Salt-Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

 

Rye Bread 1

This year we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at one of my favorite restaurants, The Inn at Little Washington. Unfortunately, the visit to the restaurant coincided with my recent return from a trip to Africa, where I picked up a pretty nasty bug that accompanied me home, where it continued to wreak havoc on my digestive system for weeks. As anyone who has been there knows, the restaurant is not cheap and is best reserved for special occasions for that reason. So imagine my dismay when I could barely get through the meal. Fortunately the obliging and very well-trained wait staff packed up my Thanksgiving dinner for me to take home. It was just as good the next day, even if I wasn’t eating it in such elegant surroundings.

Rye Bread 4

Fortunately, I could eat bread in spite of being so sick. This bread was served with several others in the bread basket at the restaurant. All were really good, but this one was a standout for both me and my husband. The crunch of the salt and the caraway seeds on the outside was a nice contrast to the currants and nuts in the bread, and butter only made it better. Weeks later, when I volunteered to take an appetizer to a dinner party, this bread with a couple of different spreads was what I chose to take.

Rye Bread 2

 

Salt Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

3 Cocktail Size Loaves

I served this bread at a dinner party as an appetizer with the smoked trout spread from an earlier post and with honey butter, both to rave reviews from the dinner guests. The bread also works well with thin slices of cheese or smoked salmon. It also freezes well, making it ideal to have on hand for unexpected guests.

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

7 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, divided

1 tablespoon salt

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups warm (95 degrees) water

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup dried currants

1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caraway seeds, the tablespoon of salt and both flours in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until thoroughly combined then slowly add the warm water with the mixer running. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Add the pecans and currants and continue to mix for an additional 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, wipe out the bowl and spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down, divide into thirds and form each into a slender loaf about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Combine the kosher salt and the remaining caraway seeds in a small bowl. Brush the loaves with water and coat them with the caraway seed mixture, using your fingers to pat as much of the mixture as possible into the dough, as shown in the photo below.

Rye Bread 3

Place the loaves on a lightly greased sheet pan and set in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for 30 minutes, turning the pan every 10 minutes so they brown evenly. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook by Patrick O’Connell

 

Cheese Mustard Bread

Cheese Bread Blog 1

Happy Mothers Day! Some may wonder why I chose a bread recipe for a Mothers Day post when the food blogosphere is full of Mothers Day brunch ideas, many of which sound fabulous. Actually, my mother never has been the breakfast in bed type. However, I think she would really like this bread.

Remember Gourmet magazine? I still mourn the demise of that magazine. I guess it was about a year before they ceased publication that they started doing a Gourmet Cookbook Club. I bought every book they recommended, and what a selection it was. There was something for everyone, from Chinese food to breakfasts. This recipe was taken from one of the Gourmet Cookbook Club book recommendations.

Cheese Bread Blog 3

The Art & Soul of Baking is a beautiful book that was published by Sur la Table. They chose professional pastry chef and cooking instructor Cindy Mushet to write the book. It’s full of classic pastries like the ones I learned to make in culinary school, but there are some interesting twists as well. I will probably never take the time to actually cook all the recipes in one book, but I sort of keep a list of a few cookbooks in my head that I wouldn’t mind revisiting quite frequently. This is one of those books.

Cheese Bread Blog 2

I’ve always really enjoyed making bread. I love how the dough looks fluffy after the first rise and the feel of it in my hands. I love the idea of creating something that people in all cultures of the world have been making and eating for centuries. No matter how time marches on, there will always be bread.

This cheese bread has some great possibilities. A slice of it would be great along side a bowl of soup. I tried using it for a grilled cheese sandwich — off the charts. I’ve also had it toasted in a pastrami sandwich, but roast beef would be equally good. I’d always wanted to try making a cheese bread; and when I saw this recipe, I knew this one was it.

Cheese Bread Recipe Header

Cheese Mustard Bread

 1 Loaf

This recipe initially called for cheddar cheese, but don’t limit yourself to cheddar. You could vary the type of cheese with the type of mustard you use. I ended up using something called Catamount Hills Cheese, described as “an Italian-type cheese with notes of Swiss and Parmesan,” with Dijon mustard.

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 4 ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) bread or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more for kneading
  • 1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Place water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes foamy. Meanwhile, grate the cheese into a separate bowl, using the large holes of a box grater, mix it with 1 tablespoon of the flour and set aside. Whisk the milk and melted butter in a medium bowl.

Place the remaining flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook installed. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture, milk mixture, and Dijon mustard to the bowl and blend on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the cheese and knead for 2-3 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 20 minutes. This allows the dough to fully hydrate before continuing to knead it. Turn the mixer speed to medium low and continue to knead the dough until it is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3-6 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and spread a little oil over the surface of the dough. Cover the dough and place in a draft-free location to rise until doubled in size, approximately 45-60 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Firmly press the air out of the dough, but do not knead it. Press the dough into a rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds. It should be the same size as the loaf pan. Lightly coat the loaf pan with butter or oil and place the dough in the pan, seam side down. Lightly oil the top of the loaf, cover with a damp towel and place in a draft free location until the dough has risen 1/2 to 1 inch above the pan, about 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes. The bread should be golden brown, and the internal temperature should be 200 degrees. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet

German Christmas Stollen

Stollen 1

Stollen has been part of my Christmas season as long as I can remember. My mother loves it and used to buy it for Christmas breakfast any time she could find it. This wasn’t easy in those days when food from other countries was difficult to find, especially in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I spent a considerable part of my childhood.

Stollen 3

 

When I was younger I could take it or leave it. To me it wasn’t nearly as enticing as my Dad’s cranberry bread, which we only got to have once a year. But when the Army assigned me to Wiesbaden, Germany when I was 24, I experienced Christmas in a whole new way. Stollen was everywhere, and I loved it.

Stollen 4

I found myself in Germany again for 2 years in 2010, this time with a husband and four pets. You know how some people say that you can never go back to a place you have been before because it will never be the same? Well that was the case with Germany at Christmas; it wasn’t the same, it was even better! Maybe it was because I had someone to share the experience with, maybe because I could appreciate it more, but I truly loved living in Germany, especially at Christmas time. There were Christmas markets everywhere, but my favorite was the Esslingen market, just outside of Stuttgart. For the Christmas market, the medieval town was lit only by candles, and it was simply magical. It could have been a movie – cue the snow, start now, carolers start singing… There we were walking along, mugs of gluhwein laced with Amaretto and cream (oh my God, so good) in hand, enjoying the snow and the sites. Two years later I still miss it.

Stollen 2

As much as I love it, my baking time is pretty limited, but when I came across a recipe for stollen in one of my Christmas cookbooks I just knew I had to make it this year. Stollen is a German yeast bread, dating from 1474 that usually contains dried fruit and nuts and is iced with a glaze or covered with powdered sugar. It’s perfect as is, warmed and spread with butter for breakfast. And, if it’s not completely devoured while it’s fresh, it’s also great toasted.

Stollen 5

German Christmas Stollen

1 large loaf

As with many of my baking recipes, you will need a kitchen scale to measure out the dry ingredients. If you don’t like or can’t find marzipan you can leave it out. Just fold the dough like you would if using the marzipan and leave to rise. Another option would be to roll the marzipan out into a rectangle half as wide and as long as the dough, placing it on half of the dough and then folding it over the rectangle of marzipan.

5 ounces whole milk

2 ounces sugar, divided

2 teaspoons dried yeast (about 1 package)

12 ounces bread flour, plus extra for rolling

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces butter, softened

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 ounces currants

2 ounces golden raisins

1 ounce mixed candied fruit, diced

1 1/2 ounce dried apricots, chopped

1 ounce candied cherries, quartered

1 ounce slivered almonds

Grated zest 1/2 lemon

7 ounces marzipan

Juice of 1 lemon

4 ounces powdered sugar, sifted

Heat the milk just until it’s warm, but still cool enough to dip your finger into it. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and the yeast and allow to rest until it bubbles on top. Meanwhile, sift the flour, remaining sugar, and salt together in a large mixer bowl. Add the yeast mixture, butter and eggs and mix thoroughly with a dough hook. Add in the fruits, nuts, and lemon zest and knead in mixer for 5 minutes. Remove from mixer bowl, and knead by hand until dough is springy and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. Form the dough into a large ball, place in a large empty bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm draft-free place until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch it down and knead until smooth and elastic. Use your hands to press the dough out into a rectangle, about 10 X 8 inches. Use your hands to roll the marzipan out into a long log the length of the dough and place it in the center. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, over the marzipan log and press the edges together to prevent the marzipan from leaking out. Carefully place the bread on a baking sheet ensuring there is plenty of space. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise until it again doubles in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Allow bread to remain in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a rack placed in a baking sheet to cool. While the bread is baking make the glaze, by combining the lemon juice and the powdered sugar. After transferring the bread to the rack spoon the glaze over the bread while it is still warm. Allow to cool completely before cutting into slices and serving.

Adapated from Delia Smith’s Christmas by Delia Smith  

 

 

 

Whole Wheat Soda Bread

soda bread loaf

Now that it’s fall, it’s time for soups and stews, and a nice savory bread to go with them.  I love bread, and I love making bread, but I don’t always have the time for the kneading, rising, punching down, and forming process that is generally required for a yeast bread.  Okay, it’s a whole lot easier these days with a sturdy mixer with a dough hook, but it still takes time. This soda bread is quick and easy to prepare, and it goes just as well with a hearty chowder as it does with butter and jam with afternoon tea.

soda bread pieces2

As a child, my only experience with soda bread was when my mom made it on Saint Patrick’s Day.  We thought it was pretty cool, probably because we only had it once a year and it had raisins in it.  I’ve made several versions of that bread over the years including my mom’s recipe. This bread is considerably more rustic than those other versions.  It’s the bread that Irish and Scottish mothers and grandmothers have been making everyday for hundreds of years.

Last night we went to the Maryland Renaissance festival, specifically to attend a concert by this band.  It was dusk, the wind was whispering through the trees, a light drizzle was falling, and the haunting bagpipe music filled the air.  For just a short time I was transported to a world far away where work and daily life were far simpler than today. I think this bread would be part of that imaginary life.

Whole Wheat Soda Bread

1 Loaf

Soda bread is best eaten the day it is baked.  If that’s not possible, you can freeze the remainder, thawing it out the same day you intend to serve it.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5-2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Whisk the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.

2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in 1.5 cups buttermilk.  Stir the buttermilk into the flour working from the center to the outside of the bowl.  Add more buttermilk if needed.

3.  Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and shape the dough into a neat ball, tucking the edges underneath the dough ball to smooth it.  Do not knead the dough as this will develop gluten and toughen the dough.  Use your hands to flatten the dough ball into a disc about 1.5 inches thick.  Transfer the dough to a baking sheet.

4.  Cut a cross or “X” into the top of the dough, then use a knife to prick the center of each of the four sections.  Cutting the dough in this way allows more heat to enter the center of the bread, resulting in more even baking.

5.  Bake the bread for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 400 degrees F. and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes.  The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from the pan and cool the bread on a wire rack.  Allow to cool before cutting into wedges to serve.

Adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen