Southwestern Cowgirl Cornbread

I use to think that it would be fun to play cowgirl for a week on one of those working dude ranches.  You know the kind, where you wear cowboy boots, ride horses all day, round up cattle, and after returning to the lodge from a long days work you are served a lip smacking barbecue and homemade cornbread for dinner. 

Since I’ve gotten older, I have rethought this whole cowgirl thing.  What was I thinking –  a week of laborious work?  I’m just going to pass it off on watching City Slickers one too many times. That works – doesn’t it?

This recipe is in honor of those crazy days when I thought I wanted a working vacation.  This cornbread is super moist, slightly sweet, and has a subtle hint of Southwestern flavor in it.  It certainly would go hand in hand with a good old-fashioned barbeque too. 

Southwestern Cowgirl Cornbread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease an 8”x8” pan.

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. sour cream

1/4 c. milk

4 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. canned cream corn

1 tbsp. diced onion

1 tbsp. diced green bell pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. South West seasoning

1/2 c. ground cornmeal

1 c. all-purpose flour

Put all of the ingredients (except the flour)into a large mixing bowl.  Mix completely; add the flour.  Stir again and pour into prepared pan.  Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly before serving.  Cover with kitchen towel and leave on counter.

*Note – I used a Southwestern dip seasoning that I purchased at a specialty store.  I checked on-line to see where else you can get  a similar seasoning and it looks like McCormick has it.  If you want a stronger Southwestern flavor try bumping up the seasoning to 1 tbsp.

What lip smacking food would you serve this cornbread with?

Click here for my best Johnny Cake recipe.


Sourdough Starter

My mother in-law gave me the June issue of The Oprah Magazine to read after she finished it.  I have found so much good reading in this issue.  Every time I leaf through it I find something I missed the first, second, and third time around.

One thing I didn’t miss the first time around was a recipe for sourdough starter.  I’ve never made sourdough bread before so of course I was eager to try it. 

Today is day one…

Just as I was starting this post I decided to take a quick trip over to Wikipedia to conduct a little research on sourdough, and boy was I intrigued.  Here are a few things that I learned about sourdough starter.

Sourdough starter is based on a biological and chemical process where fermentation will take place and no yeast is needed.

The only two ingredients needed to start this process are flour and water and they act as a natural leaven.

Unbleached flour will produce more micro-organisms (a good thing) than processed flours. 

The volume of the starter increases with the addition of water and flour (called refreshments) over several days.

Using dough from a previous batch of starter is called mother dough.  The original culture can be used for years without spoiling.

The flavor of sourdough bread can vary.  It’s all contingent on the method used, the hydration of the starter, the final dough, the refreshment ratio, the length of the fermentation periods, ambient temperature, humidity, and the elevation.

Sourdough was thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt.

Experienced miners and early settlers in Alaska and Canada use to carry a pouch of starter with them during the Klondike Gold Rush.  They would try to keep the starter from freezing but they didn’t realize that freezing it wouldn’t kill it, but heat could.  (Salt-Rising dough is the opposite – it  thrives on heat.)

Sourdough is associated with San Francisco’s culture which started back during the California Gold Rush days.

Sourdough Starter Recipe from Oprah Magazine (for step-by-step instructions click here.

Mix 2 cups of unbleached flour with 1 1/2 cups warm, filtered water in a bowl and stir.  Cover this cheesecloth; place near an open window. 

Stir the batter every 12 hours for 2-3 days, then add 1 cup flour and enough water to return it to the original consistency.  Keep stirring a few times a day until you see a layer of foam an inch thick.

Combine 1 cup starter with 3 1/2 cups flour, and a dash of salt.  Let dough rise overnight at room temperature. Shape into a loaf; wait for it to triple in size. Bake at 375 degrees. When your ready to bake again, use the leftover mixture stored in your refrigerator to start the next loaf.

Now, I have to tell you that I did not have unbleached flour so I used bleached.  I think it will be interesting to see if it hinders the growth process.  I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever made sourdough bread before?  Any tricks you’d like to share? 

And what’s after sourdough bread?  Salt-rising bread.  I will need to hunt down my grandmother’s recipe for this one.

Tying the Knots

For quite some time I’ve been salivating over a recipe for homemade garlic knots that I found in a Cook’s Country magazine. 

knots 003

Being busy and all, I opened the magazine to the recipe page and set it on my work table in my craft room just as a reminder that one of these days I would have to make these little lovelies.

Today was dreary.  Dark clouds have descended upon us.  The sunshine, well what sunshine?  Gone…  And because of this, I decided there was no better day to fill the house with the delicious aroma of garlic and yeast.

This is my adapted version of the recipe. 

Garlic Parmesan Knots

12 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. plus 3/4 c. hot water

2 tsp. yeast

1 tsp. salt

2 c. all-purpose flour

Parmesan cheese

Bring oven to 200 degrees and turn-off.

In a skillet, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, crushed garlic, and 1 tsp. of water.  On low heat, sauté until garlic turns a very light golden brown.  (Don’t overcook – this will make the garlic taste bitter).

In  large bowl, add 1 tbsp. olive oil, 3/4 c. hot water, yeast, and salt.  Let the yeast set until it starts to work.  Add flour, and mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Knead into a smooth ball.

Grease a bowl with non-fat cooking spray and put dough ball in it.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in pre-warmed oven.  Allow dough to rise until double.  About 50-60 minutes.

Remove dough from the oven.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface.  Punch down, and reshape into a ball. 

Cut  dough into equal sized smaller balls – bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball.

garlic knots 004

Using your hands, roll balls into strips about 10 inches long; tie into knots.  Place onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.

garlic knots 007

Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and return to (turned-off) oven.

Once knots have doubled, about 20 minutes, remove from oven and remove  plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Bake knots for about 5 minutes, remove from oven and brush knots lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake until light golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Remove knots and brush lightly with olive oil.  Enjoy while warm and fresh…

These knots weren’t quite as chewy or yeasty as I expected them to be, but they definitely hit the spot on a damp fall night here in the Finger Lakes.


Homemade Cinnamon Bread–Just One Rise

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and in my mind, it is officially the close of summer. 

Now it’s time to look forward to picking apples, delicious pumpkin desserts,  colorful fall foliage, crisp sunny days and cool star filled nights, comfort foods, wine tasting, maybe a little homemade wine making, and homemade breads.

cinnamon bread 050

Since we have had cooler temperatures I decided to make a loaf of homemade cinnamon bread.  The only problem with making homemade bread is that it can consume several hours of your time.  Since many of us don’t have hours of idle time on our hands,  I looked for a recipe that only requires one rise of the bread dough instead of two.  I found a recipe that looked worth trying in my old Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. 

cinnamon bread 043

Here is my adapted version of the recipe.

1 Hour Rise Sweet Dough

1/2 c. milk

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tsp. yeast

1 egg

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. margarine, softened

Sugar and Cinnamon Mixture

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, add salt, sugar, egg, yeast, and olive oil.  Mix all ingredients until blended.  In a small saucepan, warm milk on low heat. Once milk is warmed, pour it into the yeast mixture and stir well.  Add flour; mix thoroughly. 

On lightly floured surface knead bread lightly until dough forms into a ball.  Roll dough out to about 1/2” thick, and 8” round in diameter.

Spread softened margarine onto dough, leaving a little bit for the top of the loaf.  Sprinkle 3/4 of the prepared cinnamon and sugar mixture on top of margarine.  Roll dough into the shape of a loaf of bread; tuck the ends underneath, and place in loaf pan.

With a sharp knife, make a slice lengthwise down the length of the loaf of bread.  Fill the split with the remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture, and brush and remaining margarine on top.  Let rise for 1 hour.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, and cool slightly in pan before removing.  If you prefer (it’s optional) you can lightly brush margarine on top of the warm loaf of bread.  I tend to do this since I think it softens the top of the bread slightly.

This recipe is a time saver.  While the bread is not as light in grain as a two rise recipe, there is no sacrifice in flavor – yum!

cinnamon bread 046