Breads and Muffins

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day: Loaf 1

For Christmas I got this book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, from my mother-in-law.  Thanks, Kate!  I have always felt a little negative toward yeast and yeast breads.  I have had some success with yeast doughs, but not enough to make me feel very confident.  This book makes bread baking seem accessible and simple.

After reading through the introduction, tips, ingredients and master recipe I ordered these food storage containers from Amazon.com and once I received them I got started.

The ingredients are simple and you most likely have all of them at this very moment.  Flour, water, yeast and salt.  That’s it.

If you have a large enough container, you can mix it all up in there with a wooden spoon (less clean up), let it rise for a couple hours, then store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 2 weeks!

There aren’t many hard and fast rules here.  Temperature of the water, initial rising time, the amount the dough has risen (double, triple, etc) days in the fridge, and the amount of dough for your loaf are all approximate.  The directions and ingredients are clear, you just don’t have to worry about water that is exactly 101.3 degrees or a ball of dough that is exactly 1 pound 2.25 ounces.  This is stress free bread making!

That is the part I really love about this.  If you thought you were going to have time to make baguettes to eat with dinner, but suddenly your 2 month old spits up all over the couch and you, then you don’t have to worry about it.  Flexibility.  Wonderful flexibility.

Here are the pre and post risen dough.  My dough just about doubled in volume after 3 hours at room temperature.  I really like these containers.

The dough rose well, it was easy to form into a “boule”…fancy French term for ball of dough, and while the directions for baking seem a bit tedious they are actually quite easy to pull off.  After 30 minutes of baking my bread wasn’t very dark, and it did not look like the bread on the cover of the book.  BUT, it smelled lovely, it had a nice crisp crust, a chewy interior and a yeasty, and just slightly salty flavor.  I am hopeful that the more bread I bake, the better each loaf will be.  So, here is loaf # 1!

Cranberry Bread

I bought a bag of cranberries last week for no reason.  I found a delicious recipe for cranberry bread on Martha Stewart.com.  Here is the link.

Here are the changes I made; I used 2% instead of whole milk and I sprinkled the top with granulated sugar instead of the turbinado.  This is a dense, slightly sweet bread that is bursting with tart cranberries.  The top of the bread comes out of the oven crunchy and delicious.  After a day wrapped in foil, however, the top became a little gooey.  It remains delicious, especially when toasted.

This bread is easy to make and isn’t too sweet to serve for breakfast, unlike some quick breads.  Almonds or pecans would be yummy in this bread.  Enjoy! (more…)

Daring Bakers: Christmas Stollen

What a great challenge for Christmastime.  I wish I’d had a huge family to share this with.  I’d bring it out on a lovely platter.  Everyone would ooh and aah over this lovely sugar coated, fruit and nut filled bread.  But it is just me, Ben and the new baby at home…and the new baby can’t appreciate my culinary feats just yet.  We’re going out of town for Christmas, and traveling with this thing intact would be difficult.  So, I made my stollen, had a little photo shoot and cut it into pieces to pack away.  At least I can post the photo of my stollen for all of you!

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The dough for the stollen was quite easy to prepare and work with.  While I was given the option to let my imagination run wild in what I added to the dough, I just used cranberries and sliced almonds.  As a new mom I decided it was OK for me to opt out of making the candied citrus peel.  It would have been quite nice in this bread though, so I wish I’d taken the time to make it.

I used orange juice instead of rum to soak the cranberries and it was a good substitute.  The citrus flavor was subtle, but nice.  If you’re really into citrus then definitely use the juice, more zest and the candied peel as well.

I froze half of the wreath and plan to bring it down to my parents for Christmas.  The other half I have been snacking on over the past week.  It is incredibly tasty toasted with a little spread of butter.  Now, the only issue I had was the bottom of the bread.  It was beyond browned.  It was beyond dark.  It was burnt.  Solution?  Slice off the bottom before enjoying!

You can find the recipe and photos here.  Merry Christmas!

Banana Bran Muffins

This is the second time around for me and these bran muffins from Ina Garten.  The first time I made them I followed the recipe exactly…well, I did leave out the orange zest.  They were terrific.  There wasn’t a real need to change anything.  You will not be disappointed if you try the original recipe.  Here is the link.

I had some blackened bananas that needed to be put to good use, and fast.  So I decided to try them in these muffins instead of the firmer chopped banana I’d used the first time.  Here are the other changes I made.

  • Added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients
  • Used skim milk (mixed with lemon juice) instead of buttermilk
  • Used half whole wheat and half AP flour
  • Used half golden raisins and half regular raisins
  • Substituted pecans for the walnuts
  • Used the orange zest

The result was yet another yummy bran muffin.  They do not photograph well though, so I used this photo courtesy of foodtv.com.  I liked the subtle flavor of the orange zest.  I definitely like the pecans better than walnuts…but that’s just a personal preference.  The texture was a bit heartier with the wheat flour.  The skim milk might have made the texture or moistness of the muffins a bit different, but not to a degree that I really noticed.  The combination of golden and regular raisins is nice, but not necessary.  I had some extra golden ones left over, so I used them.  I wouldn’t buy them just for these muffins as the plain raisins are great.

You can change a lot of things in these muffins to make them your own.  I would not leave out the banana though since I am sure that gives some necessary moisture.  Next time I might use cranberries instead of raisins.  I think that would be nice with the orange flavor, which I might bump up more by using more zest and some orange juice.  If you think of or try anything else, let me know.  Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Cake

Why I ever bought a can of sweet potatoes is a mystery.  I bake sweet potatoes every now and then, but I have never had a use for canned sweet potatoes.  I saw this can of potatoes and went to the trusty internet in search of something I could bake with it.  I found this recipe on cooks.com for sweet potato muffins.  I changed it to a sweet potato cake by simply baking it in a bundt pan. Here is the link.

Ben is not a sweets person, but he really liked this cake.  He even ate it for breakfast on 2 mornings last week, and he always has cereal.  When I make something that Ben eats without being asked to or having a piece served to him, I am pretty excited about it.  The cake is moist, the raisins and pecans add nice contrasts, and it is delicious.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes or yams, fresh or canned
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Grease and sugar a bundt pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Beat sugar, sweet potatoes and butter until smooth.
  4. Add eggs and blend well.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
  6. Add alternately with milk to sweet potato mixture, stirring just to blend. Do not overmix.
  7. Fold in raisins and nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch, and cake tester comes out clean.

Kitchen Disaster: Cottage Cheese Banana Bread

Some people have asked me how I choose the recipes I put on this blog.  I usually put any new recipe I try, because usually everything is pretty good and worth sharing.  But usually does not mean always.  Let’s use a bread recipe as an example.

I have been on a mission to rid my freezer and fridge of things that need to be used up.  Last week I decided to use the rest of a container of cottage cheese and some bananas I had frozen.  It seemed like an OK recipe.  The only ingredient out of the ordinary was the cottage cheese.  I thought it might create a creamy texture with a little tang.  Kind of like yogurt.  I think it was actually the downfall of this bread.  The cottage cheese curds baked in the bread created a truly funky texture.  The bread took a lot longer to bake than instructed below.  Even after 40 minutes in the oven the middle was gooey.  After 50 minutes I took it out of the oven and after cooling I sliced it up revealing a still undercooked center.  The edges were OK, but I ended up throwing the loaf away after eating half of a piece I had toasted and buttered.  And I don’t throw food away easily.  It just wasn’t worth it.

So, unlike other posts on Hottie Biscotti, this recipe is one that I do not recommend.  If you have a good bread recipe that uses cottage cheese, then please let me know.  At this point I am not likely to try another baked good where cottage cheese is involved.

Here is the recipe, and the source.

Cottage Cheese Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Shake of cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325*F.
  2. Coat loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl. Blend well.
  4. Pour batter into loaf pan; spread evenly.
  5. Bake for 32-35 minutes.

Cinnamon Pecan Muffins

These muffins, while a tad bit crumbly, are so incredibly delicious.  I have a true and undying love for pecans, and so these had me from the very beginning.  The combination of cinnamon and pecans in these muffins is wonderful, and greasing and sugaring the muffins cups gave them such a great crunchy, sweet exterior.  You can always use paper muffins cups instead of greasing the muffin pan.  These are on the sweeter side for breakfast muffins, but I don’t mind that.  Anything I can do to fit in another dessert in my day is a good thing.

I found the recipe on Group Recipes, but used melted butter instead of the oil originally called for in the recipe. Here is the link to the original recipe. The oil would probably make them more moist, so I might try that the next time I make these…and there will be a next time.

These are great when enjoyed warm, but also great at room temperature.  I warmed mine in the microwave for about 15 seconds each morning as I enjoyed them all week.  That’s just one of those things you must deal with while living with only one other person, leftovers always last a long time.  Sometimes this is a good thing, like with these muffins.  Other times I wish I had more people to eat the last couple servings of a dish.  Our family is growing, but Baby won’t be enjoying these muffins for a while!

Cinnamon Pecan Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon shopping list
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup, 1 stick, melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Mix first 5 ingredients together, then add egg, milk and butter.
  2. Mix until almost blended, adding pecans. Do not over mix batter.
  3. Fill greased and sugared muffin pans two-thirds full.
  4. Bake muffins at 375°F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Blueberry Muffins

When I first started to get a little crazy about baking in college I asked for this Martha Stewart Baking Handbook cookbook for Christmas.  I used it quite a bit at the beginning as evidenced by the flour crusted on the front cover and bits of food scattered on some of the pages.  Sadly, I haven’t used it as much recently.

This is a beautiful book with lovely photos of every single recipe.  After making these muffins I have a newly rekindled love for this book and for Martha.  I need to take a break from online recipes and get back to my huge collection of cookbooks.  Why have them if I’m not going to use them?  You might know what I’m talking about if you have at least 30 cookbooks, many of which are just sittin’ pretty on a bookshelf, and yet you find yourself searching on the internet when you want to make something.  What a shame!  Let’s get back to loving our cookbooks.

Every recipe in this cookbook is great.  The cinnamon raisin bread is especially delicious and I’ve made it more than just a few times.  It was the first yeast bread I tried that worked!  It has a great cinnamon swirl and lots of juicy raisins.  I am making myself crave it right now, so I might have to go make a loaf or two…

The blueberry muffins were easy to prepare and made my house smell delicious while they baked.  The generous amount of blueberries guarantees at least a few juicy berries in every bite.  I ate these at room temperature and also halved and toasted with a nice spread of butter.  Either way they are wonderful.  Watch the muffins after about 20 minutes, because mine were done after 25.  I did not sprinkle the sugar/nutmeg mixture on the muffins, but think they would be extra yummy with the nice crunch.  Enjoy!

Blueberry Muffins

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously grease and flour a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat; set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined.
  6. Add milk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries.
  8. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.
  9. If desired, in a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle sugar mixture on top of muffin batter.
  10. Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from pan and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yogurt Banana Bread

Last week I made pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches and made cole slaw as a side dish.  The cole slaw used  mostly plain yogurt and just a few tablespoons of mayo.  I had to buy a big container of plain yogurt since everything in the small containers was flavored.  What to do with an entire pint of plain yogurt?  I ate some of it for breakfast with granola, but after 2 days of this I went in search of something I could make to use up the yogurt.  I found this recipe for banana bread on The Fresh Loaf.

I made two batches of the bread; one with chocolate chips and one without.  The bread is much more moist than other banana breads I’ve made, and not as dense.  The plain bread is just sweet enough, and is delicious toasted with a little spread of butter.  I would add some toasted pecans or walnuts next time.  The chocolate chip version was also tasty, but I prefer my banana bread without chocolate.  Call me crazy.

Yogurt Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 or 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt (fat free is fine)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and sugar a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Add in eggs, one at a time and mix well.
  4. Mix in yogurt and vanilla.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and powder and cinnamon if using.
  6. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients a little a time, then stir in chocolate chips if using.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

PW’s French Breakfast Puffs

This recipe was posted to Pioneer Woman back in December of 2007 and I knew from the ingredients alone that these had to be delicious.  And who can argue with bread dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar?  No one.  That’s who.  Here is the link to her post.  I really like her site and every recipe I’ve tried has been great.  If you don’t follow her blog already, then you should.

I don’t know why I haven’t tried these until now.  My mother-in-law made them a few weeks ago, and I was inspired to try them myself.  I made them in mini muffin cups instead of the regular size so that I would have more tasty treats.  I had leftover batter after filling the 24 cups, so I used a madeleine pan for the rest…they didn’t look that great t, but they tasted good.

Since I was using a smaller pan, I reduced the baking time to 15 minutes.  Other than that everything is the same as Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  Why mess with a good thing?  While these are a bit messy to prepare, they are worth it.  Any puffs left over can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days.  They don’t taste quite as good as fresh, but they will still satisfy your sweet tooth.

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