Easiest French Bread Ever!

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’m sure you could add Rosemary and chopped olives, or other herbs and interesting things, but this bread doesn’t really need it.  But who knows?  Now that I’ve found a good recipe – I may experiment!

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, use the mixing paddle to mix it.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and then flop back in the bowl occasionally. Only add flour if the dough is really sticking to the side of the bowl.  If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl, run the dough hook for 30 seconds or so and cover again. Repeat this process 3 more times. (You can also just leave it to rise, covered for one hour.)

Remove the dough from the bowl, split it in half, and spread it out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Slash the dough with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart. Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Just before you put the bread in the oven, throw a few ice cubes in a metal oven proof dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest shelf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

 

Good Morning Muffins/Breakfast Bars

berries-and-bananas
Beautiful image by Jason Leung – Unsplash

Our local realtor sent another postcard with a wonderful recipe and I can see this becoming a staple in our kitchen. It’s listed as a muffin, but is more dense and chewy – more like a breakfast bar.

Ingredients:

1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup oats, ground finely
1 1/2 cups oats, old fashioned whole
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup wild blueberries (or mix of strawberries and blueberries)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all but the berries well. Then gently fold in the berries, saving a few for topping. Fill 12 muffin cups right to the top. (These muffins have no leavening agent, so they won’t rise.)  Top with remaining berries.

Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Potato Bread from the Pioneer Woman

potato-bread

I really love home made bread, but am often a little disappointed with the results.  Not this recipe, which makes two loaves. We had this for supper with pan-roasted veggies and we’d eaten half the loaf when I realized I forgot to photograph it. It has a wonderful flavor and tenderness, and it was pretty easy.  I did vary slightly from the original recipe, but it turned out fine.

Ingredients

potatoes to yield of 1 cup mashed after cooking
6 ½ cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 ½ tsp instant yeast
1 cup whole milk at room temperature or warmed
2 tsp kosher salt
½ cup potato water
4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature or warmed

Scrub potatoes well, and cut in half. Add to a pot of boiling water. Do not salt the water. Cook 20 minutes until very soft. Save about 3/4 cup potato water, and then drain the potatoes. Peel by squeezing the skin off. Mash in a small bowl and let cool.

If milk and butter are cold, warm them in a little pan until the butter melts and the milk is warmed a little.  Do let it cool if it has gotten too hot so it doesn’t kill the yeast when you add it in.

In a mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, yeast, milk, ½ cup potato water, salt, butter and mashed potatoes. Mix with a dough hook, scraping the sides down as needed. Knead for 6-8 minutes, or knead by hand for that length of time.  This makes a quite soft dough.  If the dough seems too dry, add a bit more potato water.

Cover with plastic wrap, and keep someplace warm for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. I kept it on the radiator with a kitchen towel folded underneath.  Thank you, old house!

Punch the dough down, divide in half and form 2 oval loaves on a baking sheet. Cover with parchment paper and let rise again for 30-60 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let sit until cooled. The recipe online said to make the loaves in loaf tins, and bake for 35 minutes. Couldn’t find my loaf tin, so I made them on a sheet pan.

Amazing!!!

Maya’s Brown Butter Banana Bread

Maya is home for the summer and baking quite often, which we are definitely going to miss when she goes back to school. (That girl can bake!) Recently she made up a new way to make Banana Bread  – kind of a “Bananas Foster” version that is unusually rich and delicious.

Ingredients:

9 Tbsp butter
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat, and leave on heat until it turns a light brown. Then add 2 Tbsp of the brown sugar, stir and add mashed bananas. Stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar, and stir for 3 more minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in egg and add flour 1/3 cup at a time, stirring after each addition Finally, add baking soda, salt and vanilla and stir gently.

Pour into buttered pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. May need to bake a bit longer – just look for doneness.

This produces a very rich, dense banana bread – almost more like a steamed banana pudding, but it is absolutely delicious.

Rosemary Focaccia

Yesterday, Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) featured a simple Rosemary Focaccia bread.  It was a cold, dreary afternoon and the thought of warm bread baking for supper was just irresistible. Plus, I had everything I needed to make it, since I brought my herb pots into the sunroom for the winter.

I served it with Ina’s Eggplant Gratin and both were easy and delicious.  In fact, I’m munching on leftover Focaccia this morning, warmed in the toaster and smeared with a little butter.

I made the recipe exactly as directed – only pulled it out of the oven after 25 minutes since it was golden brown.  This recipe looks complicated but it’s actually pretty simple.

Dough Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for greasing the bowl and the pan
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cup warm water

Dump all in a mixing bowl. If you have a mixer, use the paddle and switch to the dough hook once it’s mixed. Let the dough hook run for several minutes, watching it as the dough will want to creep up the hook.

Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead gently until it is smooth and not sticky. (I may have used more flour – my dough wasn’t too sticky.) Rinse out the mixing bowl, dry it and spread olive oil all around it. Pop the dough back in, wiggle it around a second and the flip it over so all surfaces are oiled.

Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Prepare topping ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh Rosemary
Fleur de Sel (I used Maldon – but Kosher salt would be fine, too.)
Crushed Red Pepper to taste (couple of pinches)
Cornmeal as needed (a couple of Tbsp?)

After dough has risen, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan, and spread 1/4 cup of olive oil around on the pan. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly. Take dough and gently stretch it into a rectangle shape.

It’s a little easier if slide the parchment out of the pan and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough.  Just be sure to roll from the outside in so you don’t end up with a thick edge, and keep the size so it will fit back in the pan.

Then slide it all back into the backing pan, and cover it with an oiled piece of plastic. (I just flipped another roasting pan over it), and let rise for 20 minutes.

Remove the wrap (or pan), and poke holes every few inches. Pour the 3 Tbsp olive oil over the top, and sprinkle the rosemary, red pepper and Fleur de Sel over it.

Bake it for 25 minutes. It’s done when it’s golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.  (The original recipe called for baking 30-35 minutes.)  Yum.