Category Archives: BREAD, ROLL, AND MUFFIN RECIPES

CARAWAY RYE PEASANT BREAD

I glommed this recipe together to serve with a Hungarian themed meal. I wanted to serve rye bread, but in an easy to eat little piece since I was also serving Dilly Casserole Bread (recipe coming soon) that would be baked in a loaf pan. (I always try to keep food visually interesting as well as delicious.)

So I decided to pat the bread dough into a half sheet pan (13x18x1-inch) and see what happened. Well the bread turned out delicious, really chewy, and just tall enough to make a perfect size piece of bread when cut into squares or rectangles. And easy to prepare? Oh-my-gosh yes! This would be the perfect bread to fix if you were considering giving bread baking a try.

And don’t worry about the caraway seeds. They are there, but not in your face crazy. Just subtle and splendid.

So give this easy bread a try. We had some toasted for breakfast this morning, and what a treat to go along with our eggs and sausage. Yum, if I do say so myself!

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 pkgs. or 2 scant T. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 c. rye flour
  • 2½ c. whole wheat flour
  • ¾ c. bread flour, or more as needed
  • olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt and caraway seeds. Mix using your dough hook.

Add the rye and whole wheat flours and mix until well combined. Add as much of the ¾ cup bread flour as needed to make a stiff dough. (The ball of dough should completely pull away from the bowl.)

Pour a little olive oil over the dough, and using your hands, form dough into a ball and spread the oil all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Pour a bit of olive oil on a 13x18x1-inch baking pan. Spread the dough out with your fingers. Slather a bit more olive oil over the dough and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Let rest again for 30 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crusty. Let cool completely before cutting into squares or rectangles.

Note: If in doubt whether or not your bread is done, stick it with an instant read thermometer. If it registers 190-200 degrees, your bread is baked to perfection. Take it out of the oven – immediately!

   

SEED-TOPPED SOURDOUGH BREAD BOULES (ROUND LOAVES)

OK, I know. Another darn bread recipe. But I love bread and really enjoy making it. So if you must, switch channels and stop reading this very minute! But, if you are like me and love good bread, please join me as I elucidate on the deliciousness of this bread.

First of all, what’s not to like about sour dough bread? Nothing, right? And this bread with its gentle sourdough flavor, wonderful texture and nutty, seedy topping is worth every second you spend in the kitchen.

I think that’s enough said! Thank you King Arthur Flour for this wonderful recipe.

Oh I forgot – this bread freezes beautifully. It also has a very nice appearance. (Looks like it came from a bakery!)

  • 1¼ c. lukewarm water
  • 2 c. sourdough starter (see recipe below)
  • 4½ -5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 4 tsp. vital wheat gluten
  • olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk  
  • 1 T. water
  • ¼ c. brown flax seeds
  • 2 T. sunflower seeds
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
  • 2 T. pumpkin seeds
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 2 T. yellow cornmeal  

In the bowl of your stand mixture, combine the water, sourdough starter, and 3 cups of the flour, mixing until smooth.

Stir in the salt, sugar, yeast, and vital wheat gluten, then an additional 1½ to 2 cups of flour. Knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding only enough additional flour as necessary.

Knead the dough for about 7 minutes. Pour a small amount of oil over the dough, and using your hands, roll the dough into a ball. Make sure the olive oil lightly coats the ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide into four pieces.

Shape each piece into a round and place the boules, at least 4″ apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets.   

Cover the boules with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 1½ hours, or until they’re nice and puffy.  

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolk and water; set aside. Also combine the flax, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and poppy seeds together with the cornmeal; set aside also.

When the boules are nice and puffy, gently brush with the egg yolk glaze, and sprinkle with the seed and cornmeal mixture. 

For a classic look, slash an “X” on each boule, cutting about 1/4″ deep.  

Bake the boules in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until they’re a rich golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven. Place on wire racks to cool before slicing.

If not using the same day, cover gently with a tea towel and leave on your counter or in your bread box. Do not refrigerate! Slices make marvelous toast.

Sourdough Starter

  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 T. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 2 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.)

Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

         

SAVORY GREEN CHILI, PARMESAN, AND GREEN ONION CORNBREAD

So, this is basically the corn bread I served my kids while they were growing up. I say basically because I changed the recipe just a bit to better fit today’s standards for culinary excellence and nutritional integrity. In other words, I greatly reduced the amount of sugar and substituted butter for the margarine called for in the original recipe. I also added a can of creamed corn and some corn kernels because they help keep cornbread moist without adding additional fat. But, the basic flavor in this updated version is still very similar to the cornbread I fed my kidlets, so that’s what really matters! 

Now I say “original recipe” with my fingers crossed because the real original recipe I found in my copy of Cooking with Gourmet Grains, copyright 1971 Stone-Buhr Milling Co. Seattle, Washington. But even in 1971 when I was only 27 years old, I was changing recipes left and right. So at least for this recipe, I’m going to use “original” with a bit of poetic license. (BTW, the Stone-Buhr website is a great resource for wonderful recipes. All tried and true.) But I digress…..

Anyway, this cornbread is really tasty, moist, and simple to prepare. You don’t even need a mixer. It’s absolutely wonderful with chili, stew, or any hearty soup.

  • 1 c. yellow cornmeal 
  • ½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 2 T. baking powder (yes, 2 tablespoons) 
  • 1½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • ¼ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 c. half & half   
  • 2 lg. eggs  
  • 1/3 c. melted unsalted butter
  • 1 (14-oz.) can creamed corn
  • 1 c. frozen corn, thawed and dried on paper towels
  • 1 (4-oz.) can diced green chilies  
  • 3 finely diced green onions (green stems and all)

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, seasoned salt, granulated garlic, chili powder, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, melted butter, creamed corn, corn kernels, green chilies, and green onions.

Pour wet mixture over the dry ingredients; mix just until blended. Scoop batter into a lightly greased 9×13-inch pan.  

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm if possible. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. Great warmed for breakfast and served alongside ham and eggs.

SOURDOUGH WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

So its breakfast time and I have a loaf of this bread to use for our morning toast. I am actually excited! Because with a dab of honey on the toasted bread, this makes for a heavenly repast when served with an easy-over egg and a small bowl of homemade granola topped with vanilla yogurt. And so our day begins.  

Now I realize that the only reason you are reading this post is because you are either already a bread baker or have a passing interest in becoming a bread baker. Well let me tell you, this bread is just about as easy as it gets. No fancy ingredients, well if you don’t count the sourdough starter that is. But even then sourdough starter is no harder to take care of then say an older neighbor who occasionally asks you to come over and carry groceries into their house. Certainly it takes less time to care for a sourdough starter. (A sourdough starter doesn’t care if you talk to it even though it is alive and probably shows more zest for life than your elderly neighbor!) A simple feeding once a week is all it requires. And how difficult is that?

So if you are thinking about playing with sourdough, this is the bread for you. The recipe makes a fairly small loaf which is perfect for us. I cut the slices about 5/8-inch thick and toast them until they are quite brown. Then I don’t even use butter, just wonderful local or Turkish honey. The combination of the whole wheat flour in the bread and the honey on top is marvelous. And yes I know, I probably could use honey in the recipe, but I think maple syrup is perfect with the other ingredients. But by all means, use honey if you prefer. Honey would actually make perfect sense if you plan to serve it with honey on top like I do. But then, when have I ever made sense? And I’m much too set in my ways to start now! Hopefully there’s still hope for you.

  • ½ c. lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 c. sourdough starter (easy recipe below)
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1¾ c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. bread flour, or more as needed
  • olive oil

Place the water, yeast, and maple syrup in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir gently with your dough hook. Let proof for 15 minutes, or until foam appears on top.

Add the starter, salt, and whole wheat flour. Stir well with dough hook. Add enough bread flour to make a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add additional bread flour if needed to form a smooth, slightly sticky, and springy dough. Knead for 3-4 minutes.

Once the dough has been kneaded, lightly grease the dough with a small amount of olive oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Let rise 90 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Punch down the dough. (The dough should be smooth and springy, but not too sticky at this point.)

Shape into a loaf and place in a parchment paper lined bread loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5-inches). Cover again with a tea towel and let rise for 75 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour water in a shallow oven-safe pan and place on the bottom rack of the stove. Just before placing the dough in the oven, make 2 or 3 cuts along the top of the loaf.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. (If in doubt if the bread is done, take the breads temperature with an instant-read thermometer. It should read at least 190 degrees.) Remove from oven and turn out of the pan onto a wire rack. Let cool on the wire rack completely before slicing. Store loosely wrapped in plastic bag at room temperature. Absolutely wonderful toasted and slathered with butter and honey! Do not refrigerate. Will stay fresh for several days.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

 

 

WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH RAISIN BREAD

 

I know, another bread recipe! But in my defense, I have a new sourdough starter that I am trying to keep alive. So I’ve decided that I am going to bake bread weekly. That way I can use my starter (my sister-in-law named the starter Geneviève) and monitor the nutritional value in every single piece of toast we eat each morning. And yes, there is a huge difference in the nutritional value of different types of bread. Even homemade bread. Mostly it’s from the type and brand of flour used, and of course the added ingredients such as raisins, seeds, oats, and nuts.  

King Arthur, Red Mill, Stone-Buhr, Bluebird Grain Farms (Winthrop, WA), and the Central Milling Company organic unbleached, all-purpose flour carried by Costco are my personal favorites. And as much as possible I plan to incorporate organic whole wheat and rye flour into my recipes for both their flavor and nutritional contribution.

Both white and wheat flour are made from wheat berries. Wheat berries have three nutrient rich parts – the bran (outer layer), the germ (the inner most part), and the endosperm (the starchy part in between). White flour consists of just the endosperm, while whole wheat (thus its name) uses all three parts. Therefore whole wheat flour is much higher in fiber, folic acid, chromium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. And rye berries just happen to be one of the healthiest grains in the world. Using rye flour reportedly helps fight against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, cancer, inflammation, and high blood pressure. (Source – Dr. Axe)

Most of the time we only have bread with breakfast. Occasionally we will share a sandwich for lunch, but only on rare occasions. So mostly we eat a slice a day in the form of toast. So when deciding what type of bread to try this week, I decided on raisin bread.

During my research, many of the recipes for raisin bread had you create a swirl by flattening out the dough and then sprinkling on the raisins and rolling the loaf like a cinnamon roll. Nice presentation, but too much work. So I just incorporated the raisins and cinnamon into the dough. (Same flavors, but less work.) So really, this bread comes together very quickly.

So, in short, this is not the only bread recipe I am going to post in the next few weeks. And yes I know, there are thousands of wonderful homemade bread recipes already on the internet. But I try to keep my bread recipes as healthy and easy to prepare as possible. And you’re right! Many of you are never going to bake your own bread, either because you have no desire to do so, or simply haven’t got the time. I truly understand. But for those of you who are teetering towards bread baking, I hope you give any of the bread recipes on this site a try. They are mostly quite easy to prepare and in the long run can save you money.

I did a quick and dirty cost analysis based on a basic French bread using King Arthur flour. I came up with about $1.70 worth of ingredients and cost to run our oven. ($.80 flour, $.38 yeast, $.02 salt, water, and fuel $.50.) To buy a truly good artisanal loaf weighing over a pound, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4-8. And even then, the quality of the ingredients used to prepare the bread is unknown. So if you want to have your bread and eat it too, get thee to the kitchen at your earliest convenience. If you have bread baking questions, you can always direct them to me by clicking on the “leave a reply” link. If you have questions about ship building or sports statistics for example, don’t bother!

  • ¾ c. sourdough starter (see recipe below)
  • 2½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2/3 c. room temperature water
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • 5 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ c. golden raisins
  • 1½ – 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • veggie oil

Combine the sourdough starter, yeast, water, and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir with your dough hook and let sit for 15 minutes.

Add the butter, salt, cinnamon, egg, whole wheat flour, and oats; beat until well combined. Add the raisins and enough of the all-purpose flour to make a smooth, soft dough.

Add a tiny bit of oil to the mixing bowl, and using your hands, gently form the dough into a ball making certain that the entire surface is lightly coated with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1½ to 2 hours, or until just about doubled in bulk.

When the dough is ready, gently deflate the dough, divide in half, form into 2 loaves, and place in two lightly greased 4½ x 8½-inch loaf pans. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rise for 1½ hours or until nicely plumped.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. When done, the bread’s crust should be a beautiful golden brown, and the interior should measure at least 190 degrees on an instant-read digital thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, and gently loosen the edges. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

 

 

 

 

   

CHEWY SOURDOUGH BREAD

Sourdough bread on top

Even if a person is one of my newest acquaintances, they probably know that I love bread. (There are just some things I can’t keep secret!) OK, not store bought white bread, but really good artisanal bread. And homemade yeast bread, as far as I’m concerned, falls into that category.

So when I want my guests to feel at home, I bake bread for them. And as scary as that might seem to some of you, baking yeast bread is not rocket science. It’s science, but there are no rockets involved. However, there are rock stars! They come in the form of tiny little, seemingly insignificant granules commonly known as yeast. And yeast is no more frightening to use than either baking powder or baking soda. (For the science around yeast, baking powder and baking soda, please refer to the articles below.)

After all, yeast is just another leavening agent. But unlike both baking powder and baking soda, you get to watch the progress the little yeasty beastie cells make as they digest food to obtain energy for growth. This results in the production of carbon dioxide gas. (The dough seemingly grows before your very eyes.)

Now, I am not going to tell you that this sourdough bread is easy and perfect for bread baking beginners. The instructions alone would probably put a beginner off bread baking for years. This bread is more for people with time on their hands and nothing better to do! So why all the falderal in the first couple of paragraphs about the ease of bread baking if you’re just going to tell me not to bake this bread? Well, I want you to consider baking your own bread. Maybe not this one, but I have plenty of other bread recipes on this site that are easy and perfect for beginners. For example – Overnight Rye Beer Bread, Soft French Baguettes, or Light Rye Bread. I would also invite you to read my article on Bread Baking 101 for more information about the fine art of baking your own loaf.

For seasoned bread bakers, go for it! This recipe, based on a King Arthur flour recipe doesn’t have difficult instructions. You just have to understand that sourdough bread dough feels “funny” and reacts differently from regular yeast doughs. But if you like sourdough bread that’s chewy and soft at the same time, and has a lovely crunchy crust, this is a great recipe.

Again for beginners, baking bread is not difficult. It simply takes some planning and time management. But the reward is worth the effort. The ingredients in bread are inexpensive. There are no added ingredients with names too complicated to pronounce, and the smell while the bread is baking is irresistible.

Look for another bread recipe coming soon. I’m on a roll. Or should I say baguette?

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (2 day process)

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded), the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works very well.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down and loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (3 Day Process for a tangier sourdough flavor)  

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded, the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. Remove from fridge, and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

What is Yeast? Source of article – Red Star Yeast website

Yeast are single-celled fungi. As fungi, they are related to the other fungi that people are more familiar with, including: edible mushrooms available at the supermarket, common baker’s yeast used to leaven bread, molds that ripen blue cheese, and the molds that produce antibiotics for medical and veterinary use.

Yeast cells are egg-shaped and can only be seen with a microscope. It takes 20,000,000,000 (twenty billion) yeast cells to weigh one gram, or 1/28 of an ounce, of cake yeast.

The scientific name for the yeast that baker’s use is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, or “sugar-eating fungus”. A very long name for such a tiny organism! This species of yeast is very strong and capable of fermentation, the process that causes bread dough to rise.

Yeast cells digest food to obtain energy for growth. Their favorite food is sugar in its various forms: sucrose (beet or cane sugar), fructose and glucose (found in honey, molasses, maple syrup and fruit), and maltose (derived from starch in flour).

The process, alcoholic fermentation, produces useful end products, carbon dioxide (gas) and ethyl alcohol. These end products are released by the yeast cells into the surrounding liquid in the dough. In bread baking, when yeast ferments the sugars available from the flour and/or from added sugar, the carbon dioxide gas cannot escape because the dough is elastic and stretchable. As a result of this expanding gas, the dough inflates, or rises. Thus, the term “yeast-leavened breads” was added to the vocabulary of the world of baking.

The ethyl alcohol (and other compounds) produced during fermentation produce the typical flavor and aroma of yeast-leavened breads.

How Do Baking Powder and Baking Soda Work? Source of article – exploritorium.edu, the accidental scientist

Baking powder and baking soda both produce carbon dioxide, which helps raise or “leaven” baked products. Baking soda works best in conjunction with an acidic ingredient. In the case of banana bread, this may be buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses or the bananas themselves. Recipes generally include just enough baking soda to balance the acidity in the batter. For instance ¼ teaspoon baking soda is balanced with ½ cup buttermilk, applesauce or mashed just-ripe banana (note that bananas become less acidic as they ripen). This produces sufficient carbon dioxide to raise one cup of flour.

This however, may not be sufficient to leaven the whole recipe. Here’s where baking powder comes in. Baking powder contains both baking soda and a dry acidic ingredient. Since it isn’t dependent on acid ingredients in the batter, it is used to add the extra leavening necessary to raise the rest of the batter. Generally one teaspoon of baking powder leavens one cup of flour. In the case of recipes like banana bread which contain heavy ingredients, such as bananas and sometimes heavy grains like wheat germ or whole wheat flour, this may be increased to 1½  or 2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.

 

 

 

EASY BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

I love my Buttermilk Biscuit recipe already on this site, but the other evening I wanted biscuits without yeast, without sugar, and with the fewest ingredients possible. I had company coming and I needed a recipe I could throw together in about 15 minutes. So I went on line to see what I could find. Well, on the Genius Kitchen site I found this recipe, which truly, could not be any easier to prepare. I whipped up a batch and they were as advertised – perfect!

It always amazes me when I find a recipe that could not be easier, but really couldn’t be perfected upon either. So I thought as long as I was offering a lovely simple biscuit recipe, I would remind you of some of my other recipes on this site that appear almost too simple to be true.

The first one that comes to mind is Easy Lemon and Basil Spaghetti (8 ingredients including the salt and pepper). Another favorite that I have been making for years is Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers. Even though it has a couple more ingredients, it is about the most simple and delicious pasta with meat that you can make!

When it comes to salads, the following 3 are favorites that go together quicker than you can answer “what’s for dinner, honey”? The first is Romaine Lettuce with Italian Salad Dressing. So easy, and oh so good. The second is Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono) – 4 ingredients (one of which is salt). Crunchy and a perfect addition to almost any kind of entrée. The last I haven’t even bothered to write out because I have never taken the time to measure the ingredients. It’s simply greens alone or with any other additives you care to throw in a salad bowl, lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil, rice vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Toss, taste to make adjustments if necessary, and serve immediately. So easy and so good.

Now what would a meal be without dessert. Can’t leave that out! So, one of our easy favorites is really great vanilla bean ice cream topped with Fresh Raspberry Sauce, Chocolate Kahlua Ice Cream Sauce, or Bourbon Caramel Sauce. All three of the sauces are a snap to make, and turn plain ice cream into a decadent dessert. If you want a more substantial dessert, but still over the top easy, treat yourself to a Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake.  

My wish for you is that you have a wonderful New Year full of great food, great times with family and friends, and special moments that make for great memories.

  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 T. baking powder  
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt  
  • 6 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 c. buttermilk, or more as required

Whirl the flour, soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix just till combined. If it appears too dry, add a bit more buttermilk. (The dough should be fairly wet.) Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Adding flour as needed, fold the dough on itself about 5 times.

Gently pat the dough to 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into large rounds and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Gently knead the scraps together and make as many biscuits as possible.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are a light golden brown on the top and bottom. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and serve warm or allow to cool and store in an airtight container. Gently warm before serving with jam, jelly, or local honey.

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS BERLINER STOLLEN

Our dear friend Vicki began baking Christmas stollen when she was a teenager. But somehow the recipe didn’t leave with her when she left home. So a bit later in life when she wanted to again make stollen for Christmas, it took her years to find a recipe close to what she remembered from her childhood. Even then she had to amend the recipe. But I’m here to tell you, wherever she got the inspiration for this amazing Christmas treat, she has created the perfect Christmas delicacy.

This bread is sweet, but not too sweet, with just enough jewel-like raisins, currents, and pieces of candied fruit embedded in the flavorful bread to make a believer out of the most “fruitcake phobic” individual. There is simply nothing not to like about this stollen! And I haven’t even mentioned the glorious vanilla sugared crust yet. OMG, it is so tasty.

Now I know, I should have posted this recipe way before Christmas. But in my defense, I was a bit busy baking cookies and making candy for my children’s Christmas goodie packages. So any thoughts of writing a post was inconceivable. But it’s really not too late to make stollen this year. In fact, some grocery stores have candied fruit on sale right now. I know QFC does. In fact I recently bought all the fruit I need for next year and have it safely stored in our basement storage room.

So you don’t have to wait for next December. We still have a long winter ahead of us, and nothing would be nicer than to wake up some cold, dreary winter weekend morning to a cup of fresh hot coffee and a slice of this fabulous bread. But I must warn you; it takes stollen about 10 days to sit and contemplate the existence of plastic wrap and aluminum foil before it has fully developed to its rightful potential. And I’m telling you, that’s a long, long time to be patient, especially after the first time you taste this wonderful treat. But, if I can do it – so can you.

So even though there are a lot of ingredients, this bread comes together very easily and remarkably quickly. So no excuses there! Please make this bread. It is simply divine.

Before I end this post, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year. Please join me in praying for peace on earth, a show of unity between parties on issues that concern all mankind, and an end to greed so prevalent as to make most of us who are over 60 glad that we are!

  • 5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 c. finely ground toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into roughly ½-inch chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. whole milk cottage cheese
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 2 tsp. real vanilla
  • 1 T. grated lemon rind
  • 1 T. lemon juice or 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 T. dark rum or 1 tsp. rum extract
  • 2 c. golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1½ c. currants
  • 8 oz. (1 lg. container) candied citron*, lemon peel, or orange peel (I use citron)  
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • vanilla sugar (see recipe below)

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, mace, and ground almonds in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse 5 or 6 times to blends the ingredients. Add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whirl the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla, lemon rind, lemon juice, almond extract, and rum in a blender. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the raisins, currants, and candied fruit.

Hint: I use a regular table knife to stir in the fruit. Actually with any stiff dough, a table knife is the perfect tool. (Clean hands work well too.)

Mark helping Vicki “stir” all the ingredients together on a double batch

Divide dough into 4 portions. On a floured surface, gently pat each quarter portion into a circle about ½-inch thick, then fold half of circle ¾ of the way over the other half. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

unbaked – single batch

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is light brown and the bread is done. (I use the old toothpick trick to see if the bread is ready to come out of the oven. The toothpick should come out clean.)

Remove pan from oven and cool breads completely. When cool, slather with the half cup melted butter and sprinkle with copious amounts of vanilla sugar. After two hours or so, wrap each stollen in plastic wrap then a second layer of aluminum foil. Place in a dry, cool place for at least 10 days. (In other words, forget about the stollen while it ages. Good luck with that, BTW!) And don’t worry about the bread molding or anything like that. It will be just fine, in fact, it will be perfect! If you want to keep it for months, it freezes very well. (Vicki tells me, she and Mark keep one of the stollen they bake in the freezer and enjoy it in July. Sounds like a good idea to me!)

Note: If you use candied orange peel, substitute grated orange peel and orange extract/juice for the grated lemon peel and lemon extract/juice. If you use citron (read all about it below) use lemon rind and juice.

*Candied Citron: Candied citron is not candied lemon, orange, or grapefruit peel or a combination thereof. Citron is actually a semitropical fruit that is similar to a lemon but with thicker skin. To make candied citron, the peel is blanched in water, boiled in sugar syrup then partially dried. Citron lends a mild floral note to fruitcakes, panettone, and other such confections. Though the pulp is sour, the candied peel is perfect for baking into stolen.

VANILLA SUGAR

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla powder (I use Cook’s) or find a recipe for vanilla sugar you like better on line!

Whisk together and store extra in an airtight container.

 

 

OVERNIGHT RYE BEER BREAD

Now I know, most of you don’t bake bread every week. Me either. I should, for the sake of cost and nutritional purity. But if I baked bread every week, I would eat more bread every week. You see, bread is my biggest downfall. I can gladly forgo most baked goods, but not bread. I’m hooked and it’s my grandmothers’ fault!

As a child I really had 2 sets of care givers. My maternal grandparents lived in a home on the same piece of property as my parents. So even though both of my parents worked, my grandparents were always in attendance. And after school snacks were habitually available in my grandmothers’ kitchen.

My favorite snack was hot-out-of-the-oven homemade bread liberally spread with home churned butter. Oh my friends, those were the days. I can still conjure up the smell of those lovely loaves, always the same, and always perfect.

Now grandma never made fancy breads except at Christmas. (She used cardamom in a delicious braided Christmas bread.)  The loaves she made for everyday consumption were your basic white loaf. She would probably be quite skeptical of the various types of flour and other ingredients I use in some of my favorite breads. Like this one. First of all she wouldn’t even know what espresso powder was, much less espresso itself! Nor would she understand why I would put onion in bread dough. Even molasses or beer might cause her to lift an eyebrow. And after she took a bite, I’m pretty sure she would immediately decide that I was a complete bread baking failure. After all, tastes were simpler 60 years ago. And even though my grandmother was a college graduate, she was still at heart a farm girl from the mid-west. Her spice collection consisted of salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and possibly paprika. That’s it! No savory herbs like dried oregano, thyme, or rosemary. She didn’t even use fresh parsley. She did grow dill for pickles, but as far as I can remember, that’s about it. So like I said, simpler times and definitely simpler tastes.

And even though she would have been in her early 60s when she was allowing me to cut both crusts off her newly baked loaves for my after school snack, she never advanced to using dried herbs in her cooking, even though I believe they were starting to become available through the Watkins man. (I used to love when he came to visit.) So most definitely she would not have liked or understood this bread!

But I do, and Mr. C. does, and so did our guests at our last JazzVox pre-concert meal.

So even though my dear grandmother who first introduced me to bread baking would frown on me even suggesting that you might enjoy this bread, make it anyway. After all, respecting our elders only goes so far.

  • 2 c. light rye flour
  • 1½ c. (1 bottle) room temperature amber beer
  • 2 pkgs. or 5 tsp. active dry yeast  
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. vegetable oil, plus more for coating the dough ball
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. chopped dehydrated onion, opt.
  • 3 c. bread flour, or as much as needed
  • cooking spray

Combine rye flour, beer, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set on a counter overnight. (Don’t refrigerate.)

The next day, add molasses, salt, espresso powder, oil, egg, and dehydrated onion; beat with dough hook until smooth. Add enough white bread flour to make a soft dough. Knead for about 5 minutes.

Pour a small amount of oil over the dough, and using your hands, coat the bread with oil and round into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for at least an hour, or until doubled. (Can take up to two hours.)  

Punch down and divide dough in half. Shape into round loaves, and place on a large baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover the loaves and let rise for 45 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut a large shallow X on the top of each boule just before placing in the oven. (Just in case you didn’t know, bread baked into a round loaf is most often referred to as a boule.)

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Remove from oven and cool on racks. Best if allowed to rest uncovered overnight.

 

 

OVERNIGHT WHOLE-WHEAT, SEED, AND ONION ROLLS

So, the first thing you need to know is that this bread takes 3 days to prepare. OK, not 3 full days, but you need to start 2 days in advance. Allow me to explain. The first day you place some of the seeds in a bowl, add water, cover, and place on your counter overnight. This step – 5 minutes max, unless of course you have trouble locating one of the seeds, then – well – you’re on your own time! The second day you make the dough and let it rest in your refrigerator overnight. The third day you shape the rolls, allow them to rise, add a topping, and plop them in the oven. So technically 3 days. But actually no more work time than any other yeast bread. And what do you get for your time and effort? Well you get about 32 perfectly delicious, soft, and healthy dinner rolls.

Now I know I’ve already told you how I feel about sitting down to a fine dinner in a restaurant or a holiday or special occasion dinner at home without bread or rolls. But for those of you who haven’t heard me rant on the subject, suffice it to say, I think it’s barbaric! In other countries, it’s almost illegal to have even an everyday meal without some kind of bread being at least offered. So my question is – where did America go wrong? (Oh God, I could expand on this subject until the cows come home. But in the name of common sense and good manners, I will refrain from any political discourse at this time.)  

Anyway, for a recent pre-concert meal in our home, I planned to serve three different sauces to go on rice. What I needed was a roll that would complement each of the sauces but yet have a presence of its own. So I thought a hearty roll featuring onion, different grains, and seeds would be perfect. Through much research, I came up with this recipe which is a compilation of several internet recipes and a couple of my own standards. Fortunately the result was well received. In other words, our guests very much enjoyed the rolls.

So next time you plan a special dinner for your family and/or friends, I would invite you to give these rolls a try. But unless you know your guests very well, I would refrain from talking politics. Nothing spoils a meal faster than some fool who disagrees with your well thought out and accurate point of view!

  • ¼ c. sunflower seeds
  • ¼ c. pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 2 T. flax seeds
  • 1 c. room temperature water
  • 1 T. dark molasses
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1½ c. cold water
  • 2 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ c. sesame seeds
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 3 T. dehydrated chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil + more for greasing the mixer bowl
  • 1 c. spelt flour
  • 2 c. whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed 
  • Topping:
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1 T. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds* or black sesame seeds
  • coarse sea or kosher salt, for sprinkling, opt.

Place the sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds in a small bowl; add room temperature water. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand on the counter overnight. The next day, rinse the seeds with cool water and drain well. Set aside.

Pour the molasses, yeast, and cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer; stir to dissolve. Whisk in the 2 cups bread flour to obtain a batter-like consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until mixture looks active, about 30 minutes. Add the drained soaked seeds, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and dehydrated onion. Use your dough hook to stir the seed mixture into the yeast mixture. Then add the eggs, olive oil, spelt flour, and whole-wheat flour. Knead the dough until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sparingly add additional flour if needed. (Dough should be a bit sticky.)

Pour a small amount of olive oil over the dough, and using your hands, roll the dough into a ball. Make sure the entire ball is lightly greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for a slow, cool rise**.

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 90 minutes. Form the dough into small balls and place 2-inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until balls have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Uncover and brush top of balls lightly with beaten egg. Mix together the sesame and nigella seeds. Sprinkle mixture over each ball, then sprinkle very lightly with sea or kosher salt. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Please note: If ever in doubt that your bread is fully baked, take its temperature. The ideal average bread temperature is 200 degrees F.

*Nigella seeds are used as a spice in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The black seeds taste like a combination of onion, black pepper, and oregano.

**If you wish to skip this step, leave dough to rise in the bowl covered with plastic wrap until doubled, about 1 hour. Then proceed from the sentence beginning “form dough into small balls……..”