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Today Ponce de Leon spotted what is now known as Florida.  I think I know how he felt at discovering something new and exciting! (Although, as rumor has it, he thought it was just another island.)

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge introduced me to a bread and technique I had never encountered in my quest for new bread recipes.  Not that I have explored all the nooks and crannies of yeast bread…not yet anyway.

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Dutch “Tijgerbrood” (Tiger Bread) is also known as Dutch Crunch Bread.  The magic is not in the bread’s flavor or texture, but in the topping – a crusty, crunchy, crackling finish that adds a new dimension to just about any brioche or plain sandwich bread recipe.

I chose to make sandwich rolls for the challenge, which my crew split open, buttered and griddled, then topped with a heaping helping of savory pulled pork.  My taste-testers would say more, but it’s impolite to talk with their mouths full. Their smiles and nods said it all – the rolls were a hit!

tiger bread rolls

My recipe for the sandwich rolls came from Baking Bites via Baking Barrister’s blog, while the topping was prescribed by the Daring Bakers challenge (It’s a half-recipe sized perfectly for 8 rolls.)

Crunchy Tijgerbrood

Basic Sandwich Rolls
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2.5 – 3.5 cups all-purpose flour

Topping
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (I used closer to 3/4 to thin it out)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white rice flour (not sweet)

Directions:
For bread, in large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar.  Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy and bubbly.  Add oil and salt.  Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Gradually add remaining flour until mixture pulls away from bowl and holds together.  Knead by hand or with dough hook until dough is smooth and elastic-y, about 5 minutes.  Place in oiled bowl; flip so oiled side is up; cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour, until doubled.

Punch down and cut into 8 equal pieces.  Use your hands to shape into rounds. Place on lined baking sheet (parchment is best, but you can use foil, just spray or grease it.)

Set aside and make topping:  dissolve yeast in water with sugar.  Add oil and salt, then rice flour.  Mixture should resemble thick cake batter.  Allow it to stand for 15 minutes.  Use a brush to completely cover the tops and sides of the rolls; use all the mixture (go ahead – it’ll look thick and drippy but that’s why you lined your baking sheet.)

Allow to rise another 20 minutes; in the meantime, preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Allow to cool completely, then use for sandwiches.  Place any leftovers in a plastic bag for storage.

Bottom line:  with a couple added ingredients and a few extra minutes, you can use this topping to ramp up the flavor and texture of any sandwich bread recipe.   Try it and see if it makes hungry brood roar with happiness!

Happy baking,

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This was my first month to participate in the Daring Bakers’  challenge.  Luckily for me, it was a fun and easy one: quick breads!  The Dark Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I have several quick bread recipes in my stash, but since it was a challenge I decided to try a new recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while:  Tiramisu Quick Bread. It called for mascarpone in the batter and a Marsala  glaze, but I went in a different direction.  I’m glad I tried it – it was a hit with my family and Mr. Official’s coworkers!

Tiramisu Quick Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon cold strong coffee
3/4 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients; stir well.  In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, instant coffee and cold coffee; stir to dissolve.  Set both aside.

In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese until fluffy – 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar in a slow, steady stream and continue to beat until it’s fully incorporated. Add eggs one at a time and mix until well blended.  Add dry ingredients and buttermilk, alternating between them. Start and end with flour, but do not overmix.

Place 1/3 to 1/2 the batter in another bowl and stir in the cocoa/coffee mixture.

Place half the remaining batter in the greased loaf pan.  Add the cocoa/espresso batter.  Top with remaining batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool and remove from pan;  glaze with cream cheese frosting.

We found the espresso taste was most noticeable the day it was made; by the second day, the flavors had mellowed somewhat. But no one complained, and it quickly vanished!
Tiramisu bread

Happy baking!

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Recipe of the week: Pumpkin Biscuits

We’re nearing the home stretch with this miniseries of pumpkin recipes.  As witnessed by my posts over the last few weeks, most pumpkin recipes are sweet: pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts, etc. And most of them partner cinnamon (and often nutmeg or allspice) with the pumpkin to achieve that familiar “pumpkin” flavor.

This week will take us in a more savory different direction:  pumpkin biscuits.  if you look around, you’ll find there are recipes for sweet biscuits featuring pumpkin or sweet potato puree, with brown sugar and the traditional spices. But this one (adapted from Country Living) is decidedly not sweet.  Instead it has a yin and yang of  cayenne pepper and ginger, and only a small squeeze of honey; no sugar, no cinnamon.   The biscuits can be eaten warm and buttered or slathered with apple or pumpkin butter.  Or – as you can see here, I upped the ante with slices of Black Forest ham (country ham would be total awesomeness, but I didn’t have any on hand) and a dollop of apple butter for a yummy flavor combination that would be perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch spread.

Spicy Savory Pumpkin Biscuits

Ingredients:

The salt and honey arrived late on the scene…

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespooon + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside.  In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients until blended.  With a pastry knife, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and honey; add to the flour mixture just until blended.  Mix in buttermilk until the mixture clings together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead and fold douh a half-dozen times.  Pat out 3/4 to 1-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter or drinking glass.  I used a 2-inch cutter.  Place on baking sheet leaving an inch or so between biscuits.  Press scraps together and cut again until the dough is used up.   It will make 12, 2-inch biscuits.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown; transfer to wire rack to cool slightly before serving.  Best served warm.

Happy baking,

 
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For the past six Sundays, I have consciously and deliberately tried to avoid shopping or eating out.  (Well, except when we were on vacation a couple weeks ago.)  Yesterday was no exception, and if swimmer girl had remembered earlier that she needed yarn and knitting needles for a group project, it would have been totally successful.  But I did my part.

I spent an enjoyable but busy afternoon in the kitchen.  First up was my first attempt at cassoulet.  I got everything browned and sauteed, then layered it in the crockpot to simmer while I turned my attention to all things pumpkin.

First up was a trial run of double-chocolate pumpkin cake.  The recipe made two small cakes, so we can enjoy one here and I’ll take one with me to Bunco tomorrow night. Stay tuned for an assessment of the final product.

I also tested out another pumpkin bread recipe. The plan was to divide it into two loaves (since the recipe indicated it would make two loaves), with one sporting nuts and a streusel topping, while the other got an infusion of cream cheese filling and cinnamon glaze.  The result was a full-size loaf with a very runny cream cheese filling, and a miniature loaf of streusel-topped nut bread. Either I seriously misjudged the amount of batter I placed in the first pan, or the ingredients need tweaking.  (I’m leaning towards the latter.)

Regardless, the resulting loaves were good and I’ll showcase them in an upcoming recipe-of-the-week.   I also took step-by-step photos of assembling the cassoulet, and since it also received a thumbs-up from the family, I’ll outline my experience soon.

Our weather today was pitch-perfect:  it was warm and sunny, with a hint of coolness on the breeze.  If I hadn’t been keeping close watch on the oven timer, it would have been a gorgeous afternoon to spend outdoors.  So how did you spend  your Sunday?  I hope it was restful, relaxing and enjoyable!  If it was also free from consumerism, all the better.

Happy Monday,

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There are so many delicious recipes with pumpkin these days, I thought I’d try to feature one (or two) a week through Thanksgiving.  Since I’m also trying to work off a few excess pounds before the holidays, I warned Mr. Official that he’s going to be schlepping some seriously fattening foods to share with his staff.  It’s one of the laws of physics:  high-calorie foods diluted among many eaters does no harm.

We’ll start off with a quick bread.  My all-time favorite bread is banana nut bread, and recently a friend asked me if I had ever made it without the bananas (she’s not a fan of the yellow fruit.)  I hadn’t, but I scrounged around and came up with a few alternatives that were similar in other ingredients, including a strawberry jam and nut bread recipe that has been passed down from mother to daughter in our family, and this pumpkin-spice bread recipe.  I’ll try to post the strawberry bread recipe closer to Christmas.

The pumpkin bread sounded deliciously similar to my beloved banana bread, so I had to try it for myself. (Friends don’t give untested recipes to friends, right?)

I whipped this up yesterday, and tapped my toe until it was cool enough to slice.  It was met with two thumbs up from swimmer girl, although I think it would benefit from a little baking lagniappe (see my recommendations below.)

Sour Cream Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (or margarine) slightly softened to smear texture
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup (1/2 can) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt   
 

Directions:  Heat oven to 350.  Generously grease a 9×5 loaf pan (or 2-3 mini loaf pans) with shortening.  Don’t use spray or butter – trust me.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Add pumpkin puree and sour cream or yogurt.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (don’t overbake.)  Slide a thin blade around the edge to loosen from pan; invert onto cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.  Wrap loaf in a tea towel to store overnight, or let cool completely and freeze for no more than a month. 

Terry’s recommendation:  This is a good, basic recipe, but I think it needs a little something to jazz it up a notch.  I’d recommend any one of these three options (and I’ll be trying them myself soon – perhaps even some combination of these three):

1.  At a minimum, throw 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped nuts into the batter.  Preferably pecans, but walnuts would work, too.
2.  Add a streusel topping (1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons butter, crumbled together and sprinkled over the top of the batter before baking.)
3. Cream cheese glaze (1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, beat together until smooth; drizzle over loaf after removing it from the pan.)  Garnish with chopped nuts if desired.

Happy baking,

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Recipe of the Week: Overnight Sweet Rolls

I’m not sure which magazine I clipped this recipe from but it’s been my go-to sweet roll recipe for many years. The heavy, rich sweet dough recipe is versatile enough to be used in most sweet roll recipes (just roll it the way you want it and add your choice of filling.)  It is also flexible:  you can make the rolls start-to-finish all at once, or you can refrigerate or even freeze the dough to finish and bake later.

My family’s favorite are pecan sticky rolls, although orange/coconut rolls are near-and-dear to my heart as well.  Both options are explained below and they are wonderful to make ahead and have on hand to bake up fresh for special holiday breakfasts.

Basic Sour Cream Sweet Dough

Ingredients:
2 packages instant active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh orange rind (optional)
6 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

Instructions:  
Stir yeast into water in small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the sugar; stir until dissolved and let stand about ten minutes until it foams.

Combine remaining sugar, melted butter, sour cream, eggs, salt and spices in large bowl of mixer; beat until well-blended.  Add two cups flour and beat until well mixed.  Add yeast mixture and two more cups of flour; beat two minutes at medium speed. Gradually stir in remaining flour to make a medium-soft dough (softer than a bread dough.)

Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead 5 minutes until smooth.  Shape into ball and place in oiled bowl, turn so greased surface is on top.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, up to two days.

When ready to use, remove dough from refrigerator and punch down.  Turn onto lightly flfoured surface and knead briefly. Divide into 2 or 4 equal balls (2 yields two 9×12 pans; 4  yields four 8- or 9-inch pans.)  Flatten slightly; cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Roll each ball into desired shape (keep remaining balls in cool place) and:

  1. let rise and bake at 350 until done; or
  2. cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, let come to room temperature and bake at 350 until done; or
  3. wrap tightly in foil and freeze for up to two months, let thaw in refrigerator overnight, then allow to come to room temperature and bake at 350 until done.

For cinnnamon rolls, divide dough into two portions; roll each into a 12×18 rectangle, smear generously with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll up from the long end; cut into 12 rolls and place in greased 9×12 pan.  Can be glazed or frosted as desired.

For pecan sticky rolls, make as for cinnamon rolls, but in baking pan combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 cup pecans before placing sliced rolls in pan.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes; immediately invert on platter for serving. (Tip:  make sure your tray is bigger than your pan.  Clamp them together securely and flip them together over the sink; that way, any hot flying caramel sauce can land safely 🙂

For orange sweet rolls, divide dough into 4 balls.  Roll each ball into a 12-inch circle, smear with butter, sprinkle with sugar and coconut.  Cut into wedges and roll up crescent-style. Place in greased pan (each of the 4 balls will make a 9×9 pan or the entire batch will fill two 9×12 pans.)  Allow approximately 25 minutes for baking time but check at 20 minutes.

Orange glaze:  While the rolls are baking combine 1/2 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons orange juice in heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Pour glaze over roll immediately after removing rolls from oven.  You can sprinkle with more coconut if desired.  Serve warm.

Happy baking,

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Recipe of the Week: Cheese Biscuits like Jim ‘n Nick’s

Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q  is a regional chain that makes some good food, including this short list of my personal faves:

  • yummy fresh fried green tomatoes in season (a compliment I don’t hand out lightly); 
  • terrific smoked turkey (their pig-in-the-garden-patch salad with smoked turkey is my usual choice all year ’round); and
  • delectable cheese “biscuits” (really more like muffins) which they serve up hot and fresh while you’re waiting for your entrees to arrive.

It’s a good thing they’re generous with those muffin-biscuits, because our family tends to devour them as soon as the server plunks down the basket.  If we’re feeling bold, we just ask for a double portion to start with and save the waiter a trip.

This make-at-home version is a pretty decent rendition.  (A copycat recipe can be found on several recipe sites, but I prefer a less-sweet version, so here’s my homage to Jim ‘n Nick’s.)

Cheese-y Biscuits/Muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk (or half milk and half buttermilk)
1 egg, beaten well
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.  Generously grease 24 mini-muffin tins.

Mix dry ingredients together, then quickly fold in wet ingredients just until moistened.  Spoon into muffin tins; bake for 10-15 minutes or until top springs back or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Do not over-bake.  Serve warm.

Happy biscuit-baking!

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