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.

Sweet Dinner Rolls

Where do your thoughts wander when they get a chance to get and let loose? Positively speaking, I mean. Negativity is a journey in and of itself that I don’t want to focus on for this post. Instead, why not tell some of the things you actually *like* to daydream about? Things that will put you in a good mood by just thinking about them.

Personally, I can name about three main subjects my own mind gravitates towards that put me in my happy place.

The people that I love are right at the top, for obvious reasons. The next two are my creative outlets: writing and cooking. I’m kinda shy about talking my writing and since this is after all a food blog, let’s just focus on that.

It’s hard for me to try and estimate how many times a day my thoughts will go to cooking or baking. Too hard to even really try, so I won’t. But it’s a lot. I think about what I’ve already cooked or baked. I think about what I want to cook or bake. Then, I think about how I want to cook or bake it. I start planning the things I need to get from the grocery store, timing out when I’m going to cook or bake throughout the day. I have to decide if it’s something I want to blog about it. If it is and it’s winter, I also need to factor in time enough to take pictures before it gets dark.

Quite a bit of thought goes into every post I share here, and this one was no different.

Alright, so boom: I was sitting in a hard, wooden, and very uncomfortable chair waiting for my niece’s preschool to get out so I could pick her up. My mind wandered to bread baking–a very common place it likes to visit. I started thinking about types of shapes that I could mold it into that would both photograph well and be different than what I’d done before on the blog.

I’ve done scrolls. I’ve done knots. I’ve done flowers.  Crescents, wreaths, scrolls, skulls, sticks. I’ve made twisty, elaborate, shaped loaves. I’ve made tear and share batches, as well as plain, round rolls.  I’m not trying to blow my own horn, I’m just saying all this to emphasize that it takes some imagination for me to come up with something new for me to do so far as bread shaping is concerned.

I’m not exactly an amateur baker, but I’m not sure I’d call myself an expert either. So when I’m planning out my next baking projects, I try and make sure that my plans don’t get too ‘lofty’ to the point where it’s something I’m not able to execute. There are some bread bakes I’ve seen that are far and beyond anything I’m currently capable of–they’re made by truly spectacular, talented bakers that are goals for me. The things I do are relatively simple to do, but I aim to still make them pretty.

Hand to God, that’s literally how I came up with these. The dough is simple to put together and the rolls themselves are easy to assemble. And yet,(if I may say so myself) they still look pretty good.

I’ve actually been making these rolls for years, except I’d just been shaping them into simple balls and letting them be dinner rolls in the cast iron skillet. I’d like to emphasize that if you want to try this recipe, but the shaping intimidates you, it’s ABSOLUTELY fine to forgo the shaping altogether. After the first rise, just portion the dough into regular balls, arrange them in a cast iron skillet/cake pan/or 13×9 baking dish and bake them that way. They’ll still be fantastic.

Sweet Dinner Rolls1

The shape of the rolls is really just two pieces of dough that I rolled into scrolls. I then laid one of the scrolls on top of the other and nudged the coils close to each other into a ‘square’ shape. By the time they proofed and baked, it looks like they’re intricately woven and what not. These bake up puffy and fluffy on the inside and as the title suggests, they are on the sweeter side. They’re a huge favorite here in our spot, and if you decide to try them I have a feeling they’ll become one in yours too.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #197, co-hosted by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Trupti @ My Culinary Saga.

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Sweet Dinner Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

 

 

Directions

Pour the water and milk together in a small saucepan and bring to a warm temperature (think baby bottle warm). Remove from heat. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow yeast to bloom, about 10 minutes until frothy.Beat 1 of the eggs in a small bowl. Set aside.

Attach the paddle attachment to the bowl of a standing mixer Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the beaten egg, the butter, 1/3 cup of sugar and the salt. Mix together until combined. Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, to the mixture, until a dough begins to form. Allow to knead for about 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and pliable.

Spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray, place dough inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Allow to rest in a warm place until dough is double in size, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Punch down dough onto surface, divide in half. Place one half back inside the bowl and keep covered. Divide the other piece into a half, then divide each of those halves into thirds. (So, you should have six pieces at this point.)

Take one of the six pieces and divide it in half. Roll each half into a long rope, about 6-7 inches. Roll the ends of each rope into spirals, going in opposite directions of each other.  Place one of the spirals on top of the other and pinch together so that the spirals form a roll with four ‘corners’. Place on a sheet pan you line with parchment paper. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of the dough. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl. Remove plastic wrap and brush rolls with the beaten egg. Bake rolls in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top and bottoms, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Baking Powder Biscuits

Baking Powder Biscuits7

What are some things you do to perk yourself up when you’re down?

For some of us, it may be a little thing called retail therapy. To some certain extent, I’m guilty too; buying new kitchen gadgets and appliances makes me happy. So do perfume & candles from Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret. And cookbooks. I have an unhealthy obsession with collecting cookbooks. I also like oversize pajama shirts, wacky colored/printed socks, and hoodies.

Y’know. Just in case you guys felt like spoiling a chick.

Music, I think, is a go-to for most of us. I’ve got a playlist specially designated for mood-pick me ups.There are a handful of movies that I’ll watch when I’m feeling blue just because thus far, they’ve never failed to always lift my spirits up when they’ve sunk.

But because this is me, and because the subject of my blog is about cooking & baking I’m sure’ it’s pretty self-explanatory that the primary go-to way that I lift myself up is to get inside the kitchen and put something together.

There’s just something about baking that almost never fails to calm me down. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven, pull out my standing mixer, and just shut myself off to whatever else is going on in tedious real life. I think I’m drawn to it for several reasons: first, I’m focused on following a scientific process (which is what baking is, essentially) so my attention and thoughts are set on following the directions and not necessarily on something stressful that I can’t control.

My hands are usually kept busy measuring out ingredients, kneading dough, cutting, scraping, pouring, stirring or whatever the dish requires. Usually while the product is baking in the oven, I’m washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Then by the time it’s cooled off, I’m basking in how good it smells in the house, how delicious is looks and tastes. I give myself a pat on the back for a job well done and feel at least tad bit better that I created something that gave me and someone else, some (and at times immense) satisfaction.

Today’s recipe was one of those times.

I woke up feeling sad. Well, actually I didn’t really sleep that well. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep tops that night and woke up very early in the morning. I felt restless. Frustrated. Tense. Bored. I tossed and turned several times and tried to fall back asleep. Didn’t happen. Finally, I just got tired of trying. I got out of bed, and went into the kitchen. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven and started getting out ingredients.

I was gonna bake myself out of this bad mood….with biscuits. Big, buttery, soft,  flaky biscuits.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come on my biscuit-making journey. I used to be really awful at making them. But in the past two years I’ve made myself practice more and more and the practice combined with some handy tips I’ve picked up from reading some cookbooks and articles has really upped my Biscuit-game so to speak.

I make kick-ass biscuits. I just do.

And these? They’re good. REALLY good. What’s more, they take less than thirty minutes to put together.

I got up and out of bed just before the crack of dawn and started throwing together the dough for these. As the beautiful sun was rising outside over the trees, my beautiful biscuits were rising in the oven. It was glorious. And you know what? I started to feel better.

I cannot believe I’m about to say this but this recipe is RIGHT up there with the recipe I shared a while back for my Grandma’s Angel Biscuits. It’s not better. I can’t go that far (it’s my grandma’s recipe, after all) but…they can share a spotlight together. That’s how good these are. SOSOSOSO flaky and soft on the inside. Yet they’re sturdy enough to stand up to just about anything you want to do with them; sausage gravy, stew, breakfast sandwich bun, anything. They’re also just delicious to eat all by themselves; we switched between smearing them with butter and jam or butter drizzled with honey. Pure bliss, I’m telling you.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #170, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird.

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Baking Powder Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Serve warm, spread with butter, jam (or drizzled/dipped in syrup, how I like them).

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf2

Easter Sunday’s in a couple of days. When I was growing up, it was a huge to-do. Me and my sisters all got brand spanking new dresses (most of which were pretty ugly because, 90’s kids fashion) and shoes. I had a great mom who usually made sure we also got Easter gift baskets to wake up to. We’d go to church, where the services were specially centered around the Resurrection.  Then it was back to my grandparents’, or a restaurant where there was a nice brunch or dinner that would give us all food comas for the rest of the day and evening.

Nowadays, things are much… quieter. But if there’s still something I do try to keep going for myself at Easter, it’s good food. That, you never grow out of.

Making Easter bread is something that’s become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me. I do it because there are quite a lot of different types from various cultures and places to try. I do it test and improve my bread making skills. I do it because most of them are really yummy and not too difficult to pull off. I do it because I like it.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for hot cross buns ever since I was a kid and heard about them for the first time in a British nursery rhyme. They just looked yummy in the picture and for years, I always wondered what one would taste like. I recently read a comment on another food blog that called them the first and earliest ‘food fad’, which I thought was funny.

It was two years ago I think, when I took my first shot at making Hot Cross Buns for myself. Mine had a slight twist on the original with the addition of chamomile tea to the dough, which gave them a delicious flavor. I decided then and there that it wouldn’t be the last of my hot cross bun baking. This HAD to happen again.

I briefly considered just making plain Hot Cross Buns, but then I noticed a recipe on Williams-Sonoma’s blog that looked very intriguing; Hot Cross Buns translated into a a single loaf of bread.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I have trouble sticking to the ‘script’ of a recipe if I feel comfortable with it. I just can’t leave well enough alone. The original recipe just called for a single rectangle of dough to be rolled up then placed in the loaf pan and baked off to form one swirl.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t do that.

Look guys, I know it looks complicated, but it isn’t. Really.

I started with the one cylinder, then randomly took my bench scraper and split it in half. I then used it to split THOSE halves in half. Then, I just arranged the individual cylinders side by side in the loaf pan with the cut side facing the pan. That’s it. You let the loaves rise and get puffy, then bake them off where they actually rise and get even MORE puffy. Then by the time they’re done and cooled off, BAM. You’ve got a loaf of bread that not only smells amazing, it’ll have everyone you share it with scratching their heads wondering how the heck you pulled this off.

(Which never fails to be great feeling by the way.)

Now, let’s get down to taste. I added a cup of whole wheat flour to the dough, which gives it that hearty, nutty flavor that I personally love. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg give it an ‘umph’ of warm comforting spice that will make your kitchen smell like a bakery. The sweetness of the dough’s cinnamon brown sugar filling is also very well balanced from the tartness of the cherries and/or currants and the orange zest. You don’t have to add the icing, but come on: why WOULDN’T you add it? Icing is one of life’s pleasures and don’t you try and say it’s not; no one believes you.

There are so many ways you could eat & enjoy this bread. Plain and all on it’s own. Toasted & smeared with butter & jam. Sliced very thick and used for FRENCH FRIGGIN TOAST. You could even use the leftovers (should there even be any because, I mean, come ON)  as the base for a delicious bread pudding.

Quite simply guys, this bread hits allllll the right spots. Find out which one is yours, asap.

Happy Easter, Resurrection Sunday, Passover & Fiesta Friday #167.

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Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup dried cherries or currants
  • 1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon water

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • A few tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the whole milk and white sugar and heat to 110°. Pour this into the bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for about 10-20 minutes, until mixture is frothy and proved.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. After yeast mixture is ready, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, and combine using the dough attachment, about one cup at a time.

Add the eggs, cherries and orange zest and continue to allow to mix/knead on medium for about 10 minutes until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth. Grease the bottom of the bowl, place dough back inside. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Meanwhile, spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line with one wide strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil each; spray the paper/foil as well.

Sprinkle a small amount of flour or powdered sugar on a clean surface. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Keep the other half covered with the plastic wrap while you work with the first. Flour a rolling pin & roll out the half to an 8  1/2 inch rectangle.

Combine the softened butter, light brown sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Divide the mixture in half.

Using a spatula & your fingers, spread and press the half of the sugar mixture over the dough evenly. Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as you can, pressing the seam securely to seal. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, divide the cylinder in half, then divide each half into four rolls. Place the rolls, cut side up in the bottom of the loaf pan in two rows of four. Repeat the above process with the other half of dough. Cover both pans with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until rise and puffy, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Place a shallow pan of water on floor or bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and the water. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over both loaves. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top, until inner temp of the loaves reaches 195°-200°.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then use the sides of the parchment paper or foil to lift out of the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, for about one hour.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and vanilla until slightly thick. Use a fork to drizzle the icing over the top of the loaves. Allow to set for about another hour before slicing thick and serving with butter or jam.