Irene's Cooking Philosophy, Hints & General Instructions

Cooking should be fun! Well OK, not all the time, especially if you are tired, but it should generally be fun. Don't be a perfectionist, as long as it is edible and tastes good you have succeeded. (Heck, even if it is pretty bad, you have learned something.) Don't read too much Martha Stewart; it just encourages perfectionism.

Disclaimer: What follows is what works for me. I am not saying its the best way, these are just things I have learned or opinions that I have formed over many years of cooking.

Only use the best ingredients. Don't substitute for cheaper ingredients or even more healthy ingredients, unless it really works. I understand this was also the philosophy of my great grandmother Pearson, who Mom referred to as "Grandma Barhyte". That being said, feel free to experiment. You will develop different recipes of your own. For example I tried adding part whole wheat flour instead of white flour to my rye bread and developed a "hearty rye" recipe that is more healthy and very good. It is not the same as the original though; it is a new recipe.

Use good quality tools. (Heck don't I sound like Ed?)

General Yeast Bread Instructions

Most yeast breads are made similarly. If you want a soft dough use all purpose flour. If you want a chewier bread, use bread flour. (I prefer all purpose and Ed usually uses bread flour.) This is what I usually do:

  • Warm liquid (no need to scald milk) to baby bath temperature (luke warm).
  • Add all ingredients except the bulk of the flours, but do mix in 1 of the cups of flour. Mix gently and let sit a few minutes. (This lets the yeast get started. It isn't strictly necessary but seems to make things work better.)
  • Now add most of the rest of the flour. Stir with a manual dough hook until its pretty well mixed.
  • Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth (or until you are tired.) You can add flour if you need to if the dough is too sticky.
  • Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth/towel and let rise until doubled. (This can be as little as an hour with some doughs, and 2 1/2 hours for others.)
  • Punch down.
  • Some recipes have you let rise and punch down again (like Challah) but most don't.
  • Shape the dough into desired shape.
  • Let rise
  • If desired brush on coating (like egg yolk and poppy seeds.)
  • Bake as directed.

    General Cooky Instructions

    Unless specific directions tell you to do otherwise, this is the sequence I usually mix cookies:

  • Mix shortening and sugars (butter should be soft.)(You can melt butter for bar type cookies or brownies. If you do it for regular cookies, you will need to chill the dough longer.)
  • Mix in eggs, flavorings and any liquid ingredients
  • Put in flour and all dry ingredients (except chunky things) on top of the flour. Be sure to crush any lumps in the baking soda or baking powder in the palm of your hand prior to adding. Now stir in dry ingredients starting at the top.
  • Stir in any lumpy ingredients (like chocolate chips or raisins.)
  • If the dough requires shaping, chill a bit. If there is butter in it, stir the dough every 10 minutes or so, so you can tell if it is starting to get too hard to work with.
  • Normally I spray Pam on an "Air Bake" type cooky sheet before putting the cookies on.

    For crisper cookies, use less flour, or don't chill before baking. For a thick, chewy cooky, add a little more flour or make sure it is well chilled prior to baking and don't overbake.

    General Muffin Instructions

  • Mix all dry ingredients together.
  • Mix liquid ingredients together in a measruing cup.
  • Now pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Make sure it is mixed it but don't overmix.
  • Add any lumpy ingredients (like fruit).

    General Biscuit Instructions

  • Mix all dry ingredients together.
  • Cut in any shortening with a fork or pastry cutter.
  • Now mix in any liquid ingredients. Make sure it is mixed it but don't overmix.

    Pie & Pastry Hints

    This one is a quick one. Roll out the pastry between wax paper (on the bottom) and saran wrap (on the top). You may have to rearrange the saran wrap as you are rolling. Then when you are ready to transfer the pastry, turn it over and carefully removed the wax paper. Turn in into the pie pan with saran side up and gently remove the saran wrap. If you need to roll again, use the other side of the wax paper and saran wrap. (They start to stick if you use each side more than once.)

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