Category Archives: BREAD, ROLL, AND MUFFIN 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……..”

GARLIC BREAD

There are only a few type of people who can turn down a piece of hot garlic bread straight out of the oven. You know the type. Among them, those who have strict and healthy eating habits, or consider food just a means to keep their body alive, or those infuriating few who can even forsake Cheetos. (In my estimation, no one should be that well-disciplined. It simply can’t lead to mental stability.) So unfortunately, or fortunately (depends on how you look at it) I don’t happen to fall in any of the types who can show restraint when it comes to garlic bread (or Cheetos, for that matter)! For me, garlic bread is like a siren call that lures me away from healthy eating and onto the path of pleasurable indulgence followed by guilty regret.

So now that I have completely bummed you out, I’m going to tell you how wonderful this garlic bread tastes. And no, I am not going to tell you this bread is good for you. I am not going to lie to you, because my mother told me not to lie to people. But I will tell you it is worth going a little out of your nutritional comfort zone if offered a piece. It literally screams “Italian” and as we all know, if it’s Italian, by definition it’s going to be amazing. (I recently did the “who were your ancestors” thing, and it turns out I am 100% European, but only about 1% Italian. Nearly broke my heart.)

So, there is nothing more to say about this bread except that you must make it sometime in the near future. It goes well with almost any pasta dish, soup, salad, or entrée. In other words, it’s versatile. Plus it’s easy to prepare. Now if it were only low calorie, it would be the perfect food. A girl can dream, right???

  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¾ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 long crusty baguette, cut in diagonal slices

Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper all at once. Stir for 5 seconds and remove from heat.

Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and spread liberally with the butter mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 4-6 minutes or until the bread is crusty around the edges and the butter topping is very hot. Serve either piping hot or at room temperature.

 

GF BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS

OK, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am not a muffin lover. But, and isn’t there always a but, these muffins are delicious. My friend Peggy described them as having a consistency reminiscent of angel food cake, but not quite as soft. And the nice little crunch provided by the sprinkling sugar just adds to the overall appeal. And blueberries, who doesn’t love blueberries? One of those guilty pleasures that is actually really, really good for you. Did I mention that these babies are really, really tasty?

Now the original recipe I found on Mel’s Kitchen website did not call for GF flour. But my friend Marsha, who suffers from celiac disease, turned me on to Cup4Cup, her favorite GF flour. She uses it in place of regular flour with amazing results. So I decided for my JazzVox brunch yesterday, I would give Cup4Cup a go in this recipe. And of course what usually happens when I think I am doing the right thing like offering up a GF dish, I read the very next day that I am playing into the hands of people who may be harming themselves by adopting a GF lifestyle. (I really can’t win!) 

According to Peter Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, “The gluten-free diet is a trendy diet. It will save someone’s life if they have celiac disease, but its role in the general public is nonexistent. Many people who go on a gluten-free diet do so for “bogus reasons.”

So now what do I do? Throw the muffins out as not to pander to someone’s uninformed idea of what is good for them? Or do I simply serve the muffins knowing that they are delicious and who the heck cares anyway if they are made from something other than wheat flour? I tell you – it ain’t easy keeping up with everyone’s food allergies, likes and dislikes, vegetarianism, veganism, etc. etc. It’s like checking out alternate facts! What the heck is an alternate fact anyway? Isn’t a fact a fact? Has the dictionary definition (a thing that is indisputable) changed over the last 3 weeks? Should I start preparing alternate recipes in case we happen to find ourselves in an alternate universe? A universe without basil, for example. (God forbid!)  

Anyway, the thing to know is that these muffins are wonderful. They are easy to prepare, and regardless of whether or not you use GF flour or “the real thing”, you are going to be very happy with me for turning you on to this recipe. Enjoy the muffins my friends and thank you Mel for this amazing recipe.

  • 8 oz. (1 pkg.) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 T. (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. Cup4Cup GF flour (or your favorite GF flour or if necessary, regular unbleached flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt  
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • 2 c. fresh blueberries
  • sprinkling sugar, opt.

Cream the cream cheese, butter, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk; mix until well-combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the cream cheese mixture and mix just until combined. Do not over-mix. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Using a medium sized ice cream scoop, plop dough into 2 – 12 cup paper lined muffin tins. Top each muffin with a light sprinkling of sprinkling sugar. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 14-16 minutes or until the tops spring back lightly to the touch and the bottoms are a nice golden brown. Don’t overbake.  

Remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a covered container at room temp. or in the refrigerator for several days.

Thanks to the Mel’s Kitchen website for this delicious recipe. Makes 24 muffins.   

KRENDL (RUSSIAN CHRISTMAS BREAD)

I dearly love being invited to a dinner party where everyone is asked to bring a dish to compliment a theme, be it ethnic or as a side to a particular main dish, or to include a particular ingredient, etc. I love this type of invitation because it often forces me to search the web. (Like I need a dinner party invitation to search out new and exciting dishes to share with you!)

Anyway, I was recently invited as a guest of a guest (my dear friend Vicky) to be her date. (Her husband and mine were gigging together during the dinner hour. So I was basically Mark’s replacement at table.)

The dinner was being hosted by Eric and Eliza and labeled as “Goose Fest”. But in reality, it was to celebrate Russian Christmas. Eliza is of Russian decent and apparently many Russians celebrate Christmas Day on January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to December 25 in the Julian calendar. The dinner party was actually on the 14th, but what’s a few days here and there among friends?

Anyway, one of the suggestions Vicki offered me for my contribution was Krendl. Never heard of it, but when has that ever stopped me. So off to web recipe land I ventured. And this incredible bread is the result.

I changed Barbara Rolek’s recipe just a bit, but not enough to hardly notice. So thank you Barbara for what is now one of my favorite sweet breads. (And no, I am not going to wait until next Christmas to make this bread again. In fact, I am going to make it for our next JazzVox pre-concert meal.)

This bread fulfills all of the basic desires I have when it comes to sweet breads. The dough is pleasantly sweet, the filling is full of fruit (think raisins in cinnamon rolls, for example), and the glaze is perfect. There is even a slight crunch to this bread from the sliced almonds. What more could you ask??

So if you love rich and tender bread, a filling resembling a fruit compote, and thin sweet almond flavored glaze, this is the bread for you. But please don’t wait until next Christmas to make this fabulous delicacy. It would be perfect served at an Easter brunch, to accompany coffee and tea at a book club meeting, or as a special treat to leave in your break room at work, to mention just a few examples.

And to make things a little different than what you usually experience when building a filled sweet bread, the filling is made before the dough is even started. Fun, eh?

Wonder why? I leave that for you to figure out my friends.

So get out your yeast and give this recipe a try. Just be advised that this bread is going to serve about 2 dozen people. The good news is that it feeds a lot of people and also freezes well. The bad news is that you are not going to be able to stop eating it. You’re just going to have to trust me on this. I speak from way too much experience.

Filling:

  • 1 c. sweet white wine (I use Muscato) or apple juice
  • 1 lg. apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 c. finely chopped dried apples
  • ½ c. finely chopped dried apricots
  • ½ c. chopped pitted dried prunes
  • 1/3 c. golden raisins
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract

In a large saucepan, combine wine, apple, dried fruits, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until a jam-like consistency is obtained. Stir periodically. When desired thickness is reached, remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Cool to room temperature while you make the dough. Spread on dough as explained below.

Bread Dough:

  • 1 pkg. or 1 scant T. active dry yeast
  • 5 T. granulated sugar, divided
  • ¾ c. warm whole milk
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter + 3 T., room temperature
  • 2 lg. egg yolks
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in warm milk. Let proof for about 10 minutes. After allowing the mixture to proof, add the ¼ cup butter, egg yolks, vanilla, 1½ cups of the flour, and salt; mix with your dough hook on medium speed until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be slightly tacky). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Pour a tiny bit of oil over dough and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 75 minutes.

Punch down dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 32×10-in. rectangle. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter; brush over dough to within 1-inch of edges. Mix cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar; sprinkle over top. Spread with cooled fruit mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam and ends to seal.

Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, seam side down. Form into a pretzel shape. (Forming the dough may make the parchment paper go all wonky, but persevere. Remember, you are dealing with paper and a piece of dough and you are the boss. Now’s the time to allow the latent bully side of your personality come to full fruition!) Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel; let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until almost doubled.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack. Spoon glaze over surface while the bread is still slightly warm. Quickly decorate with sliced almonds. (The glaze will start to harden as soon as it is spooned onto the bread.) Allow glaze to set before serving.

Glaze:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 2-3 tsp. warm water, or more as needed
  • ¼ c. sliced almonds

Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, almond extract, and warm water together. Add additional powdered sugar or warm water to reach desired consistency. (Glaze should be fairly thick, but not so thick that it doesn’t flow slowly and evenly when spooned onto the warm bread.)

 

 

FROSTED MAPLE PECAN SCONES

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One of my fondest childhood memories is of the after school treats I adored when I was in 4th and 5th grade. A small store occupied a part of the block just across from my elementary school.  And every afternoon after school I would walk across the street to the store and buy a maple bar. Then I would lovingly carry it to my bus stop and wait for my bus to take me home. And ever since, I have been passionate about the taste of maple.

As an adult, I mostly worked in downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue. And on every street corner (or so it seemed) there was a Starbucks coffee shop. I didn’t much care for the coffee (I was a Torrefazione fan until they were purchased by – who else? – Starbucks. And no the coffee is not the same anymore!) Anyway, at the time, maple scones were one of the breakfast items that Starbucks offered.  And when I felt I needed a treat, I would buy a scone and eat it at my desk. (A maple scone and a cup of Torrefazione coffee – breakfast of champions I tell you.)

Then, to my dismay, Starbucks stopped making maple scones. I have to say, that was the final straw. Not only did they deprive me of my favorite coffee, they stopped making my favorite breakfast treat. I was devastated! But never being one to let a mega corporation ruin my life, I decided to make my own scones. And I tried. But they were never quite right. (I think the missing ingredient was the ground up oats.) So for several years I went without my beloved maple scones.

Then just before Christmas, I got a wild hair to try once again. So I looked on line and found the basis for this recipe on the Food.com website. I baked up a batch and low and behold, the universe was once again aligned along the right path.

So if you too were fans of Starbuck’s maple scones, I can hardly wait for you to give these a try. They are truly amazing. As far as Starbucks – I never go there anymore, unless of course, it’s a coffee emergency. Then all bets are off!

Scones:

  • ¾ c. oats
  • 1¾ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ c. packed light-brown sugar
  • ¼ c. granulated sugar
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 lg. egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. real maple extract
  • ¾ tsp. real vanilla extract
  • 10 T. cold unsalted butter
  • 1 c. chopped toasted pecans, divided

In a food processor, pulse oats until ground into a coarse flour, about 1 – 2 minutes. Pour oats into a large mixing bowl along with the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well to combine.

Using a box grater, grate cold butter and mix into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. (I use a regular table knife for this action.) Stir in 2/3 cup of the pecans.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the heavy cream, egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract. Pour cream mixture into flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened and the dough starts to come together in large clumps. Gently knead mixture in bowl by hand several times until it forms a ball.

Scoop onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape into an 8-inch square. Cut into 8 equal squares. Cut each square diagonally. (You will end up with 16 small triangles.)  Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven until set and golden brown on the bottom, about 13-15 minutes. (Don’t overbake.) Cool on a wire rack until just warm to the touch; spoon glaze over scones and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup pecans. Allow glaze to set before storing in an airtight container.

Glaze:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 1 T. heavy cream, or more as needed
  • 1 T. whole milk
  • 1½ tsp. maple extract, or more to taste

Whisk together all glaze ingredients in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Thin with additional cream as needed, 1 tsp at a time. Or add more powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time.

 

 

CARIBBEAN CORNBREAD

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When I was a child, my grandmother would make cornbread once in a while. I loved it. Of course it was liberally spread with home churned butter, so what’s not to like, right? But this was very plain cornbread and definitely not sweet. (Well it wasn’t sweet until my grandmother poured maple syrup all over it, that is.) And all my adult life, I baked cornbread for my family too. And if it had any sugar in at all, it was only a very small amount.

But in researching a cornbread to serve with other Caribbean dishes, I found most of the recipes to contain a fair amount of sugar, including this wonderful recipe from Blanchard’s Restaurant on Anguilla Island, British West Indies. But compared with other recipes I perused, even with the crushed pineapple, there was less sugar than in most.

Now something you should know – I don’t like canned pineapple. (Don’t much care for fresh pineapple either, if truth be told!) But this recipe received such good reviews, I just had to give it a try. And oh am I glad I did. You really can’t taste the pineapple, but it adds not only sweetness, but moisture and texture to the final product which is very desirable in a good cornbread. I served the cornbread to guests, and everyone loved it. In fact one of the guests told me it was the best cornbread she ever tasted and asked if she could take some home. Which of course she did.

Now that I have tasted this cornbread, regardless of the fact that it contains sugar and pineapple, it is now the house brand, so to speak. It is just too good to be true. Plus it freezes beautifully, so you can make it ahead, and freeze it until needed. (I suggest a double batch, because you are going to want more of this even before you finish the first pan.)

So go Caribbean on your family and friends, and fix them some of this cornbread to go along with Caribbean Pork Stew over basmati rice. (The stew recipe and rice recipe are on the site already.) Your family and friends will love you for it. And for dessert, vanilla ice cream topped with Caribbean Rum-Raisin Ice Cream Sauce – also on this site. And regardless of what you learned as a child, play with your food. Don’t like pork in your stew, use chicken. Don’t like basmati rice, use brown rice. Don’t like rum, forget the whole meal and go to McDonalds. (Just kidding.) Serve the ice cream with a chocolate sauce instead. People in the Caribbean like chocolate too, or so I’m told. Will let you know when I return from Belize.

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 2 T. baking powder (yes tablespoons!)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ c. canned cream-style corn
  • ½ c. canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add corn, pineapple, and cheese; mix to blend. On low speed, add flour mixture and mix until well blended.

Pour batter into a butter and floured 9-inch glass* baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 oven for 1 hour or until golden brown around the edges and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

*You can use a metal pan but glass works better. If you have to use metal, bake at 350 degrees and start watching after 45 minutes.