Category Archives: Breads

Whole Wheat Sweet French Baguette

Whole Wheat Baguette

The other day, I had a craving. It wasn’t just to eat good bread, but it was to make it. I didn’t have the patience to do the whole, “wait for it overnight” thing. I wanted to make bread that I could enjoy later that same day.

I found the kind of recipe I was looking for over at SteamyKitchen.com, but I adapted it to incorporate whole wheat flour (and also added a little honey). Jaden Hair, the author of the SteamyKitchen.com blog as well as The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight’s Dinner does a wonderful job explaining how to make bread in a day and as usual, includes beautiful photographs of the steps you need to take.

I’m pretty new to bread making, but I’ve been on a rampage lately, making bread, and more consistently, pizza dough. I’ll definitely be posting about pizza dough soon, but I will leave you with this teaser. My favorite combination for pizza dough? “00 flour + Dark Rye Flour.” Yum.

But I digress. This bread came out just the way I wanted it to. Crunchy on the outside, great texture on the inside and the nutty/sweet flavor of whole wheat and honey. I used a pizza stone because I like the way it holds so much heat, helping the bread to cook evenly. Jaden includes advice/tricks for what to do if you don’t have a pizza stone. I’m definitely going to make this bread again.

Fresh from the oven

Whole Wheat Sweet French Baquette
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups warm water

Method

1. Set aside the bag of white flour to dust your surface with later. Place remaining white and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a stand-up mixer. With your spoon, swirl the yeast on one side of the bowl and then swirl the salt on the other side. Pour the warm water in a well in the middle of the flour. Using the mixer paddle, mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a mass, then switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. The dough should come together and clear the sides but some of it will continue to stick to the bottom. You may need to add additional water. If so, do so, one tablespoon at a time. After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for 5 minutes. After the dough has rested for 5 minutes, turn on the mixer again and knead with the dough hook for 3 minutes.

2. Take the dough out and place on a wooden cutting board dusted with the white flour. If the dough is still too sticky, you will incorporate a little more flour into while you knead it. If it doesn’t need additional flour, then just knead the dough by hand until it is very satiny, smooth, tight and formed into a nice, compact ball.

3. Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil). Turn dough over to coat it on all sides. Cover with a damp, clean dish towel. and set in warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Dough should almost double in size during this rest time. About 1 hour into this stage, preheat the oven to 450F and place pizza stone (if you have one) into the oven to preheat it as well.

4. After the dough has risen for an hour and a half, punch it down and form it back into a ball. Cut the dough into half, placing one ball back in the bowl and covered with a towel. Pick up the dough you’re working with and stretch it out until it forms a big rectangle. On the wooden chopping block dusted with flour, fold over each end about an inch and then fold in the long sides until they touch each other. Press down on the middle seam, down the length of the dough get it all tucked in and then pinch then ends shut as well. You want to make sure there is a tight seal to allow the bread to rise and expand evenly while it is baking. Don’t overwork the dough during this stage. It just spent an hour and a half creating tiny bubbles inside and you don’t want to lose all of them at this point.

5. Turn the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Place it on a well-floured surface and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Repeat the whole process with the other dough half. Let the loaves rest for 30 minutes. Then, take a sharp knife and cut several shallow, diagonal slashes on the surface of the loaf. The slashes allow steam to escape during baking so your bread doesn’t burst and crack and everything expands evenly.

6. When you are ready to transfer the dough loaves onto the pizza stone in the oven, get a 1/2 cup of water ready close by. Open the oven, put your bread in the oven and throw the water on the oven floor (literally toss the water out onto the bottom of the oven to create a big steam cloud). Immediately close the oven door to trap the steam inside. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check temperature of the bread, like you would a steak. The internal temperature should be 190-210F. Remove and let cool slicing it.

Whole Wheat Baguette

Want to learn more about baking bread? Play this instructional cooking video from the Intro to the Stages of Bread Making, part of the Rouxbe Cooking School. Rouxbe.com produces what I believe are the highest quality instructional cooking videos on the web. The site is subscription-based, but you can test it out with a 14-day trial membership. Watching all of the videos systematically and trying out all the techniques is like putting yourself through culinary school.

Zesty Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

I usually avoid vegetarian chili because I fear that it won’t be flavorful enough, but my husband has really laid off meat lately, and he likes his food to have a lot of kick, so I set about making a chili that would stand up to both of our flavor requirements and not include any ground meat. Sure enough, this chili delivers. In addition to chili powder, I’ve added a couple of dried red chilis (seeds and all) which manages to kick it up a notch. The other trick is to add all of the dried spices to the pot while there is hot oil in there to bring out all of the trapped flavors. While you are cooking, you should experience all of the fragrances. Adding dried spices to heated oil makes them truly fragrant.

The other trick to this dish is to make it in a pot that can transfer from stove to oven, like this Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 5 Quart Oval French Ovens. After you’ve prepared the chili on the stove, you will bake it with the cornbread batter on top for about 30 minutes.

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Healthier Zucchini Bread

Healthier Zucchini Bread

Healthier Zucchini Bread

A few weeks ago, I purchased whole wheat flour and oat bran at Trader Joe’s and since then, I’ve been remaking my favorite quick bread and muffin recipes to increase fiber and decrease fat. Zucchini Bread is my most recent target. Awhile ago, I posted the Zucchini Bread recipe handed down to me by my mother that I’ve been using since the early eighties. It’s great: sweet, moist, and flavorful. But it’s loaded with sugar and butter and calls for only bleached flour. If you’re in the mood for something a little healthier, try this version instead. It packs as much flavor but the pleasure comes without the guilt.

Healthier Zucchini Bread
2 medium loaves

Ingredients

3 eggs
2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose (bleached) flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray 2 9′ x 5′ baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar, zucchini, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Mix lightly but well (with a spoon).

2. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.

3. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture (in batches) until blended. Don’t over mix.

4. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

I’m still on an oat bran kick after purchasing a package of oat bran at Trader Joe’s. This recipe provides a scrumptious way to use bananas that have gotten just a little too ripe. This is not a super low-fat recipe, like the previous post, where I substituted applesauce for some of the oil and used minimal amounts of sugar. These are a bit more traditional, but the oat bran, whole wheat flour and bananas definitely make them relatively guilt-free. Yes?

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins
Makes a dozen muffins

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose bleached flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup – 1 cup chopped pecans

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the first 6 ingredients.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg whites and vanilla.

4. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir to just combine. Stir in bananas and fold in 1/2 cup of pecans.

5. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup (optional) pecans on top of the muffins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Banana Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig and Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig and Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Recently, I’ve been enjoying the blueberry bran muffins at Peet’s Coffee I’ve noticed how I don’t have my normal mid-morning hunger pangs as a result. So that set me to thinking it’s time to add bran muffins to my cooking repertoire. I purchased whole wheat flour and oat bran at Trader Joe’s as well as some dried fruits, like apricots, dates and… figs. So today, I tried a fig and oat bran muffin and it came out great.

I really tried to make this a healthy, low-fat recipe, so instead of my normal “stick of melted butter,” this recipe has a mixture of applesauce and canola oil for the fat. It has a bit of brown sugar, but not too much and no white sugar. And, of course, it has whole wheat flour and oat bran. The orange peel and spices make it a nice holiday (healthy) treat.

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins
Makes 14 Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose (bleached) flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped dried Black Mission Figs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp apple sauce
2 large eggs
1 cup Stonyfield Farms Oikos Yogurt (or other Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Grated peel of 2 clementines (about 2 tsp)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line muffin tins with papers and spray inside of papers lightly with nonstick cooking spray (optional).

2. Mix together the first 9 ingredients (all dry) in a medium bowl. Stir in figs and pecans. Set aside.

3. Mix together the brown sugar, oil and applesauce. Whisk in the 2 eggs until well blended. Stir in the yogurt and the milk. Whisk in the vanilla and stir in the grated peel.

4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Don’t overmix. Drop batter into paper cups, dividing evenly.

5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins

Apple-Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Carrot Cupcakes

Apple Carrot Cupcakes

Day 3 of 14 Days of Apple and I decided I wanted to make an apple muffin/cupcake. I was looking around at different recipes for inspiration and guidance when I found one I like at MarthaStewart.com. That recipe calls for shredded apples and something about imagining myself taking an apple to a grater made me think of shredded carrots. I still have a scar on my thumb from shredding a carrot a little too aggressively when I was 12, but that’s another story. Anyway, I decided to split the four cups of shredded apples into two cups apples, two cups carrots et voila.

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Apple-Orange-Cranberry Loaf

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Apple-Orange-Cranberry Loaf

Apple-Orange-Cranberry Loaf

We’re back, live, with another food-blogging marathon. This month, we’re streaming APPLES and we’re kicking it off with a scrumptious apple-orange-cranberry loaf. I say “we.” It’s just me – back from an exciting weekend at the Breeders’ Cup down at the Santa Anita race track near Los Angeles. Zenyatta, the filly, came from behind to beat all the boys yesterday. It was a thrill to be there for the historic event, surrounded by the stars of my favorite tv shows, no less. Somebody pinch me. It’s time to wake up and make the donuts. Or the quick bread as the case may be.

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Ultimate Pumpkin Bread

Ultimate Pumpkin Bread

Ultimate Pumpkin Bread

Day 23 of 31 days of pumpkin and let me tell you, there are a lot of pumpkin bread recipes out there. This one is the best. I’m not lyin’. The difference between this one and some of the other good ones? It’s made with 100% real butter baby. Not canola oil, not vegetable oil. Butter. Melted. It’s got all the sugar and twice the fat, but if you’re going to eat a piece of Pumpkin Bread, why do it any other way?

Since this recipe yields two loaves, I decided to throw 1/2 cup of chopped pecans into one of them. Love it. Until I tasted this Pumpkin Bread, I thought Starbucks® really had something. They got nothin’.

Enjoy.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

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Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

Day 20 of 31 days of pumpkin and I’m heading into new territory again. I’m really not a bread baker, but I wanted to do a recipe with yeast before the month was over so I hunted around and cherry picked different parts from several existing recipes to make my perfect Pumpkin Yeast Rolls. The result is a slightly sweet, light and airy roll with definite pumpkin flavor. I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me now that I can confidently add bread baking to my repertoire. I know I’m late to the bread making party, but better late than never.

Place dough balls in muffin tin

Place dough balls in muffin tin


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Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake

Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake

Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake

It’s day 15 of 31 days of pumpkin. I can’t believe I’m halfway there. Today’s recipe was such a joy to make. I’ve never made cheesecake before and I was nervous at each step, but everything worked beautifully. I followed a recipe in a book that my sister gave me recently. Every once in awhile, she’ll see interesting cookbooks at a used bookstore and send them to me. I love it because there are always surprises. Like this book which is based on the fourth season of a Public Television Series I didn’t even know existed: Cooking Secrets of the CIA. The video doesn’t appear to be available anywhere, but the book is still available on Amazon:

The book was published in 1999 and was sponsored by Cuisinart. There is a set of pages at the back of the book featuring Cuisinart small appliances. The other thing about the book that I find fascinating is that the photography isn’t that great. The recipes are amazing, but with so much incredible food photography around these days, the lack of consistency in this book is a bit jarring.

Recently, I attended two food photography sessions at the BlogHerFood09 conference in San Francisco. Continue reading

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