Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

My toddler has been eating almond butter on toast for 2-3 meals a day for the last week, so when my dog pulled the last few pieces of bread from the counter and ate them while we were out, I took this opportunity to get back into bread-baking, gently.

Gently, I say, because I opted for super-easy. I didn’t particularly feel like baking bread. I wanted (and we needed) bread for toast, but making yeast bread, even a simple recipe, didn’t fit into our schedule. Since I planned to feed this to Amelia (and myself) multiple times a day, the bread needed to be healthy (whole wheat).

This whole wheat molasses bread (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) was exactly what I wanted. It’s a soda bread with a little extra. You simply mix a handful of ingredients, plop the batter into a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no waiting for dough to rise.  The bread has a dense crumb, more like a banana bread than a traditional loaf of sandwich bread. I could easily cut it thinly with a bread knife, and the slices were perfect for toast with peanut butter or almond butter. This bread is sweet from the molasses, but the molasses flavor wasn’t overwhelming. This was a great, faster alternative to making sandwich bread, but it has more moisture than sandwich bread, so eat it within a few days of baking.

wheatmolassesbread2 Continue reading Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

2014 Recap + favorites

Often I ring in the New Year with a celebratory beverage or breakfast recipe. Not this year. After the past few weeks of cooking and baking, I am taking it easy to start off 2015.

Most people do reflection posts at the end of the year, not on New Year’s Day. However, I couldn’t reflect while I was in the midst of marathon baking, and besides, I can’t plan that far in advance during the month of December. This means I have to reflect in January. It was on January 1 of last year that I asserted my resolution for 2014 – to make 50 different bread recipes during the year: 1 per week, with a few weeks off for good measure. I came up with guidelines and largely stuck with them. During the first half of the year, too, I had a good schedule; I posted a bread recipe every week, mostly on Wednesdays, and then posted something not-bread on the weekends. I loved having that schedule, and felt like I was making both good bread and good progress.

During mid-year, early in my pregnancy when I was very tired (2-3 hour naps on Saturdays and Sundays = very awesome, but not great for baking) and a little stressed out from the intensity and volume of work at work, I gave myself a little time off. I’m not disappointed that I did, but I did lose the rhythm that I’d developed. I wasn’t thrilled with my progress when autumn came around, but I wasn’t behind. But once Alex got this job in New Jersey and it was clear we would move, I had to cut back. How could I keep making bread when I knew I had to pack and move an entire house, train a replacement at work, find a doctor in NJ ASAP, and deal with all the other hassles that came with moving?

I’m still very proud of myself that I made my goal of 50 bread recipes, even if I had to make it up at the end. I made 12 of the breads in December – not bad, if I say so myself?

Did I get out of it what I wanted? Yes and no. I made lots of delicious recipes, and even taught myself a few new things. However, I was not always as mindful of what I was doing as I hoped to be. Sometimes I made recipes just to make things (which I hate doing), and sometimes my breads and posts were uninspired. Sometimes it was difficult to find bread that I was super-excited about each weekend.

As I looked through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice last weekend, it was clear that there were still more bread recipes that I wanted to make. So I’m not going to give up bread-making just yet. I expect to still make a few more things in January. But my primary goal for 2015 is to survive becoming a new parent with my sanity intact – and hopefully continue to post a few new recipes even after baby makes her appearance.

Last week I was asked if I had any favorite recipes that I’d made. I wasn’t sure at the time. Looking at the year in review, I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

*****

Hands down, my favorite was the Lazy Pizza Dough from Smitten Kitchen. Since first making that dough in July, I made pizza at least half a dozen times before we moved in October, just because I didn’t feel like doing anything else for dinner. You should make this.

This morning, we started out the day right with the Maple Bacon Biscuits that I froze earlier this week. I highly recommend that recipe, as they were easy to make and were just about everything I could want in a biscuit.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread is a loaf of bread that I sometimes forget about, but it’s really very good (and healthy, too). Other favorite loaves include Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread and a new favorite, Multigrain Bread Extraordinare.

For rustic bread, the Pain a l’Ancienne was both easy and very delicious.

The Monkey Bread I made was still really pretty good. I also think that the Cinnamon Rolls I made recently will be amazing with the adjustments I added to the recipe (but haven’t had the time to try out). Also talking about cinnamon – Cinnamon Bread is still one of my old favorites, and is super-simple in that it is a quick bread and contains NO YEAST.

Chocolate Chip Cookie-filled Pretzels were probably the most different thing I tried this year. Croissants were the most difficult technique-wise. I’m very glad that I tried both!

Pretzel Bites

Today, I finally made my 50th bread recipe this year! Overall, this was such a fun resolution I made. I am a little sad to have this be over, but at the same time, I am looking forward to a little more down time. Since I’ve moved, and especially during the last two weeks, the majority of what I have done is bake. With all the goodies I made at Christmas, plus catching up on my bread, I’ve put in some full-day sessions in my kitchen. I really, really like my new kitchen, but still…

The recipe for Pretzel Bites, has been on my to-make list for most of the year. It was always going to be my fall-back recipe when I needed to make bread but didn’t want something too involved, for when I didn’t need toast for a week but just needed an evening snack instead. I must have forgotten about the recipe at some point, or else surely I would have made it during the middle of the year at one of those times when nothing else inspired me. Luckily, something reminded me of it, and I decided it would be a great snack for New Year’s Eve, as well as an easy recipe to wind down my year of bread.

pretzelbites

Continue reading Pretzel Bites

Croissants

At some point late this year, I started thinking about making croissants. A few things occurred to me. First, I realized that I’d never made croissants, due to the intimidating and potentially time-consuming process of rolling out butter and dough over and over again. They seemed like the kind of thing I should have tried already in 4+ years of food blogging. I also realized that although croissants can arguably be considered a pastry, given the amount of butter in them, I could count them as a bread, since they contain yeast. And finally, making croissants would meld perfectly with the goal of my bread-making adventure of 2014 – to specifically try different breads and new bread-making techniques.

Thus, Bread 49 of 2014 is croissants – specifically, the Baker’s Croissant recipe that I found at King Arthur Flour. The process of making croissants does indeed take some time and requires that you pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s not for the pressed-for-time baker or the multitasking baker. Since I had both the patience and the time to make croissants this week, I have to say that I was impressed by how not-difficult the process was.

Continue reading Croissants

Multigrain Bread Extraordinare

My goal in closing out the year – beyond just meeting my goal of making 50 bread recipes this year – was to not double-up on blog posts as 2014 counts down. However, it’s either post two recipes today or tomorrow or not share 50 bread recipes with you, and not sharing all the recipes with you in 2014 is unacceptable! So this morning, I share with you Bread 48, Multigrain Bread Extraordinare from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

multigrainextra2

A few things I really liked about this bread – it took whole grains, which increased its fiber and other nutritional content, and was low in fat. It was also easy to make, and happened to be very soft and delicious.

multigrainextra1 Continue reading Multigrain Bread Extraordinare

Maple Bacon Biscuits

Alex got me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas (I’m sure you’ve noticed that I link over to Smitten Kitchen regularly), and the first, oh, dozen recipes I read in it were all things that I would really like to make. Definitely a sign of a good cookbook. Since my focus right now is bread, however, the first one I made was for Bread 47, Maple Bacon Biscuits. I’d wanted to make a recipe like this for a while, but the one I’d found online that I really wanted to try involved maple extract, which I didn’t have and hadn’t gotten around to getting. So Deb’s version of the biscuits – which only made 6, which is a reasonable number of biscuits for me and Alex – with bacon and actual maple syrup, was a clear choice.

I am really, really glad that I decided to make the biscuits from this cookbook. Based on how good this recipe was, I have very high hopes for everything else in the book. This recipe was easy to make, the dough easy to handle, and the resulting biscuits themselves – very delicious.

maplebaconbiscuits2

Continue reading Maple Bacon Biscuits

Cinnamon Rolls

Bread 46 was the Cinnamon Buns recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I had planned to make a different cinnamon roll recipe but didn’t have the ingredients I wanted for it. It surprised me that I hadn’t noticed this recipe from the book sooner, despite making probably about half of the book’s bread recipes.

Thus, brunch on Christmas morning was cinnamon buns. You can bake the rolls on the same day you make them, but I didn’t want that much work on Christmas (or any morning, really). To make brunch happen, I made the buns the day before and put them in the fridge overnight for their second rise. They became puffy in the meantime, and I removed them from the fridge 3 hours before I wanted to bake them to remove the chill.

Some aspects of these rolls were amazing, and some needed work. I’ve made great cinnamon rolls twice before (from Alton Brown’s overnight recipe and from a recipe from Smitten Kitchen), and based on those, I’ve recommended some adjustments below.

cinnamonrolls3

Continue reading Cinnamon Rolls

French Bread

For Bread 45, I decided to make French Bread to go with my Christmas lasagna. I first made this recipe in 2010, and I’m not sure how often I’ve made it since. I haven’t made it for Christmas dinner (since I always make Italian Bread), but I know I’ve made it to go with other meals from time to time.

As with many other recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, you make half of your batch of dough the evening before and let it ferment in the fridge overnight. Then, you combine the prefermented half of the dough with the remaining dough ingredients on the day you want to make bread. This process yields a delicious, crusty bread that is worth your time.

frenchbread.2014.3

Continue reading French Bread

Quick Dinner Rolls

For Bread 44, I decided to try something I don’t usually make – dinner rolls. I made a batch of soup over the weekend and thought that rolls would be a nice accompaniment. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make, but sometime in November I bookmarked Big Batch Quick Dinner Rolls from King Arthur Flour, and although I looked around, I couldn’t find an alternative recipe that I wanted to make more than this one.

The recipe makes a large batch of rolls (24), and also gives instructions on freezing them. Since there are nine days left in the year (including today), and I need to make and write seven bread recipes, I thought the prudent thing to do would be to both halve the recipe and still freeze a portion of what I made.

Before I write up this recipe, I want to give you one big caveat – I’m not actually a huge fan of dinner rolls. Unless it’s sweet, I prefer my bread crusty, with heft, rather than soft and fluffy. This recipe worked well enough, though – pretty much as you would expect. I will try (for real, this time) to give you an update later on the freeze-and-bake-later aspect.

quickrolls4

Continue reading Quick Dinner Rolls

Stollen

For Bread 43, I made Stollen. I’d actually planned to make a different panetonne recipe than I have in years past (and skip fruitcake entirely), but with the move and holiday travel, I didn’t have a chance to plan my holiday baking and gifting until last week, with only a week until Christmas. That meant no planning ahead and ordering panetonne papers in advance from Amazon, and the staff at the Michael’s that I went to didn’t know what panetonne was. So, like any good baker, I improvised with a different, but similar, bread. Stollen, like panetonne, also has nuts and liquor-soaked fruit. To its advantage – you can start the dough and bake the bread on the same day.

Stollen is a bread with history and symbolism behind it, of which I basically know what exists on the internet, and so I won’t discuss it here. In any case, it stands to reason that there are many different stollen recipes, but since I’d planned to use the panetonne recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which I couldn’t do in any case, since the panetonne requires a sourdough starter), I opted for the Stollen recipe from the book instead. Reinhart said that he sometimes baked stollen in panetonne wrappers, so I hoped it would be similar enough. Also a plus – the stollen looked to be much less heavily spiced and lighter on alcohol than fruitcakes I’ve made in the past, which is a good thing if I have to eat some of it. I don’t like heavy, clovey spice mixtures, and I can’t try anything with much alcohol.

Overall, this was a delicious bread – much better than stollen I tried to make several years ago before I knew anything about baking bread. It’s also a great bread to give as gifts. I made several batches, so I did not have the energy to shape the bread traditionally, but I hope that next time I can practice some fancy, decorative shaping.

BBAstollen2

Continue reading Stollen