English Muffins

I’ve never thought twice about buying English muffins from the grocery store.  For years I’ve opened that store-purchased bag, sliced one open, dropped it into the toaster, and been content with what popped out. 

English Muffin Pile
But the first time I looked through the Dahlia Bakery cookbook and saw pages of English muffins topped with ham and eggs, Hollandaise, and fruity jam, I wanted to try making them myself.  This project required waiting for a Saturday that I could commit the time for all the steps involved with resting and proofing the dough, but let me tell you, it was worth the wait. 

English Muffins 3

As suggested by the authors, I prepared the dough the first day, then shaped and baked the muffins the next day.  I won’t lie; the shaping part turned out being pretty messy.  When the instructions said to divide the dough into equal pieces, I reached for my food scale as I always do when making dinner or hamburger rolls.  But that wasn’t going to happen.  The dough was much too wet for that, and I couldn’t be tempted to add more flour.  I used a bench scraper to finish dividing the dough, and they may not have all been the same size but I was okay with that.

English Muffins 2

When the muffins finished baking and I pulled them out of the oven, they actually looked like I hoped they would.  I cut into one and saw the beautiful, craggy holes that are perfect for soaking up endless varieties of toppings.  And then I took a bite.  You know when you spend a decent amount of time on something, and it actually meets all your expectations?  Yeah, that’s totally what happened. [Read more…]

Sandwich Bread

When I was growing up, my mom occasionally baked bread, although I don’t think I really appreciated it.  When I was in high school, she got a bread machine.  My sisters and I thought it was the best invention ever.
Sandwich bread

First thing in the morning, she would dump all the ingredients inside and set the timer.   Then we’d all come home after school and stand in the kitchen together and eat bread.  We sliced the almost perfectly square loaf (with a hole in the middle for the blade), and drizzled it with squeezable butter and honey.  It was the best.

Sliced sandwich bread

Years later when I wanted to make my own bread, the only way I dared was to use the bread machine my mom bought for me.  I thought that working with yeast was way too scary.  Even when I began baking bread in the oven, I actually mixed the dough and let it rise in the magic box that made perfect dough every time.  What?  But eventually I got brave enough to try, and it turned out that there was nothing to fear.

The most intimidating part was getting the water to the right temperature for the yeast to do its thing.  A food thermometer makes that part easy, but it isn’t completely necessary.  King Arthur Flour has some great tips for activating yeast and working with dough.  And one thing I’ve learned to do, whether or not it’s in the recipe, is add a bit of honey to the yeast and warm water.  Yeast really likes honey.

Sandwich bread 2

Once the yeast gets going, the rest is easy and fun.  In just a few hours when your kitchen smells like fresh baked bread, you’ll be ready for a slice.  Just remember, it tastes the best standing right there in the kitchen.

Sandwich Bread
Bakes Two Loaves (8 x 4-inch)

1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 1/3 cups whole milk

3 ½ cups bread flour, as needed

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Sprinkle the yeast over 1/3 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)  and honey in a small bowl.  Let stand 5 minutes, and then stir well to dissolve.  Pour into the mixer bowl.  Add 1 cup cold milk and the sugar and whisk to combine.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment.  On low speed, beat in half of the flour, then the salt.  Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until it is absorbed into the dough.  Continue adding enough of the flour to make a soft dough that cleans the bowl. You might be tempted to keep adding flour to make it easier to work with, but please don’t do it.  You want the dough to be  a bit tacky or sticky to make soft bread.  Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook.  Knead on medium-low speed until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.

Spray the inside of a medium bowl with cooking spray.  Shape the dough into a taut ball.  Place in the bowl and turn to coat with spray on all sides.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 ¼ hours.

Lightly spray the insides of two 8 x 4 x 2 ½-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.  Divide the dough in half.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Gently pressing to deflate the dough, shape into a thick 8-inch long rectangle.  Starting from the long side, rolls and shape into an 8-inch long loaf and press the long seam closed.  Place, seam side down, in the pan.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Slip the pans into tall food-safe plastic bags.  Tightly close the bags, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it.  Let stand until the loaves gently dome about an inch above the tops of the pans, about 45 minutes, then remove from the bags.

Bake the loaves, uncovered, until golden brown 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully slide the bread out of the pan.  Turn the bread over and tap the bottom.  It will sound hollow when done.  The internal temperature should be about 190 degrees.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, unmold onto racks, and cool completely.

Recipe from Sarabeth’s Bakery:  From My Hands To Yours

Cinnamon Honey Scones

Happy 2013!Honey Cinnamon Scones

I thought it would be fun to start out the new year by baking something from the Bouchon Bakery.  I know the cookbook came out way back in the fall of 2012, but it’s a pretty hefty book with so many recipes to choose from.  Actually, that’s not true.  I woke up one Sunday morning in December with the intention of filling the house with the aroma of cinnamon honey scones, but it didn’t work out.  Cinnamon Honey Scones

You see, when I saw the recipe in Thomas Keller’s new book, I knew they’d be perfect for a Sunday morning, but I didn’t actually read the recipe all the way through.  I should have known better with a recipe from Mr. Keller, because these scones required a little preparation the day before.  Whoops. Cinnamon Honey Scones

Fast forward a few weeks later when I remembered to start the scones on Saturday.  Despite the list of steps and ingredients, these cinnamon honey scones are no more difficult than other scones to make.  The cinnamon honey cubes are the component prepared in advance, and they are worth it.  Honey, cinnamon, and butter are mixed with flour to make a paste, which is frozen and cut into cubes and scattered throughout the scone dough, where they melt into pockets and ribbons of flavor. [Read more…]

Pumpkin English Muffin Bread

Picture this.  It’s a lovely fall morning, perfect for staying indoors and baking.  Even better, for baking pumpkin bread that fills the house with the aromas of cinnamon and warm spices.  Everything was in place until there was a knock at the door.  Who was it?  It was that familiar girl Carmen karma, coming to pay another visit.
I opened my laptop to find Jessica’s recipe that looked like heaven, only to be stuck in hell with a crashed computer, for the second time in a month.  In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a serious problem.  However, I would like to be able to settle on a laptop and move on.
[Read more…]

Chile Verde Salads with Flatbread Biscuits

So, I have a confession to make.  Remember these biscuits?  These delicious, buttery biscuits that mix together like a breeze and are perfect with breakfast, lunch, or dinner?  While it’s true that they are my go-to biscuit recipe, and I can’t count how many times I’ve thrown them together at a moment’s notice, I may have shared them with this dinner recipe in mind.

If I were to choose a favorite meal, this would be it.  It all started when Ree posted this idea for a quick Mexican “flatbread” pizza that used rolled-out biscuit dough for the ‘flatbread.”  That made me think that my favorite biscuits would make a fantastic taco salad, and they did.  They totally reminded me of the Navajo tacos my mom makes and I love, but there was no frying involved.  But let’s be real, the butter is still there, it’s just on the inside.

[Read more…]

Hamburger Rolls

Well, here it is Monday after another weekend has come and gone way too quickly. I can’t complain though, because it was a good weekend. We were able to enjoy some time out in the sunshine before secluding ourselves indoors for a Mad Men marathon in anticipation of the big season premiere. And we fired up the grill for burgers for the first time this season.

The first burgers of the season deserve their own homemade rolls, don’t you think?

These rolls are super simple to throw together a couple hours before burger time. You can dress them up to look fancy by sprinkling the tops with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or (my favorite) minced onions. But they are delicious left alone, too.

[Read more…]

Focaccia Bread

I am far from being an expert bread baker, but I do love getting my hands a bit messy and working with yeast dough.  I like watching the bubbles form after combining yeast with warm water and a little sugar.  I like dumping the gooey ball of dough in a bowl and watching it transform into a soft pillow after rising.  Focaccia is a great starting place for working with bread dough.  You get the rewards of fresh-baked bread while skipping a lot of the intimidation factors that sometimes come with it.

One batch of this flat bread can be enjoyed several different ways.  You can tear off pieces for dipping in oil and vinegar.  As bread stick-sized slices, it’s perfect alongside a bowl of soup.  Sliced through the middle, it makes a great sandwich.

[Read more…]

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