Monday, November 14, 2011

Can't. Stop. Baking.

In a variation on the words of Michael Jackson, I'm a cooker, not a baker. Okay, I bake sometimes, but generally with a great deal of hesitancy and a limited amount of confidence. That said, I have no idea what has gotten into me this week - I literally cannot stop baking, and I am loving every minute of it (as is my husband, I might add). An overview of my efforts: 

A perfect loaf of whole wheat bread - I got this recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book, which is a classic in the world of bread baking and has been a wholly inspiring read thus far. It was on display at the library last week, and the title caught my eye (I'm fairly certain I checked it out from a different library about fifteen years ago). Anyway, it includes the most fantastic step-by-step guide to making whole wheat bread. I followed it diligently and the results were amazing. The recipe that follows is the shortened version of the detailed recipe, which covers every step of the process over thirteen illustrated pages. Please note that there are three risings, so give yourself plenty of time to make this. The recipe calls for whole wheat flour but notes that you can substitute some white flour to make the bread a bit more "cohesive." I used about 25% white/75% whole wheat.

    Tassajara Yeasted Bread
    (adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book)

    Makes 2 loaves


    3 cups lukewarm water                               
    1 1/2 tbsp. yeast (2 packets)                       
    1/4 cup brown sugar                                   
    4 cups whole wheat flour
    4 tsp. salt
    1/3 cup oil
    4 cups whole wheat flour

    1. Dissolve the yeast in water.
    2. Stir in brown sugar.
    3. Stir in the first four cups of whole wheat flour to form a thick batter.
    4. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).
    5. Let rise 45 minutes.
    6. Fold in the salt and oil.
    7. Fold in an additional 3 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
    8. Knead on a floured board, using more flour (about 1 cup) as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board, about 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
    9. Let rise 50 to 60 minutes until doubled in size.
    10. Punch down.
    11. Let rise 40 to 50 minutes until doubled in size.
    12. Shape into loaves and place in pans.
    13. Let rise 20 to 25 minutes.
    14. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until golden brown.

    Corn bread - I recently discovered that making corn bread from scratch (rather than from the Jiffy mix) is not that much more difficult than making corn bread from the Jiffy mix, and the bread is a whole lot tastier. Most notably, it doesn't crumble into a bajillion pieces. It also doesn't stick to the pan. I used the recipe on the side of the canister of corn meal - nothing fancy but quite good

      Easy Corn Bread
      (adapted from the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal canister)

      PRINT ME!

      1 1/4 cups flour
      3/4 cup corn meal
      1/4 cup sugar
      2 tsp. baking powder
      1/2 tsp. salt
      1 cup skim milk
      1/4 cup oil
      1 egg, beaten

      Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 8 or 9 inch pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

      Pumpkin cream cheese muffins - I printed this recipe out from AllRecipes a few weeks ago and have been meaning to make it every weekend since. It's a very moist pumpkin muffin with a dollop of sweetened cream cheese in the center and a crumbly streusel topping over that. So good! I'm kind of a sucker for all things pumpkin, so I was super happy with this recipe.

        Whole wheat pizza crust - I am constantly searching for the perfect pizza crust recipe. This one, which I adapted from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, was pretty darn close:

        Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

        PRINT ME!

        1 cup lukewarm water
        1 tbsp. olive oil
        1 cup whole wheat flour
        2 cups white flour
        1 packet active dry yeast
        1 tbsp. sugar
        1 tsp. salt

        In a mixing bowl, combine the lukewarm water and 1 cup of the white flour. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Whisk together to make a spongy dough. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

        Add the remaining 2 cups flour and stir with a wooden spoon (I used the dough hook on my stand mixer). When the dough becomes thick enough, knead it by hand for 6 to 8 minutes (again, with the dough hook) until it reaches the consistency of soft baby skin. Place in a floured bowl and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

        Once the dough has risen and doubled in size, the dough is ready to be formed. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour over the dough and on the rolling pin. Roll out the dough to the desired size.

        Bake the crust for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and load with toppings. Bake the full pizza for another 8 to 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

        German Apple Pie - Pie is one of those things that I generally leave to people who are really good at making pie (I am not one of those people). I really like pie, however, and I like the idea of being good at making pie, so I'm always willing to try a new recipe. Oh my goodness, this was delicious. I made it for our friend Mace's birthday, upon his request, and over the course of the weekend we ate every crumb. As far as I can tell, the thing that makes this a German apple pie is that, as a final step, you dump a cup of heavy cream over the apples, so that after baking the apples are set in a rich, creamy, sweet sauce. Yum. Not only was the pie insanely good, I also FINALLY found a crust recipe that I love; it's from Ina Garten and can be found here. I found the pie recipe at (which stands for "cooking by the seat of our pants"). As a finishing touch, I cut out a letter "M" from the extra pie crust and baked it alongside the pie to put on top. Cute, right?

          So that's all from here. Here's hoping that some of my baking madness rubs off on some of you!


          1. The Tassajara wheat bread is fabulous--it's all about that first rise with just half the flour, I think. And I'll have to give the pizza dough a try, because I'm looking for the perfect wheat dough, too. One that won't make me run back to Boboli.

          2. Mace raved about that pie! I think I'll have to give it a try sometime. Yum! He had such a great weekend with you guys, I am so happy that he has you guys so close out there to give him a little love. :-)

          3. iona's exact comment in regards to the pie, "c'est a se taper les fesses par terre !!!" which loosely translates to "it makes you want to bang your butt on the floor!" Isn't French a romantic language ?!?!