Tag Archives: bread

Easy Beer Bread with Sweet and Savory Variations

I don’t want to get too personal here, but I have something to admit: if I had to pick only beer or wine to drink for the rest of my life, I think I’d pick beer.  So beer bread appeals to me for its flavor and slight bitterness–prominent at first, but barely there once it’s toasted and slathered in butter and honey–as well as for the seasonal fact that you may find yourself with a stray can of Guinness in the back of your fridge after St. Patrick’s Day is gone.  And a stout makes a very nice beer bread, especially with a few embellishments that we’ll discuss below.

I first learned of beer bread from a fellow preschool mom, who said she made it all the time with her kids by mixing 3 ingredients right in the bread pan before popping it in the oven (3 c. self-rising flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 12 oz. beer, in case you’re wondering–but it’s still only 5 ingredients if you add the baking powder and salt to the flour by yourself).  So you see why that appealed to me–one minute to make the bread plus 45 to bake it means you go from the idea to the reality of of a crusty, piping-hot homemade loaf in 46 minutes.  Genius.I’ve made a few refinements since then, like mixing the batter in a separate bowl because it’s easier to incorporate all the flour.  And I’ve experimented with different beers (each lends its own flavor, so keep that in mind; an IPA is pretty hoppy while a wheat beer, lager or stout can be milder).  And I wouldn’t feed a whole loaf to the preschool set, because contrary to popular belief, the USDA says that alcohol doesn’t evaporate entirely when cooked or baked.

One of the beautiful things about baking your own bread is that you can add any savory or sweet flavors you like.  Herbs, onions, garlic, cheese.  Orange zest, honey, dried fruit, chocolate.  Of the five loaves I made this week, my two favorites were both made with stout beer.  One was savory, with sharp cheddar cheese and dill.  The other was sweet, with chocolate chunks and vanilla.  These variations are included below, but feel free to tinker with the basic recipe to your heart’s content.

Continue reading Easy Beer Bread with Sweet and Savory Variations (click for recipe)

Baking Challah

I always like to bake  bread, but I have to admit that I have special enthusiasm for the project when it’s my three year old who looks at me brightly on a Friday morning and suggests, “Mama, let’s make challah!” Yes, let’s.

I use Claudia Roden’s recipe from The Book of Jewish Food, which I like best of the challah (or “hallah”) recipes I’ve tried. The recipe as written makes four huge loaves, which seems perfectly reasonable once we devour one warm from the oven, set one or two aside to make weekend French toast, and are left with one to eat for the next week’s toast or, more generously, to give away.

Four loaves of Challah: Dissolve 2 Tbsp. dry yeast in 2 1/4 c. warm water with 1 tsp. sugar and set aside 10 minutes, or until it bubbles up.  In your biggest bowl, beat 4 eggs, then add 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. vegetable oil and beat again.  Then add the yeast mixture and beat one more time.  Gradually add enough flour for the dough to come together, 9-10 cups in all, first mixing in your bowl and then turning out on a floured surface and kneading.  Knead for about 15 minutes, having your three-year-old sprinkle the counter and dough with more flour as needed to keep the dough from getting sticky.  Stop adding flour when the dough becomes un-sticky and smooth and very enjoyable to knead.  Oil your bowl and replace the dough ball, flipping once so both sides are oiled, then cover bowl and set aside to rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled.  Punch down and knead again, then divide into 4 sections (each will become a loaf).  If you’d like to add raisins to some of your loaves, knead in a few handfuls now.  Next, shape the loaves: you can braid them (make three ropes, set them side by side, then braid outward in each direction from the middle), or you can make a round challah by rolling out a long rope and spiraling it around itself like a snail.  Move loaves to well-oiled baking sheets and leave to rise for 1 more hour, until they have doubled again.  Brush loaves gently with a bit of beaten egg, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds (or cinnamon sugar!) if you like, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until well-browned and hollow-sounding when you tap the bottoms of the loaves. 

Whole Wheat Soda Bread Rolls

Once you have a pot of soup simmering on the stove, the only thing you need to make it a meal is a nice chunk of warm bread.  (Ok, a salad is nice too, but it’s not essential.)  I often make soda breads when I’m planning dinner on the fly because they require no rising time.  You can just mix one up and tuck it into the oven while you go about your cooking, and it will be waiting on the table when the rest of your meal is done.

These mini soda breads bake even more quickly, although they take a few moments longer to shape than a single loaf.  But the reward is a high proportion of crusty surface, begging to be broken up and slathered with butter or dunked into a steaming bowl of soup.

Mini Whole Wheat Soda Breads: In a large bowl, combine 2 c. whole wheat flour, 2 c. all purpose flour, 1 heaping tsp. salt, and 1 heaping tsp. baking soda.  Mix well.  Make a well in the center and add 2 c. buttermilk, stir to combine.  Turn out onto a floured countertop.  The dough will be shaggy, but you should be able to form it into a rough ball by kneading it just a few times (don’t knead for more than a minute).  Cut the dough into 10 wedges and shape each into a rough ball, using additional flour if necessary.  Place rounds on a floured cookie sheet, cut a deep cross in each, and brush with buttermilk if desired.  (Brushing with buttermilk will smooth the surface out and make the rolls more refined-looking, but I personally like the craggy surface that I get without additional buttermilk.)  Bake about 35 mins. at 400, or until the tops and bottoms of the rolls are crisp when tapped with a fingernail.

Looking for a soup to dunk these in?  A few recent favorites:
The Best Soup of 2011
Silky 5-Ingredient Cauliflower Soup
Split Pea Soup
Roasted Maple Squash Soup
White Bean and Spinach Soup
The Best Red Lentil Soup of 2012
Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

Quick Whole Wheat Spice Bread with Brown Sugar, Orange Zest and Walnuts

This afternoon, as my five year old drifted off to napland, she  opened her eyes to dreamily ask, “Mommy, after my nap, can I have TWO MORE PIECES of that bread you made, with butter?”  I smiled and nodded, and she was fast asleep.  Inspiring that kind of delight is the best reward a cook can hope for, in my book.

It’s lucky that this recipe makes two loaves of bread, because my family started  hovering around the cooling rack the moment the bread came out of the oven.  The source of this recipe, Cheryl Sternman Rule (writer of this lovely blog), calls it “Toasting Bread.”  She advises you to cool the bread completely before slicing,  toasting, and spreading it with honey butter.  I am here to tell you that the “letting it cool” part will be very difficult.  We could not withstand the siren scent and ate most of the first loaf warm, slathered in salted butter.  It was heavenly.  Lest it appear that I am contradicting Ms. Rule, however, I should add that the loaf we could bear to let cool was indeed delicious toasted.Quick Whole Wheat Spice Bread with Brown Sugar, Orange Zest and Walnuts: Grease two loaf pans well with softened butter.  Whisk an a egg in large bowl, then whisk in 3 Tbs. honey, 1 c. dark brown sugar and 1 1/2 c. milk.  Zest two oranges directly into the bowl.  Trade your whisk for a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in the dry ingredients: 2 c. whole wheat flour, 2 c. all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 4 tsp. baking powder.  Mix well, then add 1 c. chopped walnuts and mix again.  Divide batter between your two prepared pans.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick tester comes out clean.  Remove from pans and cool on a rack.  Hover over the bread, inhaling deeply, resisting as long as you like, then serve toasted (or still warm) with butter.


Soup Swap Magic

Tonight, I magically turned six quarts of my Lentil Rosemary soup into six OTHER quarts of soup by attending a Soup Swap in my neighborhood.

As a bonus gift with my soup, I included the bread recipe I posted here, which makes just about any soup into a hearty meal.

My 6 quarts of lentil soup became one quart each of French Onion soup, Cream of Wild Mushroom soup, meaty chili, Mushroom and Barley soup, Beer, Cheese and Bacon soup, and Lively Up Yourself Lentil soup.  And I made a bunch of new friends at the same time.


The Best Soup of 2011

I’ll give you that it’s 2012 already.  But when this soup showed up on 101 Cookbooks recently, it reminded me of how much we loved it last year.  Friends came over for dinner and I made a few little things to go along with it, too.

First, Nash’s Field Pea or (if you don’t have Nash’s Field Peas, poor you) Split Pea Soup with Curried Brown Butter: I, myself, like to make a big pot of soup–enough to serve unexpected company or to have leftovers for the freezer.   So you could scale this down if you prefer a smaller quantity.  Saute 2 big onions, 6 minced cloves of garlic, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes in a knob of butter.  When soft, add 3 c. field peas (well sorted and washed and soaked overnight)–or, once the field peas run out, green split peas.  Add 3 quarts water, bring to a boil and simmer until soft.  If you’re using split peas or lentils this might take 30-60 minutes.  If you’re using last year’s field peas from Nash’s, it might take all day.  When the peas are soft, mix in 2 tsp. salt and 1 can light coconut milk.  Puree well, then add additional salt to taste.  In a separate pan, brown 1/4 c. butter, then sizzle in 4 tsp. Indian curry powder for one minute.  Mix most of the curried brown butter into the soup, then serve bowls drizzled with the remaining curried butter and chopped chives.

This Easy Little Bread is just as its name implies and goes great with (butter or cheese and) soup.  Dissolve 2 tsp. yeast in 1 1/4 c. warm water, then mix in 1 Tb. honey.  Meanwhile, mix 1 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 c. oats and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined, then scoop dough into a buttered loaf pan.  Let rise for 30 minutes, then bake for about 40 minutes at 350.  Cool on a cooling rack.

A Lemony Kale Salad kept the meal from being too brown: Chop 1 washed, stemmed bunch of kale to smithereens in a food processor.  Toss in a handful of currants and a handful of toasted pine nuts.  Mix up a dressing of 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. microplaned parmesan, a minced small clove of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss it all together with more parmesan.

And finally, a Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake, made from lemons we picked from the tree outside the window when were in California last week.  It’s from Rustic Fruit Desserts, and it’s a family favorite (we call it “glaze cake”).  First, preheat the oven to 350 and coat a 9″ cake pan with olive oil, then granulated sugar.  Beat 3 room-temperature eggs, 3/4 c. sugar, and the zest of 5 Meyer lemons at high speed for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. baking powder.  Mix 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla into the egg mixture, then add 1 c. olive oil while the mixer is running at low speed.  Add flour mixture just to combine, then scoop it into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Glaze with 3/4 c. powdered sugar mixed with 2 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice.