Easy wheat baguettes

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When I started this post our stuff still hadn’t arrived yet, and I was really feeling the absence of my cookbooks and full range of cooking supplies.  I had all this spare time now, and I wanted to spend some of it baking, but we just had one small rimmed baking sheet and one 9 x 13 baking dish.  Oh, and a borrowed mixing bowl and a partial set of measuring utensils.  It was somewhat limiting, especially for baking.  Not long before we left though, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” app was available for free download, so I at least have that.  It’s a pretty neat app.  I was browsing the other day and came across a recipe for Fast French Bread.  It’s super easy, and luckily, only required things I had (most notably a food processor).  I had to make some, obviously.

This recipe turns out a really nice loaf.  I adapted it just a little by using about half whole wheat flour and half white.  I felt virtuous making wheat bread, and imagine that the whole wheat aspect helps balance out all the butter I smear on.  The logical part of me knows better, but I ignore it, because we already have one philosopher in the house, and it’s not me.

Fast, Wheat, French Bread

3 1/2 cups flour – I use 2 cups white and 1 1/2 whole wheat
1 packet fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/4 cups water

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, add 1 cup of water and process until the water is absorbed.  Bittman’s directions say to start with a cup of water and then add more gradually until the dough comes together in a ball.  I find that about 1 1/4 cups of water is usually where this happens.

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Transfer the dough to a bowl, or just remove the blade from the food processor.  Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel.  Allow the bread to rise for at least an hour.  I’ve been giving mine about an hour and a half to two hours.  Then remove the dough and shape it into whatever bread shape tickles you.  I like to make two small baguette shapes.   I shape these by rolling them just like you would if you were making play-doh snakes, and place them side by side on a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet.  Allow the shaped breads to rise again.  I usually give them another hour, or until they seem nice and puffed up.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (gas mark 6).  Use a sharp knife to make slits in the top of the bread.  Place the bread in to the oven and immediately turn town to 375 (gas mark 5).  Bake until the loaves are browned on the outside and sound hollow when you tap them.  I find the 20-25 minutes is just about right for my two smaller loaves.  I also tried one large round loaf.  That takes significantly longer to bake, probably 40-50 minutes.

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Things I’m learning

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This week, I’m (starting) to work on learning my conversions.  Because I should have some idea what people are talking about when they speak of meters or liters, centimeters and grams.

I am also working on learning that just because it looks chilly or windy outside doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go outside.  We’ve had some truly lovely weather since we got to Scotland, but Fall is starting to peek out around the corners.  Here and there you can see the leaves starting to go yellow, and the wind is starting to pick up.  We’ve been told that the winters here are windy and damp, not generally bitterly cold or overly snowy.  But I’ve been spoiled by California and feel a deep reluctance to leave the house if it is anything less than glorious outside.  So this week I am working on breaking that bad habit.  Because it is still lovely in the evenings when the sun finally breaks free from the clouds and lights up the sea, even if I do have to wear a jacket.

In part because of the cooler weather, I finally got around to making a recipe that my friend had sent to me a few years ago.  It’s a kind of fry bread called Bannock that her family makes in Canada.  I never got around to making it in California, but it seems like a pretty perfect Scottish recipe.  It’s super simple, and very adaptable.  Great if you need something warm and comforting on the fly since the ingredients are very run of the mill.  I cut the recipe below in half and had plenty for two people.

Bannock

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (or water)
Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet on medium.  Form the dough into small pancake shapes.  My dough was very sticky, so I sprinkled a little more flour on top before shaping.  Fry in the hot oil for about 1 minute per side, or until the bread is a nice golden brown.
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For a savory bread you could add a clove of garlic, some small pieces of softened onion, or cheese.  For a sweet treat I like to sprinkle the hot bannock with cinnamon sugar.
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Quick Focaccia Bread

I suffered a blogging set back this past week.  My laptop, with my camera memory card in it, was stolen.  Which means all the pictures of things I’ve made in the past are gone.  I had saved up a few things that I hadn’t gotten around to posting yet, but I guess I’ll have to start over now.  I got an I-pad to replace my stolen laptop, and these are the first baking pictures I’ve tried with it.  It’s got a pretty good camera, so maybe my new toy will help motivate me to keep blogging.

For Christmas my mom got me a pretty awesome cookbook called The Bread Bible.  I wanted to try one of the recipes from it for dinner last night, but in my usual fashion, I failed to pay enough attention to the time required to make the focaccia recipe (5 hours!).  So I had to improvise, and used my trusty pizza dough instead of an actual focaccia dough.  Although slightly different than an actual focaccia, it makes a very satisfying bread to go alongside pasta, and does a nice job of soaking up any left over sauce.

Garlicy Focaccia Bread
1 recipe pizza dough
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 5-10 fresh leaves, chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Make the pizza dough and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, spray a 1/2 sheet pan with cooking spay and set aside.  Once the dough has risen, place it in the pan and push and pull the dough until it is roughly fills the whole pan.  Set the pan in a warm place and let the dough rise again, about 30 minutes, or as long as you feel like waiting.

Preheat the oven to 500.  Brush the bread with one tablespoon of olive and that garlic.  If you are using dry basil, sprinkle it on, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  If you are using fresh basil, wait until the last minute or two of baking to put it on.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom is brown and crispy, and the top is light golden.  Once you take it out of the oven, brush with the last tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (omit if you want vegan bread).

Banana Bread

A friend I was babysitting for the other day sent me home with a bag of almost rotten bananas.  You might think this is some sort of insult, but it was actually a treat, because I turned those dying bananas into delicious banana bread.  This is another quick bread recipe, and its so moist and delicious.  The bread is great sliced on it’s own, spread with a little bit of butter, or for a real treat, smeared with a nice layer of nutella!

Banana Bread 
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups smashed bananas (4-5 bananas)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom and sides of one 9×5 or two 7×3 inch loaf pans (I always make two smaller loaves and freezer or give away one of them).  Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, smash the bananas until relatively smooth.

Add the eggs, sugar, and oil and mix.  Pour the wet mixture into the well you made in the dry mixture.  Mix until just moistened.  Your batter might be a little lumpy but that’s ok.  Over mixing can make your bread tough.

Gently fold in the nuts and pour the mixture into the pan(s).

Bake the loaves for 40-45 minutes if using two pans, or 55-60 minutes for one pan.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the loaves.  Allow to cool completely.

Easy Yeast Dough and Pecan Sticky Buns

I took another cookbook out of the library this week.  This one is called Endangered Recipes by Lari Robling.  The name was enough to catch my eye, but I was convinced to take it home when I came across a recipe for making apple butter in the crock pot.  We I got home and flipped through the book, I decided to try the easy yeast dough recipe first.  I’m trying to cut back on my sweets, so I’m working on my bread making skills instead.  Also, I bought a two pound bag of yeast at the store because it was on sale, so I’ve got a lot to work through.  I originally made this dough to turn it in to Parker House Rolls, which is another recipe in the book.  But then, after I had made the dough, I turned to the recipe for Parker House Rolls and found out it only required half of the dough.  And right below there was a helpful hint, telling me that I could turn the other half of the dough into sticky buns, and that I could find the recipe if I just turned a few pages.  And, so, well, my plan for less sweets had to be delayed until we finished these sticky buns!

Easy Yeast Dough
2 cups lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 packages active dry yeast (1/4 ounce each), or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
7 cups flour (the recipe calls for bread flour, but I only had all purpose, which seemed to work out fine)

In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup warm water and yeast

In a separate bowl, add the sugar, butter, and salt to the remaining 1 1/2 cups water.  Stir to melt the butter and combine the butter.  Add the yeast mixture and the eggs and mix.

Beat 2 cups of flour into the wet ingredients.  You can either use a hand held mixer, or a stand mixer with the dough hook.

If using a hand held mixer, switch to a wooden spoon at this point.  Gradually add in 3 more cups of flour, one handful at a time.  Turn out onto a board and knead for 10 minutes, adding 1 1/2 to 2 more cups of flour 1/4 cup at a time.

If you are using a stand mixer (which is what I did), leave the mixer on low with the dough hook attached, and set a timer for 10 minutes.  Gradually add 4 1/2 – 5 cups of flour, scraping down the sides occasionally.  After 10 minutes, turn out onto a board and knead a few times until you have a smooth ball.

Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

At this point I divided the dough in half.  As I mentioned above, half became rolls and the other half became these sticky buns, which were soooo gooey and yummy.

Sticky Buns
1/2 recipe easy yeast dough
1 stick butter (4 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spray a deep pan with nonstick cooking spray.  I used a 9 x 13 casserole dish, which fit 12 rolls nicely.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the stick of butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil.  Cook over medium heat for a minute, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved to form a smooth syrup.

Pour into the prepared pan, and spread the pecans evenly over the bottom.  Set aside.

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle.  Brush 1 tablespoon melted butter over the top.  Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the butter.

Roll the dough up along the long side.  Pinch the ends and seam closed.  Slice into 1 – 1 1/2 inch rounds and lay cut side down in the pan.  At this point I covered mine and left them in the fridge overnight.  This worked out really well because they were about to have a slow second rise to get large and fluffy, and made for a fast breakfast treat in the morning.  You could also bake them right away if its just too tempting.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until light brown on top.  Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then invert to serve.

Roasted Beet Bread

I know this post is coming a little bit late to the game, but there were many things to celebrate in October, like Vegetarian Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Halloween.  Surprisingly, I think I managed to honor all three with this recipe for roasted beet bread from CookingBread.com.  This all came about when we got some beets in our CSA box.  And for me, beets are one of those vegetables suffering from the “Mom made me take three bites when I was little, and now I’m a grown up and I don’t have to eat my beets if I don’t want to, so there!” syndrome.  But I couldn’t let them go to waste, so I had to find something to do with them.  And then I found this recipe which makes pink bread!  Pink bread! Pink!

This bread is made in a few steps, so it takes some planning ahead, but the active prep time isn’t that bad, especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Night Before:

  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer) and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter for 12 to 16 hours.
After 12-16 hours

Day of:

  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup roasted beet puree (3-4 beets, roasted at 375 for about an hour, then pureed)
  •  juice from the roasted beets if any
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

Method

Add the pureed beets, whole wheat flour and instant yeast.

Mix with a wooden spoon till smooth. Allow to sit for 10 minutes uncovered.

Add in the thyme and salt; mix till smooth.

Attach the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and turn it on at low speed.  Start to gradually add in the bread flour (I didn’t have bread flour, so I used all purpose.  It seemed to work out fine).  Knead for 10 minutes.

After the dough is finished kneading, add a little olive oil to a separate bowl.  Place dough into the bowl and turn over a few times to very lightly coat all sides of the dough.

Cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.

After the dough has risen, pour out onto a flat surface cut it in half.  Shape it into whatever shape you like.

Place the shaped dough onto a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray the tops with a little cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap for 1 hour or until it doubles in size again. Move to a baking pan and sprinkle the top of each loaf with a little flour and slash an x on top of each. Place into a preheated 400 degree oven with a cast iron pan to create steam (create steam by placing a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven when you turn on the oven. When you put the loaves into the oven, pour a cup of boiling water into the preheated cast iron pan and close the door). Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished loaves, but I did make this tasty sandwich out of the bread.  You end up with a loaf with a crusty outside, and a soft, chewy, holey inside.  And you get the nutrition benefits of a bunch of beets in a delicious loaf of bread.

Cranberry Walnut Bread

When I decided to make this bread I was looking for something like the dense, brown cranberry walnut bread that you sometimes get at fancy sandwich places — usually filled with some sort of lovely cheese and greens and perhaps apple slices.  That’s not what I ended up with, although this recipe is certainly delicious.  But it’s more the type of bread you have a slice of at dinner or with tea, not something you would make a sandwich out of.  It’s a quick bread, so very similar to a banana bread.

Orange Cranberry Walnut Bread
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped slightly

Grease the bottom, and half way up the sides of one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (I only have small pans, so I used two.  The loaves were small, but still a nice size for slicing).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange peel. Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the egg, orange juice, and oil.

Add the egg mixture all at once and mix until just combined.  Don’t over mix or your bread will get tough.  Fold in the cranberries and walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the pan(s).  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until a a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10ish minutes and then remove from the pan.  Slice and serve, or cool completely before wrapping to store.

I’ll continue the search for the perfect cranberry walnut sandwich bread, but this will definitely make it in to the general dinner rotation.