I’m a little later than anticipated on updating the blog with these recipes, so I apologize. Every week since the second week of March has been a little different, it seems. It’s all part of this new normal we’re all adjusting to and coping with, and there are definitely more-successful and less-successful days. I dislike the binary of “good” and “bad,” so I’m trying to reframe it, but I’m not much of a fan of theorizing these days in terms of “successful” either, so let’s just say that life is messy and harder than usual these days, so it makes even the best laid plans sometimes hard to achieve.
With that being said, this past week at the Hull Family Homestead was still rather lovely. We’ve been working on the garden steadily (look for an update on that soon) and the kids started their Spring Break on Friday. To celebrate, I “took” them on a trip to “Disney World.” They had a sleepover together in Chloe’s bedroom and slept in their Disney pajamas. In the morning, I surprised them with a “visit” to our favorite character breakfast at Garden Grille in Epcot, The Land Pavilion (we love the cinnamon skillet bread and the rotating restaurant with garden and ride views, not to mention we like how intimate the character interactions feel thanks to the tall booths). Mouse ears in place, we cued up some videos of other people eating at the Garden Grille while we dined on the Mickey beignets I’d woken extra-early to make. They were, as always, delicious.
Yield: about a dozen
2 t yeast
3/4 C warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1/4 C sugar
1/2 t salt
1 beaten egg
1/2 C half n half
3 1/2 to 4 C AP flour
1/8 C coconut oil
2 – 3 inches of a wide-bottomed pan of vegetable or coconut oil for frying
Heat water to warm, then pour into a measuring cup, testing with a thermometer if you have one. Add the yeast and sugar and stir lightly to dissolve. Let the mixture set 5 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, in the base of a stand mixer (if you have one) mix the salt, egg, and milk. When the yeast mixture is ready, pour it into the stand mixer liquids and mix on low. Add half the flour and mix together lightly before adding the coconut oil. Mix on low again, then add the remaining half of the flour. Knead the dough in the mixer for 5 – 8 minutes (or, if you don’t have a mixer, knead by hand for 10 minutes). Place the dough in a very lightly oiled bowl, turning to cover the dough in the oil, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm place to rise for at least 1 hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, deflate it by placing your knuckles into the center. Lightly flour a surface and tip the dough out onto the flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an even 1/4 inch thick rectangle.
For Mickey, or any other shape, use a large cookie cutter (too small and the shape won’t read in the oil. Likewise, if you leave your beignets too thick, a more intricate shape will be hard to read). For traditional beignets, cut into diamonds by criss-crossing the dough diagonally. Let your cut shapes rise on the floured surface, covered with tea towels, for another 30 – 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide-bottomed skillet with deep sides. It should be around 350 degrees, but I rarely use a thermometer to test hot oil. If you place a little pea-sized amount of dough into it to test it, and it begins to bubble around it, you’ve got it right. If it pops and splatters, it’s too hot.
Turn the shapes into the oil and fry on each side 1 – 3 minutes (it will depend on how many you do at once, the width of your pan compared to the width of the burner, what oil you’re using, and the thickness of your beignets, just to name a few, so it isn’t an exact science). They are done when they are golden brown on both sides and puffy.
Use a slotted spoon to take the beignets out of the hot oil and remove them onto a tea towel or paper towel. While they are still quite warm, use a sifter, shaker, or good-old fine mesh strainer filled with powdered sugar to dust the beignets thoroughly. A good beignet has quite a coating, so don’t be shy.
Repeat until all the beignets have been fried. Delicious.
After breakfast, we “went on” all of our favorite rides by searching for ride POVs on YouTube and narrating to one another what transportation we were taking to arrive there, especially if park-hopping was involved. That took us until lunch, when we opted to go to Casey’s Corner for hotdogs and french fries (I played Main Street USA background music and made hotdogs and french fries), then we had Mickey Premium Bars (that I had purchased weeks ago as a Spring Break treat).
After lunch we watched a Disney movie on Disney+, and then had a Disney animation lesson from the Disney Parks Blog on how to draw various kinds of Mickey. We finished our day enjoying a dinner in Morocco in Epcot (I made chicken tagine with saffron rice) and watching Happily Ever After Fireworks (also off YouTube). The kids had an absolute blast, and I was so happy to have provided them a fun and special memory during this time.
In other events of the week, I have been a busy baker again, making our family’s weekly bread the same as I used to. I’ve made a variety of different “weekly breads” over the years, ranging from white, to wheat, to whole wheat, to wheat sourdough, to dairy-free fiber-bomb nut bread. Given the circumstances going on in the world right now, I’m starting with a very basic loaf for now, relying on my commercial-sized bag of yeast I always have on hand. I will be starting some sourdough here soon as a back-up plan, so for those of you who didn’t or cannot now get your hands on some yeast, stay tuned. (Sourdough acts a raising agent when commercially produced yeast cannot be bought because there is yeast all around us. Sourdough attracts “wild yeast” and lets you tame it, so long as you keep it fed, for use in baking). For now, my goal for this loaf is economy and flexibility, meaning I can use more or less wheat flour, depending on availability, or even trade-in a liquid oil for the butter. After some trial and error, I think I’ve come-up with a solid loaf that can be adapted to suit our ever-changing conditions.
Weekly Bread (for now)
Yield: 1 1.5 quart bread pan loaf
1 1/2 C warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 t yeast
1/4 C honey or 2 T sugar
1 t sea salt
4 T butter or oil (or a mixture of both)
3 C whole wheat flour
1 – 2 C AP flour (or 4 – 5 C flour of your choice)
Heat the water and pour into a measuring cup, using a thermometer to check the temperature. Add the yeast and let it set 5 minutes. If you’re using sugar, you may add it now.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the honey (if using), butter/oil, and salt. Once the yeast mixture is ready, add it to the bowl and stir lightly with a rubber spatula. Add in all of the wheat flour and stir with the rubber spatula. Add 1 cup of the AP flour and stir that in with the rubber spatula. Turn the mixer on to low speed (the second setting) with the dough hook attachment and begin to knead. Knead for 3-4 minutes and then check the dough’s consistency. If it’s a fairly well-formed ball that isn’t sticking too the sides or much of the bottom of the bowl, keep kneading without adding more flour. If it’s a little sticky, and the bottom is significantly attached to the bottom of the bowl, add 1/2 C more flour and knead. Knead for 8 minutes.
Prepare a bowl by very lightly oiling it, then turn the dough out and around in the oil to coat it. Set the bowl in a warm place covered with a tea towel and let rise for 1 – 2 hours.
Deflate the dough by placing your knuckles into it and pressing (punching down). Lightly flour a surface and dump the dough out onto the flour. Lightly oil or butter a bread loaf pan and set aside. With a rolling pin, roll into a roughly 8×10 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, being careful to roll out any air bubbles.
Starting from the long side (horizontal if you’re looking down on it), roll the dough up (it does not need to be a tight roll), then tuck in both of the vertical edges until they almost touch in the middle, pinching the seams you’ve created as you do so (kind of like a burrito fold). Roll the seams smooth on the floured surface gently and then place the bread into the prepared loaf pan. It should fill the pan from front to back (both sides touching the edges) and the top should be just about at pan-level. If this sounds like a complicated step, you can simply “plop” the deflated bread dough into a prepared pan. I like taking this extra step because it helps with consistency and shape, which helps the bread bake evenly and cut nicely for ease of use, but it’s not absolutely necessary, especially if this is your first loaf.
Place the tea towel over the bread in its loaf pan and let rise another 30-40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the risen bread into the oven and bake 35-40 minutes.