The Baking Continues

Now that I have regular bread fairly well in hand, I decided to branch out into the world of pastry just a teeny smidge and make some scones.  I LOVE breakfasty breads, coffee-time breads, and I can’t find decent scones in any store here to save my life.

So, I thought, just learn to make your own!  I love cinnamon, and so I came up with these whole wheat cinnamon scones based on a recipe in one of my cookbooks for lemon cranberry scones.

 

Back to Basics – Bread

Since I’ve been gone for a while, you might have expected that I’d write about Christmas, traveling, or maybe pregnancy.  Nope!  One of my top priorities upon returning from our nice trip to St. Louis was to resume bread-making in full effect.  It happened today, y’all.  And I’ve decided to share the recipe I adapted from one of my most often used cookbooks, Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (and illustrated by the fantastic and awesome Nikki McClure).

To make the starter dough, you’ll need:

2 cups cooked grains (like brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.)

2 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour (approximately)

Blend your grains and water in a food processor until they are completely broken down; pour into a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt, yeast, and oil, mixing thoroughly.  Add enough of the whole wheat flour to make the mixture look like cooked oatmeal (not very runny nor do you want it to be totally dry – I know it’s vague, but there is some room for error/personal taste here).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and leave it for 12-24 hours at room temperature.  Once it’s done, this poolish (starter dough) can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

2 cups whole wheat flour

2-4 cups unbleached bread flour

After 12-24 hours, add your honey to your poolish and stir.  Stir in whole wheat flour.  Now starting adding the bread flour, a little at a time, and mixing it in as you go.  At some point you’ll have to start kneading the dough in the bowl, and when that becomes too difficult you can move the dough to your  floured workspace.  Add flour until the dough is staying together and feels tacky, but not sticky like cookie dough.  When it gets to this point stop adding flour and knead it for 10-15 minutes.  Wash and dry that large mixing bowl.  Using canola or olive oil, rub down the inside so that the entire bowl is covered in a thin layer of oil.  Put the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it rise for 1.5-2 hours.

After this rising, oil two bread loaf pans using the same method (or use Baker’s Joy like I do – it’s awesome) and set aside.  Divide the dough in half.  Take out half the dough and flatten it on your workspace.  Although in the pictures mine is floured, I talked to Amos (he’s really the baker in the family) and he suggested NOT flouring the counter for this part of the process because it works unfermented flour into the dough, which doesn’t taste good.  My bread still turned out fine, but next time I won’t use flour here.

Now it’s time to shape your dough.  Flatten the dough into a roughly square shape, pressing all the air out (slap your dough!).  Fold over one corner so the shape is now a triangle and press out all the air.  Fold the other two points into the middle and press again.  Fold the last point in and press.  Pick up the dough with both hands and roll it into itself (like a log).  This helps you shape it and works to create an airtight membrane on the top of the dough, which is good for baking.  Pinch the seam together as best you can and continue shaping the dough until you have a small log shape (with the seam on the bottom).  Place this dough into a loaf pan and repeat with the other half of the dough.

1 tsp water

1 tsp honey or maple syrup

1 tsp butter

1/4 tsp sea salt

Melt all these together.  Brush all over each loaf, then cover them and let them rise for 45-60 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  When you go to check on your dough, you can test it for readiness two ways:  first, push in the side a bit.  If it springs back, but kind of holds the shape of your hand, then it’s good.  Second, it should be approximately double in size.  Bake the loaves for 45-60 minutes.  Note that this cooking time will vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on your bread.  Also, you should completely rotate your loaves about  halfway through cooking, and I do mean completely – turn each pan 180 degrees and switch sides.  This helps them to cook evenly.  After they come out of the oven you should let them chill out on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so.  One of these loaves can be covered completely in plastic wrap and frozen, if you like.

And there you have it!  I know it’s a lot of steps, but really this bread is surprisingly easy to make.  I’m so happy with how these loaves have been turning out that I think I’ll have to experiment with other, trickier, types of bread.  Enjoy!

Better Biscotti (I swear.)

I recently posted a biscotti recipe that I had modified from another recipe off a beloved blog. That recipe is for something named “Mondel Bread,” but in my kitchen it came out like biscotti. Amos and I were talking about my recent biscotti experiences, and he helped me unearth our old biscotti recipe, which we haven’t made in about a year as a result of the huge move & then pregnancy news.  This recipe yields a much drier, more traditional biscotti, whereas my previous recipe is more crumbly, like a cookie.  I actually prefer the recipe below; although the instructions are longer and may seem more complicated, they are actually not at all more difficult.  These instructions give some reasoning behind the methods in parts, and so may seem more complicated, but they are actually just more detailed.

Almond & Orange Biscotti
(Of course, flavorings & nuts are optional/changeable.)

Ingredients
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
¾ c. slivered almonds
2 tbsp. minced orange zest
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
¼ tsp. salt
2 c. flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
3. In a bowl large enough for all the ingredients, break & whisk the two eggs together with the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow.
4. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, orange zest, and slivered almonds to the egg mixture and stir once or twice with a spatula.
5. Working in batches, pour enough of the flour mixture to cover the surface of the egg mixture. Use a spatula and fold in the flour using as few strokes as possible. Add more flour and fold until all the flour has been integrated. Folding is performed by using a spatula to scoop from either the side or the middle of the mixture and lifting and “folding” (basically moving the spatula laterally and then flipping it over to drop the mixture) onto another part of the mixture. Rotate the bowl each fold.
6. Split the batter in half and place the two rough balls onto a non-stick baking sheet (such as a silicone baking mat or parchment paper set in a half sheet pan). With your hands, form the batter into two loaves of approximately 10-in. (25 cm) by 2 in. (5 cm) each. Wetting your hands just a bit may help with molding the loaves since the batter will be fairly sticky.
7. Bake the loaves at 350°F (175°C) for 40 minutes (rotating the pan once after twenty minutes). The loaves should have just started to crack. Don’t wait for big cracks or you might overcook the biscotti.
8. After some cooling, move a loaf to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 3/8-in. (1 cm) thick pieces. Do the same to the other loaf. The interior of each biscotti should still be just a little moist (while the exterior is nice and hard). The crust of the loaf will probably be quite hard, so use a large serrated knife such as a bread knife for this job.
9. Place the biscotti with a cut side facing up on a half sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pan and flip all the biscotti over so the other cut side is now facing up. Bake for another 7 minutes. Set all the pieces on a wire rack to cool making sure that none of the biscotti are touching each other. If the biscotti are placed too close together, they could get a little soft or soggy as they cool.

Cinnamon Vanilla Biscotti

This recipe is so easy that I can’t stop making it!  The recipe is modified from this one at one of my favorite blogs, Lottie & Doof.  I have a batch in the oven right now 🙂

Cinnamon Vanilla Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar (I like sucanat sugar)

Sprinkle of salt

1 cup oil

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 pound pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

 

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, cinnamon, oil and vanilla and beat well. Add flour, salt, baking powder and nuts if you have them and combine until a smooth dough forms. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours. Shape dough into 3 or 4 logs and place on large baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake each log at 350° F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 300°F. Cool until you are able to handle, slice into 3/4-1-inch slices. Return slices to cookie sheet and toast in oven for 20 minutes.


 

Oops…

Dudes, I have been so mega busy (and gone for a week to St. Louis) that I’ve ignored the blog.  And, um, it’s going to continue for just a bit longer.  We have been crazy busy, but luckily it’s been mostly FUN busy.  I’m one small present away from being totally done with Christmas shopping, and today I’m planning to get all the ones that are here wrapped up.  I’m waiting on a couple to be delivered, but I have wrapping ready for them, so I’m good to go.  Today I have to write one more assignment, and then I’m pretty much done for the whole semester.  I’m of two minds about that, but I’ll elaborate later.  Right now I want to get on my assignments so I can move it to the kitchen.  I’ll be baking this delicious-looking Mondel Bread from one of my favorite blogs, Lottie & Doof while I finish up that wrapping.

Tasty Additions

Yesterday was my big return to cooking, and in a way it was for Amos too – it just happened AFTER I drug my exhausted self to bed at 9 PM.  In New York he had a colleague named Mohammed, and on special occasions Mohammed’s  wife would make these amazing cookies.  They were tiny, very pale white/yellow, crumbly, buttery, and indescribably amazing.  We asked and asked for this recipe, but she would only offer to show me how to make them (she didn’t realize what a mistake that would be), saying that anyone she’d ever given the recipe to was never able to recreate them.  Time slipped away from us and I never went over to her house, but Amos and I always talked about her cookies.  Then, when his parents visited us a couple of weeks ago, bringing our favorite cookies from the Missouri Baking Co. in St. Louis, we realized how similar the cookies from that bakery were to the cookies from Mohammed’s wife.  Because my husband rocks, he did some research online and found a recipe he thought was close and made some last night, two-tone style like the kind from the Missouri Baking Co.

They look humble, but believe me when I say that these little cookies are to die for!  I’m lucky (cursed?!) to have a husband with such tasty cooking skills 🙂

Biscotti

Late-night snack last night:  chocolate biscotti.

These are quickly becoming my favorite cookie to make.  Uncomplicated, not too sweet, and they keep for what feels like forever.  

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Saturday Baking

Amos is on a roll (haha, get it?!?!). 


All this kid wants to do is bake bread.  This recipe is the same as the one we use for pizza crust except he chilled everything; the flour/salt went into the fridge and he used ice water instead of room temperature.  This bread is only flour, salt, and water, with some poppy seeds on these particular baguettes, and it is seriously delicious.  The baguette on top is shaped like a wheat chaff, and there's a slice cut so you can see the airy crumb.



And the piece de resistance, cinnamon buns!!  Amos asked me late Friday night what kind of bread I would prefer, and apparently I mumbled "dessert bread" before falling asleep, so this hottie made cinnamon buns the next day.  Inside is a cinnamon, sugar, and pecan streusel, and on top is a thinner fondant.  We didn't put much icing on because that's how we like it, and I think the little drizzle is pretty.




In other news, I think the baby has dropped a bit!  I've noticed a gradual change, particularly a pressure lower down instead of up inside my ribs, and I can feel her booty down lower instead of her normal position.  Amos today kept commenting on how different my bump looks.  Tomorrow we can get some confirmation via ultrasound, exciting!!

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The Butcher, the Baker…

Whew!  We've had so much going on lately that I feel like I'm blogging everyday!

With the baby on the way Amos and I have gone a little heirloom-crazy.  Not that it's a bad thing; we're just interested in having special things for our daughter and other maybe future children.  Add that to Amos's persistence in doing things correctly and I give you this:



This is a custom pot he worked with the local potter from Clinton pottery to create.  It's an ideal environment for making a starter for sourdough bread.  If you create a starter you can always cut from it, from now until whenever!  It grows back because of the yeast activity, so as long as you leave some dough in there you can always make more.  This pot was designed to shelter the dough and allow yeast from the air to collect via these tiny holes in the pot.  The shaft of the hole goes diagonally down from the inside, so nothing but air (and the yeast it carries from all over) can get in that way.  





It's a really neat concept, and one that Amos completely designed.  He researched the process and saw that most people start theirs in something like a mason jar, which is not that attractive and quite a bit smaller than he wanted, so he designed this pot.  With the increase in surface area, he went from dough ingredients to this burst of activity in only  24 hours!







I am really proud of him for designing this pot and seeing it through production.  It's already working out amazingly, and I'm sure I'll be partaking in some gustatory rewards soon!


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Lucky Preggo

This is what my husband does on his days off.


I'm lucky to be pregnant and starving with such a creative and amazing cook.
Speaking of starving…hahaha!

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