Monday, December 14, 2009

Focaccia {bba}

I've scaled plenty of recipes in my baking experience, but this is the first time I've cut a Bread Baker's Apprentice recipe by more than half. When it came time to bake Focaccia, the next bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I was the only person home for an entire week, so I made just 1/6 of the recipe. It turned out to be an adorable little bread and quite tasty too!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I reduced the recipe quantities to 1/6, mixing the dough in my mini food processor. It came together beautifully.

- I used high gluten flour.

- I figured that I needed a baking pan about 6' x 6" for my 1/6 recipe of dough. There are no shallow pans in my kitchen that size, so I ended up using a toaster oven tray that was 6" wide and blocked across one end by aluminum foil divider to make a square baking area. Then I pressed the dough into the roughly 6" x 6" area.

- To flavor my olive oil I warmed it with sage, oregano, thyme, and two kinds of basil from my garden. To that I added salt, pepper, bit of red pepper flakes, and a bit of freshly chopped garlic. This oil is then brushed on the dough at various times.

- Reinhart's directions stressed the liberal amounts of olive oil. When I was finished, there was oil all over the dough and pan! As the bread baked, the olive oil seeped through very top and very bottom, making the outside edges lightly crunchy.

- My bread didn't get very tall, nor did it have a bunch of big holes inside.

the verdict:

The fragrance of this bread as it baked was tantalizing, and the taste did not disappoint. The outside was a bit crunchy and the inside was wonderfully warm and tender with savory hints from the herbs and oil.

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of yeasty goodness. Stop by and check out the beautiful breads!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

James Beard's Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

Just before Thanksgiving, the Washington Post Food Section produced a story featuring classic recipes from legendary chefs, updated slightly for the modern Thanksgiving table; included were Fannie Merritt Farmer's cranberry sauce, Edna Lewis' turnip soup, Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin's deconstructed turkey. Each of the dished looked appealing, but I immediately printed the recipe for James Beard Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls, and they took place front and center on our Thanksgiving table this year.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This was the first James Beard bread recipe that I've baked, although I've always heard of Beard on Bread.

- I used fresh yeast rather than active dry yeast.

- Since I used my food processor to mix the dough, I started with the dry ingredients and mixed in the wet ones. The dough was a bit sticky until I kneaded it on an oiled counter. Afterwards it was silky and supple, and a lovely pale apricot color.

- The fresh yeast rose very quickly in my kitchen.

- I formed the rolls into 2 ounce balls in two glass pie plates.

- I tried the par-baking approach with my rolls, baking them about 12 minutes until they were puffed and a bit golden on top, but as they cooled they fell and were a bit smooshy towards the center of the pie pan. My guess it that it was the glass pie plate. After reheating, the rolls in the outer ring were baked perfectly. The inner rolls were flat (but still tasty).

the verdict:

These rolls might have been my favorite part of an exceptionally delicious Thanksgiving dinner. It was a little unreal to think that I'd baked the rolls, when just a year earlier I'd never baked anything with yeast. Additionally, these were perfect dinner rolls: soft and golden, a tiny bit sweet, with an inside crumb that just melted in the mouth. The (relatively minor amount of ) sweet potato wasn't particularly noticeable in the flavor but help contribute tenderness and a lovely color to the crumb.

The rolls made wonderful sandwiches with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce. I plan to make these rolls a tradition with Thanksgiving dinner, but I might not wait an entire year to bake them again!

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of extraordinary bread baked in home ovens throughout the world. Stop by on Fridays to check out the bounty of yeasty goodness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Honey Oat English Muffins and English Muffin Bread

Today is National Homemade Bread Day! These English Muffins, (the next recipe in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge) are perfect for today.

Until I started baking bread I would have never thought of English muffins as candidates for home baking. Back in January, the King Arthur no-knead English Muffin bread was the first loaf bread I baked, but I didn't expect that I'd ever be baking the muffins themselves. To be honest, when I set out to bake this recipe I wasn't sure if they would turn out like "real" English muffins. I love a good chewy English muffin with a sturdy crumb, and from reading early reports I learned that other bread bakers were finding the muffins surprisingly soft (but delicious).

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I figured if I used flour with increased gluten content I might get a sturdier crumb, but I couldn't help adding a bit of whole grain flour. For the white flour I used a high gluten flour (that I'd bought for bagels). I thought about adding some vital wheat gluten, but couldn't find it in my kitchen that day, so abandoned that plan. Here's what I used for flour:
7 oz high gluten flour
1 oz white whole wheat
2 oz oat flour
- I had recently bought some honey crystals (and some molasses crystals, too) from With the honey in granular form rather than being liquid, it is added like sugar, so requires no special adjustments to the recipe. I decided to try it in out in this recipe, replacing the sugar.

- I formed half the dough into English muffins, and the other half into a loaf to bake into English muffin bread.

- The BBA English muffins are made by forming the dough into balls, letting them rise and then cooking on a griddle (or, in my case, a frying pan). The muffins flatten and brown as they cook (and are finished in the oven). And then they look just like English muffins!

the verdict:

These were delicious English muffins. They were a little softer than commercial English muffins, but had a wonderful flavor. The honey and oats were very subtle, but pleasant, in the finished product. We enjoyed the loaf sliced and toasted - it was delicious. All in all, this was a fun experiment in making homemade bread.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread

King Arthur Flour has a seemingly endless supply of bread recipes - online and in the company's various baking books and newsletters. The recipe selection is both broad and deep, with many varieties of breads and often several different recipes for a particular type of bread. Case in point: oatmeal bread. There are 22 recipes for oatmeal bread on the King Arthur website alone. And although there is a "Vermont Maple Oatmeal Bread" on the site, it is not the same as the "Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread" that I baked (which is in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook.)

The ingredients in this bread - maple, oats, honey, and whole grain flour - promise a warm, autumnal experience all wrapped up in a one pound loaf. I love oats in any form, especially in bread where they lend a texture that is both tender and substantial, and the prospect of maple and honey flavors made the recipe irresistible.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- scroll down for the recipe as I baked it.

- I played around with the original recipe, increasing the whole wheat content a bit more by using two kinds of whole wheat flour: white whole wheat and some hard red wheat.

- I do have maple sugar, so I used that, but omitted the "maple flavor".

- Per my usual practice, I mixed the ingredients in a food processor then finished kneading the dough on an oiled counter. It got nice and satiny.

- There was enough dough for 2 good-sized loaves.

- I sprinkled a few oats on top before baking.

the verdict:

We found this bread to be fairly sweet, with a subtle hint of cinnamon. The oatmeal makes it soft and moist, and I really enjoyed the mix of whole grains that I used. The bread makes lovely toast, which is what we ask of loaf bread in our house (we rarely eat sandwiches).

the recipe:

Vermont Oatmeal Maple Honey Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup thick oat flakes (old fashioned rolled oats)
1/2 cup maple sugar (can use brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon maple flavor (I omitted)
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 c all purpose flour
1.5 cups white whole wheat
.5 cup bread flour
.5 cup hard red whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, maple flavor, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 1 hour; it should double in bulk.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 bread pans. Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a proof cover) and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown and the interior registers 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of extraordinary bread baked in home ovens throughout the world. Stop by on Fridays to check out the bounty of yeasty goodness.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

BBA Slow & Steady #10: Bacon Cornbread roundup

Let's talk "cornbread," shall we? The Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge baked Peter Reinhart's Bacon Cornbread recipe a few weeks ago and, as is always the case when cornbread is on the menu, ingrained taste differences surfaced. The general pattern of cornbread preparation/preference is that Northerners like sweetened cornbread and Southerners, who add sugar to everything, including vegetables, mysteriously withhold all sweeteners from their cornbread (which is also most commonly baked in a cast iron skillet). We have a mix of Northern and Southern bakers in our subgroup, and one member from another continent who is blessedly immune from the great regional divide in cornbread sweetening.

Peter Reinhart includes the recipe for this cornbread - the only non-yeast bread in his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice - because in his view the recipe was just too perfect to leave it out. With three different kinds of sweeteners in the dough, it's safe to say that Reinhart's bread reflects Northern cornbread sensibilities. Let's see how the Slow & Steady bakers reacted to this segment of the BBA Challenge!


Margaret of Tea and Scones enjoyed this sweet cornbread (hers is pictured at the top of the post) even though she lives in the South. She's 1/2 Southern, though, and I guess it's the other 1/2 (which she variously describes as "Yankee" and "rebel") that's responsible for her taste in cornbread! Margaret baked her bread in an iron skillet, as she does with all of her cornbread, and it turned out picture-perfect. Here's her post: Slow and Steady BBA - Corn Bread!


Not one to stray from her Southern no-sweetener-in-cornbread roots, Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker made some modifications to the recipe and produced Brown Butter and Sage Corn Muffins. They sound and look delicious, even if they are not going to dethrone Sarah's usual recipe. Read all the details in her post: BBA Challenge: Cornbread


Jessica of The Singleton in the Kitchen had been interested in trying this cornbread recipe on previous occasions, but was always thwarted by the recipe's overnight delay while the cornmeal soaks in buttermilk. Luckily, once she finally baked it, this cornbread lived up to the Singleton's very high expectations, providing just the right amount of sweetness. She deemed it "just about perfect" and I have no doubt she'll bake it again under just the right "plan ahead" conditions. Her post: BBA S&S: Cornbread


Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook had an experience with this cornbread that was an all-around loss. Her muffins cratered, her 8" round bread stuck to the pan, it wasn't sweet enough for her, and she definitively proved that she doesn't like corn in her cornbread. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Well, on to bigger and better bread, is what I say! Di chronicled her tribulation with the cornbread in this post: Sometimes You Feel Like Corn...


Karen, of the blog Shortbread was a bit dubious about the cornbread recipe because of the three sweeteners in it. A native Southerner, she prefers non-sweet cornbread. But after baking it, she says, "this cornbread was really fabulous. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the bacon gave it enough saltiness to balance the flavors beautifully." Read more in her post, called Doubting Thomas Corn Bread .


Natalia of Gatti, Fili e Farina lives in Italy, so she doesn't have to worry about the North/South cornbread debate. Cornbread is new to her, and she got to judge it on taste alone. Luckily, she liked it a lot, and enjoyed most of it plain for breakfast. Check out her post: BBA Slow and Steady: Cornbread


Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table baked this cornbread as an accompaniment to chicken corn chowder. The bacon in the bread ensured it would be a big hit with her family, but Kayte didn't care for greasing the pan with bacon fat, and would substitute a milder fat next time. Her post: BBA Challenge: Cornbread


Leslie of Lethally Delicious baked up a double batch of this cornbread. She left the cornmeal/buttermilk mixture in the fridge for a few days to develop the flavors, and while she liked the finished product, her inborn Southern preference for unsweetened cornbread influenced her final opinion (she didn't love it!). Here's Leslie's post: BBA - Cornbread


I've lived in the North and the South, and I'll eat cornbread just about any way that it's prepared. I divided my batch of cornbread, using some of the dough to bake a small bread in an iron skillet and using the remaining dough to bake muffins. We really enjoyed this bread, finding it "moist, savory, and just a little sweet." My cornbread post performed double duty, as a BBA post and also for the LiveStrong baking event in support of cancer awareness. Here's the post: LiveSTRONG with a Taste of... Corn: Bacon Cornbread {bba}

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I think in the entire universe of baked goods, those made with pumpkin and spices are my very favorites. When I saw the Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls on King Arthur Flour's blog Baker's Banter, I couldn't resist giving the recipe a try.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I used my food processor to mix up the dough.

- I had some freshly roasted and mashed pumpkin on hand, so that's what I used in this recipe. I made the following substitutions: oil rather than melted butter, and 6 tsp fresh yeast instead of the 2 tsp of instant specified in the recipe. I heaped the measures of spices and added 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg and 1/8 tsp freshly ground allspice.

- My dough seemed just right before I added any water. Instead of leaving well enough alone, I went ahead and mixed in 1/2 oz water, but it made the dough too sticky and I had to knead in a bit of flour.

- The dough rose quickly.

- To make the cinnamon filling, I mixed:
3/4 c brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
pinch of allspice, cloves and nutmeg
2 T very finely chopped crystallized ginger
finely chopped pecans
golden raisins
- I cut the rolled up dough into 10 spirals and nestled 9 of them in a 9x9 pan, and put the leftover 1 into a ramekin

- After forming the rolls, I popped the pan into the fridge overnight. They rose a bit in the fridge, and rose a little more the next morning as the oven preheated. The rolls puffed up beautifully in the oven.

- While the rolls were baking I was making somevanilla ice cream. I got distracted and walked away from the stove, and my cream, vanilla and sugar boiled merrily. It was ruined for an ice cream base, but turned out to make a fabulous vanilla cream sauce for the cinnamon rolls!

the verdict:

The cinnamon rolls came out of the oven a beautiful golden hue and with a lovely spicy aroma. We ate them warm from the oven with vanilla cream sauce - and without - and they tasted heavenly both ways! While I expected (and wished for) a stronger pumpkin flavor, it was quite subtle. My disappointment was short-lived, however, in face of the sheer deliciousness I was tasting. They were the best cinnamon rolls I've baked, and possibly the best I've eaten. They had a soft chewiness and warm sweet spiciness that was perfect on a Sunday morning in Autumn!

For a different take on these rolls, Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen made Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with cream cheese glaze.

I'm submitting these rolls to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of yeasted baked goods of bakers all over the world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cherry Walnut Whole Grain Celebration Bread

I have well and truly reached a milestone in the BBA Challenge. Not only is Cranberry {Cherry} Walnut {Whole Grain} Celebration Bread the last in a rather lengthy run of sweetened enriched breads in The Bread Baker's Apprentice book, it's also the final bread in the "C" section of the book. I don't know which milestone has me grinning wider. But what is the happiest thing of all is that this bread is really delicious. Despite the fact that I was totally unmotivated to bake this one (I mean, I've baked tons of different celebration-type loaves this year) one taste of this bread changed my attitude. In fact, even though I fully intended to give most of it away, we toasted up and enjoyed every last slice ourselves.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I knew that we would enjoy this bread more if it had a bit of whole grain flour in it. I routinely add rye flour, oat flour and whole wheat flour to my toasting loaves, and love it there, so I added a bit of each flour to this dough. To compensate for the reduced amount of gluten in those flours I used some high gluten flour too.

- Peter Reinhart gives a choice of liquids to use in the recipe. I chose the buttermilk and the lemon juice options - I reduced the quantity of lemon juice because I didn't want the bread to be too citrus-y.

- I substituted dried cherries for the cranberries, and reduced the quantity from 9 to 6 ounces. I toasted my walnuts and added another half ounce or so to the 3 ounces in the recipe

- Although the bread in the book was baked as a double braid loaf on a baking sheet, it can also be baked in loaf pans. I prepared two 8.5" x 4.5" pans (so I could give at least one loaf away), braided the dough, and placed it in the pans, for a braided pan loaf. The dough didn't fill the pans very full and I almost used smaller pans but these were already greased and I was too lazy to wash them and grease smaller pans. Sure enough, they ended up being small loaves. I'm guessing that all of the dough would have fit nicely into a 9" x 5" pan.

the verdict:

This bread was good sliced while still warm and really delicious toasted with butter. I love the nuttiness from the whole grain flour and the toasted nuts. The amount of cherries was perfect for us, so I'm glad I made the adjustments that I did.
I asked my husband how this bread compares to the cinnamon raisin bread, and he commented, "it's even better - hard to believe!"

I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly compilation of all yeasty goodness on blogs throughout the bread-baking world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

World Bread Day: Simple Milk Loaf

Today is World Bread Day, and I'm excited to celebrate it on my bread blog! On this day last year, 246 bread bakers around the globe came together over bread. Click here to see the roundup of the diverse and fabulous breads that they baked and shared with the world. I have no doubt that this year there will be even more breads represented.
world bread day 2009 - yes we bake.(last day of sumbission october 17)

At this time last year I wasn't aware of World Bread Day, and had never worked with yeast. The very idea of it scared me! All that changed last November when I baked a Kugelhopf for the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie, and I was bitten hard by the bread bug. Christmas saw me stocking up on a few bread-y supplies and in January 2009 my yeast baking began in earnest. The rest, as they say, is history. (You can find my baby steps and early loaves on my other food blog, The Dogs Eat the Crumbs - click here to see the posts in my "Adventures in Yeast" series.)

My bread for World Bread Day is the Simple Milk Loaf. This is a recipe from the creative and generous UK baker Dan Lepard. One of my Christmas presents was Dan's book The Art of Handmade Bread, published in the UK as The Handmade Loaf. It is a volume of "contemporary European recipes for the home baker" and contains a wide array of breads made from every type of grain, many employing sourdough starters. This was heady stuff for a novice baker, but my husband leafed through and stopped right at p. 46: "This Simple Milk Loaf looks great. Why don't you make it?" And so I did. It's a perfectly accessible recipe, with no obscure ingredients or tricky techniques. The resulting loaf was the most delicious farmhouse white bread I've ever tasted. Toasted, with butter, it was the closest I'll come to tasting heaven on earth.

In the past 6 months I've baked this bread countless times, nearly always in a double batch, and always with a healthy dose of whole grain flours. I give at least one loaf of every batch away, and it never fails to receive rave reviews. I've shared the recipe with a couple dozen people, most of whom love it as I do.

The bread can be made with one bowl, one small ramekin, one measuring spoon and a scale. With a 4 hour time period and minimal hands-on work you can produce one of the most versatile and tasty loaves you'll ever eat, right in your very own oven.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- [edit: the original recipe links that I posted are now broken. Please see the recipe at the end of this post, below]

- Here is the easiest way to prepare the dough:
1. Melt the butter. I do that in a ramekin in the microwave.

2. Place a bowl on the digital scale and weigh out the milk and the maple syrup, then warm them slightly in the microwave. Stir in the fresh yeast.

3. Place the bowl back onto the scale and weigh the dry ingredients directly on top of the wet ones. For readers in the US, "strong" flour is the same as bread flour. The standard mix I've come to use is 60% bread flour, and 40% a mixture of oat flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour. It still comes off as a nearly-white bread, and I like the extra nutty flavor from the whole grains.

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with your fingers - the book says to "squidge" it, which is exactly what you're doing. This part will bring you back to your childhood, making mudpies in the backyard. Pour the warm melted butter and squidge some more. This will actually un-stick much of the dough from your fingers.

5. Dan's kneading method is simple, unusual, and very effective - you will knead the dough on an oiled counter for 10 seconds every 10 minutes, for three rounds. The first time, leave the dough on the counter while you wash and dry the bowl. This gives the dough some helpful rest time, Dan says, but if you're in a hurry, you can get a second, clean, bowl out for the kneaded dough. The dough is so supple and delicious to feel, that it's hard to stop kneading after 10 seconds. Nothing bad will happen if you end up giving it an extra knead or 10.

6. The bread rises in the pan very vigorously, and usually gives a good spring in the oven to boot. I've baked it in an 8.5" x 4.5" pan, and a 9" x 5" pan, and in a lot of other unusual sizes. A single batch always yields 900 grams of dough, so that helps in dividing the dough to shape the balls. I've settled on baking double batches in 4 smallish pans, so each ball ends up being 225 grams. It only takes a few minutes to portion the dough, form the balls and drop them into their waiting oiled and floured pans.
the verdict:

This bread is a wonderful way to get your hands into bread-making. It doesn't give sore arms, 30 seconds of kneading is hardly strenuous, but does produce a lovely loaf to eat or to share.

Happy World Bread Day!

I'm also sending this Milk Loaf to Yeastspotting, a weekly compendium of all things yeasty.

[edit to add recipe, since the links I had are both broken, and further edited on 4/24/11 to add volume measurements:]

Simple Milk Loaf


1½ tsp fresh yeast, crumbled [or 1/2 tsp instant yeast, added with dry ingredients]
350g/12oz/1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature, plus extra for brushing
20g/¾oz/1 Tbsp golden or maple syrup
250g/9oz/2 cups plain white flour
250g/9oz/1 3/4 cups strong white flour
1¼ tsp fine sea salt
25g/1oz/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
olive oil, for greasing
flour, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 210C/410F/Gas 6.

2. Place the yeast, milk and syrup into a large bowl and whisk together.

3. Add the flour and salt and mix with your hands to bring together as a soft, sticky dough.

4. Pour over the warm melted butter and mix this into the dough with your hands, then cover the bowl and leave to stand for ten minutes.

5. Grease your hands and a flat clean surface with olive oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for ten seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and leave for a further ten minutes.

6. Repeat this ten-second kneading and resting process every ten minutes twice, then leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

7. Grease a deep 12x19cm/5x8in loaf tin and dust with flour. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into two balls and place side-by-side into the loaf tin. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for one and a half hours, or until almost doubled in height.

8. Brush the top of the loaf with a little milk and place into the preheated oven to bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is a shiny dark brown and the loaf has come away from the sides of the tin.

9. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BBA Slow & Steady #9: Cinnamon Raisin Bread Roundup

Although I'm a bit behind on posting the roundups, the bakers of Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge have been oh-so-steadily (if slowly) baking our way through Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. This bread - Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread - was baked as a loaf bread by all of the S&S bakers, and was universally loved.

Karen, of the blog Shortbread, put together an epic BBA post - ciabatta, cinnamon rolls and cinnamon raisin walnut bread all in one fell swoop. Her loaf is so pretty (pictured above), and Karen found it a "terrific" breakfast bread. Here's her post: Bread Baking Blitz Ciabatta, Cinnamon Buns, and Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Sarah, of Blue Ridge Baker, "loved everything" about this bread, especially the generous amount of raisins and nuts. No "raisin-poor" bread here! Read her post: BBA Challenge: Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Bread post

Natalia of Gatti, Fili e Farina enjoyed this bread which she made using her own sourdough starter. She loved the bread so much - toasted with jam - that she missed it when it was gone. I know that feeling! Her post: BBA Slow and Steady Cinnamon Raisins Hazelnuts Bread

Jessica (of The Singleton in the Kitchen) and her inner 5 year old were not in the mood for more sweet yeast bread, but they baked this bread and both of them ended up loving it! Wonder if they'll feel the same way about the cranberry walnut bread (the last sweet bread in BBA for a good long while). Jessica's post: BBA S&S: Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This bread turned out to be a forgotten pleasure for Di, of Di's Kitchen Notebook, one of those foods that she doesn't often remember but loves to eat. She subbed some whole wheat flour and made one loaf with and one without the optional cinnamon swirl. My bet is that Di won't forget about this bread any time soon. Di's post: To swirl or not to swirl

Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table titled her post BBA Challenge: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread but really there were no walnuts in sight, as her family persists in not liking nuts in their baked goods. Kayte reports that this was the best cinnamon raisin bread she's ever eaten, adding: "make this one even if you don't make anything else!"

Leslie of Lethally Delicious typically purchases an artisan version of cinnamon raisin bread, but she realized, "I guess I'm an artisan now, because this was a ringer for my favorite loaf," and is happily contemplating how she'll bake and enjoy her future loaves of this bread. Her post: BBA - Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Overcoming a few misgivings, Audrey of Food From Books welcomed shortening into her home just for this week's bread recipe. She made her bread cinnamon raisin pecan swirl and loved the crumb and the taste, although she'd reduce the cinnamon in the dough next time. Bread Baker's Apprentice #9- Cinnamon Swirl Bread

After years of bread machine loaves, Margaret of Tea and Scones has discovered a love of baking bread by hand. Even though she isn't the biggest fan of raisins, she put them in this bread and found the end result "sweet, earthy, great for toasting."

Despite a "mutant swirl" that was reminiscent of punctuation marks, Cathy of The Tortefeasor, loved her cinnamon walnut swirl bread. She also took a minute to reflect on how much she loves baking bread, observing: "It's like a little miracle happens every time that dough rises." That's something that the rest of the Slow and Steady bakers would agree with! Cathy's post: BBA: Cinnamon Raisin(less) Walnut "Swirl" Bread

Our family has always held cinnamon raisin bread near and dear to our hearts, and I found that this recipe (which I modified to add some whole grain flour) met or exceeded my "gold standard," Rudi's. I also baked the transitional cinnamon raisin bread from Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book, and liked it even more! Read my post here: The Quest for a Perfect Cinnamon Raisin Bread {bba}

Come back in the next few days for more BBA goodness - we're about to exit the "C" section of the book!

Friday, September 18, 2009

LiveSTRONG with a Taste of...Corn: Bacon Cornbread {bba}

A couple of days ago my baking friend Di, of the blog Di's Kitchen Notebook, had a lovely post. She baked beautiful - and delicious looking - intensely yellow lemon bars, and posted them as a tribute to her first husband, in connection with of the LiveSTRONG with a Taste of Yellow food blogging event dedicated to cancer awareness (in support of Lance Armstrong's LiveSTRONG Foundation). I was touched and inspired by Di's story, and when I realized that I had just that day baked some very yellow cornbread I decided to join in the event also (the main requirement is to prepare a food or drink with a yellow ingredient and write a blog post featuring it).

Hardly a day passes when I'm not touched by cancer in ways big or small, and I'm sure that's true of the vast majority of you all too. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, strangers in the news tell their stories . This illness strikes every manner of folk, and like ripples from a stone cast into a pond, the effects of the disease spread, affecting not just the patients but those around them, their medical providers, and their care givers.

The person who I'd like to honor with this post - this bread! - is my father Joe, who died from the effects of a brain tumor on January 2, 2007. He was smart, funny, stubborn, reserved, and generous. He made his living in computers, almost from the day that they were invented, and after he retired Dad always stayed techologically current; until the day he died at age 80 he'd sit at his computer conducting his business affairs and Googling anything that came his way. In his retirement he became a used book dealer, and so many of my treasured cookbooks (and many many other books) came from him.

My dad died before I became a food blogger, but I know he'd be tickled by my two blogs, and being a fan of all things delicious, he'd love reading about - and tasting as often as possible - the food I cook and bake in my kitchen. He loved meat, and he loved bread, and I have a very strong feeling that he'd have loved this bacon cornbread! And I have to say that every time I think about how my father would have enjoyed this bread, I really, really wish he were here to taste some (it's tucked snugly in my freezer).

the bread:

I baked Peter Reinhart's Bacon Cornbread because it is the next bread in our A-Z progression through his wonderful book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It is the one and only quick bread in the entire book; Reinhart says he had to include it because it is so perfect.

There are many people who hold very passionate - and quite differing - opinions about how cornbread should taste. The short rundown is that, in the US, Northerners tend to like sweet cornbread, and Southerners, who have a penchant for making everything in the kitchen just a little sweeter, actually like "unsweet" cornbread. (Go figure!) I've lived in both regions and eaten - and baked - plenty of cornbread, and I'll enjoy any cornbread that isn't dry and isn't toothachingly sugary.

I read lots of advance reports from the BBA Challenge participants raving about this bread, so I was hopeful that we'd enjoy it also.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- My original plan was to skip the whole corn kernels that are in the recipe, and to make bacon-topped muffins (which Reinhart gives as a variation).

- After some back-and-forth with a few of my baking friends, I decided to make some kernel-less muffins and bake the rest of the batter, including the fresh corn, in a small cast iron skillet. I cut some fresh corn off the cob and set it aside. (You can guess what happened, right?)

- The recipe specifies "polenta" style coarse ground cornmeal. I didn't have any, but did have a ton of other cornmeal. Rather than buy special cornmeal, I used 2 different kinds of cornmeal and threw in some stone ground grits for good measure.

- I used used maple syrup in place of honey.

- My bacon was Broadbent black pepper bacon.

- Reinhart says to fill the muffin cups full, but I found they were too full, and they rose + spread more than I wanted. The only way I got them out of the pan was because it was silicone.

- I preheated my iron skillet in the hot oven. Then I poured in bacon grease, added the batter, studded the top with bacon and popped it in the oven. At which point I discovered the bowl of corn kernels. I pulled it back out and tried to tuck some in and around the bacon, as I watched the hot iron skillet begin to bake the batter before my eyes. I didn't get much added before putting it back in the oven.

- The cornbread in the iron skillet popped right out of the pan. I let it cool, then wrapped it tightly and froze it whole.

the verdict:

My husband, who doesn't usually care one way or the other about cornbread, said, "this is da#n good!" I had been concerned about the amount of sugar and other sweeteners in the batter, but the finished bread was moist, savory, a touch sweet (but thankfully not sugary) The crumb was sturdy and tender.

The more I think about it, the more I think it was a perfect tribute to my Dad.

{Note: Those of us in the Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge are trying to post our breads every two weeks. I was a week or so late with my Cinnamon Raisin Bread and am actually a few days early with this Cornbread, but I wanted to meet the LiveSTRONG With a Taste of Yellow deadline. I will be posting the Cinnamon Raisin Bread roundup in a few days and the Cornbread roundup in late September.}

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Quest for a Perfect Cinnamon Raisin Bread {bba}

I've never been that kind of person who is always winning things like lotteries and drawings. But back in 1988 we won a trip to Aspen, Colorado in an American Express promotion. (Actually it turned out to be quite a lucky year for us; we also won a trip to Palm Beach, complete with a set of luggage!)

We chose to take the Aspen trip in the summer when we could hike in the Rockies. So in July 1989 our family had a lovely week in a condo on the mountain at Snowmass. My parents and brother decided to join us and rented a nearby unit. Five adults to watch 2 children (ages 1 and 3) made for a very relaxing trip indeed.

On a grocery run to stock the condo with breakfast food my husband picked up some bread and thus we discovered the Holy Grail of cinnamon raisin bread. Rudi's Bakery made the best we'd ever tasted. We bought loaf after loaf that week, and brought some home in our luggage, but all too soon we reached the end of our supply.

For Christmas that year I called Rudi's Bakery on the telephone. No, they didn't distribute their bread outside of Colorado, nor did they take orders - usually. As a special exception the fellow at the bakery actually agreed to sell me 5 loafs of the raisin bread and personally went to the post office to mail it to me! I still count that as the best Christmas gift I ever gave my husband!

Fast forward to about 5 years ago: Whole Foods opened a location just a few miles from us. My first time in the store I wandered the aisles and browsed all the departments to see what kinds of things the store carried. When I came to the bread shelf I could hardly believe my eyes: Our old friend Rudi's Cinnamon Raisin Bread was right there in front of me. I scooped up a few loaves and we were delighted to find that the bread tasted just as good as we remembered. Seems that in the intervening 15 years, Rudi's Bakery had gone national. So we've had a ready source for what we'd come to believe is the best cinnamon raisin bread on the planet.

Rudi's bread is the standard by which I judge every other cinnamon raisin loaf I've ever tasted. So far, none has come close. I'm not sure when I'd have ever dared to undertake homemade cinnamon raisin bread but BBA Challenge gave me the push; Cinnamon Raisin Bread happens to be the next bread in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. (And, yes, there has been a lot of cinnamon goodness lately here on Corner Loaf)

Rather than make the bread exactly as written, I decided to make a run at Rudi's! This meant making a few changes to transform a white cinnamon bread to one that was about a third whole grain.

A week later I baked the Transitional Cinnamon Raisin bread, from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which is about half whole grain and half white flour. I've included both baking sessions in this post, starting with the BBA bread.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - The Bread Baker's Apprentice

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on the Google Books preview, here.

- This bread is made with the direct method, which means that it is mixed and proofed in one day, with only a short wait for the dough to "ferment" on the counter.

- Instead of the 16 ounces of bread flour of the recipe, I used 10 ounces of bread flour, 2.5 ounces of oat flour, 2.5 ounces of white whole wheat flour, and 1 ounce of high-gluten flour.

- I mixed golden and dark raisins.

- For some added depth of sweetness (and because Rudi's has it) I added 2 tsp molasses.

- I divided my dough into three portions:
-- The first loaf was cinnamon and raisins only
-- The second loaf was cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts kneaded together into the dough
--The third loaf had the raisins kneaded into the dough, and walnuts swirled into the loaf along with brown sugar + (more) cinnamon. I've become a big fan of making my cinnamon sugar with brown sugar.
homemade on the left, Rudi's on the right
the verdict:
I gave away the cinnamon + raisin loaf. We toasted up slices of the other two loaves and Rudi's. The non-swirled bread was the closest to Rudi's, so we compared it in taste-test fashion. They were all seriously delicious pieces of toast. Rudi's is closer grained, and I thought it was chewier, more cinnamon-y, and a bit sweeter. But we thought the BBA bread tasted just as delicious as Rudi's! In fact, my husband said he preferred my bread, but I think he was just being sweet. When it comes to the swirled bread, though, even I agreed that it was better than Rudi's. It's hard to beat swirled cinnamon sugar!!

Peter Reinhart Transitional Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There are a lot of raisins in this bread, but the food processor chopped them into bits!
I've been wanting to make the Transitional Cinnamon Raisin Bread ever since I got Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book. I figured I'd bake it right after his regular Cinnamon Raisin Bread, and while it wouldn't be a true head-to-head comparison, it would be close.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on the Google Books preview, here.

-This bread is made with the indirect method, spread over 2 days, with both a biga and a soaker (two different types of mixtures that sit, or ferment, for a day; one in the fridge and the other on the counter)

- The raisins are added to the soaker so they get nice and tender. The biggest problem with that for me is that I used my food processor to mix the dough, so the raisins got chopped up rather than remaining whole in the finished bread. If you use a stand mixer, or mix by hand, your raisins will stay whole.

- Also, the food processor stopped mixing slightly before the biga and soaker were fully incorporated, so there are light and dark steaks in the bread's crumb (as you can see in the picture, above).

- Again I added a bit of molasses.

- I split the dough into two loaves, and made both with a swirl of walnuts, brown sugar + cinnamon. I'm not sure why my swirl almost disappeared this time around, but it added some delicious flavor.


This was a wonderful, hearty, chewy, cinnamon raisin bread. As with all of the breads I've baked from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, the bread was not tough or dry at all - the pre-fermenting method brings out the flavor of the grain and keeps the bread nice and moist. It tasted a bit fuller and nuttier because of the whole grain. We thought it was perfect toasted and spread with butter, and, believe it or not we actually preferred this one to the other cinnamon raisin bread. It is a close grained bread and the whole grain flavor pairs beautifully with the spice and sweetness of the (chopped) raisins. The few extra steps are definitely worth the end result: cinnamon bread perfection!

[Edit to add: Sending this wonderful bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of all things yeasty]