Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cinnamon Bread!

     A little later this evening I will be pulling a golden loaf of cinnamon swirl bread out of my oven, and tomorrow morning my family will be starting their day with toasted slices of yumminess!  For someone like me whose usual breakfast consists of a bowl of whole grain cereal, this is a huge treat!   I make it with half whole wheat flour and half white flour, so there is some nutritional value (and fiber!).  My favorite way to enjoy this is sliced and toasted with a little butter on top, but my kids really like it made into french toast.  Since school mornings can be crazy, the french toast does not usually happen.
     A few notes about the recipe: I use olive oil for the health benefits, but any type of oil will do.  And in case you were concerned, I have never noticed the flavor of the olive oil coming through the bread.  Also, you can use all white flour or all wheat flour or a blend.  Anything works!  A few years back I discovered a type of flour called white whole wheat.  When wheat grows in the field there are two varieties: red and white.  Red wheat is what we typically see in the grocery store whole wheat flour.  King Arthur Flour grinds some of their whole wheat flour from white wheat, and the bag is labeled as white whole wheat flour.  White wheat has a lighter taste and texture than red wheat, which leads to a lighter tasting and smoother wheat bread.  It is the only wheat flour I use around here!  This dough freezes well too.  I usually make a double recipe and after kneading it I cut it in half and freeze one chunk.  When I am ready to use the frozen one I let it thaw overnight in the fridge and then proceed with the rising part of the recipe.  The initial rising does take a little longer because the dough is cool.
     This recipe is the one my mother gave me when I decided to finally learn to make bread.  It is easy, but takes time because of the rising time.  Thanks Mom!

                                              Cinnamon Bread (one loaf)
1 1/2 c. hot water (I use room temp. water and warm it in the microwave for 1 minute)
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 tbsp. oil
2 tsp. salt
4-6 c. flour
In a large bowl mix together the water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast on top.  Wait for it to get foamy.  It might fall to the bottom of the bowl, but that's okay.  While you are waiting add the oil and salt, just don't stir it yet.  Once the yeast foams (that means it is working!) add the flour.  Stir it in until it becomes too thick to stir, then dump it on the counter and knead in the rest of the flour until the dough is very smooth and not sticky.  You will knead for about 10 minutes.  This is the time to enjoy a quiet house if you have one, or to give a tiny pair of hands a tiny bit of dough to knead on their very own!  When you are done kneading put the dough back in the bowl.  You will probably want to spray it with non-stick spray first.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for about an hour or until the dough is double in size.  Then roll it out into a long rectangle about 7 inches wide and 14 inches long (I don't ever measure, just guess)  Sprinkle it with a mixture of 5 tbsp. brown sugar and 1 tbsp. cinnamon.  Starting at one of the skinny ends, roll it up and then drop it in a loaf pan.  Cover with the plastic wrap again and let it rise for another 20 minutes and then bake it at 350 for 35 minutes.  Remove it from the pan soon after baking to let it cool before you slice it!  This recipe doubles very well.  Jim says that I shouldn't be giving this recipe away for free, so believe me when I say it really is the best!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Begining with bread.....

  Welcome to my brand new and very first blog!  The idea of blogging about what I love to bake has been germinating in my head for a couple of years, and one of my sisters (you know who you are!),who also was born with a love to bake, keeps telling me that I need to write all my recipes down. So, here I go!
   Many people are very intimidated with the thought of baking bread from scratch, and until a few years ago I was one of them.  My New Years resolution that year was to conquer my fear of baking with yeast!  I started by calling up my mother, who makes amazing bread, and getting an easy recipe from her.  My first loaf was a very yummy cinnamon swirl bread that I still make regularly for breakfast for my kids.  I will share that recipe later.  Today's recipe is for a bread that looks a little fancier and tastes amazing dipped in olive oil, but is about as easy as it gets when it comes to making it.  You don't even have to knead!!!  I originally found the recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine, but I adjusted it for a "regular" kitchen.  And if you have never tried bread with olive oil instead of butter, you must try it (and I am a huge fan of butter!).  Pour a some oil on a small plate, and sprinkle in your choice of black pepper, balsamic vinegar and/or parmesan cheese, then dip away!  Most of my children even enjoy this!

                                   Pane Integrale (Whole Wheat Bread)

2 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour ( use whole white wheat if you can find it)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 cups cool water
In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients.  Add the water and mix well.  A fork works really good for this step.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours.  The dough should double in volume and the surface will be dotted with little bubbles.  Spray your baking pan with non-stick spray. I recomend a glass or stone pan, but I'm sure metal will work too.  Sometimes I use a loaf shaped pan and sometimes I use a round.  Just make sure that it is big enough for you bread to grow!  Use a silicone spatula to scrape the dough into the pan.  The dough has a hard time sticking to silicone.  Cover dough again and let it rise for another 1-2 hours.  Then bake it at 475 for 45-50 minutes.  The crust of the bread will get VERY dark, but it needs to bake for the full amount of time to be done in the middle.  Remove it from the pan soon after baking and let it cool a little.  Use a very sharp serrated knife to slice and enjoy!  The crust will get a little softer and easier to cut if you store it in a plastic bag until the next day.   So even though this bread does have to be started a day early, it is still very easy and well worth it!