Potato Candy

Sounds strange, doesn't it? But so does rice as a sweetener. It's all in the treatment and the additional ingredients. Potato candy uses three ingredients: a boiled potato, powdered sugar and peanut butter. It's a simple old fashioned candy. UPDATE: I found my actual recipe. The candy should have a teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of salt.

First scrub a potato and boil it in a saucepan of water. Yesterday, I used just an average sized potato from a 10 pound bag. It was about the size of my fist. A woman's fist. How long to boil? Until you can stick a fork in several places and it goes in easily. You don't want to have any hard undercooked areas. Those undercooked areas are very hard to mash.

Once the potato has boiled until tender, take it out. Just stick a fork in it and use the fork to hold it while you pick the skin off with a paring knife. It will be one of the easiest potatoes you've ever peeled.

While the potato is still hot begin to work in the powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of salt. I like to use a pie plate and a fork for this process. Watch a Christmas special or the falling snow while doing this...you're going to be at it for a little while. I worked 3/4 or more of a bag of powdered sugar into the potato I cooked. There is no exact amount since the size of the potato will vary. Just keep adding powdered sugar until you get a stiff dough that you'll be able to spread out. Don't get too stiff though, you will need to roll the dough like a jelly roll.

Once you've decided that you have a stiff dough, it's time to spread it out. I used plastic wrap on my counter. Waxed paper probably would have been better. What I didn't do but should have is to put some 'bench flour' aka powdered sugar down before I started working my dough out into a rectangle. It stuck to the plastic wrap a bit. Just use extra powdered sugar in the same way you use flour when working with bread dough. Use a spatula, your hands, whatever works to manipulate the dough into an even thickness and shape. About 1/4 inch is a good thickness.

Once you've got a rectangle of dough, spread on the peanut butter. If you really love peanut butter, put it on thicker.

Next, roll the dough like a jelly roll. I roll from the longest side because I want to be able to cut a lot of pieces of candy from this. In fact, once I get the candy rolled, I cut the roll in half and then roll it like I'm making a play dough snake. It will get thinner and longer and let you cut more pieces of candy.

After cutting the candy, place it on a cookie sheet and let it dry. Without drying, the moisture remaining in the dough may grow mold if just tossed into an airtight container.

This is a super sweet candy. It's basically powdered sugar but it's good.

Rustic Pizza at Home

The Northwest has been hit by wave after wave of snow and ice. Ok, when I lived in the middle of the country, I wouldn't have even blinked at this stuff. Ok, now that I've got the vehicle properly outfitted for the winter, I'm not too concerned about it now. Unfortunately, there tend to be a lot of other people who don't get their vehicle outfitted and aren't concerned about the weather. They're the ones that you sit around and watch on TV as they clog up the freeway and prevent the snow plows from doing their job.

So what does snow and ice have to do with pizza? Delivery or the lack thereof. I sometimes make pizza at home. I use an old pizza stone that's in two pieces. (Never put anything frozen on the pizza stone that has heated in the oven...cracking will ensue!) Sometimes I use a dough with yeast. Sometimes I just use flour, salt and water. The yeast dough is a soft dough. The flour, salt, water dough produces a dough that is crisper; more like a cracker.

Here's the recipe that I use when I think about pizza early in the afternoon and have time for the dough to rise.

Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 package (¼ oz.) active dry yeast (one package of yeast = 2¼ teaspoon of yeast)

Combine the water sugar and yeast. Proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

Mix flours and salt. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, use it.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Add oil to yeast mixture once it has proofed, then pour into the flour mixture. Knead by hand or on low speed on the mixer for 10 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch dough down and divide into four balls, pinching the bottoms closed. Cover with plastic wrap, and let wrise in a warm place another hour.

I don't tend to buy cake flour. In my latest experiment (cooking is always an experiment for me) instead of adding more white all-purpose flour, I grabbed a container of hand ground wheat flour. I wondered if it would make it too hard. Instead, it seemed to make a softer dough. Way back, many, many moons ago, I was in 4-H. I actually have a trophy for making bread. Our 4-H project book had an experiment using various flours. It was designed to teach the gluten content of various flours. I learned it at the time but the many moons have removed that information from my memory. Maybe I'll have to search for that information and learn it again.

When I'm ready to use my pizza dough, I roll it out into 5-8" rounds or semi-rounds or just irregular shapes. The pizza stone has been heating in the oven. After I get the dough rolled out, I toss it on the hot stone. No toppings. I just want to firm up the dough a little bit. So I cook it on one side and then flip it over and cook the over side for a minute or so. I begin topping the cooked crusts while I cook more crusts.

The pleasant surprise on my last batch of pizzas was the bubbling! Yes, the pizza rounds turned into big round balloons. This was a pleasant surprise. I have been trying to make pita type bread for some time and haven't been able to get that ballooning. I have more experimenting to do. I must learn the reason for my success. Was it the addition of the wheat flour? Was it the use of a yeast dough? My naan bread recipe is supposed to puff and doesn't use yeast. I've never achieved a really successful balloon with the naan bread recipe. So if you like pita bread, this recipe with some wheat flour might do the trick for you.

Fireplace Bread aka Flour Tortillas

Bread has been called the staff of life. When most of us think of bread, we think of nice loaves of fluffy white bread. But bread comes in many forms from many parts of the world. It can be simple or complex. It can take hours or minutes to make. I've got a batch of sourdough starter and a sweet Friendship Bread starter but lately, I prefer simple. The only thing complex about tortillas is rolling them out. My children did that last time I made tortillas so it's not hard.

The first tortillas that I made were cooked on the comal in the woodburning fireplace. I was very proud of my irregular shaped tortillas. They tasted good; all smokey and with a bit of ash here and there. But my husband loved them and the kids ate them. My second batch weren't as good. They cracked when I tried to roll them. Perhaps it was because I added too much water then had to add more flour. On the third try, I solved the mystery of the 2nd batch. I was cooking them too long.

Here's roughly the recipe that I use when I'm making tortillas. I say roughly because I've stopped measuring exactly.

Flour Tortillas

3 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard
1¼ cups warm water

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add the vegetable shortening or lard and use a pastry cutter or your hands to cut it in. I personally use a fork to work it in so there are no obvious blobs of shortening or lard. I then rub the flour/shortening mixture between my hands until it looks like a fine cornmeal.

Add warm water a little at a time until your dough is soft and not sticky. This 'adding moisture' step which is where I either have good tortillas or I totally mess them up. Start with about a tablespoon at a time. As it begins to look like a dough, add the water a teaspoon at a time.

Knead the dough for a few minutes. Then separate the dough into 12 small dough balls. Let them rest for about 10 minutes. Start heating up the cast iron skillet or comal while the dough rests. If you are working on the stove, set it to medium to high heat. You don't want the heat too high or the tortillas will cook too fast. If you're cooking in the fireplace, you just have to try a few times to get an eye for your fire.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. It is a good idea to dust each dough ball with flour before rolling it out. Roll the dough out on an unfloured surface. Place your rolling pin in the center of a dough ball. Roll up. Center your rolling pin again and roll down. Rotate the tortilla and repeat until the tortilla is fairly thin.

I give the rolled tortillas a pinch of flour dusted over the surface to keep the stack of tortillas from sticking together. When they are all rolled out, it's time to cook.

Lay your tortilla on a heated, dry comal or cast iron skillet. It takes just a few seconds to cook. Flip to the other side. When they are done it should have lots of nice brown speckles. If you overcook the tortillas, they'll become stiff little rounds that are not pliable.

Place cooked tortillas in a towel to keep them warm.

Maize Mamma

I've been promising cornbread and haven't got around to making it or writing about it even. I've turned over the cornbread duties to my husband. First he was hooked on the little cornbread muffin mixes that come in the blue box. Yuck. I'd never had cornbread from a mix. It was nothing like my mamma's cornbread. There was no taste. But most importantly, there was no texture. It was almost like a flour muffin with some corn flavor.

Then our finances got better. My husband bought the bag of Marie Callender's cornbread mix. Better but still not mamma's cornbread. Again that corn texture was missing. The cornbread was too light and airy. It wasn't dense and crumbling with a texture like, well, corn meal. It didn't have that dark bottom from cooking in a cast iron skillet.

That all changed one night when my husband wanted cornbread. I dug in the too deep shelves in the pantry and found his bag of Marie Callender's mix. One whiff told the story, the fat in it had gone rancid. Now in a really bad situation, any of us would probably eat it just for the nutritional value. But things weren't that bad yet. So I chucked it out for the birds and grabbed my handy journal book of recipes. No, it isn't my Mamma's recipe for cornbread. There never was a recipe for her cornbread. She just made it. Measurements were "a little bit", "maybe a little more", etc. As a kid trying to learn to cook it frustrated me to tears. Now days if you tried to stop Mamma in the middle of cooking and work out the measurements, it would probably frustrate her into leaving the kitchen. It's just not the way she cooks.

What I found in my recipe journal that night was a recipe for cornbread cooked in a dutch oven. Close enough. The ingredient list looked close to the things I'd remembered Mamma using. It made a good starting point. It's gone through a little bit of mutation since that night.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoon honey or 1/4 cup sugar

Grease your cast iron skillet (10-12") and start it heating in a 425°F oven while you mix the cornbread.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add the milk, eggs, and honey. Pour the batter into your heated cast iron skillet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I prefer honey in my cornbread. My husband perfers the no mess method of adding a bit of sugar. You can add more, less or none at all.

Next up, flour tortillas cooked in the fireplace.

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