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Over the last few weeks, several batches of focaccia made their way through my oven.  Each batch took on a different personality.  I topped one with oven-dried figs, walnuts, and blue cheese as an appetizer, another I brushed with garlic oil and served as a side dish.  Another batch I made into a simple pizza and the last I topped with apples and cinnamon sugar for breakfast.  Anyway you top this bread, it is delightful.

Besides its versatility and incredible taste, this bread is also very convenient to make.  The dough rises twice, then rests in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.  When you are ready to bake, just pull a dough ball from the fridge, stretch it out, and top it as you please.  Twice I served this bread for brunch.  Usually I do not even consider a yeasted bread for brunch, because of the time it takes to rise, but since rises the day before, it is easy to pull off for a meal any time of day.

Though I have topped this bread many ways, my favorite remains brushing it with a garlic infused olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh herbs, and scattering coarse salt over the top.  The outside becomes crunchy and brown, but the inside stays chewy and moist.  The garlic flavor permeates the whole flatbread and the salt provides a crunch.  It was a great accompaniment to our Huevos Diablos con Chorizo the other morning.  Topping it with thinnly sliced apples is a close second, for a sweet version that is suitable for both brunch or dessert, though I would sweeten it up a bit more if serving it for dessert.

These recipes were submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Easter and the its accompanying sugar rush have past.  Now I am left with the daunting question of what to do with three dozen hard-boiled eggs!?!  Luckily, with the exception of my son, we all love eggs.  My daughter was peeling them and eating them as she hunted, but of course that only took care of 2 or 3.

One of my favorite ways to prepare hard-boiled eggs is to make an egg salad.  I happen to love egg salad, but admit that it can be somewhat bland at times.   Sunflower Millet Bread is ideal for egg sandwiches, because it has so much flavor and crunchy texture.  The millet toasts and pops in your mouth.  It has a nutty flavor, as do the sunflower seeds.  Topping the sandwich with pickled red onion adds a bright color contrast, as well as a tangy counterpoint to the egg.

I first fell in love with Sunflower Millet Bread when working at a natural food store in high school.  This recipe is from The Greens Cookbook.  Though it is almost completely based on whole wheat flour, it has a very open, light texture.  The bread slices and toasts very well.  I used the first loaf for egg sandwiches, then sliced and froze the second for breakfast toast in the coming weeks.

The Red Pickled Onions are also from The Greens Cookbook.  They are very easy to make and take only a day to sit and cure.  They are great with this sandwich, but also with sausages or any meal that you want to add a zippy condiment.

Find this and other delicious breads at Yeast Spotting.

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Whoever invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a genius.  What other meal takes only minutes to prepare, but is incredibly nutritious, and with any luck will inspire cheers from the happy and hungry youngsters (or more mature eaters) ready to devour their sandwich?   This sandwich has saved the day millions of times for mothers and fathers around the world, myself included.

As with any meal, the quality of the product is dependent on the quality of the ingredients with which you start.   In our house, PB & J stands for peanut butter and jam since the pantry is generally loaded with various homemade jams and very little jelly.  Our favorite is berry jam, either blackberry (as pictured above), ollalie berry, or raspberry.  The next layer is organic, natural peanut butter (surprisingly enough Costco makes a great one), and of course the bread.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is my go-to slicing bread.  In the summer when my kids and I hide from the world (and the grocery stores) in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is the bread that feeds us between the weekly trips to town for provisions.  It is very easy to put together and turns out beautifully every time. The bread is slightly sweet from the maple syrup which makes it perfect for peanut butter and jam sandwiches or even grilled cheese.  The bread also toasts beautifully, so in the off-chance you have leftovers the next morning, it will taste great toasted and slathered in butter and jam or honey.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

makes 1 loaf (enough for 6 sandwiches)

adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon  salt

Mix warm water with yeast.  Allow to sit 5 minutes while the yeast dissolves.  Pour yeast mixture into a mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients except for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.  Mix until dough ball forms, then knead on a lightly floured board until dough in stretchy and supple.  Add some of the reserved flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft, but not sticky.

Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 1/2 hours in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board.  Press into a  8-inch square.  Roll the square into a log.  Place log seam side down in a buttered 8 x 5 x 3 inch bread pan.  Let rise 45 minutes until 1 1/2 inches higher than pan. (see picture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 30-40 minutes until center registers 180 degrees.  Cool 15 minutes, turn out on rack.  Bread will slice most easily if you allow it to cool completely.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe:

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

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Weeknight No-Knead Bread


Cardamom Bread

Beer Bread

Weeknight No-Knead Bread

January 28, 2011

OK, so I finally tried it.  I know I’m a little behind the times and most of you have already made or at least eaten the reputable “No-Knead Bread”, but for me this was a first.   Back in 2006, when New York Times published a variation of this recipe it created quite a fervor.  Multiple friends shared their success with the bread, but I was home with a baby who was not yet mobile.  I had nothing to do but bake bread, the other, more time-consuming way, by kneading it.  Truly, I paid little heed to the recipe.  Then later, when Cooks Illustrated published another version, I ignored it again.  At that time we were blessed with bakery seconds delivered to our door each week from an amazing local bakery.  Now that I am back to work, the kids are beyond mobile, and the free bread has long since stopped gracing our table, it was time to dig out this AMAZING recipe and give it a try.

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Breakfast is a highlight in our house.  We love it.  Eggs a million ways, pancakes galore, beans, granola, you name it.  For some reason though, I always get stuck when I try to make waffles.  The idea of them is so good, but my product tends to leave me unsatisfied. My husband makes a mean waffle, but even when I try his recipe, it doesn’t quite work to my liking.  So the other night, I was blown away when I had my first yeasted waffle at a friend’s gathering.  Sure, it looked like other waffles I’d tried in the past, but the taste was uniquely different.  This may well be my new favorite waffle. Read the rest of this entry »

Cardamom Bread

December 22, 2010

Every year when I bake Swedish Cardamom bread for our Christmas morning brunch, I wonder why I reserve it for Christmas alone. It is beautiful, relatively easy to make, and tastes so tender and delicious.  I love it!

Cardamom is not a spice that gets a lot of play in standard American fare.  I know it best through Swedish and  Indian recipes.  This bread features it prominently.  The key is to grind the cardamom seeds just before adding to dough.  (Do not use pre-ground cardamom powder, please.  It is not the same.)  I like to hull the pods, then grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle until they are fine, but still contain some larger chunks (think pre-ground pepper and course pepper ground in your mill for a size comparison).  The courser bits add a flavorful crunch when biting the bread.

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There comes a point at the end of every summer, when I yearn for the days to shorten and the nights to cool.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but there is something so comforting about layering on sweaters,  hats, and eating SOUP!  Now that we are a few months into frigid and rainy weather (ignore the minor fact that it is clear and 60 degrees here today), we must break out the big guns: a rich bowl of Split Pea Soup!

This soup starts with a stock made from ham hocks and the old standby of onion, carrot, and celery.  Once that cooks down for a few hours, you’ll have a flavorful base for the other simple ingredients.    No time to make stock?  Your soup will turn out great with water too! Just add the ham hocks to the soup with the water and peas.  Looking for a vegetarian soup?  Leave out the ham.  You can use yellow or green split peas,  either will taste fabulous.  If you want to really make this meal memorable, be sure to bake the Beer Bread.  This recipe comes from Sunset (via my mother).  The bread is hearty, with a chewy bite and the perfect amount of tang from the beer.  Both the soup and the bread freeze well.  I find it best to freeze a family dinner portion of the soup and a loaf of bread for a busy weeknight down the road.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

serves 12

(enough for 2 dinners- one for now and one to freeze)

the Stock

2 ham hocks

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 2 inch lengths

1 stick celery, chopped into 2 inch lengths

Combine the above ingredients in a large pot.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.  Simmer for 3 hours partially covered.  Add one teaspoon of salt after 1 hour.  Strain out and discard the veggies.  Reserve the stock and degrease.  Reserve the ham hocks.  Pull meat from the bone and chop into bite sized pieces.

*This can be make ahead.  Just refrigerate the stock for up to one week or freeze for later use.

the Soup

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 1/2 cup diced onion

1 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot

1 1/2 cup diced celery

Meat from two ham hocks, diced

3 cups split peas

3 quarts ham stock, water, or combination of the two

2 bay leaves

Melt butter in a large stock pot.  Saute onion, carrot, and celery until softened, but not browned.  Add reserved ham (or whole hocks if you skipped the stock step), peas, bay leaves, and stock or water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and partially cover pot.  Cook until peas are soft and meat and veggies are tender.  (Remove hocks and pull meat from the bone if not already done.  Dice meat and return ham to soup.)  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm with Beer Bread (recipe follows) and salad.  Feel free to make this soup a day ahead.  Refrigerate until cool, then cover.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Split Pea Soup with Ham

Beer Bread

Adapted from Sunset Magazine (via Mom)

makes 2 loaves

the Beer Mixture

2 cups flat beer

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup dark molasses

Pour beer into a small saucepan.  Heat to steaming and remove from heat.  Stir in next 4 ingredients.  Set aside to cool.

the Yeast Mixture

1/2 cup warm water

4 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (2 packages)

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine, stir, and let stand 10 minutes.

the Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup each wheat germ and wheat bran

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Combine cooled beer mixture and yeast mixture in bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.  Add wheat germ, wheat bran, and whole wheat flour.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Add unbleached flour, one cup at a time, kneading to incorporate fully before adding more.  Stop after 2 cups and test the dough.  It should be moist but not  sticky.  If it is still sticky, add flour cautiously, 1/2 cup at a time.   Avoid adding too much flour, it can become very heavy and tough.  Knead dough for 10 minutes by hand or in mixer (less time- 5 minutes or so) until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Place dough ball in an oiled bowl.  Cover and allow to rise 1 hour.

Punch down and let rise 45 minutes.  Sprinkle 2 greased cooking sheet with cornmeal.  Punch down dough, divide in half and form 2 8-inch rounds.  Place on cornmeal-topped pans.  Cover and let rise 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.    Brush top with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (for a nice shiny crust).  Use a sharp knife to cut a # shape on the top of the loaves.

Bake for 40 minutes until bread is browned and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.  Place on a cooling rack to cool.  Serve with butter, Split Pea Soup, and salad.  Yum!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Beer Bread

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