Friday, January 9, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 1/52

So, in my post about the near year, I mentioned that I was taking on a project this year of trying to cook my way through the Farmers' Cookbook, a great back-to-basics recipe book I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. Now, there are two or three recipes in there I use all the time; their herbed biscuits are a perennial favorite in our house (and make delicious dumplings for chicken-and-dumpling soup), and their brine for corned beef and cabbage seriously is the best I have ever tasted.

I knew I wanted to do a cookbook project this year. The top three in the running were the Farmers Cookbook, my Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, or the Southern Living 1001 Ways to Cook Southern. Unfortunately, the last two contained a few too many recipes that involve buying some pricey ingredients (or just things we don't really keep in the house), which we really just cannot afford to do right now. So, I decided on the cookbook I actually use the most anyway, the Farmers' Cookbook. It's essentially a guide to making a lot of the foods we otherwise buy processed at the supermarket - corned beef for sandwiches, for instance, or queso blanco or mozzarella cheese. This book shows you, separated by months of the year, how to make a lot of those basic foods that we kind of take for granted.

I've challenged myself to do one recipe out of the book per week for the year of 2015, so 52 recipes in all. For the first week of January, I chose one of the very first recipes in her "January" section - Orange Date Bran Muffins.

I'm not going to include the entire recipe itself, since I don't think that's fair to do to someone who writes for a living, but I definitely suggest you go check the book out if it's at your local library, or flip through it at Barnes & Noble, or just pick it up on Amazon. You seriously will not regret it, if you're someone who would like to make more of their own basic foods.

Now, first things first.

I... didn't actually make muffins.

I don't own a muffin tin.

I didn't know that, of course, until after I had bought all the ingredients and was preparing to put everything together. So I decided to improvise. What I actually baked as an Orange Date Bran Cake. I used a 9 x 13 pan, which made it a thin cake. I think next time, if I'm still working without muffin tins, I would instead take a loaf pan and bake it into that, to make it more of a coffee-cake. As it was, it worked perfectly as a dessert after dinner, especially warm out of the oven.

This recipe is much better warm and fresh than it is after sitting in the fridge overnight, so I heavily suggest making it for a party or a brunch where you know it'll all be eaten shortly afterward.

Basic Ingredients List - Amounts Omitted
bran cereal
corn oil (I used vegetable oil, but same difference)
grated orange zest
orange juice
baking powder
baking soda
chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Then take bran cereal - just any old bran cereal. I bought store-brand bran flakes, and it worked just fine. You soak that in orange juice and milk for around five minutes. Yes, both at the same time. While Jason and I worried the milk would curdle, and it did seem like it did a bit, it didn't affect the recipe and it may be the intended effect, essentially creating a kind of buttermilk. Once you've done that, whisk in the eggs and oil.

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients - sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I only keep whole wheat flour in the house, so my recipe turned out quite dense and filling. If you have white flour on hand, it'll make a much lighter and fluffier set of muffins, especially if you sift first (I also don't own a sifter, go figure. This is the point where my friend Sarah smacks me upside the head).

Stir your dry ingredients into the wet, along with the chopped dates and orange zest, until totally mixed. Don't overstir, though - with baked goods you have to be careful to just get things totally mix and not keep going until you've got a paperweight in your bowl.

Now, if you actually own a muffin tin, pour an equal amount into each little muffin cup, which you have hopefully sprayed with Pam or something first. Bake on the upper rack for 15 - 20 minutes. Since I didn't have a muffin tin, mine needed an extra few minutes, so I baked my 'cake' for about 25 minutes to ensure it was completely baked through.

With muffins, turn out of the tin onto a serving platter afterward and allow to cool for five minutes. For the cake, we immediately sliced it and let it cool on plates. Well, until we ate it.

It was delicious.

It was actually a little too sweet. The point of this project is to follow the recipe as closely as humanly possible, but next time we bake this I would like to replace some of the oil and sugar with applesauce and tone down the sweetness. I also think adding some chopped walnuts would have been great, too, and maybe even some grated carrot to make 'breakfast muffins' (or in our case, breakfast cake). This is a recipe made for Sunday mornings in my mind, but with a few additions I think it would be a good weekday grab-and-go breakfast.

As starting recipes go, this was a nice and easy one, to get me really involved.

The fun part starts next week, because I'm going to try and take on bread.

Wish me luck.

P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

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