat in oil, you know the drill.
Waiting to rise
All risen now
It’s ‘Kneadin’ Time again … to the tune of this song … and it shouldn’t be sticky anymore. If it is add more flour as you knead.
Your dough is never going to be the same because now, it’s time to make some loaves!!!
Lightly grease/oil your baking pans. (that’s my job. Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire! I use the same type of oil that goes on the dough in the mixing bowl)
Mrs Widds says: I divide up my dough by weight, but you don’t have to. Go with what feels right.
Hack off a piece, throw it on the scales and add or cut off bits until it weighs about 700g (about 1lb 8oz) then knead into a loaf and set aside.
Hacked up and set aside – Le sigh
A’kneading we will go, a’kneading we will go. Heigh, ho, the derry’O, a’kneading we will go
Once all the dough is hacked up and divided, re-knead and set into your pans. Lightly brush with oil.
Mrs Widds says: If you have a bit of dough left over, divide it between the loaves. If there’s too much, flatten it out and put it in a smaller baking dish, drizzle olive oil on top, and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, oregano, (whatever you fancy) and it’s ready to go too.
Snug as bugs in … erm … loaves, in their tins – Note to Self: must get around to re-gluing that poor little Snowperson back together again
… and guess what? You wait for them to rise. Bwhahahahaha
This might be a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. Usually about 5 minutes before the loaves go in the oven.
A B-B-Q scraper is great for lifting the dried dough and left-over bits of flour. NOTE: Focaccia loaf in the background
Focaccia loaf all rizzed up – The peek-a-boo version
Bake for 20 minutes-ish, or until the bottom of the loaf makes a hollow sound when you tap it.
Mrs Widds says: The focaccia loaf will take less time to bake so add it to the oven accordingly. Every oven has its idiosyncrasies. With ours I need to turn the loaves about halfway through their bake time.
Still warm and half of it already eaten
– Here we are, back at the beginning … All baked and ready to be ‘et’
One final task:
Which is usually my job, (Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire) unfortunately I had a nasty encounter with a vegetable slicer.
Owwie … Never a dull moment in the Widdershins household
But before we get to that, here’s some good news. In November I had my 1-year-later cancer scan, and everything was clear.
And … HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone … so glad to see we all made it, although it was a close call for some of us. All I can say is I’m so glad you decided to stick around.
On with the show …
‘Twas the season for all things made with flour, fats and sugars, namely cookies and tarts … And inspirational songs, ritual feasts and fastings, and Santa, and for those who follow some traditions, a birthday.
Our big day is Winter Solstice.
Mrs Widds and I make special food, and release the year past to welcome in the new year to come, and other stuff to honour our spiritual traditions.
Then we start the baking for the family.
Since we’ve been here on Widder Island we’ve actually had the space to host our immediate family’s Christmas Day feast and present sharing. One of the most requested feasting items are baked goods, of which Mrs Widds is the unparalleled Mistress Of Baking. (I am merely the gorgeous assistant and quality control advisor)
First there’s the mixing of ingredients.
Ingredients – gazillions of ’em
The hands-on approach
Only Mistresses of Bakings know the secrets of perfect pastry
Then there’s the placing on trays.
Chocolate chip, shortbread, spellbinders (pictured) ginger snaps, orange zest … oh, the list goes on, and on, and …
Then there’s the baking and subsequent eating. (and these are the ones I thought to take pictures of)
Apple tarts, and …
Butter tarts, and …
for something savoury, mini quiches, and …
thumbprint cheesy bites
Needless to say the Widds family was well supplied for months … Seriously? Months? … these lasted for as long as it took them to drive home and open their Goodie Baskets!