Ranch Biscuits

We are still awash in boxes (and the desktop computer that I use for photo editing is still sitting in a closet, so these are straight from the camera shots) in this new house that is our house (our house! That is ours! No more landlord! I’m just a little bit excited about this…), but it is starting to feel like home. This “like home” is a different kind of “like home” feeling, though – unlike any I’ve felt thus far in my adult life. Previously, “home” meant “a place I will live for a few years.” It meant “this space I occupy but will, at some point, move on from.” While there is certainly the possibility that at some point, some day, we will dislodge ourselves from this house, it won’t be for a while. This is a place to actually do all those “maybe someday” things we’ve put off: lining drawers. Acquiring “grown-up” bookshelves (read: shelves that actually cost more than $30 or so). Planning and planting a vegetable garden. Finally framing those diplomas. And as anxious and antsy as I am to have it “finished,” we don’t have to do those things immediately, because we’re going to live in this lovely, quirky little house for a long time.

None of that is a beautiful transition into these biscuits, though don’t they look nice against that backsplash? (I promise I’ll stop talking about the backsplash soon.) They’ve been hanging out at the back of my consciousness for a while now, poking at me, and now that it’s grilling season and all I want to do is sit out back with a very cold drink and watch N. manhandle well marinated beef on the grill, I thought these would make a nice accompaniment to anything barbecue related. The flavors of ranch dressing in a sky-high biscuit make sense. I mean, they already share buttermilk in common, and herbs like dill and chives are a lovely way of perking up your average biscuit and making it more interesting. The kick of garlic, of onion powder, and of a little dry mustard could do nothing but improve the whole situation.

Aided by my adaptation of Ruhlman’s folding and turning method for biscuits with well-puffed layers, these inflated gorgeously in the oven and found their way in multiples to our plates (the first set we tore through were still so warm it was hard to discern the individual flavors). We inhaled the batch in a day and a half, and while they were delicious – herby and kicky and tangy from the buttermilk – we realized while devouring our second helping that we weren’t sure precisely how closely their flavors mimicked ranch dressing, since it had been so long since either of us had tasted that childhood standby.

So here’s my thought for you, as the fourth of July, that ultimate of grill-based holidays, approaches: if you try these, as a side for your ribs or a mop for your baked beans or an ever-so-tolerant napkin for the drips of melted butter coursing from your corn (oh, or maybe even as a sandwich base for the leftovers, with a slick of mayonnaise on both split sides to add that final missing ranch-y ingredient), will you let me know, friends, if they remind you of ranch dressing?

Ranch Biscuits
Makes 9-10 3-inch biscuits
30-40 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar (I like turbinado, but any granulated sugar will do)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
6 ounces cold buttermilk (about ¾ cup)

 

  • Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, onion powder, dry mustard, paprika, and black pepper. Add the finely chopped herbs and the garlic and whisk well to ensure even distribution (these wetter ingredients will want to clump together).
  • Plop in the cubes of cold butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingers to work the fat into the flour mixture. You are looking for butter bits the size of small peas. Pour in the buttermilk and use a fork or your fingers to mix it through the flour and butter mixture and bring the whole thing together into a shaggy, soft ball of dough (if it seems too dry and is not coming together, just set it aside for a minute or three – this will give the flour time to absorb the buttermilk a bit more).
  • Turn the dough out onto a well floured board, sprinkle some more flour on top, and knead with your hands two or three times just to catch any loose bits. With a rolling pin or your hands, press or roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape about ½ an inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds, then roll out again. Repeat, again folding the dough into thirds and then rolling it out; this creates more flaky layers. If the dough sticks to your board, use the flat blade of a butter knife or a pastry scraper to help you lift it free.
  • After you’ve rolled and folded, rolled and folded (so you’ll have done a total of six folds), roll out once more, this time to a thickness of 1 inch, and use a 3-inch round cutter (or the lip of a glass) to punch out biscuits. Push the cutter straight down through the dough; don’t twist until you are all the way through to the board, or you’ll crush the flaky layers! Repeat, placing the biscuit rounds on your parchment lined baking sheet, until you can’t punch out any more rounds. Re-roll the dough scraps (no need to fold again unless you want to) and repeat – with a 3-inch cutter, you should be able to make 9-10 biscuits about 1 inch thick.
  • Arrange the biscuits, evenly spaced, on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes, until they are well puffed and the tops are pale golden and slightly dry.
  • Let cool for just a minute or two, then wrap up in a basket or stack on a tray, and watch them disappear.
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Miso Brown Butter Krispie Treats

This one is, I have to admit, a bit of a cheat. But when it’s the day after the horror that is the spring time change, a fifteen minute “baking” project that barely adapts perfection is about all a person can be expected to churn out.

Have you had Smitten Kitchen’s salted brown butter crispy treats? Please tell me you have. It’s one of the recipes that was so successful on her blog that she put it into her first cookbook as a tried and true favorite. One of our friends calls them “the precious” and I have to say, he’s not far off. The same old gooey, crunchy squares from childhood, but bumped up with the nutty toastiness of brown butter, and a judicious sprinkle of sea salt that makes them fly. We first discovered them through a batch S. made, and she consequently became our dealer while we were in Oregon, though now that we’re so many miles separate from her I’ve had to take up the mantle myself.

I’m not sure what gave me the idea – perhaps seeing several miso caramels on Food Network, or maybe SK’s own miso caramel corn – but the idea of adding a scoop of miso paste to these already flawless squares seemed to toe the line between genius and potentially horrifying.

So I did it.

The result is, surprisingly, somehow butterscotch-esque, despite no brown sugar or vanilla in the mix, and completely addictive. There’s no flaky sea salt anymore – the miso has plenty of salinity of its own – although I think you could get away with a tiny sprinkle if you can’t do without so I’ve made it optional, and I don’t even think you’d need to brown the butter, but I still did because since it needs to be melted anyway, it’s not really that much more effort.

So here, backed by Deb’s ingenuity and a mere four ingredients (well, five if you add salt), is my offering for you today: all the goo, all the sweetness, all the crunch, but with a new twist that will, I suspect, leave you tasting, and tasting again, and suddenly wondering where the whole pan got off to, because you couldn’t possibly have just eaten the entire thing…

Miso Brown Butter Krispie Treats
Marginally adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s salted brown butter crispy treats
15-20 minutes
Makes 8×8- or 9×9-inch square pan of treats
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ cup; 4 ounces)
1-1½ tablespoons miso paste
⅛ teaspoon salt, optional
10 ounce bag of marshmallows
6 cups crisped rice cereal

 

  • Butter or spray an 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan, then set aside.
  • Add the butter to a saucepan and melt over medium heat. Once it has completely melted, turn the heat down to medium-low and keep an eye on it as it foams up, then subsides, then starts to brown into toasty little bits on the bottom of the pot. It’s easiest to use a pot that does not have a dark surface, since you can see color changes in the butter more easily. If your pot has a black surface, though, and you think you’re there, you can quickly dunk in a marshmallow and see whether the butter it captures has brown flecks in it (then, if you must, you can eat it). The moment you discern these little brown flecks, turn the heat off so the butter solids won’t burn.
  • With the heat off, add the miso paste, the salt, if using, and the marshmallows. Stir firmly with a flexible rubber spatula, being sure to distribute the miso paste evenly. The residual heat should be enough to melt the marshmallows, and you’ll end up with a sticky, pale golden pool of goo. Add the 6 cups of cereal all at once and stir in. You’ll need to be quite firm, again, to ensure even distribution.
  • Dump and scrape the cereal mixture into the prepared pan and press down firmly into an even layer, being sure to push it into the corners as well. You can use the same rubber spatula for this, or a piece of waxed paper, or the bottom of the cup measure you used for the cereal – it shouldn’t stick too much.
  • Set aside until fully cooled, then cut into squares of your desired size and consume.

Zucchini Crepes with Mascarpone Almond Cream

food-blog-february-2017-0288There is no way I can connect this recipe with Black History Month. I’ve tried. The transition just isn’t there. But when this issue of The New Yorker showed up on our doorstep, with this beautiful new imagining of the iconic Rosie the Riveter staring confidently back at me on the front, I wanted to make sure you saw her. Clearly a response to the Women’s March, she is also a powerful image of intersectional feminism, replacing the white WWII era working woman with an African American marcher, pink pussy hat and all. And though the cover doesn’t bear Rosie’s original accompanying phrase – “We can do it” – there’s no way to divorce that message, with all its connotations, from this new version.

There is so much to do, but we can do it.

food-blog-february-2017-0260These started not as crepes but as a desire to modify my favorite zucchini spice bread recipe into a pancake (I told you there was no transition. I just wanted to show you my magazine cover and remind you about the history we should be celebrating this month). There would be nutmeg and cinnamon, there would be caramelized crisp edges, there might be golden raisins… and then I made the mistake of searching for “zucchini bread pancakes” online, and of course the first hit was Deb’s recipe, deepening, as ever, my intense love-hate relationship with her and her site. Let me be clear, before you start emailing me: I adore Smitten Kitchen (look, Deb, I’m even giving you traffic!). I have the cookbook, I went to a signing and thoroughly embarrassed myself, and I trawl through her archives all the time, because she has tried everything! But there’s the hate part (or, at least, the jealous part): she’s tried everything! I certainly wasn’t going to make zucchini bread pancakes if she already had the consummate version (which, of course, I just automatically assume she does. Being a jealous fan-girl is weird).

food-blog-february-2017-0263food-blog-february-2017-0267So I had to go with something different, and somehow something different became crepes. I wasn’t sure how they would work, given the sodden heaviness large quantities of shredded zucchini often contribute to a dish, but the zucchini were already in the fridge and the milk on the door was begging to be used, so the experiment had to move forward.

food-blog-february-2017-0255I’m calling these crepes, but they don’t share ratio or ingredient quantities with other crepe recipes. My grandfather called them Swedish pancakes, probably more because he was Swedish than due to any recipe authenticity. They are a bit moister than some crepes – a little less papery around the edges, maybe a bit heavier, and we’ve never been particularly fussy about getting them wafer thin. Here, the addition of the zucchini makes these qualities important, since the batter has to be substantial enough to hold up to the extra weight of the vegetation.

food-blog-february-2017-0268food-blog-february-2017-0272As I always yell at food competition contestants when they scrunch or tear or mangle their first crepe, the first one probably is going to be ugly. Maybe the second one too. But you have to persist. Crepes require a bit of a rhythm – you have to get a feel for how much batter goes into the pan, how steeply to tilt your pan while you swirl to get an even coating of batter, and how long it really does need to cook before you can flip that delicate, eggy circle. And ultimately, really, it’s okay when that first one rips, because now you get to eat it surreptitiously and make sure it’s good. Cook’s prerogative.

food-blog-february-2017-0277These were indeed good. The zucchini is mild, so don’t worry if it’s not your very favorite vegetable flavor, but it cooks so quickly that every bit of grassy rawness was gone. They could go in a sweet or a savory direction, but I opted for sweet, whisking mascarpone cheese with some honey, some lemon, and roughly chopped toasted almonds for a bit of crunch. Lemon and zucchini play well together, as do zucchini and almonds, and it’s nice to have some texture in with the softness of the cheese and the pliable delicacy of the pancake.

food-blog-february-2017-0280We had these for dinner as a decadent response to a rainy day, but they would make an indulgent breakfast or a superb brunch course as well. You can fold the crepes up into a triangular, handkerchief-like packet with a mound of cheese inside, or you can roll up into a cylinder, which is what my family has always done. I found I liked a few almonds sprinkled over the top, and an extra drizzle of honey as well. Any extra crepes keep fine covered in the fridge for a day or two, until you take them out, reheat them with a bit of salted butter, and smother them with cinnamon sugar, because some days require that kind of solid self care, so you can get out there and keep going.

food-blog-february-2017-0293

Zucchini Crepes with Mascarpone Almond Cream
Makes 10-12 crepes in a 10-inch skillet
30-40 minutes
For the filling:
½ cup whole raw almonds
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
zest of one lemon
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
additional honey, to drizzle
For the crepes:
2 cups shredded zucchini, from 2 medium zucchinis
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs
1½-1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt

 

  • First, make the filling. Preheat the oven to 350F. While it heats, roughly chop the almonds – it’s okay to have some uneven sizing. Spread them out on a baking tray and toast in the oven 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Start checking at 10 minutes; keep in mind they will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven.
  • In a bowl, whisk the mascarpone cheese and the heavy cream together until light and fluffy (I used the whisk attachment of my stand mixer). Add the honey, the lemon zest, and the lemon juice, whisk again and taste for seasoning – you are looking for something lightly sweet, and rich but not overwhelming. When the almonds cool, fold ¾ of the amount into the mascarpone mixture, reserving the remainder to sprinkle atop the crepes.
  • To make the crepes, shred the zucchini in a food processor or with the large holes on a box grater. Collect them on a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then squeeze once more.
  • Warm the milk slightly in a bowl or large glass measuring cup and add the melted butter, stirring to incorporate. This ensures the butter will integrate evenly, rather than hardening back into chunks. Let cool to room temperature and whisk in the eggs, then 1½ cups of the flour, the sugar, and the salt. Finally, whisk in the zucchini shreds. You should have something like a thin cake batter, probably thinner than your average pancake batter. If it seems too liquid, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour.
  • To cook the crepes, heat about 2 teaspoons butter in a 10-inch skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Pour in about ⅓ cup of batter, turning and swirling the skillet as you do so to allow for a thin layer of batter to coat the entire surface. Try to spread out the zucchini a bit – it has a tendency to clump up in the middle, which results in uneven cooking.
  • Cook 1-2 minutes per side, until golden and almost dry. Don’t be alarmed if the first crepe tears or is otherwise mangled – they are delicate, and you have to get a rhythm going. After every two crepes, add another few teaspoons of butter to the skillet.
  • As you finish cooking each crepe, remove from the skillet to a covered plate to keep them warm. They won’t stick together – there’s enough fat in them to prevent clinging.
  • To serve, spread out one crepe on a flat surface and spread a few tablespoons of the mascarpone and almond mixture in a line a bit to the left of the center. Use the tines of a fork or your fingers to lift the edge of the crepe over the mascarpone filling, then continue rolling up into a tight burrito shape. Remove to a serving plate and continue with remaining crepes and filling. Sprinkle the finished rolls with the remaining almonds, and if desired, drizzle with more honey before serving.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Rye Bread

2016-food-blog-november-0522I’ve felt pressed since summer, when it comes to posting – I’ve been, all too often, a negligent blogger. There are many reasons for this, especially in the past few weeks, but I realized part of the reason lately, and that reason is the absence of a group. I liked the challenge of a monthly bread assignment, and between the dissolution of the Twelve Loaves baking party, heat, and busyness, I haven’t been doing as much experimental bread baking as I used to. I looked back, for another cooking project a week or two ago, at the notes I’d made about Suzanne’s site in my Five Seed Loaves post, and was reminded of the idea for a bread – inspired by hers – that incorporated rye flour, and canned pumpkin, and maybe some rolled oats for heft. With a long weekend looming and the season of pumpkin upon us, it seemed like the right thing to do.

2016-food-blog-november-05012016-food-blog-november-0504The problem with canned pumpkin, as anyone knows who has grown frustrated by repeated testing of that pumpkin chocolate chip bread that just will not finish baking, is its incredible water content. It keeps baked goods amazingly moist, but it also is a sopping, wet, hard-to-deal-with mess if you aren’t careful, especially in dough.

2016-food-blog-november-32016-food-blog-november-0498Irvin helped me solve this problem, with the ingenious tip he discovered of cooking down your canned pumpkin first, to eliminate some of that pesky moisture and concentrate the flavor. A quick, hot fifteen minutes of near-constant stirring and folding results in a thick, deeply sunset orange pan of something the texture of thick frosting that adds flavor and richness, but won’t bog down your mixture. I foresee many pumpkin-centric baking projects in the future, now that I know this helpful little extra step.

2016-food-blog-november-0507As with most breads, this one involves a substantial knead, a long first rise, a punch and a shape and – after a roll in some pumpkin seeds and rolled oats for texture and indication of predominant ingredients – a second rise before baking for a little over half an hour. These loaves incorporate some molasses for sweetness and color, and milk rather than water.

2016-food-blog-november-0525I must admit, the rye flavor doesn’t come through overly much here, though I suspect it added to the substance and of course to the lovely toasty color of the finished loaf. The pumpkin is mild as well, but you can taste it despite the absence of the telltale wintry spices that usually accompany this big squash. It’s satisfyingly orange inside (which makes photo editing tricky, by the way!), and it is a rich autumnal flavor I already want to taste again. The oats all but disappear into the dough as it bakes, and they contribute to the pleasant, spongy density of the thick slices you’ll be carving off to slather with cream cheese.

2016-food-blog-november-0529

Pumpkin Oatmeal Rye Bread
Makes 2 9×5 inch loaves (though mine were a little stubby from overly tight loaf shaping)
4-5 hours, approximately
15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1½ cups warm milk
small pinch white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1½ cups rolled oats, divided
2 cups dark rye flour
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2-3 cups bread flour
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

 

  • Cooked the canned pumpkin in a skillet over high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until it is thick and reduced and takes on the consistency of a thick, spreadable frosting. You should wind up with only about ¾ cup left. Let it cool to room temperature.
  • While the pumpkin cools, combine the warm milk with the yeast and sugar, stirring briskly, then let sit for about 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. The surface of the milk will get bubbly and smell bread-y.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeasted milk, 1 cup of the oats, the rye flour, the molasses, the melted butter, the salt, and the cooled pumpkin. Use the paddle attachment on low to medium speed to combine.
  • Now begin adding the bread flour ½ cup at a time, paddling in each addition, until a soft dough forms that pulls and tears away from the side of the bowl. You may not need the entire 3 cups of flour – I ended up using about 2½ cups total.
  • Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes. The resulting dough will be soft and sticky – a play-dough that clings to your fingers – but that’s okay. The oats need time to absorb the liquid so it will become less tacky as it rises.
  • Spray the inside of the bowl with a non-stick spray or olive oil, flipping over the dough so both sides are coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise until doubled; 60-90 minutes.
  • When the dough has doubled, punch it down by depressing your fist gently into the middle, then let it sit to get its breath back for about 10 minutes. While it rests, spray two 9×5 inch loaf pans with non-stick spray and start the oven preheating at 375F. Combine the pumpkin seeds with the remaining ½ cup of oats and spread out on a flat, rimmed surface like a cookie sheet.
  • Carefully dump the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board. The more flour you use, the more trouble you’ll have getting the seeds and oats to stick. Divide the dough into two equal hunks, then form each into a loaf and roll it through the seed and oat mixture before settling it into its respective loaf pan. If you have a lot of trouble getting the oats and seeds to stick, spray the loaf with nonstick spray or olive oil first, then have another go.
  • Cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and set the loaves aside to rise again for about 45 minutes.
  • When the loaves have just about doubled in size again, remove the plastic wrap covering them and carefully set them into your preheated oven to bake until their central temperature reaches 180-200F; about 35 minutes.
  • Let the loaves cool in their pans about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Five-Seed Loaves

2015 Blog September-0394Growing up, my sister and I ate a lot of reasonably healthy food. Mom wasn’t the “crunchy granola type,” especially not by the time my sister showed up, but her waffle recipe involved wheat germ, and my lunchtime sandwich bread always had a measure of whole wheat in it. When I got a little older, it seemed like the more seeds and nuts a loaf contained, the more likely my mom was to buy it. Nine grains? Hearty nuts and seeds? R. and I wouldn’t always eat it, but it was probably in our freezer.

2015 Blog September-0359Thus I felt a certain fondness when I started to consider this month’s Twelve Loaves assignment of seed breads. I knew I wanted multiple seeds, and I knew I wanted them on the inside and outside of my loaves. A bit of internet research led me to Suzanne’s lovely little site Flour Arrangements, and even if she hadn’t had a great seeded loaf recipe to work with and adapt, I would have been enticed by her blog’s clever title (not the mention how many great sounding loaves she’s made – I can’t wait to adapt her multigrain pumpkinseed loaf as the weather cools – I’m thinking of adding some pumpkin puree and rye flour, and maybe some oatmeal).

2015 Blog September-03642015 Blog September-0366I kept her recipe mostly the same, only replacing oil with butter and adding a few additional seeds for a total of five: sesame, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin, and flax.

2015 Blog September-03672015 Blog September-0369I’ve been baking mainly sourdough loaves lately, trying different ratios of starter and flour, comparing notes with S. about various stirring or folding techniques instead of kneading the dough, tipping in just enough whole wheat flour to make a nutty loaf that isn’t too dense, and getting used to long, slow rise times and overnight rests in the refrigerator to develop a tangier sour flavor. Imagine my delight, then, when my bowl of dough, bolstered by its full tablespoon(!) of yeast, agreeably puffed enough to press against its plastic wrap lid in a little over an hour. Not only that, but after carefully pressing and rolling the lovely tight loaves I’d formed through a jumble of seeds, they swelled again in their pans to triumphant heights. Sourdough is delicious and tends to be my go-to for everyday toast, but it is an exercise in patience and in long-term benefits. These loaves, though they do require two rises, expand so eagerly it feels like a reward for a job well done.

2015 Blog September-0376And really, these are a reward. Yes, the seeds you’ve so carefully pressed into the surface of the dough go everywhere – when you turn the baked loaves out of the pans, when you slice into them, when you bag and store them – but those that stay affixed offer a really nice set of flavors and textures. The heat and time in the oven toasts and crisps them lightly, and the flax seeds in particular take on a roasted taste and a slippery crunch I find incredibly appealing. And that’s just the surface. Inside, the crumb is tender and light and barely sweet, as soft as a commercially made pre-sliced loaf, but with the hearty, toasty, wholesome feel and flavor that comes with homemade.

2015 Blog September-0384You could certainly trade out the seeds here if you wanted – caraway would give a stronger anise-y feel, tiny nigella or black onion seeds would make for a more savory flavor, maybe good for meat or tomato based sandwiches. But I am devoted to sweet breakfast toast, and this bread, toasted or not, welcomes salted butter and cinnamon sugar so nicely I must admit I never explored beyond that combination.

2015 Blog September-0390

Five-Seed Loaves
Adapted from Seeded Wheat Bread on Flour Arrangements
Makes 2 9×5 inch loaves
4-5 hours, approximately (including rising/resting time)
¾ cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
pinch white sugar
1 ½ cups warm milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 tablespoons poppy seeds, divided
5 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
3 tablespoons very soft or melted butter
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon salt
3-4 cups bread flour
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons flax seeds

 

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a large bowl if you aren’t using a mixer, combine the warm water with the yeast and the pinch of sugar. Stir and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the mixture smells bread-like and the yeast has foamed up a bit.
  • Add the milk, whole wheat flour, butter, molasses, and salt to the yeast mixture. Add two tablespoons each of the poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Mix with the paddle attachment or with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  • With the mixer running on low speed, add the bread flour ½ cup at a time until you have a soft dough that pulls and tears away from the sides of the bowl. I needed all 4 cups of the flour, as it was a bit humid in my kitchen – you might need less depending on the day.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook. If you are mixing by wooden spoon, now is the time to turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes if you are working by machine, or about 7-8 minutes by hand, to form a smooth and elastic but still sticky dough. It will still droop and pull when you stop kneading, not sit firmly in a cohesive ball. That’s okay. This ensures a more tender loaf.
  • Lightly grease the sides of a large bowl (I just use the stand mixer bowl; you don’t even have to clean it out) and position your dough in the middle of it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled – 1½-2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.
  • As the rising period nears its end, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, and the sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds on a baking tray. Butter or grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and set aside.
  • Punch down the risen dough to release trapped gas by gently depressing your fist into its center, then turn it out onto a very lightly floured board (too much flour and the seeds won’t stick). Divide the dough in equal halves, shape into tight loaves and roll each one in seeds, turning to coat the ends, or just pushing a palmful of seeds against the ends of the loaves.
  • Set the seed-coated loaves gently in the prepared loaf pans, pat remaining seeds on top and drizzle down into the corners. Drape lightly with plastic wrap and let rise again for about 45 minutes, until doubled once more. They swell beautifully.
  • About twenty minutes before the rising period ends, preheat your oven to 375F. When the loaves are fully risen, remove the plastic wrap and place them gently into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes. To test for doneness, either use a digital thermometer and check for a temperature between 180-200F, or thump the bottom lightly for a hollow sound.
  • Cool loaves in pans at least 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely before slicing. At all manipulation, seeds will scatter everywhere, but the flavor and texture are worth the mess.

 

Check out what our other awesome Twelve Loaves bakers made this month, below:

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of Heather of girlichef, and the rest of our fabulous bakers.

Our host this month is Lora from Cake Duchess and our theme is Seeds. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s selection of #TwelveLoaves Malt Breads!

For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s selection of #TwelveLoaves Malt Breads!

If you’d like to bake along with us this month, share your Seed Bread using the hashtag #TwelveLoaves!

Cinnamon Mocha Swirl Bread

Food blog June 2015-0938Around here, we take afternoon snack time very seriously. During the school year, it’s an opportunity to sit down together for a few minutes and work our way through notable moments from the day. During the summer, it’s a good way to reconnect from whatever individual projects we might have lost ourselves in. It feels like a restart, in a lot of ways, which can be important if the day hasn’t gone all that well.

Food blog June 2015-0916More than that, though, we are gluttons, and our mid-afternoon snack, or “teatime” as my wannabe Londoner husband likes to call it, is a sacred few minutes reserved for cramming something delicious into our mouths. Usually this is something quick: chips and salsa, or crackers and cheese; on Fridays it often dovetails into an impromptu happy hour of some sort (stay tuned for snack-y developments on this front, by the way…). But sometimes I like to get fancy.

Food blog June 2015-0911Spurred by this month’s Twelve Loaves theme “A Little Something Sweet,” I decided a special “teatime” loaf was in the works: I wanted a swirled bread, and since N. was working his way through his very last week of school, I decided something with a bit of pick-me-up was called for. Playing with flavors of Mexican chocolate and tiramisu, with a block of cream cheese thrown in for good measure, I ended up with this stunner: a lightly sweet cinnamon spiced loaf, with an unapologetically thick filling of sweetened cream cheese, espresso powder, and chopped semi-sweet chocolate. Yes, please.

Food blog June 2015-0910The production of this loaf is fairly standard: a good knead, two rises, with the application of the filling in between, and the better part of an hour in the oven. The most difficult part, honestly, is waiting for the finished loaf to cool enough to slice into it without making a mess. I waited almost long enough.

Food blog June 2015-0915Oddly, despite the Mexican and Italian dessert inspirations, what this reminded me of more than anything else was mocha chip ice cream. You know, the luscious, rich brown scoops with just the right amount of coffee flavor, studded with chunks of dark chocolate. Except in my version, it’s a soft swirl through a moist slice, and the chocolate pieces melt easily on your tongue (one of my biggest complaints about “chip” anything ice cream: the cold, hard chunks of chocolate. I know, I know, first world problems).

Food blog June 2015-0920Food blog June 2015-0921Obviously, this is a rich bread. I’d say it’s more than a “little” something sweet, but let’s indulge anyway. Unless caffeine doesn’t disrupt your sleeping patterns, I’d stay away from it as a bedtime snack. But as a pick-me-up in mid-afternoon, or mid-morning for that matter, it’s solid. I can imagine thick slices on a brunch table as well, maybe even as part of a bridal shower (colors: espresso and vanilla?) since the presentation is so pretty. But then, I’ve got weddings on the brain this summer.

Food blog June 2015-0933Oh, p.s., like my new “studio” set-up next to the window? My Photo Friday post from the other week had such lovely lighting I decided to make it a more regular shoot location. I’m looking forward to playing more with angles and light at different times of day.

Food blog June 2015-0942

Cinnamon Mocha Swirl Bread
Makes 1 large 9×5 inch loaf
For dough:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm milk (I use whole milk)
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft or melted and cooled, divided
2-3 cups bread flour
For filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces
  • In a glass measuring cup, combine the lukewarm milk and the yeast, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the yeast to wake up a bit. While you wait, combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, eggs, and ¼ cup of butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large mixing bowl).
  • When the yeast and milk mixture is bubbly and smells like bread, add it into the egg and butter mixture and stir well to combine. Add 2 cups of the flour, and stir well to combine again.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, fit with the dough hook attachment and begin to knead on medium speed. If you are working by hand, dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 5 minutes. As needed, work in more flour ¼ cup at a time until the dough is easy to handle. I ended up using about 2 ¾ cups total. In the stand mixer bowl, it will start to pull away from and then slap the sides.
  • After you’ve kneaded for about 5 minutes, the dough should feel smooth and stretchy and be texturally reminiscent of play-dough. At this point, lightly oil the inside of a large bowl (I use the stand mixer bowl for this – you don’t even need to clean it out), flip the dough around in it to coat all sides, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled; about 90 minutes.
  • While you wait for the dough, make the filling: in a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, espresso powder, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy; 1-2 minutes. Then gently incorporate the chopped chocolate, and set aside.
  • When the dough has doubled, punch it down by depressing your fist gently into its center to release trapped air, then let it rest for 5 minutes to get its breath back. Turn it out onto a floured board and roll into a rectangle of roughly 9×16 inches.
  • Spread the dough rectangle with the filling, leaving a border of about 1 inch on all sides to ensure minimal overflow. Working gently, roll up into a log starting from the short edge (so you’ll end up with a fat log about 9 inches long). Crimp the edges at the end to seal it – be aggressive! The dough might not want to stick to itself at first.
  • Now that you have your fat log, well-sealed, twist it 4 or 5 times to disperse the swirl. This may stretch it out a bit, so when you carefully wedge it into a buttered 9×5 inch loaf pan, just tuck the ends underneath.
  • Once the loaf is settled in the pan, rub the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of soft or melted butter, then cover lightly with plastic wrap, set aside for another 30 minutes, and preheat the oven to 375F.
  • By the time your loaf has risen for another 30 minutes, it should have come close to doubling in size again, and your oven should be fully preheated. Bake the loaf in the preheated 375F oven for 35-40 minutes, until the exterior is nicely burnished and the interior tests 180-200F (A skewer that comes out clean works too, though be careful, because the cream cheese filling will remain gloopy).
  • Cool loaf in pan for at least 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack for at least another 10 minutes. The cream cheese and chocolate need time to solidify a bit, or the layers within the loaf will threaten collapse.
  • Enjoy with coffee, or tea, or milk, or your fingers. Keeps well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days (probably more would be fine, but ours didn’t last longer than that). Bring to room temperature before eating for best leftovers.

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of Heather of girlichef, and the rest of our fabulous bakers.

Our theme this month is A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Mexican Breads!

If you’d like to bake along with us this month, share your “A Little Something Sweet” Bread using hashtag #TwelveLoaves!