Tag Archives: bread

Apple Cinnamon Pecan Bread

When you live in San Diego near the coast, it’s easy to have a hankering for a visit to a small, old-fashioned town at this time of year — one you might find on a drive through the mountains and tucked up against the peaks amongst a few pine trees.  In an hour’s time, it’s quite possible to fulfill that desire with a trip to Julian to shop for antiques, enjoy a hearty country meal, and take home a Julian Apple Pie.  Situated just outside the Cleveland National Forest at an elevation of nearly 5,ooo feet, it does snow there from time to time, so if you’re lucky and have chains for your tires, you can check a snow day off your list as well — or better yet — get snowed in so you can stay at one of the cozy B&Bs there.

On the way to Julian, if you blink, you’ll miss the tiny town of Santa Ysabel, but rarely does anyone miss Dudley’s Bakery which has been an institution there for nearly 50 years.  At one point in time, the only way anyone could enjoy their amazing selection of bread was to wait in a line on the weekend with all of the other city dwellers out on a weekend drive.  Now, their bread is available in a wide variety of locations across Southern California.  Lucky for me, our local Henry’s market sells it, and once in a blue moon, I’ll see my favorite Julian Apple Nut bread — a slightly sweet, rich brown boule of bread I love to toast and butter for breakfast.

With that in mind, I decided to make some apple nut bread and was surprised to find that unless I wanted a non-yeasted batter bread, it might not be all that easy.  I wanted chunks of apple, the nice crunch of nuts, and cinnamon, of course.  Something not all that different than a loaded cinnamon roll or even raisin bread  would be perfect — no glaze.

Mmm…

p.s.  I’m supposed to be posting Christmas cookies, but am left posting things I baked before my knee surgery.  With good luck, I’ll be in the kitchen soon, or coerce my husband to do it.  We’ll see!

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Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread Yesterday in between segments on the television about who would be slotted into which bracket of this year’s NCAA tournament and my husband’s less than thrilled reaction at the spread being focused on mega conference teams, I decided to make soda bread.  I’d spotted the recipe a few weeks ago and turned down the page in the magazine hoping not to forget.  No sooner had I put the liberally flour-sprinkled loaves into the oven  that he commented like he always does.  “Mmm…smells good.  What is it?”

“Soda bread,” I answered, smiling because it hadn’t been in the oven long enough to smell like anything other than the flour which had begun to brown on the baking sheet.

“Oh, yah.  It is about that time of the year, isn’t it?” he finished, eyes never leaving the television, his Sony perched in his lap, fingers busy filling in the bracket slots for the tournament.  Ahh…March Madness.  Yes, even I fill out one of those brackets hoping from one year to the next that pure luck will outsmart basketball brilliance and that I will walk away with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Or something like that.

I didn’t grow up eating soda bread but probably should have since it doesn’t require much beyond flour, milk, and baking soda and would have fit right into our meals.  Definitely simple fare.  Although I can remember my mother’s corned beef and cabbage, I’m not all together sure we had it for St. Patrick’s Day dinner — but must have because from my own experience it’s not often that I see it at the grocery store at any other point in the year.  No, I started the St. Patrick’s Day dinner when we lived at our old house, not too far from my husband’s parents who would come to enjoy it with us.  Even though our idea of a corned beef dinner isn’t Irish at all, that’s what we’d have — with soda bread.

Many of the soda bread recipes I’ve tried are anything but light and fluffy.  The dough can be fairly sticky and wet and sometimes it never quite got done in the middle as it baked.  The bite of baking soda could be noticed in each bite.  Not very appetizing.

But I think I’ve found the perfect recipe.

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Gourmet’s Rye Walnut Rolls

Walnutbuns
I don't know that I've had walnuts in anything that I didn't like.  I just like walnuts.  I like the bite on the side of my tongue that doesn't come when I chew into a pecan which is much more sweet.

Walnuts in cookies, salad, and pasta get my full, undivided attention, so it seems reasonable that I'd like them in bread, too.  And what a surprise that the bread isn't sweet, or filled with raisins and flavored with cinnamon.  But I wouldn't complain if that's what was put in front of me.  How could I?

No, it's a savory bread, and one filled with onions, too.  As I worked my way through this recipe, I wondered about how thyme, or a bit of cheese might taste.

And bacon.  Life is too short to not include a bit of pork fat when one can.

But I resisted, so it looks like I just may have to revisit this recipe, the third of four I've chosen to bake this month and featured in Gourmet.  I've enjoyed making bread once a week so far this month and am considering keeping up with it since the possibilities are endless and I have so much to learn.

I love possibilities.  They're just hovering out there, waiting for someone to take notice.

Unfortunately, it takes some motivation, doesn't it?  And my motivation failed me after I purchased the rye flour I was happy to have in my pantry for these lovely rolls.  It was to have been used in a starter that I promised to make and never did.

I'll get around to that one of these days, but in the meantime, it was nice to have the rye flour just waiting.

This recipe for Rye Walnut Rolls is the third of four for
the month of February as part of "Let Us Eat Bread," featuring recipes
from Gourmet's "Roll With It."  Our bread baking group includes:  Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, and our fearless leader, Sandy of At the Baker's Bench. 

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Gourmet’s Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs

We live on a hill.  Some may not call it that, but I do, and depending on which direction you approach our hill, it resembles something quite large with very steep roads leading to it, making it a challenge if one happens to be stuck behind a truck, a school bus, or someone who has passed a driver's test but hasn't yet figured out that the gas pedal is what makes the car proceed in a forward motion if it's properly in gear.

But I digress.

Living on this hill provides us a view of the Pacific from one window and from two others, the skyline of the area near downtown and the mountains in the eastern part of the county.  Actually, the view of the Pacific is about 16 inches if I strain, sneaking out my ruler just to make sure, and the other more a craning of my neck around my neighbor's Texas Cherry Brush hedge that is more like a jungle.  On days like today when the weather is not exactly as most expect it to be, I look at both horizons and notice the dark grey upper sky heavy with rain clouds.  The sun is struggling to shine somewhere East casting the mountains in varying shades of grey and adding to the ominous look of the storm clouds.  The Pacific is indiscernible, as grey as the sky. 

I love rainy days. 

IMG_0125

So it seems appropriate that I bring you something that is about as close to packaged sunshine as I can find.  If you're lucky enough to get one right from the oven, the warmth speaks for itself.

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Cracked-Wheat Topknots

When it comes to baking bread, I’m still in the semi-novice stage.  Sure, I’ve baked many a loaf in my life, and some far better than others, but I’ve got a comfort zone that’s quite different than the wild and frequently erratic boundaries I work within when it comes to cooking in general.

No, bread is still somewhat of a novelty.

When I make bread, it’s an occasion in and of itself.  And although I’m getting better at actually accomplishing other things when I’ve got a batch going, I’ll never quite get to the point where I won’t worry about whether I’ll forget the dough in my oven proofer
after I’ve left to run some errands, or sitting patiently in a strange place on the floor, no longer basking in the warmth cast by the winter sunshine.  Or just wondering why there is so much difference between one recipe and the next when it comes to yeast.

Many expect the liquid we mix the yeast with to be a specific temperature — usually between 105-115 degrees F — and we’re admonished that if the yeast doesn’t bubble and foam happily in the little bowl, then we’re to toss it and begin again.

Other recipes tell us to just throw everything in a mixing bowl at one time, not worrying about the temperature or a waiting time — and never a threat of possibly needing to begin again or risk less than puffy gluten-packed wonderfulness.

But when I get that first whiff of bread in the oven, there’s no way I can take it for granted, and as much as I’d like to admit that we’ll use it for sandwiches during the week, or that I’ll let it cool completely, then freeze it like a more organized and purposeful cook than I might be, I know we’ll simply enjoy it.  We’ll enjoy it like fresh cookies hot from the oven, or a sweet pie baked for a special occasion.

The guys will look at it, then at me, then back at the bread and ask, with hope and longing in their eyes, “Is this for eating?”

Clearly, we need to get a grip!  So when Sandy of At the Baker’s Bench posed an offer to our recent holiday cookie-baking group to join her in baking bread throughout February, I thought absolutely, and “Let Us Bake Bread” was launched.  Once a week for a month I’ll post one of the recipes featured in Gourmet’s article, “Roll with it” in this month’s issue.  I decided to get it rolling with Cracked-Wheat Topknots because I’m a fan of crunchiness in bread regardless of whether it’s due to nuts or whole grains, and I just happened to have some bulgar in my pantry just waiting for a place to get happy.

In case you’ve forgotten who my cookie conspirators were, I’m joined in this yeasty frivolity by Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, and Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen.

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