The Biscuit Weave – A Cooking Failure


BiscuitPastrySometimes you get inspired in cooking and decide to try something new.  I had two kids to feed on a Saturday morning, various jams in the refrigerator, and decided to try something new – the biscuit weave. 

I thought that maybe I was onto something.  I had made bread weaves before, which turn out spectacular, but take a couple of days to do.  You need to make a sweet bread dough with milk, butter, yeast, flour, and some other ingredients.  Then you need to put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning you then roll it out and form it as desired.  You can add butter, raisins, and cinnamon sugar and make some great cinnamon rolls this way.  You can make a jam braid where you put some preserves in the middle then criss-cross the dough over it in a weave.  When it bakes up, it is beautiful.

This morning I thought I had figured out a way to make a braid in just one morning – I would make the dough from biscuit dough, which does not need to rise or sit in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed the same way.  I pulled out my shortening and self-rising flour, and within about 10 minutes I had my biscuit dough ready.  I then pressed it out on a baking sheet, cut slits to criss-cross for the lattice, and spread a couple different kinds of jam into the middle.  I laced it up and it looked great.  I threw it into a 450 degree oven and set the timer for eight minutes – the time required to make biscuits.

When it came out it looked great.  The dough had puffed and risen and formed a great golden brown.  The jam leaked out a bit, but that was no big deal.  Just a bit of a mess to clean off of the cookie sheet.  But then I tried to cut it.


Cuisinart CBK-100 2 LB Bread Maker

The dough near the jam was raw.  It had cooked on the outside just fine, but the part touching the jam stayed too cool due to the jam, and due to being buried deep inside, and it didn’t cook.  With biscuits, you hit them with a lot of heat and they cook quickly.  But they can’t be too thick or the center will not cook before the outside burns. You also need to keep them fairly dry so that they get hot fast – water keeps the temperature to 212 degrees F until it evaporates.  I guess there is a reason you don’t see jelly-stuffed biscuits.

I put foil on the top and tried to bake it at 400 degrees a bit longer, but it really didn’t cook well.  After about 25 minutes, I pulled it out and tried to cut it.  It was truly a hot, sloppy mess.  You were able to eat most of it since much had cooked, but the part near the jam really wasn’t very pleasant.  The kids were troopers and ate my creation without complaint, but I could tell they would not want that meal again.  So, scratch that idea.

Sometimes things just don’t work out when you try something new.  But sometimes they work out great.  That’s part of the fun with cooking.  The other part is all of the money you save by not needing to pay $10 each for breakfast.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

How to Make Your Own Croutons


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A great way to save money and avoid waste is to use your old hamburger or hot dog buns to make your own croutons.   Not only will you save yourself a couple of dollars for a box of croutons and avoid throwing out those last few buns that you never got around to eating. You’ll also find that homemade croutons are a lot tastier than the sad little bread bits you find in the stores.  They are really simple to make even if you don’t cook very often with just a few ingredients.

Looking for a good first cookbook to start a family meal tradition?  Check out:  Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal

The first step in making croutons is to cut up the buns into little squares.  I generally make them a bit bigger than you find in the stores.  Using a sharp knife, first cut equal strips in the bun in one direction while holding the bun slices together, then carefully cut in the other direction to make squares.  Press gently to avoid crushing the bread.  If you find things crumble, your knife is probably too dull.

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Cut even slices one direction

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Then cut the other way to make squares

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The finished result. My squares are about 3/4″ (2 cm) cubes.

After you have equal squares, now is the time to add the fat and the spices.  Salt is nearly a must to get a good flavor.  In my case, I used olive oil for the fat and salt, garlic powder, and rosemary as spices.  I used on the order of a teaspoon of each spice per pan of bread (each pan being three hamburger buns).  Other choices for fat would be butter or vegetable oil.  Other choices for spices would be pepper, parsley, thyme, oregano, chili powder, or seasoned salt.   You could use a bowl, but to save dishes, I just put the bread squares on a cookie sheet in a pile, drizzled with oil (maybe a tablespoon or two for a pan of bread), then sprinkled on the spices.   I then worked the bread around gently to spread out the oil and the spices and coat everything as evenly as I could.  After coating, spread the pieces out as much as you can.  You want to give them room to release water and get radiant heat from the walls of the oven to toast.

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Olive oil and spices

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Coat them on the pan and then spread them out

Next, place the bread in an oven and bake at 300 degrees F (150 deg C)  for about 15-20 minutes. You want to bake slowly to get the whole pieces firm rather than just get a toast on the top and a soft middle.  Avoid the urge to turn on the broiler and give them a little toast since they’ll burn really quickly.  They’ll darken naturally with time with the oven on bake.  Pull out your croutons when the pieces are relatively firm and starting to get a golden brown.  Don’t overcook or they’ll turn bitter.

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Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes until firm and golden.

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The final product. Golden and delicious.

At this point just let them cool on the cookie sheet and then bag them up and put them on the shelf.  Make sure you wait for them to be cool or they’ll turn soft again in the bag.  I usually just use the bag the buns came in.  The hardest part is getting them into the bag, since people will start snacking on them after smelling the delicious aroma filling the room.  If you end up with just a few after the hoards descend, just start again when you have another set of old buns and guard them more carefully next time.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Don’t Let Imperfection Keep You from Growing Wealthy


 
IMG_1836I have a confession.  We haven’t put money into my kids’ Educational IRA accounts yet for 2016, even though the year is about 3/4 over.  We also don’t pull together a budget every month, and haven’t for a few months.

We have done good things like starting IRAs when we first started jobs and have contributed to them most years.  I also got into the 401k at the first opportunity, although I only contributed about 10% of my pay between our IRAs an my 401k the first ten years or so of work.  Today I’m contributing around 15%.

We do eat dinners in most weeks except for one diner out as we have been doing since we were first married, but we have started going to lunch or breakfast after church or if we’re out on a Saturday here and there.  We also probably impulse buy at places like Wal-mart and the guy really saw me coming with that Kirby vacuum.  (I have noted, whenever I decide to just “buy something nice for once,” I usually end up regretting the purchase.)

Obviously, even though I write a blog that is about personal finance about 80% of the time, I don’t have a perfect financial life.  I’m like the fitness guru who has a doughnut and a cup of coffee sometimes before work.  Yes, I know better, but that doesn’t mean I always do better.

We have been able to pay off out home in about 12 years, however.  We have also not had a car payment for something like 15 years now.  I purchased a new car on payments back when I was credit-ignorant, and probably won’t do so again.  But who’s to say, maybe in a weak moment I might.  We also have put away money for our childrens’ college and I’m predicting we’ll have way more than enough for retirement.

The point is that no one is perfect in anything, even when it comes to personal finance.  Often we try to find gurus to improve our lives, but then give up and stop taking their advise when we find we can’t do everything perfectly.  We also watch and wait for those who seem perfect to slip up, then use their failure to be perfect as an excuse for our not even trying.

Yes, you’ll end up better financially if you never buy stuff on credit, put away 15% of your paycheck for retirement religiously, and buy a really inexpensive home.  You’ll be better off if you budget to the penny every month and stock to your budget.  You’ll do better making sure you eat every one of your leftovers and avoid wasting money on food that you throw away.  You’ll probably be better, both financially and physically, if you never buy a car and instead ride a bike to work everyday.  But you probably won’t do these things, or do all of these things, every time.

But don’t let that stop you from making good choices as often as you can.  Don’t think you need to be perfect financially or it isn’t worth doing anything financially.  And just because people who give good advice sometimes fail doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.  Nobody’s perfect.

Your investing questions are wanted. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.