Sweet Potato Challah Buns

If you know me, then you know I love my kitchen gadgets. I’ll spend more time than I’m comfortable divulging on Williams Sonoma’s website browsing through things I know I don’t even need and will probably only use once or twice, still wishing I could just splurge and get all of it. And although there are kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary to everyday life, there are a few that I have that have become essential.

My bench scraper. My rolling pin. My vegetable peeler. My zester. All of my cookie stamps.

Where would I be without them? I don’t even want to know.

A kitchen gadget isn’t just a way to cut short on manual kitchen labor–depending on the object, it can have multiple uses that really help you step up your cooking/baking game in other ways. For example; quite a few of the cookie stamps I have were sold as gadgets for another purpose, like moon cake molds or pie crust and fondant stamps  or even biscuit cutters. I just decided to try them out on cookie dough and the results turned out to be really successful.

I went through a phase where I was addicted to apples–I’d eat one or two a day. Problem was, I didn’t like eating it whole bite by bite until I got to the core. I prefer eating apples in pieces, so I invested in an apple slicer. The slicer basically separates the bulk of the apple from the core, and cuts the whole apple into wedges for you. It was such a worthwhile buy, not just for those days I ate apples, but also the times I’ve baked apple pies and cakes and needed to be able to cut a lot of them at one time into even pieces.

And as it turns out, apple slicers aren’t just for cutting apples.

One day I saw a picture in a magazine of an apple slicer pressed into a piece of dough and it blew my mind. Okay, maybe not blew my mind, but it certainly did intrigue me as it hadn’t ever occurred to me to do that. Ever since, then every time I used my apple slicer I thought about using it myself to shape bread. The next time I made bread I decided to give it a shot–what’s the worst that could happen? At the end of the day, it’s still going to be delicious bread.

I wanted the structure of the bread itself to be sturdy enough to stand up to shaping, so I went with one of the sturdiest kinds of breads there is: challah. I then divided it up into individual portions that I pressed into rolls with the apple slicer. The dough is flavored with sweet potato, honey and orange zest; it’s a good combination of sweet and savory. The flavor actually improves over the course of a few days.  The overall shape of the rolls made by the apple slicer wasn’t perfect in uniformity; some of the rolls ‘bloomed’ with petals like flowers while baking, while others developed bubbles.  I’m okay with that, as I think they still look pretty good. They certainly taste that way.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #220, co-hosted this week by two of my faaaaaavorite peoples,  Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Sweet Potato Challah Buns

Recipe Adapted from The KitchenAid Blog

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 4-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Egg wash (1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten)
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Special Equipment, optional: Apple slicer

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl), pour the water inside. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, and sprinkle the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until frothy and proofed.

Add the honey, melted butter, mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, salt, black pepper and zest. Use the paddle attachment (or a large wire whisk) to mix well.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 1 cup of flour at a time to the bowl. (Or you can use a wooden spoon). Knead it for 5-8 minutes in the bowl. You may not need to use it all, but the dough should be one homogenous mass that you can hold together, slightly smooth but it’s ok if it’s slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Flour your hands, then knead with your hands for about 5 more minutes, using a firm push-pull motion until it is elastic and not sticky, adding more flour if needed. Grease the bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover it with plastic wrap & a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2-2 hours. Punch it down, flip it over in the bowl, then recover it and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the dough from the bowl and let it come up to room temp. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a clean work surface, then turn dough out onto it. Punch down to deflate air bubbles, then divide in half. Place one half back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap while you work with the other.

Divide the half piece of dough in half, then the half into fourths. Gently roll each fourth piece into a smooth ball of dough. Flour both the top of the ball & the blades of the apple slicer. Position the apple slicer over the ball and press down firmly, carefully removing from the bottom. Place the bun on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap & damp kitchen towels and allow to proof until doubled in size 45-60 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg white and water. Brush over the proofed buns and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes in the oven. (Bread inner temp should be 195-200°F).

English Muffin Toasting Bread


So. Here’s the situation. You’re afraid of baking with yeast. You think that it’s only meant to be used by pastry chefs, grandmothers and Martha Stewart. You may have tried it once or twice before to disastrous results. So now, you avoid it at all costs and stick to the store bought stuff.

The first thing you should realize is that you’re not alone. Plenty of people are intimidated by yeast. I used to be one of them.

The second thing you should know is that in spite of your fears and/or bad past experiences, you too can bake with yeast. You really can.

As much as I love baking now, I’m not so good or full of myself that I can’t remember the days when I wasn’t good at it–the days when baking used to just straight up humble me.

Heck, there are some days when I mess something up and it still does.

There are also days when I too doubt my own abilities and whether or not I’m actually ‘good’ at this, or just a really good faker. On those days, I tend to keep things in my kitchen simple so that I don’t create situations where I’m prone to mess up.

Today’s recipe is the third thing that I want y’all to know about, as this is a recipe that uses yeast, yet I can still guarantee you will be fool-proof and deliver a delicious result. The ingredients and steps are minimal. There’s so kneading or shaping required. You probably have everything you need to make it already. The only thing that you’re missing is belief in yourself and that it’ll actually work.

That’s where I come in: I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it, and that it WILL work. There are no hard parts/steps to this, but because I know you’re nervous about using the yeast, I’ll walk you through the step twice; once here and again in the actual recipe:

First, check the date on the package of the yeast to make sure it’s fresh enough. Good. Now, when you warm the milk, water and oil over the stove I don’t want you to freak out if you don’t have an instant read thermometer. It won’t make or break the recipe; the senses mother nature gave you will work just fine. The temperature you’re looking for is going to be just over baby bottle warm, but not too hot that it stings your finger. So long as you don’t feel a sting, it’s not too hot.

Sprinkle the yeast on top. Then, sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Why? The sugar will speed up the proofing of the yeast. (I can’t remember where I learned that trick, but I never make bread without doing it now; it’s that effective.) Wait ten minutes. At the end of them, you should have frothy, poofed up yeast (and provided you followed my instructions, you will.)

From there, literally the only thing else you do is mix everything else together and slap it into a loaf pan. You wait a few minutes for it to rise, the you wait a few more for it to bake. Then, you’re done. No kneading. No shaping. As Ina would say “How easy was that?”

This obviously looks nothing like traditional round English muffins, but I like to think that this bread gets its name from the inner texture. Like English muffins, it has a coarse, close-textured crumb. Because this crumb is so tight, it’s perfect for catching & pockets of butter, jam, peanut butter or anything else you want to smear on top of it. This bread makes the absolute, the MOST divine toast. It’s delicious on its own, but it was practically made for becoming thick, buttery slices of toast. Or even better yet…French-toasting.

Whatever your yeast insecurities may be, I beg you to put them aside at least enough to try this. If it doesn’t work, I give you permission to come back here and yell at me–but I’m positive you won’t. If anything you’ll be coming back to tell me I was right; you COULD bake with yeast, and this bread was SO delicious.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #216, co-hosted by Petra @ Love Food Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

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English Muffin Toasting Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling in the pan

Directions

Combine the water, milk and oil in a small saucepan and heat gently over the stove to about 120-130°F. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Allow to rest until proofed and frothy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, salt and baking soda.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients. Use the paddle attachment of the standing mixer, or the beater attachment of a handheld one to mix/beat at high speed for 1 minute; the dough will be smooth and very soft. Or, you can use your hands to mix together until smooth and beginning to feel elastic, about 2-3 minutes. (It’ll still be slightly sticky)

Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal. Scoop the soft, sticky dough into the pan and use a spatula to try and smooth out the top as much as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until it’s just starting to crown over the pan. The timing for this can vary—mine rose VERY quickly in about 30 minutes, but if yours hasn’t, you can give it another 30. What’s important is that you don’t let it rise TOO high above the pan before baking.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Uncover and place loaf pan on a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack for about 20-27 minutes until bread is golden brown. Inner bread temp should reach 190-200°F.

Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes in the pan before removing the loaf and allowing to cool completely. Serve sliced thick with butter and jam. (It’s also perfect for French toast).

Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Hey y’all.

Sorry about missing last week. I don’t have a good excuse–I was just in an off mood and for some reason couldn’t get enough focus. I kept pushing back and procrastinating in writing the post until I finally just decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I have been doing quite a bit of both cooking and baking to try and perk myself up though, so you’ll get to see the product of that in the coming weeks.

When I cook and bake, I usually have a habit of making quite a bit of food at one time. This is mostly so that I don’t have to do very much heavy cooking throughout the week. I know it’s not for everyone, but we’re staunch believers in meal prep and leftovers round here. As such, I try and re-purpose the leftovers into new dishes, just to mix things up and not get bored.

Last week’s post were these English scones that I flavored with orange. Because I doubled the recipe we actually had quite a few left over and although it would’ve been fine to just eat them on their own, I got an idea for another way to use them.

We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week and I wanted to do something a bit different than biscuits or pancakes (either one is what I’ll usually make). When I saw that I also had some leftover ham in the fridge, I knew that there was one of two ways we could go with it: scone breakfast sandwiches, or I could go ahead and try to make a bread pudding-strata…thingy to share on the blog.

As you can see, the bread pudding-strata thingy won out.

First of all, I know that most strata and bread pudding recipes call for a French bread or a sturdy type of bread like challah or brioche to be used as the base. If you are in a hurry then you can of course go ahead and buy some in a store for this–it’ll still turn out great. However. If you’ve got the time, I really do recommend making and using the scones as the bread base. I know it may seem like an odd choice, as the scones are on the sweet side and this is a savory dish.

But they work. They really do. The orange flavor gives the dish a special taste that we agreed it wouldn’t have if I had just used regular bread. The next time I make this, you can bet I’ll be putting in the extra effort to and baking the scones to use as the base.

If ham is not your favorite protein, then you can definitely substitute it for another protein–sausage, turkey sausage, chicken-sausage. You could leave the meat out entirely if you’d like to make it vegetarian and just use mushrooms. Don’t sweat it too much. This bread pudding-strata thingy is very forgiving in terms of swapping out ingredients.

I know I could’ve left it plain and still had a tasty dish, but I’m a huge condiment lover. Plus, as most bread puddings DO have sauces on the side I decided I would make a sauce for this one.

This is what I like to call a little ‘recipe recycling’. You guys remember the spiced meatballs I made earlier last August? Well I decided on a whim to try and see if the sauce that I made to go along with the meatballs would also pair nicely with the bread pudding-strata thingy. The sauce looks like it’s a tomato base, but it’s actually roasted red peppers, roasted onions and roasted garlic that I pureed together in the blender, then simmered over the stove with smoked paprika and a few other spices. I really love it all on its own and I thought that it would be worth a try to see what else I could ‘recycle’ it with.

I was once again, pleasantly surprised. The sauce was a perfect smoky compliment to the bread pudding/strata, that in and of itself has a very nice balance of sweetness from the scones, and saltiness from the ham and cheese. Even with the meat and carbs, it filled me up without making me feel too full. I’m not really sure what the proper term for this thing would be considering that I think it somehow manages to check all the boxes of bread pudding, strata, casserole, and breakfast bake at the same time. I’m not sure the name of it really matters considering that we really liked this, and I think you would too. So why not give it a try?

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #214, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 4 cups 1-inch cubes of bread (I used these leftover English scones, but you’re free to use any kind of bread you like)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese

Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, garlic, sage, thyme and seasoned salt and pepper. Beat together with a fork.

Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the ham, spinach and cheeses on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the ham/spinach and cheese, then pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 55-60 minutes. Serve warm with the sauce.

For the Sauce: Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily). Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes.

Cemitas Sandwich Buns

If you were to ask me for a valuable piece of advice when first starting out cooking, I’d try and boil it down to about three rules:

1 . Start with a basic dish with minimal ingredients and steps that won’t intimidate you. When I first started baking, my non-too-intelligent self decided my first dish was going to be my grandmother’s angel biscuits. Big mistake. It didn’t work for a number of reasons but first among them being that making biscuits is both science and an art form. It took me a while to get good at it. Later on after that first failure, I downsized to trying out easier recipes like quick breads and brownies–these are baked goods that are very difficult to mess up.

2.  Read the whole recipe before you start cooking. This one is so important that I’m thinking maybe I should’ve listed it first. I’ve been cooking an`d baking for several years now and this is still a rule that I have to remind myself of when making lengthy recipes like layer cake that have a lot of steps and ingredients. There’s nothing worse than getting started on a dish and getting to the fourth or fifth step and discovering that you’re missing something, or that you needed to spread it out over 2 days rather than try to make it all in one go.

3. Be patient–both with yourself and the food. Nobody starts out cooking like Bobby Flay or baking like Hedy Goldsmith. Even they have days where things go wrong in the kitchen. Give yourself room to mess up and learn from your mistakes. Also, let yourself get more comfortable with allowing the time for letting flavors develop. I’m not a huge fan of most 30 minute or less meals largely because in my opinion, unless you’re a veryveryVERY talented cook, spices simply need more than 30 minutes to infuse into food. It may be easier to put together in 30 minutes, but wouldn’t you rather it taste better?

Cemitas are a Mexican sandwich that come from Puebla. A piece of meat (such as beef, chicken or pork) is pounded thin, dredged in flour and breadcrumbs, then fried in oil in a skillet until golden brown and crispy. The meat is then layered with cheese, avocado, chipotles and tomato. It all gets placed a on a round sandwich bun that gets sprinkled with sesame seeds.

As it turns out, today’s recipe required me to fall back on all three of the basic rules I just gave. There are a minimal amount of ingredients involved with it and so far as bread recipes go, it’s one of the simplest you could make. Rules 2 and 3 come in for two reasons. First, it’s important that you read the entire recipe beforehand because the first rising runs much,much longer than the average time. I’m relieved that I took my own advice and looked ahead to see that the first rise lasts a whopping 4 hours. This seems excessive, but the dough needs enough time to more than double in size; more like, double and a half. Because it did require such a long rising time and we wanted to have these for dinner, I did wake up early to put the dough together and give it time to rise.

After that first rise, the dough is divided into smooth balls of dough and left to rise again for one more hour. They will then get a sprinkling of sesame seeds and go for a quick bake in the oven.

The buns rise with perfect domes and puff up HUGE in the oven, making them the perfect size for a slab of meat and all the fixings you want to pile on top of it. They’re soft and fluffy on the inside, yet sturdy enough to where you can create the sandwich of your dreams without having to worry about the bun being too flimsy to support the stuff inside.  Even if you’re a beginner when it comes to baking bread, I’d still say this was something you could try and expect to have good results–honestly, the hardest part is the wait. And these buns were WELL worth that 😉

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #206, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life

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Cemitas Sandwich Buns

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2-3 cups all purpose flour
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over low heat on the stove until about 120-130°F. Sprinkle the yeast on top of heavy cream, and one tablespoon of the white sugar on top of the yeast. Allow to proof for about 10 minutes, until frothy.

In a small bowl, beat 2 of the eggs together lightly with a fork, set aside.

Combine the flour with the salt and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

Pour the heavy cream-yeast mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer, then pour in the beaten eggs. Mix together with the paddle attachment until just combined. Switch to the dough hook, then add the dry ingredients. Allow to knead for about 5-7 minutes. The dough will and should still be sticky, but if it’s not coming together in at least homogeneous mass, you can add more flour, about 1/3 cup at a time until it is one.

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. Place the dough inside, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until grown 1  1/2 times larger, about 4 hours (yes, 4 hours, so plan ahead accordingly).

Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then turn dough out onto, it gently deflating air bubbles. Shape into a ball, then divide the ball in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces, giving you a total of six. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper onto a sheet pan, then place each bun seam side down onto the paper. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the stove.

In a small bowl beat remaining the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush over the buns and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until deep golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on pan for about 60 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Kolach Bread

There’s just something so satisfying to me about baking bread. I really do love the entire process from start to finish. Especially the part of the ‘finish’ where I get to taste it.

I’ve incidentally developed a habit of making at least one fancy holiday bread for Christmas, and I didn’t want to break that tradition this year. I had a few different ideas, but because I was crunched for time and also frankly, because I was kinda tired from the last few days of baking, I eventually decided on one of the more simpler ones. This was it.

Festive breads and cakes are a huge part of the holidays in Eastern Europe. I’d heard of babka, stollen, and povitica before, but Kolach was a new one for me.

Kolach Bread derives from the Czech word ‘kolo’ (wheel or ring). It’s a bread that’s typically been braided/coiled into a ring, then in some cases, stacked on top of each other. My braids and coils aren’t stacked, but they did create what I think is still a pretty nice bread to look at.

I loved the ‘feel’ of this dough. The butter and egg yolks give it a slick, pliable feel that makes it VERY difficult to overwork, and also lets you know even before baking that it’s going to turn out great.

If you’re familiar with basic bread baking techniques, then you’re gonna find the process for making this very simple. The dough is divided into three ropes, the ropes are braided together and the braid is then coiled into a kolo— a ring. It reminded me of how I make challah honestly, except after the first rise, I typically make my challah in loaf pans.

I’ll just say one thing right upfront: this recipe makes a lot of bread. Like, a LOT of bread. By the time you get done you’ll have not one, but two massive loaves that will feed a crowd. You want my advice? Either keep one and give the other away, or keep one for Christmas breakfast or dinner, and freeze the other one for another time. The taste will of course make you tempted to gobble them both up in one sitting or within the space of a few days, but I wouldn’t exactly advise it. Portion control and all.

And speaking of taste…

Rich, rich, rich. Buttery, buttery, buttery. That’s the most honest way I can describe this bread for you guys. The texture is just fantastic. It’s so good, so so SO good that it doesn’t even need added butter or jam. I’m serious. This is right up there with the delectable goodness of brioche, except it’s not nearly as messy or finicky to make. Plus as it bakes, your kitchen, and possibly your whole house is going to smell like a bakery and send anyone who may be in it at the time wandering over to the oven asking you “What smells so darn good?”

Well, I guess this is it, again. We’ve reached the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope you guys have enjoyed the series I put out this year and that you get to try some of the recipes for yourselves this holiday season. Check out any of the recipes you may have missed below–I know twelve posts is a lot to keep up with.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #203. I wish all of y’all a very happy holiday and new year. Thanks for all the love you give Cooking is My Sport–I really do appreciate it.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

Day 9: Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Day 10: Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

Day 11: Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Day 12: Kolach Bread

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Kolach Bread

Recipe Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups warm milk (120°-130°)
  • 8 1/2-9 cups all purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 3 teaspoons dried active yeast
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Directions

In a small bowl, Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk, then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar on top of that. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, until proofed and frothy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, egg yolks, salt and lemon juice.

Pour the yeast-milk mixture into the bowl and stir to combine. Switch to the dough hook attachment and gradually add the flour in about 1 cup increments. Knead for about 5 minutes in the mixer. The dough should be smooth enough to gather into a mass, but still moist and slightly sticky.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then turn the dough out onto it. Knead with your hands for about 5 minutes, using a firm push-pull motion until it is elastic and not sticky, adding more flour if needed.

Grease the mixing bowl, then place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 60-70 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently deflate air bubbles. Divide in half and place one half back in the bowl, keeping it covered so it doesn’t dry out. Divide the other half into three equal parts. With your palms, roll out each part into a rope about 24”  long, and braid together. Coil the braid into one round mass, tucking the end under the coil so it doesn’t break free as the dough rises. Gently lift the mass up and place onto a sheet pan you line with parchment paper. Repeat this process with the other dough half. Cover both with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg together with the milk. Use a pastry brush to brush on top of risen bread coils. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Bake until golden brown on top and bottom, 45-60 minutes. (Mine baked quickly, so check it early and cover with aluminum foil if browning too fast on top) Bread is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Allow to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

I’ll be completely honest with y’all: I have no idea what canned cranberry sauce tastes like. I’ve never tried it before in my life. Growing up, I would always see it on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas but there was something about the mere sight of the stiff sliced rings that was off-putting to me. Why would it be called a ‘sauce’ when it resembled thin beets (which, I’ve never liked)? Plus, back then I thought it made no sense to want to eat something sweet with something as savory as turkey and dressing.

Nowadays I DO think it makes sense to eat cranberry sauce with turkey and dressing–I actually think it’s delicious…just so long as it’s homemade. Ever since I started making my own cranberry sauce it spurred a love for ALL things cranberry, specifically in baking.

I still had some fresh cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving that I kept in the freezer and I knew that I wanted to try and do something with them for the 12 Days of Christmas series. My niece’s preschool was let out for Winter Break this past week and I wanted to make her teacher a small gift of appreciation. So, she and I made this loaf together. She’s becomes quite the good little sous chef/baker.

The first breads that I made when I was starting out baking were quick breads. They’re very easy to put together, involve no work with yeast, kneading, proofing, and are pretty hard to mess up. They store and ship well too, which makes them ideal for gift-giving at this time of year.

Cranberries and oranges are an ideal flavor combination. The sweet of the orange balances out the tart of the cranberry and vice versa. Here, the fresh cranberries are paired with both orange zest and juice. I also added a cinnamon swirl to the batter that gives it more of a ‘wintery spice flavor’. You may have noticed that I also really like adding icings to things, so there’s one of those here too. You can leave it out if you like, the bread is yummy enough all on its own to do without.

Quick bread is great all on its own alongside coffee or tea. It’s also sturdy enough to make awesome french toast and bread pudding. Do whatever you want with it, really. Just make & try it. I’m gonna go ahead and share this at the Fiesta Friday #201, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. 

Stay tuned for more recipes in the 12 Days of Christmas series, I’m really hyped to share what’s to come.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), melted and cooled slightly, plus more for coating the pan
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries 

For Topping

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 heaping teaspoons butter

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon with a whisk.

Add the orange juice, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Fold in the cranberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl combine the sugar and ground cinnamon. Cut the butter into the mixture, leaving it in small clumps. Sprinkle on top of the loaf. Use a knife to swirl through the top and through the middle of the loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Allow to cool inside pan for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and stir until it forms a thickened glaze. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle over the top of the loaf. Allow to set for about an hour until hardened.

Corn Bubble Bread

I love going to discount/used bookstores. When I younger, my mom would take us downtown for weekly trips to the public library and there was a discount bookstore in the basement called The Book Burrow where you could buy books for literal pocket change. It was a dim place with exposed water/gas pipes, stained ceilings, and flickering lights. It had the unmistakable ‘old book smell’ that I will never forget.

And I loved going. LOVED it.

This was in a time when dial-up internet was still a thing, and the Google we know now really…wasn’t. (Shout out to the people who still remember what Netscape Navigator was) We didn’t have access to either. So if I had a school assignment that required some outside research, pictures or info my mom would just take us to the public library to either check out books or to the Book Burrow to buy cheap cooks or old National Geographic issues. The YA section was filled with towers of books, mostly different series like Sweet Valley High, which I loved. (Give me a break; I was a 90’s kid and an identical twin named Jessica at that.) I could, and sometimes did, stay in that corner reading and picking out books to buy for hours.

Those memories I have of hte Book Burrow have carried over into my adulthood to where I still love going to discount/used bookstores. Of course now I’m not looking for a book on Zambia for my 5th grade presentation project. I’ve also put my Sweet Valley High phase behind me–I’m actually trying to forget it ever happened. Nowadays when I stop and look in a discount bookstore, I will go straight to one section.

I bet y’all can guess which one it is.

The particularly great thing about the cookbook section of a discount section is that most of the books in it are going to be very old; some maybe even vintage. If you’re VERY lucky you can find the ‘Church cookbooks’ that are literally collated recipes from elderly church ladies (mostly Southern) that share the foods they make for their families and church potlucks. I’ve also seen huge, thick baking books with hundreds of recipes int hem that would normally be thirty or forty dollars, only cost as little as five in a discount bookstore.

It’s ridiculous how excited I get when I come across a find like that.

I was downtown a while ago and lo and behold: there was a discount bookstore adjoining the parking garage I was parked in. The cookbook section was right smack dab in the front window, guys.

Do you REALLY think I could just walk by without even going in to look? Tuh. Remember I said you could find those thick baking collection books for practically pennies? I found one at that discount bookstore in the parking garage. It was one of the first ones I picked up and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was mine. I flipped through the pages on the way home, already excited to test one of the recipes out.

This recipe in its original form needed some adjustments. But once I made them, it resulted in a super tasty loaf. We’ve already established that I will legit look for a way to throw some cornmeal into ANYTHING and this was a very good something to throw it in. I thought the construction was not only simple, but pretty to look at it. The shape is made by layering balls of the dough on top of one another in a tube pan so that when it bakes, it forms ‘bubbles’ across the top. You can use the bubbles to tear off chunks of the bread, or cut it into thick slices like I did.

The loaf itself is soft, though the cornmeal gives it a gritty texture and sweetness that I personally love. It’s delicious smeared with jelly and butter, but I think it’d be excellent as the base for French toast as well. If you don’t have a tube pan, this would work just fine in loaf pans and cake pans too.

So, what have we learned? #1, don’t sleep on discount bookstores. They’re lit. #2 You should make this bread. That’s all… for today anyway.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #199, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Corn Bubble Bread

Recipe Adapted from “Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads”

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Ingredients

  • 3-5 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 packages/envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the salt, pepper and cornmeal. Stir together to combine, then set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the warm water, milk and shortening. Allow to heat over the stove until warm to the touch. (Around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)  Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow yeast to proof, about 10 minutes until frothy on top.

Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and use the dough hook to beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add an additional cup of flour to the dough to thicken it and continue to beat at medium high speed. Turn mixer off, then add additional flour as needed to where it is a rough mass that can be worked with your hands.

Sprinkle a clean surface with flour, then turn dough out onto it. Knead with a strong push-pull action, about 8 minutes. Place back in the mixer and knead for an additional 8 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic, and spring back under the touch.

Grease the mixing bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Grease one 10” tube pan. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn dough out onto it. Punch dough down a few times to deflate air bubbles. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to divide into 32 equal pieces; first 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32. Roll each of the 32 pieces into balls, then arrange the balls into 2 layers in the bottom of the tube pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush over the top of the dough balls. Place the tub pan on a half sheet pan, then bake in the oven until golden brown and hollow on the bottom, about 40-45 minutes. (It browns/bakes fast, so check it early and cover if browning too quickly. Bread is done at 190° inner temp.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.