Christmas Stollen Wreath

Christmas Stollen Wreath

I want to go back.  To go back to being young and innocent, the only pressure studying to pass a math test.  I didn’t love a lot of my youth.  School destroyed me emotionally and exhausted me physically.  I was always a worrier.  But so many things about being a kid, tween, teen were enjoyable.  I often wish I could relive those moments, those feelings, those memories.

I want to go back to our trips to Disney World because truthfully I don’t really remember them.  I know it was a good time from pictures and stories, but I’d just love to experience it again.  It must have been awesome to little seven year old me to see the Magic Kingdom and experience it without a worry in the world.

Christmas Stollen Wreath

I want to go back to the summer we lived in an apartment.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love living in an apartment, but I loved the swimming pool there.  Almost always empty, ready, and waiting for me along with Mom or my baby sitter.  Entire, sun filled days of bliss were spent there, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I want to go back to all of my Granny’s visits.  I loved her with all my heart, but I was a kid focused on my own things, not hers.  Now that she’s been gone for more than six years, I’d love another chance to talk to her, bake with her, take a walk with her.  we’d connect on an entirely different level.

Christmas Stollen Wreath

Christmas Stollen Wreath

I want to go back to a couple summers ago when my aunt and uncle stayed with me while Mom and Dad went on vacation, then Mom and I went to Fash Bash, a huge fashion show and party.  We did all kinds of other fun things and I felt like the world was my oyster.  I want that summer back to live it all over again.  Of course, as I look out the window at seemingly never ending snow, stacking up inch after inch, I just want summer back period.

However, I can’t have any of those things back.  Instead, I’ll just have to try to remember and focus on making the future even better than the past.

Luckily, I have some of this Stollen stashed away in the freezer to relive and making it with Mom was a new, wonderful memory.  I’ve wanted to make Stollen for years and finally got around to it.  I’m so glad I did.  The recipe is easy to make, though it does require lots of rise time.  The end result is a decadent coffee cake like bread.  The exterior has a shiny, bakery worthy crust, while the interior is soft and moist.  It’s loaded with dried fruit and almonds.  Plus, it feeds an army.  Seriously, this thing is MASSIVE!  It’s perfect for Christmas morning alongside a cup of coffee or tea!  I’m already making awesome new memories with this Stollen and you will be too!

Don’t miss both of my awesome giveaway!  Enter to win a $200 Visa gift card and then enter to win a KitchenAid food processor valued at $250!

Christmas Stollen Wreath

Christmas Stollen Wreath

 

Christmas Stollen Wreath

Prep Time:

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: About 20 pieces

Ingredients

1 cup currants

¼ cup bourbon

1 ¼ cups jumbo raisins (I like Trader Joe’s medley)

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

5 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

6 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup milk (I used almond, but any will work)

13 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

¼ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

2 packages active dry yeast

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Zest of 2 oranges

Zest of 1 lemon

¾ cup dried tart cherries

¼ cup chopped dried apricots

1 ¼ cups unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Instructions

In two separate, small bowls, soak currants in bourbon and raisins in orange juice.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.

In a medium microwave safe bowl, heat milk and 10 tablespoons butter in 30 second increments until butter is fully melted. Cool for about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast. Let stand 2-3 minutes until yeast is frothy and bubbly. If the yeast does not froth, it is dead and you need to try different yeast. Add the yeast mixture, the milk mixture, and the eggs to the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Once a dough is formed, add currants and raisins, along with about a spoonful of liquid from each bowl, orange zest, lemon zest, cherries, apricots, and almonds. Stir the add-ins in as much as possible before transferring to a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes.

Butter a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of butter. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat it with butter. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and place in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Punch the risen dough down and roll it into a rectangle about 16 by 24 inches and ¼ inch thick. Starting with a long side, roll the dough up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Connect the ends of the dough, forming a large circle. Make sure the edges are sealed and the circle is as uniform as possible. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Cover the dough with parchment paper and place in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes. It will not rise much. After the 30 minutes, brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter and bake until golden brown and crusty, 35-45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely. Bread may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen in pieces, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. This really adds to the flavor; however, do not freeze it with confectioners’ sugar.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

An additional 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours is required for bread to rise, but this is not hands-on time.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://piesandplots.net/christmas-stollen-wreath/

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls + Giveaway

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls + Giveaway

This giveaway is CLOSED!  Congratulations to Candace on winning!

I’ve never had to want for a meal in my life.  I’ve never been told I couldn’t order something at a restaurant or couldn’t buy something I wanted in the grocery store.  My pantry is stuffed with food.  It’s scary and upsetting to know that many people in this country do not experience the same thing.  In particular one in five children do not know where their next meal will come from.  How is this possible?  No one in the world should be hungry, but here in America it’s rather surprising to me that so many children suffer in this way.

I can’t solve the problem alone, but Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes, and Karo® Syrup have teamed up with bakers like me to try to Bake a Difference.  Those companies are donating $450,000 to No Kid Hungry and are asking all of us to spread the word about the cause. 

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls

Fleischmann’s® Yeast has been around for more than 140 years and is the yeast I always use when I’m bread baking.  It works really well and makes bread baking so easy!  My pantry is also never without Karo® Corn Syrup.  I always have a couple of bottles of both light and dark syrup.  Homemade marshmallows, caramels, and pecan pie would not be complete without the syrup and my life would not be complete without marshmallows, caramels, and pecan pie!  Karo® Corn Syrup is also the only corn syrup that does not have any high fructose corn syrup in it.  Corn syrup is a naturally derived sweetener just like sugar, and I’ve never understood why it gets a bad rap.  It’s a staple in my kitchen.

I was challenged to take Fleischmann’s® Classic Dinner Roll recipe and put my twist on it, either sweet or savory.  I was so excited to come up with my own creation.  You know I had to go sweet, so I made Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls.  The dough itself is easy to make and I added pumpkin puree to it and then rolled the dough up with a gooey mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and pecans.  These are super easy to make and would make a great Thanksgiving morning breakfast or an addition to the Thanksgiving table to replace those plain dinner rolls.  I’m not always a dinner roll kind of girl, but I couldn’t get enough of these with their part cinnamon roll, part dinner roll taste.

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls

In keeping with the spirit of the mission, I shared my rolls with my parents, because I share all of my creations with them, and my grateful neighbors.  I wish I could’ve shared with even more people.  You can Bake a Difference too by whipping up these rolls or another treat of your choice and share it with your friends, family, or even better, those in need.

You can also share images of classic Fleischmann’s® Yeast and Karo® Syrup recipes that you have made with your own spin using the #BakingADifference hashtag on all Fleischmann’s® Yeast and Karo® Syrup Facebook channels for a chance to be included in the Baking A Difference e-cookbook at Facebook.com/FleischmannsYeast and Facebook.com/KaroSyrup.  How cool would it be to have your recipe in a cookbook?!?

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls

To learn more about the Baking a Difference campaign and get the latest recipes and baking tips from Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes, and Karo® Syrup, visit Facebook.com/FleischmannsYeast, Facebook.com/SimplyHomemadeMix, Facebook.com/KaroSyrup and Pinterest.com/BeABetterBaker.

To make it even better, and kick off the holiday season, Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes, and Karo® Syrup were also kind enough to give me two gift packs, one for me and one to give away to all of you!  This gift pack is sure to get you all set for holiday baking.  Valued at over $75, it includes, Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes, and Karo® Syrup, along with apple butter, a bread basket with a warming stone, oven mitts, and holiday spreading utensils.  Baking will be a breeze this holiday season!

Giveaway Prize Pack

To enter the giveaway, answer the question: What do you like to bake for the holidays?

To earn additional entries:

Follow @piesandplots on Twitter. Come back and let me know you’ve followed in an additional and entirely separate comment.

Like Pies and Plots on Facebook. Come back and let me know you’ve liked me in an additional and entirely separate comment.

Follow Pies and Plots on Pinterest. Come back and let me know you’ve followed in an additional and entirely separate comment.

Follow @piesandplots on Instagram. Come back and let me know you’ve followed in an additional and entirely separate comment.

Subscribe to Pies and Plots via email using the form at the top of the page on the right hand side. Come back and let me know you’ve followed in an additional and entirely separate comment.

IMPORTANT: This giveaway is open to US residents only.

The giveaway ends Friday, November 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST.

The winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on random.org. The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be chosen.  Good luck!

Disclaimer: I was provided with the gift pack and the giveaway by Fleischmann’s and Karo, but all opinions, as always, are mine. 

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls

4.7 from 21 reviews

Pumpkin Pecan Crescent Rolls + Giveaway
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
Rolls
  • 2 – 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope Fleischmann’s® RapidRise Yeast
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup milk (I used almond, but any will work)
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Filling
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together ¾ cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, and butter. Microwave on high in 30 second increments until very warm (120-130 degrees F). Pour heated pumpkin mixture into flour mixture and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add an additional ¼ cup of flour and beat with the mixer on high for 2 more minutes.
  2. Add an additional 1 cup of flour and stir until a soft dough is formed. If the dough seems too sticky, add the final ¼ cup of flour. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover with a piece of parchment or a tea towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. While the dough is resting, make the filling. In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, butter, pecans, and cinnamon until fully combined.
  4. Using hands, press the dough into about a 10-inch circle. Cut the dough into 10 roughly equal sized triangles (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Take one triangle of dough at a time and place about 1 tablespoon of filling all over the surface of the triangle. Roll the triangle up tightly. It is okay if some of the filling falls out. Place with the point down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until all of the rolls are formed.
  5. Cover the baking sheet with parchment paper or a tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 30-45 minutes.
  6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Some of the filling may have oozed out – that is okay. Serve warm or cool completely on pan. Rolls may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes. Rolls may also be frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Fleischmann’s® Classic Dinner Rolls

Carrot Zucchini Bread

Carrot Zucchini Bread

I am so not done with summer.  My kitchen is loaded with peaches, plums, blueberries, blackberries, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and more.  After that pesky power outage last week (yeah, I’m still not over that), Mom and I spent the weekend working our tail feathers off trying to re-preserve summer.  This meant freezing blueberries, peaches, plums, and blackberries.  Dad actually went to pick blackberries again, and they were the best ones he’s ever picked.  He even said he’d go again.  I so need to nominate him for world’s best dad :)   Did I mention he doesn’t even like blackberries?  Then Mom and I made Blueberry Buckle, Blackberry Pie Bars, and Peach Blackberry Pie.  Summer could not end until we made that pie!

My wardrobe is still all about sleeveless dresses and strappy sandals.  I’d prefer to never see my winter coat again.  I’m still wearing bright nail polish and lipstick.  Oh, and those walks around the neighborhood with the sun beating down on me and the birds singing?  I’ll probably cry when those come to an end.  That and when all the stunning flowers die.  Everywhere I look right now the flowers are prettier than ever. 

Carrot Zucchini Bread

Carrot Zucchini Bread

I can feel the change coming though.  The air feels different.  I was chilly at the farmers’ market this weekend.  Mums and Halloween decorations are out in the stores.  I’m dreading the change in seasons more than I can tell you; perhaps more than I even know.  California, I’m coming for you asap, because I don’t know how much longer I can take the torture that is winter.  But for now, even the calendar agrees that it’s still summer!

Carrot Zucchini Bread

I also recently re-made this Carrot Zucchini Bread after the whole freezer meltdown thing.  I wanted to make something with the lovely carrots and zucchini out now.  I wasn’t sure what to make until I came across this bread.  It is incredibly soft and moist and did not get too brown in the oven as some breads do. The carrots and zucchini shine through with a hint of spice and some crunchy walnuts.  Whether it’s for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, this bread is sure to keep summer going.

It’s the last day to enter my Angie’s Popcorn Giveaway!

Carrot Zucchini Bread

Carrot Zucchini Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 16 slices

Ingredients

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups grated carrots

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup walnuts

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour 2 loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fully combined and slightly lightened in color.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture until fully combined, but do not over mix. Add in the grated carrots and zucchini and walnuts. Stir until evenly distributed.

Divide batter evenly among the loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Cool loaves in pans about 20 minutes before gently and carefully removing from the pans and cooling completely on a wire rack (or serve them warm). Bread may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour or in a 350 degree F oven wrapped in parchment placed on foil for about 20 minutes for ¼ loaf. Larger pieces will take longer.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Mom on Timeout

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://piesandplots.net/carrot-zucchini-bread/

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

Flour's Famous Banana Bread

The power of scents is very important to me.  I’m talking about good scents.  Scents that make me stop in my tracks because they’re intoxicating or remind me of childhood.  Those scents I wish could be replicated in a candle, but can’t because candles never smell as good as the real thing.  Scents that I want to linger.  Scents that I walk out of the room and back in just to get another hit of them.  Scents that make me feel better, make me smile, take away my anxiety.  Scents hold so much power in my world.

I love the smell of flowers.  In the winter, there’s nothing like being hit with the bright scent of lilies from a bouquet of flowers Dad bought.  In the summer, lilacs, honeysuckle, and more unidentified flowers make Mom and me take longer and longer walks.

Flour's Famous Banana Bread

Clean laundry, fresh from the dryer makes me sooooo happy!  Towels, sheets, clothes, it doesn’t matter.  I love that smell and have since I was little.  I’ve been known to keep my nose buried in clean laundry for most of the day sometimes.  It’s even better if it’s warm from the dryer, but that’s a conversation for another day.

I like the smell of rain and freshly cut grass.  I like the smell of different hair products I use and even some of my makeup.  But I never wear perfume, mostly because I’m allergic, but even if I wasn’t, it has a lot of the artificiality of candles.

Flour's Famous Banana Bread

Flour's Famous Banana Bread

Food smells just might be my favorite, though.  Bright lemons that take away headaches.  Perfectly ripe peaches and nectarines are a sure sign of summer.  Vegetables with curry or balsamic vinegar roasting in the oven permeate the entire house.  Steaks being tended to on the stove by Mom make my mouth water.  And of course baked goods!  They all smell amazing, whether full of caramel, cinnamon, peanut butter, or just good old butter.  One of the best things about baking is the smell that accompanies the process.

Banana Bread is no exception; in fact, it may be one of the best smelling baked goods.  I haven’t made banana bread in years, but for some reason, I got an intense craving for it.  I used the recipe from Flour bakery in Boston with a few changes and it did not disappoint.  Super moist and full of tons of banana, I almost didn’t add the toasted walnuts but am so glad I did because they were awesome.  I wish the edges would’ve been a little less brown, but the bread was no less delicious as a result.  Plain or with a smear or peanut butter, this Banana Bread is sure to leave your taste buds and nose very happy so make sure to take some time to smell the roses . . . er . . . banana bread.

Flour's Famous Banana Bread

 Flour's Famous Banana Bread

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 8 slices

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup oat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

3 ½ bananas, ripe, mashed

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup walnuts, toasted

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until they have lightened in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Drizzle in oil while whisking. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the nuts, mixing just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 55-65 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. If bread is becoming too brown at any time during the process, tent it with foil. Cool bread in pan about 15 minutes, before carefully removing from pan and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Bread may be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes. Larger pieces will take longer to thaw.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Flour Bakery

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://piesandplots.net/flours-famous-banana-bread/

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  While I am Irish, I’ve never really celebrated the day.  But this year I wanted that to be different.  The only dilemma was what to make.  I couldn’t really think of many Irish foods other than soda bread or brown bread and I’m not a huge fan of either.

So I started thinking about my favorite Irish person: my Granny.  Though she is no longer with us, not a day goes by where I don’t think of her and wish she was still here.  One of my favorite things to do when she came to visit was simply eat breakfast with her.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

She always got up early.  Earlier than I’ve ever had to get up.  She poured a cup of coffee and reached for something sweet the moment she got up.  Sitting down to one of her favorite movies as the sun came up.

When I got up and was ready for breakfast, she was always ready for a second helping.  Some days it was coffee cake or cinnamon rolls, but most often, we reached for a slice of cinnamon raisin bread.  It was one of the things always we picked up at the store in preparation for her visit.  We’d go to the bakery and ask them to slice and ice a loaf of raisin bread.  Granny would toast hers (making the house smell heavenly) and smear it with butter.  I was happy with it as is.  We’d sit and eat our bread while chatting and watching morning news.  It was always a great way to start the day and such a fond memory for me.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I haven’t had raisin bread in a very long time, so I thought in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Granny, I’d make a batch.  This Cinnamon Raisin Bread is very easy to make, though there is quite a bit of inactive waiting time.

All of the waiting is more than worth it, as the intoxicating smells of cinnamon and homemade bread waft through every square inch of the house.  The end result is a perfectly golden brown bread with a soft crust and super soft, moist interior loaded with a welcome mix of golden and regular raisins.  The flavor is fantastic with the perfect amount of cinnamon.  It tastes way better than any raisin bread we used to buy at the store.  This is, in fact, my new favorite homemade bread.  I enjoyed it with a smear of Biscoff or a little peanut butter with a homemade marshmallow on top.  I can’t wait to make it again and only wish Granny could share a slice with me for breakfast.  I know she’d love it.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

5.0 from 3 reviews

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Varies
 
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ cups bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
  • ½ cup milk (I used almond)
  • ¾ cup water, divided
  • 1 ½ cups raisins
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup cognac or whiskey
Instructions
  1. First, proof the yeast. In a small bowl heat ¼ cup water to about 110 degrees. It should feel just warm to the touch. I did this in the microwave. After warmed, add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar, and stir. After 5-10 minutes, the mixture should be very bubbly and voluminous. If it is not, the yeast is dead and you need to try different yeast.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine both kinds of raisins. Add the cognac or whiskey and stir to combine. Allow the raisins to soak in the alcohol while you make the dough, stirring occasionally. Warm water may alternatively be used.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the egg, shortening, milk, yeast mixture, and the remainder of the water. Stir until a ball is formed and all ingredients are incorporated. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour. If it is too dry, add more water. Mine was perfect.
  4. Sprinkle a surface with flour and knead the dough on the surface for about 8 minutes, until it is soft, pliable, and tacky, but not sticky. Add the raisins to the dough, draining out as much of the alcohol as possible. I reached in with my hands and drained them as best I could. The bread did not taste like alcohol at all. Continue kneading the dough for about 2 minutes, until the raisins are evenly distributed.
  5. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, rolling it in the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place the dough in a warm place for about 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
  6. After the dough has risen, oil 2 standard loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, forming them into loaves. Oil the tops lightly and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Place the loaves back in a warm place for 2 – 2 ½ hours until they are again doubled in size and practically touching the tops of the pans.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the loaf pans on a sheet tray, making sure the loaf pans are not touching each other. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans, then continue baking for 20-30 minutes. Mine only took 20 additional minutes. The loaves should be golden brown and firm to the touch. They will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pans immediately. You may need to loosen it around the edges with a knife.
  8. Though it may be a little messy, the bread is wonderful sliced right out of the oven. It may be stored in a zipper bag at room temperature for up to 5 days, or frozen wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours or preferably in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes for a quarter of a loaf. Longer for bigger pieces. You may wrap the bread in parchment before heating it to prevent it from getting too crusty.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Warm, soft, gooey, decadent.  These are all things I look for in desserts in the winter.  Something comforting.  Something to combat the cold winter weather.  Something like bread pudding.  It really doesn’t get warmer, softer, gooey-er, or more decadent than bread pudding.

I love the idea of bread pudding, but so often it is disappointing.  I am happy to report that after one bite of this, I could. Not. Stop. Eating. It.  Seriously, it was a major problem.  I had to give it away to my neighbors to get it out of the house.  I started with challah bread from the amazing Avalon Bakery in Detroit.  I had never been there before, but it is such a great little bakery full of tons of amazing looking treats.  The braided apple raisin coffee cake was a huge hit as was the orange cranberry bread, but the challah really shined in this bread pudding.

It was perfect to soak up the super-rich and eggy custard, enhanced with spices, vanilla, and bourbon.  Apples add a little texture.  Then I drizzled it with my favorite caramel sauce.  It was simply awesome, especially warm out of the oven with warm caramel heaped over it.

Speaking of eggs, this is another recipe I developed for Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs.  They are so perfect for this recipe because then it’s okay if the custard isn’t all the way set.  So please head over to their site for the blog post and recipe.  You definitely want to make Caramel Apple Bread Pudding this holiday season.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

One Big Baguette

One Big Baguette

Sometimes I have days when I just don’t feel like myself.  Maybe I’m encountering a few too many aches and pains that have me worried about a more serious problem.  Perhaps a little stuffiness has me freaked out about catching a cold.  The clouds outside may have lingered in the sky a few days in a row.  I might even be dealing with a food hangover from eating out the previous night.  I’m a pretty lucky girl and I try not to let little things get me down, but every once in awhile, I just can’t help it.

When this happens, I turn to things that remind me of childhood.  I turn a cartoon on the TV (Finding Nemo, perhaps).  I grab a stuffed animal to hold.  And I like foods that are comforting.  Okay, so maybe wild king salmon is on my strange list of comfort foods, but there are times when it’s not in the house or not quite comforting enough.  Then I turn to bread.

Dough

I don’t eat bread much anymore, though there was a long period in my life when I ate it pretty much every day in one form or another.  When I do eat bread, it either comes from Zingerman’s Bakehouse or my oven.  I wanted bread the other day after eating out the previous night and being filled with all kinds of aches and pains, a double whammy.  But my freezer lacked bread.  I had to make some.

Unrisen Baguette

Risen Baguette

This was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do, but then I remembered a recipe I’d seen on The Cooking Actress blog that I wanted to try and hadn’t gotten around to yet.  The original recipe called for two baguettes, but I wanted a big loaf of bread so I made One Big Baguette.  What’s more impressive about this recipe is that it takes about ten minutes to put together, an hour to rise, and under half an hour to bake.  Homemade bread doesn’t get easier than this.  It also probably doesn’t get much tastier.  The soft dense interior is surrounded by a chewy, but not too chewy crust, that it’s overly tough and crunchy like some artisan breads.  It is beautifully golden brown and left me wanting to eat most of the loaf, though I didn’t.  I slathered mine in American Spoon preserves, but I really can’t imagine a way this bread wouldn’t be good.  Whether you’re a bread making expert or novice, I highly recommend this bread.  It saved the day, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and brought me right back to childhood.  Can’t ask for more than that from a loaf of bread.

One Big Baguette

One Big Baguette

5.0 from 3 reviews

One Big Baguette
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Varies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees, or 2 30-second increments in the microwave)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, place water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for about 5 minutes until it is foamy. If it is not foamy, the yeast is not alive and the bread will not rise.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Once the yeast mixture is ready, stir it to incorporate any undissolved yeast and pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until dough forms a ball.
  3. Dump the ball of dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Shape the dough into a loaf shape and place on the cookie sheet. Cover with a tea towel or parchment and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour until at least doubled in size. I actually let mine go about an hour and 15 minutes because I wanted to bake it at a certain time. It’s pretty forgiving.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make a slash down the center of the dough. Once the oven is preheated place a pan of water (I use a 9 by 13 filled with an inch or 2 of water) on the bottom rack of the oven. Allow to sit in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Then put the bread in the oven on the rack above the water pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until the bread is golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool as long as you wish (it’s awesome warm). May be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature or in a 350 degree F oven wrapped in parchment placed on foil or about 20 minutes.
Notes
Recipe adapted from The Cooking Actress

 

Italian Bread

Italian Bread

Dad doesn’t get enough credit here on the blog or in real life.  Mom gets all the glory and attention being my wingman in almost everything I do, but Dad deserves glory too.  I wouldn’t be here without him, clearly, but I also wouldn’t have had many a deep, yet unexpected conversation on just about any topic, have all the knowledge, particularly about history, that I do, know how to work the camera that provides the photos for this blog, have a closet full of fancy clothes and shoes that he bought with one smile thrown his way from his “little girl,” have a partner to watch TV shows Mom doesn’t like, or have had anyone to go see Kathy Griffin with me.  Yes, he really did take me to see Kathy a few years ago, and sometimes, I think he probably still regrets it.  It’s also one of my favorite things when he watches a chick flick with Mom and me, and he does quite frequently.

Dad has helped write written many a school paper, even if neither of us still understand The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; he has been to every shopping mall in the metro Detroit area.  Dad’s the chauffeur when Mom or I want to go to Downtown Detroit, or a number of other hard to find places.  When it comes to the blog, ingredients are sourced, photos are taken, and recipes are taste tested all courtesy of Dad.  Most important though, he supports me, no matter what, even if I can’t possibly imagine when he dreamed of having a child he thought of me.

Dough

Proofed Italian Dough

Instead of having the normal child that goes with the flow, he got me: the girl who hated school until she started homeschooling in the middle of high school and now dreams of being a best-selling author and popular blogger, instead of a doctor or lawyer or accountant or something concrete and easier to achieve.  But just like Mom and me, he does as much as he can to make my dreams come true and probably does a heck of a lot of hoping, because at the end of the day with what I want to achieve, hard work alone likely won’t get me there.  And he does pretty much all of this with a smile on his face.  A smile I’m eternally grateful to see every day.

Unrisen Italian Loaf

Unbaked Italian Bread

So, basically, what I’m trying to say is, thanks Dad.  I may not say it enough, so now’s my chance for the world, or at least a very small part of it, to hear me say I appreciate you and don’t know what I’d do without you.

I asked Dad over and over if he had anything in particular he wanted me to make for Father’s Day.  He couldn’t think of anything, so knowing he’s not always a sweets guy, I made a loaf of bread.  Bread, a rare treat in my house, is one of Dad’s favorite things.  When he told me his grandmother used to make bread all the time and how he loved it, I knew I’d chosen the right thing to make.  The bread was a big hit.  Just another little way for me to say I hope you enjoy your day, Dad.  And even if I don’t always say it, you’re the best.

By the way, this bread is fantastic.  I ate it plain, with garlic, and with pumpkin butter and blackberry preserves; it was great every way.  The perfect simple loaf of bread, it’s super easy to make.  Prep was about fifteen minutes.  The proofing time is a little long, but take that time to run an errand, take a walk, read a book, whatever, and enjoy some homemade bread; it really is so much better than that bought at the store.  Don’t forget to thank your dad too, because dads make the world a better place.

Italian Bread

Italian Bread

4.3 from 3 reviews

Italian Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 5-5 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more for kneading and pan
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn meal
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Allow it to proof until frothy. Make sure the yeast is frothy and has bubbles in it or it may be dead and your bread will not rise.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 5 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix on low just to combine. Make sure to break up the sugar. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water, and oil. Mix on lowest speed until a dough begins to form. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky and not coming together. I did not need to add more flour. After the dough is basically formed, raise the speed to 2 and knead for 7 minutes. Then, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface to knead by hand for about 2 minutes. You should have a smooth dough, but it is okay if it is still a little sticky.
  3. Move the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl. Lightly oil the top of the dough before covering the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours until at least doubled in size. It should fill the entire bowl. I put mine in the microwave with the light on, but not the microwave itself.
  4. Remove the plastic, punch down the dough, and flatten it with the heel of your hand. With the dough still in the bowl, roll it up tightly, making sure to seal the seam well after each roll. You are shaping the dough during this process. In the end, the dough should look like a loaf of bread: long, but still wide and slightly rounded with tapered and rounded ends. As long as you’re happy with it, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the dough on an inverted baking sheet covered with parchment and dusted lightly with flour and cornmeal. Cover dough with a lightly floured cloth or piece of parchment to rise again for about 30 minutes until at least doubled in size.
  6. After risen again, take a small knife and make a slash in the center of the dough from end to end about ¼ inch deep. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  7. Put a pan on the bottom rack in the oven with 1 cup of water. Allow to cook in the oven for a couple minutes to begin to create steam. Then put the pan with dough on the rack above the pan with water. Bake for about 30 minutes, until loaf is deep golden brown in color and has a hollow sound when tapped. The water will have evaporated.
  8. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. When cool, or slightly warm, slice and enjoy. May be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days in a paper bag or wrapped in parchment. May be frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. May be thawed at room temperature for several hours or in a 350 degree F oven. Pieces should be wrapped in parchment and warmed for about 10 minutes, while the whole loaf will take 30 or more minutes not wrapped in parchment.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

 

 

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Bun

I’m not a big bread eater.  Most of the time it doesn’t fall far enough into dessert for me to justify spending my calories on it, and most of it is so . . . well . . . bready.  When I go out to eat, I’ll indulge in a piece or two if I love it, and the breads from Zingerman’s Bakery are often irresistible in small servings, but other than that I’m not a bread girl.

However there are those breads that fall clearly into the realm of dessert.  Panettone (as long as I make sure it doesn’t have chocolate – it’s surprising how many do) and stollen are two of my favorite treats.  I’ve never had a hot cross bun before this adventure.  The plan has been to go to Zingerman’s to pick some up for a couple years, but it hasn’t happened yet.  They were a favorite of my Granny, and around this time of year I see them all over TV and in the grocery store circulars.  It was finally time for me to try making my very own hot cross buns.

Kneading Dough

I adapted John Barricelli’s recipe.  He has become one of my favorite bakers from seeing him on The Martha Stewart Show all the time.  All of his recipes I’ve tried have come out perfectly and he makes everything seem easy and approachable.  I also received his signed cookbook for Christmas, which was very exciting.

Yes, this is a yeast dough recipe.  But don’t be afraid.  These buns were easy to make.  Seriously.  The ease was kind of shocking.  There’s always some nervousness and risk when working with yeast.  Is the yeast alive?  Will it rise?  Will all my hard work go to waste?  If you check the date on the yeast, it’s probably alive and will rise, and using this recipe will ensure your hard work will not go to waste.  I used the little packets of Fleischmann’s Dry Active Yeast.  They’re easy to find in most grocery stores and very reliable.

Unrisen Dough Risen Dough Unrisen Rolls Risen Rolls

I didn’t mess with the major structural components of the recipe, but I did mix up the flavorings quite a bit.  Adding extra sugar ensured I would be left with the dessert bread I was looking for.  The lemon and orange zest of the original recipe were greatly enhanced by the addition of a bit of cinnamon, and I like the swap of raisins and dried cherries (both Sun Maid) for currants.  I also chose to skip the bun crossing paste and go with the traditional icing cross, mostly because when I think of hot cross buns, I think of that thin white cross on top of them.

Raisins and Cherries

They are time consuming, but only due to the rising time.  There is very little active time.  I didn’t know what to expect, having never tasted one of these little treats, however, while chewing the first bite, I wondered where they had been all my life.  The top is slightly golden and firm, while the interior and bottom are white and soft and sweet.  The raisins and cherries interspersed throughout add just a hint of chewiness and extra flavor.  The lemon and orange zest kind of fade to the background while the hint of cinnamon comes through.  Even though I did make the icing cross, which had an amazing vanilla flavor, I still added the preserve glaze.  I used American Spoon Red Haven Peach Preserves, which I didn’t strain.  I broke up large chunks using a spoon, leaving the few small pieces of peach as a delightful addition.  Any peach or apricot preserves would do the job, but I absolutely love American Spoon’s products.  They are made in Michigan using ingredients from Michigan, giving them a superb flavor.  No extra or strange ingredients here.

Perfect for Easter or anytime, really, these hot cross buns are one of my new favorite treats with the perfect combination of flavors.

Hot Cross Buns Hot Cross Bun

5.0 from 2 reviews

Hot Cross Buns
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl
  • 1 cup milk (I actually used skim)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 orange (I used a Cara Cara)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten (Pasteurized if you like)
  • 5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup American Spoon Red Haven Peach Preserves
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Pour 1 cup milk into small saucepan with candy thermometer clipped to side, and bring to about 110 degrees F over medium heat. Once heated, pour milk into bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment. With machine running on low speed, add sugar, yeast, salt, butter, cinnamon, orange and lemon zest, and eggs. Mix until combined. Add flour, continuing to mix on low speed until soft, slightly sticky dough forms around dough hook. This should happen quite quickly. Continue mixing on low speed about 4 more minutes until the dough is smooth. Scrape down hook and bowl as necessary. Add raisins and cherries, mixing to incorporate.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead briefly only to make sure raisins and cherries are fully incorporated throughout the dough. Shape dough into ball. Place dough in a large well buttered bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl so it is covered with butter. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for about 1 hour 30 minutes until it has roughly doubled in size.
  3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto unfloured work surface. Knead very briefly before shaping into log. Cut log in half, each half in half and each quarter into six pieces. Shape each piece, roughly the same size, it doesn’t have to be exact, into a tightly formed ball. Place each ball on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, 4 rows of 3 on each tray. Cover baking sheets tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for about 2 hours, until buns are doubled in size and touching.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Unwrap buns before transferring them to the oven to bake until golden brown, about 18-25 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes if necessary. Depending on your oven, watch them to make sure the bottoms are not browning far more quickly than the tops. Let cool on trays.
  5. While the buns are cooling, heat the peach preserves in a small saucepan over medium heat, breaking up large pieces of peach with a spoon. Brush or spoon jam over buns. They can still be warm for this step.
  6. When buns are completely cool, make the icing. In a medium bowl, whisk or stir together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and about 2 tablespoons of milk, you may need more. The icing should be thick but spreadable. Adding more confectioners’ sugar or milk may be necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
  7. Spoon icing into piping bag or plastic zipper bag with a tiny tip cut off. Pipe crosses on buns. Serve and enjoy. Buns will keep for one day at room temperature in an air tight container, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months.
Notes
Hot cross bun recipe adapted from John Barricelli from The Martha Stewart Show, April 2007