bread and the old-timey cookbook

bread and the old-timey cookbook

And we’re back. It’s been another crazy-long hiatus as deLizious tries to keep home and hearth up-and-running. But I’ve pledged before and will reiterate that Aunt Helen’s recipe box is far too important to let go. I want to keep … Continue reading

carb cravings: the cookies and bread edition

The better part of my weekend was spent developing no-carb recipes for a client who is assembling a cookbook. This was a tough project for me as guidelines called for essentially zero carbs other than vegetables. The allowed foods list contained a fair amount of meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, and oils along with limitless non-starchy veg. Fruits? Lemons, limes, berries, and apples, and then only “in moderation.” Even dried beans were given the cold shoulder and limited to occasional consumption. Whole grains? Not even on the Allowed list. (Quinoa and a few others were occasionally acceptable, but anything wheat-related was a no-no.)

While I was up for the challenge, it hurt to shun grains, legumes, and fruits as they add variety to a daily diet and have so much to offer nutritionally. But working for a client, I pushed personal feelings aside and stepped up to the no-carb plate. While I made some progress (Venison-stuffed bell peppers? Salmon salad? Winners both.), there were a few recipes I just couldn’t like. (Talking to you, spinach bread and kale smoothie.) More tweaking lies ahead, but by the end of the weekend my kitchen needed some carb karma.

Oatmeal cookies seemed a good choice, so I put together a batch using a recipe clipped from the newspaper years back. Chocolate chips were replaced by a handful of leftover red and pink m&m’s, another small amount of red “chocolate” chips (must have hit the day-after-Valentine’s rack at the grocery store), and a much larger amount of pretzel m&ms. The cookies were fantastic and loved by all; just by baking them I started feeling better about my no-carb recipes.

oatmeal m&m cookies

oatmeal m&m cookies

My husband, a willing if wary no-carb taste-tester, must also have been scarred by my project as he announced today that he was going to bake bread. While not completely out of character for him, it’s been ages since he’s made bread and his declaration cracked me up. He, too, must have sensed the kitchen’s need for carbohydrates. His chosen recipe was a no-knead oatmeal loaf and when time came to put the dough into pans, he happened upon my new loaf pan. Sold as a three-slot lasagna pan, this “kitchen toy” was recommended by a friend who uses it to bake multiple types of quick bread at once. Hubby’s bread dough filled two of the three slots, giving us two spectacularly amazing soft, fragrant, and golden loaves of carbohydrate bliss.

dough starting to rise

dough starting to rise

just-baked bread is very near the top of my Favorite Things in Life list

doesn’t get much better than just-baked bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

I get that consuming excess carbs can pack on the pounds. I get that protein and fat satiate in ways that carbs cannot. But I also believe that there’s room in a healthy diet for carbs–especially the whole grains that provide fiber and lots of B vitamins. While I’m not fond of the mantra “everything in moderation” (everything? really? there goes the moderation, then), it does apply to most food situations. No-carb diets may be important for folk in critical health situations and may also help jump-start weight loss. But I’m all for including some of (almost) everything in what I eat. Kale and spinach. Cookies and bread. I’ll gladly make room for all of it. If you feel likewise, here are two rock star carb recipes.

Oatmeal-Candy Cookies

adapted from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups m&ms (the pretzel variety is an especially fun cookie stir-in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In bowl, beat together butter and brown and granulated sugars with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, beating until combined.

In separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and powder, and salt; mix well. Add to butter mixture; beat on Low speed until blended. Stir in m&ms.

Drop tablespoons of dough at least 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown at edge. Cool briefly on baking sheets; transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

No-Knead Oatmeal Bread

adapted from a recipe found in 2010 Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  •  1/2 cup honey or light molasses
  •  1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour

In large bowl, combine boiling water, oats, honey, butter, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, mix well. Blend in eggs. Add flour until well blended yet still a soft dough. Place dough in greased bowl; cover. Refrigerate until needed, at least 2 hours.

Grease 2 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. On well-floured board, shape dough into 2 loaves. Place in pans; cover. Let rise 1 hour or until double. Bake at 350°F 1 hour or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when removed from pans and tapped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.

connections and cornbread

Tonight’s recipe is the happy result of a fun virtual connection. A few weeks back I guest-blogged my first post on a favorite WordPress site. I first visited Blog of Funny Names just under a year ago and was quickly hooked. Well-written, smart, and occasionally irreverent, BoFN offers background on random funnily named folk and–sometimes–geographical locations. I welcomed the opportunity to contribute the occasional funny (food) name, and started things off by writing up cookbook author and writing guru Crescent Dragonwagon. My post appeared to go over well enough, but I had no expectation of actually connecting with my subject.

Imagine my surprise when a friend gave me a heads-up that Crescent Dragonwagon–a woman I had come to admire greatly after my online research–had somehow found my BoFN post and shared it on her facebook page. I quickly shot off a note of thanks to Crescent and she graciously responded and even dropped over to my deLizous facebook page. Two of her cookbooks, The Cornbread Gospels and Bean by Bean, now sit on my shelf. Excited to put them to good use, I  brought the cornbread book into the kitchen today. Crescent’s recipe for “Thirded” Colonial Cornbread looked to be exactly what the afternoon called for.

Because Crescent is an established cookbook author and food writer, I guessed that any recipe in her books would be a winner. What I hadn’t counted on, though, was how lovely these books would read. Her intro to the Thirded cornbread taught me that early Colonial Americans made doughs using one-third each rye flour, cornmeal, and whole wheat flour “in order to stretch their thin and dear wheat supplies.” She went on to mention that this particular bread “is can’t-stop-eating-it delicious a few minutes out of the oven, with a little butter. It’s still good that same day, goes quite nicely with vegetable soup or stew, and can be split, toasted, and gussied up with sharp Cheddar cheese melted on each half.” Good information for sure, but it’s also extremely well-crafted prose. I look forward to delving further into Crescent’s books–both for recipes and reading pleasure.

But about that recipe: “Thirded” Colonial Cornbread turns out a lovely pan of hearty and wholesome (and addictive, as Crescent noted) cornbread. The rye was barely noticeable (a plus as my 6- and 10-year-olds would’ve turned their noses up at such a strong flavor) and because whole wheat pastry flour was used, the whole wheat flavor was more of a background note as well. What did come through was a complex earthiness sweetened only slightly (but just enough) by molasses. (Though I subbed in sorghum as I didn’t have the blackstrap called for.) I also added the 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda recommended for a moister bread. This cornbread was crumbly, but also firm and it held together well. It seemed the perfect balance of light and dense. I see it working with all of Crescent’s suggestions: a side for soups and stews, a base for bread pudding or French toast, crumbled into stuffing. I’m also excited to top it with honey, yogurt, and berries for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Colonial cornbread

Colonial cornbread

When I started my blog, just over a year ago, my only plan was to write up fun food finds. It’s been gratifying to see posts take shape, but it’s been even more rewarding to connect with other fun folk–foodie and otherwise. I treasure all of these connections and thank all who read foodforfun. Thanks, as well, to Crescent Dragonwagon. What started as a search for a funny name ended with a delightful new connection and a pan of amazing cornbread.

Colonial cornbread--yum!

triple threat cornbread: good-for-you, gorgeous, delicious

“Thirded” Colonial Cornbread

from Crescent Dragonwagon’s The Cornbread Gospels

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole-grain rye flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter or mild vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, measured into a 4-cup measure
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Coat an 8×11-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sift together the cornmeal, rye flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Measure the butter or oil by tablespoon into a small skillet or saucepan, then, using the same thus-greased tablespoon, measure in the molasses. Place on low heat to thin the molasses and melt the fat.
  4. Beat the eggs into the milk in its measuring cup, and then stir in the warmed molasses and butter.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with as few strokes as possible (the batter will be much darker than typical cornbread batter). Transfer it to the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the cornbread until it is firm and deeply brown, with browned edges slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes. Makes about 12 squares.

nourish the teachers

I expected to write up a blog post last Friday, just like I have every Friday before for nearly a year. Except that I couldn’t. News of a school shooting made the rum cake I wanted to feature seem unimportant. And I still struggle–along with countless others, I know–with finding significance in anything other than family and children and those we hold dear. I always professed this blog–foodforfun–to be only about fun food and drink. But today I have to step out a bit further and connect food to feelings that are decidedly not fun.

When I dropped my girls off at school this morning, I found myself lingering. Maybe I was picking up on something that wasn’t, but there seemed a sense of urgency in the halls. Smiles were everywhere, but I imagine teachers and parents had their own private thoughts–ones that could not and would not be communicated to the kids heading into their classrooms for the day.

I’ve always thought teachers to be underpaid and (mostly) under-appreciated. This is the workforce that educates our future. They’re not in it for the money; most teachers teach because they believe in what they do. And now this.

My feelings are shared by many and it may be that now we’ll do more to show our appreciation. I was wowed by the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates: She, her husband, and both of her children arrived at school this morning carrying a large pot of coffee and an oversized cookie tray. The gifts of food and drink were their way of showing teachers they were appreciated.

Wanting to show my gratitude, I had conversations with a few of my daughters’ teachers, thanking them for doing what they do. But I wanted to do more. I went home to bake bread. Today’s loaves count nine and I’ll deliver them tomorrow to teachers at my daughters’ school. While baking this bread is meant as a gift of thankfulness, it helped me in ways I hadn’t expected. Stirring together a triple batch of dough, then wrestling it into submission, helped me work out some of the aggression and sadness that I feel.

I’d love to find a metaphor for this bread and the peace we’d like to see in our communities and in the world. But instead I’ll settle for knowing that these loaves are nourishment and teachers everywhere need to be nourished now more than ever. I ask you to let a teacher know he or she is making a positive difference. Buy a cup of coffee, offer a smile and a kind word, say thanks. And if you’re a bread baker, give this (peaceful) loaf a whirl.

various shapes (and sizes) ready for wrapping and delivery

various shapes (and sizes) ready for wrapping and delivery

Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Bread

Adapted from Brother Rick Curry, S.J.’s, The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 1/3 tablespoons (1/3 cup) butter
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 to 5 cups bread flour

In large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt.

In saucepan, heat butter, milk, water, molasses, and honey until warm and butter is partially melted. Pour into whole wheat mixture; stir well. Stir in oats and eggs. Beat 10 minutes, gradually adding bread flour until dough begins to pull away from side of bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.

Place dough in lightly oiled large bowl; turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free place 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease 3 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. Punch dough down. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in pans. Cover with tea towel; let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

one zucchini, two directions

We’ve never been able to grow zucchini, which is ironic as zukes are vegetables that grow in abundance. I’m sure there’s some sort of soil fix we could do, but I’m just as happy to receive zucchini from family and friends or buy it at the farmers’ market. My mother-in-law recently handed over a monster zuke. While I love to slice and roast or chop and sauté, these preps are best suited for the younger, sweeter, more tender zucchini. The zucchini giants of this world are best shredded and used in baking or pancakes. Which meant I had some shredding to do.

shredded zucchini–so pretty with the green flecks

My food processor made quick work of it and I soon had eight cups shredded zucchini. I wanted to use as much of it fresh as possible (though frozen shredded zucchini is fine for baked goods) and zucchini bread seemed the obvious choice. My hunt turned up a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread (thanks, Mac!) that looked simple enough, so I baked up a batch. Short on granulated sugar, I made up the 1/2 cup difference with muscovado sugar, a deeper, darker, richer brown sugar. I wanted to stir in something yummy and though mini chocolate chips were tempting, I reached instead for cacao nibs thinking they’d add a hint of darkness to an otherwise sweet bread. I enjoyed the final zucchini bread very much, even more so with a light topping of crème fraîche.

chocolate zucchini bread with cacao nibs

Two cups shredded zucchini down, six to go. We needed a veggie side for supper and I remembered a simple gratin recipe I’d once enjoyed from a local paper. Having lost the clipped recipe, I guessed on amounts and came up with a pretty, savory, and flavorful side dish.

gratin before baking

gratin after baking

gratin after serving

The final two cups shredded zucchini are in the refrigerator and I’ll throw part of it in a scramble or omelet for breakfast tomorrow. The rest? Who knows? It’s true what they say about zucchini, even if you don’t grow it yourself: It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.

In bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just to mix. Add zucchini and cacao nibs; mix gently. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 1 hour or until knife inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Zucchini Gratin

Gratin

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini, pressed to dry
  • 1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Heat oven to 425°F. Coat pie plate with cooking spray.

In bowl, stir together gratin ingredients. Spread into pie plate. In small bowl, stir together topping ingredients. Sprinkle over gratin. Bake 20 minutes or until topping is browned. Makes 8 servings.

delightful banana bread

I’m relatively new to blogging, so have had only a small taste of what folks are writing about. But I have noticed that banana bread gets a lot of press. Finding recipes for spotted bananas appeals to those who enjoy cooking and/or baking as we love food and are loath to throw it away.

A quick WordPress search for banana bread turned up oodles of recipes. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are blogs out there devoted entirely to this yummy quickbread and all its variations (scones, muffins, cakes, etc). Even in my short blogging life, I’ve written two posts with recipes using overripe bananas.

That said, Delightful Discoveries’ claim of  The Best Banana Bread Ever seemed a bold one. Always looking for an excuse to bake, I felt compelled to give his recipe a whirl. It was a basic banana bread recipe: no stir-ins, no whole wheat flour or other good-for-you grains. Though I prefer whole-grain baked goods, the case can also be made that some foods are best enjoyed in all their white flour, white sugar, egg, and butter glory. (Add sour cream in this case.)

These ingredients absolutely added up to crazy-good banana bread. It was everything this cake-passing-for-health-food should be: tender, sweet, buttery, fragrant. Calling it the definitive “best” would mean making lots of other banana breads and trying them all side-by-side, so we’ll never know. (Though that sounds like a fun project.) But it seemed the perfect loaf–what you’d see under “banana bread” in a dictionary.

My only deviation from the original recipe was to toss in a small package of blackberries that had to be used quickly if I didn’t want to have to toss them. (again, hate to throw out food) It added a fun blast of color and flavor, but the loaf would have been amazing without. It doesn’t need stir-ins or any other addition to shine. It may or not be the “best” (that’s not my call), but I will deem it Perfect.

Perfect Banana Bread à la Delightful Discoveries

with a few blackberries stirred in

easy cheesy DIY

Doing It Yourself is all the rage these days. Reality TV is ripe with programming devoted to folks doing their own pretty much everything. I’m not a fan of reality TV and you’ll never catch me sewing my own clothes, making my own (or anyone else’s) jewelry, or refurbishing anything in my house. I’m just not crafty like that.

But I have always been a fan of cooking and baking from scratch. Homemade bread? DIY. A batch of cookies? DIY. A pot of soup or broth? DIY.

With the proliferation of do-it-yourselfers, the bar has been raised for what can be done in the kitchen. The food section of this week’s local paper headlined with a piece on grinding your own meat. I’ve also been seeing more about homemade butter (it’s as simple as overwhipping cream), yogurt, and cheese. And then there’s the wave of home brewers and wine makers.

A new cookbook that speaks exactly to this point was also featured in a recent newspaper story. The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila got my attention. This is my kind of book. Make your own foods so 1) you know exactly what’s in them and 2) you aren’t spending hard-earned dollars on foods you can easily make yourself.

I made the recipe offered alongside the newspaper article as it mimicked one of my oldest daughter’s favorite snacks–cheese crackers. I buy them occasionally, but consider them little more than junk food. If I made my own (and they passed her taste test), I could offer her my version of Cheez-Its. They’d contain “real food” ingredients–no additives, preservatives, etc. Also, I’d be paying for ingredients, but not the manufacture, packaging, and marketing that goes into processed foods.

My Cheez-It fan and I whipped up these crackers tonight. The dough took only a few minutes to make and I froze it for only 10 minutes instead of refrigerating for 2 hours. It still rolled out perfectly. I cut the crackers with a crinkle-cutter, but a knife or biscuit cutter would have done just as well. The dough baked up beautifully and the resulting crackers were pretty and tasty–salty, rich, savory, exploding with cheese flavor. I used the Cheddar called for in the recipe, but it’d be fun to change it up depending on your mood or your family’s preferences: mozzarella for pizza lovers, pepper-Jack for those who like it spicy, sharp Cheddar for an extra punch. A teaspoon of dried herbs would also add distinction.

Though these crackers aren’t as crispy as what you find in that red box (might need to fry ’em up for that), my daughter gave them a rating of “good to great” which is high praise from her. I’ll probably buy the book as I’d love a collection of such recipes all in one place. The article mentioned homemade pop-tarts which sounds like a delicious project. Definitely a DIY I would Do.

Homemade Cheese Crackers

adapted only slightly from The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 ice cube

In mixing bowl, use paddle attachment to beat together butter, flour, mustard, and salt 30 seconds or just until crumbly. Add cheese; beat on low speed 30 seconds longer or just until mixed.

In small bowl, combine water, vinegar, and ice cube; let stand briefly to chill. Add 6 tablespoons vinegar mixture to cheese mixture; beat on low speed until liquid is absorbed. Beat in vinegar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours. (I froze the dough for 10 minutes.)

Remove frozen dough to counter 15 minutes before baking.

Heat oven to 325°F. On lightly floured surface, roll dough 1/8-inch-thick. Cut into small squares or rounds. Place on baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 40 (2-inch) crackers. (I cut them smaller, so got about 60 (1 1/2-inch) crackers.)

crinkle-cut dough

ready to bake

in the oven

cup o’ DIY cheese crackers

making-do-with-what-I-have pumpkin bread pudding

I have collected a fair number of cans of pumpkin puree (thank you, neighbors), so a recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding recently caught my eye. Being the only one in the house who enjoys bread pudding doesn’t deter me from making it. I can easily justify enjoying the whole batch myself. It counts as breakfast, yes?

Tonight was the night for the bread pudding. Topped with a bourbon sauce (isn’t all bread pudding supposed to be served with some type of whiskey sauce?) and a cloud of whipped cream (yes, laced with bourbon), it was swoon-worthy. The pudding itself isn’t overly sweet and has a beautiful almost pumpkin pie-like texture. As a bread pudding, though, it is decidedly hearty and rustic–even more so than some as it started with a loaf of fairly dense mulitgrain bread.

I was trying to use up a rather large (17-ounce) round loaf of multigrain bread (gift from same neighbor), so this replaced the baguette called for in the recipe. I sliced it 1/2 inch thick per recipe instructions, but my loaf was so much larger than a narrow baguette, the slices were anything but delicate. Just the same, I toasted it in the oven per recipe instructions and tore it into large pieces before soaking it in the egg mixture. In the end, I like how the irregular-size pieces meld together in the custard.

The recipe called for 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice. Didn’t have (how many of us do?) and wasn’t going to run out and buy so used 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon and made up the difference with half ground ginger and half freshly grated nutmeg. (sort of what the recipe advised)

I also didn’t have 1 quart half-and-half in the house. It would have been easy enough to mix 2 cups cream (which I did have) with 2 cups milk, but this was one of those times (and we all have them) when we were milk-less. I don’t know too many fans of powdered milk, though it does come through in a pinch when baking. My “half-and-half” was 2 cups liquid milk made per powder box instructions stirred into the same amount of cream.

Instead of the dark brown sugar I usually make (1 cup white sugar plus 2 tablespoons molasses), I made a lighter version by replacing 1 tablespoon molasses with the same amount of dark honey.

Also, the original recipe toasted the bread and baked the pudding at 300°F. I bumped up the second bake temp as I wanted faster baking and some browning on the surface.

Here’s how it all turned out.

pumpkin bread pudding swimming in a honey-bourbon sauce

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Adapted from a recipe found in Everyday Food (November 2003). Note that my recipe looks nothing like what was intended. Tasty just the same.

  • 1 (1-pound) loaf multigrain bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (I used most of a 17-ounce loaf)
  • 4  large eggs
  • 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream, or 1 quart half-and-half
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and freshly grated nutmeg, or 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300°F. Coat 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place bread on baking sheet. Bake, turning slices over once, 20 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from oven. Tear into large pieces.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine eggs, milk, cream, pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt; whisk until blended. When bread is toasted, add to bowl; push down to submerge. Let soak 20 minutes or until saturated.

Heat oven to 325°F. Pour bread mixture into baking pan. Bake about 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 12 servings.

Honey-Bourbon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

In small saucepan, bring all ingredients except vanilla and salt to a boil. Boil  5 minutes or until just slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla and salt. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Bourbon Whipped Cream

In bowl, whip heavy cream to make whipped cream, stirring in a splash of bourbon and just about as much powdered sugar.

Victory Part 3-1What does Nathan Fillion have to do with bread pudding? Absolutely nothing. This is why he’s here.

time to feed the (sourdough) starter

It’s been more than the recommended six weeks since I last fed my starter. (Remember Sourdough English Muffins?) Looking for some sourdough fun, I found a recipe for Sourdough Sticky Buns in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.

It took very little time to bring the dough together. The process started with a “sponge” of starter, milk, oil, flour, and sugar. This mixture fermented overnight, rising only a little. Next step was stirring in more flour and a bit each of salt and baking soda. That’s it! The dough was soft and tender after only a few minutes of kneading.

The cookbook referred me to another page for filling recipes, but that would have been too much work for me. (I can be a very lazy cook.) I knew I wanted sticky buns full of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. A touch of sea salt sounded nice, too. Why go searching for another recipe? After mounding a few handfuls of brown sugar in a bowl and stirring in a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon, I cut in 3ish tablespoons of softened butter. The filling mixture was a glossy and glorious mahogany brown.

An aside, but did you know you don’t have to pay $2 (and that’s on sale) for a 2-pound bag of brown sugar? If you mix 2 tablespoons molasses into 1 cup white granulated sugar, you have 1 cup brown sugar. I make this in large batches and store–it has a richer flavor than purchased brown sugar and is also more moist.

Back to the sticky buns: I rolled the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. The marvelous brown sugar-cinnamon filling was smeared over the dough, which was then rolled up from the long end. I sealed the bottom seam, then cut the roll into 3/4-inch-thick (or so) slices.

brown sugar-cinnamon filling spread on sourdough sticky bun dough

all rolled up

To prepare the pan, I sprinkled the bottom with clumps of brown sugar, then followed with a dusting of sea salt. The dough slices went into the pan, not crowded but sides touching.

prepped pan

ready to rise

They rose for a while (all afternoon in the refrigerator while my kids and I escaped to the zoo, then about 30 minutes at room temperature when we returned home. Have said it before: You be the boss of your bread.) The recipe had the rolls baking at 400°F for 15 minutes, then 350°F for 20 minutes. I should have pulled them earlier as they were starting to dry out. Because I had my young-ens help me slice the dough, some slices were thinner than they should have been. No matter. The brown sugar melted into yummy caramel with a hit of sea salt and when the rolls were flipped onto a plate the bottom became the top. Because the rolls baked a touch too long, this “topping” was a slightly crusty and brittle. Not a bad thing when you’re talking brown sugar.

finished product

finished product with milk

After mixing up the dough last night, I dutifully fed my starter and dated the top of the jar so I know to feed it again in six weeks. Even if I stretch that six weeks into seven, I look forward to continuing with my adventures in sourdough.

Sourdough Sticky Buns

Directions for rising, shaping, and baking are found above. Fill as desired!

Sponge

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

In large bowl, mix all sponge ingredients to stiff dough. Cover; let stand overnight.

Stir 1/2 cup flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and baking soda into sponge. Mix until blended, stirring in up to 1/2 cup additional flour to form smooth dough. On lightly floured surface, knead dough 2 to 3 minutes. Roll dough into approximately 18×12-inch rectangle. Proceed with filling, shaping, and baking as directed above. Makes about 18 buns.

peanut butter, banana, chocolate

Having recently received a large bag of dried banana chips, I wanted to find a use for them outside of eating as-is or tossing with granola. An online search got me thinking about using them for baking. A few recipes included them in banana bread, which intrigued me. Because peanut butter and chocolate seem a good fit with banana, I wanted to build a quick bread that incorporated all three flavors.

Banana chips in banana bread seemed redundant and chocolate bread was more indulgence than I needed. This left me looking for a peanut butter bread recipe. My cookbook collection includes a 1970s-esque Jif Peanut Butter recipe booklet (complete with ’70s-style food photos), which was where I found a simple and delicious peanut butter bread recipe. I tossed a large handful of coarsely chopped dried banana chips and a slightly smaller amount of coarsely chopped chocolate (mix of semisweet and dark) into the batter and was thrilled with the result.

The bread itself is rich and peanutty, but adding chocolate (always a good idea) and banana chips elevated it to another level of yum. The banana flavor is only there when you bite into a chip, but it’s a lovely subtle hit when you do. And the slight chew of these chips–they don’t get squishy like raisins do–adds texture contrast.

I find myself having a slice (or two) for breakfast, munching on it between meals, then considering it a dessert at the end of the day. It needs no embellishment, but a small bit of grape jelly bumps up the sweetness and if I’m really wanting to gild lilies, a touch of butter rounds out the flavor very nicely. It’s been a fun bread to discover and am happy to have found a use for my bag of banana chips.

Peanut Butter Bread with Banana Chips and Chocolate

Based on a recipe found in Jif® Choosy Mothers’ Peanut Butter Cookbook (1979)

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (Jif’s recipe called for creamy, but I used chunky)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried banana chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped chocolate bar

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch loaf pan.

In bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add peanut butter; cut in with fork or two knives until crumbly. Add egg and milk; stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Gently stir in banana chips and chocolate. Pour batter into pan; bake 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted near center of loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

out-of-this-world peanut butter bread

dumplings, brownies, and bundt cake

We set out for my in-laws today and arrived just in time for supper. My mother-in-law (m-i-l), a retired home-ec teacher, is a whiz in the kitchen. We were served one of my husband’s favorite meals–potato dumplings. A nod to my in-laws’ Norwegian heritage, potato dumplings consist of a chunk of ham surrounded with a thick coating of flour and potato. The coating is shaped into a ball around the ham and the dumpling is then simmered in beef broth to cook through. The final dumpling is fluffy, though densely packed, and 3ish inches in diameter. One makes a meal. Seasoned with salt and pepper (and dipped in ketchup when on my plate), potato dumplings aren’t bad. But I’ll never be as fond of them as is my husband. I learned to make them once, as a new bride, but made my first batch when pregnant with my oldest. “Morning” sickness struck that night and I never again made a batch of potato dumplings. My very kind m-i-l knows this story and is good enough to make me a baked potato and slice or two of ham when she serves potato dumplings.

Tonight, the dumplings shared the table with old-school farm food: homemade oatmeal bread, tossed green salad, and cooked broccoli and carrots. We enjoyed a wonderful meal. The kicker, though, was dessert. My m-i-l brought out a pan of brownies, an entire Bundt cake, and scoops of ice cream. All for our family of four. We were thrilled with the home-baked goodies (though she confessed the cake came from a box) as well as with the extravagance and heartiness of the meal. We were welcomed with feasting. What more could you ask for? (Though tomorrow I’m going to need to walk this meal off.)

Potato Dumplings

  • Beef bouillon
  • 4 cups grated peeled potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1- to 1 1/2-inch) chunks lean ham

Bring stockpot two-thirds full of bouillon to a boil.

Meanwhile, in bowl, stir together potatoes, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking soda, and salt until just combined. With damp hands, mound fistful of potato mixture around each chunk ham to make 8 dumplings.

Drop dumplings into simmering broth; simmer partially covered 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon to serve. Makes 8 dumplings.

the Potato Dumpling, veggies, and homemade oatmeal bread

brownies–a chocolate bonanza

vanilla Bundt cake

baking bread your way

We’re almost out of bread and, without a lot on this weekend’s calendar, it seemed a good time to make a loaf or two. A few last-minute additions to the day kept me running, but I still got four (!) loaves made. Those who think that making bread is out of their reach should know that if I can make four loaves of bread on an unexpectedly busy day, they can make bread, too. I once told a group of baking students that it’s all about “being the boss of their bread.” Here’s how it happened today:

Up at 8 to take a spin class (a girl’s gotta work out if she eats like I do), then home to clean up and take my youngest to a playdate. I enjoyed chatting with the other mom, a good friend, and we didn’t get out of there until 2. Once home, I saw a window to start on the bread, so I ground the wheat berries (Yes, I grind my own whole wheat flour–I think it’s fun and the only equipment needed is a Kitchen Aid® attachment.) and collected all other ingredients. Got the dough together and had just started kneading when I saw it was almost 4–needed to get my oldest to her Girl Scout cookie booth. Covered the dough and we went on our way. Dropped my daughter off and invited another Girl Scout mom (and friend) over for coffee and social media lessons. (I have a lot to learn.) I did a bit of kneading while my friend worked the laptop, then I covered the dough for its official rise. Picked up our girls at 5:30, then home to add a bit more flour to the dough (seemed sticky). Kneaded it a bit more before dividing it into four sections (doubled the recipe–might as well maximize the benefits), shaping loaves, and letting them rise in their pans. While I made supper and helped my daughters move room dividers around to fashion a stage for their dance show later that night, the loaves rose and were ready for baking just after 6 p.m. Out of the oven by 6:40, they were set for butter and jam at 7. It may sound a bit nuts, and maybe the running around part was. But making the bread–from start to finish–was easy enough. I worked making bread around my day instead of the other way around.

A good recipe is essential. I used one of my stand-by baking cookbooks: The Secrets to Jesuit Breadbaking. Another favorite bread book: The Book of Bread. Have yet to find a bad recipe in either. (Will not offer a recipe here as I’ve already taken up more space than I’d wanted to. There are oodles of bread recipes on the web or check out either of these cookbooks.) Other must-haves for bread-baking include the right ingredients–sometimes just flour, salt, yeast, sugar. And you also need to think its fun. If I didn’t get such a bang out of making bread, I could easily find hearty, wholesome artisan bread at any grocery store. But I love the process of baking bread. And I love the results. I know my kids do, too, which makes it even more gratifying.

Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Bread from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry, S.J.

with butter and jam!