Posts Tagged ‘bread’

A cozy loaf

Baking in the winter is great for two reasons.  1) the oven warms the house. 2) the activity warms your body.  Ok…3) you get to eat the results!

And yeah, yeah, pies, candies, cookies, the holidays…but is there really anything more yummy, more satisfying, more…more…heavenly than eating slice after slice of your own homemade bread with a smear of butter and jam?

I have a distinct childhood memory.  My cousin and I were at Grama’s for the night.  Grama made this bread.  We ate this bread.  We ate more of this bread.  I think we came close to finishing the loaf.  I’m pretty sure I forgot to save room for dinner.  And it’s funny how a single memory can bring back so many more.  I also remember sneaking into the back bedroom to watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller video on MTV.  Oh, and eating red jell-o…not exactly eating it, but swishing it between my teeth until it liquified…we were making “medicine”…ahhh, the memories!  And I also remember dunking Oreo cookies in Grama’s coffee until the soggy cookies fell to the bottom, turning her brew into a cloudy, crummy mess.  What a great Grama!  To sacrifice her coffee!

Anyway, if you’d like a great loaf of really versatile, delicious sandwich bread, I’d recommend this one.  It’s a moist loaf with a touch of sweetness and frankly, I love it!

Whole wheat-oatmeal sandwich bread adapted from great-Grama Akre’s recipe
yields one loaf

Feel free to play around with sweet aspect of this bread.  I use honey, but you could also use molasses, brown rice syrup, brown sugar (in this case, add another 1/4 cup), or even barley syrup.  Next time I bake, I’d also like to experiment with using bread flour rather than all-purpose.  If you get to it before me please, let me know how it goes!

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry active yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the oats and the 2 cups boiling water.  Stir to moisten, and add the salt, butter and honey.  Stir again, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup lukewarm water with the yeast and white sugar.  Stir to completely dissolve and add to the above, cooled, mixture.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours and mix on the lowest speed until the dough begins to come together.  Then turn the speed up to medium-low and knead for 10 minutes.  The dough will remain a bit sticky.

Turn the dough out into a well-greased, large bowl, cover, and allow to rise until double in size (approx one hour).

Preheat the oven to 350º with the oven rack in the center-most position.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and punch down.  Knead a few times, then fold the dough like a business letter (tri-fold) so that it fits into the loaf pan.  Allow to rise again until the pan is full, 30-60 minutes.

If you’d like a shinier crust, you can brush the top of the loaf with a bit of milk, or milk mixed with egg before it goes in the oven.  I like the very rustic look of the matte-finish, so I leave it plain.

Bake the loaf for 60-65 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 200º.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. (or as long as you can hold out!…that being said, slicing a warm/hot loaf of bread results in a gummy crumb, so it truly is best to let it cool nearly completely before slicing).





Read Full Post »

Feather Buns

I’ve been thinking about a certain issue of late…why is it that grandmother’s have the best recipes? After pondering for a good, long, while, I’ve come to a conclusion.  They have their whole lives to find them! I’ve got a good recipe here, a crappy one there, but see, I’m only 31.  Just wait til I’m 80!  Hooo, boy.

Of course, upon further pondering, a different thought occurs to me.  This is not a universal rule. One of my grandmothers was capable of whipping up a dinner party for 10 officers with no planning, at the drop of a hat, while my other grandmother’s specialty was Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese with hot-dog rounds stirred in.  Hmmmm.  Oh well, she had other specialties, I guess.  Like horseback riding.  And cooking broccoli in the pressure cooker ’til it was brown.  Oh, and Frosted Flakes.

Anyway.  These lovely feather buns have been at every family holiday for a great many years, and I’ve taken it upon myself to continue the tradition since my grama’s hands have a hard time mixing and shaping.  They are truly lovely.  I generally eat at least 3 the moment they come out of the oven.  With jam.  Or butter.  Or nothing.  I especiallly love them as mini ham or turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.

Grama B’s Feather Buns
yields approx 3 dozen

Warning: silly me– I attempted to make a 1-1/2 batch in my kitchen-aide mixer.  Ha!  Overflow! I’d stick to one batch at a time if I were you!

  • 1 cup hot mashed Russet or Idaho potato- reserve the cooking water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter or shortening (I use Spectrum Organic)
  • 2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cakes fresh yeast or 2 pkgs instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm, not hot, potato cooking water
  • 8 to 8-1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl, mash the potato together with the sugar and shortening.  Stir in the milk, salt and eggs.  You’ll be left with a fairly sloppy batter.  Separately, dissolve the yeast in the reserved warm- not hot- potato water.  Stir into the potato mixture.  With a whisk, stir in 2 cups flour.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise for one hour.

Transfer to batter to the bowl of an electric mixer and add about 6-1/2 more cups of flour.   (Unless it’s a particularly dry day, I always use the extra 1/2 cup of flour.)  Knead for about 8-10 minutes to make a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the dough as needed.  At this point, the dough may still feel a little sticky, but the moisture will even out during the next rise.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until double in bulk, about one hour.

Place your *oven rack in the center-most position and turn on the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly sprinkle your work counter with flour.  Using a bench-scraper and scale portion out the dough into 1-3/4 to 2 ounce balls.  (Alternately, eyeball it!!  Each finished ball should measure approx. 2-inches in diameter).  To roll the balls, cup your hand over the piece of dough as it sits on the counter.   Begin moving your hand in a clock-wise motion (think: wax on, wax off”), until the piece of dough becomes a ball.  You’ll notice that the underside of the dough has formed a little belly-button.  Place the dough balls on a baking sheet- 12 per sheet- and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 12- 15 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and try your darnedest to not eat them all at once.

*I find that these cook more evenly when baked one tray at a time.  If you are short on time and must bake 2 trays at the same time, place your oven racks in the upper third and bottom third of the oven.  Be sure to swap the trays, top to bottom and bottom to top, midway through the baking time.

Read Full Post »

P8270024P8270026A million different people have made panzanella a million different ways.  I hadn’t intended to post this in fear of “beating a dead horse”, but it was just so tasty that I figured, what the heck….what’s one more beating?  But you’ve got to be quick, because summer is coming to a close and you won’t have garden-fresh tomatoes for much longer…

So I’ll make it short and sweet (two adjectives that also happen to describe yours truly if I do say so myself!).

There’s just no sense in making this summer salad if you don’t have beautifully ripe, in-season veggies.  So harvest those home-grown tomatoes!


The ratio of stale bread to veggies I used is about 1:1.  Also, you should use a rustic country-style loaf of bread.

  • a few really ripe red tomatoes, cut into large dice
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
  • a couple small, or one large cucumber (peeled only if it’s been waxed), cut into large dice
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
  • a handful of arugula
  • red wine vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • *stale bread, torn or cut into cubes

Toss the tomatoes, cucumber and red onion in a medium bowl with a liberal pinch of salt and a couple tablespoons red wine vinegar.  Allow to macerate for at least 15 minutes.  They will begin to release their juices.

Give the veggies a stir and add a few glugs of olive oil.  Remember that you’ll need enough vinaigrette combined with the vegetable juices to fully dress the salad, even after the bread has been added- and the bread will really soak it up!

Place the stale bread in a large bowl.  Pour the vegetable mixture evenly over the bread and gently toss it all together.  Taste the bread for seasoning and add more oil, vinegar, or salt if necessary.  Allow the salad to sit and soak up the juices for at least 15 minutes.

Just before serving, toss with the arugula and sprinkle with black pepper.  Yum!

*If you don’t have stale bread, simply cut or tear your bread into bite-sized pieces and place it on the counter or in the oven with just the pilot-light on for a few hours.

Read Full Post »