SEMI-HOMEMADE BEER BREAD

Semi-Homemade isn’t just a technique I rely on for dessert.  When I’m in a pinch for time, it’s also my preferred way to provide side dishes.

Trader Joe’s boxed beer bread mix is one of my favorite go-to’s.  There is so much flavor in this semi-homemade bread loaf that only requires three ingredients: the box mix, a can of beer (ginger beer or carbonated water works too!), and a half a stick of melted, salted butter.

The melted butter is the key ingredient in this recipe.  And the secret is to pour it over the top before you bake it, rather than stirring it in the batter.  This technique creates a delightful crunch on the edges of the finished loaf, making this bread a frequent request from the people gathered at your table.

However it is important to note that it is critical that you use the right sized pan, which is a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan.  One time in a rush, I accidentally used an 8″ X 4″ inch pan.  The conclusion of that experience required a fire extinguisher.  Those are the kind of mistakes that you only make once!

Enjoy!

HOMEMADE FRENCH BAGUETTES

Last fall I read “French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure” by Mireille Guiliano.  It is a fabulous book!  Her writing is clever and witty as she takes the guilt out of eating, while teaching reasonable moderation and thoughtful food practices instead.

In the chapter entitled “Bread & Chocolate” she encourages eating both.  YES!  However, she also stresses the importance of eating freshly made foods without preservatives.  Because “French women don’t eat Wonder Bread.”

Granted, for American women, it isn’t quite as easy to walk down any neighborhood street and pick up a fresh baguette.  But we can learn to bake them.  And it is surprisingly simple.  It just takes patience and practice.

I was inspired after finishing this book to begin baking my own baguettes.  I purchased a french baguette pan from Williams Sonoma.  After several tries and a few modifications, I developed a recipe that combines Guiliano’s recipe in her book and the recipe on the pan packaging.  Unfortunately the Williams Sonoma french baguette pan pictured is no longer available, but you can purchase a similar pan from any kitchen store, like this one from Sur La Table.

You can certainly make this bread without a French baguette pan.  I tried making in on a regular baking sheet to compare.  When sampled side by side, my family definitely preferred the baguettes made on the specialized pan.  The perforations in the French baguette pan promote air circulation and allow excess moisture to escape.  This does result in a better crust and more airy bread.  But homemade French bread on a baking sheet, fresh from the oven, is still better than any bread you’ll pick up at the grocery store.  So make some this weekend regardless of what kind of pan you have!

CRUSTY FRENCH BAGUETTES

ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (110F)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast or 2-1/4 teaspoons
  • 5 to 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I prefer King Arthur’s Flour for this recipe)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt, (I prefer kosher salt for this recipe)
  • 2 cups hot water in a small pan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • Pinch of salt

directions

  • In a small bowl combine warm water and sugar.  (Water temperature is important in any recipe using yeast.  Too hot or too cold will ruin the final product.  If you are new to bread making, use a kitchen thermometer to check your water temp.)  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Add the yeast and stir gently to mix.  Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.
  • In an electric mixer with a dough hook, combine 4 cups of flour and the salt and mix on low speed until combined.  Slowly add the yeast mixture and beat just until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium-low and beat for 10 minutes, adding more flour a 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  OR if you do not have a stand mixer, combine the flour and the salt with a whisk.  Slowly add yeast mixture and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes, adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is sticky and smooth.
  • Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap.  Place bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let it rise for approximately 1 hour, or until double in bulk.
  • Punch down dough and turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for one minute.
  • Divide dough into four even balls.  Roll out each ball into the shape of a baguette, pinch ends to make them tapered.
  • Transfer the baguettes to a lightly greased baking pan.  Cover loosely with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place.  Let rise for 30 minutes.  (My baguette pan can only cook two loaves at a time.  So I shape half of the dough into two loaves, and leave the other half as one ball in the covered bowl.  I let the 2 loaves and the ball of dough rise for 30 minutes.  While the first 2 loaves are baking, I shape the remaining ball into two baguettes and place them on a lightly floured tea towel, cover them, and let them rise a third time.  Then I continue with the recipe when the pan is available. Or if I’m pressed for time, I’ll prepare all four loves at the same time, and bake two in the baguette pan and two on a baking sheet at the same time.  I put the loaves on the baking sheet on the rack above the loaves in the baking sheet because the bread bottoms tend to burn easier on the baking sheet than in the baguette pan, and my oven is hottest on the bottom.)
  • While loaves are rising, heat oven to 45oF.  Place 2 cups of hot water in a small pan and place it in the oven.  (The steam created in the oven will produce a better bread crust.)
  • Mix egg, 1 teaspoon cold water, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl with a fork or a small whisk.  Brush over loaves just before baking.  Slash baguettes 3-5 times diagonally across the top of the loaves with a sharp knife.
  • Bake the baguettes in the oven (with the pan of water) for 15 minutes.  And then lower the temperature to 400F and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until golden brown.  Bread should sound hollow when tapped.
  • If using a baguette pan, cool in the pan set on a wire cooking rack.  If using a baking pan, transfer from the baking pan to a wire rack to cool, otherwise the bottom will turn slightly soggy.

ENJOY!

SWEET BUTTER

IMG_4225 (1)This recipe is found in “Out of the House of Bread” by Preston Yancey, p 146.

The book is about prayer and it’s about baking bread.  It guides the reader to explore nine spiritual disciplines while repeatedly making the same basic loaf of bread.  Discovering the parallels of practice and patience required to master both.

In the chapter on “Feasting”, Yancey shares recipes for this sweet butter and simple strawberry preserves that are both easy to make AND absolutely delightful.   Together they turned an ordinary loaf of bread into the highlight of a memorable feast.

SWEET BUTTER

ingredients:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons toasted coconut

directions:

  • Whip softened butter and honey together with an electric or stand mixer for 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
  • Add vanilla and cinnamon, mix until combined.
  • Mix in toasted coconut, whip for another two minutes.

Enjoy!

SIMPLE STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

IMG_4444

This recipe is found in “Out of the House of Bread” by Preston Yancey, p 146.

The book is about prayer and it’s about baking bread.  It guides the reader to explore nine spiritual disciplines while repeatedly making the same basic loaf of bread.  Discovering the parallels of practice and patience required to master both.

In the chapter on “Feasting”, Yancey shares recipes for strawberry preserves and sweet butter that are both easy to make AND absolutely delightful.   Together they turned an ordinary loaf of bread into the highlight of a memorable feast.

SIMPLE STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

ingredients:

  • 1 pint of trimmed and quartered strawberries
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, skimming the foam from time to time to remove any debris.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring and skimming, until thickened and the syrupy mixture is translucent.
  • Cool slightly before serving.
  • Drizzle warm, or cool and spread, on a slice of fresh bread.

Enjoy!

EVERYTHING BREAD

IMG_4208 (4)

One way to make sure there is enough food on the table to feed a crowd is to add bread.

And homemade bread is one of the best ways to make a meal feel like home, and guests feel like family.

One of my dearest friends shared this recipe with me years ago.  If you have a standing mixer it is quite easy to make.  And if you’ve never made homemade bread, this is a good recipe to start with.

EVERYTHING BREAD

IMG_4210

ingredients

  • 1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (I buy yeast in a jar and keep it in my refrigerator.  I use 1 Tablespoon for this recipe.)
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees, if you over heat the water or the milk you will kill the yeast and the dough will not rise.  So make sure the water is warm, but not hot.)
  • 1 cup warm 2% milk (110-115 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur’s flour.)
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon each dried minced onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, granulated garlic (or any combination of savory spices that your family prefers)

directions

  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add the milk, butter, sugar, egg yolk, salt, and two cups of flour.  Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.  (use the flat beater if you are using a standing mixer).  Add remaining flour, and mix just long enough to make a firm dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface (or switch to the kneading attachment if you have a standing mixer).  Knead for 6-8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.  Cover with a dish cloth and let rise in a place that is free from drafts until doubled, about one hour.
  • Punch down dough.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough evenly into thirds.  Roll and shape each portion into a rope that is approximately 20 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Pinch one end of the ropes together and braid the bread ropes together.
    IMG_4226
  • Pinch and fold the ends of the loaf under.  Transfer to a baking sheep covered with a piece of parchment paper.
  • IMG_4207
  • Cover with dish towel and let it rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.  (Set a timer for this stage.  If you let the dough over rise at this stage it will collapse when you do the next step.  I know this from experience!)
  • Combine egg white and water; brush gently over dough.  Sprinkle seasonings over bread.  (I don’t measure the seasoning any more.  I just sprinkle them individually from the jar over the bread.  It’s a little faster and one less bowl to clean.)
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 22-28 minutes or until golden brown, turning pan after 20 minutes so the loaf browns evenly.
  • Remove from oven and place loaf on a wire pan for at least 10 minutes to cool before slicing.  If you rush this part (or delegate it to your sons) the bread will compress as you slice it and not spring back to being light and fluffy.

ENJOY!

GARLIC CHEESE BISCUITS

IMG_1231

When I am pressed for time and need to come up with freshly baked bread good to serve with dinner, I reach for this recipe.  It is easy enough to prepare for a week night dinner, as well as lovely to serve along side a meal made for weekend company.  Even though my passion for home-cooking has evolved to creating mostly made from scratch baked goods, this recipe is the reason I still keep a box of Bisquick in my pantry.

If you are going to make this recipe for a crowd, do not double or triple the dough ingredients in one bowl before forming biscuits.  It will not blend properly.  I make a single batch, and fill a tray.  Make another batch, and fill another tray.  And keep going until I have enough for the amount of people I’m serving.  Then I bake them at the same time, rotating and turning trays so that they all bake evenly.  However it works fine to simply multiply the ingredients for the garlic butter in the saucepan and the parsley for garnish.

GARLIC CHEESE BISCUITS

ingredients

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

directions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix Bisquick, milk, and cheddar cheese until just blended.  Batter will be stiff.
  3. Drop 12 large spoonfuls, evenly spaced, onto a backing sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
  4. Do not smooth biscuits, the more nooks & crannies the better.  It will add a nice crispness to the baked biscuit and make spaces to catch the butter and garlic.
  5. Put biscuits in pre-heated oven and bake for 9-10 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  6. While biscuits are baking, melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add garlic.  Heat through and soften, but do not brown.
  7. Remove biscuits from oven, pour garlic butter evenly over the top of baked biscuits.
  8. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

ENJOY!

GRUYERE ROLLS

IMG_3723

I found this wonderful recipe in the 2013 issue of “Gooseberry Patch Thanksgiving Made Easy”.  I keep this cookbook on my shelf year round because it holds so many gems that work year round, including these dinner rolls that have become a family favorite.  This is a great recipe if you are new to bread making, because you put all the dry ingredients into a bowl at the same time (including the yeast), stir with warm water, knead, and let it rise.  Trust me, it’s easy.  Especially if you have a stand mixer.

Whenever I double this recipe for a crowd, I prepare two separate batches of dough.  I cannot explain the food science behind this truth, but I do know from experience that it does not work to double the ingredients for fresh bread in a mixing bowl and end up with an enormous ball of dough that rises and bakes well.

Recently my 10-year-old son chose this recipe for a math project at his school.  I made the first batch while he watched, listening to me explain each step.  And then he made the second batch by himself, while I watched and coached.  The next day he presented a math lesson, describing his calculations to create these delicious rolls, and gave a sample to everyone in his 4th grade class.  These bread rolls are a hit with kids and adults!

Gruyere Rolls

ingredients

  • 3C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg. rapid-rise yeast (I used active-dry yeast and it worked fine, just needed more time to rise)
  • 3C. shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 T melted butter
  • course ground salt

directions

  • Combine 2-3/4 cups flour, yeast, cheese, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Use a whisk or the paddle attachment if you’re using a stand up mixer.  Heat 1-1/4 cup water until very warm, about 120-130 degrees.  Gradually add water to flour mixture, beating at low speed until well combined; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes more.
  • Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough onto a floured surface, or switch to the dough hook if using a stand-up mixer.  Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
  • Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover (I prefer flour sack towels) and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, for one hour or until double in bulk.
  • Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 4 or 5 times.
  • Divide dough in half.  Shape each portion of dough into 8 balls; roll each ball lightly in flour (too much will make the rolls tougher).  Place rolls 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 minutes, or until double in bulk.
  • Place rolls in oven (pre-heated to 425 degrees).  Spray rolls with water.  Bake for 3 minutes and spray again with water, without removing rolls from oven.  Bake for 2 more minutes.  And reduce temperature to 35o degrees.  Continue to bake for 13 more minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Remove rolls from oven and brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Variation: I have added a 1/2 cup of chopped green onions to the dry ingredients to mimic a beloved bread made at a local bakery.  These rolls are amazing either way.

ENJOY!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑