Pecan Streusel Bread

A sweet friend and her husband just finished building their dream home.  When going over to see the new diggs, I wanted to bake something special to celebrate.  She and I sat, talking for hours, enjoying the gorgeous view and each having two generous pieces of this bread.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2012.

Substitution made.  The original title for this recipe is Walnut Streusel Bread.  I just don’t do walnuts, so pecans (the better nut) were substituted.

pecan streusel bread 1

Pecan Streusel Bread

Streusel:
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of salt
2 tblsp butter, melted
2 tblsp chopped pecans

Bread:
9 oz all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tblsp butter, softened
2/3 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c fat-free buttermilk
Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

pecan streusel bread 2

Preheat to 350 degrees.

To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add 2 tblsp melted butter, stirring until well combined.  Stir in nuts, set aside.

To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 oz flour in to dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Combine 5 tblsp butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at med-high speed until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla.  Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.  Scrape half of batter into a 9×5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture.  Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl.  Sprinkle remaining streusle on top of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center come out with moist crumbs clinging.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Remove from pan; cook completely on wire rack.

pecan streusel bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9 This quick bread is a buttery, crumbly coffee cake.  Meant to be enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee and a dear friend.

Chocolate Chip-Coffee Muffins

While husband’s family was visiting over Thanksgiving, I baked these muffins to enjoy on a lazy Saturday morning.  Most of us are coffee lovers, so I figured these would be a hit.

The recipe is from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2012.

Substitution made, noted below.

muffin Collage 1

Chocolate Chip-Coffee Muffins

2/3 c whole milk – I used 2%
5 tblsp butter, melted
3 tblsp instant coffee granuales
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
9 oz (about 2 c) all-purpose flour
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Combine first 5 ingredients.

muffin 2

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist.

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray (I used muffin cup liners.)  Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until done.  Remove muffins from pan immediately; place on a wire rack.

muffin 3

cartoon-strawberry-9These are great muffins, they mix up easily and bake quick.  It’s a great recipe to have on hand for a lazy Saturday morning or a fancy Sunday brunch.

Sweet Challah

I should have made this for Jewish New Year, but I missed the date by about a week.  I was nervous about braiding the dough, but it wasn’t as hard as I was anticipating.  If nothing else, this is a beautiful loaf of bread to create.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, December 2009.

Substitution made, noted below.

challah collage

Sweet Challah

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1 c warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3 tblsp honey
dash of saffron threads, crushed
3 tblsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
14.25 oz bread flour (about 3 cups), divided
cooking spray
1 tsp cornmeal
1 tsp water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp poppy seeds – I used sesame seeds

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey and saffron threads.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add melted butter, salt and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Add 13 oz (about 2 3/4 cups) flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms.  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tblsp at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size.  (Gently press two finger into dough.  If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

challah 2

Punch dough down.  Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl.  Cover and let rise and additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down; cover and let rise 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 25 inch rope, with slightly tapered ends.  Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal; pinch ends together at untapered ends to seal.  Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine 1 tsp water and egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended.  Uncover loaf, and gently brush with egg yolk mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with poppy seeds.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack.

challah 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Holla Sweet Challah!  Husband said this reminded him of Hawaiian bread.  To me it was similar, but not as sweet.  I would love to serve this sweet bread with a thick rich soup on a rainy day.  (I’m dreaming and ready for fall…)

Light Wheat Bread

Husband really loves the strawberry & almond bread I’ve been making, but I wanted to try something new.  Back to The Bread Bakers Apprentice I went.

This recipe is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice.

No substitutions were made.

light wheat bread 1

Light Wheat Bread

2 1/2 c unbleached high gluten or bread flour – I used bread flour
1 1/2 c whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tblsp granulated sugar or honey – I used honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tblsp powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tblsp shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature – I used shortening
1 1/4 c water, at room temperature

Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4 quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the shortening, honey (if using) and water.  Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball.  If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water.  The dough should feel soft and supple.  It is better for it to be a little too soft than to be too stiff and tough.

Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook).  Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky.  Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine).  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test.  This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane.  If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.

Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

light wheat bread 2

Remove the dough from the bowl and pres it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches long.  Form it into a loaf.  Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8.5×4.5 inch bread pan.  Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

Forming the loaves: Flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edges to make and even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6-8 inches long.  Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension.  the loaf will spread out as your roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9 inches.  Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs.  Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends.  Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top.  Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan.  The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.

Proof at room temperature for approximately 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and back for 30 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished loaf should register 190 degrees in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferable 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

light wheat bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9I laughed when this loaf came out of the oven.  It reminded me of the Muppet loaf of bread that showed up on Sesame Street and the Muppet Show.  This is a great standard loaf of bread.  Toast, sandwiches, whatever.  This is a great recipe to have on hand!

Anadama Bread

Sometimes in a local cookbook, a story will be included as to where a recipe came from.  This story made me want to try this bread.

“No Cape Cod recipe collection would be complete without the story of the fisherman who, tired of his wife Anna’s cormeal mush, added yeast and flour to it and proceeded to bake a loaf of bread muttering, “Anna-damn-er,” thereby creating – Anadama Bread.”

This recipe is from Flavors of Cape Cod cookbook.

No substitutions were made.

Anadama Bread 1

Anadama Bread

3/4 c boiling water
1/2 c yellow cornmeal
3 tblsp butter, softened
1/4 c light molasses
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water (110 – 115 degrees)
1 egg
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour, sifted

Stir together boiling water, cornmeal, butter, molasses and salt.  Set aside to cool.  Dissolve yeast in 1/4c warm water.  Add yeast, egg and only 1 1/4c flour to cornmeal mixture.  Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed.  Stir in remaining flour a little at a time until batter is smooth.

Anadama Bread 2

Grease 9 inch loaf pan and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Spread batter evenly in pan; cover and let rise to 1 inch below top of the pan.  Bake 50-55  minutes in a 375 degree preheated oven.  Crust will be dark brown.  Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool on rack.

Anadama Bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Oh Ana, I wonder if you appreciated your husband’s mutterings and messing with your recipes?  Unfortunately, this has been my least favorite recipe so far.  The molasses taste is really strong and the bread is just a little too dense for my liking.

Ode to a Strawberry

strawberries

I love strawberry season.  I’ll buy 2 lbs of strawberries and eat them all myself in just a few days.  And there are endless recipes to be found using fresh strawberries.  Below I’ve listed the few I’ve made in the last month or so.  Click on the title to link to the recipe.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

roasted strawberry buttermilk cake

I made this for sweet Kari’s birthday cake.  Super Yum.  I would double the strawberries being roasted, just to be sure you have enough for the cake and extra for topping.  The roasted strawberries would be great too as a topping for yogurt in the mornings.

Strawberry Almond Bread

strawberry almond bread

I’ve made three loaves of this bread in the last month or so.  It’s great for toasting or sandwiches, and husband loves it.  I’ve used plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream each time.

Fresh Strawberry Mint Lemonade

strawberry-mint lemonade

I’m a sucker for anything with peppermint in it.  I did strain out a bunch of the pulp from the berries, but it’s still thick and wonderful.  I cut in a little Trader Joes Sparkling Lemon water to thin it out.

Strawberry Crumb Bars

strawberry crumb Collage

We had some friends over for dinner and I made this as our dessert.  So buttery.  So crumbly.  So good.  Make this now and invite some friends over for dessert.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

At my church in California, we used Kings Hawaiian Bread for communion.  Taking a small piece from the sweet loaf was a wonderful reminder of the sweet sacrifice made for me.  I really wanted to try this recipe, but put it off because its a 7 hour process.  Seven. Hours.  But I had a free day and thought, “what the heck?”.

This recipe is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice.

No substitutions were made.

portuguese sweet bread 1

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Sponge
1/2 c unbleached bread flour
1 tblsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 c water, room temperature

Dough
6 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 c powdered milk
2 tblsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tblsp vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 c unbleached bread flour
6 tblsp water, room temperature

Egg Wash
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water until frothy

To make the sponge, stir together the flour, sugar and yeast in a small bowl.  Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter and shortening in a 4 quart mixing bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer).   Cream together with a sturdy spoon ( or the paddle attachment) until smooth, then mix in the eggs and extracts.  Knead by hand (or switch to the dough hook attachment) and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. (Dough with high amounts of fat and sugar usually take longer to knead because the gluten requires more time to set up.)  The finished dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test.  This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane.  If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

portuguese sweet bread 2

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Form each of the pieces into a boule.  Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan.  Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap.

To form at Boule (Ball)
a. Gather the dough to form a rough ball.
b. To create surface tension, stretch the outside of the dough into a oblong shape, being careful not to squeeze out the gas trapped in the dough any more than necessary.
c. Repeat this stretching motion, bringing the opposite ends together to make a ball. Tighten the surface tension by pinching to seal the bottom of the dough where the creases converge.
d. Seat the boules aside for proofing or to rest for further shaping.

Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly.

Very gently brush the loaves with the egg wash.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they register 190 in the center.  After 30 minutes, check the loaves and rotate 180 degrees, if necessary for even baking.  Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is done.  It will get darker sa the center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn.  The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.

Remove the bread from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool  The bread will soften as it cools, resulting in a very soft squishy loaf.  Allow the bread to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving.

portuguese sweet bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9The name says it all, this is a sweet bread.  Personally, I think its a little too sweet, but then I slathered on some butter and it all evened out.  There is a suggestion in the book to use this bread as french toast, this WILL be happening soon.  I would also like to try and use this dough for either dinner rolls or sandwich rolls.

Sullivan Street Bread

bread&wine_cover_artI can’t remember how I stumbled upon Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines, but after my first read through I was hooked.  A woman writing openly and honestly about her delights and struggles in life.  I read her heart.  I read her joys.  I read her tears.  And in doing so, I felt like her friend.

Bread & Wine is a celebration of gathering around the table with our friends and family.  Whether for an impromptu birthday party, non-traditional holiday celebrations, or just to share a favorite cookie with our best friend.  Shauna challenged me to think on why I want to have friends and family around my own table, and the atmosphere I give them to live in while in my home.

Bread & Wine will be released on April 9th, but is available for pre-order now at Amazon.com.

My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that the bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us.

I believe the bead and wine is for all of us, for every person, and invitation to believe, a hand extended from divine to human.  I believe it’s to be torn and handled, gulped.  I believe we can practice the sacrament of Communion anywhere at all, that a forest clearing can become a church and any one of us a prestige as we bless the bread and the wine.

Holiness abounds, should we choose to look for it.  The whisper and drumbeat of God’s Spirit are all around us, should we choose to listen for them.  The building blocks of the most common meal – the bread and the wine – are reminders to us: “He’s here!  God is here, and He’s good.”  Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He’s here.  He’s here and He is good.

– Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

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Sullivan Street Bread

Ingredients and instructions by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery.

I’ve been hearing about this recipe for years, but my fear of yeast has kept me away.  And then all at once, on a cool fall day, I plunged in, and I have to tell you, this is incredible bread, and incredibly easy.

A few notes, I used my beloved, batter, scratched Le Creuset dutch oven, and it works perfectly.  Also, every time I make it, I hope that this time it’s going to rise into a huge, puffy impressive sphere, and really, it never does.  Mine never doubles the way the recipe says it will.  this is nerve-racking every time, and then the bread is delicious every time.  Like life, right?  We freak out, generally for nothing.  That’s how this bread is.  It makes me nervous and makes me certain I’ve failed, and then it delights me with that crusty, crackling, gorgeous loaf.  Bread baking is an emotional roller coaster.  Hold on tight.

Also, I use cornmeal to dust it because I like the gritty yellowness, and I’m pretty generous with it, especially on the tea towel so it doesn’t get all sticky.

A few more things: the recipe instructs you to let the dough rest for 12 hours – feel free to leave it longer than that, but not shorter.  At our house, I bake it at 450 degrees for 45 minutes, and that’s perfect. You might find that 500 works better for you, or that in your oven you need the whole hour, but my recommendation is that you start with 450 and 45 minutes.

And then call me and yell and dance around your kitchen, because you have cracked the code, found the grail, unlocked the key: you have made bread. – Bread & Wine

sullivan street bread 1

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpse flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
Olive Oil (about 1 tblsp, for coating)
Extra flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (about 2 tblsp, for dusting)

Equipment
2 med mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, La Creuset cast iron or ceramic)
Wooden spoon
Plastic wrap
2 or 3 cotton dish towels (not terry cloth)

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add water and incorporate with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65 to 72 degrees).

After 12 (or more) hours, remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice.  Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface.

Next, shape the dough into a ball.  Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; place the dough seamside down on the towel and dust with flour.  Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1 to 2 hours at room temperature until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven 450 to 500 degrees.  Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat.  Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seamside up.  Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes.  Then remove the lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.

Cool on a wire rack.

sullivan street bread 2

cartoon-strawberry-9So my first thought at reading this recipe was – I have to let this stuff sit for 12 HOURS?!?  How’s that gonna work?  But I mixed up the dough, went to bed and baked it the next day.  I slathered a piece with butter – heaven.  Then I dipped another piece in some olive oil and balsamic – heaven.  This bread is good, and totally worth the scheduling needed to make it.

I hope you all have enjoyed this week of highlighting a few of the recipes from Shauna’s new book, Bread & Wine.  Please pick up this book and let me know if you enjoy it.

shauna1Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.

Basic White Bread

Have I mentioned to you guys my love for all things bread?

Recipe from the Complete Step-by-Step Cook Book, published by Better Homes and Gardens.

No substitutions were made

basic white bread 3

Basic White Bread

1 package active dry yeast (approx 2 1/2 tsp)
1/4 c warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 c milk
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp shortening
2 tsp salt
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 c all-purpose flour

Soften yeast in warm water.  For best results, check the water temp with a candy or roast thermometer.  It should register 110 to 115 degrees.  If the water is cooler, the yeast won’t grow as it should.  Hotter water will kill the yeast.

In a saucepan heat together milk, sugar, shortening and salt; cool to lukewarm (105 to 110 degrees).  Use a thermometer for accurate results.  The mixture must be cooled before adding the yeast or the yeast may be killed.  Using milk instead of water as the liquid give the bread a softer crust.

Transfer the cooled milk to a large mixing bowl.  Add 2 cups of the flour and beat well.  Batter at this stage should be smooth with no lumps.  Adding the flour before the yeast also helps make the dough temperature right for the yeast.

Add the softened yeast to the milk-flour mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon to evenly distribute the yeast throughout the batter.

Stir in as much of the remaining 4.5 c of flour as you can mix with a wooden spoon. – I used another 3 1/2 c of flour.  To maintain a smooth dough, add the flour in portions and stir after adding each.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Using a well-floured pastry cloth makes the dough easier to knead, so less flour is worked into the dough.  This is an advantage, since adding more flour tends to make the bread drier.  Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.  To knead, fold the dough over and push down with the heel of the hand, curving your fingers over the dough.

Give the dough a quarter turn, then fold over and push down again.  Kneading is important in determining the final structure of the loaf as it develops the gluten of the flour.  If the dough is not kneaded enough, the loaf will be more likely to have a coarse texture and will probably not rise as high in the pan.

Continue kneading in the fold-push-turn procedure till dough is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes).  To be sure you’ve kneaded enough, set a timer for the maximum time suggested in the recipe.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl that is at least twice as large as the size of the ball of dough.  Turn dough over once to grease entire surface.  This helps keep it from drying out.

Cover the bowl of dough with a cloth.  You may first want to cover the dough with lightly greased waxed paper or plastic wrap.  This way, the dough won’t stick to the cloth if it rises to the top of the bowl.  The oven is a good draft-free place to set the bowl of dough.  Place on upper rack with a bowl or pan of hot water on the lower rack.  Keep the oven door closed.

basic white bread 2

Dough should be allowed to rise until it doubles in size (approx 1 1/4 hours).  The dough is ready to shape when you can lightly and quickly press two fingertips 1/2 inch into the dough and the indentation remains.

Punch down the dough by pushing your fist into the center of the dough.  Then pull the edges of the dough over and place on a lightly floured surface.

Divide dough into two portions.  Shape each into a smooth ball.  Cover with a towel to keep warm and to help prevent a dried-out surface.  Let rest about 10 minutes; this allows the gluten to relax and makes the dough easier to roll.

Grease two 8 inch loaf pans.  – I used Baker’s Joy for this step.  Shape each ball of dough into a loaf.

Cover loaves; set in a warm place and let rise.  Dough should rise over top of pan in a rounded shape.  Loaf is ready to bake when an indentation remains after touching lightly with finger.  This will probably take 45 to 60 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven about 45 minutes or till done.  Test by tapping the top with your finger.  A hollow sound means the loaf is properly baked.  If top browns too fast, cover loosely with foil the last 15 minutes of baking.

Remove bread from pans; cool on wire rack.  When completely cooled, wrap in foil or clear plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag.  Store in a cool dry place (refrigerator storage is not recommended since it causes yeast breads to stale).  To freeze, wrap cooled bread in moisture-vapor proof wrap.  Thaw at room temperature, then warm in 250 to 300 degree oven.

basic white bread 4

cartoon-strawberry-9The title tells it all, this is a basic white bread.  It’s good for toast and a sandwich, but it’s not amazing.  The many steps may look overwhelming, but the process goes pretty fast.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I would really like to better my bread making skills.  Which means I wanted to find a good instructional book and I also need (no pun intended) to bake a lot of bread.

The book I purchased was “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice – Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread”, by Peter Reinhart.  This book covers it all.  Differences in types of flours, weighing vs measuring your ingredients, tools and wonderful recipes.

I decided to start with the Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread and see how it goes.  The only substitution I made was pecans for walnuts.

cinnamon raisin bread 1

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

3 1/2 c unbleached flour
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tblsp shortening, melted or at room temperature
1/2 c buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 c water, at room temperature
1 1/2 c raisins, rinsed and drained
1 c chopped walnuts – I used pecans

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk and water.  Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems to sticky or too dry and stiff.

Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook).  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to achieve this texture.  Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and nuts during the final 2 minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much.  (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and nuts evenly.)  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test.  This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane.  If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves.  Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Forming the loaves: Flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edges to make and even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6-8 inches long.  Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension.  the loaf will spread out as your roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9 inches.  Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs.  Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends.  Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top.  Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan.  The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should register 190 degrees in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

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Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferable 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

Another trick that adds flavor is to brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.  When they bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst.

cartoon-strawberry-9I used my mixer for kneading the dough and then kneaded in the raisins and pecans by hand.  My bread didn’t quite pass the windowpane test, but it was close.  In the future, I would knead the dough a little longer.  Mixing in the raisins and pecans was a bit messy, but fun!  And the smell of melted butter poured over hot bread?  Pure heaven.  This recipe made two loaves, so I was able to give one away for a yummy birthday present.  This bread is worth the time and effort needed.

Oh, and then husband and I made french toast with this bread… (coming on Friday)

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