Category Archives: bread

spiced pumpkin bread

spiced pumpkin bread with pecan streusel These pumpkin muffins/loaves are quick and simple, absolutely delicious, and… nothing new. The recipe is nearly identical in two of my favorite baking books (Pastry Queen and Baked, save for the major difference of a pecan streusel topping on the former, chocolate chips in the latter). However, I read that duplicity not as a lack of originality but as a recognition that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This recipe just works. It’s a classic, laden with rich autumnal spices (the usual pumpkin accompaniments: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves). It even looks like autumn, wearing a beautiful orange tinge thanks to the pumpkin puree. Incredibly moist and tender, due to the use of oil instead of butter, a generous dose of sugar, and, of course, the pumpkin puree, it’s the ideal morning (or afternoon)  pick-me-up.
spices spices spiceseggs, different huesadd the pumpkin, bright orangeloaf ready to be streusel-edgenerous scattering of streuselAs I’ve said, the Baked cookbook version features chocolate chips, but shockingly I withheld and used Rather’s streusel instead. Decide the bread’s fate as you will. I left the muffins plain but topped the loaf with a halved batch of streusel. The muffins disappeared quickly, but the loaf is stashed away in the freezer, waiting to be pulled out to liven up a dim, chilly morning.
muffins, coolingspiced pumpkin muffinsin loaf form with pecan streuselspiced pumpkin bread

Spiced Pumpkin Quickbread (Muffins or Loaves)
adapted from the Pastry Queen and Baked

Makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves

Bread
1 1/2 cups pecan halves*
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Streusel*
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 toasted pecan pieces (reserved from above)

To make the bread: Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden brown and aromatic, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool, roughly chop, and separate out 1/2 cup for the streusel.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans or 24 regular muffin cups (I used a combination: one loaf, 12 muffins) with butter and flour or cooking spray or, in the case of muffins, use liners.

Whisk together the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin, water, and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Stir in 1 cup pecan pieces. Evenly divide the batter among the loaf pans or muffin tins (muffin tins should be filled almost to the top).

To make the topping: Stir together the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup chopped pecans in a small bowl. Sprinkle the topping over the loaves or muffins.

Bake the loaves until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the topping will remain gooey, so be sure to test the cake itself for doneness. Bake muffins for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Storing: Because these muffins are so moist, they’re great keepers, a few days in a airtight container at room temperature.

*Variation: Craving chocolate in the morning? (No judgments.) Swap the pecans for chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups), and omit the streusel. (Or make some really tasty bread with pecans, chocolate chips, and streusel…)

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Isaac + pull-apart butter herb bread

pull-apart butter herb breadIn a display of bitterest irony, on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, we were greeted with yet another hurricane in New Orleans: Isaac. On Monday, before the storm hit, we were urged to “hunker down” if not evacuating (most people in Greater New Orleans not under mandatory evacuation didn’t) after undertaking the usual hurricane prep: securing lightweight loose items outside, nonperishable food, water, flashlights, matches, and gas for cars and possibly generators. It was a day of tense preparations and hoping that maybe it would miss us or at least wouldn’t strengthen.
dough is soft, no longer stickylet it riseroll out the risen doughherb butter ingredientsmix together the herb butterspread herb butter on half of each circlefold and place into pansecond rise
Isaac did neither but delayed along its meandering path, and when the heavy rain and wind began Tuesday afternoon, they wouldn’t stop until late Wednesday. The storm sat on top of us and dumped water, water, and more water. Tuesday evening I heard a crack that was a sound of a sizable limb ripping from a pecan tree and flattening boards of our fence in the backyard. The perpetual rain was accompanied by a shrieking wind coming in frequent, angry gusts that whipped through the trees and were strong enough to shake our house. The street, sidewalks, and yards were flooded though luckily not the homes in our neighborhood. The storm raged throughout the long night and into Wednesday and finally abated Wednesday night, though scattered rain and wind continued until Thursday.
freshly bakedscraps loaflayers of buttery herb breadAt that point we were able to survey the damages. Windswept leaves and tree limbs, small and large, were covering the yards, sidewalks, and streets of our neighborhood. Downed electrical and telephone lines, some entangled in trees, created a maze of hazards.  A few trees, even large, stately oaks, were uprooted and toppled onto houses, cars, and property. I’m not sure how we missed the sound of a few limbs splitting from our cedar tree and toppling (luckily) onto the sidewalk before our front yard, but somewhere between the torrential rain and wind we did.
still raining on Thursdaywalkway, after battered plants were trimmedleaves on the sidewalk, in the streeta common sight: leaves everywhereBut we–residents of Greater New Orleans–were spared the worst. People in areas outside the federal levee system suffered the most severe damages and flooding, in some cases in excess of Katrina. Homes and buildings in places like Reserve, LaPlace, and Plaquemines Parish were inundated in several feet of water. They most need our help and prayers.
debris around the yard, tree limb on the fence in the backgroundcan't walk along this pathtree braches downbranches split, colorWhile Issac was no Katrina, as a Category 1 storm, its effects were surprisingly destructive. My family was extremely fortunate to not have damage to our home, and I feel guilty that miraculously we never even lost power throughout the entire storm (the reason being, my dad jokes, is because he bought a generator Monday morning). At one point up to 85% of New Orleans had no electricity, and many people still don’t. The recovery, and for some, rebuilding, has begun.
split tree branchesPart of hunkering down included baking bread on Tuesday. On King Arthur Flour I came across this “butterflake herb loaf,” which just left me wondering what the delightful-sounding butterflake was. (A quick googling cleared that up–it’s pull-apart bread.) The bread has pockets of herb butter sandwiched between its many layers that peel off one by one.
pull off a piecelight and fluffy inside

One year ago: Toasted Coconut Blueberry Coffee Cake

Pull-Apart Butter Herb Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

King Arthur Flour says this makes a 12 x 4 x 2 1/2-inch tea loaf or two 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaves, both with smaller “scrap” loaves. I don’t have a tea loaf pan of two 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pans but found that the dough fit in one  8 1/2 x 4-inch.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of potato flour, which I omitted and you can do likewise by simply adding more all-purpose flour.

If you want to see more process photos, the original recipe has a photo for each step.

Dough
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick | 4 tablespoons | 2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces | 35 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
2 large eggs
about 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Butter Herb Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick | 8 tablespoons | 4 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chopped chives or grated onion or shallot
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced

1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer–so it’s steaming with little bubbles around the edge. In the bowl of a stand mixer or the pan of a bread machine, pour the milk over the cubed butter. Sprinkle over the sugar and salt, and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

2. When the liquid is tepid (110°F for instant yeast, 120°F for active dry), add the yeast, eggs,  and 3 1/2 cups of flour and begin mixing the dough on medium speed using the dough hook attachment for a stand mixer or using a bread machine.

3. After the dough comes together, about 3 minutes, touch the dough with your finger to test its consistency. If the dough is wet, sticky, and comes off on your finger, add more flour 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup at a time, mixing between additions until it’s incorporated. I added 10 tablespoons flour, for a total of 4 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons.

4. Once the dough is smooth and soft, not sticky, let the bread machine finish its cycle or transfer the dough to a large bowl with a light slick of oil, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (in my cold kitchen, it was 3), depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the type of yeast–instant yeast will be on the low side of that time range; active dry a little longer. In my cold kitchen, using active dry yeast, it took 3 hours.

5. While the dough is rising, mix all the herb butter ingredients together in a small bowl.

6. After the dough has risen, deflate it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface about 1/2-inch  thick. Cut in 3 1/2-inch to 4-inch circles with a cutter or English muffin ring. I had neither so I made do with the rim of a Mardi Gras cup.

7. Butter half of each circle, fold in half, and place with the folded side down in a 8 1/2 x 4-inch bread pan. Butter the scraps and stack them together on a baking sheet to make a haphazard mini-loaf. Cover both with greased plastic or a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minute to an hour and a half*. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

8. Bake the loaves in preheated oven for 22 to 30 minutes. A ceramic loaf pan will take about 5-7 minutes longer to bake than a metal one; tent with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking if necessary to keep the top from over-browning.

*I sped up this process using a trick I learned from Alton Brown. Place a baking dish (I used a 9 x 13) with a thin layer of boiling water on the lowest rack of your oven, and place the loaves above it. This will create a warm, moist atmosphere that will help the dough rise. Just don’t be as impatient as me and have your butter start melting on you because you keep switching out the pans of boiling water.

Variations: King Arthur Flour suggests some variations: using pesto instead of butter for the filling, swapping the butter in the bread dough for olive oil, adding your favorite grated cheese in the butter mixture and a sprinkling of more cheese on top, and the most enticing option to me: using a sweet filling (like cinnamon-sugar-butter) and a glaze on top so it’s like a cinnamon roll.

fast cinnamon rolls

cinnamon rolls, glazedPerhaps a warm, gooey cinnamon roll, caramelized on the bottom with a cream cheese frosting sliding down the sides, isn’t exactly what you want to see in January. Sorry. I shamelessly love rich breakfast treats. Pastries, danishes, doughnuts, etc. all are decadent ways to start the day. I don’t really make them often though. Usually the process eclipses the actual time of breakfast. Enter: quick versions of beloved classics.
dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, saltmixed together with butterdough for cinnamon rollsbrush with butter, sprinkle with fillingfilling onsliced into 8 rollsI love a good complicated recipe, but sometimes I just want something speedy. Traditional cinnamon rolls are yeasted and delicious, but that same yeast makes them decidedly not quick. These rolls forego the yeast and instead use a unique dough. The dough is biscuity when baked but the method (add buttermilk and melted butter to dry ingredients) is more like quickbreads (e.g., muffins).brushed with butterbakedthe remainsThe result? Sweetly spiced (cinnamon and cloves), buttery, tender cinnamon rolls. January indulgence.
cinnamon rolls, freshly bakedclose-upyum

Fast Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from The Quick Recipe (Cook’s Illustrated) via Leite’s Culinaria

These are fast cinnamon rolls, but I’m not promising “quick ‘n easy.” Delicious things are a labor of love. This is a mini labor of love; they do require a little (just a little!) bit of time, but they are totally worth it.

Devilish suggestion: brown butter it.

For the cinnamon rolls
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used Vietnamese cinnamon for a more cinnamon-y flavor)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For the glaze
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar

Make the rolls
1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush a round 9-inch nonstick cake pan with 1 tablespoon butter. If you want, spray a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with a fork or fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set the filling mixture aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk together the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons butter in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed (the dough will look shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy, about 30 seconds.

4. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the brown sugar filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Press the filling firmly into the dough. Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, gently loosen the dough from the work surface. Starting at a long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log seam-side down and cut it evenly into 8 pieces. (Cut the roll in half, then each cut each half in half, then cut each fourth in half to make eighths…if that makes any sense.) Turn the pieces over on their flat sides, and with your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place. Place 1 roll in the center of the prepared pan and then place the remaining 7 rolls around the perimeter of the pan. Brush the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

5. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use an offset metal spatula to loosen the rolls from the pan. Wearing oven mitts, place a large plate over the pan and invert the rolls onto the plate. Place the greased cooling rack over the plate and invert the rolls onto the rack. Cool about 5 minutes before glazing.

Make glaze and finish rolls
While the rolls are cooling, either line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) or reuse the cutting board used previously; set the rack with the rolls on the baking sheet or cutting board. Whisk the cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until thick and smooth (the mixture will look grainy at first). Add the powdered sugar and whisk until a smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon the glaze evenly over the rolls; serve immediately.

oatmeal sandwich bread

oatmeal sandwich breadDoes anyone make bread anymore, or is it just an outdated practice? I sure hope there are still loyal bread-bakers out there, despite the ease of pre-sliced, store-bought, mass-marketed bread, as it’s something I love doing. There’s something so relaxing, so methodical about the whole process. I don’t make bread often, but sure wish I did, because the flavor this oatmeal sandwich bread owns the store-bought stuff.
water + yeast + molasses + flours + oats + butter shaggy doughafter autolysemixingThis bread is  just a little bit sweet from the molasses, with a deep flavor from the whole-wheat flour and oats, and a moist and tender yet sturdy crumb that is perfect for sandwiches, hence the name “oatmeal sandwich bread.”                  after light kneadready for first risedimple remains, it's proofedshaping the doughshaped loafready to bakeAfter the loaf had cooled, I had a soft, barely-warm slice with a light spreading of butter and a drizzle of honey, so simple yet so delicious. Leftover, this also makes the perfect toast with butter and jam. Wholesome homemade bread is perfect for fall.
bakedbaked loaf, oatmeal fell offcooled and cut intosliced loafwith butter and honey

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Good to the Grain

This recipe looks a mile long, and while it does take a chunk of time, most of it is inactive, waiting for the dough to rise and bake. You’ll be rewarded for your patience. One note about the optional oats (or bran) sprinkled on top- I like the look of the oats, but mine fell off after removing the baked loaf from the pan. If you want to sprinkle the oats, try brushing a little bit of water on the shaped, unbaked loaf to help the oats adhesive.

Makes one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats, plus more for optional sprinkling
2 ounces (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 tablespoons kosher salt

Butter a large bowl and the loaf pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix 2 cups warm water, yeast, and molasses. Stir, and then allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn’t bubble, the yeast may be inactive. Throw it away and start over with new yeast.)

Add the flours, oats, and butter to the yeast mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let stand for 30 minutes. (This method is known as an autolyse. Resting the dough allows the dry ingredients to absorb the water; so the dough is moister, and the bread has a better crumb.)

Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer. Add the salt, and mix on medium speed for about 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides of the bowl without sticking. If the dough is sticks during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour until the dough no longer sticks. The dough should be soft, supple, and a little sticky. (You can also knead the dough by hand for about 15 minutes, but you will probably need to add more flour to the dough.)

For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. To see if it has proofed, gently push a floured finger into it. If the dough springs back, it needs more time to rise. If the dimple remains, then move on to the next step.

To shape the dough, scrape it onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough, working it into a square shape and depressing all the bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam with your fingertips to seal. Pinch the sides together, and roll the dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan.

For the second rise, cover the dough with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size and puffs up. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400° F.

When the dough has finished its second rise, sprinkle the top with oats or bran , if desired (see headnote).

Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top and bottom crusts are deeply browned. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump with your hand. If it doesn’t sound hollow and isn’t dark enough, bake if for 5 more minutes. Remove the finished loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Try to resist until it is completely cooled, so the crumb won’t collapse when you cut into it and the flavor can develop.

The bread will keep, well-wrapped in plastic, for 4 to 5 days at room temperature.