Thick and Fluffy Pan Pizza

pizza

My eight-year-old is proud of the fact that she gets to “make dinner” (with help, of course) every Sunday; one of her favorite things to make is pizza. Sometimes we use storebought crust, sometimes ciabatta bread, and sometimes homemade dough– this new one, from Food52.com, is my new favorite!

The dough is extremely easy to put together– it takes mere minutes to stir up the ingredients, and a little attention for the first hour to gently fold it (rather than knead) a few times, during which it miraculously transforms from a shaggy dough to a smooth, stretchy one. After that it sits in the fridge for 1-3 days before a 2-hour rise in the pizza pan, and it results in the lightest, fluffiest (yet still chewy) pizza crust ever, with great flavor and a nice crispy outside.

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Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon-rolls

If there’s any cooking scent more delectable and homey than freshly-baked bread, it has to be warm cinnamon– so it’s no surprise that cinnamon rolls are the ultimate when it comes to comforting (and mouth-watering) odors. When I decided to make these I was only thinking about the gooey and delicious breakfast that awaited me, but let me just say, the smell of the baking rolls was almost as good!

The finished rolls were soft and delicious, though be careful about overbaking– I left them in a bit longer than I should have in hopes of getting more browning on top, but that made the bottoms caramelize in the sticky leaked-out sugar filling, leading to chewy caramel that stuck to my teeth. Other than that, though, they were excellent!

If you have any leftover from the initial devouring, be sure to microwave leftovers briefly to soften them up again– they’re so much better warm!

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Soft Orange Buns

orange-bread

One good thing about this whole lockdown thing is that with all this time at home, I’ve got plenty of time to babysit rising bread dough, which means more home-baked bread! My latest attempt was a batch of orange-flavored buns, which I saw on an online video and decided to try. The buns have a healthy amount of orange zest and a bit of orange juice in the dough, so there’s a hint of orange flavor in the finished buns despite their not being sweet at all. They were quite tasty when toasted and spread with butter, though.

The dough was extremely loose and took 2 hours to rise properly– a fact that filled me with no little trepidation– but despite making half as many buns as the original recipe claimed, they did turn out soft and fluffy, and they stayed soft overnight.

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Soft White Bread

white-bread

Lately I (along with everyone else, apparently) have been baking bread– it’s really the perfect cooking project for when you’re stuck at home, since you have ample time to let the yeast do its thing without having to worry about timing it around your workday. After I made my last loaf of buttermilk sandwich bread I realized that my loaf pans were just not up to par, so I ordered a pair of new ones. And of course, that meant I had to inaugurate them with something new!

This one is similar to the last loaf, but the recipe makes two loaves and they turned out even lighter and fluffier than the other one due to the higher liquid content. I actually prefer the plainer flavor without the tang of buttermilk, and I can also see this making some delicious rolls, or even the base for a cream-cheese-and-jam breakfast pastry.

In this case, since I can’t leave well enough alone I decided to make it into a swirl bread for extra flavor. I was a bit concerned when I first mixed up the dough that it would be too sticky to roll– even after a lot of kneading in the stand mixer, it’s really more of a thick batter– but once it rose it formed a soft, airy dough that was just sturdy enough to roll out.

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Easy Buttermilk Sandwich Bread

Given how often I bake anyway, I hesitate to say that I’ve succumbed to the comfort-baking trend of bread-baking that appears to be influencing the masses… but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t influence me a little in my choice of baking project. There’s nothing quite like fresh-baked bread when it comes to comfort food, and the smell as it bakes is an extra bonus as it perfumes the house with the ultimate in homey scents.

That being said, I recently developed some carpal tunnel symptoms, so kneading by hand was right out. I thought about re-making this one for a nice, crusty loaf, but decided to go in a different direction when I saw this recipe for mixer-kneaded sandwich bread. It looked light and fluffy, and like it would make excellent toast, which sounded really good for breakfast in the morning. Plus, the rise time was pretty short, which meant I could whip it up in relatively short order.

The dough came together easily and, despite its high moisture content, looked gratifyingly stretchy after the five minutes of mix time. While it took longer than expected to rise on the counter, it had a HUGE oven spring. The resulting loaf was tall, fluffy, and delicious. I’ll definitely be making this again!

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No Knead Pizza Dough

I’ll admit, I usually buy my pizza dough in bags from the grocery store. It’s just so much easier than making it from scratch, and it’s immediately ready to use with no kneading or rising required. But sometimes the stars align and you have a bunch of pizza toppings wasting away in the refrigerator and no dough in sight, so it’s time to make your own.

I’m still lazy enough to want to avoid kneading, though, so I chose a no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey that develops gluten through a long rise instead. I mixed up my dough in the morning and left it on the counter all day– when I got back from work in the evening it hadn’t quite doubled (surprising since it was pretty warm in my house) but it was soft and silky, and easy to work with.

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Bread, Part 1: Basic Loaf

So after my adventure with the Great American Baking Show where my loaf of bread was deemed not quite up to par, I decided that I wanted to learn more about bread baking. I really haven’t done all that much of it before, though I have some general knowledge and have made several different kinds of bread with varying levels of success (and of course spent that fabulous week in Paris watching a professional at work), and I think it would be worthwhile to acquire some extra knowledge and perhaps make some tasty things along the way.

I’m going to do a series of posts about my bread-baking experience and make specific note of the things I’ve learned. Hopefully by the end I’ll be a better bread-baker!

My first attempt was a basic loaf– no special shaping, no special ingredients, with the only deviation from standard procedure being the use of a poolish (a mixture of yeast, flour, and water that you start the night before to give it time to develop some flavor). I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website and opted to use the full sixteen hours of fermentation for the poolish to see what would happen.

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Trying out for The Great American Baking Show

Sorry for the delay in posting, everyone, but I promise I had a good reason– I was attending casting interviews/tasting sessions for the latest season of The Great American Baking Show!

I submitted an online application near the end of May, not really expecting to get any response, but a few days later I got a call from a producer saying that they’d loved my application (and accompanying personal video) and wanted to ask me more questions! The following interview was basically me talking about my baking background, what my experience was in certain types of baking, and then a 12-question quiz on some baking techniques to make sure I knew my stuff. Turns out I did, because after sending in more photos of my bakes (most of which have been featured on this blog!) I got invited to New York to bring some treats for a tasting!

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Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding

chocolate-bread-pudding

During a recent visit to the King Arthur Flour bakery in Vermont I purchased a loaf of challah, fully intending to pull pieces off of it for the next several hours and devour most of the loaf that way. Isn’t that the best way to eat fresh bread? Sadly, I ended up getting distracted and by the time I got back to my loaf it was partly stale and didn’t lend itself well to nibbling on.

However, stale bread is still good for plenty of things– not least of which is bread pudding. Not just any bread pudding– chocolate bread pudding. DARK chocolate bread pudding, which makes it that much more decadent. I pulled this recipe from King Arthur Flour’s own website and have been eating the results for breakfast for the past week. Superb.

Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding (from King Arthur Flour)

  • 6 1/2 cups bread cubes from a 1-lb loaf of challah or brioche
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped or in chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3 cups milk or half & half
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a lightly buttered 9×13″ pan, combine bread cubes with 1 cup of the chopped chocolate.

2. In a small saucepan, combine remaining chocolate with sugar, cocoa, and 1 1/2 cups of the milk or half and half. Cook over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

choc-BP-melt

3. Remove from heat and add remaining dairy. Then whisk in eggs, salt, and vanilla.

4. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and let it soak in for about 30 minutes.

choc-BP-soak

5. In the meantime, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

6. When the custard has soaked in, bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

Baked No-Knead Yeasted Donuts… Okay but not great

baked-donuts

The other day I was reading my daughter a bedtime story that had a particularly tasty-sounding description of brunch, featuring fluffy omelettes and sugar-dusted donuts. For some reason the latter caught her attention, and before I knew it I was promising to make sugar-dusted donuts of our very own!

Of course, I really don’t like the hassle of deep-frying, but I find baked cake-style donuts to be not particularly donut-y, so I searched the internet for a recipe for yeast-raised baked donuts. Preferably with a minimum of kneading, because I didn’t want to have to break out the stand mixer. Eventually I found one that looked pretty good— it had a two-stage rise, one at room temp and one overnight in the fridge, and could be baked up in the morning. Reviews were decent. So I gave it a shot.

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