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.