Showing posts with label Bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bread. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2017

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway


In the event I ever travel to Ireland (a place high on my bucket list), I fully expect to be detained, deported, or deterred from entering the country for posting this recipe for Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway. And, if by some chance, the authorities do not prevent me from leaving the airport, I anticipate a contingent from The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread will be there to greet me. Not to welcome me, but rather for the purpose of very politely informing me a true Irish Soda Bread is made with only four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda. Calling my "Americanized" version "Irish" was a bit of stretch. And, of course, they would be right. In this paranoid fantasy moment I imagine I would have at least two options: graciously ask for their forgiveness or ever so kindly attempt to explain myself by sharing a bit of soda bread's history. Because leaving without having explored the lush landscapes, cliffs along the seashores, charming towns, and a couple of authentic Irish pubs, would not be an option.


While it's true the earliest reference to Irish Soda Bread appeared in the November 1836 edition of Farmer's Magazine (referencing a newspaper article for the bread in County Down) the origin of Soda Bread technically was not Ireland (the American Indians actually made the earliest version of soda bread using pearl ash to leaven the bread). The Irish Soda Bread tradition actually began shortly after baking soda was invented in the mid-1800's. It was quickly adopted by Irish women, as it allowed Irish flour to rise setting off the creation of closely guarded family Irish Soda Bread recipes. History aside, the wisest option would be to ask for forgiveness for taking liberties with a revered, traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. All the while keeping my fingers crossed the old saying 'it's always best to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission' would actually work. My only default to earn their good graces would be to pray the fairies were with me.

One of the concerns about Irish Soda Bread is dryness and crumbly-ness. This one is neither. There are literally hundreds of Irish Soda Bread recipes to choose from. In addition to the four ingredient traditional Irish Soda Bread, variations include the use of both all-purpose and whole wheat/whole wheat pastry flour; raisins or currants soaked in Irish Whiskey; eggs or no eggs; melted instead of cold butter; and ,orange or lemon peel. Narrowing down my choices to three, I went back and forth between them before deciding on the recipe originally shared in Bon Appetit. Even after making a decision, I wasn't sure about the use of both caraway seeds and raisins. In the end, I decided not to eliminate either of them. It turned out to be a really good decision.


If there is one way to make this "Americanized" version of Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway a little more Irish, it would be to serve it with some softened Irish butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. I used a fine sea salt instead of my usual Kosher salt. In lieu of using only all-purpose flour, you can use a combination of all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour. See note below.


Instead of cutting the butter into small cubes, grating the butter makes it much easier to incorporate into the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt mixture.

Using your hands, blend the butter into dry ingredients until it looks like a coarse meal. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds with a wooden spoons. You might think two and a half cups of dark raisins is too much. Trust me, it's not. The proportions in this Irish Soda Bread are pretty close to perfect.


Whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients. Begin to bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. Once the flour has been fully incorporated, knead very gently. Note: The dough will be very sticky. Flouring your hands before kneading makes it slightly less messy.

Transfer the dough to your prepared baking pan and shape into a mounded round loaf.


"You have to cut a cross in the dough to let the fairies out." There are actually two schools of thought on the cross cut into the dough. Some say it's to let the fairies escape, others say it brings blessings from above. You can choose to believe one or the other, or both, but I dare not upset the fairies. Altering the ingredients in an Irish Soda Bread recipe is one thing, not respecting the fairies is another. When making the cross on the top of the dough, cut deep into (apparently I did not cut deep enough as my finished bread had a barely discernible cross).


This recipe makes either one really large loaf or two perfectly size loaves. One of the benefits of dividing the dough into two loaves is that you will have one to give away.

If you have a cast iron pan, use it. If you won't use cake pans (particularly if you are making two loaves. Whichever pan you use, generously butter the pan and line the bottom withe parchment paper. Many Irish Soda Breads are baked at a high heat (i.e., 400 degrees (F) or higher. This Soda Bread is baked in 350 degree (F) oven, which may contribute to a moister bread. The single loaf will bake in approximately 70-80 minutes while the smaller loaves will bake in 50-53 minutes.

To test for doneness, insert a tester into the center or side of bread. If the tester comes out clean, the bread is done. A less technical way of testing for doneness is to tap on the top of the bread. If it sounds hard but hollow, the bread is done. The baked bread remains in the baking pan for 10 minutes before it is removed and placed on a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices, serve with some room temperature (Irish) butter, then sit back and savor.

Although I was initially reluctant to use both raisins and caraway seeds, but I can't imagine making this soda bread using only or the other or omitting them completely. The sweetness of the moist bread with its' crunchy exterior combined with the sweet/savory contrast of the raisins and caraway seeds makes this Irish Soda Bread mouth-watering delicious. While it may not be a technically traditional Irish Soda Bread, it is one definitely worthy of being made well after St. Patrick's Day.
Recipe
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway (slight adaptation to the Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway as shared by Bon Appetit, October 2002)

Ingredients
5 cups (625 grams) of all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 slightly rounded teaspoon (8 grams) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, grated
2 1/2 cups dark raisins
3 Tablespoons caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
Best quality Irish butter for serving 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Generously butter one large 12 inch cast iron pan or two 9"/10" cast iron or cake pans. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and lightly butter.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.
3. Add grated butter. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse crumbs form.
4. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.
5. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl to blend. Add to dough. Using a wooden spoon, stir until well incorporated (dough will be sticky). Flour your hands and lightly knead the dough in the bowl.
6. Transfer dough to prepared pans. Smooth top, mounding slightly in the center. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut a 1 inch deep cross into top center of the dough.
7. Bake until bread is cooked through and tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. For a single loaf, baking time will be approximately 70-80 minutes, for two loaves baking time will be 50-53 minutes.
8. Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to col completely.
9. Cut into slices and serve with (Irish) butter.
10. Wrap bread tightly with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature. The bread is best on the day it is baked and for one additional day. 

Notes: (1) I measured the dry ingredients on a digital scale. If you decide to use both all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour, measuring on a scale is critical as the wheat flour has a greater density, weighing less (120 grams per cup) than all-purpose flour. (2) Make sure to make a deep cross into your dough before putting in the oven. Not only will be this ensure the fairies are let out, your finished loaf will have a beautiful, rustic look to it. (3) I used Kerrygold Irish butter for the dough and for serving.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Corn Muffins


This past weekend was marked by the first roaring, crackling fire of the season. The temperature outside finally dipped down low enough where a fire was needed to take the chill out of the air in the house. The house I grew up had neither a wood burning nor gas fireplace. Although at Christmas we did have one of those large faux red brick corrugated cardboard fireplaces to hang our stockings from. Not quite the same experience as having a 'real' fireplace. The only time in my life I wished I had a gas instead of a wood burning fireplace was when the power went out during a three day east coast blizzard and I became a fireplace slave. At some point during the second day, of what felt like a return to the Little House on the Prairie life, I wondered if the early settlers and pioneers were sleep deprived or if they just adjusted to various states of frozenness. Because keeping a fire going morning, noon, and night was exhausting (and I didn't even have to cut the wood!). The kind of exhaustion you might temporarily feel after an hour of sculpt yoga, any long run over 13.1 miles, or a several hour high elevation hike. Fortunately I live in a house with one working wood burning fireplace (the repairs needed for the second one have yet to be done). Rather than generating warmth needed for physical survival, this fireplace now has the primary function of creating ambiance to warm and soothe the souls of everyone sitting near it.


Admit it. A corn muffin with golden brown, slightly domed tops is something we find incredibly appealing. They may, in fact, borderline on being lust worthy. Conversely, corn muffins pale in color with flat or caved in tops are ones we might wrinkle our noses at, or eat only if desperately hungry. And when we come across a domed top, golden brown muffin, rich with buttery corn flavor and perfectly moist, we know we have finally arrived in Corn Muffin heaven. After thanking the powers that be for creating such a gift, we pledge to never ever eat any other corn muffin not living up to this gold(en) standard. Even if we are starving. Thanks in large part to Cook's Illustrated, we no longer have to search far and wide for the seemingly illusive, most delectable corn muffin on the planet. We can now make them ourselves whenever we want. For breakfast, for lunch with a warm bowl of soup, for dinner with a hot bowl of chili, or just because you crave them.


In the past several weeks I made these Corn Muffins twice. The first time because I have long wanted to find a recipe for sweet, buttery, moist Corn Muffins. The second time was because I had a craving for sweet, buttery, moist Corn Muffins. These might fall into the category of rather addicting comfort food.

There ingredients in this recipe are pretty similar to those found in other corn muffin recipes. However, the technique for making them is decidedly different from most others out there.


To keep the cornmeal flavor at the forefront of these muffins while ensuring they had great texture and moistness, Cook's Illustrated discovered the secret was cooking some of the cornmeal with milk to a polenta like, porridge consistency. The result of using a combination of slightly cooked and dry cornmeal in the batter is a feast for the eyes, tender crumb, buttery rich flavor corn muffin.


The sugar, slightly cooled melted butter and sour cream help to bring down the temperature of the milk/cornmeal mixture to ensure the eggs aren't 'cooked' when added in to the batter. If your batter is a little too warm to the touch, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before whisking in the eggs. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to stir in the dry ingredients as once everything comes together, the batter will become very thick.


When making cupcakes or some muffins, the recommendation is usually to fill the cups 2/3's full. However, the batter will be slightly mounded up over the top of the cupcake papers for these corn muffins.


They are baked for 14-17 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed. Or alternately insert a toothpick in the center of the muffin. If it comes out clean, the muffin is done. Before removing the muffins from the tin, allow to cool for at five minutes.

Serve these muffins warm, at room temperature, or reheated with honey and/or butter.


These Corn Muffins are moist on the inside, yet have an almost slightly caramelized, crunchy exterior surface. They are pure perfection.


Some of you might be wondering if corn muffins and cornbread are interchangeable terms for the same thing. And actually they aren't. The most significant difference between the two is no sugar and sugar. Most traditional cornbreads do not use sugar as an ingredient, while sugar plays an important role in the corn muffin.

Speaking of sugar, I made two changes made to Cook's Illustrated recipe. The first was increasing the amount of sugar in the batter from 3 Tablespoons of 1/3 of a cup. The second was sprinkling the tops with sanding sugar. When making these corn muffins, increase the amount of sugar in the batter to at least 1/4 cup (equivalent of 4 Tablespoons) but no more than 1/3 cup. The sanding sugar on the top is optional and matter of personal preference. Kind of like preferring a wood burning fireplace to a gas fireplace. One isn't necessarily better than the other, it's all about what makes you the happiest.

Recipe
Corn Muffins (slight adaptation of the Savory Corn Muffin recipe in the new Cook's Illustrated cookbook, Cook's Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of our Favorite Ingredients)
Makes one dozen muffins

Ingredients
2 cups yellow (fine, medium, or a combination of fine and medium grind) cornmeal, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt or fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 - 1/3 cup granulated sugar (See Notes)
2 large eggs, room temperature
Optional: Sanding sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F). Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake papers or squares of parchment paper.
2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cornmeal with the milk. Over medium-high heat, cook mixture until it has a thick batter or polenta-like porridge consistency (approximately 4-6 minutes of cooking time). Note: Stir continuously. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Add the butter and sugar into the milk/cornmeal mixture.  
5. Add the sour cream, stirring until no streaks appear.
6. If mixture is cooled enough, whisk in eggs until combined. Note: If mixture is too hot, wait 5 minutes before adding eggs.
7. Fold in flour mixture until the batter is smooth and thick.
8. Using an ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared muffin cups. 
9. Bake until tops are golden brown and the top of the muffin bounces back when lightly pressed. Approximately 14-18 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool for an additional 5 minutes.
10. Serve warm with room temperature butter and/or honey.
11. Store muffins in a tightly sealed container or ziplock storage bag. 

Notes: (1) Cook's Illustrated recommended using 3 Tablespoons of sugar. I used 1/4 cup of sugar in the first batch of the corn muffins and 1/3 cup of sugar on the second batch. The 1/3 cup of sugar yielded the kind of sweetness I love in a corn muffin. (2) Do not use white cornmeal or coarse grain cornmeal. I used Bob's Red Mill Yellow medium-grind cornmeal. (3) My baking time was almost 16 minutes. (4) I sprinkled mine with sanding sugar for an added bit of crunch and sweetness, but if you are serving them with a savory dish (e.g., soup or chili) omit the sanding sugar.


Cows grazing on a misty morning along the Sakonnet River in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns


My first thought upon seeing these almost too beautiful to eat Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns posted by a fellow foodblogger was 'I need to make them'. This was immediately followed by 'these look a little beyond my pastry and bread making skill set'. Being someone who is currently having significant difficulty wrapping my head around motor planning through a burpee, I wondered if making these buns would be another one of those challenges getting the best of me. Having my self-esteem take two hits in one week would border on a form of self-abuse I was pretty certain wasn't exactly in my best interest. If there was at least one consolation, it would be no one would be able to publicly see me struggling with one of them.


In spite of reading the recipe and pouring over Johanna Kindvall's one-dimensional drawings on forming each of the individual Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns, I still couldn't wrap my head around how she got them to look so beautiful. Could a trip to bakeries in Sweden, a virtual trip via YouTube that is, take me from feeling clueless to being Swedish bun (Kardemummabullar) I CAN do this confident? YES! Not only did I finally have that 'ah-ha' moment, I became so entrenched in watching Swedish videos I think I may have qualified for Swedish citizenship.


If I said these Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns were similar to Cinnamon Rolls I may inadvertently be misleading you or risk offending someone somewhere. And if I said they were much easier to make than Cinnamon Rolls, yet equally as delicious, I wonder if you will believe me considering all of my initial trepidations. I suppose you will just have to make them to decide for yourself. Or miss out knowing how OMG, melt in your mouth, delectable they are.

Here are some of the reasons why they are easier to make than traditional American cinnamon rolls: (1) you don't need a standing mixer with a dough hook, the dough simply comes together with your hands; (2) you don't need to feel like you are getting an arm workout kneading the dough, as in less than 5 minutes the dough becomes smooth and has the perfect elasticity; and (3), you don't need to wait hours for the first dough rise, it doubles in size in approximately an hour if placed in a warm, draft-free space.


If there was ever a dough to cure anyone suffering from dough-phobia, this would be it. I knew from the taste and texture of the dough alone that these Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns would be incredible.


After dividing the 'after the first rise' dough in half, it is rolled out into a 12"x18" rectangle. Half of the butter-cinnamon-cardamom mixture is spread evenly over the dough (all the way to the edges) before folding the dough in half. Now this is where I could tell you to cut the dough into approximately 1 1/4- 1 1/2 inch strips, then cut each strip in half (without cutting into the fold), first twisting each side of the strip then braiding both sides of the strip together, wrapping into a bun and placing on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. But if you too are more of a visual learner, here is a link to one of the videos that made the bun formation process easy to understand (seen shortly after the video's 6 minute mark). One of the more humorous videos watched demonstrated another way of forming these buns (about 2 minutes into the video). The point of sharing both of these two techniques with you (don't forget to look at Johanna's drawings) is that there is almost no way you can mess them up.


Once the dough is formed into these gorgeous buns, they are covered and allowed to rise for additional 45-60 minutes (or until puffy).


All of the 'second rising' buns are brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with Swedish pearl sugar (my favorite is made my Lars and can be found at some grocery store or speciality food stores as well as bought on Amazon.)


Be generous with your sprinkling of the Swedish Pearl Sugar.


In a preheated 425 degree (F) oven, the Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns bake for approximately 8-10 minutes. Note: My baking time was between 9:30 and 10 minutes. I put one baking sheet into the oven at a time rather than risk having both pans of buns come out looking and baking differently.


Immediately remove the baked buns from the baking sheet and transfer to a cooling rack. Keeping the buns on the hot baking pan may cause them to continue baking, which will cause them to lose their moistness. Don't resist the temptation to eat them while they are still warm.


Cardamom is a spice with a strong, unique taste. Serious Eats describes cardamom's difficult to describe complex flavor as 'part-nostril widening menthol, part dew-drenched flower, part-honeyed syrup'. If you are unfamiliar with its' taste, these buns would be a great place to first experience it, particularly due its' pairing with cinnamon. Yes it is on the expensive side. But spice stores and some grocery stores (like Whole Foods) allow to buy 'what you need' from their spice bins.

While they are equally delicious room temperature, I couldn't help but want to recreate the taste of warm baked dough. So I heated them up (on low power) in the microwave. They were perfect.

It just so happened that I made these Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns while the person who shall remain nameless was traveling for work. To add insult to injury I texted him a photo of these over the top deliciously beautiful buns as soon as they came out of the oven. It wasn't that I was being wicked, I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm for being able to make buns I thought were destined to send my self-confidence plummeting. Before you go and start thinking too ill of me, I froze half of them. So when he returns back home I will reheat them in the microwave and he can experience their hot out of the oven scrumptiousness. Having already reheated one of these frozen buns, I learned they freeze and reheat incredibly well.


If watching more than my fair share of videos on youtube gave me the confidence I needed to form these beautiful Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns, maybe I should consider watching some youtube how-to burpees videos. Especially if I want to stop looking and feeling so uncoordinated in public. Although watching extremely fit people do burpees effortlessly may do even more irreparable harm to my self-esteem. Think if I bring in a platter of these gorgeous eye-candy Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns to my next circuit training class no one will see (or remember) the ungraceful burpee attempts being made by this aging ex-cheerleader? Possibly.
Recipe
Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns (inspired by Johanna Kindvall's Kardemummabullar (Cardamom Buns) as shared on her blog Pantry Confidential)

Ingredients
Dough
7 Tablespoons (99 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups (638 grams) all-purpose-flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling
7 Tablespoons (99 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Topping
1 large egg, beaten
Pearl sugar (recommend Lars Pearl Sugar)

Directions
1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in milk, heating until warm to the touch (110 degrees F).
2. In a smal bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 to 3 Tablespoons of warm butter/milk mixture. Stir and let mixture sit until bubbles form on the top of the yeast. Note: Keep reserved milk/butter mixture.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Add the yeast mixture along with remaining butter/milk mixture. Work together with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball.
4. Transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic (approximately 3-5 minutes). Notes: (1) The dough should feel moist, however, if it sticks to your fingers add a small amount of flour. (2) The dough is fully kneaded when you slice into with a sharp knife and see small air  bubbles throughout.
5. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and place in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled in size (approximately 1 hour).
6. Before the dough has finished rising, make filling. Cream together the room temperature butter, sugar, and spices until the mixture is an evenly mixed and spreadable paste. Set aside.
7. After the dough has finished rising, cut the dough in half. Roll one half out on a flat, lightly floured surface into a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle. Place the rectangle on the surface so that the long side is closest to you.
8. Carefully spread half of the filling on half of the dough, bringing the filling to edges of the dough. Fold the dough in half (should have a 6 inch by 18 inch rectangle). Slice into 12-14 equally sized pieces. Cut, twist, and shape into buns, placing them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with second half of the dough. Note: Either look at Johanna Kindvall's post or watch the youtube videos linked above.
9. Cover the buns with a clean flour sack or tea towel and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until puffy.
10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F).
11. Brush the buns with an egg wash and sprinkle generously with pearl sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating pans from front to back halfway through the baking.
12. Transfer baked buns to a cooling rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Buns can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer and reheated in the microwave.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baguettes


"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts." (James Beard) Not less than two weeks ago one of my friends suggested I make lobster roll buns for the blog. Catching me in one of those 'bread is not easy to make' moments of self-doubt, my reaction was less than enthusiastic. Since moving back from the east coast, life now means not having a lobster roll at least once a week (once you get spoiled with east coast lobster rolls, not having easy access to them is a genuine hardship). Actually it means hardly ever having a lobster roll (they are just not the same here). In spite of my bread making reticence and lobster roll remorse, the 'bread seed' was planted. And as fate would have it, I came across a recipe for baguettes several days later (one taking less than two hours from start to finish). Much to my surprise the baguettes looked relatively simple to make. Suddenly I went from being a bread making nay-sayer to eagerly jumping on the bread making bandwagon.


"The smell of good bread baking like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." (M.F.K. Fischer) If the scent of bread baking in the oven isn't enough to help you overcome any of your founded or unfounded bread making fears, one taste of homemade warm bread should be enough to give you the confidence to take on the challenge. Scented candles or vases filled with lilacs are not anywhere near as intoxicating as the aroma of baking bread. Not to mention they aren't even edible.


The quality of ingredients always, always make a difference to a sweet or savory dish. Based on years of baking experience I have come to the self-appointed 'not all all-purpose flours are created equal' spokesperson. My current all-purpose flour favorite is made by King Arthur. The old adage 'you get what you pay for' is true more often than not. When making these baguettes, give this flour a try. If you aren't already using it, I promise you will not be disappointed.

The first key to successfully making bread is having yeast that actually activates when combined with warm (115 degrees F) water. If the mixture becomes bubbly and frothy your yeast is good. If not, the water wasn't warm enough or too warm or the yeast wasn't good. Should your yeast 'starter' not get off to a good start, you will need to start all over. For these baguettes, the yeast/water mixture also includes two tablespoons of honey. After waiting at least 5 minutes or up to 10 minutes, the all-purpose flour, olive oil, salt and additional water is added. Stirring or whipping the mixture together allows the gluten to develop. Once the mixed together, lightly knead the dough until smooth.


The second key step in the process is allowing the dough to rest and rise (the fermentation stage). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (placing a towel or cloth on top is optional) and put in a warm, draft free place. The dough should double in size in less than hour (about 40-45 minutes).


After the dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 or 5 pieces. For longer baguettes cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll into your desired length. Remember, your baking sheet or bread pan will determine the length of your baguette. The rolled out, shaped baguettes need to rest (the proofing phase) for 25 minutes before baking. Note: Make several diagonal cuts on top of each baguette before allowing to proof.

At the time I made these baguettes, I did not have a baguette pan. Of course I felt compelled to buy one. My obsession for a baguette pan does not need to your obsession. As long as you have a heavy baking sheet, your baguettes should bake up beautifully. However, if making 5 smaller baguettes, divide the rolled baguettes between two baking sheets.


Before placing the baguettes in preheated 450 degree (F) oven, lightly spritz with water. In 18-20 minutes your baguettes should be golden brown and completely baked. Cool the baked bread on a wire rack (that is, if you can resist the urge to cut into one of the warm baguettes as soon as they come out of the oven).

Most bread recipes list preheating the oven as one of the steps in their directions. Have you ever wondered why no one has ever thought to add 'bring some really great butter to room temperature' to the directions? Think the time has come for someone to take care of that glaring omission? Okay, I will volunteer. 

In addition to butter, these baguettes are great for dipping into olive oil, for serving with cheese, for making crostini and topping with a creamy liver pate, for topping with cheese on a bowl of french onion soup, for making crostini, for making roasted red pepper and goat cheese sandwiches, for mopping up the sauce in a bowl of steamed mussels. In other words, baguettes have unlimited possibilities. As long as you have an oven, a bowl, some measuring cups and baking sheet, you can make them anywhere, anytime (and if you pack the ingredients in your suitcase, you can make them whether you are staying in a cabin in the woods or a house at the beach). These homemade baguettes will have you thinking twice about spending four or five dollars for single loaf. And the priceless satisfaction that comes with making your own bread will give you an adrenal rush as addictive as the aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven. 
Recipe
Baguette (recipe shared in the Spring (2015) issue of the Sweet Paul magazine)

Ingredients
1 1/2 Tablespoons dry active yeast
2 Tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups warm water, divided
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (recommend King Arthur flour)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Directions
1. Mix yeast, honey and 1/2 warm (115 degrees) water in a large bow. Let sit for 5 minutes or until mixture becomes frothy. If there is no frothiness, the yeast is inactive and you need to begin again.
2. Add remaining 1 cup warm water, flour, oil and salt. Mix until combined. Lightly knead until the dough is smooth.
3. Place dough back in bowl, cover with plastic and towel, put bowl in a warm place and allow to double in size (approximately 40 minutes).
4.Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface. Divide dough into 4 or 5 equal parts. Roll each part out into a long baguette.
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F). Bring some good butter to room temperature.
6. Place rolled dough on either a lightly oiled baking pan or in a bread pan. Using a sharp knife, make several slits along the top of each baguette.
7. Let baguettes rest for 25 minutes.
8. Lightly spray each baguette with water before placing in the oven. Bake until golden, approximately 18-20 minutes. Note: Original recipe had a baking time of 15-18 minutes, however, mine were not fully baked until the 20 minute mark.
9. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.


A sheep farm in northern Wisconsin.