Archive for the ‘Breads’ Category

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Okay, so I have a confession. I ripped this recipe out from the Vera Bradley catalog. If you know me, then you know that I am not a fan of the paisley wares Ms. Bradley is pushing. But you order one too many gifts for other people, start getting catalogs and before you know it, somehow it is downright impossible to get off a mailing list. I’ve been reading the catalogs recently because they include recipes. And I am a sucker for a new recipe.

However, upon doing some googling, this is not a new recipe! The original is from Bon Appetit magazine. Or from The Cake Bible. In true Internet form, there are dozens recipes, all variations on each other, with little or no cites to a source. Sigh.

So this is my variation on the theme. I added in vanilla, pumped up the lemon zest and increased the lemon juice. Which, according to my research, was not super original. But it does make for a tasty, perfect afternoon snack bread that will brighten your day. And that is really all I want from a recipe – old or new.



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Olive Oil Matzos

Passover food is usually awful. Matzo that tastes like cardboard, desserts that are dense, tasteless bricks, and dried out brisket that you have to wait an eternity to eat. But I’m here to tell you that things don’t have to be that way. I am reforming Passover food. And we are starting with matzo.

It is possible to make fresh, crisp matzo from scratch. Matzo that doesn’t taste like last weeks newspaper. Matzo that you would want to eat year round. Are you on the band wagon yet? Because I am. These were delicious. Crispy, flavorful and nothing like the stuff from the supermarket. These can be eaten year round and served without the justification of, well it is Passover. I think these would be wonderful dressed up with some exotic colored sea salt (pink salted matzos anyone?) or perhaps with some thyme or rosemary sprinkled on them. But they are also wonderful in their current simplicity.

These may or may not be kosher for passover, depending on your level of religiousness. Technically, matzo must be made in 18 minutes and with special flour. Obviously, I did not do that, but I think it is possible with this recipe. Even with taking photos and doing some clean up, making these took about 35-40 minutes to do by myself. The most time consuming part is rolling out the dough to extreme thinness, so if there are two people rolling, this becomes very doable. But I am not particularly observant to say the least, so take my kosher advice with a grain of pink sea salt.

A few notes. The oven is going to be extremely hot. The baking sheets will be extremely hot. Wear a glove (don’t just use a mitt) and be careful. I managed to burn the knuckle on my thumb (hence the oven glove recommendation) and it hurts! Watch the matzos very carefully, there is a fine line between crisp and burned.

Most irregular shaped matzo you’ll ever see


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Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day! You know what this means. No, not green beer. It means a shortage of caraway seeds. I went to three grocery stores before I finally found them and then managed to lose them in the house for twenty minutes (They were sitting on the table. I don’t know how I missed them).

This is the first time I’ve made soda bread and it was wonderful! Cooking the bread in a skillet gives it a nice crunchy crust, with a moist scone-like interior. Delicious. About that skillet though – I used an 11 inch pan, instead of a 10 inch skillet. It turned out fine, though a nice cast iron skillet would probably result in prettier browning. But your generic pan will be fine, as long as it is at least 10 inches wide and can go in the oven.

However, this is not “real” soda bread. According to Melissa Clark, no one in Ireland eats soda bread, and when they do, it it made of flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda. No eggs, no butter, no caraway seeds, no currants. What I love most about the article (and Melissa Clark), is that after making real hardcore soda bread, she decided that it is terrible and that authenticity is overrated. I concur. I’m not sure I could deal with baking something that didn’t have butter.

A note about baking powder. This recipe requires a good deal of it. Make sure yours is fresh by putting a pinch (about a teaspoon) of it in a cup of hot water. If it fizzles, it is still good. I recommend buying organic baking powder or making your own to avoid any ingredients that have aluminum (which results in that metallic taste and green/blue color).


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Banana Bread

When I was a kid, I named my imaginary children Apple-ish, Orange-ish and Gum-ish. This leads to many questions. Yes, I really liked the suffix -ish. Yes, I had an imaginary husband; his name was He-Man. No, my brother wasn’t born until I was 9, so I was an only child for a long time. And no, there was no Banana-ish. Why? Because I don’t love bananas, so they didn’t make it into my imaginary family. Usually I think bananas are boring. I’ve read there is a reason for this, the banana variety we eat is considered bland but was very fungus resistant at a crucial time.

But then we had some bananas sitting on the kitchen table, rapidly turning spotty and mushy (obviously I wasn’t eating them) and I thought, banana bread! Banana bread is a vast improvement on bananas – nothing like mashing something up and baking it up with some butter, sugar and nuts to make it taste better (note: this works well for fruit, less so for spinach).

I picked this recipe out of the many across the internet because I really like the website where it was posted (Joy of Baking) and it turned out to be an excellent choice. It is not a flashy bread (other recipes I checked out included bourbon, which seemed intriguing, but also too much), but I don’t think banana bread isn’t supposed to be flashy. The brown butter Bananas Foster tart I want to make is where bananas go to be flashy. This is solidly delicious, not overly banana-ish (which leads to the dreaded mushiness) and the aroma when baking is unbeatable. Seriously, this is the best smelling thing I have baked in awhile.

And finally the answer to the usual last question, yes, I was a weird kid. My parents didn’t have cable. I blame them.


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Beer Bread

First, Saints!!!!!!! I cannot believe I no longer live in New Orleans and therefore am missing the greatest celebration of all time. But we did watch The Game with a great group of friends and I had way too much fun making way too much food. Will be posting a bunch of new recipes, and first up is this beer bread.

Usually bread is my nemesis. I am probably the only person who did not have success with the famous no-knead bread. Mine did not rise properly (despite New Orleans heat!) and resembled a large flat paving stone. Also, it tasted terrible unless I slathered on the butter. Lots of butter. I actually went to a King Arthur bread making class with my mom (who is even more frustrated with the bread process than I am) and I took notes, and still, terrible bread. Awful bread really. I’ve done some okay challahs, but honestly, bread usually just frustrates me.

But this bread! This bread is different. There is no yeast. The rise all comes from the beer. This makes everything SO much easier. No picky yeast, no obsessing over temperature, no waiting hours for rising. Less than an hour yields a delicious loaf of fresh bread. It is really beyond simple. I’ve made it twice now and I used Abita Turbodog (a very dark, Guinness like beer) and Abita Amber (another dark beer). The original recipe suggests Magic Hat #9 (another classic beer. I miss you Magic Hat!). So I would definitely recommend a quality, fresh beer (i.e. no Bud Light). Mom, if you are reading this, no using beers from the garage that are scarily old.

This bread is so easy, it almost has be convinced that I can be a bread baker and I should retry some of those failed yeast recipes. Almost.


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In honor of Hannukah, I thought I would not make latkes (well not yet anyway, but they are coming!) and make pletzlach instead. Pletzlach are flattened rolls topped with chopped onions and poppy seeds. I actually had bookmarked this ages and ages ago, but it fell into bookmark oblivion during the Great Computer Crashes of 2007 and 2009 (yes I have terrible luck with computers). But I happily rediscovered it in the Hanukkah recipe slideshow in the New York Times this week.

This is a very simple yeast recipe – it has a lot of yeast and a short rise time, so they come together very quickly. I recently went to a baking demonstration by King Arthur Flour where I finally learned to knead bread properly and I am going to attempt to impart this knowledge via photos. But don’t be dissuaded by what will probably be an overly complicated and overwrought explanation. These are fast, delicious and they smell like a slice of onion-y heaven.

Merged Pletzach


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