I have made a startling discovery. I can only bake effectively in a wood cookstove. I don't know when it happened - it just crept up on me. One day I was turning out lovely loaves from my propane cooker and the next, I couldn't bake a perfect loaf of bread for the life of me. In desperation, I slid a loaf of Irish Soda Bread into the wood cookstove, gave it a turn every once in a while, shuffled it from shelf to shelf and finally pulled it from the oven looking darkly golden and producing the most satisfyingly hollow thump when lightly tapped on the bottom. Perfection! A few days later I made French bread and pulled pasty looking loaves from the propane stove (that were very dark on the bottom) and proceeded to continue baking them in my beloved wood cookstove, where they turned a golden brown and developed the most flavorful, chewy crust imaginable.
|Irish Soda Bread|
Bread isn't the only thing my wood cookstove has been producing in abundance. Last week my older children got a party together to go skating at the "local" skating rink (about 45 minutes away). Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity both had to work, getting off at 5 p.m., so they met their friends here (at Little Shouse on the Prairie) to carpool together to the skating rink. Knowing that they would be missing dinner and wouldn't want to infringe on their skate time by grabbing a bite to eat in town, I made a big batch of Pizza Pockets that they could eat on the road. I made my regular pizza crust recipe, rolled out the dough and cut small (3"x3" more or less) squares to use as the pizza pockets. I spread a bit of olive oil on each square, followed by a bit of pizza sauce, sprinkled them with mozzarella cheese and bacon bits and layered a few pieces of pepperoni followed by just a little bit more cheese. Then I pulled corners together and pinched them close, sprinkling a little of mozzarella on top of each pocket. I baked them on pizza stones until they were golden and bubbly.
|Beginning Pizza Pockets|
|Pinching the corners|
|Ready for the oven|
|Fresh from the wood cookstove|
As winter continues to grip us in its cold embrace, Sir Knight and I have begun to look forward to the warming ritual of afternoon tea with even more anticipation than usual. Yesterday, in celebration of Monday Tea (I just made that up!) I made a little something to accompany our tea and was rewarded with a heavenly aroma wafting from the wood cookstove, filling our Shouse with sweet, spicy goodness. Pumpkin Maple muffins are the perfect combination of winter flavors and only enhanced when accompanied by a good, stout cup of English Breakfast tea (yes, even in the afternoon!). Generally, I would bake these in a standard muffin tin, however, Maid Elizabeth brought home a commercial "muffin top" pan for me years ago and I thought it would work perfectly for these soft, flavorful, sweet breads. The muffins are made with mostly whole wheat flour but still rise high and soft, with no graininess of texture. You can make them with or without the glaze, whatever your preference. I think they would last for days and remain moist (the pumpkin), however, they never last past tea here!
Pumpkin Maple Muffins
2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C all purpose flour (can use all whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C sugar
2 C pumpkin puree (or any other squash)
1/2 C olive oil (or any other oil)
1/4 C maple syrup (real or corn syrup based)
3 T milk
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine the sugar, pumpkin, olive oil, maple syrup, milk and egg. Beat to combine. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir just to combine.
Fill greased muffin tins almost to the top and bake for 20 minutes or until tops are puffy and spring back when you touch them. Turn out of pan and cool before glazing.
2 T butter
1 1/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T maple syrup (real or corn syrup based)
1 - 2 T hot water
Melt the butter in saucepan. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in the maple syrup. Mixture will be thick and sticky. Add water and beat until spreading/pouring consistency. Spread/pour over muffin tops.
|Pumpkin Maple Muffins in Muffin Top pan|
|Light and Fluffy (and whole wheat!)|
|Cooling with Maple Glaze|
If you haven't had the pleasure of baking with wood - it's never too late! It is simple and complicated all at once and entirely satisfying. It truly is an experience not to miss.