Category Archives: Bread

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

Full disclosure: where I live, we haven’t had a snow day this winter. The only snow I even came into contact with was when we played with store bought snowballs at the Frozen birthday party I attended this weekend–while wearing flip flops. When the temperature dropped overnight and I had a teeny bit of ice to scrape off my windshield this morning I had to search my garage for an ice scraper. So I personally don’t need snow day activities. However, growing up in the Northeast US, we had plenty of snow days and I’m sure my mom was always looking for random things to keep me and my siblings occupied (and this was before the days of Pinterest. Gasp!).

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

But while weather hasn’t been a challenge for me this winter, my husband has been out of town for almost 6 weeks for work so I’ve still been trying to come up with creative ways to entertain my toddler son in the evenings and on weekends and one of my favorite ways to do that is in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake, he loves to eat and “help” in the kitchen. So we’ve made lots of smoothies, we’ve made flavored popcorn, we’ve made pizza from scratch, and my new favorite is soft pretzels.

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

For a while I was on a soft pretzel kick from the cafeteria at work. They’re not even all that good from there, but the crispy salty exterior with the soft chewy inside is definitely comforting. Homemade ones, though, especially when fresh out of the oven and brushed with melted butter, totally hit the spot. There are a number of ways to make baking these pretzels educational (in additional to delicious) for your kiddos too. Older kids can help with the measuring process while making the dough, lots of math skills there, or watching the yeast ferment (yay biology). My son is too young for those concepts, but we form the pretzels into various shapes and letters so he can practice his alphabet and shapes. He also loves topping them with salt or cinnamon sugar and brushing them with butter which are great fine motor skills practice for toddlers. In the end, we’re left with a tasty treat which makes everyone happy.

So warm up your insides with these easy and delicious Snow Day Soft Pretzels. (PS I was able to make these after work and still have pretzels ready to eat before bedtime).

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

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Snow Day Soft Pretzels (adapted from Baking Bread the Way Mom Taught me)

Yield: 16 pretzels

Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups water, divided

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon baking soda

Coarse salt and/or cinnamon sugar, for topping

Directions:

  1. Combine yeast, 1/2 tablespoon of honey, and lukewarm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Meanwhile, heat milk, 1/2 cup water, and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan until hot. Transfer to a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook if possible).
  3. To the mixing bowl, add the remaining honey, salt, and 1 cup of flour and blend thoroughly. Mix in the egg, then the yeast.
  4. Add in the baking powder and the rest of the flour, little by little, mixing with the dough hook after each addition. Continue kneading with the dough hook for 5-10 minutes until the dough forms a ball, and is smooth and no longer sticky.
  5. Place the oil in another mixing bowl. Coat the ball of dough in the oil, then set in the mixing bowl, cover with a towel, and set aside in a warm area to rise for 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, punch down the dough then place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes (up to 2 hours).
  7. Place the baking soda and remaining 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and heat until the baking soda is dissolved (can omit this step but the toppings may stick less well)
  8. Remove from the refrigerator and divide into 16 pieces (can divide into fewer pieces for larger pretzels).
  9. Roll each piece of dough into a long snake then shape as desired, into a pretzel knot, alphabet letter, shape, etc.
  10. Dunk the pretzel into the baking soda/water mixture and if still hot, remove using a slotted spoon. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Top with coarse salt, cinnamon sugar, or any other desired toppings.
  11. Cover with a towel and let rise for 15 minutes while the oven is preheating to 400F.
  12. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  13. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Best enjoyed warm.

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Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I know, I know, everything is pumpkin this time of year. But fall really is my favorite season and pumpkin plays a big role in that. Unfortunately we don’t have much of a New England style fall here in the southern US, and I greatly miss the gorgeous foliage and crisp fall air, but I can infuse some autumn atmosphere into my life with pumpkin goodness. And this Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread sure does bring goodness!

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This is my first chance to join in with the “What’s Baking” group and the theme for the month was pumpkin. Can you tell I was disappointed? Ha. I was super excited because I absolutely love baking with pumpkin. I buy cans and cans of pumpkin puree each fall and try to test out a few new recipes each year. My first for this year was this pumpkin bread. I’ve made different pumpkin breads before but this one just takes the cake. This recipe is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book so I was pretty sure it was going to be a winner and it did not disappoint. The streusel topping to the bread lends a surprising and delightful texture and crunch. The cream cheese and buttermilk make this cake moist and counteract the sometimes metallic taste you can get from pumpkin baked goods after using canned pumpkin puree. Perfection!

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This recipe made two glorious loaves of pumpkin bread. I brought one to work and it was devoured rather quickly. Comments included “other worldly” and “two enthusiastic thumbs up.” Yes folks, I’m not making these reviews up. So you have got to try this recipe this pumpkin season. And I sure do hope to share some more pumpkin treats with you…if my colleagues don’t eat them all before I get photos!

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

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Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book)

Yield: 2 loaves

For the topping:

5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the bread:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 15 ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

4 ounces cream cheese (low-fat works fine), cut into 12 pieces

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

¼ cup buttermilk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Work together with your fingers until the consistency is like coarse sand. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare 2 loaf pans (9×5-inch) with nonstick spray.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda in bowl and set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese, sugars, and oil. Stir slightly to start the cream cheese melting, then let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Beat the eggs and buttermilk together in a bowl, then stir into the pumpkin mixture. Fold the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and whisk until all the ingredients are combined and the consistency is homogenous.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle the topping over each loaf.
  8. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (may have some melted chocolate), about 45-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool for another hour.

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If you love pumpkin like I do, find more pumpkin recipes on the Dinner Pages! Happy fall!

 

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4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread

Seriously, I think I have a playful leprechaun in my kitchen because I attempted to make several really cute green desserts for St. Patrick’s Day and let’s just say, they didn’t work out! I didn’t even bother to take pictures of my two attempts at green marshmallows and the green “fudge” is sitting in my fridge uneaten. Even my green contribution for my upcoming Pi Day blog swap (come back on 3/14 to check that out), required a redo. So pretty much I was about to call it quits on St. Patrick’s Day recipes and move on to the next holiday. Fortunately, though, I moved on from the ‘green’ theme and had much much better success with this 4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread recipe!

4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread

When I think of Saint Patrick’s Day, Irish Soda Bread is one of the first foods that comes to mind since my mom usually baked a loaf to have with dinner each March 17th. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the raisins within it so other than making it one time a few years ago to check the box when baking through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, I was never all that motivated to try it again. However I came upon this recipe in a book I recently acquired about Irish pub cuisine and I knew I’d give it a go. It was just too easy not to try!

4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread

In working on this post I wanted to learn a little more about what makes this bread Irish, and was it really traditional (you know, like sesame chicken is not the highlight of cuisine in China). So, it actually is traditional, but not an ancient recipe, as apparently bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), the key ingredient, was only introduced to Ireland in the mid-1800s. The other fun fact I learned was that cutting a cross on the top of the loaf of bread with a knife was another tradition, to ward off evil and protect the household. Hopefully that worked in my home!

4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread

As befits tradition, the ingredients I’ve used are the standard four–flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. You can certainly add in raisins or caraway seeds if you like but I absolutely loved this bread without any adornment, just hot from the oven spread with a little bit of butter and dipped into some warm soup. The dough was much stickier than I expected and I wasn’t holding out very high hopes for a great outcome when I put the bread into the oven but I was pleasantly surprised. The bread had a rustic appearance though far from rustic flavors. The crust was crunchy and flavorful, almost like the delicious crust of real French or Italian bread. The bread within was soft, moist, and slightly tangy from the substantial amount of buttermilk in the dough. Despite the lack of yeast, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to create bubbly carbon dioxide which allows the bread to rise quickly. I know I talked about fast bread with my Quick Herb Bread recipe. This is a totally different style of bread, but amazingly, it was even quicker to make and is likely a recipe I will turn to year round whenever I want to enjoy fresh bread in under an hour!

Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Hopefully my little kitchen leprechaun will move on so my I don’t have so many kitchen disasters next month…

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4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread (adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)

Yield: one 8-inch round loaf

3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat with nonstick spray).

2. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Add in most of the buttermilk and mix together by hand until the dough is soft but not wet. Add in the remaining buttermilk. If the dough is too sticky, add in more flour, little by little until it becomes more manageable. Knead it lightly.

3. Shape the loaf into an 8-inch circle and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Cut an X shape on the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is a dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool slightly before slicing. Best served warm.

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More bread recipes from The Dinner Pages:

Quick Herb Bread

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

Hot Chocolate Bread

Yogurt Biscuits

Quick Herb Bread

Would you like to fill your home with delicious aroma of freshly baked bread within 90 minutes? No it’s not a trick and yes, the results are totally and completely edible. This recipe will show you how to prepare not one, but two loaves of savory herb bread in a short enough time that you might be able to start preparation after work and still have fresh bread with dinner. For real. I did it with a toddler underfoot.

Quick Herb Bread

My mom has been baking this bread for as long as I can remember. I used to love coming home from school and being hit with the herb bread scent as I opened the front door. My friends also loved coming over and eating this bread. I distinctly remember the neighbor’s kid eating almost a loaf of it in one sitting way back when!

Quick Herb Bread

For some reason I associate this bread with cold weather. Probably because my mom often made it with Potato Soup which was one of our favorite winter meals. Warm fresh bread is good all the time but it just makes a meal on a chilly winter day, which we have had plenty of this year.

Quick Herb Bread

I really love the flavors of this bread, and I love the crevices which fill so delightfully with butter making each bite a tasty adventure. This bread never lasts long in my house so I’m thankful it’s so quick and easy to make again and again.

Quick Herb Bread

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Quick Herb Bread (adapted from my mom who adapted the recipe from Bake Your Own Bread years ago)

Yield: 2 loaves

2 tablespoons active dry yeast (2 packages)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar

2 cups hot water

2/3 cup skim milk powder

4 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

1. Measure the yeast, herbs, salt, honey, hot water, and skim milk powder into one large bowl and stir with a spoon until the honey is dissolved. The mixture will look murky. You can also use the dough hook of your stand mixer to do this.

2. Add the first 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing gently until all the flour is wet, then increasing the speed to medium-high and mixing for 3-5 minutes.

3. Slowly add in the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook until fully combined.

4. Coat 2 loaf pans with nonstick spray, including the top rim. Divide the dough between the 2 pans, ensuring the corners get filled.

5. Cover the pans with a clean towel and place in a warm location for 20 minutes.

6. Do not preheat the oven. Place the loaf pans into a cold oven. Set the oven to 250 degrees and bake for 10 minutes, then raise the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, for a total bake time of 50 minutes. Knife test for doneness; the loaves will be golden brown, and sound hollow when you tap on them.

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Banana Bread Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches

Bakewell Junction

Banana bread is one of my favorite uses for overripe bananas and I combined my classic recipe with homemade butter pecan ice cream to bring you a decadent treat. The banana bread and ice cream are both delicious on their own but together, well, it’s a heavenly match!

Banana Bread Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches

It’s time once again for the Improv Cooking Challenge. This month’s two “secret” ingredients were bread and butter. In contrast to the cheese and crackers challenge last month, which I found a bit tough since I’m not a huge cheese eater, this one was a challenge because I LOVE bread and I had a difficult time deciding whether to make a traditional bread with a fancy butter or do something a little more out there. I ended up with “out there” with banana BREAD and BUTTER pecan ice cream which was definitely worth it.

I started off making my favorite banana bread recipe. This is my mom’s recipe and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it but it always comes out perfect. I often use chocolate chips instead of nuts but this time I went with chopped pecans to play into the flavors of the ice cream. Definitely use overripe bananas, the browner the better. They tend to be sweeter and help to create a moist flavorful loaf of bread.

Banana Bread

Then I moved onto the butter pecan ice cream. I made a nutty brown butter by melting unsalted butter until golden and fragrant. I added in dark brown sugar and cooked over low heat until it liquified, then I poured in half-and-half. I cannot overemphasize the importance of constantly stirring during this entire process because it is very easy for this mixture to burn and when the cold half-and-half is poured in, the melted sugar can solidify quickly, resulting in hard caramel pieces which is not what you’re looking for in this recipe.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Once it was all combined, I poured the mixture slowly into two beaten eggs in a mixing bowl, still stirring constantly to avoid scrambled eggs. I returned the mixture to the saucepan, then stirred until it began to thicken. I strained the mixture (it’s hard to totally avoid scrambled eggs and this process takes them out from your final product) then stirred in light cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. I poured the mixture into my ice cream maker and froze it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, adding in pecan halves toward the end of the freezing process. This butter pecan ice cream has deep caramel undertones and a creamy texture with a delightful crunch from the pecan pieces.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

I then put together the ice cream sandwiches, carefully slicing the cooled banana bread and sandwiching slightly softened butter pecan ice cream between each piece. The sweetness of the bananas combined with the deep caramel flavor of the ice cream and the texture of the pecans was perfect. The dessert is reminiscent of bananas foster, just colder! Both the banana bread and the butter pecan ice cream are each perfect all on their own and I’ve certainly made them separately in the past, but for the ‘bread and butter” challenge, they were the ideal combination and such a tasty treat!

Banana Bread Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Banana Bread Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches (ice cream recipe adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, and More)

Yield: 1 loaf of banana bread and approximately 1 quart of ice cream

For banana bread:

nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 average sized bananas)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the bananas and sugar. Add in the egg and butter and stir to blend. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Add in the chopped nuts or chocolate chips.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-65 minutes until the bread starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

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For the butter pecan ice cream:

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 cups light cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Directions:

1. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until it becomes golden brown and smells mildly nutty. Add in the brown sugar and continue stirring constantly over low heat until it melts, taking care not to let it burn. Then add in the half-and-half and bring to a simmer.

3. Slowly beat the half-and-half mixture into the beaten eggs, stirring constantly to avoid scrambling. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over heat, still stirring constantly, until it thickens into a custard. Be careful to avoid boiling.

4. Remove from heat and strain into a large bowl. Let custard cool slightly, then stir in the cream, vanilla, and almond extract.

5. Depending on your ice cream maker, you may need to refrigerate the mixture until cold/overnight at this point. Then pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Add in the nuts toward the end of the freezing process.

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For the ice cream sandwiches:

Let the banana bread fully cool. Spread slightly softened butter pecan ice cream between two slices. Revel in deliciousness!

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Check out more bread and butter recipes here:

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

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Bring some Mediterranean sunshine to your day with Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia!

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

It’s already time for another coffee cake recipe from The Home Bakers! Yes, I know I just shared the Milk Chocolate-Walnut Coffee Cake last week, but I joined in that bake late and now I’m right on time. This month’s bake is Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia. Strictly speaking, this is not a coffee cake at all. The author of the book we are baking from categorizes it as a “savory picnic cake” which is somewhat accurate but to me, this is really bread and not cake. I’m totally fine with that because we have downed more desserts than appropriate lately with all my blogging and Valentine’s Day baking.

This focaccia reminds me of my vacations to the Mediterranean. The sunflower seeds and sunflower shape remind me of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings and my visit to the south of France. The olive oil and the olives recommended in the original recipe bring back memories of my visit to Greece. I could totally picture enjoying this focaccia with a meal at a taverna in Mykonos or Santorini.

Santorini

As with many breads, there is a little bit of delayed gratification, while waiting for the dough to rise and such, but most of that time is hands off, allowing me to catch up on washing dishes and get started on cooking or baking other foods. It starts off like most bread recipes, with allowing the yeast to bloom in warm water. I then used the paddle attachment of my stand mixer to add in honey, olive oil, and dried rosemary, then switched to the dough hook to knead in all-purpose flour little by little. I added in the 3 1/4 cups of flour recommended in the original recipe, however found that my dough was very loose and sticky, so I ended up kneading in an extra cup of flour to turn my dough into a smooth elastic ball.

I let it rise for an hour and a half and was pleased that it more than doubled in size, since my kitchen was a bit cold. After punching it down, I rolled it out on my counter and stretched it to fit onto my pizza pan, which is about 13 inches in diameter. I cut out a circle in the center and then cut the rest into 16 “petals.”

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

I was a bit confused by the instruction to “twist each cut strip over and lay it flat” but ultimately just flipped each petal over. I think it allows more separation so that when the dough rises again it is still distinct enough that the pieces can be easily pulled apart after baking.

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

I decorated my petals with grapes since I’m not a huge olive fan and let the dough rise. Honestly it rose for a few hours instead of the recommended 45 minutes because I had to go out on some errands mid-bake but it wasn’t a problem at all. I baked the bread for 20 minutes at 425F until it became golden brown. It was delicious. The grapes added just the right amount of sweetness to an otherwise savory bread. If I make this focaccia again, I’d probably add a touch of sea salt on top since I really enjoy that flavor and texture on focaccia but was great without that too. We enjoyed it again for breakfast.

Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia

This is a beautiful and tasty focaccia to serve at a wine tasting party or with a Mediterranean style dinner. Or just because. I really don’t need a reason to eat bread!

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Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia (adapted from Coffee Cakes)

Yield: 1 large loaf (16 slices)

1 package active dry used (2 1/4 teaspoons if you are using a jar of yeast)

1/4 cup warm tap water

drop of honey

1 1/4 cups room temperature water

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (may need more if the dough is too sticky as well as to coat the work surface)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon aniseed or minced fresh rosemary (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

2 dozen oil-cured black olives, pitted or seedless red grapes (I used grapes)

Directions:

Please see Kitchen Flavours for the full directions for this recipe.

My additional notes:

  • If the dough is very sticky after adding in all the flour, add more little by little. The dough should be smooth and elastic before the first rise.

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Check out The Home Bakers and see other interpretations of Sunflower Seed Pull-Apart Focaccia!

Hot Chocolate Bread

I know a warm delicious loaf of Hot Chocolate Bread isn’t traditional Super Bowl fare. But here’s why I will be enjoying it this Super Bowl Sunday.

Hot Chocolate Bread

I have no particular loyalties to either team in the big game. I did live in Seattle for a summer in college doing some research and traveled back to Seattle as well as to Denver for work in the past few years. They’re both great cities. When in the Pacific Northwest I really enjoyed my visit to Olympic National Park (and this was before I got sucked into the world of Twilight) and of course the views from the Space Needle…

Space Needle…and shopping at Pike’s Place in Seattle.

Pike's Place

Hiking at Red Rocks was spectacular in Colorado.

Red Rocks

I distinctly remember looking at cookbooks in a souvenir store in Denver but somehow didn’t come home with one.

Denver

However, I do have one from Seattle on my bookshelf, so in honor of the Seahawks decided to try out a recipe from it. This cookbook is from a bakery in downtown Seattle called Macrina which we visited for a quick snack before sightseeing.

Macrina

The book is full of appetizing recipes for breads and other sweets but since I don’t have time for a sourdough starter right now opted to make a different type of bread.

Our local supermarket had a delicious chocolate bread with cherries in it about a year ago. We only had it once, but oh my it was amazing. We were so disappointed when they decided not to bring it back this year. The bread man (yes our store has a bread guy who always convinces us to try different types of bread…he’s really good at his job!) could not explain why they didn’t bring it back given its huge popularity but anyway this was my attempt to make it on my own and I succeeded.

Word of warning, this is a project. Most of it is not hands on time and it’s not a difficult recipe, even for a beginning bread baker, but you need to allow at least 5 hours of time from start to finish before you get to enjoy warm, melty, delicious fresh homemade bread. Totally worth it, just don’t start after work one night and expect to have fresh bread with dinner. I took advantage of one of our recent snow days to make this bread.

First I warmed some milk in a saucepan and added it to the bowl of my electric mixer with yeast, vanilla, and some sugar to allow it to bloom. Then I added flour, more sugar, cocoa powder, almond extract, salt, and eggs to the mix and combined them with the dough hook on low. Next I upped the speed to medium and dropped in chunks of room temperature butter, continuing to mix with the dough hook for about 12 minutes until the dough was smooth and silky.

Hot Chocolate Bread

During that time I lightly toasted almonds in the oven (watch them carefully…I burned the first batch) and chopped them coarsely. I also coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate. Once the dough had rested I added in the chocolate and chopped almonds and mixed for a few more minutes until incorporated.

I turned the dough out onto my counter, which I had lightly floured, and kneaded it slightly into a smooth ball.

Hot Chocolate Bread

I placed the ball into a bowl I had coated with nonstick spray and turned the ball of dough to coat it. I let the dough rise for 2 hours in the bowl covered with plastic wrap in the relatively warm kitchen. It almost doubled in size.

I then punched down the dough and again kneaded it slightly, folding up the sides until a ball formed. I placed this ball onto a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let it rise for another hour covered with plastic wrap.

While it was rising I prepared special cinnamon sugar (cinnamon, granulated and brown sugar, and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg). Once the second rise was almost done, I heated the oven to 350F, sprinkled the dough with a little bit of water to allow the cinnamon sugar to stick, the topped the bread with the cinnamon sugar which formed a lovely sweet crust when baked. I baked the bread for an hour. It was dark and crusty outside and soft and chewy inside. Let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, that is, if you can wait that long; I couldn’t!

Hot Chocolate Bread

Though the bread is chocolate through and through, it isn’t exceedingly rich. There are sweet chocolatey bites where the bittersweet chocolate chunks shine through and lovely texture from chopped toasted almonds but the bread itself still tastes like bread. It is delightful warm from the oven spread with butter. Thanks Seattle for making my snow day brighter with this uniquely delicious Hot Chocolate Bread!

Hot Chocolate Bread

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Hot Chocolate Bread (adapted from Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook)

Yield: 1 loaf

1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (this is a little less than a whole packet, which is 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup whole almonds
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons special cinnamon sugar mixture (see below)

Directions:

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan and add it to the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the yeast, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes to bloom.

2. Add in the flour, the remaining sugar (1/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon), cocoa, almond extract, salt, and eggs. Combine with a dough hook on low speed for 2 minutes then increase to medium speed and drop in pieces of butter one by one until combined. Continue mixing on medium for 12 minutes until the dough looks smooth and satiny. Let rest for 5 minutes.

3. While the dough is mixing, toast the almonds in the oven at 350F for about 7 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Let cool slightly then coarsely chop them.

4. After the dough has rested for 5 minutes, add in the chopped almonds and bittersweet chocolate and mix for 2 minutes until fully incorporated.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, knead it slightly, and form it into a ball. Coat a bowl with nonstick cooking spray or oil and place the ball of dough into the bowl, turning it to coat it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a 70-75F room for 2 hours. The dough will almost double in size.

6. Punch the dough down again, then knead slightly, folding up the sides until a ball forms. Place the ball onto a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Let it rise for another hour covered with plastic wrap.

7. While the dough is rising prepare the special cinnamon sugar (below).

8. Preheat the oven to 350F. Once the second rise is complete, sprinkle the dough with a little water then top with 2 tablespoons of the special cinnamon sugar. Bake for 1 hour, until deep brown and hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool for 30 minutes.

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Special Cinnamon Sugar

Yield: 1/2 cup

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Directions:

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

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