Beer Bread Re-visited

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Beer Bread RecipeI awoke early this morning to yet another day of pounding rain and wind.  I’m not complaining, as heavy rain days are as close as we Southern Californians get to snow days.  It’s Sunday, and as such, the day was planned to be a quiet, ‘catch up on knitting and reading’ kind of day anyway.  Throughout the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I had fallen dismally behind in keeping up with all the baking magazines I receive every month.  So, as I lit the fireplace and sank deep into my sofa, I reached for the closest magazine at hand, which was an issue of Cook’s Country sitting on the coffee table.  I was initially enticed by the New Jersey Crumb Buns shown on the front cover, but by the last page, I had lost myself to an heirloom recipe for Beer Bread.
Beer Bread RecipeBeer Bread RecipeBeer Bread RecipeSitting idle is not my style, and even on this chilled and rainy day, baking called me from underneath my snuggly afghan to the kitchen.  I told myself that a recipe containing only three-ingredients couldn’t be that hard and before long I could find my way back to the sofa with a warm slice of bread slathered with butter and jam.  Well, that was my intention.  Then I decided to do a post on this ‘wonder bread’.  Dozens of photos later, and two enticing ways to eat this marvel, and well, there went my morning.  H had woken up by then, and I could hardly slither past him on my way back to the living room without asking if I could make an egg toast for him as well.

So it’s 1:23pm and I have yet to leave the kitchen.  Not that I mind really.  After all, it is my favorite room in the house.
Beer Bread RecipeA word on this bread.  This recipe is not new or original.  I think I remember making a version of it way back in the day.  That said, it is worth repeating and passing on to anyone who has missed it along its many year journey.  Does it compare to a yeasted and kneaded bread?  No.  But it has its worthy qualities – like by the time your oven preheats, you can mix together the ingredients and get the batter into the pan.  Thirty-five minutes later, plus 5 more minutes of cooling time, and you can be slicing into a tender-crumbed and yeasty (thanks to the beer) tasting bread.
Beer Bread Recipe  This bread makes great toast, and that’s how I ate it this morning – toasted and slathered with butter and blackberry jam first, then in a more savory fashion topped with cheese, egg, and tomato jam.  And, as I am finally heading back to my sofa, I am already imagining more tasty uses to suit such a bread, like grilled cheese sandwiches, croutons…..
Beer Bread RecipeBeer Bread Recipe



Source:  Cook’s Country

Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake

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Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake RecipeWe lost our Mom in August of 2015.  Mom didn’t leave behind very much, she was a woman of few possessions and content to be that way.  What she did leave me and my ten siblings was her collection of recipes, which holds value beyond words.  Several months following her passing, I went about the task of organizing her recipes.  I had brought them back to California with me following her funeral.  It was too soon.  Holding her recipes in my hands, three thousand miles from her Kentucky kitchen, felt surreal and empty.  I was still deep in the early stages of grieving and struggling to deal with the permanence of her being gone.  I gathered together the recipes, mindful of keeping them in the exact order she had left them, and put them away for some future time when I would make another attempt.  

There is so much history and tradition buried in the hundreds of recipes Mom collected over her lifetime.  They tell stories of Sunday gatherings, weekend breakfasts, holiday meals, church bake sales, and the countless weeknight dinners shared sitting around our oversized kitchen table.  No value can be placed on the endless handwritten pieces of paper that fill more than four recipe boxes, several gallon-sized ziplock bags, and even a pink elephant cup that had sat atop her kitchen counter.  Any container could be home to one of her recipes, and many of them were found among the pages of books left stacked as high as a fence surrounding her favorite chair.

I often wonder if the days of hand writing recipes are over.  In today’s world, it is much easier to share these things via social media, and even I am guilty of rarely ‘writing’ down a recipe.  Mom believed strongly in keeping the written word alive and did her part as often as possible, whether it was through a birthday card to a loved one, a note to a friend, or an ingredients list followed by instructions jotted down on a 3×5-inch card.  Going through this process has inspired me to write down my own treasured recipes, the ones that might matter to my daughter one day.
Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake RecipeWith the start of the New Year I was inspired once again to re-visit the project of archiving my Mom’s recipes.  Coincidentally, at the same time, I was thoroughly engrossed in a new cookbook titled American Cake by Anne Byrn.  I actually ‘read’ my cookbooks and my favorites are the ones that are steeped in historical context.  American Cake is one such book.  Along with an intriguing history of the evolution of cake in America over the past two hundred plus years, her book is brimming with beautiful photos and enticing recipes sandwiched from cover to cover.  One cake in particular caught my attention and transported me back to my Kentucky Girl childhood.  It was a version of the famous Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake.  By the time I closed the back cover of the book, I knew I wasn’t going to rest until I sank my teeth into a bite of spiced cake, enriched with blackberry jam and coated in caramel frosting.
Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake RecipeAs lovely as the Jam Cake in Anne’s book was, for nostalgic reasons I wanted to make our family’s version of the cake.  I remembered it vividly from my childhood and was convinced that a copy of it must be buried somewhere among my Mom’s recipes.  Without hours and hours of searching, I knew it would be nearly impossible to put my hands on it.  Desire and determination led me back to the mission of getting her recipes in order.  What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.  The third recipe I put my hands on was for Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake penned in my Mom distinctive handwriting.  Chills shot down my spine and an ear to ear smile came over my face as I felt a big heavenly hug from Mom.  It was the nudge I needed to carry on with the project of securing her recipe legacy for generations to come.  Instead of feeling loss and grief, I felt connected and joyful.

The project is coming along beautifully.  The hundreds of recipes are organized and ready to be scanned.  I’m taking suggestions on great recipe archiving software, so if you know of one I welcome your suggestion.
Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake Recipe


Pumpkin Bread with Brown Butter Maple Glaze

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Pumpkin Bread with Brown Butter Maple Glaze RecipeThis pumpkin bread almost didn’t happen.  It was destined to be an utter failure. I messed up big time when I was executing what is actually a very straight-forward recipe. I’m willing to wage a bet that you too have made the same mistake I made when stirring together the ingredients for this awesome bread.  I inadvertently omitted the baking soda.  Yikes!  Five minutes after placing the loaf pans into the oven, I took a peak to see how things were looking.  Something seemed off.  Call it baker’s intuition.  I quickly realized that the only leavening agent I had added to the batter was egg, and with years of baking experience under my belt, I knew that couldn’t be right.  In a panic, I rushed to my recipe and quickly scanned the list of ingredients.  And there it was, staring right back at me in black in white – 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda. Continue reading

Grave Robber’s Cake and a Guest Post

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Grave Robber's Cake for HalloweenMy incredibly talented daughter has grown to become quite a talented baker in her own right.  She continues to blow me away with her creativity and skills as an artist, baker, and all around amazing person.  I thought it was high time she share her talents here on the pages of  Sifting Focus.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

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Pecan Pie Bundt CakeI acquired a love of Pecan Pie at a very young age.  I’m sure my first encounter must have been a slice following one of my family’s Thanksgiving meals.  My grandmother was a fierce pie baker and is likely the person responsible for my first encounter.  Over the years, I’ve eaten Pecan Pie in every possible form, be it a tart, tassie, cookie, or bar,  every form except cake.  When I happened upon this recipe in the Fall issue of Bake, I pondered whether a cake could ever truly mimic the flavors we equate with pecan pie.  I’ll be honest, I was skeptical.  The only way to know for sure was to give the recipe a try.  Well, let me just say, the folks over at Bake From Scratch knocked it out of the park with this one.  I seriously don’t know if I will ever bake a pecan pie again, it was that delicious, and easy.  No crust required! Continue reading