I used to do a lot of canning and preserving when my children were at home – pears, peaches, pickles, applesauce, jams and jellies – and now that they are grown I don’t do much any more. We love applesauce made from Gravenstein apples and when they are ripe a week or two from now I will put several dozen containers of it into the freezer to get us through the winter. I usually make several different kinds of jam as well because it’s so nice to have homemade on a biscuit or slice of toast and I use it in several of my favorite dessert recipes. I found this pineapple-apricot jam recipe on my friend Debby’s blog, A FEAST FOR THE EYES back in the summer of 2009 and I don’t for the life of me understand why it took me so long to try it. Apricot jam has always been a favorite of mine and I have made it many times but never the way Debby does. The big difference is that I don’t peel the apricots and I was amazed that the skins of the impossible to peel fruit slip right off if they get a dunk in simmering water for a few minutes. Without skins the fruit cooks down to an almost smooth jam that make a beautiful glaze for fruit tarts. Debby uses fresh pineapple in her recipe, but canned worked very well and I was happy with the results. You can find the recipe for this wonderful jam, along with a step by step tutorial, on Debby’s blog.
A slice of bread with a spoonful of homemade jam is my favorite weekday breakfast. That and a cup of coffee are all I need to get my engine going and tide me over until lunch. The jam is the easy part of this picture and I’ve been working on my bread baking skills so I can have a homemade loaf along with that homemade jam. It’s slow going, and I can see where practice is definitely one of the keys to success. After a particularly nasty flop I called the help line at King Arthur Flour and the person I spoke to emphasized how important practice is and the feel of the dough is more important that the directions in any cookbook. I tried to describe my trauma to her but she just didn’t get how bad it was. Her suggestion was to try again and don’t let it rise so long. OK…what the heck, why not. The chocolate swirl brioche dough felt “fine” when I spread it with luscious melted chocolate, rolled it, put it into the pan and let it rise a second time and the loaf looked great when I took it out of the oven, but within minutes disaster again.
When I say flop I mean it. Have you ever seen anything like this. The entire inside collapsed. I should have sent her a picture.
Two tries at brioche were enough and my next attempt was a KING ARTHUR FLOUR recipe for homemade sandwich bread, my favorite for grilled cheese sandwiches, BLT’s, an occasional PB&J, and my morning toast. They say that this is their go-to classic bread for sandwiches, that it’s reliable, and is a bakers best friend in the kitchen. That was recommendation enough for me. This recipe goes together quickly and is sturdy enough to hold up well in a sandwich of any kind.
With a few jars of homemade jam in the cupboard and a good recipe for homemade bread I will be ready for the coming winter months. If you love the sweet, slightly tart flavor of apricots I hope you will try Debby’s wonderful jam. The KA sandwich bread recipe is a keeper too.
- 1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water*
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons soft butter
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or ½ cup nonfat dry milk granules
- *use the lesser amount in summer or humid climates; the greater amount in winter or drier climates.
- Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead-by hand, or using a stand mixer-to make a smooth dough.It should be smooth and feel bouncy and elastic under your hands.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover it, and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it’s become quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in size.
- Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a fat 9″ log. Place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
- Cover the pan and let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes, until it’s crowned 1″ to 1-1/2″ over the rim of the pan. Toward the end of the rising time preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until it’s golden brown. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 195 to 200 degrees F.
- Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.
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