Friday, December 16, 2022

Yeasted 'Corn' Bread #BBB


Once again, we have a yeasted corn bread up for baking!  Last time was 12 years ago, a Portuguese Broa loaf, and this time, we have a corn flavored bread that yields a crusty loaf with a chewy crumb and open structure.  It really makes a great English muffin style toast, actually better than some "English muffin" bread recipes I have tried!  We still try to avoid corn as much as possible even though our sensitivity is not too severe.  But it's also fun to come up with alternatives.  Babe Elizabeth thoughtfully informed us that "corn" as a descriptor covers "grain" in its UK definition and that gives me leeway to experiment.  I already know that millet has a great corn-like flavor and I heard that sorghum could be similar and add texture as well.  Sorghum is actually used to make tortillas in Central America, so...  For this bake I milled up some millet flour, and cooked sorghum and millet to replace the corn kernels.  Brilliant toast, and bonus, you can use sourdough discard!  It's a very sticky dough, not quite a batter bread, but with my changes and using all purpose, it was fairly loose.  I gave it a lot of kneading time to develop the gluten and it had great structure.  (I used a mixer instead of kneading by hand.)

Do go check out the beautiful, fully corn version at Karen's Kitchen Stories!  We would love to have you try out this chewy bread with us this month and share how it turned out!  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.  If you would like to post your results with a Buddy badge on a blog, let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page.

Yeasted Corn Bread
makes 1 loaf

425g (1¾ cups plus 1 tsp) 80 to 90 degree water (or water + kernel juice + cob broth)
100g (½ cup) sourdough starter/levain (fed or unfed)
400g (2¾ cups plus 2 tsp) bread flour (I used about 450+g of all purpose)
175g (1½ cups plus 1 tsp) corn flour (I used fresh ground millet flour)
175g (1 cup) corn kernels (optional) (I used a mixture of whole cooked sorghum and millet)
14g (2¾ tsp) fine sea salt
2g (½ tsp) instant yeast
30g corn flakes (optional)

Break up the starter/levain by mixing into the water in a large bowl or stand mixer.

Add the flours and corn kernels if using (plus ground husks if using).  Mix lightly by hand until incorporated.

Sprinkle salt and yeast over the dough, cover, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Mix with a wet hand and then stretch and fold around the edges.  Work in the salt and yeast with fingertips, followed by another stretch and fold.  Let rest a couple of minutes and then repeat the stretch and fold again a few times.

Over the next hour, repeat a stretch and fold every 30 minutes.  Cover the dough and let rise until it is 2½ to 3 times its original size but still domed and not flattened.  The dough will fill a tub to the 2- qt mark if using a marked measure.

Prepare a loaf pan by greasing with butter or spray oil.

When the dough is ready, gently turn out onto your work surface.

Roll or stretch the dough into an oblong shape and fold the ends in to the center like a package the width of the baking pan.  Roll the dough up jelly roll style to fit in the pan and place in the pan seam side up.  (I put it seam side down, because seam side down!)

Brush the loaf with water and sprinkle with cornflakes, if using.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, until risen slightly over the top of the pan (if using a 10 x 5 inch loaf pan). 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450ºF.  Bake for about 50 minutes, turning halfway through for even baking.

Turn it out onto a wire rack and let cool at least an hour.  This loaf is even better with a longer rest time.

Toasted and buttered with some amazing Cranberry Sriracha Jelly which
brings out some great savory notes and complements the bread beautifully!


 The rest of the Bread Baking Babes


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Scottish Black Buns #BreadBakers


Fruitcake usually seems to be a love it or leave it type baked good.  I have made many different kinds over the years because my family and my hubby's folks love it.  Honestly, I am not a huge fan of dark fruitcake.  But I saw this intriguing recipe in an issue of Sift and bookmarked it for a potential bake.  Scottish Black Buns are a centuries old tradition even if they tend to be a regular fruitcake wrapped in pastry nowadays.  But there are still bakeries that make the traditional yeast version described by Robert Louis Stevenson in his book Picturesque Notes on Edinburgh (1879) 

‘Currant-loaf is now popular eating in all households. For weeks before the great morning, confectioners display stacks of Scotch bun — a dense, black substance, inimical to life — and full moons of shortbread adorned with mottoes of peel or sugar-plum, in honour of the season and the family affections. ' Frae Auld Reekie,' ' A guid New Year to ye a',' ' For the Auld Folk at Hame,' are among the most favoured of these devices.’

The dense and rich fruit cake is often used for the ritual of first-footing at Hogmanay (New Year). 

“First footing” (or the “first foot” in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house the first foot should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!

It is likely for this reason that black buns go as well with a glass of whisky as they do with a cup of tea or coffee!  Today, black buns can still be found in the windows of the more traditional bakers. Alex Dalgetty & Sons, which are renowned for their Selkirk Bannock, make around 6000 black buns in the days preceding the festive period.  

So when the theme of Christmas breads popped up for BreadBakers, I knew this was the one to make.  Yeast makes a unique and in my opinion, better version of a dark fruitcake!  These little loaves, made in a jumbo muffin tin, are the perfect size for gifting.  And as befits a traditional fruitcake, their size belies their weight!  These are hefty little hunks of fruitiness, weighing in at just over 300g each!  (That's basically twice as heavy as the giant Costco muffins that weigh ~155g.)

This was a relatively easy recipe to make, though it did cost me some coins in the swear jar when I realized I had formed all my rolls and forgotten to add any of the spices into my fruit mixture!  So I had to carefully and painstakingly unwrap the bundles, turn/scrape out the filling and mix in the spices, then even more carefully wrap them back up.  Definitely a whole lot messier the second time around.  But they still baked up fine, thank goodness.  

The buns are just delightful in thin slices with whipped cream.  Particularly good just slightly warmed, I am dying to try a slice with some hard sauce but will content myself with semi melted vanilla ice cream in the mean time.  I am certain they would be wonderful toasted and buttered as well.  Despite the spices, these are not a strongly spice flavored bun, just a deeply fruity and dense yeast cake.  Very unique.

Black Buns
makes 6 buns
from King Arthur


    2 tsp instant yeast or active dry yeast
    1½ cups (340g) milk
    2 tbsp (25g) granulated sugar
    5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
    1½ teaspoons (9g) salt
    8 tbsp (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature


    2 tbsp (43g) molasses
    1 large egg yolk, (save the white for the egg wash)
    1 cup (113g) dried cranberries
    1 cup (170g) raisins, packed
    1 cup (113g) prunes, diced
    ½ cup (74g) diced dried figs or chopped dates
    ¼ cup (85g) orange marmalade
    ½ cup (57g) almonds, sliced
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp cloves (I used ½ tsp because mine were fresh ground and potent)
    1 tsp ginger
    ½ tsp cardamom or mace
    ½ tsp black pepper
    2 tbsp (28g) whiskey

Glaze (optional)

    1 cup (113g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
    1 tbsp (14g) whiskey
    1 tbsp (14g) heavy cream
    ½ tsp vanilla extract

For the dough: Weigh the flour; or measure by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess with a butter knife or offset spatula. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer, and mix and knead until a soft dough forms.  Cover and let rise until doubled, 1½ to 2 hours.

Divide the dough in half. Put one half into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Put the remaining half back in the mixing bowl, and mix in all of the filling ingredients. The mix will be quite sloppy at first, but a sticky dough will come together as you continue mixing.

Once the filling is mixed into the dough so that no streaks remain, divide it into six equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball as best you can; it will be sticky; wetting your hands first will help with this.  (I simply plopped piles down onto parchment, removing by weight for the 6 divisions.  Then the filling could be easily scraped back up with the back of a butter knife when moving to the wrapper.)

To assemble: Remove the plain dough from the refrigerator and divide into six equal pieces.  Form each into a ball, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease the wells of an oversized muffin pan, or line a baking sheet with parchment.

Roll each portion of dough into a 6" round, about ½" thick; make the edges thinner if you can (a tapered pastry pin is best for this). Place one of the balls of filling in the center, and bring the edges up and around to meet on the top, overlapping to enclose the filling as needed. Pinch the dough together and place, pleated side down, in the wells of the prepared pan or on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Cover the buns with greased plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes. Halfway through the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Just before I realized I forgot all the spice.

At the end of the rise time (the buns will not have changed much), brush the tops with an egg wash of the reserved egg white beaten with a tablespoon of water. Score or poke the tops of the buns in a decorative pattern.

Not too bad for having been dismantled and rewrapped!

Bake the buns for 50 to 55 minutes, until the tops are golden brown (check after 35 minutes and tent with foil if needed).  The center should measure 195°F when measured with a digital thermometer. Remove from the oven, tilt them out of the pan, and cool on a rack.

To make the glaze: Whisk together all of the ingredients to make a smooth glaze; drizzle over the tops of the cooled buns.

Be sure to check out the rest of our Christmas treats:

  #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. 


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Small Batch Italian Anisette Cookies

These cookies make the rounds of pinterest and social media every so often, especially around holiday times.  Anise is one of those flavors that many people have strong feelings about.  They either pick out all the black jelly beans to throw out, or to hoard for themselves.  I love black licorice and anise has a licorice flavor.  Now I understand this cookie can be made with lemon or almond extract instead of anise, but I wonder why one would bother making an anise cookie if one wasn't going to use anise.  I do love almond and lemon flavor though, so whatever floats your boat.  This is an old Italian cookie and I wish I could have found the significance, if any, of the 'S' or twist shape but they are just as often made as round drop cookies.  I liked the twist best and went with that version.  The texture is very soft and tender, kind of like those frosted Lofthouse sugar cookies, only more so.  Hubby loved them.  I thought they were very nice and would love them with tea or coffee.  A beautiful, subtle licorice flavor, even with adding some extract to the icing.  My extract is decades old, I wonder if it fades...  Also, this is a much smaller batch because most recipes that I saw made about 5 dozen cookies and we don't need that many!  If you like soft, cakey cookies and licorice flavor, this is definitely a cookie to try out.

Italian Anisette Cookies
makes 1½ dozen

½ cup (113g) butter, softened
¼ cup + 1 tbsp (82.5g) sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (38g) milk, room temp
2 cups (250g) all purpose flour
2 full tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground aniseed (optional)
⅛ tsp salt
⅔ tsp anise extract (I used ¾ tsp)


½ tbsp butter
1 cup (113.5g) confectioners' sugar
2-3 tbsp (28-42.5g) milk
⅛ tsp anise extract (optional)

Colored sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Stir in the anise extract. Add the flour and milk, starting and ending with flour, in alternating portions of each until fully combined.  Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
Using a medium cookie dough scoop or spoon and floured hands, take a 1½ tbsp portion of dough and roll into a long rope, about 7-8 inches long.  Shape into ‘S’ or twist shape on a parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheet: Coil into an oval and lightly pinch the ends together.  Twist/flip one loop up over itself to cover the seam.  Leave a couple inches between cookies as they will puff up as they bake.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes.  Remove to cool completely on a rack.  When cookies are cool, frost and add sprinkles of choice.

Frosting: In a medium bowl, melt ½ tbsp butter. Add in 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar.  Stir in extract is using, and enough milk to achieve the desired consistency for frosting the cookies.  Brush, drizzle, or pipe on cookies, apply sprinkles right away and return to rack to set.  Let cool completely and store in airtight containers.


If you want to make a full batch of 5 dozen:

Full batch:

    1½ sticks of unsalted butter
    1¼ cups granulated sugar
    6 large eggs, room temp
    ½ cup milk, room temp
    5-6 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    6 generous teaspoons baking powder
    1½ tsp ground aniseed (optional)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons anise extract


    1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
    ½ pound of confectioners’ sugar
    4-6 tablespoons milk