Roasted Butternut Squash and A Name Change

As the title of this post implies, I have renamed this blog. I thought about doing this for a while, and decided to take the plunge. “Toaster Oven Confections” is now “Lucy the Baker.” Why the change? Well, since beginning this blog, I have hardly used my toaster oven for anything. All of the baked recipes on this blog so far have been baked using a regular, stove oven. I don’t want to deceive or mislead you guys, so I changed it. Does this mean that the recipe I post can’t be done in a toaster oven? No! If you do want to experiment and bake in your toaster oven, scale your recipe and temperatures accordingly. This is a rebranding of sorts because I want to post a wider variety of recipes, and try to get myself in the kitchen and on this blog more often.

Anyway, let’s talk squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. This weirdly shaped winter squash isn’t even a vegetable! The butternut squash is actually a fruit and is known for its bright orange appearance, and its nutty and sweet taste. Its also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and fiber.

Fresh butternut squash

Fresh butternut squash

Butternut squash made its first appearance for the season two weeks ago at my local farmer’s market. I have an affinity for orange vegetables, and was patiently awaiting its arrival. I have bought two in the past two weeks and have been in bliss since. Butternut squash can be cooked any way you’d cook a sweet potato, another one of my fave orange veggies, but best way to tackle one of these beauties is to roast them.

Preheat your oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. To prep a butternut squash, peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler. Now, peeling this baby whole can be a bit of a challenge because its curves can be hard to reach with the peeler. You can actually cut the squash at the bulb, to make peeling easier; just be careful because it is pretty slippery when peeled! Not in the mood to hassle with a veggie peeler? No problem! Roast the squash with the skin on; it is totally edible and softens when roasted.

Peeled squashie!

Peeled squashie!

After peeling, grab your cutting board and knife, if you haven’t already, and cut this sucker in half. You can either cut it lengthwise and roast in two halves, or you can separate the bulb from the body and chop both into cubes. Cut off the bulb by cutting the rounded part of the squash. Cut the bulb in half to deseed. The bulb is full of pulp, and seeds that are also edible once roasted; kind of like pumpkin seeds or pepitas. We don’t want the seeds today, so take a spoon and shovel out the pulp and seeds.

I like to slice my squash into disks, and later into cubes. Place the bulb halves on your cutting board and slice into thick disks. Watch your fingers when chopping! Once done slicing into disks, cut them into cubes. Repeat with the rest of the squash.

Chopped up squash

Chopped up squash

After you have cubed all your squash, and your fingers are still intact, drizzle the cubes with some olive oil and toss to coat. Distribute your cubes evenly onto the prepped baking sheets. If you’re using the squash in a savory application, liberally season with salt. Roast the cubes for 30-40 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs, tossing halfway during cooking.

Roasted butternut squash cubes

Roasted butternut squash cubes

The end result is a soft, nutty cube of deliciousness. If you’re planning on eating them with dinner, you can eat as is or puree to put into soups, or even mash them potato style. You can also use roasted butternut squash for sweet applications; just roast, mash/puree, and use them where you would normally use pumpkin or sweet potato.

I encourage you to try a butternut squash if you haven’t, and revel in its deliciousness. For those who already feast on this amazing fruit, what are your favorite butternut squash recipes?

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.

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I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.

One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.

My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.

Bread's ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Bread’s ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.

The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
  • Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
  • Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast. 
  • If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!