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Archive for December, 2008

A few weeks back I decided I wanted to try to make granola at home.  It sounded easy enough. It’s just oats and stuff, mixed up and toasted, right? Who could screw this up?

Well, it is easy enough. If you read the directions. Not like yours truely, who read through the recipe once and a few days later went into the kitchen and started throwing things together. *sigh*

I used this Great Granola recipe.  Mostly. I wasn’t crazy about the different variations so I kind of created my own. Apparently I wanted to create my own everything else too, since I couldn’t seem to follow the instructions for one second. I decided to do the basic recipe and add almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and vanilla flavoring. Oh, yes. And replace all the maple syrup with molasses, you know, cause molasses is high in iron and I can make a healthy thing more healthy. Right?

Oops

Oops

First, I failed to combine all the ingredients. I don’t know why. I just left the nuts out. Then I dumped the molasses right over the oat mix, only to realize yes…the recipe says to bring the liquids to a SIMMER in a saucepan before pouring over the dry ingredients. (Oh yes. And the molasses thing? You can sub half the maple syrup with molasses. Not the whole freaking thing!) This is the most embarrasing kung faux pas in recent memory.

To the left you can see the resulting charred mess. The molasses burned before the oats toasted. (I think. It looked really dark and nasty before it went into the oven.) And it tasted like burnt newspaper. Not exactly something I want to put over my yogurt in the morning.

Undaunted, and chalking up the above monstrosity as a “learning experience” (aka, you only learned because you jacked it up so bad), I was determined to try again. I ran out and bought some more rolled oats and walnuts and tried again, this time paying much more careful attention to the DIRECTIONS!

My Great Granola with homemade plain yogurt and a dab of blueberry preserves. Mmmm!
My Great Granola with homemade plain yogurt and a dab of blueberry preserves. Mmmm!

It’s amazing the difference between following the directions and flying by the seat of your pants. In this case the difference was between burnt newspaper and crunchy deliciousness.  This granola is so good I’ll never look back at the who-knows-how-old-it-is stuff in the store. And now that I know the trick to perfect granola, I’ll be making it a lot more often!

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When I was growing up my mom made so many great things to eat.  Maybe this is why my sense of smell and my memories are so much entwined. A whiff of something can take me back to being an eight year old in a moment. All these memories are now driving me to the kitchen, trying to recreate those warm feelings.

One of the goodies I remember is kolaches. A traditional pastry with Czech origins, my mom always made apricot and prune kolaches and I couldn’t eat them fast enough. Just enough sweet with that little fruity surprise inside. Mmmm 🙂 So today I endeavored (along with bread, scones and granola, which is another blog) to make kolaches.

Mom’s kolache recipe was eluding her today, but she directed me to this kolache recipe. With some modifications and several phone calls home, I recreated the dish of my childhood.

The recipe calls for adding beaten egg yolks and hot milk to the sugar/butter mixture. It didn’t say anything about tempering, but I’m thinking raw egg yolks + hot milk = funky scrambled eggs. So I tempered anyway and I think I made the right decision. Once the dough was made the modifications came in. The recipe calls for letting the dough rise an hour, then making little balls with an indentation for the fruit preserves. But what I remember from years gone by are more like little packages of pastry surrounding the fruit. So (again, after a call to Mom) I put the dough in the fridge for an hour, then pulled it out and rolled it out flat. I cut the dough into squares, dalloped on the fruit preserves (apricot, raspberry and blueberry – no plum preserves, unfortunately) and closed them up with a little pinch.

Apricot and Raspberry Kolaches
Apricot and Raspberry Kolaches

The little things baked a lot faster than I thought they would. I almost burnt the first batch, but that’s ok, we ate them anyway. They were so tender and just the right sweetness. Even Test Subject “I Don’t Eat Cooked Fruit” Bill couldn’t keep his hands off of them.

I asked Mom if they could be frozen, but I don’t think it’s going to come to that. After I take these to work tomorrow I think having enough left over to freeze will be just a dream.

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