whole wheat sourdough bread

I refreshed my still-kickin’ sourdough starter to make this whole grain sourdough bread yesterday. In addition to the whole wheat flour, I added brown rice and oats to the dough, which resulted in a moist and very flavorful bread. My only complaint was that where some of the brown rice made contact with the hot baking stone, those rice bits became very hard, so some mouthfuls of bread had a little painful surprise when you bit down. No idea why this happened, because I didn’t have this problem with earlier loaves containing brown rice.

whole wheat hot dog buns

OK — I do realize it seems a bit hypocritical to be making whole grain buns only to put a whole-fat, highly-processed, chemical-laden meat product in them. But dietary improvements are best made gradually, yes?

I took some of the dough from yesterday’s whole wheat bread and shaped them into hot dog buns. They came out really well, if a bit irregular — it adds to their charm, I think. And now I can feel a little better about my family eating hot dogs for dinner while I go out to eat with my book club (they’re not complaining).

100% whole wheat sandwich bread

We are solidly a whole wheat bread family when it comes to store-bought breads. I freely admit that white bread makes the best toast and grilled cheeses so occasionally we will get Scali Bread for a treat, but I really prefer to stick to whole wheat for our daily bread. But when it comes to homemade bread, I’ve always been somewhat reluctant to bake whole wheat bread — whole wheat always conjures up images of dense, leaden, inedible bread to me. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way or else why were whole grain breads given a bad rap for such a long time.

Yesterday I baked a 100% whole wheat (yes, that’s all whole wheat flour — no white flour at all) sandwich bread which might make me a homemade wheat bread convert. It’s moist and light(ish — it IS whole wheat after all) and the crumb is small and even but not at all dense. Hopefully even C. (my biggest white bread connoisseur) will feel the same way about it. Now if only I can figure out how to make good homemade double fiber bread!

thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies

Another skiing treat. These are definitely the most attractive chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. And they are delicious too — crisp yet chewy, and thick in the middle, even though they are made with butter and no shortening. I’ve never before been able to make a chocolate chip cookie without it becoming flat as a pancake once it goes in the oven. There are all sorts of secrets as to why these look the way they do, so obviously they’re from the clever folks at America’s Test Kitchen, by way of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Personally, I still love the King Arthur Flour Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies best tastewise — their crisp, buttery, caramel-y quality just can’t be beat in my book, plus I love my chocolate chip cookies overdone (even burnt!) — which is something the ATKFBB recipe doesn’t recommend. Nevertheless, I assure you these cookies won’t last long in our house — we love homemade chocolate chip cookies in all their variations!

P.S. — P.’s review: “These are GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!”

coffee cake muffins

Above is the picture of a half-eaten coffee cake muffin. I’d like to tell you that I purposefully photographed a cross-section of the muffin because I wanted to show the cool layer of streusel but the truth is I forgot to take a picture before I took a bite out of it. I could’ve unpapered a second muffin so I could photograph an intact muffin, but if I did that, then I’d have to eat it, and if you had any idea how much butter was in one of these babies you’d understand why that wasn’t advisable.

My boys (the young ones and the one that’s a bit older) are going skiing tomorrow and I spent the day baking up goodies for them to take along for the ride. I baked C.’s signature chocolate chip muffins and whipped up some coffee cake muffins for the chocolate-chip-muffin-weary. I love coffee cake, but I’m especially fond of muffins (see the Irish Soda Bread Muffins post), and while I would never buy coffee cake muffins (primarily because of their fat content), I am more than happy to clog my arteries with the homemade version. I found this recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I think I should’ve baked them sans paper wrappers as instructed, because when I removed the finished muffins from the pan, I was left with pools of melted butter where the muffins had been. The streusel also stuck a bit to the paper, but not badly. So I’m going to have pack the guys some wet wipes, but ooh, are they good…

roasted three-seed bread

This was actually a variation of Peter Reinhart’s Roasted Three-Seed Bread (from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book). The original recipe has sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds, and I added a few more. It’s actually very, very good — medium crumb, great crust — and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really like breads with nuts and twigs. I have no problem with the smaller seeds of the bread world, actually, but sunflower and pumpkin seeds (at least in store-bought breads) tend to be a little too prominent for me to ignore. In this bread they all blend together in the dough in a sort of seedy symphony. Now if only I had splurged on some of that nice Irish butter when I was at the grocery store, my happiness would be complete.

Chocolate Stout Cake

St. Patrick’s Day is not a day which usually makes me think of dessert, unless dessert is a pint of the black stuff. But recently I became aware of a wonderful creation called Chocolate Stout Cake. I’ve long been a fan of chocolate stouts — Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout has to be one of my all-time favorite after dinner drinks — but I never really contemplated actually making a chocolate cake with a stout. This particular recipe came from the Bakers’ Banter (once again, I was thinking of a particular baking project and voilà, they post their version of it a few days later). Their version makes a huge cake — the three 8″ layers, when assembled, almost touched the roof of my cake carrier dome. Unlike their version, my frosting never set up like a spreadable frosting — it was more of a drizzle-over variety chocolate ganache. No matter… it was yummy. The festive green decorating was for C. who felt that a plain chocolate top was not very St. Patrick-y. The cake itself was dark (presumably from the stout because it was not heavy — in spite of the pound of butter) but light — and you could taste a bit of the stout flavor in the cake itself, although the ganache overwhelmed that flavor when eaten frosted. Most of all, it was a lovely break from all the heavy Wilton-frosted cakes we’ve had of late.

irish soda bread muffins

There’s something so much more appealing to me about muffins over their larger quick bread loaf cousins. Quick breads seem to dry out when they’re sliced, the slices don’t transport well and the serving size is inexact (my slices seem to exceed the recommended limit) and I would like to continuing baking while wearing my current clothing size. And maybe there’s just something about individually sized baked goods. Anyway, I was thinking about how it’s the time of year for Irish soda bread again when I saw the Baker’s Banter post on Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Perfect!

I adapted the recipe somewhat based on what I had at the ready in my kitchen. I substituted the same weight of 100% whole wheat flour for the white-whole wheat, even though I know that the whole wheat is slightly heavier than the white-whole wheat. I compensated for this by adding an additional tablespoon of milk to the batter. I also substituted dried cranberries for the currants/raisins, making it a truly Irish-American creation. The result was a slightly sweet, moist and tender muffin — perhaps a bit sweeter than I would’ve liked, but chockfull of cranberries. I wish now that I had added a bit more caraway seed (I love caraway) — the recipe suggested a possible range of 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons. I think it could’ve definitely used the additional teaspoon. All in all, this one is a definite keeper. Éire go Brách!

Soft Pretzels

This falls under the category of keep doing it until you get it right. Here’s another attempt at the soft pretzels. Even though they were still puffy and still not that dark, these pretzels were plenty tasty. I made a half batch and made some savory (garlic) and some sweet (cinnamon sugar). I was definitely partial to the cinnamon sugar ones although everyone else preferred the garlic. These were all that were left by the time I got my camera.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

It’s a pizza night again! This is a variation of the Neo-Neapolitan pizza dough from Peter Reinhart’s American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. The crust is thin, crispy, chewy — just amazing — and so simple to make. The top pizza is a buffalo chicken pizza — mozzarella, roasted chicken breast marinated in Ken’s superb Buffalo Wing Sauce, liberal amounts of crumbled blue cheese and sliced scallions. The bottom one is C.’s special pizza — cheese only, no sauce.