Archive for the 'baking' Category


Bran Muffins


Well hello there.

The last time I posted I didn’t intend to go two years without blogging. Life has gotten in the way, big time. I had a second baby after an exhausting pregnancy. My job as a reporter became even more intense. Cooking and baking remained an outlet, but there was less time to do it, let alone write about it.

But today, as the four of us hunkered down during a snowstorm in St. Louis, I took the two littles into the kitchen. It felt like the perfect time to come out of our cocoon a bit more and return to Garlic Shoots. Much of the credit goes to my friend Kim McGuire, who linked to Turkish Lentil Soup the other day on Facebook. It made me miss doing this. So I got out the flour, the buttermilk, the honey, the bowls and the spatula. I changed the lens on my camera. I turned toward an old favorite — these bran muffins by Heidi Swanson. They come from her second cookbook — Super Natural Every Day, which I love love love. These muffins have become a winter staple for us. They’re perfect for January — stark and simple, but soulful. As they bake, they make the house smell like butter and honey. They smell like warmth.

During a blizzard, that’s exactly what we needed. And despite their name, these muffins aren’t boring. They hold their own. The fact that they’re made up of whole wheat flour, the wheat bran and flakes make them a nice antidote to the holidays. The other major plus is that they’re easy and quick. When you’ve these two as sous chefs, that’s pretty important.



Bran Muffins

barley modified from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran

1 1/2 cups pain, unsweetened bran cereal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the middle of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and maple syrup (or honey). Sprinkle the bran and cereal across the top, stir, and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the top of the wet and stir until just combined. Immediately fill each muffin cup three-quarters full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the edges of the muffins begin to brown and the tops have set. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.


Cheddar buttermilk biscuits

This is the kind of baking you tend to do when you’ve got a 1-year-old who likes cheese with every meal. She eats what we eat, but all too often that includes things I know she’ll love.

I baked these last weekend to go with a chicken and sausage jambalaya — a belated birthday meal for Jeff. Rather than cornbread or French bread, I chose these biscuits due to the cheese. Gabi was most grateful.

About a year ago, I blogged about cheddar and thyme muffins. I must say that these are far better. They’re flaky, moist, the cheese is a dominate flavor. And how could you go wrong with buttermilk? If you have fresh herbs, like thyme, chives or rosemary, chop up a handful and add them when you mix in the cheese. I have two pots of chives growing like gangbusters outside, so I added about one bunch.

Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits
slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
2 cold extra-large eggs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 handful fresh herbs, such as chives, rosemary or thyme, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Place 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn mixer on low, add butter and mix until butter is the size of peas.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the cheddar with a small handful of flour and, with the mixer on low, add the cheese to the dough. Also add herbs if using. Mix ONLY until roughly combined.

Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about six times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 5 x 10 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make egg wash by beating 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water or milk.  Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through.

Serve hot or warm.


Coconut and Macadamia Banana Bread

I baked this with the intent of giving it to our new neighbors. They moved into the house at the bend of the street sometime in January, so I’ve been feeling incredibly guilty about not getting over there sooner. But when this bread came out of the oven, I quickly got over it. It had been about a year since I’d baked this particular banana bread, one of my all-time favorites. The coconut and macadamia nuts give it a tropical twist. Lemon zest adds brightness. The sour cream makes it extra moist.

I’d forgotten how difficult it is to be charitable with something that smells this wonderful when it comes out of the oven. Their banana bread will have to come later, I decided.

Before Gabi came along, I’d make this bread or a different version by Martha Stewart almost once a month. I was a banana bread fiend and always had extra loaves in the freezer for when we had company. These days, I don’t have time to bake like that. Not to mention, we rarely have leftover bananas. This little one is very much into them.

They only drawback to this bread is the macadamia nuts. They aren’t cheap. Walnuts are a less expensive substitute and just as good.

During baking, the smell of coconut, banana and vanilla fill the house. It’s hard to resist. After allowing the bread to cool, I immediately cut a piece off of one for myself and put the other in the freezer for next week. This weekend, I’ll bake another two loaves: one for work, and the other for our new neighbors.

Coconut and Macadamia Banana Bread
slightly adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3 large overripe bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup (6 ounces) chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350° F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Generously butter two loaf pans — about 8-inch by 4-inch.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together butter and sugars into a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, zest, bananas and sour cream, beating until just combined. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in nuts and coconut by hand.

Divide batter between buttered loaf pans and smooth tops. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in the center of bread comes out clean. Remove bread from pans and cool completely, right side up. on cooling rack.

Bread can be kept wrapped at room temperature for two days, refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen (double wrapped) for up to three months.


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries

I often wonder if Giada De Laurentiis ever eats what she bakes. Because a week ago, when I saw her whipping up these cookies on the Food Network, I had to bake them. Now I can’t quit eating them.

Seriously. There are cookies, and then there are cookies. These are truly sinful. They’re chewy, chocolatey with bits of sweetness from dried cranberries (a nice break from raisins).

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 (3- to 4-ounce) bittersweet chocolate bar (recommended: 60% to 70% cacao), chopped into 1/4-inch chunks

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture. Add the oats, cranberries and chocolate chunks. Mix until just incorporated (dough will be stiff). Using your hands or a 4-ounce cookie scoop, scoop slightly rounded mounds of the dough into 12 (2-inch-diameter) balls. Arrange 6 balls of dough, spaced evenly apart, on each baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, flatten the tops slightly and bake until the cookies are slightly golden on the edges, about 13 to 17 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before serving.


Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Were I not in such a rush yesterday, I may have fought Jeff for this last piece of cinnamon-raisin bread. But I was in a rush. I bound down the stairs to get out the door early. I had a 7:45 a.m. interview with the superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, followed by a full day of writing. Gabi was eating oatmeal. And there Jeff was at the toaster, toasting it up the last slice for breakfast. Or so I thought. He now says he’d eaten the bread already. It was too late to strike a bargain.

That’s okay, I decided. There’s another loaf in the freezer. And, I’d been eating slices of this delicious loaf all week. Last Sunday, I let my appetite take over. I had a strong craving for cinnamon rolls. I baked this bread instead.

If you’re enjoy bread baking, you must try this one. The dough comes together in a smooth, lustrous ball. It’s a dream to work with. As it bakes, it makes the house smell like butter, cinnamon and sugar. The next morning, our house still smelled amazing.

Continue reading ‘Cinnamon-Raisin Bread’


Honey Oatmeal Bread

Two years ago, homemade bread was a weekly ritual around here. Well, maybe not weekly, but I made it A LOT. Whole wheat bread, no-knead bread, baguettes, flatbread, ciabatta, rye breads, quick breads. Bread baking was therapy for me after a stressful week. It’s one of many things that fell by the wayside when little Gabi was born.

I still bake bread, but very rarely. When I do, I savor everything about it: the feel of the dough, the smell as it bakes. And of course, the first bite.

This oat bread comes from the King Arthur Flour’s book on whole grain baking — one of the best tomes on bread baking. This bread has a mild sweetness to it, thanks to the honey. The oats are slightly nutty and dissolve into the dough. The loaf is moist. The crumb is tight enough for sandwiches. However, I highly recommed a pat of melty butter and raspberry jam.

One of the keys to good bread baking is knowing just when to pull the loaf from the oven. The people at King Arthur make this easy. Poke an instant read thermometer into the middle of the loaf and pull it out when the temp reaches 198 degrees F. Do this with any loaf you bake and it will save you lots of heartache.

Honey Oatmeal Bread
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) boiling water
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup honey
1 cup (4 ounces) traditional whole wheat flour
1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Place the boiling water, oats, butter, salt and honey into a medium bowl (use bowl of your stand mixer if using), stir, and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

Combine the rest of the ingredients with the oat mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer. Knead by hand or with dough hook until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour. The dough should be doubled in bulk.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough. It will be sticky so oil your hands. Shape the dough into a 9-inch log. Place into the pan. Cover again with plastic wrap and allow it to rise until it has crowned over the rim of the pan, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Near the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Uncover and bake the bread for about 45 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The bread is done when it’s golden brown and an instant-read termometer inserted in the center register 190 degrees F. Remove it from the oven, and after a  minute or so turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired. This will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread before cutting it.


Mom’s Old Fashioned Dinner Rolls

I wonder how many of these rolls I’ve eaten in my lifetime. Ten thousand? Twenty thousand? A million? It’s got to be some stratospheric number like that. I’ve eaten these rolls every holiday, every trip home from college, every special occasion, and many, many times in between. I’ve had them paired with my mom’s wild rice soup, her hearty beef stew, her dozens of casseroles. These rolls were a constant during my childhood. They’re tall, yeasty and comforting. And whenever I talk my mom into putting on her apron, it’s usually to bake us a batch of dinner rolls.

My mom found this recipe in a magazine in the early 1970s. What made her bake these rolls for the first time is a mystery. So is the magazine. We’re guessing it may have been Ladies Home Journal or a non-food publication. On the back of the recipe is an article on microsurgery — not exactly Bon Appetit material.

The clipping would crumble if removed from the plastic sleeve that holds it. Nevertheless, Mom brought it with her to St. Louis last month so she could make us a batch. I don’t know why she still consults it — she really does know how to make these rolls by heart. She’s adapted the recipe over the years. The baking time listed here is her best estimate, because she really just knows when they’re finished.

Old Fashioned Dinner Rolls

1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (two packages)
6 cups bread flour, divided
2 cups water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 1-2 tablespoons for tops of the rolls
1 egg
vegetable or canola oil

Early in the day or up to three days ahead, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 2 1/4 cups flour in a large bowl of a stand mixer. In a one-quart sauce pan over low heat, heat water and 1/2 cup butter until very warm, 120-130 degrees F. The butter does not need to melt.

With mixer at low speed (using the paddle attachment if you have one), gradually beat the water and butter into the dry ingredients until just blended. Increase speed to medium, beat two minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with spatula. Beat in egg and 3/4 cup flour to make a thick batter. Continue beating 2 minutes scraping the bowl often. Use a large spoon to stir in enough additional flour, about 2 1/2 cups, to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, up to five minutes or so. Shape the dough into a large ball and place in a greased large bowl. Turning dough over so the top of it is greased. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until doubled, about 90 minutes. Punch down dough. Turn it over in the bowl and brush with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. (To do ahead, refrigerate at this point up to three days, punching dough down every now and then until ready to use).

Two and a half hours before serving, remove dough and grease two round 8-inch cake pans (or save half the dough in refrigerator until later). Tear dough into pieces slightly larger than golf balls, roll into balls, and place into prepared pan. Cover with towel, let rise in warm place until doubled, about two hours.

Preheat oven to 400. Tent pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 8 to 12 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Brush tops of rolls with melted butter.


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