Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

If you have been following my blog for some time, then you probably know by now that I like to make all of my own jam.  In fact, I haven’t bought jam in several years.  I process and can several different kinds every summer, in hopes that it will last us until next summer!  And, we eat A LOT of jam.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the jam, rather than eating all those preservatives and goodness knows what else.  It also just tastes so much better than store bought.  I like to be able to play around with different flavors.  Definitely more exciting than the typical kinds you find in the grocery store.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Of all the kinds of jam I have made, this is one of my all-time favorites.  I made it last year for the first time, and couldn’t wait to make it again this summer.  Vanilla beans are a wonderful addition to anything, but combining with peaches?  Amazing!!  I love how there are little chunks of peaches in the jam.  Especially when I spread it on toast, it’s like little flavor explosions in each bite.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

This is a no-pectin jam, but don’t let that intimidate you.  Even if you don’t cook it as long as it should, it will still taste great.  So, grab the last of the summer peaches, and make this jam.  It is well worth the effort!

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Yield: about 6-7 half-pint jars

  • 3 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out, pods reserved
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions

In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (including vanilla bean pods) over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has partially caramelized and turned a dark orange color, about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours.  To check if the jam is ready- spoon a little on a small plate.  Place in the refrigerator or freezer until cool.  Then, run your finger through the center.  If the jam separates then slowly returns to the streak, then it is ready.  Remove and discard vanilla bean pods.

Divide the jam evenly among sterilized half-pint jars and can using the water bath method. Process the jars for about 15 minutes.  Or store in sterilized jars in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. (They may last longer, but I have never experimented, so do so at your own risk.)

Source: Cook Like a Champion

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Strawberry Jam

strawberry jam

I am sorry that this has taken me so long to share this recipe.  I hope, that since it has been so long, that you are still able to find some local, fresh strawberries to make this jam.  But, if you are not able to, the imported kind will suffice.  But, definitely use local if you can, it will yield a much better taste!

Anyway, this jam is killer.  It is sweet, and just bursting with strawberry flavor.  As you all probably know by now, we eat a lot of jam.  Mostly in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that are consumed daily by the boys in the family.  My favorite way to enjoy homemade jam, is on a buttered piece of toasted homemade bread.  With a cup of coffee alongside.  Perfection at its’ simplest.

strawberry jam

On a completely different note, I am super excited to share with you that we are slowly changing the kitchen.  I finally painted over the hideous yellow with white.  It feels so fresh and crisp and like a whole new room now!  I was recently so generously given a gorgeous, large piece of granite on a metal table for my island which makes a HUGE difference.  I have been baking nonstop for the last two days just because I’ve been so excited to use the table.  Next up, is painting the cabinets!  That, and installing a dishwasher, because washing dishes for the amount I cook and for 5 people is just not fun.  Also, I want to take down a single awkward cabinet and put up a few open shelves for all the dishes we use.  I can’t wait!! I promise to share a few photos when I am done with the painting.  (Can you tell I am excited or what?)

Strawberry Jam

Yield: about 8 half-pints

  • 2 quarts strawberries, hulled and washed
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar

Directions

Place strawberries in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Crush with a potato masher until there are no large pieces remaining.  Stir in pectin and lemon juice and place over medium-high heat.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner, or refrigerate for 1-2 months.

Source: Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread

English muffins remind me of my childhood.  My dad would always have them stocked in the bread drawer for a quick and easy breakfast, or as a vessel for his favorite “cheese surprises”.  I liked english muffins and would eat them, but I wasn’t in love.  They were always too crumbly for my taste.  And they were definitely lacking flavor.  I didn’t fall head-over-heals until I started making my own.  Now, I look for any excuse to make them!  Breakfast sandwiches have become an all time favorite meal of ours.  One that I particularly like to make as a breakfast dinner.

Now that I have found the love of making english muffins myself, I am always eager to try different ideas.  When I saw this recipe for english muffin bread, I knew that I had to try it immediately.  I was not disappointed.  This is a loaf form of an english muffin that still has the nooks and crannies for butter and jam to get caught in.  Brilliant!  It definitely knocks the socks off any store-bought english muffin I’ve ever had!  If you are an english muffin lover, but haven’t tried to make a homemade version, you definitely want to start here!  Less complicated, and less equipment required.  The perfect addition to any breakfast or snack!

English Muffin Bread

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon rapid rise yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast and stir to combine.

In a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk, water, and oil and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Make sure to stir the liquid before measuring its temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the mixture with your finger, it should feel hot, but not scalding.

Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Beat at high speed for 1 minute, the dough will be quite soft and sticky.

Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan.

Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan, 1- 1 1/2 hours.  When the dough is just beginning to rise over the edge, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the plastic wrap, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, until it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.  Remove the bread from the oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. Then, turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Source: My Baking Addiction, originall from King Arthur Flour

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

This, my friends, is one of the simplest sourdough sandwich breads.  It is the perfect thing to designate to make once a week. It’s not daunting because the steps and ingredients are very straightforward.  It has that great, slight “sour” flavor thanks to the sourdough starter.  It is moist, but slightly chewy.  It is the perfect vessel for any desired topping.  I love everything from simple toast with butter, to more extravagant sandwiches.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/129453243@N08/16855768265/in/photostream/

Don’t even get me started on how well this bread freezes.  It doesn’t fall apart after thawing out like some other sandwich breads I have made.  I like to wrap one of the loaves in plastic wrap, then when it’s needed, I thaw it on the counter on a wire rack.   Perfect!   If you’ve been on the fence about making your own bread, start with this recipe and you won’t be disappointed.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Yield: 2 loaves

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

Combine the water and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for at least 5 minutes, or until the yeast is dissolved and bubbly.  Stir in the sourdough starter until the starter is mostly dissolved.

Add 4 cups of the flour and the salt, and stir until a rough dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead on low speed for 2 minutes.  If the dough is still tacky after the two minutes, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time with the machine on, until the the dough is no longer tacky.  Knead on low speed for another 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover the bowl in well greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours..

Once risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two. Shape each half into rough balls and let them rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.

With one half of the dough, lightly pat out into a small rectangle.  Fold into thirds, like a business letter.  Pinch the seam closed and roll the loaf onto the seam to seal it.  Carefully tuck the edges under, then place, seam side down, into the prepared loaf pan.  Repeat with the other half.  Cover the pans loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise until they have risen over the sides of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Once the bread has risen, lightly spray it with water to make a crispier crust.  Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Then, reduce the temperature to 400ºF.  Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the loaves are light brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Turn the loaves out of the pans onto a cooling rack.  Let cool completely before slicing or storing.

(This bread freezes really well- just wrap it a few times in plastic wrap and freeze.  Let thaw by unwrapping it and place it on a wire rack for several hours, until thawed completely.)

Source: Heavily adapted from The Kitchn

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

This past fall, I made a goal to make all of our own bread.  I have always wanted to, but for some reason, I never followed through.  I like the idea of having a major staple in our house be completely homemade.  We eat sandwiches on a regular basis.  (My son seems to want peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every.single.day.)  A sourdough starter has always interested me, so I decided to start there.  There is a starter recipe in one of the bread cookbooks I have, but seriously, I cannot comprehend the recipe.  It seems way too over complicated. Luckily, my trusty blog site had a very simple starter recipe.

This starter is something that is ready in a matter of days.  Then, it can sit in your fridge, untouched for nearly 2 weeks. And, if you still don’t have time at the end of the two weeks to bake sourdough bread, you can just remove a portion and add in more flour and water. So easy!  I try to make bread every Saturday with my daughter. She likes to call it our bread making day.  It’s something she really looks forward to. (Don’t worry, I will be sharing in the near future the simple sourdough sandwich bread that we make regularly.)

Sourdough Starter

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water and sugar to dissolve.  Then, stir in the yeast.

Sourdough Starter

Gradually mix in the flour. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel (not plastic wrap), and place in a warm area.

Sourdough Starter

Let the sourdough sit for 2-5 days, stirring once a day, due to the separation that will occur. When the bubbling has lessened and a sour smell has developed, stir one more time, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (I like to use a large tupperware container.)

For maintaining your sourdough; it should be fed every two weeks or so. I remind myself by baking bread just about every saturday. Or, you can always make a note on your calendar. To feed your sourdough, for every 1 cup of starter removed (either discarded or used in a bread recipe), replace with 1/2 cup of warm water and 1 cup of flour. Stir until combined. Cover, then let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours before returning to the refrigerator.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Hot Chocolate Mix

hot cocoa mix

Happy New Year! 2015! Gosh, it sounds like something of the future. Did everyone have a good new year’s eve? I sure hope so.

Now that Mother Nature has decided that it’s going to be more like winter, I wanted to share with you this fabulous diy hot cocoa mix. Lately, it has been my best friend. Yesterday’s temp was -8 when I got up. The coldest it has been yet! With howling winds and blowing snow, all I want to do is curl up inside next to the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. And of course snuggle with the baby. Speaking of said baby, she has her first tooth working through! Also, she is basically sitting up on her own, AND she is trying oh so hard to crawl. To the point that she is getting so frustrated that she can’t get her legs moving. She rocks back and forth thinking about it, but the brain connection isn’t there yet. She is already 6 months old! My baby is growing up way too quickly.

hot cocoa mix 2

On to this hot cocoa mix.

It blows the pants off store bought mixes. I honestly don’t think I could go back to Swiss Miss anymore. This stuff is the real deal. It’s rich, velvety and all around delicious. In the past, I have decorated little jars and gifted it to friends and family. It makes a great hostess gift for the cold months! I mean really, who doesn’t love hot chocolate? This is well worth the effort and ingredient list to make this yourself. It keeps for months. So it will last you the winter without going bad. Well, that is if you can resist drinking every day.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Yield: about 76 2-tablespoon servings*

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 lbs. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 9 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder

Directions

Split and scrape the vanilla beans into a large bowl or jar with the sugar.  Work the vanilla seeds into the sugar with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bury the pods under the sugar, cover tightly and let stand overnight (or up to months) at room temperature. (You can do a large batch of this vanilla sugar and keep the pods in the sugar to add extra flavor. It’s fantastic to use in homemade ice cream or any vanilla flavored desserts.) Remove the pods when ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the sugar, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate, and Dutch process cocoa powder.  Process in 4-second pulses until the chocolate is very finely ground and the mixture is well combined.  Store the mix in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

To serve: combine 2 tablespoons cocoa mix with 8 oz. of hot milk and stir to combine until well blended.

*You can easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t have a large food processor. This is what I do and works just fine!

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Gourmet, 2005

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice

DIY pumpkin pie spice

When I bake, I like to have my ingredients as homemade as possible. I find that it makes the final product taste that much better, and if I can save a few bucks along the way, then I am happy. This pumpkin pie spice falls into that category. That little tiny container you can buy at the store always costs a fortune. It seems so silly to spend that much money on something when I already have all the individual ingredients on hand. If you have a few minutes, you can easily make up this pumpkin pie spice that you’ll be needing in your pumpkin desserts for Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Pie Spice

  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Combine all spices in a small bowl and whisk well to blend. Store spice blend in an airtight container.

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally adapted from Martha Stewart