The Fabulous Baker Girl

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4-H Oatmeal Bread November 5, 2009

Filed under: Bread,Uncategorized,Yeast Breads — amynb2008 @ 2:15 pm
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Baking bread is a very satisfying process.  When you get it right.  And I don’t always get it right.  On the bright side, I have learned a few helpful things along the way and I would like to pass those things along to you.baking bread 034

The first lesson learned I like to call “The Baby Principle”.  You may wonder what babies and bread have in common and I have a very good answer to that.   Yeast usually needs to be proofed before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.  That just means you mix it with a little warm water to “wake” it up.  I also like to add a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey so the yeast has something to eat as well.  This makes it very happy and your water-yeast mixture will get all bubbly and expand and smell like bread.  The trick to this is getting your water the right temperature.  Too cool won’t wake up the yeast and too hot (140 degrees) will kill it.  You need a happy medium.  Most bakers will tell you this means about 110-115 degrees.  To me, it means a baby bath.  I check the temperature of my water by running it over my wrist.  If it’s the right temperature for a baby’s bath, it’s good for the yeast too.  Hence, The Baby Principle.

For you  non-parents out there…invest in a thermometer until you feel confident using your sense of touch.

Some other things I’ve learned:

*  Always use yeast that is fresh.  If it’s not fresh, the yeast won’t work and your bread won’t rise.

* Dough usually needs a lot of kneading so you enlist the help of the whole family.

* When the dough is ready it should be smooth and feel like your earlobe…or a baby’s bottom (another part of The Baby Principle).

* When it is time for the dough to rise, find a nice warm place.  I usually turn my oven to the lowest setting while I make the dough.  When it comes to temperature, I turn it off.  That makes the oven nice and toasty for the dough.  Another good spot is on top of the refrigerator.  If you do use your oven, be sure not to turn it on while the dough is in there or all your hard work will be ruined.

* To check to see if the bread is done you can tap it.  If it sounds hallow it is done.  I find that taking the temperature of the loaf at the bottom is better.  It should be at 190 degrees.

* As hard as it seems, do not cut the bread until it has cooled.  Cutting into too soon will change the texture and make it a bit doughy

* Just be patient!  Bread making isn’t that hard once you get a little practice but it is a lesson in patience.  Embrace it!

The recipe I made yesterday is called 4-H Oatmeal Bread.  It’s a good recipe for beginners because it’s not only delicious but also pretty easy to make.  You start out by making oatmeal and then adding all your other ingredients to it.  It has lots of honey in it so it is slightly sweet and when it’s warm you can even get a hint of butter.   The recipe calls for the dough to only rise once, but I wasn’t happy with that so I let the dough rise again in the pans until it took the shape of the pan and has risen to just over the top.  I also used a little whole wheat flour (and no one even knew!) for more nutrition.

This bread is delicious, soft, and makes good toast.  I haven’t tried it on a sandwich yet, but I suspect it would work beautifully for that as well.  In short, this bread is well worth the time I put into it.  Besides, my girls wanted to help and it’s always nice getting to hang out with them!

Give this recipe a try and keep my tips in mind.  I think you’ll be happy too.

4-H Oatmeal Breadbaking bread 042

2 cups boiling water

1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

2 packages dry active yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)

1/3 cup warm water

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons butter, melted

4-5 cups flour

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water

In a large mixer bowl, pour boiling water over oatmeal.  Let rest for 30 minutes.  In a small bowl, mix together water and yeast.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Add the salt, honey, and melted butter to the oatmeal.  Mix in the yeast mixture.  Gradually add in enough flour to make a kneadable dough.  Knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.  The dough should be elastic, smooth, and soft.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Turn dough to coat.  Cover dough with a damp cloth and put in a warm  place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.  Preheat over to 325 degrees.  After dough has risen, punch down and divide into two equal parts.  Shape into loaves and place into two 8 X 4 loaf pans that have been sprinkled with oats.  Brush loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with more oats.  Bake for about 50 minutes.  Place on a wire rack to cool.


Mallorca Bread September 20, 2009

Filed under: Bread,Uncategorized,Yeast Breads — amynb2008 @ 7:44 pm
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I love chocolate.  That’s never been a secret.  I often say that it’s my favorite food but I think there is one thing that might rival chocolate.mallorca bread 001

Bread.  Really, really good bread.  Hot and buttery.


One of my favorite breads come from a restaurant called Carson’s.  It’s slight chewy on the outside, warm and soft on the outside and served with a side of citrus butter.  It is so good, that I am often disappointed in my actual entree because I’d rather just have the bread.

Another favorite, are the rolls from the Common Grill in Chelsea and yet another is the baguette from Cafe Japon.


I am a member of a new website called Tasty Kitchen (  Those of you who follow the Pioneer Woman will know of this site.  While I was looking through the recipes there, I came across one for Pan de Malloraca or Mallorca Bread posted by a member from the food blog The Noshery (  These little rolls looked like soft, edible clouds.  They looked heavenly and were simply too good to pass up so yesterday, I gave them a try.

By looking at these breads, you would think they would be complicated to make.  On the contrary, they were very easy.  The dough is sweet and very rich, containing a whole stick of butter and six egg yolks.   It requires no kneading.  It is also very soft.  To form the bread you must roll out portions into strips to be curled into a coil.  I found this part the most difficult because the dough was so soft.  Or it could have been that I had a two-year old distracting me, insistent on either eating the dough or drinking the melted butter.  Not sure which.  In either case, the dough wasn’t as difficult to work with as it looked like it would be but I did find it hard to roll out evenly.  Still, they slowly took shape, some better than others, and baked up soft and sweet.   It was a hit with the whole family.  I particularly enjoyed watching Howie and Norah sitting side by side eating our Mallorca and watching football.  Ella loved that you “got the texture of bread and the sweetness of the powdered sugar.”  Even Melanie liked it.  And that’s saying something!

I think these are great little breads.  They are rich and sweet and delicious.  I had mine with tea and the flavors complemented each other so well.  They seemed to be made for each other.  I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.  It is time consuming since the dough does need to rise three times, which will take nearly 3 hours for rise time alone.  Still, like all good bread,  it’s worth the wait.

You can find the complete recipe at The Noshery:


Bruschetta Pizza August 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yeast Breads — amynb2008 @ 11:45 am
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Back in July, I took my annual trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Frakenmuth is a small little town dubbed as “Little Bavaria”.  It’s German themed and famous for its chicken dinners.  It happens to be between home and my in-law’s cottage so during the week of the fourth of July, I leave my wonderful family behind with Grandma and Grandpa and spend the night — all by myself — in this quaint touristy town.

I have a very established routine.  I stop at the local pharmacy to buy magazines.  Then I go try to check into my hotel but I’m usually too early so I walk up one side of the street and down the other, stopping at any of the little shops that strike my fancy.  My favorite shop is an old mill that has a small balcony that overlooks the Cass River.  I like sitting out there and watching the river.  I didn’t make it to that shop this year because the new hotel I tried was right on the river and I had my own private balcony.

It was on this very balcony, overlooking the peaceful river, that I came across the recipe for Bruschetta Pizza in A Taste of Home magazine.  It looked delicious so I tucked it away for future reference.

I have two 3-ring binders full of recipes tucked away for “future reference” but there are always those that really stick out.  This was one of those and I finally had the chance to make it.  The original recipe called for a prebaked pizza crust, but I just couldn’t do that.  If you’ve ever had homemade pizza crust, you’ll know why.  There’s just no comparison.

Unfortunately, my memory is not always good and it was about 3:00 before I realized that I needed to make pizza dough. My usual recipe needs to rest for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator and it’s always a bit of a production so I decided to try to find something different and hopefully easier.  After a quick search of my references, I decided to make up my own recipe.

I have to say, it turned out really good.  It rose well and the crust turned out chewy but crisp on the bottom.  As with my other recipe, the flavor would have developed more after resting a few hours but I think for such short notice it turned out very nicely.  The recipe was based on one I found in Brother Juniper’s Bread Book and I’ll share it below.

As for the actual pizza…

I am a very traditional person.  I like things pretty much the same way.  I like my burgers with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, and miracle whip.  I like my chicken fingers with honey mustard, not ranch.  I like my pizza with sauce, cheese, ham, and mushrooms.  I like knowing what I’m going to get.  I like knowing that I’m going to like it, so I rarely stray from these formulas.  However, for this particular variation, I’m glad I did.  The recipe calls for sausage and turkey pepperoni but since I hate pepperoni in turkey or any other form, I left that out.  I used hot turkey sausage and that was just enough spice to make it interesting but not too hot that Ella wouldn’t eat it (I made a cheese pizza for Melanie and Norah).  I liked the amount of cheese.  It was a good balance.  Like I said earlier, the crust was very nice too.

If you like the flavor of tomato and basil, you will love this pizza.  The fresh flavors of Bruscetta with the undertones of the sausage was a great pairing.   We all agreed.  For future reference, this one is a keeper

Amy’s Own Pizza Dough

This is actually enough to make 3 or 4 good-sized pizzas.  I divided it up into 3 parts, one for the Bruschetta Pizza, one for the cheese, and one part I put in the fridge to make pizza cups with for lunch tomorrow.  See my previous post on pretzels to see what I’m talking about.Bruschetta Pizza 002

1 1/2 plus 1/8 cups warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

a pinch of sugar

2 1/4 cups bread flour

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

Mix together yeast, water (about the temperature of a baby’s bath), and sugar.  Let sit while you gather the other ingredients.

Measure the rest of the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook, mix together on low speed.  Once the ingredients are well mixed, add in the yeast water while the mixer is still running.  Pour in enough to make the dough smooth.  Continue to mix but turn up the speed or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Clean out bowl and oil bottom and sides.  Return dough to bowl.  Turn dough over to coat with oil and cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap.  Allow to rise at least an hour or until double in size.

Once double, punch down and divide into how ever many pieces your are going to use.  Roll each into a ball and set out on the counter to double in size again, about an hour.

Preparing the Pizza

for a pizza the same size as a large prebaked shell

1/2 pound hot turkey sausage (I used more, 2/3 to 3/4, probably)

2 cups mozzarella

2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup basil, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven on the lowest shelf and preheat to 500 degrees.

Take the sausage out of the casing.  Cook in a skillet until completely done.  Set aside.  Set aside mozzarella cheese as well.

Mix remaining ingredients (begining with the tomatoes).   Set aside.

When dough has doubled a second time, spread dry polenta or cornmeal down on your work surface.  Roll out dough to make pizza shape.  Top with sausage and cover with cheese.  If you have a pizza peel, put your pizza on the peel and using that place it on the preheated pizza stone.  Let cook for any where from 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of the pizza.  Look for a golden brown crust and melted cheese.

Remove from oven and top with the tomato mixture.  Garnish with more basil, if you like.

Cut and serve.  Yum!


English Muffin Loaf (a.k.a the bread we had at the cottage) July 31, 2009

I love having fans.

Okay, so fans might be a bit of a stretch but it’s nice knowing that a few of my nearest and dearest friends actually read this blog of mine.  It’s even nicer knowing that some of them (okay one of them) even wants recipes that I’ve made for them.

So Jason…this one is for you.

English Muffin Loaf

English Muffin Loaf

It’s a recipe for English muffin loaf and in terms of yeast breads it’s about as easy as it gets.  You basically just mix the ingredients together, let it rise in the pan, and bake it.  Not much to it.  I like to make it at night since it’s so easy to throw together.  Then you’ve got nice fresh bread for toast in the morning.  Serve it with homemade jam for best results!

English Muffin Loaf

from King Arthur’s Flour

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (if you use dry active, proof it with the water first)*
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.

    Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. The liquid will feel very hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would scald you. As a reference point, the hottest water from your kitchen tap is probably around 120°F (unless your tap water is so hot that it burns you).

    Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

    Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.

    Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.

    Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

    Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 20 to 22 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.

    Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

    * A note about proofing:  “Proofing” is basically just waking up the yeast by adding it to some warm water.  Make sure your water is about 100 to 110 degrees.  Make sure it’s not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast.  I always figure that if the temperature is good enough for a baby’s bath, it’s good enough for yeast.  I like to add a pinch of sugar to it so the yeast has some food to feast on after their long slumber.  After about 5 minutes the yeast should be all bubbly and frothy and smell like bread.  IF it does that, the yeast is alive and well and ready to use.


The History of a Happy Accident June 2, 2009

Let’s face it.  I can be pretty uptight at times.  I let myself get all stressed out about things over which I have no control.  I’m working on that.  However, there are things that just make me shudder and I feel perfectly justified in letting myself get all worked up over them and their horrible-ness.   Adam Lambert, for example.  Or when people drive sideways down parking lots instead of driving in the designated lane.  Or, whining children.

Or…the  Atkin’s Diet.  (Good grief…what was he thinking?)

Bread has a fascinating history and has been a part of the human experience since ancient times.  In fact, bread is one of the oldest foods known to man.  Yes, I know berries, seeds, and meat came first.  But bread was essentially the first food that man created.

Most likely, bread came about by accident.  Early Humans would gather wild grains,  toast them to get off the hard outer shell, and then pound them into a meal.  They would then mix the meal with water (ancient oatmeal?).  It was later discovered that when this paste was left by the fire, it turned into a type of flat bread.   Leavened bread came later when the paste was left to stand and collect wild yeast that caused the paste to ferment (again, all an accident).

Eventually, man learned to grow his own seeds and harvest his own yeast and the ancient baker was born.  For years bread was made only by master bakers and eaten by the elite because it was so expensive.  As technology developed, grains were more easily mass-milled and became more affordable to bakeries and for the first time, the home cook.  From there, it was an easy jump from complex, artisnal bread to mass-produced, squishy, flavorless bread that has found it’s way to most of our tables.  Mine included.

Few things have followed human history in quite the way bread has.  By looking at the development of bread from ancient times on, you can pretty much trace the path of human development, agriculture, technology, and sociology.  It has been a staple of our diets and the center of our social circles since ancient times.

I, for one, am glad diets like the Atkins are falling from favor.  While I agree that we should move away from mass-produced “wonder” bread and other high-carb bread products (if only my kids agreed), giving up well-made, fresh bread is just, well, it’s just plain wrong.


I won’t go into the reasons why bread should be a part of our balance diet, but I will say that eating a really good piece of bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter is soul-satisfying.  It fills up more than your stomach.

And if you agree with that — just think what actually baking a loaf can do for you!

One thing I love about baking is that you take a few basic ingredients and with some care, turn them into something special.  Bread is the epitome of this.  It basically consists of flour, yeast, and water but when you add a little salt, maybe a little honey and knead it all together it becomes something that engages your senses and draws people together.

If you’ve never baked your own bread, I urge you to give it a try.  The whole process is a lesson in patience, but it’s so very satisfying at the same time.  Be prepared to have to bake a few loaves before you get a feel for what to do.  Once you’ve got it, you won’t be sorry and there will be no going back.

You can find recipes all over the Internet.  I suggest trying to find one on a blog.  Those usually come with reviews so you’ll get a good idea whether or not the recipe is a good fit for you.  I also highly recommend getting a good bread baking book.  My current favorite is “Brother Juniper’s Bread Book”.  While this book offers much for the seasoned baker, it’s simple enough for the beginning baker as well.  I’ve made a few of the recipes with great success.

Bread does more than just nourish our bodies.  It feeds our souls, joins us together with a commonality, and gives us a link to our own human history.  What other food does this?  And how can you stay away from it?

Take it from me.  Don’t even try.

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

Wheat and Buttermilk Bread

from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book

Makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves

6 cups high-gluten bread flour

3 cups coarsely ground whole wheat flour (I just used regular whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup dark malt crystals or powder (or use equal amount of honey or 3/4 cup brown sugar)

2 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast

4 teaspoons salt, preferably sea salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

Approximately 2 cups water

Mixing and Kneading

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, and water, reserving a little water for later adjustments.  Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10-12 minutes (yes, you must do this).  The dough should be soft and elastic.  It should be tacky but not sticky and easily pressed out.


Place the kneaded dough in a clean bowl and cover with a damp wrap.  Put in a warm place and allow 45 minutes for rising.  Allow between 1  and 1 1/2 hours if you leave the dough at room temperature.  When the dough has doubled in volume, shape into 2 equal-sized loaves by flattening each half, folding it over itself, sealing the seam and then rolling it slightly, seam side down.  Place loaves in greased 9 x 4 1/2  x 3-inch pans.  This loaf can be baked naked on top or brushed with a mild egg wash (one egg mixed with 4 cups of water) and sprinkled with sesame seeds or rolled oat.  (I used poppy seeds and wheat germ.)  Cover and let rise another 45-60 minutes or until dough crests over the top of the pan top.


Bake loaves at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until bottom when thumped yields the famous thwack sound.

Note:  I usually take my bread’s temperature.  I look for at least 190 degrees internally.  Be sure to let your bread cool for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting or it will become doughy.   Yes…I understand that’s asking a lot of you.  Just be patient, Grasshopper, and you will be rewarded.