Sweet strawberry-filled success

Strawberry oatmeal loaf

When I’m not in the mood to tackle regular bread recipes, I opt for a quick bread. I like quick breads because there’s no rising process and I can usually find a recipe that uses ingredients I have on hand.

One of my favorite quick bread recipes is this Oatmeal-strawberry bread. The bread is sweet and moist and makes a nice treat or breakfast with a cup of coffee; not to mention it smells delicious while it’s baking. It would also make a great snack for kids.

I often have strawberries around and there are few recipes that use strawberries correctly — most breads and muffins that incorporate them end up with large soggy spots where the berries are. For this recipe, take the time to slice the strawberries so they’re thin. If you leave them in chunks, the bread will get too soggy in spots or the strawberries will sink to the bottom of the loaf. I know this from experience. Also make sure to grease the bottom of the pan well, or the bottom of the loaf will break off when the loaf is being taken out of the pan. Check the bread with a toothpick about 10 minutes before it should be done baking. If you’re at high altitude, use 1/2 teaspoon baking powder instead of a full teaspoon or it won’t come out correctly. It may need to bake longer, too.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
10 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 7-inch-by-3-inch loaf pan.

Stir together the flour, 3/4 cups rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and eggs; stir into flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in strawberries. Pour into the prepared loaf pan, and sprinkle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of rolled oats.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the strawberry bread in the pan for 5 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.

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Pita made from scratch

Pita

Breads have always been difficult for me. I’ve had them turn out too dry, not fully cooked in the center or fail to rise in the dough stage on many occasions. I tend to avoid making them, usually because of the long process, but sometimes because I’ve felt discouraged.

A few weeks ago, while grocery shopping, I was in the bread aisle and about to buy some pita bread when I thought, “Maybe I should try to make it instead.” Today, I finally got around to that challenge.

I found this recipe through a Google search, and it seemed simple enough for a first-time pita baker.

My apartment tends to be cold, so, when I got to the three-hour rising stage, I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and set it in the sun. That did the trick.

The recipe says to divide the dough into 10-12 pieces. I did 12 and baked them in three batches of four to give them enough space on the baking pan. If I were to make these again, I would only do 10 pieces because the final rounds were smaller than I wanted them to be. If you’re planning to stuff these for a meal, you’ll want them to be bigger.

I live in the mountains, so there are altitude challenges as well. I follow each recipe the first time I make it in order to figure out what adjustments I’ll need to make in the future. In the case of this recipe, I noticed the first batch of pita was cooked a little harder than I wanted it to be, so I reduced the first cooking time (four minutes) to three minutes for the second batch. The second batch came out with more of a golden color. I was initially worried about how stiff the pita appeared when I took it out of the oven but, after I immediately put them in the bags, they steamed themselves to a softer consistency. I let them sit in the bags for about an hour before I dug in. The end result was still a little stiff around the edges, but I was able to open them and stuff them.

Not bad for my first attempt.

Ingredients
1 package of yeast, or quick-rising yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy.

Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.

Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded. Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated. Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4-inch thick.

Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes.

Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.

Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.