Soft White Bread

bread 001

Ever since I made Pumpkin Cheese Bread that turned out so light and moist I have been on a quest to find a soft white bread recipe. 

When I found this bread recipe in an older Betty Crocker Cookbook I decided to give it a try although I’m not sure that the recipe is as important at technique when it comes to bread making.  I defied the recipes instructions and made the bread based on a few techniques that have worked well for me in the past.

1.) I used as little flour as I possibly could.  I prefer the dough be a little sticky prior to, and during the first kneading.

2.)  I tried to avoid overworking the dough.  I mixed by hand, and didn’t knead bread for an extended period of time.  This recipe advised to knead it for 10 minutes (prior to the first rising) – I kneaded it for about 5 minutes.

3.) When I punched the dough down (after the first rising) I briefly kneaded the dough to get the air bubbles out and then formed into loaves.  This recipe called for dividing the dough into halves and rolling each half into a 18×9 inch rectangle.

4.)  I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  Not a 425 degree oven for 30-35 as this recipe called for.

Recipe

2 tbsp. yeast

3/4 c. warm water (105 – 115 degrees)

2 2/3 c. warm water

1/4 c. sugar

1 tbsp. salt

3 tbsp. margarine, melted

6 1/2 c. flour – plus additional flour for kneading

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 3/4 c. of warm water.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Add the 6 1/2 cups of flour to stiffen the dough but leave it slightly sticky. Mix thoroughly.  If you feel it’s necessary to add more flour, do so gradually.

On a lightly floured surface knead bread until it forms a nice round ball and is no longer sticky (about 3-4 minutes).  Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled – about 1 hr. 

Punch down and knead briefly to remove air bubbles (about 2 minutes), shape into loaves.  In this case I split the dough so I could make an 8×8 inch pan of cinnamon rolls and got one large and one medium-sized loaf of bread.

Let the loaves rise until doubled – about 1 hr. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Brush with the tops with softened margarine or butter.

This bread turned out super soft and moist just as I had hoped for. 

Do you like making bread?  Do you have any bread making tips?

Ooh Babycakes! Chocolate Kahlua…

baby cakes 025

Cake pops are so trendy. They are also sooo delicious and will certainly unleash every ounce of creativity you have bottled up inside of you.  That’s what I concluded after making my first batch of them with my new Babycakes cake pop maker I got this weekend.

Oh, one more conclusion I made – any of the Babycakes products would make an awesome Christmas gift.  Check out their donut maker, pie maker, pie pop makers, waffle maker, whoopie pie maker, cupcake makers and cake pop maker  – they are so cool!

For my first batch of cake pops I modified the recipe for chocolate cake pops that came with the maker. One of the key differences in the recipe was the addition of some Kahlua.

My recipe:

1/2 c. sugar

3 tbsp. cocoa

1/2 tsp. espresso powder

1/4 sour milk

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/4 c. hot water

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. Kahlua

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 c. flour

This is how I made mine. In a large bowl; add all of the ingredients except the flour.  Mix until smooth and small air bubbles form. Lastly, add flour and mix completely.  Once the batter is ready, pour it into a squeeze bottle and simply follow the instructions that come with the maker.

I did learn a couple of things worth passing on too. First, the book suggests baking the cake balls for 4-6 minutes.  I baked them for 3 minutes and they were completely baked and retained their moistness.  I also did not open the lid on the baker until the full three minutes was up, I only got 2.5 dozen cake balls from this recipe, and next time I make these I’m going to increase the amount of Kahlua.  The flavor got drowned out by the chocolate and espresso – but they were still sumptuous.

baby cakes 009

I dipped some of the cake balls into chocolate and some into a vanilla glaze.  I coated them all with sprinkles which made them look so festive. The dipping process does take some patience and time – I wouldn’t suggest making these if you need to whip something up in a hurry.

baby cakes 016

In case you’re wondering…  This is not a compensated promotion of Babycakes products.  It’s all my own opinion.

Do you have a Babycakes product?  What do you think of it?

The Challenges of Selling on Esty

I’ve tried my hand at selling on Esty before.  Earlier this year I attempted to sell some vintage costume jewelry and a few other vintage items I’ve collected over the years.  Needless to say my efforts didn’t prove very fruitful.  I ended up selling one item.  The sale of that one item paid for my for my listing and selling fees which were very reasonable. I quickly determined that selling on Esty was not a get rich quick endeavor.  Eventually my listings expired and I threw in the towel and carried my treasures back up to the attic.  At that time, I found my biggest problem was driving traffic to my Esty site.

I recently decided to give selling on Esty another try.  You know the old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try-try again.” This time I decided to mix thing up a bit.  I opted to sell some of my handmade embossed Christmas cards, homemade dog treats, and some vintage buttons.

dog treats 016

dog treats 019

buttons 004

another card 011

another card 008

Aside from the same old problem of driving traffic to my site, I’ve found that one of the hardest things about selling something homemade or otherwise, is pricing your items fairly.  I always cringe when it comes to this part of the selling process. I think a fair price for a handmade or homemade item should accurately reflect the labor you put into making that item, along with the cost of materials you purchased.  Vintage items are slightly different however, they are often priced according to the current market trends.  Of course you can ask yourself the ultimate question “Would I spend that kind of money on that item?” But that’s not really a perfect way of deciding on your price.  Everyone’s idea of cheap versus pricey varies, and also depends on how capable you are of producing that item yourself, or finding it elsewhere. 

I recently read that a lot of people who sell on Esty are already very crafty themselves – very obvious. It’s quite likely that most Esty users are sellers, not buyers. 

The trick is getting buyers who aren’t Esty sellers to your site is just that – tricky.  That’s hard to believe especially after reading that in February 2011, Esty sold 1.85 million worth of merchandise in just that month alone.  So what is the trick?  I suspect that advertising your shop outside of Esty, using upgraded selling features that are considerably more costly than the typical listing fee, proper tagging, and building your circles of friends through Esty are just a few ways to draw attention to your site.  Many tips on selling can be found in the sellers handbook which offers a wealth of information but it is quite voluminous.

The bottom line, running a business on-line or elsewhere takes time.  You need to be creative, be able to think outside the box, and devote yourself in both times of success and failure.  There are no easy answers, or rarely get rich quick opportunities.  Hard work, persistence and patience are the key.

The question I ask myself?  Do I have the patience it takes to build my small Esty shop?  Time will tell.

Do you sell on Esty?  What’s your opinion?  Please chime in….

Willard Asylum for the Insane – Updates

In May of 2011, the Willard Asylum for the Insane located in Willard, NY, Town of Ovid, opened its doors to the public for a one day guided tour of the grounds and some of the buildings that remain on the property.  The tour, conducted by some of the former employees of the institution and local historians allowed the curious, like myself, to take a rare glimpse at one of the most overlooked historical sites in Seneca County’s history, and one of New York State’s most notorious asylums for the insane.

willard 001

Grandview

Following the tour, I decided to share my photos and thoughts about Willard in a post titled A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane.  That post has received a huge amount of (unexpected) daily traffic. I’ve had visitors who are searching  for information on relatives who were committed there, former employees, ghost enthusiasts, people looking for information on future tours, and people who have authored books on Willard leaving comments on my post.  Because of all this interest I’d like to share a couple of updates.

First, a news article published by the Seneca Daily News explains some of the plans being considered by local enthusiasts to rehabilitate the asylums severely neglected cemetery where 5776 patients were laid to rest.  There are obstacles concerning the HIPPA regulations that are slowing the project from moving forward but one task has been accomplished.  On September 21, 2011, a large sign was erected and now marks the location of the cemetery.  For more information on the cemetery project visit The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project.

Secondly, I’d like to share information about an upcoming presentation about Willard that is scheduled for December 14, 2011, 7PM – 8:30PM, at the Ovid Library.  “Craig Williams, curator and senior historian at the New York State Museum, will give an illustrated commentary on the Anna Hopkins scrapbooks, what they say about 19th century life and how they portray Willard Asylum. Anna was the spouse of a Willard physician and lived at the asylum from the mid-1800′s until 1894. Her scrapbooks contain original photographs, newspaper clippings and other ephemera giving an unparalleled view of life at Willard.”  If you’re interested in attending this event pre-registration is required. Visit the library’s link above for contact information.

If you’re interested in Willard updates stay tuned by subscribing to my blog, or follow @thejoyofcaking on twitter.  For information related to Seneca County subscribe to the Seneca Daily News.

Additional pictures I took during the May tour. 

willard 028

The Morgue

willard 073

Hadley Hall

willard 079

The Projection Room

If you have information on Willard please feel free to share it in the comments section.

Count Down to Christmas

Black Friday came and went, Cyber Monday came and went, and  I suppose the count down to Christmas has begun.  And today is the 1st of December.

This year I decided to greet the count down by making a new cookie to see if it would make it’s way into my 2011 Holiday Cookie Box.

walnut cookies 036

These are a rolled cookie but the dough is very easy to work with.

This recipe for (Pecan Cookies) came from My Recipes.Com . It appears that it originated  from Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light – December 2011.

I made a couple of adaptations to the original recipe.  If you visit the link above you will find the original recipe.

For my version, I added an 1/8 of a teaspoon of Vietnamese Cinnamon to the batter and I used walnuts in place of pecans.  I toasted the walnuts which I sprinkled lightly with brown sugar (prior to toasting) for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

walnut cookies 021

These cookies turned out great. Their buttery, nutty, flavor makes them delicious.  They definitely will find themselves in my 2011 Holiday Cookie Box!