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Old 11-26-2006, 08:49 PM   #1
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I just can't get my stuffing/dressing right!

I've been proud of the fact that I can make virtually any dish I've heard of, and usually without a recipe, from breads to pastries, seafood to fish, roullaides/roulladen/ most cuts and species of steak roast, etc, all kinds of soups, stews, pastas, pasta sauces, etc. etc. But after years of trying to make perfect dressing, like my Grandmother, Mother, Father, and virtually everyone parent whose kids I grew up with could make without even thinking about it, I still haven't got it right.

This year I made a multi-grain bread containing whole wheat, oat flour, barley flour, chopped sunflower seeds, and buckwheat, along with yeast salt honey and water, with sage, thyme, onion powder, and black pepper mixed into the raw dough. It came out with the right texture, but had a bitter flavor. I believe the mistake was the combined flavors of the buckwheat, yeast, and whole wheat.

I've made buckwheat pancakes for years, and they never tasted bitter. But they were a combibation of all-purpose flour and buckwheat.

The only dressing I can get right seems to be Stove-Top.

I've even solicited T&T recipes from you wonderful cooks. But did I try them? No. I have to re-invent the wheel. My turkeys were perfect, as were the rutabeggas, and everything else. Even my thrown together bread came out wonderful. But my dressing, I will force myself through it over the next week. I have this rule; if I cook it, I have to be willing to eat it. The stuff isn't inedible. It's just not that dressing I yearn for from my youth, an ordinary, sumptuos bread dressing that tastes like my Mom's, or Grandma's, or Dad's, or... It was my favorite part of a Thansgiving meal, even more than the realy great deserts we always have.

Maybe I should have put this in the gripe thread. I just wanted everyone to know that buckwheat doesn't work well with the yeast, at least not for dressing. Now maybe it would be great in a good rye, with caraway seeds. Hmmm.

Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

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Old 11-26-2006, 09:52 PM   #2
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Baking is not my specialtly, nor is it my favorite. I've learned that if your good at many things, and not so good at a few....let it be It's taken me years to master dressing/stuffing. I will never, nor will you or anyone else, be able to master the delicious dishes that our parents/family made. Of course we all know the reason for that, and it has nothing to do with cooking Perhaps that is a bit presumptious of me to say though, coming from a woman who's family made great meals from love.
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:00 PM   #3
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I find the key to good dressing(stuffing) is realllllllllllly dry bread cubes and a good stock. Lots of butter is always great too.I normally start off with onions, let 'em caramelize, then granny smith apple, add brandy and reduce, then about a quart and a half of good chicken stock, some fresh minced herbs and bread cubes, just enough to bring things together, kill the heat, and cover. At the end, I fold in toasted walnuts and bing cherries. It is always nice and fluffy, moist, and almost a meal in its self.
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:19 PM   #4
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The most superb stuffings I've ever had have all come from my step-mom's recipe, and she starts it with plain white wonder bread, which is curious, because normally I think it's about the most boring bread in the world. I do think that since it's so plain, it makes a better palette to add flavor to than some of your wheat or other grain breads are. After toasting the wonder bread to be very dry, she simply adds onions/celery/carrots s+p, garlic, sage/thyme/rosemary, chicken or vegetable stock, i think some butter, and an egg or 2 to help bind. I'm not real sure how long it bakes for, as I've never actually seen the recipe... (she's oddly protective of it).

Try starting simple. If your texture and moisture was where you wanted it, then all you have to adjust is your flavors.
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:46 PM   #5
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Goodweed, my Grandmother only used store bought white and wheat bread (she tore it in small chunks, forget about cutting nice little cubes!) that she started drying some days before making the dressing; she did not toast it in the oven at all. She baked her own cornbread and that was usually made the day before. (She, and I today, still use all 3 kinds.)I know that she would saute the onions and celery in butter and add that after mixing in sage, a touch of garlic and onion salts and black pepper. Then she would add the broth from cooking the giblets (those were chopped and added too) along with evaporated milk and then she would have us kids taste it before adding the raw and hard boiled eggs. I still remember the year I asked if she thought about adding thyme (I think I was about 9 or 10)..........I thought she might back-hand me but she laughed and said she never thought about doing that and it shocked me that she actually tried it then. I think she always added the thyme after that time. I still try to make it as she did, minus the raw and boiled eggs and the giblets (the giblets are fought over by the hubby and oldest daughter, lol). I can come very close to my Grandmother's but I think it was just her touch and my strong memories that are holding mine back from seeming as good as her's.
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Old 11-30-2006, 04:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TATTRAT
I find the key to good dressing(stuffing) is realllllllllllly dry bread cubes and a good stock. Lots of butter is always great too.I normally start off with onions, let 'em caramelize, then granny smith apple, add brandy and reduce, then about a quart and a half of good chicken stock, some fresh minced herbs and bread cubes, just enough to bring things together, kill the heat, and cover. At the end, I fold in toasted walnuts and bing cherries. It is always nice and fluffy, moist, and almost a meal in its self.
Goodweed, I'm very much in favor of not messing too much with classics, and certainly that's the way to go if what you're really hankering after is a taste from your childhood. That being said, I add my vote in with the rest that you need to start with a plain, white bread.

Mine's similar to Tattrat's, above, although I use cashews instead of walnuts, and chestnuts, not cherries. Certainly the spices are key to it tasting right: are you using ready-made "poultry seasoning" or at least plenty of sage? That's the overriding flavor in my mind, although your familly traditions might be different ...

I always have problems getting the moisture just right -- neither dry nor soggy. I know if I'd make it more than once a year (in my case, New Year's Eve) I'd have licked this problem by now, but, I always forget to!

Good luck. Stick to a classic recipe (I swear by Joy, always) and resist the urge to tamper!
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Old 11-30-2006, 09:03 AM   #7
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Always use WHITE bread when making dressing. I have never made a fruit dressing, Unheard of in my family. We always make the reg. sage like dressing or giblet dressing.
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Old 11-30-2006, 09:39 AM   #8
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Quote:
This year I made a multi-grain bread containing whole wheat, oat flour, barley flour, chopped sunflower seeds, and buckwheat, along with yeast salt honey and water, with sage, thyme, onion powder, and black pepper mixed into the raw dough. It came out with the right texture, but had a bitter flavor. I believe the mistake was the combined flavors of the buckwheat, yeast, and whole wheat.
I have a couple of questions for you about this paragraph, that may lead to the solution of your problem, but before I ask them, I'll qualify myself by telling you that I'm considered by my family to be the champ of stuffing/dressing.

I love the stuff! I'd rather have it than the turkey!

I;m curious why you would at yeast to the stuffing? I've never heard of that -- apart from its being in the bread that you'd use -- as a stuffing ingredient. I think that's causing the problem.

My second question is why aren't you using BREAD, already made, instead of all these raw ingredients? I've never seen a stuffing/dressing recipe that didn't call for bread, and have never seen any that called for raw flour of any kind. Try using whole grain bread and/or cornbread for your dressing, and see how that turns out.

Just my 2 cents...
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Old 11-30-2006, 12:20 PM   #9
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Goodweed, my grandmother made the dressing in our family, and I never liked it because it tasted dry. Of course I was a kid...I might like it now.
My next experience with dressing was that made by my ex's mother, and it was almost like soup, and very greasy.
But when I ate dressing prepared by the mother of one of my friends, I discovered how good it can be...moist and tender inside, with a lovely brown crust on the outside.
She was kind enough to give me the recipe, and although I don't use her actual recipe anymore, I still use it as a guide. Check out Dorothy Jean's Chicken Casserole...I've posted it here several times.

I think it will help you if you think of dressing as a savory bread pudding, which it is, actually, except your're using broth and eggs instead of milk and eggs. You need to give it plenty of moisture...more than you think it needs. Then bake it uncovered, starting off in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350. You'll know it's done when it's bubbling, lightly browned on top, and has a good brown crust around the sides.
Then, when you take it out, set it in a warm place and let it stand, uncovered, to set up. I usually take mine out about an hour before we eat.

Once you get the hang of the basic method, you can vary the seasonings and ingredients all kinds of ways.
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Old 11-30-2006, 06:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefJune
I have a couple of questions for you about this paragraph, that may lead to the solution of your problem, but before I ask them, I'll qualify myself by telling you that I'm considered by my family to be the champ of stuffing/dressing.

I love the stuff! I'd rather have it than the turkey!

I;m curious why you would at yeast to the stuffing? I've never heard of that -- apart from its being in the bread that you'd use -- as a stuffing ingredient. I think that's causing the problem.

My second question is why aren't you using BREAD, already made, instead of all these raw ingredients? I've never seen a stuffing/dressing recipe that didn't call for bread, and have never seen any that called for raw flour of any kind. Try using whole grain bread and/or cornbread for your dressing, and see how that turns out.

Just my 2 cents...
I have to shake my head and laugh at myself on this one. My wonderful freinds, you have taught me a lesson. And as for the questions in the quoted portion of my response, the yeast and raw flours were used to make a seasoned loaf of bread, that was chopped into cubes and dried, to which was then added the broth, more seasonings, onions, etc.

I know that my Mom, Grandmother, Dad, and everyone else I know of, used either cornbread, or white bread, with broth, seasonings, eggs, etc. I want that great flavor from my youth. I should just leave well enough alone and use the same breads used in the dressings I grew up loving. My only thing is that I want it to be more healthy with added fiber and the nutrients of whole grain. I might just have to purchase a good whole-grain bread and use that to start with.

I guess I don't have to re-invent the wheel with every recipe I make. I've just been self-teaching myself how to make anything and everything my heart could desire for so long, it's almost hard for me to follow a recipe, though I know there are some that are so good, they just shouldn't be changed. No one can possibly know everything, or even a fraction of everything. Sometimes, we can lean on the experience of others. I'm gonna hve to try that course.

And, my heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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