Let them eat Crockpot Cake!

Okay, so maybe Marie Antoinette didn’t say it exactly like that but if she had a Crockpot, I bet she would have!  I’ve heard rumors that you can back a cake in the crockpot but you know me, I have to find out for myself.  Now let me say that I wasn’t going to go crazy with a super-duper-completely-from-scratch recipe only to discover that you can’t actually bake a cake in a crockpot.  So I used a boxed cake.  Devil’s Food to be exact.  And I have to say… it came out tasty, moist and just like a regular over-baked cake.  OK, not exactly like an oven-baked cake because it was the shape of my semi oval crockpot and didn’t look very pretty (but I wasn’t going for aesthetics this time).  It was an experiment and now that I know, I can expand upon this.  Here’s my notes on baking a cake in the slow cooker:

Needs:

  • Boxed cake mix – including any requirements from the back of the box such as eggs, oil and water
  • Parchment paper OR Baker’s Joy (I do NOT use Baker’s Joy personally but have heard that it is the best product for this type of baking)
  • NOTE: You can use cupcake foils if they are stiff enough to stand on their own with the batter in them.
  • Crockpot/slow cooker

Directions:

  1. Mix batter as instructed on the back of the cake mix box.
  2. Line crockpot with parchment paper (I measure out the bottom of the pan and make neat folds for more aesthetically pleasing cake) or use Baker’s Joy.
  3. Pour batter into crockpot.
  4. Cover the top of the crockpot with paper towels (to absorb the moisture and allow the cake to actually bake).
  5. Put lid over the paper towels, pulling the towels taunt across so they don’t droop into the rising cake.
  6. Set your cooker on high for an hour.
  7. Check your cake after an hour with a toothpick.  Poke the cake in the center with the toothpick as far down as it will go and pull it back.  If it has batter on it, the cake is not done; cover with paper towels & lid and continue to bake for another half hour.  If it comes back clean, it’s done.
  8. Once done, immediately remove the cake by lifting the parchment paper and placing it on a cooling rack.  If you didn’t use a liner, allow the cake to cool enough to be able to handle it and remove from crockpot.
  9. Allow cake to completely cool before frosting/icing.

Let me know how yours comes out or feel free to post any questions/comments below!  Thanks!

Minced Meat Pies – Vegan Option

Don’t write this blog off the radar just yet!  I know, I know… bad blogger but hey give me some slack here!  I’m busy working on Rue Apothecary and the blog over there.  Plus, this IS suppose to be a personal cookbook and I haven’t been inventing much lately.  Except for this week.  I’ve had a hankering for a childhood treat of Minced pies but the American jarred version is… well not even close to the real thing.  So I dredged up several recipes and settled on one that I really wanted to try.  First, I’ve never made minced meat pies by myself.  As a child, we made them as a family event every holiday season.  Second, I had to change things a bit… as usual.  First, there’s no brandy in this mix though adding it is very simple.  I didn’t add it because as I was creating this, I found myself at the point of saying “this is perfect as it is” and stopped my experimenting.  Here’s what I’ve created:

Minced Pie

  • Minced beef – 1 ½ lbs (optional, see notes)
  • Beef broth – ½ cup
  • Apple cider – 1 ½ qt
  • Apples – 2 lbs (granny smith)
  • Currents – ½ lb
  • Brown sugar – 2 cups
  • Molasses – 12 ounces
  • Allspice – ¼ Tbsp
  • Nutmeg – ¼ Tbsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 Tbsp
  • Cloves – 1 tsp ground
  • Cherries – ½ lb dried
  • Orange juice concentrate
  • Raisins – ½ lb
  • Ginger – ½ tsp
  1. Core, peel and slice apples.
  2. Mix ingredients together (except meat), in a food processor and chop till minced.
  3. Pour ingredients into a crock pot and set on high.  Cook till slow boil then set on low and cook for three hours or till mixture stiffens.
  4. Add 1 cup mixture for every pound of meat to a skillet and brown beef.
  5. Add meat to minced mixture and thoroughly incorporate.
  6. Add mixture to pie shells or wrap a spoonful in a prepared roll. (See options)
  7. Cook till crust is golden.
  8. Cool and serve.  Unused portions freeze well.
NOTES: Yes, the meat is actually OPTIONAL for this recipe as it really only adds a “heartiness” to the mixture more than it does taste.  It will tone down the tartness as well if you find it a bit sharp before adding the meat.

Options:

  • Brandy: add 1 cup of brandy to the above recipe when you add the mixture to the crockpot or marinade your meat in it.
  • You can cook this quite quickly on the stove top by boiling the mixture till everything is fully cooked, softened and the liquid thickens slightly.
  • If you want a thicker sauce, add arrowroot till you achieve the desired consistency.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have and happy holidays!

Revised Bread Recipe

My first loaf of bread had an amazing crust and taste though we wanted something sweeter… and it didn’t rise very much.  My second loaf of bread tasted amazing, had a softer crust and didn’t rise very much.  My third loaf of bread… okay, you get the picture.  My breads simply weren’t rising much at all and really I was ending up with dense, half-loaves.  At first I thought it might be the milk as the original recipe called for regular milk and I use milk alternatives, but experimenting proved that wasn’t the case.  Then I tried added/subtracting my “extras” such as nuts, seeds, etc.  Nada.  I even questioned our elevation as a factor but we’re not high enough for that to be the problem.  FINALLY, I did some digging and discovered that it’s perfectly normal for whole wheat flour to not rise much!  OH!  So I was doing it correctly?  Marvelous!  Now how do I get it to rise?  The answer…. vital wheat gluten.  Yes, the very thing that is replacing the meat and soy in my diet apparently will help me get a lighter and higher loaf!  Perfect!

So here’s the revised recipe, with my tweaks, to make a single small loaf of bread:

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tsp granulated yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2.5 tbsp neutral-flavored oil
  • ¾ cups lukewarm coconut or almond milk
  • ¾ cups lukewarm water
  • 3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour (or 1 cup oat flour and 2 1/3 cups wheat)
  • Parchment paper to line pan
Directions:
  1. Mix the yeast, salt, honey, oil, gluten, milk and water in a 5-quart bowl or other container.
  2. Mix in the flour using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook.
  3. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  4. Using wet hands, scoop out an 11⁄2 pound (cantaloupe-sized) hunk of dough. Keeping your hands wet (it’ll be sticky!), quickly shape it into a ball.
  5. Drop the loaf into the prepared pan. You’ll want enough dough to fill the pan slightly more than half-full.
  6. Allow the dough to rest for 2-3 hours (or till it rises completely and falls again). Flour the top of the loaf and slash, using the tip of a serrated bread knife.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with pan filled with water on the bottom shelf or of stove.
  8. Place the loaf in the center of the oven.
  9. Bake for 60 minutes or until deeply browned, firm and bread begins to pull away from sides.

Allow to cool completely before slicing in order to cut reasonable sandwich slices.

Vegan Banana Bread (aka eggless)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. honey, agave or sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, margarine, applesauce or yogurt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 ripe or overly ripe bananas
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Options: raisins, cranberries, nuts

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix all your dry ingredients well and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mush bananas first (can use a food processor for this step if you wish) then add your wet ingredients.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into wet and thoroughly incorporate.
  6. Slightly grease your loaf pan.
  7. Pour mixture into pan.
  8. Top if desired (I like to add some nuts, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with oats)
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick dipped into bread is clean when removed.

Hints & Tips:

  • You can substitute 1/4 c. of sugar for 1 banana should you not have enough bananas
  • Try buttering or oiling your pan instead of greasing it
  • Yogurt should be full fat for best results

Honey Nut Oat Bread

So I’ve been having fun in my lab experimenting with bread recipes.  I decided to try half oat flour, half wheat flour mixture, doubled the honey and added sesame seeds to the basic recipe.  I added everything but the yeast and flour to the food processor and gave it a good mix before added continuing the recipe.  I still used the mixed nuts ground in the processor before adding the ingredients as well as the sesame seed oil because we really like the nutty flavor it adds to the bread.
I made the bread and though it’s very tasty, the consistency is a bit more doughy which Bre really liked and I think is perfect for soft dinner rolls as well!  The crust was softer too though not as tasty as my original loaf.

All in all, I’d say it was a definite improvement to the original recipe.

Learning to make bread

For ages I’ve wanted to try making my own bread but honestly thought it would take a lot of time and equipment I didn’t have.  Then the bread machines came up in conversation and I felt that wouldn’t teach me how to actually make the bread.  But a link provided by a friend has rekindled that interest with new hope.  Click here for “Five Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread”! If all goes well with this experiment, I’ll be purchasing the book.  For my first attempt, I’m going to try the wheat bread.

My variations:

  • I added 2.25 oz of a pecan/peanut mix for a nutty flavor.  I pulverized them in the food processor before adding the other ingredients.
  • I decided to try sesame seed oil as my “neutral flavored oil”.
  • I used almond milk instead of regular milk.
  • I topped the bread with honey, oats and sesame seeds.

Observations:

  • Its best to add a cup or so of the flour before turning on the food processor to begin the mixing process, then add a cup at a time as it thickens VERY quickly and makes it difficult for the processor to mix.
  • When they said it was “very sticky” they aren’t kidding!
  • I prepped the bread, let it rise and then had it in the fridge overnight before baking – it was considerably less sticky and easier to handle.
  • Olive oil is fine for greasing the pan.
  • I baked two loaves of bread for 50 minutes then turned off the oven, leaving them in for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Keep hands VERY wet while transferring dough to pans – keep bowl of clean water handy.
  • Large bowl + loose lid = perfect for rising and directly to fridge.

Now we’ll see how long it keeps and what’s the best means of storage!

Garlic Bread

Want a great garlic bread that is quick, easy and so simple you feel stupid you didn’t think of it before?  Forget those frozen garlic breads that are so laden with fake butter its like eating grease cakes!  Here’s one that’s tasty and done in about 15 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • Bakery bread (generally has a hard crust and soft bread inside or similar breads are sold in slices which save you the time of slicing it)
  • Butter/margarine
  • Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced garlic
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Foil
  • Options:
    • mozzarella cheese instead or with the parmesan
    • garlic powder or garlic salt instead of minced garlic
    • Dried tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300F (lower temperatures allows the bread to bake without burning)
  2. If you are making a loaf, tear a piece of foil big enough to wrap around the loaf.  If you are working with slices, lay foil on a tray large enough to accommodate your slices and another piece that will cover the top of them.
  3. If you are working with a loaf, cut it in half length wise (makes only two pieces, you’ll cut it into slices before serving), or lay out your slices on the foiled pan.
  4. In a medium size bowl add 4 tablespoons of butter/margarine, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, oregano and basil to taste (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each).
  5. Blend well.
  6. Spread the above mixture across each piece of bread, covering it completely (not the crusts).
  7. Cover slices with Parmesan cheese (again, as much or little as you like).
  8. Cover in foil.
  9. Put in oven for roughly 20 minutes to a half hour or until the edges of the bread begin to crisp (turn slightly brown).  If you like a harder bread, don’t foil it but keep it in a pan to catch any drippings.
  10. Slice (if needed) and serve.