My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!


5 Comments

8 Tips To Make a Good Lemon Bar GREAT!!

I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me what makes some things I bake taste better than theirs when we used the same recipe. Over the years, I’ve learned a few very small things which a very big difference in improving the overall taste. 

Today, I’m going to share how to take a basic lemon bar recipe and make some of the best lemon bars you’ve ever tasted.  I made lime bars, because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but the same principles apply to any citrus bars.  You can use the recipe below for any citrus bar (lime, orange, grapefruit).  

  

First, start with a good recipe. I really like this one. It makes a very yummy lemon bar, and it contains very simple ingredients. My only complaint is that it is not lemony enough for me. I want my lemon bars to scream “LEMON” when I take a bite. 

Second, use high quality, fresh ingredients. If the recipe calls for real butter, use real butter.  If it calls for lemon juice, use freshly squeezed lemon juice rather than bottled.  This is particularly important in recipes with just a few ingredients. 

Third, zest your lemons and add it to your lemon juice. The zest adds that super lemony tartness lemon bars need to make them great. Wash your citrus fruit in your favorite fruit/vegetable wash, or soak it in some water with white vinegar before you zest it. Then rinse and dry it. Next, use a micro plane grater like this one for easy zesting. You can use a zester, but I really like my micro plane grater. I use it for many things in my kitchen (grating Parmesan, grating ginger, etc.), so it’s not a single use tool.  You can find these at many retailers. Amazon sells one here
  

Fourth, since you’re using freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or other citrus juices, make sure that you have enough juice. Some lemons have more juice, and some have less. The average lemon has about 3 Tablespoons of juice. Measure your juice after you squeeze it. If you don’t have enough juice, squeeze another lemon or supplement with bottled juice to ensure you have at least 6 tablespoons of juice (for this recipe). I know I said freshly squeezed juice is betterm and it is, but it is better to use some bottled juice and have enough than to have too little juice from fresh lemons. 

I use my favorite pampered check lemon juicer, but you can find these at Walmart, Target, and many other retailers. Even Amazon has one you can view here.  
   
   

Fifth, make sure that you pre-bake your crust long enough. It should be getting brown on the edges. This will give a nice flavor to your crust. 
  

Sixth, do not use a hand mixer to mix the custard for your lemon bars.   Using a hand mixer will make your custard a bit frothy which changes the texture into something a little less decadent. Use a whisk to combine the juice, eggs, sugar, and flour. 
  

Seventh, let your lemon bars sit for at least 12 hours before you cut and serve them. Sure, it’s difficult to wait, because your lemon bars will smell so delicious, but, if you let them sit, the flavors of the crust and custard will combine so nicely.  Of course, in my house, we don’t wait. We always eat some as soon as they’re cool enough for us to eat them without burning ourselves. However, when I eat one the following day, I wish I’d waited, because they’re so much better. 
Finally, dust them lightly with powdered sugar, but do not go overboard!  The sweetness of the powdered sugar is a nice counterpoint to the tartness of the citrus, and too much sugar will mask too much of the lemony goodness of the bars. 
  

(You may notice that my lime bars are really green. My son wanted me to add a little food coloring so that no one would mistake them for lemon bars, so I added with three drops of green food coloring and one drop of blue.  Be careful with your food coloring or you may end up with this on your skin.)
  

And there you have it!  My tips for the most delicious lemon (lime, orange, or grapefruit) bars you’ll ever eat. 
Do you have any baking or cooking tips which take a good recipe and make it great?  I’d love for you to share!

*** Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. ***

Advertisements


6 Comments

What the Heck Am I Going to Do With All This Wheat? Make Bread, Of Course!!

It has been a goal of mine to learn to make bread. It took me a while, but I have created a yummy white sandwich bread recipe (found here) that I love! Finding a wheat bread recipe wasn’t so easy.

Why? Because my children turn up their noses at wheat bread. I’ve spoiled them with fiber-less bread, and they are super picky about the whole grain breads they will eat in abundance. So, unless I wanted to eat loaves and loaves of less than perfect bread, I wasn’t too keen on trying different wheat bread recipes.

A couple of months ago, I decided to bite the bullet and try a recipe I found on one of my favorite food storage websites, Food Storage Made Easy. (Click here for a link to their recipe.) It was so easy. moist, and yummy that I haven’t tried any other recipes. And, unlike so many other things I make, I have not made any modifications to the recipe either (other than halving it).
Watch me make bread!
 

To begin, I added most of the wheat flour, the yeast, and vital wheat gluten to my mixing bowl. 

 I stirred them together and added the hot water and let it sit for about 15 minutes. That’s a tad bit longer than the recipe says, but I got distracted, and no harm was done. 

   

Next, I added the remaining ingredients (honest, salt, oil, lemon juice, and the rest of the whole wheat flour) and let my kitchenaid mix it for about 6 minutes, until the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl. See?


I transferred it to my counter (which was sprayed with Pam). 

 

I divided the dough into the appropriate sixes needed for the loaves I was baking. I was using a 9×5 pan and a 10×5 pan. This recipe can also do three smaller loaves (8.5×4 or 9×5 pans).   
 
Next, I kneaded the individual loaves a few times, like maybe 7-10 times, not much. Then I rolled it up the react of the way and pinched the bottom shut. 
 
I turned it over and rolled it a tad bit on the counter to press the raised, pinched part of the dough into the loaf. This is the view from the top.   
 

I repeated that step with the other loaf and out both in pans sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. 
 

I let them rise for about 40-50 minutes until they were a little more than double their original size. You can speed this up a bit if you use a proofing box or put it in your oven (turned off) with the light on. The original recipe from Deals to Meals has a quick rise method which I haven’t tried. If you are interested, I strongly recommend visiting Food Storage Made Easy’s website and following the link to Deals to Meals’ website. 
 
Finally, I baked the bread in a 350 degree oven for about 22 minutes. The recipe gives a bake time of 22-30 minutes, and your time may vary from mine depending on the temperature of your oven and the pans you use. 
Take a look at this gorgeous bread!  
   

Not only did it smell delicious, it tasted delicious, too.

 
Here are the measurements I used to make this bread. I have a smaller mixer than they do on the Food Storage Made Easy website, so I halved it. 

Emilie’s Whole Wheat Bread – Half Recipe

Makes 3 small loaves (8.5×4 or 9×5) or 2 large loaves (10×5)

From Deals to Meals blog, directions modified for Julie’s methods (Julie from Food Storage Made Easy)

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten (sometimes called gluten flour)

4 teaspoons instant yeast (I’ve used active dry and instant yeast. Both work fine.)

2 1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees F)

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 cup oil

1/3 cup honey or 1/2 cup sugar (I use raw honey, and it is delicious!)

4 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 

Mix first three ingredients together in your mixer, then add water, stirring for about a minute. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Add oil, honey (or sugar), salt, and lemon juice, and mix until incorporated (about 1 minute). Add remaining flour one cup at a time mixing between each cup. Mix for 6-10 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer. 

Spay your countertop with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to counter and divide into desired number of loaves. Knead a few times (usually less than 10 times), form into loaves and transfer to loaf pans which have been sprayed with Pam (nonstick cooking spray). Let rise until double. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 22-30 minutes or until brown. Cover with foil if it is getting too brown. 

This cuts more easily if you let it cool completely, but it will smell so yummy, you may have a difficult time waiting. Sometimes, I’ll put a little dough in a mini loaf pan so I can eat some bread fresh out of the oven. 

And that’s it!  It’s a super simple recipe, and tastes oh so good!  Try it out and let me know what you think. 

Until next time…


2 Comments

Knock-off Recipe: Zebra Popcorn. So Yummy!

There’s a famous store in my local mall that sells “Zebra” popcorn, which, translated into English, is caramel coated popcorn with dark and white chocolate drizzled on top. It is quite delicious. 

Well, our church youth group is having an activity tonight, and one of the young women I work with suggested having zebra popcorn as a treat.  It’s a large group, so I decided to try my hand at making a knock off version.  All the recipes I found called for baking the caramel corn in the oven before drizzling it with chocolate. 

There’s only one problem with that. I don’t have an oven right now. It broke a week and a half ago, and I’m suffering without it. The repairman ordered the necessary part to repair it, but it’s not getting installed until tomorrow. And the activity is tonight!

Since I promised to make this yummy caramel corn for tonight, I had to find a substitute. I took my mom’s popcorn ball recipe and used that instead of a traditional caramel corn. It turned out really well!  It also came together really fast and didn’t heat up my kitchen. That’s a definite plus!

If you want a crisp, crunchy caramel corn, this recipe isn’t for you.  The resulting caramel corn from this recipe is softer and a tad chewy, but not overly or unpleasantly so.  

Want to know how I made it?  Watch and see. 

First, I made the popcorn by popping it on the stove in a big pot with a little oil. I didn’t take pictures. Sorry. You can use whatever kind of popcorn you’d like to use, but I think it is best if it is plain, unbuttered popcorn. 

Next, I made the “caramel” in another large pot (you can use a Dutch oven) by combining sugars butter, corn syrup (I made two recipes with light corn syrup and one with dark corn syrup), and salt (see actual recipe at the bottom of this post). When it was heated and combined, I added the popcorn and stirred it for a couple of minutes until the popcorn was coated with the caramel mixture. Next, I spread it on a parchment coated cookie sheet and let it cool. (This is the batch using dark corn syrup.)

  

Once it was cool, I broke it up into smaller pieces. It was pretty soft. 
Finally, I melted some dark and white melting chocolate in the microwave and drizzled it on the popcorn. 
   
 

And, voila!  That was is!  It took me less than an hour from start to finish to make three double sided batches of this corn. Now it’s bagged up and ready to serve tonight. I hope they like it as much as I do!
Before I close, here’s the promised recipe for the caramel corn. 

Popcorn Balls (or No Oven Needed Caramel Corn)
Recipe from my mom
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine 

1/2 cup corn syrup (light or dark)

1/2 teaspoon salt

A few drops of food color (optional, I didn’t add any)

8-10 cups popped popcorn
Heat all ingredients except popcorn to simmering in a Dutch oven or a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in popcorn taking care to remove any unopposed or partially popped kernels. Cook, stirring constantly until popcorn is well coated, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly. 
If making caramel corn, spread popcorn on a parchment covered cookie sheet and let cool.  Is making zebra corn, break into pieces once the corn is cool. Then drizzle with chocolate of your choice. I used dark and white melting chocolate. Store in a sealed container or bag. 
If making popcorn balls, while popcorn is still warm enough to shape, but is cool enough to handle without getting burned, dip hands in cool water and shape mixture into 8 popcorn balls about 2 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on waxed or parchment paper. Cool completely. Wrap individually or place in plastic bags and tie or seal. 
This is particularly fun for Halloween and a throwback to the days of homemade treats given out alongside store bought candy. 
Hope you enjoy this fun recipe!