Cakes – Breads – The End

There were two large projects that I participated in during this year of 2014 that I really enjoyed. One was a baking project for Eising Studio/StockFood. This took place during late winter and early spring. The second was my Artisan Bread Baking class during the Fall semester at York County Community College. Both of these projects tested my skills and knowledge as a baker.

Preparing a Chocolate Cake-7861

I learned a lot and had fun with my classmates. I also had some kitchen disasters, but that is what learning is about.  There are things I became more aware of and am sharing:  First, a calibrated oven is important for baking. As consumers we just go out and buy a stove or wall oven and start to use it. I discovered the hard way in using my Viking oven for baking that it needed calibrating. The large convection oven used at school also needed calibrating and adjusting – that became apparent as we had to move our breads around to bake evenly.

Pretzels baking in oven

Pretzels baking in the convection oven at school = uneven baking

Second, use a scale for weighing ingredients.  Weights and measurements matter in baking. Example: Measuring cups and scales are not interchangeable for dry ingredients. A scale is easy to use and available in every kitchen store. These are things the home cook does not think much about. Incorrect measurements and poor equipment leave you wondering why your cake didn’t bake properly. Just like any professional, in any business, you must have the proper equipment to do your work.  Maybe I’m just weird, but I don’t think of cooking or baking as work – I think it’s fun.  Lastly, use your nose and fingers.  When you smell a cake, it is close to done.  When you tap a bread loaf or top of a cake, you can tell if it’s done.

digitalmeasureingcupDigital scale kosher salt

Digital measuring cup – 1# flour  and  a digital scale with 3/4 oz. kosher sale

Here are images from my baking projects this year.  I love cakes!

Decorating Devil's Food Cake-7543Decorating Devil's Food Cake-7576Devil's Food Cake-7936

Devil’s Food Cake

Pink Frosting on Chocolate Cake-7672Frosting-6580Valentine's Cake-6081(1)

Chocolate Cake -Red Frosting-Heart Shaped Vanilla Cake

Pictures by Susie Eising/Eising Studio/StockFood

As for the Artisan Bread baking class at the local community college, I offer the following: Artisan Bread is a bread that is handcrafted rather than mass produced and uses a small amount of ingredients, no preservatives…warm water and yeast, flour, salt and a sweetener of some sort. I love bread!  Here are some of our class projects from the Fall semester.

ChallahBreadBasic White Bread loaves

Challah and Basic White with egg wash

Brioche Dough-perfect in KA with dough hookBrioche Dough-chocolate swirl added

Brioche dough, rich with eggs and butter pulling away from sides of bowl-adding chocolate swirl

Brioche-Petites Brioches a tete bakedBrioche-Petite Brioche a tete taste

Brioche -petite chocolate swirls with knot on top

Wheat bread and bagelsFrench breads baked

Classmates-wheat breads, bagels, bialys and French Bread

Lemon loaf and blueberry muffinsApple streusel cream cake

Lemon Loaf, Blueberry Muffins, Apple Streusel Cream Cake

Parmesan-peppercorn sconesPistachio Oat Bread-favorite

Parmesan Pepper Scones-savory taste and Pistachio Oat Bread-my favorite

Pita Bread puffing up in ovenPita Breads baked

Pita Breads puffing up in oven and baked  (need to practice my shaping)

Pizza dough-assorted toppingsPizza-spinach mushroom goat cheese olive oil

Pizza dough- assorted and delicious pizzas we shared!

Cheese bread round loaves Swedish limpa bread baked-big loaves

Cheddary Cheese Rounds and Swedish Limpa Breads

Pretzels nicely shaped Pretzel water dipPretzels salted

Pretzels – water dipped, baked and salted (need practice with my shaping)


Underground Chocolate Surprise Muffins (disaster-no rise & choc sunk) and Classmates’ Beautiful Muffins

Cinn knot dough with cinn sugar fillingCinn knot class shaped baked rum glazedCinn knot shaped
Cinnamon knots-ooey, gooey and so delicious – a classmate’s perfect knot

Olive Rosemary Foccacia for final-rectangularOlive Rosemary Foccacia for final-roundOlive Rosemary Foccacia showing texture

Olive Rosemary Foccacia breads for my final exam – (using yeast).  I think I did ok…

Honey Cornbread with pepper and bacon

and, Honey Cornbread with a little bacon and hot orange pepper! (non-yeast)

Honey Cornbread
3 cups cornmeal
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
2 2/3 cup milk
5 eggs
Place dry ingredients in bowl, set aside. In smaller bowl, whisk the oil, honey, milk and eggs. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk lightly, just until batter is moistened. Do Not Over Mix. Scrape into a greased 9 x 13 pan (or muffin tins) and bake at 330 convection, 20-25 minutes for pan, or 20 minutes for muffins – using low-fan for the muffins. If using a standard oven, bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Test top by tapping and watch for browning. This is a nice light and sweet cornbread. Throw in some chopped pre-cooked bacon or a jalapeno for more flavoring.

The End…

…well, not quite.  A few parting words for my friends, blog readers and classmates. I am setting aside my blog, for now.  It is time to explore other things and remove my fingers and eyes from all the screens and electronics I am tied to everyday.   I’m not retiring, just stepping back a little.  I have enjoyed sharing my passion, my family, my stories and recipes. I hope that you, my readers, have enjoyed reading and trying some of the recipes that I have shared. I sincerely thank you for your time and support. I would be happy to hear from you through my blog site; and, as I understand it, all content will remain here under  I leave you with one final picture from my baking experiences of 2014.  This is a professional shot (Eising Studio) of a cake that started out with the thought of just gobbing on the frosting and drizzling with caramel…why not throw sea salt on it too?  This is what professional photography, along with food styling, can offer.  Thank you again.

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Caramel Frosting and Seasalt-8493

Respectfully, Susan

The French Bread Challenge

Since I’ve started my Artisan Bread Baking class, I’ve been anxious to make some sourdough French bread.  I felt a little practice at home might help me in class.  Upon reflection, I should have waited until we got to that lesson in class.  What was I thinking?
The weekend before this experiment, I made a sourdough starter and let it sit for the week. The mixture of flour and milk bubbled and soured. It had a good sour aroma and the bubbled “sponge” look that you want.  It was ready for use.

Sourdough starter in bowl

Starter Mix

I had decided on a Sourdough French Bread, short method recipe from an old cookbook titled, “Cookbook of Breads,” by Sunset publishers. But, when I flipped the page, I saw Corn French Bread. I thought using corn meal as part of the flour mixture sounded interesting and I like the texture of corn meal.  I’ll blame that on my Southern roots.  Maybe my thought process was not so clear….

Making S-d FrBread in bread bowl

The basics to start with: warm water, yeast, starter &  flour.

I mixed the ingredients, covered my old bread bowl, and popped it in a warm oven to let double in bulk. Having used a “proofer” at the school kitchen, I though popping this in a warm oven was the thing to do. Now, I’m not so sure.  The proofer creates an environment so that your dough rises quickly – no hours of waiting like you have in a home kitchen.

Bread dough rising in warm oven

The dough doubled nicely.

After the doubling in bulk, you then add one cup of cornmeal that has some soda in it.

Decided to make S-d Corn FrBrd-RecipeCorn meal added to first rise of dough

Corn French Bread?  Never heard of it, never thought of it, until I saw it in the old cookbook.

I mixed until the dough came together by folding in the corn meal. The dough was then turned out onto my counter for kneading.

Cornmeal folded in and dough pulled togetherDough ready for kneading

Did the corn meal make these pictures turn yellowish?  I should have known this was not going to work.

The dough looked so inviting. It needed to be kneaded! As I was kneading, I added sprinkles of flour to control the stickiness. It was kneaded until satiny – approximately 8 minutes.

Dough kneaded in ball

The satiny ball of dough and positive thoughts.

I divided the dough into 2 parts for 2 loaves of bread and pinched off the end of one loaf to make a little tester size.

Dough shaped into loaves

Shaped French Bread loaves.

The tray was placed in a warm spot for rising – again my Torrey Hill Kitchen warm oven. As the larger loaves were rising, I decided to take the tester loaf after about an hour and process it. I put a few slashes in the top, brushed it with butter and proceeded to bake it off in my other oven. Here is what the tester loaf looked like.

Mini tester baked brushed with butterMini tester sliced

Mini tester loaf – baked, brushed with butter and sliced.  Tasted good but was a bit on the crunchy side!

I could tell after slicing the tester that this corn meal thing was not going to work. It brought back horrible memories of my first attempt at baking bread when I was a teen.  On that particular day, that particular loaf was shaped for the standard bread pan.  It never rose and was like a brick when I baked it off.  I was so angry I just threw it out into our backyard.   It was so hard the birds couldn’t even peck it open. It probably broke some of their little beaks.

Second rise loaf shape flat

They went in the wrong direction for rising!

After 2 hours the larger loaves had spread out, but not risen as I had hoped. Something went wrong with this experiment. I continued on knowing that the breads weren’t really going to rise any further. I gave some passing thought to just gathering up the loaves and kneading the dough again.  What’s another 2 hours to wait?  However, I was ever-hopeful that everything would work out just fine – a flavorful bread, with some texture, edible, but just a little flat.

Ready for oven-flat

I made my diagonal slashes and brushed the loaves with butter and placed them in the oven.

Flat fr brd loaves baking-oh so flat

They baked, but remained flat. Oh…so flat!

Baked almost looks risen2

Looks hopeful from this angle.

Baked-the real story flat as pancake

The real deal – not even the height of a large bagel!

I will present one of the loaves to my Artisan Baking Class. I am sure that the Chef or classmates will fill me in on what went wrong.

Baked from above1

Bread baking can be fun and relaxing. For me, on this particular day, it was a test of skill and patience.

Bread end on tray

Seriously… maybe I need to head to France for a lesson?

Respectfully, Susan

Aunt Edna’s Apple Dumplings

I am reposting this blog since it is apple picking time in Maine. The recipe for Aunt Edna’s Apple Dumplings is the best – because she was the best! I hope you enjoy.

Respect Your Food

and, confessions of a new mother.

apple dumpling ingredients

This past weekend I baked Aunt Edna’s Apple Dumplings in memory of her and my mother.  I miss them both very much.  Aunt Edna was my second mother and took care of me from infancy through my elementary school years.   This story is about apple dumplings and my mothers.


Aunt Edna, Cousins Connie, Lee, Howard and me (1955)

I recently found a birthday booklet titled “1951 Pages of Time” that my mother gave to me 20 years ago.   It shows prices of things in 1951, such as

loaf of bread….@  .16

gallon of gas..…@  .19

gallon of milk…@  .92

In this birthday booklet are pages for your personal memories from 1951.  Here are my mother’s memories-more like confessions of a new frightened mother.

“We were married 4 years, 1 month and 17 days before you arrived.  Your Dad was away deer hunting but he…

View original post 672 more words

Blueberry Slab Pie – Contest

It’s July and in our Town it’s time for Alfred Festival Day.   I was asked to enter the pie contest. I felt honored. As always, on the night before the big day and parade, the Town comes together for a Chili & Chowder Contest and a Pie Contest. The contests are a nice way to get donations for the festival day kick-off supper and a reason for the town to come together under the big tent set up in front of the Town Hall. The town folks and visitors pay to eat the chili, chowder and pies entered into the contests. The money goes to the local Lion’s Club.  I am proud to say that our small Town is very community focused and still carries on this festival tradition.


Alfred, Maine – Town Hall

My feelings of being honored to enter the pie contest turned into horror and dread as I proceeded to try a new pie recipe.  Here are some words of advice to future pie contestants – Do Not Use A New Recipe! That wise advice has been around a long time, and so have I; but, I did not listen to that little voice in my head and let my “I-can-do-it” spirit kick in.

The following is a cautionary tale for future contestants that may be considering any kind of cooking or baking contest. The recipe for Blueberry Slab Pie is included.

BBSP-THK for pie contest

I really gave some thought to the pie I would make. As background information, several years ago I made a Swiss Cheese Zucchini Cashew Nut pie for the contest. It was the first time I had ever entered a pie contest. It was a savory pie, not sweet; and I  thought it would not even get a mention. It won second or third place. I think it won that spot because it was a unique pie. But, I believe that the pie traditionalists were a bit confused by the presentation of a savory pie instead of sweet.

Zucchini Pie

Swiss cheese zucchini cashew pie – nixed the savory idea.

As I focused on this contest, many factors ran through my mind…Such as, SAVORY vs SWEET…I nixed savory this time. Another factor…WEATHER. As any baker knows, heat and humidity would affect a meringue. I nixed doing my favorite, Lemon Meringue pie.


Lemon meringue pie – nixed the meringue idea.

See post of May 22, 2013-Lemon Meringue Pie, Yes Please!

Next, I thought about….TIMING-I would have to make the pie crust dough the night before, since I work during the day and could not take off all day to bake and test the recipe. The crust had to hold up to any liquid or berries I might use. The pie was to be presented for judging at 4:30 p.m. Strawberry-rhubarb came to mind, but the rhubarb had gone by and I did not freeze any for future use.

Strawberry Ruhbarb3

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

See post of May 23, 2012-Summer Starts, Pies and Tarts!

I also thought about….STABILITY. The pie would be sitting for a minimum of an hour, maybe more, while judging was taking place and before serving the public. Therefore, keeping a whipped cream stable or a pie chilled made for more complexity.

Considering all those factors, plus a few more, I decided on this new recipe of a Blueberry Slab Pie.  I made two – one was a tester and one for the contest.   I thought it sounded interesting to have butter and cream cheese in your pie crust. What was I thinking?

Here is the recipe – it is from Spoon-Fork-Bacon blog of 7-16-14.  The pictures on that site looked great.  I have tweaked the recipe with my notes. The end product looks like a huge pop-tart, if you do it right. Sliced diagonally and served with ice cream – it would be perfect for a cookout – not a contest.

Blueberry Slab Pie
Makes 1 – 12” x 12” folded rectangular pie

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Pie Dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, cold and cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons ice cold water
Note: The dough came together beautifully.

2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Note: Adjust lemon juice to your taste.

Egg Wash
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon white sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare egg wash and set aside.

2. Dough: Place flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until a fine meal forms. While pulsing, add water and vinegar and continue to pulse until dough forms.  NOTE: Food processor not necessary-make dough as you would for a regular pie.   Dump dough onto a clean surface and form into a disc. Tightly cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll dough out into a 12”x12” square, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

4. Transfer dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Filling: Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and toss together. NOTE: Lemon can be lessened and cinnamon increased – your preference.

6. To assemble: Fill one side of dough with filling, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Lightly egg wash perimeter and fold the unfilled side over. Firmly press edges together with a fork and score the top of the pie to allow steam to escape while baking. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow pie to cool for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving.

8. Cool completely and cut the rectangular slab diagonally for presentation. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a few fresh blueberries.

On with the madness….

Dough discs

Round vs Square?

As I launched into this project, my irrational line of thinking continued. I made my dough discs the night before and chilled them.  Next morning, day of contest, I was up at 6 a.m. and took the discs out of the fridge.  I had shaped them round – now the second guessing started…should I had made them into a square?   I proceeded to gather my ingredients, whipped up the egg wash, zested the lemon over the berries and filled my time with other prep work while waiting for the dough to get to rolling temp. I was impatient…so I decided to put one of the discs in the microwave to just zap it for a few seconds – boy was that stupid! That only created another obstacle to overcome. So, I put the zapped one back in the fridge and started playing with the other disc. I knew already in my head that this was going to be a tough-go.

Trying to roll dough in square shape

 Really…Does this look square to you?

I could not get the dough to roll into a square – the one day that I wanted it to do only that, I ended up with a picture perfect round disc that I had to keep working at to try and get it into a square.  I proceeded on as best I could. I filled the dough and kept questioning how this was going to turn out.

filled odd shaped dough

Okay, now what?

I got the tester in the oven and started on the next. Here is the baked tester- all the juices were running out of my weak corner of unsealed crust. It was weak because the dough was too wet to just pinch with the fork and make the pretty marks.  There was too much egg wash and melted butter-cream cheese dough to make it work.

Tester-Baked with Oh No sign

 The Tester – Seriously?

I was really getting desperate and worried.   Here I was in my nightie with my orthotic sneakers (bad feet situation) – no coffee – no breakfast – all the fans going….my hair looked like I’d been electrocuted and I was talking to myself.  I’m so glad the propane delivery guy did not show up – I would have scared him into his grave!   I asked myself, what else could possibly go wrong? Isn’t this a pretty mess I’ve gotten myself into?  I put together the second square-ish pie and baked it off for the contest.  I let it cool a bit and then put it in the fridge…why?- I do not know.

BBSP-Pie Contest Worthy

Contest worthy?

Finally, I went to the office taking the tester slab with me.  I trusted my office colleagues to give me honest opinions – they liked it, especially with ice cream.  My thoughts were – it’s too lemony and folks may be put off by the square shape and not consider it a pie.  I left work early knowing that I had to get the contest pie back to room temp.  Why had I stuck it in the fridge?   I presented the pie on a square platter with a pretty pink label and requested that they cut it diagonally.  I was entry #5-the odd ball..or square…in the group.



Results – 1st place winner was #8-Sister Marie’s Shaker Rhubarb by Scott DeWolfe; 2nd place was #1-Strawberry Cheesecake Pie by Pat Fuchs; and 3rd place winner was #11-Paula’s Apple Pie by Paula Ahern.

Here are the lessons I learned: Do not use a new recipe for a contest.   Bake what you know how to bake.   Do not zap a dough disc in the microwave!  Do not be impatient.  Do not give up.   Stay calm and bake on.  All-in-all it was fun and a very good learning experience.

There is always next year….if I get the call.

Respectfully, Susan

One for the Road

Traveling back to my roots over 4th of July, and I am thinking about all the good Southern food I am going to get my hands on…

Crabcakes fried up

Crab cakes

frying green tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes-Recipe can be found in a June 2012 post titled, “In Search of Maryland Blue Crab.”

Pineapple upside down cake grilled oh yes

Grilled Pineapple Upside-Down Cake-Recipe can be found in a June 2013 post titled, Grilled Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

This is the best flavored and textured Pineapple Upside Down cake I have ever had.

Crab Deck crab balls lunch

Maryland Crab balls

July 4th appetizers overhead

Celebrating July 4th with family and friends

July 4th sugar cookies ipad2

Wishing everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!

Respectfully, Susan

Rhubarb Strawberry Dump Cake

Company was coming to visit and, as always, I like to make a cake in honor of their visit. I needed to use up the last of my rhubarb patch, plus fresh strawberries were on sale at the market. This dump cake forms a delicious cake-ish/cobbler-ish dessert that will feed a crowd.   The original recipe was taken from a friends Facebook page via a link to “Lisa Tipsntricks” and was called “Rhubarb Dump Cake.” I have added the fresh strawberries and tweaked the recipe using a different flavor of cake mix, less sugar and more butter.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Dump Cake
2 cups ¼” pieces of rhubarb
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar* (I used ¾ cup)
Optional -1 3oz package strawberry Jell-O* (I used ½ package)
1 package yellow cake mix* (I used Vanilla cake mix)
1 cup water
¼ cup butter, melted* (I used more butter)
Preheat oven to 350 °. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Clean and slice the rhubarb and berries. Spread rhubarb and berries evenly on bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle sugar over rhubarb and berries, followed by Jell-O powder. Add the dry cake mix over top of sugar and Jell-O. Pour water and melted butter over the top. Do Not Stir. Bake 45-50 minutes until cake is browned on top and fruit juices are bubbling. Here is what things looked like.

Gather ingredients
Gather and prep ingredients-preheat oven to 350°

Rhubarb and strawberry in dish
Clean and cut rhubarb and fresh strawberries. Spread in bottom of greased baking dish.

Rhubarb strawberry sugar jello cover
Cover with sugar and Jell-O powder.

Dry cake mix over top of berries

Dump dry cake mix over sugar and berries.

Water and butter over dry mixJPG
Pour 1 cup water and ¼ cup melted butter over the dry cake mix. Do Not Stir!
Baking in oven
Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Top should be brown and fruit juice bubbly.

Notes – The Jell-O is not really necessary if you are using fresh strawberries. Also, the granulated sugar can be cut back even further, because the fruit is sweet. If you were just using rhubarb, use the Jell-O powder and full amount of sugar, because rhubarb tends to be tart. As for butter – that is a personal choice.  In my eyes, you can never have too much butter!

The company enjoyed it very much. I forgot to take a picture of the smiles it brought. We topped our bowls off with fresh whipped cream. I recommend vanilla ice cream instead, or along side with whipped cream on top!

Baked close up
Respectfully, Susan

Salsa Fresca – Cinco de Mayo

After traveling to Mexico City years ago and tasting the freshest and best salsa I’ve ever had, I tried to duplicate it. Actually, it is really a pico de gallo, not a saucy salsa.   In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, here is the recipe I created and have used since that trip:

2 or 3 very ripe tomatoes – peeled, de-seeded and chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped red onion (more if you like onion)
Lots of fresh Cilantro – chopped
Juice of one-half lime (or possibly the whole lime)
Pinch of salt and pinch of pepper
Pinch of sugar

Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix and chill for an hour.


If you can’t wait, just start digging in-I like my tomatoes just a little on the cool side.

After tasting, adjust seasonings and lime juice.

Salsa done6

Optional Ingredient: if you want, or feel the need for, add ½ fresh chopped avocado to the bowl before serving.

This salsa is best used immediately – it does not store well.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Respectfully, Susan