Make it Monday – Hacks and Helpful Hints

I know I’m a day late.  Monday straight up got away from me with the whole UAV to the shop thing and the hunting for my nemesis thing.  So I’m sorry.  I know that all six of my readers are forgiving souls who will just appreciate the advice I’m going to throw down here.  I didn’t get anything non-edible made this week, so I thought I’d share some of my edible food tips with you.

What I did make last week (much to my boss’ dismay) was homemade soup and french bread.  My french bread is almost always fabulous and I use a recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid).   This is my go-to “cookbook for idiots” (any cookbook with a recipe for fried eggs falls into this category).  I have used it for years and replaced it at least twice.  The french bread recipe is simple:  Flour, yeast, water, salt, egg wash.  I won’t steal it from the book and type it here, sorry.

If you normally fail at bread,  odds are it is your yeast.  Remember yeast is alive.  In the jar it is in a dormant state that you awaken with heat.  If the liquid you add is too hot, you’ll kill the yeast.  Too cold, you won’t wake it up and your bread won’t rise.  Use a thermometer to make sure the liquid is no hotter than 130 degrees and at least 120.  Yeast can also get old and stop working.  Like me.

Take care not to add too much flour (the reason every recipe lists a range is that the amount of flour is contingent on humidity) or your bread will be hard and dry.  It should be sticky to the touch but not so much that it still sticks to your fingers.  Err on the side of slightly sticky fingers if you must.

Another failure mode in bread making is kneading.  If you don’t knead the bread enough, it will not be successful.  Follow the guidelines in your recipe to the letter until you’ve mastered the “feel” of bread:  Soft, light and slightly sticky.  Make sure you are patient with the rises as well.  It will help to use a straight-sided vessel to know for sure the dough has doubled.  An old plastic ice cream pail washed carefully is perfect.

My two hacks for you today involve cake.  A dear friend is a professional baker and suggests adding a small pack of pudding to a box cake mix.  I have tried it and the result is a cake that is much moister and more flavorful than the mix would have been without adding pudding.  For a simple, wonderful dessert, frost it with pudding too.  Poke holes in the finished cake with a wooden spoon and pour the pudding carefully and evenly over the top.  Refrigerate and serve.  Fabulous and, I daresay, healthier than frosting since pudding is made with milk and most frostings have some sort of fat as a primary ingredient.

A second trick is even easier and makes a great, moist cake lower in calories and fat than the original version.  Instead of adding eggs, oil and water as indicated on the mix box, add a 12 oz. can of soda pop.  Combinations worthy of consideration are any type of chocolate and cherry coke (or diet cherry coke, dr. pepper, etc.), white cake with fruit-flavored sodas, and (the boys’ favorite) yellow cake with root beer.  Your options are unlimited.  My family likes it so well that no frosting is necessary, but fat free cool whip would be nice and you could dress it up with fruit, chocolate shavings or whatever strikes your fancy.

These are go-to, proven tips in my house.  I hope you enjoy them and forgive me that they are a day late.  If you try them, let me know! Leave me some comment love 🙂

Also don’t forget you can say thank you and win $120 (and counting) gift card for Amazon from my friends at Grammarly, the world’s best grammar checker.  The deadline is January 31!


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