Branding Buns

Instead of “Branding Buns” I should have named this post, “I am So Sick of Baking Bread!”

Newt has over 50 people coming to brand in a couple weeks.  Since I still work nearly full-time, I have to make the branding meal as much ahead as possible.

I have 3 cheesecakes in the freezer.  And now I have 83 buns.

I made 5 batches of the Quick Bread Recipe.  For the buns, I prefer to use bread flour that has extra gluten for more strength in my buns (aka Buns of Steel).

This recipe made 16 rolls each, give or take.  I also decrease my yeast down

Great homemade bread recipe used by my grandma and mom.

Great homemade bread recipe used by my grandma and mom.

to 2 TBS which I mixed ahead of time with 1/2 cup of warm water and a couple tablespoons of the sugar.  Then the yeast reproduced like crazy in the warm, energy packed water and fluffed up.  After that, I added a couple cups of bread flour (mine was unbleached), 1.5 cups of hot tap water, and 1/2 cup of oil.  I also added the rest of the sugar, and 1 TBS of salt.  (It sounds like a lot of salt, but if you skimp the bread tastes flat.  I used sea salt, but I’m sure the NaCl in your salt will work just fine.)

I turn my dough out to knead by hand for 10 minutes, to get the right consistency.  I also keep the dough a bit on the sticky side, because at branding we will thaw these and grilled them with butter (like the hamburger buns on “Dinners, Drive-ins, and Dives”).  Too much flour and overcooking the buns will make them tough, dry, and too crumbly.

The reason this recipe is “quick” is the fact you doubled the amount of yeast.  So don’t leave the dough unattended.  Batch #3 exploded through the saran wrap I placed over the dough to “rest” (or “take a nap” as ReeRee calls it).  I let the dough rise once (lack of time), but if you let it rise twice the yeast/bready flavor will be more intense.

I have a new electric kitchen range and I had to experiment on the temperature and convention.  In the end, I toasted the buns for 15 minutes at 335 degrees with the convention fan on.  (I hate to admit it, but it cooked better than my old gas stove.  I can’t say the same for the cooktop- I miss my gas range.)

After Batch #2 I noticed my buns were too thin to be sliced for a sandwich, unless you like flatbread.  So I tried making my dough look like a poached egg (flattened around the outside of a fat yolk).

This was the best way to proof the rolls for a nice round bun shape.

This was the best way to proof the rolls for a nice round bun shape.

The yeast will continue to reproduce and belch gases, causing the buns to raise (or proof).  Once you bake them, this funny shape disappears.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Be glad you weren’t around to smell the wonderful smell- neither Newt, nor I, nor ReeRee got a single one.

Now I just need to cook 7 roasts, caramelized onions, make 20 gallons of tea, peel and slice 4 pounds of carrots, peel and dice 20 pounds of potatoes, cook the corn, and make cheesecake toppings.

Brandings are like weddings.  You enjoy other people’s more when you went through the work yourself.

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Oodles of Noodles

With the cold, blustery winds and chilly temperatures, chicken noodle soup sounds good for supper.

If you buy your own noodles, don’t.  Making homemade noodles is super easy.  The bite and taste of a homemade noodle will make premade noodles taste like cardboard forever after.

Here are step-by-step instructions for easy, homemade noodles.  This is my great grandma Emma’s recipe.  I usually double or triple the recipe if serving a crowd.

Start with 1 cup of flour.  Mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Noodle beginningsYou are done mixing the dry ingredients. (I told you this was easy.)

Mix together 1/4 cup of milk and one beaten egg.

(Back in the day, Grandma Emma must have had bigger chickens and bigger eggs.  Her original recipe calls for 1 egg and 2 TBS milk.)

noodles AAdd the milk/egg mixture to the dry ingredients.  Mix together.

Flour the counter liberally.  And your dough and flour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnead a few times to ensure all the ingredients are evenly mixed together.  Be sure to flour your hands, too.  Or the sticky dough will stick to your fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlour the counter again and flatten the dough.  Flour the top.  Now get out your rolling pin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy 3 year old helper is getting the noodles nice and flat.  Keep rolling and flouring until your dough is very thin.


I have found the easiest way to cut noodles is using a pizza cutter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdd your noodles to a bubbling liquid.  If you don’t have a liquidy soup, you can boil a pan of salted water.

I make my own chicken broth by putting a whole chicken in a pot of water (cover the chicken), add 1 TBS salt, diced celery, diced onion, and sliced carrots.  Let cook on low for a couple hours.  Take the chicken out to cool.  Remove the meat from the chicken and add it back into the pot.

Bring to a rolling boil (not a sissy bubble here and there, but a REAL boil)!

Add the noodles slowly to the pan.  If you add the noodles all at once, they will clump together and you will have a noodle blob.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI usually add 10 noodles, stir, get the pot boiling again, add more noodles, and repeat.

Boil for another 10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked through.

DUMPLINGS: If you want to skip the rolling part, increase the milk enough to make a sticky dough (probably 1/3 cup of milk).  Drop by teaspoons into the boiling soup.  Done.  Dumplings are easier than noodles, but do take more time to cook.
Warm soup on a cold day… perfect!Snow mailbox

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Homemade Tortillas

My short, white Irish grandmother made the best tortillas! It seems a little strange she would be a connoisseur of this Mexican staple. This is her recipe.

If Grandma was making these tortillas, I would hang around to “help” her. Mostly I just want to eat the warm, delicious, tender- yet chewy goodness, called the tortilla.

To start, mix 5 cups of flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Tortilla stir dry ingredients

Then add 1/2 cup of lard, but my grandmother said you could use shortening.
Tortilla add shortening

Mix with your hands until the shortening is broken into very small pieces. (Not big pieces like when you make pie crust- I want the pieces to almost be invisible.)
Tortilla cut in shortening

Now slowly add the warm water. Your hands are already messy from mixing in the shortening, so just use your fingers.

Tortillas add warm water

Add just a little water in the middle of the flour mixture at a time. Add water, mix with fingers, add water, mix with fingers.

I usually add more water at the end. One and one half cup just doesn’t seem to be enough. All the flour should be incorporated.
Tortilla add more water

This needs more mixing.

The dough will be sticky. Really sticky!

Sprinkle flour onto your clean counter. Add your sticky ball of dough.
Tortilla before kneeding

Tortillas need to be sticky because the water will turn into steam and cause the flour to rise. The tortillas also need lots of gluten to form the bubbles. Lots of kneading = Lots of gluten.

Set the timer for 5 minutes and start kneading. Otherwise, it will feel like 50 minutes, but it will only be two minutes. Good tortillas need lots of kneading.

Keep kneading! Just use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or your hands.

The dough will be soft and smooth when you are finished.

Tortilla belly button

Now add a belly button to your ball of dough. That was the most important step for ReeRee.

Next, put a piece of wax paper and a towel over your dough. Let it “rest” for 20 minutes. Otherwise, you will roll out the dough and it will shrink back to its original size. Too bad pregnancy didn’t work that way.

Make 20 balls of uniform size.Tortilla cut into 20 balls
Also cover these with the wax paper and towel to keep them from drying out. We need that moisture for a good tortilla!

Pinch the balls to flatten them.
Tortillas pinch before roll

The most frustrating part (for me) is next. You MUST roll the tortilla paper-thin. I have not found an easy way to do this, just keep rolling.

Tortillas roll flat

Don’t beat yourself up if the tortillas aren’t a perfect circle!

Now the tortilla is ready to cook. If you have an electric skillet, set the skillet to 400 degrees. I have a gas stove and set my heat just past 3. The flame looks like this:
Tortillas medium heat

I always make my first tortilla too thick- it is rigid. Towards the end, my tortillas look like tissue paper and are perfect.

Cook the tortilla until bubbles form. You will need to adjust your heat, so the tortilla form bubbles without burning the other side.
Tortillas grill until bubbles

My daughter thought her tortilla looked like a ghost. It really did!

Flip when golden brown on the first side.
Tortilla ghost done

You want light brown bubbles. But you can scrape off the burnt parts and smother them in salsa- you can hardly taste the char.

Homemade tortillas should be cooled on a wire rack. Store in a ziploc bag. They also freeze well.

I will half this recipe, but I will never double it! You will be rolling tortillas for a decade! I wish I had an electric tortilla flattener, but I haven’t found one that works well yet.

Enjoy! Make into beef and bean burritos. Reheat on the skillet and spread butter, cinnamon and sugar on them. Lots of yummy ways to eat them.

Homemade Tortillas by my Irish Grandmother
5 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lard (or white shortening)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of warm water

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add lard and cut into flour mixture, until the lard is in very small pieces. Add enough warm water to make a soft dough (add a little at a time and mix). Note: I usually have to add more warm water to get the right texture (maybe 1/4 cup more).

Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. Form into 20 balls. Roll out VERY thin.

Cook at 400 degrees on a skillet (or medium heat). Turn when the tortilla forms bubbles. Cool on a wire rack.

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Apples Apples Apples

Even with a late spring frost, the apple crop has exploded at our house. (Translated to: we actually had apples on our apple tree!)

Apples apples apples

And then a neighbor gave us some more apples. The birds were starting to peck holes in the apples, so ReeRee and I picked a laundry basket full from our tree. I have apples running out of my ears. Beautiful apples with no spots or worms.

I already made a batch of applesauce, but yesterday ReeRee and I tackled the apple pies.

Peeling apples

Lucky for me I found a wedding gift in the closet- an apple peeler and it worked fairly well. My apples weren’t perfectly round, but it was MUCH easier than peeling the entire bushel by hand.

If you have tons and tons of apples, here is a quick way to core them. Cut #1:
1st apple cut

Cut #2:
2nd apple cut

Cut #3:

And Cut #4: sorry no picture- my pictures were all blurry, so it is the last and only cut you can make.

Fruits of your labor

In only 4 cuts, you have pieces that can be sliced and a core with minimum waste. This cutting method saved me hours of meticulous coring with a paring knife.

We made one batch of apples into a pie. I used the Pat-in-the-Pan piecrust– crispy and flaky- yumm!
Apple pie

It barely left a dent in our pile of apples. So I cooked up some sugar, cinnamon, tapioca, and sliced apples.

Sugar apples cinnamon

I cooled the mixture and bagged it for future apple pies.
Cooked apples

What is your favorite recipes to make from fresh apples?

Categories: Ranching in the Sandhills, Recipes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Chokecherry Jelly

Once a year, you have the opportunity to pick the wild fruits of the prairie and turn them into jelly.

This year the chokecherry and sandcherries were extremely bountiful. I had went without chokecherry jelly on my bread for 2 years, so I loaded up on these sour tasting berries. (Hence- the “choke” part of “chokecherry”.)

ReeRee and I picked the berries, washed them, and put them in a pot with a little water to cook. As the berries cook, they release their juices and dark color from their skins into the pot. Use a cheesecloth to strain the juice- you want a nice clear juice (no berries or floaties).

I have the juice, now for the jelly! I scrounged around for some empty jelly jars, found a box of Sure-Jell (to my surprise) in my pantry, and sure enough- I had enough sugar. We were ready to start.

Well- almost ready to start… I had to call my mom for Grandma’s recipe. Chokecherries are not listed on the fruits of the Sure-Jell recipe.

OK- now we are ready to start.
3 cups of chokecherry juice.
Add 1 box of Sure-Jell and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
Bring to a boil.

Juice is getting hot

Stir occasionally. In your spare time, prep the rest of your equipment. Put the canning lids on to boil in water.

Put new canning lids in hot water.  (Don't use old lids- even if the seals look good.)

Put new canning lids in hot water. (Don’t use old lids- even if the seals look good.)


Gather your supplies for the messy transfer from the pot to the jars.

Get all your supplies together.  Wash and rinse the jars.  Find your funnel and ladle.

Get all your supplies together. Wash and rinse the jars. Find your funnel and ladle.

Oops- the juice is boiling. Add 4 and 1/2 cups of white sugar. That’s right- all at once and stir, baby, stir.

Add sugar

(Did anyone else notice I just added more sugar than juice? Those chokecherries are very sour!)

No more getting other stuff ready- you need to stand guard at the pot and stir. And stir, and stir. If you use a wooden spoon, it will turn a nice purple-pink color.

Finally, once the jelly starts a full boil (lots of bubbles) set your timer for exactly 1 minute and keep up the stirring!

Remove the pot-o-jelly from the stove and over to your jars. Start ladling in jelly. Leave a little gap at the top- don’t overfill. You need some air in there to make a vacuum and seal your jars.

Fill jars

Put your hot lids on the jars and tighten down the lid. Place the jars into a hot water bath.
Hot water bath

(A hot water bath is just a large pot full of boiling water. The water should cover the jars with 2 inches of water. You should really start your hot water bath first, as it takes a long time to heat up.)

So now your jars are in the bath and the water is boiling. Boil for 5 minutes plus 10 minutes (if you live at an elevation of 5,000 ft).

The sugar and acid content of the jelly does not require pressure cooking. A simple boil in water will do.

Remove the jars carefully (everything is hothot!) and place on a wire rack to cool. Don’t lick the spoon- I’m telling you from experience. Your tongue will blister for days- jelly boils at a much higher heat than water.

After a few minutes, the beautiful POP POP of jar lids lets you know your jars are sealed. If a jar doesn’t seal (you can hear a pop when you press on the lid), just put it in the fridge and eat that one first.

All the jars lined up look like dark purple jewels.

Sandcherries were also plentiful this year, so I made a mix of chokecherries and sandcherries in my juice.

I always write on my lids, so I can remember what is inside and how old it is.

If you weren’t from the Sandhills, you might balk at a jar that said, “2013- Choke/Sand Jelly”.

3 cups of prepared chokecherry juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package of pectin (Sure-Jell)

Boil. Add:
4- 1/2 cups of white sugar.

Stir until the jelly returns to a full, rolling boil. Boil exactly 1 minute (not a second less or longer). Remove from heat and put in clean jars.

Add hot canning lids, screw on the lids. Place into a boiling water bath. For my elevation, boil for 15 minutes.

Remove jars and cool. Makes 6 jelly jars. Store in dark, cool place if jars have sealed.

Delicious on bread and toast. Yum!

Categories: Ranching in the Sandhills, Recipes | 1 Comment

Cinnamon Crispies

The last few weeks have been frantic. Busy. Stressful. I’m glad this week is almost over, so I can start posting more.

When time gets tight and I’m hungry for something a little sweet, ReeRee and I make “Cinnamon Crispies”. We even had time to make a batch last week- yes, they are that easy and quick!

I have altered the original recipes so it is healthier*.

The recipe starts with “Pat-in-the-Pan” pie crust. No rolling pins needed and less saturated fat than my grandma’s (delicious, flaky, crusty) lard pie crust. Minimal dishes to wash with maximum spicy aroma in the kitchen!

Start with 1.75 cups flour (1 and 3/4 cups) and mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Measure 1/2 cup canola oil.
Measure 1/2 cup oil

I’m lazy, so I just add my 1/4 cup of milk to the oil.
Add 1/4 c milk

Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
Add wet to dry

Mix quickly. Look at my super-speedy spoon!
Stir until just moistened

Don’t overmix. Just until the ingredients come together. Use your hands to form a ball.
Form a ball

Now take the ball and pat onto a cookie sheet. You could use a rolling pin, but my cookie sheet wasn’t wide enough, so ReeRee and I just patted until the crust was a thin, uniform layer.
Press or roll

Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. (Don’t be chinchy- put lots of cinnamon on. Good flavor and little calories.)
Add cinnamon

ReeRee wanted to put the sugar on next. I would advise to “sprinkle” the sugar, instead of dumping it in one spot.
Add sugar

A couple spoonfuls of white sugar is enough for this recipe.

Cut into small strips with a pizza cutter. Eat the odd-looking/bumpy pieces on the end.
Cut with pizza cutter

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 440 degrees (my oven cooks a little hot, so I adjust down 10 degrees…) for 8-10 minutes until the sides and bottom are golden brown.

Cinnamon Crispies YUMMO
The kitchen will fill with a warm, spicy cinnamon aroma. It’s hard to wait long enough for the Cinnamon Crispies to cool enough to eat.

A favorite in our household and easy for small children to make!

My other favorite sugar-free recipes is taking the “Pat-in-the-Pan” pie crust, pat into a pie pan, prick with a fork, and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Make a box of sugar-free cook&serve chocolate pudding. Pour into cooled crust and enjoy a piece of chocolate heaven guilt free!

*Healthier- not healthy. The trans-fat Crisco was substituted for heart healthy canola oil. Go easy on the sugar and heavy on the cinnamon for fewer carbs.

Recipe for Cinnamon Crispies:
1 and 3/4 cups of flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

Pat onto a cookie sheet (same thickness as a pie crust). Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle 1-2 spoonfuls of white sugar. Cut into small strips. Bake at 450 degree for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Cool and enjoy!

Categories: Diabetes- Type 1, Recipes | 2 Comments

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