Saturday, November 20, 2010

Honey Buttermilk Bread

This soft, tender, slightly sweet and tangy bread has always been one of my favorites.  Whenever we made it growing up, half the loaf usually disappeared pretty quickly with butter and jam.  It makes wonderful toast and sandwiches.  This is the kind of loaf that needs to cool completely before slicing.  Which is rough because it is quite delicious.  The dough will also make dinner rolls that are delightfully soft and fluffy, though we always made bread out of it.  Recently, I tried it with greek style, honey flavored yogurt instead of buttermilk, since I tend to have that on hand more often.  It was fabulous that way!  Feel free to try it with either one.  If you are afraid of the crumb being too delicate, use bread flour or a high gluten flour instead of the all purpose flour.  My King Arthur all purpose and white whole wheat worked just fine in the loaf you see above.  I do recall using lots of "Better for Bread" flour years ago when we used to make this back in high school. 

Honey Buttermilk Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 tsp Instant Yeast
1½ cups white whole wheat flour
1½-2 cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup buttermilk OR 1 (6 oz.) carton honey flavored greek yogurt
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter, softened
½ cup warm water

Bring all ingredients together into a soft dough.  Depending on whether you are using buttermilk or yogurt, the amount of flour you need for an elastic, soft dough will vary.  Yogurt requires less flour, buttermilk more.  Knead until smooth and slightly elastic.  This will remain a fairly soft dough.  Alternately, use a stand mixer or bread machine to knead.  Allow to raise in a covered bowl until doubled in size, about an hour.  Turn out dough onto a lightly flour board or cloth and form into a loaf.  Place in a greased 9x5" loaf pan and allow to rise until loaf has crested about an inch over the lip of the pan, 45 minutes to an hour.  Bake at 350º for 30 - 45 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom.  Cool completely before slicing.

This is adapted from another one of those good old DAK recipes

This makes the most fabulous french toast.  It freezes wonderfully and reheats in the toaster for mornings on the run.  One of my daughter's new favorite breakfasts.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Bakers, start your fruitcakes!

Fruitcake.  You either love it, or you hate it.  For many people, it's that indigestible red and green impersonation of a fruit product called candied cherries that makes fruitcake intolerable.  That, or the aspirations toward building material and a shelf life exceeding that of a twinkie.  I have made many versions of fruitcake over the years.  The super dark, heavy fruitcake that takes at least two months to age properly was great for the serious fruitcake lover.  The 30 day friendship cake is really more like a fruited bundt cake, but quite tasty for those who don't like traditional fruitcake.  Unfortunately, it takes a starter from a friend or it will take two months to make as well.  I actually tried out three different recipes one year in a fruitcake taste-off.  One was Emeril's, one was from a famous bed and breakfast, and finally there was the tried and true Free Range Fruitcake by Alton Brown, which I had made the two previous years.

Free Range Fruitcake wins hands down for all our fruitcake loving family members.  Lots of good fruit and flavor, no candied cherries.  It is on the darker end of the fruitcake spectrum, especially because I use white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose.  And with all the good quality fruit in it, it can tend to be a little pricey, but it is worth it.  There's never a crumb left.  The original recipe calls for a 10" loaf pan but I find that it bakes up better in two 8" pans.  Then there is one for the fruitcake loving Dad and one for the fruitcake loving MIL that never said anything about loving fruitcake before.  I have tried making it in mini loaf pans before and while cute, they tend to overbake easily and dry out.  The 8" pans got the best reviews for moistness, texture and flavor.

Free Range Fruitcake

It's pretty straight forward.  Macerate your fruit in golden rum overnight.  (Or longer - it will hold.)

Add some apple cider, sugar, fresh ground spices, and yummy butter.  I have a dedicated coffee grinder that I use for spices.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then cool to room temp or at least 15 minutes. 

It will hold from this point too for up to two days refrigerated!  Then bring together the batter at room temperature and bake off.   I recommend greasing your pan very well or even better, lining it with greased parchment.  You don't want all that work and expensive ingredients sticking and coming out in chunks.  Make sure to use the toothpick test or wooden skewer to make sure it's done in the middle.  This is a nice dense, golden loaf.  Once it's done, give it the first baste of brandy or flavored rum.  Let it cool completely before turning out of the pan.  I've done orange rum which was very good, but the brandy really gives a nice finish and traditional flavor.  I'll probably stick to that from now on.

Spritz or baste with spirit of choice every few days when the loaf feels dry.  Do this for up to two weeks.  If you find you have over done it a bit and the loaf is a bit too tipsy, (I did that one year with a different super dark fruitcake), dredge that puppy in powdered sugar a few times and let it sit a week to mellow.  Turns out fabulous.  I like to start my fruitcakes at least one month before I will need them.  A mature fruitcake just tastes better.  Try out Alton's fruitcake, it is truly exceptional!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Versatile Golden Egg Bread

This is one of those breads that is good for just about anything.  It was one of our favorites to make when I was in high school.  Years and years ago.  It's been so long since I made it because the recipe was left at home with Nana.  She says she still uses that old DAK bread book, but I don't believe it.  She never makes bread anymore and I think I'll swipe it next time I'm down to visit.  ☺  However, I did get copies of our favorite recipes.  This was always a vigorous dough that we would toss in the bread machine and then have to keep poking holes in the top of the dough so it wouldn't overflow the dome.  Something that happened more than once.  That old bread machine is still around 20 odd years later, it looks like R2D2 and makes very large round loaves.  It was interesting eating the half circle sandwiches...

I definitely recommend the larger, 9x5" loaf pans for this bread.  The dough is soft and supple, one of those that just feels good to work with.  It is a very happy dough too, and will rise beautifully. 

(Bread making is so therapeutic, why let the bread machine have ALL the fun?)  The loaf turns out tender, yet firm enough to handle cutting while still slightly warm, good for fresh bread-n-butter and jam or honey or even just plain.  It is great for sandwiches, toast, french toast, whatever you may need a good solid country loaf for in the kitchen.  It would make great day old bread for bread pudding.  And it won the seal of approval from the girls.  They are so bread spoiled.

Golden Egg Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1½ cups all pupose flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp sunflower oil (or melted butter, or melted refined coconut oil or a combo)
1½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup warm water

Bring all ingredients together into a soft dough.  Depending on how you measure your flour, you may need up to an additional ¼-½ cup of flour to achieve a soft, supple consistancy.  (One of these days I will switch to weights...)  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Or use a bread machine or stand mixer to knead.  Allow to rise in a covered bowl until doubled in size, 45 minutes to an hour.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle, fold in thirds (longs ends in) and roll up into a loaf, folding under ends.  Place in a greased loaf pan and allow to rise until loaf has risen about an inch over the pan lip.  (This loaf has major oven spring.)  Bake at 350º for 30 to 45 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom.  Allow to cool before cutting.  If you can.  Freezes well, sliced, for a few months.  (Like it ever lasts that long.)

Adapted from DAK

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