What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!
I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.
Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!
I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.
Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:
Left loaf was brushed with yolk wash and sprinkled with maple sugar
Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Simple braids are very attractive. For more complicated braids, look for online tutorials.
½ cup hot water
½ cup raisins
½ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, raisin mixture . . .
. . . and the foamy yeast
Put dough in greased bowl and let it rise. It will go from THIS . . .
. . . to THIS. Now comes the fun part – braiding!
Braiding a round challah. I’m not EVEN going to try to explain this. The Internet is your friend, with lots of tutorials.
Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the crust will be.
Bake. Cool on a rack if you have superhuman self-control. Otherwise, rip and tear!
I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!
What a satisfying nod to “Pumpkin Everything” season this glossy challah bread is! Pumpkin puree enhances the slightly sweet, subtly spiced dough, assuring it a place of honor at any table. Seriously, it will steal the show!
And I have to tell you, Pumpkin Challah makes the ultimate French toast. Drizzle it with maple syrup and dig in.
You know I love to play with my food, right? I thought a 4-rope braid would be difficult to do, but it really wasn’t. There are lots of videos on the Internet, but you probably won’t need one. Here’s a nice tutorial from Baking Bites.
Basically, if you think of your ropes as always being numbered (starting from the left) 1,2,3, and 4, it will go like this:
1 over 3
2 over 3
4 over 2
Repeat until you run out of dough. Just remember: no matter what, #1 is always the rope on the left and #4 is always the rope on the right.
. . . and back to 1 over 3. Keep going until you run out of dough.
Pinch the ends and tuck under. Let rise under a damp cloth until doubled.
I’m going to get all wild and go for the 5 rope version next time. No guts, no glory!
Challah is a fairly rich dough, so it can take a little longer to rise than most recipes. Count on 90 minutes instead of the standard hour for each rise. Be patient; the wait is worth it.
Note: I kept this as simple as possible, but you might want to add raisins to the dough just before you put it in the bowl to rise. And, of course, poppy seeds or sesame seeds on the top before baking is traditional. I just wanted to see it in its shining glory, unadorned.
I cut back on the sugar a little for this recipe because my first try seemed sweet—like those lovely Hawaiian rolls. If that’s what you’re looking for, add an additional 1 tablespoon of sugar. I won’t tell!
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves. Add raisins if you wish, or sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds before baking.
¾ cup warm water
a pinch of sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
¼ cup refined (no flavor) coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild cooking oil)
5 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and sugar. Add yeast and let sit until frothy - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine pumpkin, 2 eggs, and melted coconut oil.
Add yeast mixture, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Knead by machine for 5-6 minutes, or by hand on a floured surface for 7-8 minutes.The dough should be soft and slightly tacky. It may leave streaks on the side of the bowl, which is okay. If it's really sticky, add a little more flour.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. It should feel pillowy soft. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes.
Punch dough down lightly, divide into 4 equal parts, and roll each into a 24-inch rope. (If making 2 smaller loaves, divide into 8 equal parts and roll each into a 14-inch rope.)
Pinch the 4 ropes together at one end, separating each rope slightly. When you're braiding, remember that whichever rope is on the left is always #1, and whichever is on the right is always #4. Braid! (But not too tightly.)
Put #1 over #3
Put #2 over #3
Put #4 over #2
Repeat until finished. Pinch the ends together and tuck under.
Place on parchment covered baking sheet, cover with damp cloth and allow bread to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Mix in the dry ingredients and knead by machine for 5 -6 minutes (or by hand 7-8 minutes)
You’re going for a soft dough, so it’s okay if it doesn’t come cleanly away from the side of the bowl.
Put dough into greased bowl, turn to coat. Form into soft, pillowy ball and let rise until doubled.
Divide dough into 4 pieces (8 if you’re making 2 small loaves). Yes, I’m OCD. Yes, I’m weighing mine. You don’t have to!
Once braid has doubled, brush with egg yolk glaze and bake.
You can also opt for making 2 smaller loaves.
I have another version in mind, so you’ll probably see another challah recipe soon. If you’ve been following my blog, I’ll bet you can guess what flavor it will be. C’mon . . . let’s see those guesses!
It’s the first day of October, and (ahem) I’d like to point out that this is the first new pumpkin recipe I’ve posted for the season. You would really admire my restraint if you saw the long list of possible pumpkin creations I’ve accumulated, taunting me daily. These flaky, tender (yet slightly crunchy) biscuits were on the top of that list, and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
The pumpkin flavor and blend of spices add a depth of flavor to the biscuits but aren’t overwhelming. And they are so versatile! Add a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweet touch or cover biscuits with sausage gravy for a savory flair. They are seriously good either way.
Homemade biscuits are really easy, as long as you remember two things:
Keep everything cold
Handle the dough as little as possible
By now you probably know that I have a love/hate relationship with shortening. I know it’s not a healthy choice, and try to use alternatives as much as possible, but I’ll say it again: biscuits, pie crust, and peanut butter cookies just aren’t as good without it. I’m willing to make an exception for these goodies. If you aren’t, then, by all means, substitute very cold butter. (But they probably won’t be as light and fluffy.)
I used fresh ginger in this recipe. If you don’t have any and must make these right now, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger.
These easy biscuits are subtly flavored with pumpkin and spices, perfect as a meal accompaniment or snack. Flaky and tender, they are soft inside but slightly crunchy outside. Irresistible! Makes 10 jumbo biscuits.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or you may substitute ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1¼ cups COLD buttermilk
½ cup pumpkin (solid pack puree)
½ cup COLD shortening
2 tablespoons COLD butter
Optional: cinnamon sugar
Heat oven to 450 F. Cover baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, grated ginger, and spices.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, and egg. Set aside.
Add cold shortening and butter to dry ingredients and, using a pastry blender, blend until there are no lumps larger than a pea.
Add buttermilk mixture all at once and stir just until most of the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix. It's okay if there are some streaks of flour.
Turn dough out onto generously floured surface. Turn once to coat with flour, then gently pat with your hand until the dough is almost 1-inch thick.
Using a floured biscuit cutter, press straight down and lift straight back up. Lift each biscuit with a thin spatula and move to prepared baking sheet. Gently gather scraps and press together to cut.They won't be as pretty, but will still taste great. (For a sweet biscuit, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.)
Bake for approximately 13-14 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
Here’s the photo I entered in the CuttingBoard.com photo contest.
I have spent the last three days arranging and rearranging a variety of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments on a bamboo cutting board. I stepped out of my happy little baking world to dabble in the art of charcuterie when I was inspired by the Cutting Board and John Boos Photography Contest to try my hand at something other than taking photos of cookies and cakes.
What began as a fun project for a contest may have turned into a new obsession. Trust me, when you look at the cutting boards on Cutting Board’s website you’ll understand my sudden fascination with cold cuts and the many ways of displaying them.
Don’t worry, it’s not all about salami and cheese. I also created a super yummy bread to use in my photo—one that has swirls of garlic, olives, and cheese. The bread dough is made with pumpkin ale, and is chewy on the outside and soft on the inside. Killer!
You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.
For my first effort, I used a light box and photographed a lovely collection of goodies. It was very attractive and (I think) appealing. But instructions for the contest said that they appreciated “originality and humor”, which my photo didn’t exactly express.
Haha, do you like the way I used camo duct tape to hold up the tablecloth in the background? Claaaaaaassy.
Well, shoot. I’d have to try again.
I pulled out the paper mache bears I made for a fair display this year and put them to work. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many photos I had to take to get one I liked. It took me two days and three separate setups and photo sessions. The lighting was off, the light outlet under the window showed, the bear’s ear was wonky, the salami was blurry. I like to use the natural light in my dining room when I can, or my lightbox when I can’t, but these bears had to be looking through the window.
The window with the screen removed, of course. And in case you should try this at home, here’s a tip: if the photographer gets involved with reviewing her photos and forgets to close that window, a whole lot of moths will see it as an invitation to visit. Gah!
This was a real learning experience. I’m used to taking photos of baked goods, and can usually get something I like in one session. But this? Wow. I am going to dig out that Canon Rebel T3 for Dummies book and figure out my camera if it kills me.
Throughout this ordeal, I was sending photos to my daughter, asking her which ones she liked. Begging for suggestions. After hearing me complain about overexposed cheese, blurry salami, and depth issues, she finally asked me if I used my F-stop.
It seems there are other options on my little Canon Rebel T3 than Auto Focus. Who knew? Well, actually, I knew. I’d read that Dummies book, and some of it actually made sense at the time, but at my age (don’t ask) retention is sometimes problematic. So I usually use Auto Focus or sometimes play with manual and A-Dep (for when I want everything in focus). This time I played around with the AV option too, to try to get the bear heads a little out of focus so the board of food would stand out.
To be completely honest, I don’t even know which photos were the result of which methods. There were literally hundreds of photos to go through when I was done.
I was through with the second session, thinking I had a couple of good shots when The Man mentioned that I should have put smoked salmon on the board, as a bear attractant. Why didn’t I think of that? We live up in the mountains, and a trip to the store usually just has to wait for my regular weekly jaunt to town, but under the circumstances, I made an exception and raced for smoked salmon and some Prosecco. (I felt that sparkling wine would be a good addition.)
So much for that. I waited until the sun went down so the light coming through the window wasn’t glaring. I set up the lights and camera. Again. Loaded up my cutting board with goodies. Again. Added the salmon and the wine. Took a ton of photos, put away the meat and cheese. Again. And then realized that:
I’d piled too many things on the board. It looked cluttered. Note to self: less is more.
I should have flaked a piece of the fish so it would look like fish. It looked like ham! (Trust me, it cost more than ham!)
By the time I stopped fussing, it was almost dark, which turned everything muddy.
I briefly considered one more try the next morning, but just didn’t have it in me. The photo without the salmon and wine would have to do.
Behind the scenes
We’ll be eating a lot of salami, nibbling on a lot of cheese, and noshing on olives for the next week or so. Or maybe I should open a deli? But it was worth it; I learned a lot, and (with the exception of a few frustrating moments) enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
And hey, in case you were wondering, sparkling wine doesn’t last. Someone had to drink it immediately, right? But I shared it with my friend.
Here’s that recipe for you. I used pumpkin ale, but any beer will do.
This soft bread with a chewy crust and delightful swirl of garlic, olives, and cheese will be the talk of your charcuterie board! Makes two small baguette-type loaves.
¼ cup warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 package active-dry yeast
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer. I used Pumpkin Ale
1 tablespoon olive oil
3½ - 4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup grated cheese - cheddar is great, or add in some strong cheese too (Asiago, Parmesan, Romano).
1 cup chopped olives (A mixture of green, black, Kalamata)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow yeast to soften 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
In a small pan, gently warm beer on low heat just until lukewarm.
In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, beer, and olive oil.
Add 3½ cups bread flour and salt. Mix with dough hook for 3 minutes. If the dough is still very sticky, gradually add additional flour until just slightly tacky to the touch. Continue to knead by machine for another 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, after stirring in the 3½ cups flour, drop dough onto well-floured surface and knead 8 minutes.)
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover and allow to rise until double, approximately 1 hour.
Punch dough down and roll into a 9x18 rectangle. Brush lightly with melted butter. (You won't use it all. Save some for the top of the baked bread, for a softer crust.)
Sprinkle the cheese, olives, and garlic on the dough and roll up from the long side. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Cut the roll in the middle, creating two long loaves.
Pinch the cut ends closed, and roll each loaf gently to achieve an even size.
Place both loaves on prepared sheet and let rise for about 90 minutes, or until they feel puffy. (They won't double but should come close.) Slash the tops several times with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
Place pan of water on lower rack of the oven. Heat oven to 450 F.
BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU OPEN THE OVEN. THE STEAM IS HOT!
Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until bread is rich golden brown. Brush with butter for a softer crust. Cool on rack.
Place dough in greased bowl. Turn to coat and let it rise.
Combine chopped olives, garlic, and cheese.
Dough is ready to go!
Roll dough into a rectangle, add filling, and roll it up
Cut roll in half and pinch the ends shut
Place loaves on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal
Slash and bake
Yes, I’ll be experimenting with more real food in the future. Possibly more healthy food, though I will never be able to stop baking. Nevah! Maybe I’ll have to change the blog to “The Rowdy Baker Reconsiders”, or maybe “The Reformed Rowdy Baker”. Once the Prosecco wears off I may laugh this idea off. We’ll see.
About the size of a large doughnut hole, though not as sweet, these miniature hot cross buns will look great in a basket on your Easter table. The dough is filled with raisins or currants, spices, and saffron (if you choose to add it). The taste can be a surprise, because our eyes see the icing design on top and our brain assumes that the buns themselves will be sugary, like cinnamon rolls . . . or doughnuts. They aren’t. The bread is like a slightly sweet dinner roll, though those little bits of fruit inside do add a sweet surprise with each bite.
With regular hot cross buns there’s a higher bread-to-icing ratio, so I usually slather mine with butter or jam, but these little ones don’t need to be gussied up like that. Just two bites (unless you’re my husband, in which case, they are popped into his mouth whole) and you’re reaching for the next one. See? You’ve just saved all of those pesky butter and jam calories, so you can eat more mini buns!
A few years ago I made hot cross buns for a Yummy Northwest Easter column, using a very old and challenging recipe. It was an experience. If you’d like to see what happens when I have kitchen fail after kitchen fail, by all means go read the archived article: Old Fashioned Easter. Scroll down; the link to the recipe is right under the photo of Hot Cross Buns.
I added saffron to this recipe because it’s a traditional spice used to symbolize something or other (sunshine, spring, happy stuff) and because I happened to have a bottle of it languishing in the pantry. If you have some, add a few strands – but don’t overdo it, because the sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg should predominate.
You don’t have to mark the tops of the raised buns. You can just bake them as they are and use the icing alone to create the crosses. If you want to cut the design in the top before baking, make sure you use a very sharp blade so the puffy little buns don’t get smooshed.
If you like lots of fruit in your rolls, add more raisins or throw in a handful of chopped apricots or dried cherries.
Makes 60 mini buns Hot cross buns are slightly sweet and lightly spiced. Saffron is a traditional addition, but the buns are delicious without it, too.
⅔ cup milk
small pinch saffron - OPTIONAL!
½ cup raisins
½ cup butter, cut into large chunks
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 cup very warm water
1 package active-dry yeast
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ginger
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon allspice
4½ cups bread flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons water (or use fresh lemon juice for some "zing")
In small saucepan, heat milk and saffron (if using it) until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and, using a strainer if you added saffron, pour into a large bowl. A stand mixer is best. Add raisins, butter, and ¼ cup sugar, stirring briefly. Butter will soften, but don't worry if it isn't completely melted.
In a small bowl, combine warm water with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
Add yeast mixture, egg, and spices to the milk mixture and beat until combined.
Add flour and salt. Switch to dough hook if using a stand mixer, and knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes. Dough should be soft but not sticky.
Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
On lightly floured surface, punch down dough. Divide into 60 equal pieces and roll into balls. The easiest way to do this is to work on an unfloured surface. Form a ball by bringing the sides to the top, like an Asian dumpling, and then turning the ball over and pulling it towards you, scooching it along the surface.
Place balls at least ½-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets, cover, and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F
Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt, and water (or lemon juice) in a small bowl. Mix well. (Hint: for a firmer icing, add ½ teaspoon meringue powder.) Remove 2 tablespoons of icing and place in a small cup. Add water to the small cup a few drops at a time until it is a very thin consistency. This will be brushed over hot rolls to add a thin, shiny coating. Place remaining icing in a heavy plastic bag with one tip cut off, or in a pastry bag with small writing tip.
With a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross shape on top of each bun, if desired. Bake mini buns for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with a light layer of the thinned glaze. Allow to cool on a rack.
Pipe a cross on each bun with icing (fill in the design if you cut the buns before baking) and allow to dry thoroughly before storing.
Add a small pinch of saffron to milk if desired. (I may have gone a little crazy here. Don’t use quite that much unless you love the taste of saffron!)
Heat milk until bubbles appear all around the edge of the pan. (Don’t forget to strain out the saffron.)
Isn’t this beautiful, soft dough?
Cut dough into 60 equal pieces. (Mrs. OCD here can tell you that I had 60 20-gram balls of dough. Yes, I weighed them. No, you don’t have to.)
Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet to rise.
After balls rise, cut an X in them with a very sharp knife or razor blade if desired. (Or you can skip this step and just make the X with the icing after they’re baked.)
Brush with thin glaze while hot, and then pipe on the cross after they cool.
They don’t have to be for Easter, of course. Skip the icing and split these little sweethearts in half. Spread with lemon curd, honey butter, or flavored cream cheese for a luncheon or party. And . . . hide a few for yourself!
I went all Irish on you with this bread. It has both Guinness Stout beer AND potato in the dough. You won’t even taste the beer, but what a pillowy-soft dough it helped create. I made a savory Celtic braid by adding some Parmesan and garlic to the dough, and turned another batch into a braided cinnamon and sugar ring.
Both were light – surprisingly light – and tender. I will say, however, that this is a bread that is best eaten the day it’s made. On day two it was just a tiny bit chewy, though if it had been heated a little, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This almost made me wish I hadn’t deep-sixed the microwave. (A pat of butter and a few seconds in a microwave will revive any cinnamon roll . . . or braid.)
Makes two Celtic braids or one braided cinnamon ring.
1¼ cups very warm water
3½ teaspoons sugar, divided
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup dry instant potatoes
1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if your instant potatoes contain salt)
3½ cups all-purpose flour
For Celtic Braid: ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, if desired. 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water combined for egg wash.
For Cinnamon Ring: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup sugar, green candied cherries. Icing if desired.
In a large bowl, combine warm water and ½ teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or until foamy.
In a small saucepan on low heat, heat the beer and 1 tablespoon butter until beer is lukewarm. (It’s okay if the butter hasn’t melted completely.)
To the yeast mixture, add warm beer mixture, instant potatoes, salt, flour, and 3 teaspoons sugar. (IF MAKING SAVORY BREAD, ADD PARMESAN AND GARLIC.) Mix well. If using a heavy stand mixer, let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, knead on generously floured surface for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft, slightly sticky, and may stick to the sides of the bowl a little. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
FOR CELTIC BRAID: Cover large baking sheet with parchment. Punch down dough and divide dough into 4 pieces. (If dough is too sticky to work with, knead it a few times on a generously floured surface.) Working with 2 pieces at a time, roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long. Follow photo instructions in post for making braid (or find a template online). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Place braids on prepared baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Cover loosely with towel, and allow to rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
FOR CINNAMON RING: Prepare two large baking sheets by covering with parchment. (One will be used to coat the bread ropes in butter and cinnamon, and the other will be used to bake the braid.)
Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll into ropes, each approximately 24 inches long.
Melt butter and pour onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Combine cinnamon and ⅓ cup sugar in a small bowl.
Roll ropes of dough in the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture, rolling until completely coated.
Pinch the three ropes together at the top. Lift onto clean baking sheet and braid. Tuck the ends under and pinch together where the ends meet.
Cover braid loosely with clean towel and allow it to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Decorate with green candied cherries, if desired.
Heat oven to 375 F. and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Place baking sheet on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then slide braid and parchment onto rack to cool completely.
Drizzle with icing if desired. To make a simple icing, combine ½ cup powdered sugar, 1-2 drops green food coloring, and 1 tablespoon milk or water.
Dough will be sticky. Don’t add extra flour yet – you can always work in a little more once it’s risen if necessary.
Rises like a champ! Wait ’til you feel this dough – it’s billowy and soft as a baby’s cheek.
Roll dough around in the flour. If it’s really sticky, knead it a few times to add a bit more flour and make it manageable.
Start by crossing the two ropes at the middle, like an “X”.
And then do this . . .
. . . then this.
It should finally look something like this.
Brush the braid with egg wash and bake!
If you’re making the cinnamon ring, it’s a little easier – just a simple braid:
For the cinnamon braid, begin with three long dough ropes.
Roll them in melted butter, then coat them with cinnamon and sugar.
Braid the sticky ropes on a clean piece of parchment. Tuck the ends under and pinch together to make a ring.
Risen and ready for the oven.
Warm and fragrant.
Oh, and if you want to go with the whole green thing, drizzle this puppy with some green icing.
Serving it was kind of interesting. You can cut it in slices (the least messy option) or you can do what we did and just rip and tear. Licking your fingers is half the fun – no fork and knife for this gal.
They may not be green, but these dinner rolls are exactly what you need for your St. Patrick’s Day meal. Made with Guinness, Irish butter, and oats, their flavor is rich and hearty, and they have a fantastic texture. Soft but substantial – which is what they’ll be calling me if I keep testing my creations!
And believe it or not, the rolls are super easy to make. (See the recipe below? See how short it is? I think this is a personal record.) I made three batches of dough in less than forty minutes, but I admit that flour was flying. My mixer is a real workhorse, thank goodness. For the sake of full disclosure, I also have to mention that each batch uses one cup of beer, so there’s a little left in the bottle. By making 3 batches back to back, I got to have a full bottle of Guinness as I worked. Sweeeeet.
Dividing the dough into 36 equal parts and rolling them into balls is the only thing that will take a little time, but there’s nothing hard about it. I wanted mine to be similar in size, so I weighed the dough, did the math, and (in case you’re wondering) each ball was approximately 1 1/2 ounces, or 45 grams. Just sayin’. You don’t have to do this unless you plan to take photos and put them on a blog!
I used Irish butter because I love it and it seemed appropriate. It’s a little pricey for baking, but hey – St. Patrick’s Day only comes once a year. Splurge a little; it really does have wonderful flavor.
You’ll smell the beer as the rolls are baking. I’ve got to say, it made me a wee bit nervous; it smelled like a distillery in my kitchen. But the rolls didn’t taste like beer at all to me. If anything, the Guinness gives them sort of a whole wheat taste, and I’m good with that. Yum.
The only warning I’m going to give you is this: keep an eye on the bread as it’s rising! Mine only took about 45 minutes for the first rise and once the rolls were formed, it took less than an hour for them to be ready for the oven. They are very enthusiastic.
In small bowl, combine ½ cup very warm water and sugar. Add yeast and set aside to proof.
In small saucepan, bring milk and water to a simmer. Remove from heat.
Add butter, molasses and beer. When butter is melted, place mixture in large bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook.
Add 5½ cups flour, the quick oats, and salt. Mix on low for 3 minutes. If dough isn’t coming cleanly away from the side of the bowl, or if dough feels very sticky, add the remaining ½ cup flour. Knead for 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, place on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.)
Place in large greased bowl, turn to coat the dough, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and all the dough to rise until doubled – about 1 hour. May be less, depending on the temperature of the room.
Grease jumbo muffin pans and divide the dough into 36 equal pieces. (For small rolls, grease standard muffin pans and divide dough into 72 equal pieces.)
Allow rolls to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Bake 15-18 minutes, or until tops are rich golden brown.
Remove from oven and brush tops with butter. Turn out of pan and serve warm, or allow rolls to cool completely on rack.
Stir butter and molasses into the hot milk mixture and then add beer.
Add the foamy yeast to the warm liquids, then add dry ingredients.
This is where you knead the dough, of course. I use my stand mixer and a dough hook.
Put dough into greased bowl. Turn it over to lightly coat.
This dough rises quickly!
Put 3 balls of dough in each cavity of muffin pan
Let ’em rise. Bake!
Brush hot rolls with butter
. . . and enjoy!
Oh, and you might want to keep this recipe around, because it will make two wonderful loaves of bread if you’d rather not fuss with rolls. It slices perfectly, doesn’t crumble, and makes great sandwiches and toast.Three bottles of beer left. Hmm. More bread? I don’t think so. Sláinte!
Tangy sourdough combines with rich pumpkin puree to flavor this bread to perfection. The fragrant loaves are a reminder that there’s a chill in the air and comfort food is beckoning…a harbinger of the coming holidays.
A turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich on sourdough pumpkin bread? French toast with pure maple syrup? Crackly, chewy rolls with soft interiors? Yes, PLEASE!
Sourdough starter is always hanging out in my refrigerator…unless I’ve killed it. Sourdough and houseplants are at risk in my household. I either smother them with attention or forget about them until it’s too late to rectify the situation.
Which is why I keep dried sourdough in my freezer; it’s a backup plan that has come in very handy.
If you don’t have sourdough starter, there are several options:
Start your own. I had a tough time with this in the past, but the method I used this time was easier than I expected. Maybe I just got lucky and caught the right yeast, but it was pretty painless.
Beg some off of a friend. I’ve done this too, but if I kill the starter I feel really guilty (sorry, Laurie!) so I tend to muddle through by myself.
Send away for some that is a strain from the 1800s…absolutely free. You just need to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (and I encourage a small donation). I love the idea of having starter with a pedigree! Go here for more information: Carl’s Friends.
For more information about creating your own sourdough starter, drying and freezing it, and instructions for feeding it—plus a few fun recipes—click on this link to a Yummy Northwest column I wrote: From Starter to Finish.
At least once a week I remove some of my starter (replacing it with flour and water, of course) and mix up a “sponge” – a batter that sits all night and is ready for action the next morning. I use 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast in the sponge, but if you’re a purist you can skip the yeast entirely. Just be aware that you will be at the whim of your dough; it will rise when it damn well pleases! I get a little insurance by using that tiny bit of added yeast.
Since you won’t know exactly how long your bread will take to rise, I strongly recommend starting your sponge the night before and mixing your dough the next day.
Sourdough sponge – it’s ALIVE!
It’s usually just a matter of adding some water, salt, and flour to get a lovely, crusty loaf of dough – but for this recipe I also added 15-ounces of canned pumpkin puree. (Be careful, don’t use the kind that’s premixed for pies. Grab the solid-pack pumpkin.) I also added a little less water and a little more flour to offset the moisture in the pumpkin.
Note: For a milder flavor, decrease the pumpkin to 1 cup and increase the warm water to 1 cup in the bread recipe.
Night before: Create the sponge by combining all of the sponge ingredients and beating well with a wooden spoon. Cover and allow the sponge to sit at room temperature overnight.
Bread: in a large bowl (a stand mixer and dough hook is recommended) combine the bubbly sponge, pumpkin, water, salt, and 6 cups of bread flour. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on floured surface for 7-8 minutes. Dough should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and be just slightly tacky. If dough is too soft, add additional flour a little at a time.
Cover bowl and allow dough to rise until doubled. If you used a little yeast in the sponge, this will take between 1 - 2 hours. If you skipped the yeast, it could take much longer. Be patient and let the bread do its thing. The longer it takes to rise, the more flavorful the bread will be.
When dough has doubled, punch it down on a lightly floured surface and shape it into loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans or form into balls and place on baking sheets with a little cornmeal sprinkled on them. Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise until doubled. With a sharp knife or razor, cut several shallow diagonal slashes in the loaves (or an "X" on round loaves).
Heat oven to 425 F. For the crispiest crust, place a pan of water on the bottom of the rack while the oven is heating. Be very careful when you open the door - there will be lots of steam. Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle to spray the loaves and the inside of the oven when you put the pans in to bake.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until loaves are rich golden brown. For a shiny crust, brush hot loaves with butter. Cool on racks.
Make those loaves whatever shape you want! Let ’em rise, and bake. For crispy, crackly crusts, use steam!
I’m a sourdough fiend. Can’t resist a piece (or two) of toasted sourdough with a little peanut butter.
Once you have an active starter, making sourdough bread is a cinch! My goal is to make as little mess as possible, so I mix my sponge right in the mixer bowl, then just dump the remaining ingredients in the next day. I don’t turn it out into a greased bowl to rise – just cover the mixing bowl. It seriously takes 15 minutes of effort to make a couple of loaves. You just have to time it for when you’ll be hanging around the house.
My guess is, with the scent of sourdough wafting through the air, everyone will be hanging around the house. Get the butter ready!
This is definitely not your Grandma’s gingerbread! It’s a tender, rich yeast bread with the fragrance and flavor of spicy gingerbread…just not as sweet. (Don’t expect cake.)
And oh, my, does it toast well! When I took my first bite of a toasted slice, I immediately thought of cinnamon raisin bread, with a delectable hint of Boston brown bread. I love them both, so I was very pleased with the outcome.
I sure hope you like raisins, because they really make this bread special. Since the dough isn’t overly sweet, those little sugary bits of raisins add interest to the finished loaf. You could successfully substitute any chopped, dried fruit though, for a similar effect.
Can you imagine the French toast it made? C’est délicieux!
The recipe makes two loaves of bread, or you can make one loaf and turn the other half of the dough into Gingerbread Sticks! Half of the dough will make 20 long sticks or 40 short ones. You may want to go for the short variety for two reasons: They are fairly soft (especially the next day), so the short ones are sturdier. And, if you offer my Orange Cream Cheese Dip with the long sticks, you’re going to get the dreaded double-dipping!
So. Warm slices slathered in butter, toast (my personal favorite), French toast, or Gingerbreadsticks. Pretty versatile! I don’t think it would be your go-to bread for a ham and cheese sandwich, but still…lots of good reasons to make a batch.
Makes two loaves or one loaf and 20 long (or 40 short) Gingerbreadsticks.
1 cup milk (I use whole milk)
⅔ cup molasses
6 tablespoons butter
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (more to taste)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon sugar
⅓ cup warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
6+ cups all purpose flour
½ cup raisins
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, scald the milk. (Heat just until it gets bubbly all around the edge.) Remove from heat and whisk in the molasses, butter, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and brown sugar.
Once butter is completely melted, stir in the buttermilk. Allow mixture to cool until lukewarm.
In a small bowl combine ½ teaspoon sugar and warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow the mixture to sit until bubbly - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is best) combine the lukewarm molasses mixture and yeast mixture. Add eggs and combine.
Using a dough hook (or sturdy wooden spoon if beating by hand) stir in 6 cups of the flour and beat for 3 minutes. Dough will be very sticky. Add raisins. Slowly add flour as necessary, a couple of tablespoons at a time, just until dough comes cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Knead by machine or by hand for 2 additional minutes.
Dough will be sticky; it will be more manageable after it has risen. Dump dough into well greased bowl, tossing to cover surface. Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise until double. THIS WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL, because the dough is so sweet and rich. It can take up to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Punch dough down. Divide into two pieces. Shape into loaves and place in well greased (or spray the pans with Baker's Joy) loaf pans. Cover with towel and let rise again until almost doubled.
Heat oven to 375 F. When preheated, cut a shallow slice along the top of each loaf and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven, brush the top of each loaf with butter for a pretty shine, and turn out onto a cooling rack.
To make Gingerbreadsticks, roll ½ of the dough out to approximately 12-inches by 18-inches. Cut into 20 long strips. If you'd like shorter sticks (they're easier to handle) cut down the middle for 40 short strips. Place on parchment or slightly greased baking sheet. Allow to rise for at least 1 hour. They won't double in size, but should be light and puffy. Brush with an egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for about 12-14 minutes.
Combine yeast and molasses mixtures, then add eggs.
Add flour. Not too much – this should be a sticky dough!
It’s a little sticky. Grease your bowl and your hands and toss the dough to coat it completely. Let it rise.
Form loaves, let them rise (it can take up to 2 hours for a sweet dough like this) and bake.
Swipe a little butter on the hot bread for a pretty shine.
Or make Gingerbreadsticks.
Brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking.
I like to dip the Gingerbreadsticks in whipped cream, but for a little more flavor, make this easy Orange Cream Cheese Dip: Beat together 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons concentrated orange juice. When smooth and creamy, gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar. Dip away!
My love for olives has evolved over the years. When I was young, black olives were served for holidays or with company meals. Mom knew enough to have several cans chilling in the fridge, because each of us girls needed ten…one for each finger, of course.
Green olives, and their little red pimientos, were gross. Something my folks had on a toothpick (along with a slimy little onion) in their martinis. Eeeeuw.
Many, many years passed before I discovered Kalamata olives and fell madly in love. Then, at a book club meeting (I believe wine was involved, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have tried them) I ate an embarrassing number of giant green olives, stuffed with garlic and jalapeños. Oh.My.
Today I put all of these olives, along with some sharp cheddar cheese, into a rustic, round, crispy loaf of bread. The dough is simple and basic; there are just a few extra steps to take to add the cheese and olives. It was super easy, and better than I had dared to hope. This will be a serious staple around here from now on!
Makes one round loaf. You may want to double this recipe - seriously!
1½ cups very warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3½ - 4 cups bread flour
1 cup grated cheese (I used sharp Cheddar. Italian cheeses would be good, too.)
1 cup chopped olives, pressed firmly in paper towels to remove excess moisture
Prepare baking sheet by sprinkling the center lightly with cornmeal.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of the warm water with sugar. Sprinkle in the yeast and allow the mixture to sit until bubbly - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook, if you have it) combine the remaining warm water, yeast mixture, olive oil, garlic salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix together for 1 minute.
Slowly add as much of the remaining flour as needed for the dough to come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand for 8 minutes.
Coat a large bowl with olive oil. Form the dough into a rough ball, turn several times in the bowl to coat the surface, cover and let rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
Move to a lightly floured surface. Flatten dough and roll out to a rectangle approximately 14-inches by 9-inches, with the long side facing you. It should only take a few swipes with the rolling pin.
Place half of the grated cheese in the center third of the rectangle. Cover with half of the olive mixture. Fold the right side of the dough over the cheese and olives.
Place the remaining cheese and olives over the top (the left third of the dough will still be bare). Fold the left side over to cover the cheese and olives. Pinch all around to seal.
Gently roll again - not quite as large, about 12-inches by 7-inches with the long side facing you. Again fold the right side over the center third, and then the left side over the right side. Pinch edges and form into a ball by gently bringing dough up to meet in the middle, pinching to close. Turn the dough over so the pinched center is on the bottom.
Place dough on prepared baking sheet and let rise until almost doubled - about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a baking pan in the bottom of the oven and add several cups of water. Preheat oven to 450, giving the oven plenty of time to develop some steam before the bread has risen.
Cut an "X" in the top of the loaf with a razor or sharp knife, and carefully (that steam will be HOT!) open oven and quickly place bread on center rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until it's deep golden brown.