Sunday, December 25, 2011

Braided White Loaf

It's Christmas Day and we're spending it on the boat since all of our family scattered in the various in-law directions.  Baking is the way I relax so it's a perfect day for a good loaf of bread.  This is my favorite recipe because it's so versatile.  You can make it in a regular loaf, in this braided loaf, in a braided loaf on a cookie sheet instead of in a pan, you can add some brown sugar and cinnamon to the dough and then roll it up jelly roll fashion with butter and cinnamon sugar to make some of the most fantastic cinnamon bread, and I've even added cheese to it at some point for a great cheese bread.  It will also make terrific soft rolls for sandwiches. If you've never made bread before, never fear - this is a very forgiving recipe perfect for yeast newbies! This recipe makes 2 loaves, but you can cut it in half.

In a large mixing bowl, mix 2-1/2 C. flour, 4-1/2 tsp dry yeast, 1 TBL sugar, 1 TBL salt.

Heat 1 C. milk, 1-1/4 C. water, and 3 TBL butter in a saucepan to 130°. The butter will not melt. Remove from heat and stir until butter is melted. Add to dry ingredients and beat rapidly with a spoon or whisk for 3 minutes.

Add 3 to 3-1/2 C of flour until dough forms a ball and begins to clean the side of the bowl. Add enough flour so you can handle the dough without it sticking excessively to your hands, but not so much that it becomes dry.  If the air is very humid it may take the whole amount, if dry it may take less.Knead the dough for 5-8 minutes, adding additional flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and your work area.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Grease a large bowl well with butter or oil.  Place the ball of dough in the bowl and turn over to grease the top.  Cover the bowl with a very damp towel and put in a warm place to rise (heat your oven for a few minutes and  then turn it off and put the bowl inside.) Keep the dough away from any drafts.

Let rise until almost double in bulk., 30-45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and gather it into a ball.

Divide into three evenly sized

Roll each portion into a rope about a foot long

Braid the ropes together from the middle to one end.  Press the ropes together and tuck underneath. Turn the braid around and braid from the middle to the other end.  Press the rope ends together and tuck underneath.

Place in greased loaf pan, cover with damp towel and put in warm place to rise, about 30 minutes.

When nearly doubled, preheat oven to 400°.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom and crust is golden brown.  If crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil the last 10 minutes.  Remove from pan to cooling rack.  Brush top of loaf with melted butter.  Let cool completely before slicing.

Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maple Pumpkin Muffins

It's the 19th of December and the wind is howling outside the boat bringing tidings of a cold front and the announcement of Winter's arrival.  Inside, the boat smells of fresh brewed coffee and maple pumpkin muffins in the oven.  We have absolutely no where to go, I've had a fantastic night's sleep in the V-berth, I have a cookie-baking date with my three grandkids later today, and let's face it folks it just doesn't get much better than this. 

Part of cooking while cruising or living aboard is learning to make due with the ingredients you have on hand.  There's usually no quick trip down the street to the grocery store.  When I got up this morning I wanted pumpkin muffins and after searching the net for a new recipe and looking in the boat pantry (which is pretty empty this time of year due to removing the freezable stuff),  I came up with this modified recipe. 

Maple Pumpkin Muffins
1-1/2 C. Flour (I used the white that I had but you could use whole wheat pastry flour or 1/2 and 1/2)
2 Pkg of Instant Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 egg, beaten
2 TBL Vegetable Oil
6 TBL Maple Syrup (preferably real but I only had pancake syrup)
2 TBL Hot Buttered Rum Mix (see below for the recipe)
1 tsp Vanilla

1 C. Canned Pumpkin
1/2 C. Skim Milk (you could use evaporated or powdered milk reconstituted)
1/2 C. Chopped walnuts, or raisins, or dates, or any combination (optional)
Streusel Topping (optional):  Mix one envelope of instant maple flavored oatmeal, one TBL of cold butter and a tsp of cinnamon together well.  Keeps well in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease the bottoms only of a 12-cup muffin pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together well with a whisk.

Mix the wet ingredients together.  In these pictures I put the Hot Buttered Rum mix in the dry ingredients, but it was difficult to mix it in so the next time I will mix it into the wet ingredients until it is completely incorporated.

Mix the two together just until dry ingredients are completely incorporated and divide evenly into muffin pan.

Top with optional streusel mix and bake for 18-22 mins depending on your oven.

If you're making these in a boat oven you will need to rotate hem in the
middle of the baking time, but be careful in your handling of the pan so they don't collapse.  Cool on a rack for 5 minutes and enjoy with a hot steaming cup of coffee.  Makes 12 nice-sized muffins.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix
1-1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 tsp of each of the following:
   Ground Cloves
Zest of one orange or 2 tsp dried orange peel mixed with 2 TBL water
Mix all well and place in an airtight container.  Keeps for a long time on the shelf in cool weather or you can store it in the refrigerator.  Use a heaping teaspoon in a bottom of a mug with a jigger of rum.  Mix well and fill the mug with boiling water.  Great for cool evenings in the cockpit.  Also great for seasoning many recipes, including cut up sweet potatoes, pancakes, muffins, etc.  Use your imagination. A steaming mug of this goes well with the maple pumpkin muffins by the way...

Friday, December 2, 2011

In Search Of The Elusive Perfect Omelet

"Too many cruisers waste too much time learning esoteric things about sailing, such as the relative merits of various brands of chart plotters or watermakers, when what they really need to learn is how to make a good omelet."  
Jim Trefethen, The Cruising Life

I'm asked for my omelet recipe probably more than any other so here is a photo tutorial for you just because I believe what Jim Trefethen said in his book.  I first learned to make this omelet by watching a cooking show back when cooking shows were really meant to teach you how to cook instead of subjecting you to the ego-maniacal rants of a reality show chef.  I practiced religiously and subjected Tim to many failed experiments, but he loves omelets and was ever so patient.  I believe his patience has been rewarded.

We usually make 2 egg omelets, but if you have a large enough pan you can do 3.  Beat the eggs with a fork and add a tsp of water and salt and pepper to taste.  Contrary to many popular recipes, do not use milk here, only water. 

Preheat your good non-stick 9" skillet, spray with your version of non-stick spray.  I use butter-flavored spray (and this is not any endorsement of Wally-World's products, just what I happened to have on hand.) 

Add chopped ham, or sausage, or bacon and chopped onion and peppers if you wish.  Saute them until they're heated through and onions are clear.  Set aside in a small bowl.

Clean your skillet after heating the fillings.  You must start out with a clean skillet.  Spray the skillet with non-stick spray, then add a teaspoon or two of butter and allow to melt over medium-high heat but don't allow it to scorch.

Add egg.  Do  not stir or touch it until you see the edges begin to cook as in the picture at the left.

Using a fork, start at one edge and smoothly push the egg to the other edge.  The liquid egg on top will fill in behind the fork.

Then take the fork and pull the cooked edge in the opposite direction, allowing the uncooked egg to fill in behind the fork.

Once more in the opposite direction, and you can see that there will be just barely enough egg to fill in behind.   At this point, you take your fork and gently scrape all the uncooked egg from the top of the cooked egg and push it toward the low point in the pan.

Add your cheese of choice.  I personally prefer Swiss, but the recipient of this omelet likes American so there you have it.

Add your meat and/or veggies to the other side.  Cover the pan with a lid or foil, and turn the burner off.  Let stand for a few moments to allow the rest of the egg to cook and the cheese to  melt.

Carefully using a spatula, fold the cheese half over the meat half.  The perfectly browned wrinkles are the result of the fork-pushing exercise in the steps above.
Add the toast of your choice (see the previous post on toast) and you have the Perfect Omelet - Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fresh Apple Pie

I recently made this pie for our yacht club Thanksgiving feast.  One of our members is a diabetic so I made it sugar free but it's easily adaptable either way.  This one is also for a two-crust pie, but you can make a French apple pie as well using a crumb topping instead of the top crust.  As I described in a previous post, I fold a long piece of aluminum foil in half lengthwise twice to make a strip about 2-3" wide.  I then wrap this around the pie and fold the ends together to make a crust shield.  I crimp it together on the top edge a little so that the fluted edges of the crust are hidden.  If they don't brown you can take the foil off the last 5 minutes or so to brown them.  The secrets to good pie crust is double-sifting the flour, making sure to cut the shortening in until it's the consistency of cornmeal, using ice water, and not over-working the dough.

Fresh Apple Pie


2-2/3 c. flour - sift bulk flour first, measure the flour and sift again into the bowl
1 tsp salt
1 c. butter flavor shortening
1/2 c. ice water

Sift flour, measure, then sift into bowl with salt.  Add shortening and cut into flour mixture until the consistence of coarse cornmeal.  Toss in ice water and work with fork until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.  Note:  in very humid weather you may not need all the water, and conversely when it's dry you may need a little more.  Divide ball into 2 and set aside, covered with plastic wrap.


5-6 Large tart apples
Juice of one lemon, fresh squeezed
6 TBL flour
1 tsp cinnamon
dash salt
13 oz jar of Polaner all fruit spread in either peach or apricot flavor

Peel 5-6 large apples, preferably Jonathan or Granny Smith or some other tart apple.  Quarter, core, then slice into 1/8 slices into large bowl. Sprinkle apple slices with the juice of one lemon.  Add 6 TBL flour, 1 rounded tsp cinnamon, dash of salt and one 13oz jar of Polaner all fruit in either peach or apricot flavor.  Any other brand of jam will do, and you can use sugar free as well.  The pie in the picture was sugar free for a diabetic friend of mine.  Stir well and let sit while you roll the crust.

Roll crust out to inch and a half larger than inverted pie plate.  Carefully transfer to plate and trim edges to 1" even all around.  Roll second ball into circle about 1" larger than inverted plate.  Fill crust with apple mixture and place dough circle on top.  Press edges together, roll edge toward center of pie and crimp with fingers or end of wooden spoon.  Roll out scraps and cut apple and leaf shapes.  Wet with small amount of water and place on pie.  Using a soft paintbrush, paint food coloring on shapes.  I use the back edge of a table knife to make the leaf veins before painting.  With a sharp knife, place a couple vent slits in the top.  Bake 425° for 50-75 minutes (depends on how hot your oven is).  In addition to the edge shield you may need to cover the top loosely with a piece of foil if it browns too quickly.

Monday, November 28, 2011


One of our main ideas about cruising is to attempt to be energy self-sufficient.  As a result, we generally make coffee in our on-the-stove drip coffee maker rather than an electric pot, and we don't have a toaster on the boat.  I've tried various camping toast apparatus without any culinary satisfaction and after many different attempts at the perfect piece of toast I came back to the K.I.S.S. principle - I'm now doing toast in a skillet, dry.

For my stove, I set the heat fairly low and put the bread in the pan with no butter or anything.  I have to move them around and flip them every few minutes so they toast evenly because my burners are all very small, but I end up with perfectly toasted bread.  I'm using a non-stick skillet that is the lid of a very old Coleman camping nested pot set.  I keep trying to talk myself into spending $150 on a set of nested stainless, but the fact is, I've been using this pot set since I was married (it was a wedding gift), it works well, it has all the pots I need in it, it fits perfectly in my pot and pan storage bin, and it didn't cost any money.  So for the time being you'll just have to put up with dinged and dented pots in my recipe pictures because they're not going anywhere soon.  Coming soon will be my perfect ham and cheese omelet recipe.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oven Basics

The oven we have on our 1982 Tartan 42 is a  Hillerange 3 burner propane stove with a broiler in the oven.  It has a metal tray on the bottom of the oven above the broiler with slots along the sides for the air to move upwards into the oven.  The first problem I had with trying to bake anything in the Hillerange was that the heat was horribly uneven.  Things would burn on the bottom and not be done on top.  The first step to working around this was a trip to our local flooring store where I purchased some unglazed terra cotta tile (lead-free of course) which I placed directly on the metal tray above the burner where they absorb the heat and help to distribute it more evenly.  They also make a terrific place to cook pizza and some breads that require direct heat. For things like cookies, I put a double layer of aluminum foil, shiny side down, on a cookie sheet and then a piece of parchment paper to put the cookies on. I put the cookie sheet directly on the stones for the first 8 minutes and then move them to the top rack for the last 2-4 minutes.  This seems to work well in lieu of an airbake pan, which I can't find in a small enough size to fit.  It also makes it easy to slide the whole sheet of parchment onto the cooling rack and the new sheet onto the cookie sheet.

 (And yes, the oven is dirty.  It was well-used this season)

When I bake pies, I fold a long piece of aluminum foil in half lengthwise twice, then run that strip around the circumference of the pie and fold the ends together.  The strip should be a little taller than the pie which allows you to fold the top edge inward a little to almost completely cover the crimped edge of the pie.  I put the pie on a rack pretty close to the ceiling of the oven, and then I cover the top loosely with a flat piece of foil. 

Broiling is still a bit of a challenge for me yet.  The broiler isn't very hot, so it's difficult to get foods broiled, juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.  They sometimes tend to get a baked consistency instead because it takes so long.  I'm thinking about maybe trying to sear the meat in a skillet first an then broiling it.

We don't have a stern rail barbeque on Kintala.  We gave ours up when we still owned Nomad because there just wasn't any room on the stern rail, and Kintala is probably even more space-challenged on the stern rail than Nomad was.  What we did instead was to purchase a cast iron grilling skillet like this one:


It's a 10-1/2 " very heavy pan that you preheat on high with the lid on it (the lid also has the ridges) and then spray the pan with spray non-stick coating and put your meat on and put the lid on top.  The meat cooks quickly because of the preheated lid.  You still turn it half way through but it requires less time and it turns out just as well as the grill and a whole lot easier.  It also makes delicious bacon with the lid as a press, and wonderful paninis and french toast.  It is an extremely heavy pan but it still weighs in less than a conventional gas stern rail grill and doesn't require any extra propane tanks or the worry of storing them.  As a side note on propane, I cook on the boat at least 2 meals a day every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and sometimes Thursday or Monday if it's a long weekend for us, and we used only one 10# propane tank from the middle of June to the middle of November.  This included many long bakes of pies and bread and cookies.  I try always to maximize the propane usage by only boiling the exact amount of water needed to make coffee or tea, and to keep bacon warm by putting it on top of a rack on top of the eggs while they cook etc.