SMS Wrap-Up

Hey everyone.  I know I told you a while ago that I was back in business, but there was one pesky detail keeping me from blogging, and I finally resolved it today.  After all of my unpacking, I couldn’t find my camera anywhere!  I couldn’t bear to post for a cooking and baking blog without pictures, so I just didn’t post at all.  Not the most logical decision, but my decision nonetheless.  Fortunately, I found my camera in a box of random TV cables and nick-nacks (knick-knacks?  I’ve never known how to spell that.).  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the SMS recipes I’ve baked lately, so I’ll just try to fill you in from memory.

First, Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner chose the Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies for August 16.  Unfortunately, this was the first SMS recipe I’ve made that I just didn’t like.  My dough was really soft, and the cookies spread like mad, resulting in very thin, not-so-chewy cookies.  I might tweak the recipe (adding vanilla and more flour) someday, but in all likelihood I’ll just use my standard recipe.

After that, Spike the Baker stepped in as an emergency host and chose Snickerdoodles.  There was a lot of discussion on the boards on how to prevent spreading (caused by the peanut butter cookies, perhaps?), and a lot of good tips were thrown out, like chilling the dough, chilling the cookie sheets, using insulated sheets, and checking that baking soda and powder are still fresh.  I was pretty happy with this recipe, although I thought it was odd that again there was no vanilla.  I added a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg, because I think nutmeg rocks in snickerdoodles.  I will be making these again, but I don’t know that they’ll completely replace any of my other snickerdoodle recipes.

Next, I believe Annie of Living Life Foodcariously hosted Hazelnut Truffles.  You have no idea how bummed I was that I skipped this recipe, but I was at home and both of my parents are dieting, and I couldn’t fathom just making the truffles for my brother and I.  Not to say we wouldn’t have eaten them, it just seemed like a bad idea.  I’m really looking forward to the other truffle recipes in the book.

Then Joy of Hot Oven, Warm Heart hosted the Banana Apple Bread.  This looked awesome, and I thought my mom could take it into work, but then found out she’d already made banana bread using her church cookbook recipe that week.  If my roommates are banana bread people, I might give this one a whirl later this semester, once it gets more fall-like.

The last week I missed was the Fresh Peach Muffins hosted by JoVonn of The Givens Chronicles.  I had high hopes for this recipe, which were squashed by the lack of good peaches at the grocery store.  I’m pretty sure they were just super picked-over because of all the college kids who were suddenly back in town.  Anyway, this is definitely on my to-make list.

The most recent recipe was one I actually made.  For this week, Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker chose the Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake.  This was my first time ever baking a souffle, and I was pretty nervous.  Can you imagine how nervous I would have been if I didn’t go into it expecting the souffle to fall?  I made the full recipe but split it up and baked it in my 4″ springform pans.  I probably should have gotten 6 cakes from it, but I got 7 because I didn’t fill the first two up nearly full enough.  I baked each one for 16-17 minutes.  While I liked the recipe, I’m not sure I was overwhelmed by it.  That’s partially my fault, though.  We were out of oranges for zesting (they were all bald because of a chocolate-and-orange recipe I made earlier in the week), and on top of that I forgot to add the triple sec.  I tried making a simple syrup flavored with the triple sec, but it didn’t impart as much orange flavor as I was hoping.  I might make these again, but to be honest if I’m looking for chocolate-orange flavor I’ll probably just make the cookies I made earlier.  I promise I will post about them once I make them again, I’m not just stringing you along!

As for the Perfect Pound Cake… I’ll tell you about that in a while.  I’m not ready to talk about it yet…  But I promise, the issues were all my fault.

If you’re interested in what all the SMS’ers have thought of our recipes, definitely check out the blogroll.  And if you’re interested in the book, which I would very highly recommend, it’s the Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy, owner of the Sweet Melissa Patisserie in New York City.  It’s only about $17 on Amazon, and I can honestly say that I’ll be giving away at least one copy of it, come Christmas.  Actually, I might just give it to my friend for her birthday, to keep her from stealing it from me!

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And just in case this wasn’t long enough, here’s a picture of my new fish, Gilligan!  I’ve had him for a week, and he finally ate something tonight.  It was really freaking me out that I got a fish that wouldn’t eat, I’m suspicious enough of people who don’t eat.  Anyway, I really like him, and isn’t he so pretty?  Sorry about the flash on the tank, it was the only way I could get the shutter speed fast enough before he moved!


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I’m Baaaack!

Hey folks!  Sorry about that really long absence, I wasn’t planning for things to work out that way.  I really just intended to take off the week I had finals/moved, but ended up not blogging while I was at home.  See, down at U of I the apartment rental companies have their move-out dates set for the end of summer school, August 9th this summer.  Then they give themselves a week or two to clean out the apartments, make necessary repairs, etc., and the move-in date for new residents is about 1-2 weeks later.  It’s great for the companies, not so great for students who have to move somewhere for a week and a half.

Because of these rules, I spent a week and a half at my parents house, catching up with high school friends and going to cookouts and reveling in the majesty that is Chicago news.  For example, a 20-year-old Blackhawks player beat up a cab driver in New York over 20 cents, people are still freaking out about the “Clout Goes to College” scandal, and there were a series of arsons in churches (one of those is actually an episode of Law & Order, can you guess which one?).

Anyway…  I’m really sorry for being such a flake for so long!  I now have many hundreds of posts sitting in my Google reader to check up on, so hopefully this week I’ll be getting back to blogging and commenting and not completely ignoring Sweet Melissa Sundays.  I’m really looking forward to this week’s recipe, too- and my pick is next month!!!  Oh, and I’m looking forward to, you know, taking classes and such.  I actually have a really open schedule, which will help me with working for a disabled law student and studying to repeat the LSAT next month.  Wait… what happened to all that time I thought I had?


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Not Today, Maybe Tomorrow…

Hey guys, I won’t be posting or commenting this week, sorry!  I have my final exams/papers on Friday, and I’m moving on Saturday, so I’m a little swamped!  I’ll be back next week, when I’ll be posting this week’s SMS recipe.  Have a good week, everyone!


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Oatmeal Wheat Bread

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As far as I’m concerned, bread baking is one of the best smells there is.  I love the warm, yeasty smell of bread rising, and the nice crust you get when it’s done, along with that sense of accomplishment.  So, since I was out of bread, I’m trying to empty out my pantry before I move out next week (and failing miserably), and my dad’s going to be in town this weekend and loves whole-wheat bread, I made wheat bread.  There was logic in that decision somewhere, I’m sure.  If you find it, let me know!

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Ok, so this isn’t exactly whole wheat bread like my dad prefers, but I think it’s a pretty good compromise between our two preferences.  This bread came together really easily, and rose quickly.  I only had two small problems with it.  The most universal one was that the bread was a little bit over-browned, so I probably should have tented it with aluminum foil partway through baking.  The other problem is probably only mine, and that’s that this recipe uses oatmeal, which meant I had to make oatmeal.  I get that it’s incredibly healthy, but oatmeal gives me the heebie-jeebies.  As with most foods I’m not fond of (like scallops or flan), the texture just freaks me out.  But I sucked it up, and I wouldn’t even know it was there if I hadn’t made it myself!  This bread was a little bit sweet from the honey, and will be great for sandwiches, or maybe even french toast!  It was a great use for my SMS preserves!

Oatmeal Wheat Bread

Adapted from Epicurious and Gourmet magazine

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast (from 3 packages)
  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for buttering pans
  • 3 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
  • About 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for oiling bowl
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water I used 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter

1. Heat milk and 1/2 stick butter in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.

2. Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Look out, this foams a LOT! Stir yeast mixture, melted butter it’s already there, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.

3. Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Lightly butter two 8×4 inch loaf pans I used 9×5. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, then place 1 loaf in each buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

5. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats (or just with melted butter), then bake until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. (Remove 1 loaf from pan to test for doneness. Run a knife around edge of pan to loosen.)

6. Remove bread from pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Also, since my dad will be here tomorrow, I thought I’d share some important things I’ve leard from him.

1. Always carry dog bones in your pocket.  Even if you don’t have a dog.

2. Never throw the first punch.  However, if you do throw the first punch, make sure you give fair warning.

3. If a boy doesn’t respect you enough to pick you up at the door, he’s not worth dating (although this one was usually phrased more along the lines of “I swear to god, if he sits in the driveway and honks the horn, you’re not leaving this house!”).

4. Everyone should have a nice, heavy pen.

5. You don’t have to like everyone.

6. It’s ok to skip a homework assignment every now and then, but it’s not ok to skip a big project.  Pick and choose.

7. Algebra.  Also, that math is a four-letter word.

8. Being a little weird is a good thing sometimes.  It makes you stand out from the crowd.

9. Asparagus tastes way better warm than it does cold.

10. It is possible to penny someone’s door shut so far that it is impossible to get it back open.


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SMS: Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves

Welcome, new SMS’ers!

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One of these days I’ll actually post an SMS recipe on Sunday, and everyone’s going to die of shock.  Unfortunately, I spent five hours in a car on Sunday, driving back from my grandparents’, and the rest of the day studying for an exam.  Fortunately, Mike liked my grandparents, my grandparents liked Mike, and all was good.  Yeah, after over two years of dating, my grandparents finally met my boyfriend 🙂

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Anyway… This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was chosen by Margot of Effort to Deliciousness.  Pretty please drop by her site, she has wonderful pictures, a great sense of humor, and a really nifty way of rating recipes based on the effort that went into them and how delicious they were (aka an Effort to Deliciousness Ratio).  She also made some gorgeous breakfast pastries with this week’s preserves.

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This was my first time making preserves, and I have to say, it was so much easier than I thought it would be!  It was just chopping fruit, cooking it down, mashing it a little bit, and putting it into a jar.  I made half of the recipe which yielded just over one pint.  Since it was only one jar, I didn’t bother going through the actual canning process, and just put the preserves in the jar and put them in the fridge.  I took them up to my grandparents’ house, along with the Whole Orange Bread we made last week for SMS and the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, which has become an instant favorite for me, and everything was a big hit.  These preserves actually tasted pretty good with the orange bread.  The preserves were pretty tart, but I still really liked them.  I think what’s left of them will be good with the whole wheat bread I just took out of the oven, too!

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I would recommend these again to anyone, since they’re quick and really yummy.  For the recipe, check out Effort to Deliciousness here, and to see what everyone else thought of this week’s choice, check out the blogroll.

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Finally, on a note completely unrelated to cooking, congratulations to my friends who got engaged this weekend, especially Colleen (who I’ve known since I was six)!  I’m incredibly happy for both of you and wish you the best of luck.  Also, if one more person asks when I’m getting engaged or insinuates that they think it could/should happen within the next year or two, I’m going to run screaming out of the state.  I have too much to do to worry about getting engaged.  😀  Thank you, The Peanut Gallery.


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I’m going to be completely honest, there’s no recipe in this post.  Just a quick thought.  See, this evening after dinner I dropped by the grocery store with Mike.  We were looking to rent a movie (they have one of those movie box rental thingies) and I needed more strawberries for this week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe.  We got the two things we need, but we also got…

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A completely unholy amount of raspberries.  Why, you ask?  Because they were on sale, 10 for $10.  I nearly wet myself I was so excited (ok, not really).  A half pint container around here is usually $3-4, even this time of year!  And boy, oh boy, do I have plans for these babies!  A couple of them will go into another Raspberry Buttermilk Cake to take to my grandparents’ this weekend, a few of them will be given to my parents this weekend, maybe a couple to my grandparents, and Mike has very nicely asked for raspberry preserves, so I think I’ll use a few to make a small batch of preserves.

Or I might just eat them all straight out of the containers.  I haven’t really decided.

If you live in the area of one, I got them at Schnucks.  I think they’re only in Central Illinois and the St. Louis area, but I could be wrong.  Also, the raspberry sale wasn’t advertised, so maybe it’s just the store by my apartment?  Still, can’t hurt to check!


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SMS: Whole Orange Poppyseed(less) Cake

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Whew!  After a crazy fun weekend with my friend Dana, who came to visit, it took me a couple days to get caught up on schoolwork, sleep, all those important little details.  And laundry.  Which is why I’m just getting around to posting this week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, and why I’ll be quick.  Our recipe this week was chosen by Melissa of Lulu the Baker.  She’s such a sweet person, just celebrated her blog-iversary, and has a super cute site (or maybe that’s just my love of polka dots talking).  Anyway, check her out, and you can also find the recipe for this cake there.

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I was really happy with how easy this recipe was- the hardest part was splitting the batter evenly, as I made three mini loaf pans.  They were 3 inches by 5 3/4 inches, and took 27 minutes to bake.  I chose to omit the poppy seeds, becasue they’re not my favorite thing in the world, and also because I didn’t have any.  The only other little change I made was to use some simple syrup I already had in place of the syrup we were supposed to make with orange juice.  I didn’t think the orange taste in this bread was as strong as I had expected, so next time I think I’ll actually use the orange syrup, or maybe a little bit of orange extract in the batter.  However, the orange I used in the batter didn’t have that super strong orange smell when I cut it, so it might have just been the orange.

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All in all, though, I really enjoyed this.  It was more dense than I expected, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  I loved how citrus-y it made my apartment smell, and I was happy with how well it divided into three loaves.  I have one out now, and I think I’m going to take the other two home this weekend, one for my parents and one for my grandparents.  I wonder what could be mixed in mixed in with this besides poppy seeds?

Check out the rest of the SMS’ers at the blogroll and see what everyone else is up to.  And if you’re interested, we’re baking out of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy- you should really go pick up a copy!


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