Whole Wheat Cranberry Bread

When you live in New York City, there is no shortage of good bread available to you. But this did not stop me from wanting to learn to make my own. I thought about this a couple of weeks ago and I knew exactly who to call: my friend Elizabeth, my resident expert on doughs of every kind. I told her I wanted a recipe that used whole wheat flour and would be relatively foolproof in the hands of a novice bread baker. Within a couple of days there was a recipe in my inbox for Whole Wheat Cranberry bread. It seemed easy enough. I picked up the ingredients I was missing at Whole Foods and set aside Sunday for bread baking.

As readers of this blog know, that first attempt was a big fat bust. Namely because I used the wrong yeast. The recipe called for instant but Whole Foods only had active dry yeast. It did cross my mind that this might not be what I needed, but the package didn’t say anything about adding water to it or “proofing” it, so I just went with it. Big mistake. It turns out that when a recipe calls for instant yeast (also known as Perfect Rise) you really need to follow those instructions. And if you do use dry active yeast, apparently you need to mix it with warm water and then subtract that amount of liquid from the total liquid in the recipe. All of which I did not do, leading my loaf to emerge from the oven a dense brick. I tried to salvage it, but truth be told it went into the garbage a few hours later. Very frustrating. Throughout the process, I had a feeling something wasn’t right. When I started mixing the dough it was really tough, almost unkneadable, and though I wasn’t entirely sure what the texture should be, I’ve worked with enough doughs to know that this wasn’t it. But I kept going, despite the fact that my loaf never did rise. (The recipe warned that whole wheat dough wouldn’t double in size the way white dough does, but this didn’t budge an inch). I wasn’t about to let this busted bread get me down though, and since I still had all of the ingredients, I vowed to try this one more time. Trader Joe’s had the perfect rise yeast so I made my second attempt at bread baking yesterday afternoon. And guess what? It worked!

We’d already eaten half the loaf by the time I took these pictures this morning, but you get the idea. I think it’s really tasty, but it is a lot of work. And a lot of time. The sponge (who knew?) has to rest for a minimum of two hours and the dough has to rise twice before it goes into the oven for 45 minutes so this is definitely a project to take on when you know you’re going to be home all day. I wasn’t sure I’d be making bread again any time soon when Elizabeth offered to give me a bread baking lesson in the near future. I happily accepted so stay tuned for more adventures in artisanal bread baking. Until then I think I’ll leave the loaf making to Bread Alone. Their whole wheat sour dough can’t be beat.

Whole Wheat Cranberry Bread

1/4 teaspoon dry instant yeast
1/2 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour-King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup 100% White Whole Wheat Flour-Made by King Arthur Flour
1/3 cup water

2 1/2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
2 1/2 cups 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

Sponge: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer combine the sponge ingredients; mixing until smooth. Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to rest for a minimum of two hours, not more than eight hours.

Reserve pecans and cranberries in separate bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the sponge.

Mix until a rough dough forms, then knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth; since this dough is made almost entirely from whole wheat, it will be a rougher dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. It will not double in bulk, as regular white flour dough will.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and knead in the pecans and cranberries; knead well until all nuts and cranberries are incorporated. Shape the dough into a flattened 6-inch round, place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow it to rise for 2 hours; should rise, but again, will not be as puffy as white flour bread dough.

Preheat oven to 350°F; bake on middle rack of oven for 45 to 50 minutes. You may need to make a foil tent and cover the loaf midway through the baking time if it appears to be browning too quickly. Check interior temperature; should be between 185°F and 200°F when the bread is done. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Note: I used King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour, but for the all-purpose flour, I used what I had on hand, which is Whole Foods 365 Everyday brand. I also used frozen cranberries. Be sure to thaw them and thoroughly squeeze them of excess moisture before adding them to the dough. They may still tinge your dough a bit pink but it actually looks kind of nice.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

It’s the first weekend of October and fall has finally arrived in the Northeast!  The air is crisp, the sun is shining and the famers markets are brimming with butternut squash, apples and pumpkins. Once October rolls around, I automatically start thinking about baking with pumpkins. Muffins, breads, and of course, pies. Last year, Christie shared this recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip bread with me. An aunt of one of her former students had passed it along years before. Her family loves it and she makes several loaves every October and November. I tried making it many times last fall but for some reason I couldn’t get the consistency right. It always tasted slightly raw—though still edible—and I could never figure out why. Alas, I wasn’t sure if it was worth another go around.

But when I made zucchini bread last week, and then sliced it up and gave it to the friends and family we saw over the weekend, I thought about how homemade bread makes for a great gift. It’s relatively simple to prepare, doesn’t cost much and is almost always a crowd pleaser. Think about it: how many people do you know who don’t like bread? And if you have a couple of mini loaf pans, the presentation is even better. I put these petite pans on my mental list of kitchen tools that I want and then yesterday, my sister-in-law and I were in Michaels and we came upon mini ceramic loaf pans—in appropriately fall colors—for a dollar each. One dollar! I promptly scooped up one in every color and started thinking about what I would make with them. Given that it’s October, Christie’s pumpkin bread came to mind.

I dug out the recipe this morning and when I saw that it called for vegetable oil I decided that not only would I try to get this bread right, but I’d also put coconut oil to the baking test. To learn more about cooking with coconut oil, click here.

Since coconut oil is sweeter than vegetable, I cut the sugar in the recipe down to 1 1/4 cups rather than 1 1/2 cups. I made the batter and was able to get four mini loaves out of it. I baked the mini loaves for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I am pleased to report that the loaves emerged from the oven just right! Not too raw, not overcooked and pleasantly sweet.  I may even cut the sugar back to just 1 cup next time to see how that affects the taste. In the meantime, I am about to enjoy a slice (or probably two) with my afternoon coffee. Happy Fall!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

1 and 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1  1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup canned plain pumpkin

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray. Mix first nine ingredients together and blend well with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, beat sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Stir in pumpkin and 1/3 cup water. Add dry mixture until well blended. Add in chocolate chips and nuts. Bake for 70 minutes.

Note: This recipe makes one regular sized loaf, which Christie has never had a problem baking to perfection. I still don’t know why mine never came out right but since the minis are so cute,  I will be sticking with them. However, you should try the full loaf if that strikes your fancy.

Weekend Baking: Zucchini Bread

I love going through my mother’s recipe books. Studying her handwritten notes, unfolding the small slips of paper she tore from magazines, turning the well worn pages. And then there’s the detective work, like trying to decipher whether a recipe calls for baking soda or baking powder. Yes, there are more than a few recipes in her collection that consist of little more than a list of ingredients and an oven temperature. This zucchini bread is one of them. I’ve made this bread many times and while zucchini is still in season, it’s a perfect time for you to do so as well. I like to think of it as a healthy sweet snack, especially if you substitute the all-purpose flour for whole wheat as I do. I like that it’s not too sweet and the zucchini helps keep the bread moist.

I remember my mother often telling me when we were following other recipes that were short on instruction (it runs in the family) to mix all of the dry ingredients first and then add the wet. So that’s what I do when making this bread. It’s easy enough to mix by hand, but you could use an electric mixture as well.

The recipe yields two loaves. If you only want one, cut the recipe in half, but I say make both and freeze one for those times when you get unexpected company.

Homemade Zucchini Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups grated zucchini

4 eggs

1 cup oil

Stir dry ingredients together. Add eggs and oil and mix together until combined. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cinnamon Apple Tea Bread

Yesterday was a glorious late summer day in New York: sunny and warm during the day and pleasantly cool at night. Today, however, it’s rainy and gray, perfect for staying inside and baking. And for watching football, though that’s Johnny pastime, not mine.

After reading my post on RootSpeak about why I pay careful attention to where my food comes from, the good people at Organic Valley sent me a care package of their products as a thank you for mentioning their company. Yum! I love Organic Valley (whether they send me free stuff or not) and I was happy to discover that their website is full of healthy recipes.  I wanted something that would go well with my afternoon coffee so  I settled on this recipe for cinnamon apple tea bread. I didn’t have shortening, so I substituted a 1/4 cup of unsalted butter. (A 1/2 cup of butter would actually have been an equal substitution, so feel free to use the whole 1/2 cup if you like.) Instead of soy milk, I used Organic Valley’s 2 percent milk. On Sundays, there’s a small farmers market around the corner from our apartment and one of the vendors who sell there is Red Jacket Orchards. I picked up a couple of their Paula Reds, which are in season from late August until early September. Then I set to work. I only left my loaf in for 35 minutes, rather than 40-45 but my oven is off. I greased my loaf pan liberally and the bread popped right out after it had cooled.

OK so I didn’t wait to taste the bread until this afternoon. I cut a slice about 20 minutes after I took it out of the oven. Johnny had one too. I was very pleased. The bread isn’t too sweet but you can definitely taste the butter and apples in every bite. Also, while the bread does rise, the top doesn’t round the way most breads do. This is normal, so don’t worry that your bread is headed for brick territory. I will definitely make this bread again! And stay tuned for a giveaway of Organic Valley products in the coming weeks.

Speaking of giveaways, the winners of  the Arrowhead Mills Pancake & Waffle  Mix giveaway are Heather Wiese and Patti Strosnick! Thanks to all who participated!

Cinnamon Apple Tea Bread

1/2 cup shortening (I used a 1/4 cup unsalted butter)

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup apples, peeled and very finely chopped (heaping cup)

1 cup Old-fashioned oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder (scant teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use a bit of the shortening to grease a loaf pan that’s about 4 by 9 inches. In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Cream shortening and sugar with electric beaters in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the apples. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture until they are barely combined. Spread the mixture in the prepared loaf pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire racks about 15 minutes, then use a sharp knife to loosen the edges of the loaf. Remove the bread and let it cool to warm or room temperature before serving.