Sunday, August 6, 2017

Savoring Summer

Unexpectedly, I became unemployed at the end of May - not great timing for our side sewer failure, but spot-on for harvesting blackberries! I only had to wait about 3 weeks before the explosion of ripe berries hit. Fortunately, the bushes lining the back alley have survived the large vehicles making their way to a new construction site at the opposite end. Last year, when another home was in the process of being upgraded and flipped, the entire alley was cut down right when the berries were ripe enough to pick. Boy, was I flippin' mad!

The nasty note I left on the
door of the flipper house.
So far I've made up for that lost year and have been on a canning mission, putting up about 40 half-pint jars of jam, with more fruit sitting in the fridge and freezer. The first batch was blackberries and red currants from my friend Knox's garden. Since I've been doing all low sugar recipes, this jam is full of flavor and on the tart side. Next up was several batches of blackberries alone, then my neighbor Mary offered up some really ripe plums from her tree. I've never done plums before and they were super juicy; thought I should macerate and go from there. Meanwhile, I found a recipe for Spiced Plum Jam and used that, except I simmered the spices in the plum juice that collected from the maceration, added a small can of prune juice to have the right amount of liquid, and guestimated on the amount of pectin. And now... I haven't gotten to try it yet since I'm still working through a jar of the blackberry-currant jam, but at least it looks like it set up okay.

We've been trying to diet so of course all wicked things like pies and sweet rolls are even more on my mind. I made a Peach Praline Skillet Pie several times now and have been on a cinnamon raisin bread kick ever since I bought a West Bend bread machine at a yard sale, used a recipe for said bread from the manual and promptly discovered the machine didn't work at all. I dumped it out of the bread machine pan, baked it and enjoyed it nevertheless. Now I've kind of settled on a hybrid version, between the West Bend manual recipe and this one, Soaked Whole Wheat & Cinnamon Raisin Bread, which sounded intriguing but not if you're impatient for baked goodies like I am. This recipe is what I'm currently using.

Makes 12 rolls

3+ cups bread flour
2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
13 oz milk (room temp. or lukewarm)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
2 tbsp+ melted butter
5 oz raisin water (see recipe directions)
4 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups raisins
1 tbsp or more cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. or more milk
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. vanilla or orange extract, optional

Soak the raisins in hot water to rehydrate for about 20 minutes. Blend the dry ingredients for the dough together in a mixer bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, lemon juice, brown sugar/honey and 2 tbsp. melted butter together. Drain the raisins, reserving 5 oz. of the water in a small cup. Stir the yeast into the lukewarm raisin water to proof it. If yeast is bubbling and alive, add the yeast mixture to the other liquid ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients using a stand mixer. Sprinkle in more bread flour if necessary until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl a little. Switch to the dough hook and process, sprinkling in flour if necessary, until the dough mostly forms smooth ball. It should still feel a little sticky. Turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand, until smooth, elastic and not so sticky. Place the dough in a large, greased container, flipping it over once so the outside is greased. Note the dough's volume. Cover container with lid or plastic wrap until dough is doubled in size (about 1.5 to 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Press dough to deflate. Roll dough out to about a 16" x 12" rectangle. For the filling, drizzle honey all over the surface, spread raisins out evenly, then sprinkle cinnamon all over. Roll up the dough from the long side, pinching the seam and two ends. Lightly shape the log so the circumference is even, then cut crosswise into 12 even slices (eyeball the first cut in half, then cut halves into quarters, then cut 3 slices out of each quarter). Lay the slices cut side up in a greased 9" x 13" pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost double (about 40 minutes). Bake at 350°F until the internal temperature of the dough is 190°-195°F (about 35-40 minutes).

Brush tops with melted butter to keep crust soft. When rolls are barely warm, combine icing ingredients (add milk for a fluid consistency) and drizzle over rolls. Cover lightly with foil until completely cool.