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Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

One of the things I do to get inspired to post on my own blog is read other blogs, especially food and knitting related blogs.  I have a few favorites (some of them are listed in the right-hand column — take a look) that I check regularly.

The other day during a brief break at work (it’s been really busy there lately so there haven’t been many breaks), I checked out Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  I love her site because it is so beautiful and because the food is always good.

The recipe she posted last week caught my eye right away.  The photo of the finished loaf cake was striking, the recipe looked like something I could make with ingredients I had at home, and I haven’t baked in a while.

Of course, I did have most of the ingredients, but I also had some bananas that needed to be used and I didn’t have any garam masala in my spice drawer.  Heidi suggested that bananas could be substituted for the roasted winter squash in her recipe, and encouraged bakers to use other spices if they had no garam masala.

I mashed one very ripe banana (happily that gave me exactly the 1/2 cup I needed), and decided to use Chinese 5 spice to replace the garam masala.

The cake turned out really well (though it needed a bit less time in my oven than the original recipe called for — my loaf was fully baked in about 45 minutes).

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Whole wheat bread

When I lived in Maine I baked bread almost every weekend.  I started because it was such a long drive to a good bakery and I kept it up because there is really not much that makes me happier than the smell of baking bread or the taste of a fresh loaf.

Now that I live in Portland where there are amazing bakeries on just about every corner (well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) I find I don’t get around to baking as often as I used to.  Last weekend, though, the urge came upon me and I pulled out one of my favorite baking books:  The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.

The book opens automatically to the recipe I have made most often — a simple whole wheat and buttermilk recipe that has never failed me and that can be used to make beautiful loaves that are perfect for everyday toast or sandwiches or rolls elegant enough for company.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread

(adapted from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ cup warm water

¾ cup very hot water

¼ cup honey

1 ¼ cups cold buttermilk

4 ½ cups whole wheat flour (all purpose or bread flour is fine)

1 cup white flour (all purpose or bread flour is fine here too)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 – 4 tablespoons butter, cut in to small pieces

1 large egg

1 tablespoon half & half

Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside until foamy.

Mix hot water, honey and buttermilk in a small bowl or measuring cup; the final mixture should be lukewarm.  Set aside.

Mix flours and salt and place in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook and mixing at medium speed, slowly add yeast/water mixture and buttermilk mixture to the flour.

After all of the liquid has been incorporated, stop the mixer and let the dough sit, covered with a towel, for about 20 minutes.  This will ensure that the flour absorbs all of the liquid.

Restart the mixer and knead on low to medium speed for about 15 minutes.  The dough should be sticky, but should pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If it does not, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time (mixing well after each addition) until it does.  You want this to be a soft dough, so be careful not to add too much additional flour.  Add the butter in small pieces as you near the end of the kneading time.

Shape the dough into a rough ball and place it in an oiled or buttered bowl.  Cover and let rise for about 90 minutes or until you can poke it with a damp finger and the hole doesn’t fill in again.  Gently turn the dough and let rise again, this time for about 45 minutes.

Shape the dough into two loaves and place in oiled/buttered loaf pans.  Cover and let rise a third time.

This dough should rise quite a lot in the pan, so feel free to let it go for at least 45 minutes, if not more.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk egg and half & half together and pass mixture through a small sieve until smooth.  Brush loaves with egg mixture and place in the middle of the preheated oven.

(If you want to make rolls, this recipe will make 9 large or 15 small ones.  Shape the dough into balls after the second rise and let rise again as above.  Brush with egg and half & half mixture.  Bake the rolls at 400 degrees for 15 -20 minutes.)

Bake loaves for 55 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing and eating.

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Whole wheat banana muffins

I am sure I am not the only person who keeps finding herself with over-ripe bananas lying around in a bowl.

When I’ve found myself in that situation in the past, I usually make banana bread.  Today I wanted to try something different.  I had just come across a link to a recipe that Mark Bittman had posted in February for Whole Wheat Muffins that used mashed bananas as one of the ingredients, and they looked perfect.

The recipe uses supplies most of us have in the pantry all the time (you can substitute regular whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour MB recommends) and take about 10 minutes to mix up.  The hardest part is filling the muffin cups with the batter — and then having to wait for the muffins to bake.

MB suggests that they are best eaten warm, so I tried one right out of the oven.

It was delicious.

Hard as it was to resist, I managed to save a few for later.

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