Category: breads

No Knead Focaccia Bread

Our cooking club theme for April was originally “Grilling” but with a forecast of 50F and rain, we changed it to Italian.  I had such a hard time deciding what to bring.  With antipasto, sausage stew, eggplant lasagna, meatballs, and tiramisu on the menu, there was only one thing missing – bread!  So I decided to try this No Knead Foccacia recipe from Budget Bytes.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit how little effort it took to make this bread.  The night before, I mixed flour, yeast, salt, and a teaspoon of garlic powder in a bowl and added water as the recipe indicated.  I went to bed, lounged around the next morning, and eventually turned the dough onto a cookie sheet for a second rise.  I brushed the dough with olive oil and herbs, and popped it in the oven.  When the bread was golden brown, I put the flat loaf on a cooling rack and sprinkled freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

That’s it, really!  The focaccia had a lot of flavor and was a nice complement to our meal.  I’ll be sure to make this again soon.



Hot Cross Biscuits

Lent is supposed to be about penance and sacrifice.  These biscuits from Joy the Baker do have a cross on the top, but it is certainly not a sacrifice to make them.  And it definitely isn’t a sacrifice to eat them!

Last year I made my grandmother’s traditional hot cross buns which were good, but these biscuits are even easier because there is no yeast required.  You just need a lot of butter and a few other ingredients.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a biscuit cutter, the top of a glass works just fine!  You need more butter and some powdered sugar for the frosted cross, but you can’t skip this step or they’re just biscuits.  And who doesn’t like a reason to make a small batch of frosting?


Cornmeal Scones

It’s handy to keep cornmeal around for polenta, but you can also use it to bake.  I wasn’t in the mood for traditional corn muffins, so I found this recipe for Cornmeal Scones.  (Note: There’s a typo in the recipe, and step 1 should say to say to mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.)  The ingredients are simple, and they’re the kind of thing you can whip up quickly on a Sunday morning.

The scones are nicely crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.  I cut the scones on the small side, and plan to freeze most of the batch.  They are dusted with sugar but still not overly sweet.  You could enjoy them on their own, or with a savory dish, but you will enjoy them!


French Toast Muffins

This muffin recipe promised to deliver ‘the best part of French toast rolled up in a muffin’.  With a promise like that, I got out my mixing bowl!  Of course, the recipe calls for Bisquick which I never keep in the house, so I used the trusty Bisquick substitute of 1 c. flour, 1 1/2 t baking powder, and 1/2 t salt.  The batter came together quickly, but the muffins took a bit longer in the oven than the recipe indicated.

When they came out of the oven, I brushed them with melted margarine and dusted them with cinnamon and sugar.  After all that, you’d think they’d be amazing, right?  Ehhh, I was disappointed.  None of them will go to waste, but they weren’t as good as I expected.  I think they need more cinnamon and sugar on the inside.  Don’t worry, I have another recipe on my list which I think will fix this problem!




Irish Soda Bread

It’s a little early for St. Patrick’s Day, but I never made this last year and wanted to get a head start.  Plus, I had never taken a picture of it for the blog.  This is my family’s recipe, but there are many versions of Irish bread out there!

A few words of (Irish bread) wisdom.  First, you don’t need to buy buttermilk.  Place 1 1/2 T of white vinegar in a large measuring cup, and fill with milk to make 1 1/2 c total.  Allow milk to sit for 5 minutes, and you now have 1 1/2 c. of buttermilk.  Easy, right?  Second, don’t overmix the dough.  Really, you just want to make sure it’s blended together, you don’t want to stretch it out too much.  You also don’t want to be tempted to add too much additional flour; the dough is meant to be sticky, not smooth.  And finally, if the top gets too brown but the bread isn’t done, cover it with foil and keep baking.  You don’t want to dry it out, but you do need to make sure the inside is cooked.

Now I think I am inspired to make another loaf or two before the holiday!




Irish Soda Bread

4 c. flour
3 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
6 T butter
1 1/2 c. raisins
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a 2 quart round casserole dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the first 5 ingredients (flour through baking soda). With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins.

In a small bowl, beat eggs slightly. Remove 1 T egg and reserve. Stir buttermilk into remaining egg and then stir into flour mixture just until flour is moistened. The dough will be sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, and with floured hands, knead about 10 strokes to mix thoroughly. Shape into a ball, and place in casserole dish. With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top and brush dough with reserved egg.

Bake about 60-100 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.



Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Muffins

Of course there are a lot of breakfasts you can eat on the go – healthy things like hardboiled eggs, orange sections, peanut butter sandwiches, and apple slices with cubes of cheese.  But I do like muffins as a treat sometimes, and my freezer was empty.

When I saw this recipe for Banana Nut Dark Chocolate Chunk bread from Danica’s Daily, I immediately bookmarked it, but knew I needed to make muffins for portion control.  Then I found really ripe bananas in the discount produce bin at the supermarket, and the fate was sealed.  I got 85% cacao Dark Chocolate from Trader Joe’s, pulled the last half cup of walnuts from my freezer, and got baking.  As muffins, they only require about 25-30 minutes in the oven, so be sure to set the timer accordingly.

These muffins are incredibly delicious, and a great treat for a Friday (or any!) morning.  The only problem is that you end up with chocolate on your hands.  There are a lot worse problems to have, right?



Pan Fried Naan

Just about a year ago, I made homemade naan for the first time.  I was pretty excited, but the naan was missing some flavor.  So I tried again and made Roasted Garlic Naan, which had a great flavor but poor texture.  Dough can be tricky, so I tried that recipe again for some for friends last year.  The consensus was that it was good, but didn’t taste like naan.

So I went back to the kitchen this weekend for yet another try.  This time I used this naan recipe from Budget Bytes.  The dough is much richer because it contains oil, yogurt, and egg.  It was easy to work with, and rose perfectly.  To cook the dough, you roll out 6″ circles and fry them one at a time in a hot pan coated with cooking spray.  When the first one was done, I was in heaven!  The naan was soft, fluffy, and had a nicely fried flavor.  I could have eaten it by itself standing over the stove, but I happened to have a batch of chana masala ready.



I am pretty sure that this will be my go-to naan recipe now.  There are just two things left to do.  First, I want to try adding either garlic butter or butter with fresh herbs next time, which might make this naan perfect.  I’d also like to try cooking these 4 at a time in an electric fry pan, because standing over the stove to cook them one by one was a little time consuming.  And of course, I need to get some people to taste test this version!

Whole Wheat Bagels

Maybe you live in a place where you can easily run out on Sunday morning and get a great bagel. Maybe you even live in a place where they sell freshly baked whole wheat bagels. But even if you do, isn’t there something appealing about staying in your pajamas and enjoying whole wheat bagels right out of your own oven?

These bagels from King Arthur Flour aren’t 100% whole wheat, but use a blend of flours to achieve the right texture while including some whole grain. I used half all-purpose white flour and half whole wheat flour, but if you have higher protein baking flours on hand, go ahead and use them. Other than that, all you need is yeast, sugar, and salt.

The bulk of the work is done the night before, when the dough is mixed, kneaded, and allowed to rise. Then, you shape the dough and set the bagels in the refrigerator overnight.
When you wake up, the dough comes out of the refrigerator to warm up while you’re making coffee. Then after a quick boil and a short bake, breakfast is served. Yes, there are quite a few steps to create these bagels, but each step is fairly short and simple.
In the end, I think these bagels are worth it. The crust is golden brown, and the bagel has just the right amount of chew. These bagels had a large diameter but were fairly flat; if you’d like a higher bagel, be sure to shape the dough in a smaller circle. Next time I might even experiment with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or maybe some cinnamon and raisins. Or maybe we’ll have a make your own bagel party – can your local bagel shop do that?

Lemon Thyme Focaccia Rolls

We were having an Italian dinner for Easter this year, and I wanted to try some homemade bread. I chose these Lemon Thyme Focaccia rolls from the NY Times, because they sounded so springy. They are like Italian rolls with the addition of lemon zest, freshly chopped thyme, and ground black pepper. The recipe is a little time intensive, but the time passes quickly when you’re just playing on the swings. (My nephew wasn’t feeling very well this weekend, and this is the only picture I got of him smiling!) Everyone liked the rolls, and my Dad felt they would be great to accompany a seafood meal, so we’ll have to try them again this summer.

Hot Cross Buns

Exactly 32 years ago today, a recipe for Hot Cross Buns was printed in an undetermined newspaper (but my guess is The New Britain Herald) and my grandmother cut it out. She made some notes on it, and the version I have is a photocopy of the original article, dated March 28, 1979. Hot Cross Buns are a Lenten tradition, although there are a lot of different stories about their origin.

Working with dough requires you to go with the flow, because you can never tell exactly what’s going to happen. This dough took much more flour than I expected, probably almost 6 cups by the end. It was still sticky although very elastic, so I set it to rise. And then it didn’t rise very quickly, or as much as I expected. But I kept moving forward, and in the end the texture of the bread was fine. What I like most about these buns is the hint of spice from the cinnamon, and of course, the trademark white cross frosting which I drizzled on with a spoon. Oh yes, these are definitely homemade hot cross buns, but my grandmother wouldn’t have wanted me to eat these any other way.

1 package dry yeast

1/4 c. warm water

3/4 c. milk

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/3 c. sugar

1 t salt

1 t cinnamon

3 eggs

2/3 c. raisins

4-5 c. flour

1/4 c. light corn syrup

1 T light corn syrup

1 T hot water

Confectioner’s sugar

Dissolve yeast in water in a large bowl. Heat milk and butter until warm; add to yeast mixture with sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk in eggs. Stir in raisins. Gradually stir in enough flour (4 1/2 c.) to make a manageable dough. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Let rise in a greased bowl for at least 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch dough down, and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 24 equal balls. Place them in a 13×9″ pan coated with cooking spray. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, brush with 1/4 c. corn syrup, and then cook for 5 more minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Mix 1 T corn syrup, 1 T water, and gradually stir in enough powdered sugar to form a thick frosting. Drizzle on buns with a spoon to form a cross on each bun.