French Bread

In my opinion, a pasta sauce is only as good as the bread used to dip in it. And, while the grocery store often has some really great bread in the bakery, I really love spending my morning making fresh bread loaves. It’s so relaxing to knead the dough, and there is nothing quite like the smell that takes over your house while it’s baking.

I actually just recently started making breads, so I won’t claim to be an expert. However, I do have a fool proof recipe that even beginners can complete pretty easily. It creates long loaves of bread, and it is super gooey, with a really great crust. Add a little butter, dip it in some sauce, or even eat it plain. It’s delicious… I promise!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour

In a large bowl, mix the water and yeast until it becomes foamy. Then add the honey, oil, and salt. Mix well. Finally, add your flour. It should become a very thick batter. Pour it out onto a floured surface and knead the dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until it no longer sticks to your hands or surfaces. Knead for about 8-10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl. Swirl the dough around to coat it in the oil. Place plastic wrap or a damp cloth over the bowl to prevent any stale crusts that might form on your dough.

Allow the dough to rise for an hour.

Pull out the dough, and cut it into two pieces. Form the pieces into long, baguette shaped pieces. Place on a cookie sheet, and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes. Then, using a serrated knife, cut diagonal slices into bread, about 1/4 inch deep. Bake at 400 degree for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. For a crispier crust, brush an egg wash over the tops of the loaves.

Enjoy!

Soft Pretzels

My husband loves going to the movie theater for one reason: the soft pretzels. When we were first married, we used to go to the movies all the time. It got to the point that the people who worked at the concession stand would recognize him and start getting his pretzels ready.

However, since we’ve had a child, we haven’t really been to the movies. It’s just too hard to try to keep a toddler quiet and sitting still for such a long time. Plus, my kid doesn’t really like watching a screen, even if it is cartoons, so she isn’t very interested in the whole experience.

So I thought I’d bring a little bit of the theater to him. I tried several recipes, and I altered them to match my husband’s preferences. My recipe is super soft, with a slightly crispy crust. I like to add salt on top, too. They come out super fluffy, and they kind of lose their holes because the dough gets so thick. They are amazing, though. For a really awesome snack, dip them in mustard, nacho cheese, or even peanut butter!

Movie Theater Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:

1 packet active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
3/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
Salt for topping

Directions:

Preheat the over to 325 degrees. Use non-stick spray on a cookie sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and teaspoon of sugar in the warm water. It should look a little foamy.

Then, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the vegetable oil and yeast mixture, and combine the ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle a little extra flour on a flat surface, and knead the dough. It should take about 8-10 minutes to make sure the dough is well-incorporated and has a smooth texture. Spray some non-stick spray in a large, clean bowl, and set your dough inside to rise. Covering the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth towel can help keep your dough from forming a stale crust on the outside. Let the dough rise for about an hour.

Once your dough has risen, put it on a flat surface and cut into about 8 pieces. Mix the baking soda into the hot water, and keep it close by. Roll each piece into a long rope (about 10 inches long), and form it into a pretzel shape. Dip it into the baking soda mixture, making sure that you soak it well (about three seconds). Then, place it on the pan. Add salt if you prefer. Once you have all your pretzels shaped and dipped, put them in the oven. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake

There is nothing quite like an amazing piece of chocolate cake with an ice, cold glass of milk to make even the worst day seem better. I always asked for chocolate cake on my birthdays, and it’s still my favorite. My husband loves it, too, and I love making a triple chocolate cake every year for him. I had to adjust the recipe quite a bit when we moved to a high-altitude location, though, but I’ve finally got it mastered. I use this cake recipe, put chocolate pudding in the center, frost it with chocolate frosting, and then sprinkle chocolate shavings around the edges. We can usually only eat a small piece at a time because it’s so rich, but it tastes so amazing!

I also love to make this recipe into cupcakes for bake sales. His coworkers are always raising money for the deployed soldiers, and they always ask me to help out. I like to counterbalance the flavor with a vanilla frosting, though, and I always add red, white, and blue sprinkles to make them look pretty.

Here is my high altitude chocolate cake recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups white sugar
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder (I like to use Hershey’s)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling hot water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. Use non-stick spray on your pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Be sure that all of the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Set this aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Then, add the wet ingredients to your flour mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat ingredients together for three minutes. Then add your boiling water. It’s key for the water to be really hot so that the cocoa powder will combine more easily with the other ingredients.

Your batter will be really thin. If it’s not, add a bit more milk. Pour your batter into the pans, and place them in the oven. Cakes should bake for 33-38 minutes, while cupcakes should be done between 18-22 minutes. To check, dip a toothpick into the center of a cake. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready.

Cool on a wire rack, and cool completely before frosting. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Cupcakes are a great treat for birthdays, graduations, retirements, and even weddings! They are the most popular baked good in today’s world, and it’s obvious to see why. You can be so creative with them, and it’s easy to find a cupcake decoration that fits any personality.

Making cupcakes at home is a great activity to do with your kids, as well. They may not be able to crack the eggs or use the electric mixer, but they can help scoop flour, spoon batter into the paper cups, and put the sprinkles on top. And they can definitely lick the spoon with the leftover batter. (That’s the best part, am I right?)

Here is a great recipe to use if you’re living in a high-altitude location. The batter should be really thick, so don’t be afraid to add a little extra flour if it’s too runny. However, I’ve never had any problems with this recipe. It comes out with a slightly caramelized top (from the sugar), and it’s really fluffy inside. I hope you like it!

Ingredients:

2 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 cup cold milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your cupcake tray with either non-stick spray or cupcake wrappers.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Then, add the butter, and mix until the butter is thoroughly coated with the dry ingredients. It may not look pretty, but I promise this is right.

Then, in a separate bowl, use a whisk to combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, add the liquid to the dry ingredients in three or four parts. Slow is key. You want everything to be completely mixed, but you don’t want to over-mix the batter. Once combined, spoon the batter into your cupcake tray. An ice cream scooper is a really great tool for this. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way full. Place the tray in the oven.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the batter is completely cooked. You can use the toothpick to make sure the cupcakes are done. Cool on a wire rack, and frost before enjoying.

This recipe yields about 2 dozen cupcakes.

High-Altitude Pancakes

My family loves pancakes. I make a huge batch every Sunday morning, and it never fails to please. I like to serve pancakes with bacon because the sweet and savory combination works so well. Pancakes can also make a great dessert by adding chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

Getting the batter right is the key to a good pancake. A thicker batter means fluffier pancakes. However, if you like thinner pancakes, your batter should be a little more liquidy. You can also add a ton of mix-ins to make your pancakes more interesting. Things like bacon crumbs, coconut shavings, raisins, chocolate chips, sprinkles, and nuts can all add a little flair to your breakfast. Don’t mix the ingredients directly into the batter, though. Instead, for more even distribution, pour the batter into the pan, then sprinkle the extras on top. Flip, and finish.

To enjoy my family’s Sunday Morning Pancakes, here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter

Directions:

Preheat your griddle or skillet. The heat should be at a low-medium heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Then, in a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture in the large bowl. Whisk together, but be careful not to mix too much because it can make your pancakes tough and glue-like. Using a ladle or other pouring tool, pour about 1/3 cup of the mixture. Here is where you would add any extra ingredients. When the batter begins to bubble, it’s time to flip. You can check to make sure by slipping a spatula under the pancake, lifting slightly, and peeking underneath. If the pancake is a golden brown color, you are good to flip it. Finish cooking, and remove from heat.

A great way to tell if the pancake is completely done is to touch the center. If the center dents, then rises back to the original shape, you know that the liquid is gone, and the pancake is cooked through.

I hope you enjoy!

This recipe yields about 8 six-inch pancakes.