Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Zucchini Bread

That's it. No special title or anything. The truth is I rarely make quick breads, or dessert breads as they're sometimes called because I get caught up in baking more 'traditional' type breads. And it's really a shame since there are so many wonderful breads to choose from. The other thing, of course, is that these breads, fall somewhere in the middle. They are somehow not quite breads but also not quite cakes. More sugar for one thing. Also, they are usually raised using baking powder and/or baking soda not yeast. That's the case with this one I adapted from a recipe I found on Which, if you don't know it, is a great site for lots of great recipes, advice, forums etc. Definitely you should check it out. It also includes a nice feature for resizing recipes and even converting from standard to metric measurements.

So anyway, I had some extra dried fruit that I needed to use up and this recipe fit the bill. I used dried cranberries, and grated in an orange peel along with some whole wheat flour (lately I'm using that a lot!) and voila. It was gobbled up quickly and I had to promise to bake it again! I guess that says it all.

Here's What You'll Need:


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup Canola oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange extract
2/3 cup sour cream
finely grated zest of 1 orange, about 1 tablespoon
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped nuts, optional

Here's What You'll Need to Do:
Heat oven to 325°. Grease and flour two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pans.
Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat or whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, and orange extract.

Stir in the dry ingredients and th sour cream until well blended. Fold in the orange zest, zucchini, cranberries, and optional chopped nuts. Spoon into the two loaf pans, dividing equally.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Always a Challenge - Whole Wheat Buttermilk Sandwich Bread

The title is a little bit curious, don't you think? I mean, whole wheat and sandwich bread are two terms that actually can go together nicely. But not always. The problem is always in the final product. Whole wheat flour is very different from regular white bread flour. It has less gluten, to start with. And also absorbs more liquid and does so more slowly. That means it needs to be kneaded for longer. And it needs to rest in order to absorb the water.Or sometimes you need to help out a bit with a little added gluten. Some bakers add some some regular bread flour to the mix (as much as 50%) to give the bread more structure and strength. I have made it my personal challenge to find a formula using only whole wheat flour that stays moist and supple, like a good sandwich bread should, for a few days, without becoming crumbly too soon. This bread comes closer, is delicious, and lasts a while before drying out and becoming a mass of crumbs. Oh, and it makes good sandwiches too!

This recipe is my adaptation of a recipe for buttermilk bread found in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. Quite literally, this is one of the very best cookbooks for whole grain breads ever published. Hands-down great!

Here's What You'll Need for 2 loaves:
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water

3/4 cup (175ml) very hot water
1/4  cup (60ml) honey
1 1/4 cup (300ml) cold buttermilk (or soy milk to keep it non-dairy)

5 1/2 cups (830g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons (11g) salt

2 to 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine (to keep it non-dairy)

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside for about 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, mix the hot water in with the honey and the cold buttermilk (or soy milk). This mixture should be barely warm.
3. Mix the flour ( I used 'white' whole wheat flour) and then salt, thoroughly, then, make a well in the center. Add in the yeast mixture and the buttermilk (or soy) mixture.
4. Stirring from the center, mix, then knead the dough until it is smooth and the gluten (such as it is) is well developed. Mix in the butter (or margarine only at the end of the kneading/mixing. The butter/margarine enriches the dough and makes it softer. If you want to make rolls from this dough use the larger amount of butter/margarine, otherwise the smaller amount is fine for the bread.
5. Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).
6. Press down the risen dough, form into a ball once again, and let it rise a second time until doubled. This time it will take about 45 minutes.
7. Divide the dough into two, and form each half into a loaf. Place each loaf into a prepared loaf pan, and cover. Let them rest for at least 1/2 hour until they reach the tops of the pans.
8. Towards the end of this final rise, pre-heat the oven to 325 F (160 C) for loaves or 400 F (200 C) for rolls. If you shaped loaves bake them for about 45 minutes (or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom). For rolls bake for about 15 minutes or until well-browned.
9. To really make these rolls or loaves special, brush them with melted butter (or margarine) when they are hot from the oven. This makes the crust soft and rich. And delicious!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nothing Fancy - Just Regular Bread for Regular Folks

You know you've made it, when your baking products are special requested . Even more so when you are asked to bake a kind of bread for which you don't really have a specific recipe to rely on. By this I mean someone asks you for bread that is supposed to be for a purpose without saying something like, "Gee, could you make your raisin bread again?" Or something like that. This week I got a request that, to paraphrase went something like this... I'm tired of all the fancy 'artisan' bread with the crust and crumb and all the rest. Could you please just make some ordinary sandwich bread. Plain white bread for making a good sandwich. Nothing 'special',. Just regular bread for regular folk"! Well I was up to the challenge and this time, I didn't have to consult any cookbook or Google it anywhere. I created this recipe out of my head, using things I know about the characteristics of all the ingredients. Along with my goal of producing bread with a specific purpose. Not a dessert bread. Not brioche or anything fancy. Just everyday, pedestrian bread. Everybread, if you will.

Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 Tbs. dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
about 4 cups AP flour
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2 Tbs. milk powder*

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Dissolve the sugar in the water then mix in the yeast . Stir to dissolve then let the yeast sit for about 10 minutes until it gets frothy.

2. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir to make a smooth mixture. Add the egg, the oil , the powdered milk* and finally the salt, mixing each in turn to make sure there are no lumps.

3. Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time. Stir until the dough is too dense to mix with a spoon, then place the rest of the dough on a floured table and knead until it is smooth and only slightly tacky. Finally placed the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat with the oil, then cover to rise.

4. Let the dough rise, covered, until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours), in a warm place.

5. Remove the dough from the bowl, being careful not to de-gas the dough too much, and shape it into a loaf shape by 'stretching' the dough and pulling it create a tight surface.Place the loaf in a prepared pan. seam side down and let it rise, again, until it reaches the top of the pan.

6. About 15 minutes before the end of the second rise, heat the oven to 350F (175C). Then bake the bread for about 23 minutes. If it browns too fast, lightly 'tent' it with aluminum foil to slow the browning process.

7. Brush the loaf with olive oil or with melted butter (or margarine) when you remove it from the oven, then cool it on a rack.

* Sometimes it is difficult to find powdered dry milk outside of the US and Canada. In that case, I often use baby formula powder instead. Yes, that's right. Baby formula powder. If you want, you can also use the non-dairy version to keep your bread from containing dairy products. The baby formula acts to soften the bread, and increases the 'shelf life', i.e., it will stay fresh longer. It really works. I have used the Materna brand successfully for years very successfully. Try it, you'll love it!