rosemary-raisin monkey bread

So, after a series of days of movie-watching, article-reading and conversing with the husband, we decided it is in our best ethical interest to go what he says is called “flexitarian.” The term, if you are too lazy to look it up, refers to people who live on a mostly-vegetarian diet but will occasionally consume meat. For us, this means we will no longer eat meat or buy egg/milk products unless they are grass-fed or cage-free. It’s been tough for someone like me who loves her meat and has always had it readily available at the family table, but it’s important to me to start eating food that coincides with my morals.
egg separationbuttermilk for monkey bread
2 1/4 tsp yeastrosemary
Which is why I am so happy that my morals recently coaxed me into making this recipe, which (though the name refers to an animal) is friendly to both the environment and to my empty tummy.
buttahbrown sugar and rosemary
ballz, againbundt pan pre-fridge

I first read about monkey bread from another bread blog I highly regard, and when mine eyes laid upon it they widened in awe that this! — This satiating creation! This caramel-coated wonder! — was bread, indeed! I knew right then it had to be made, in my kitchen. I didn’t use that exact recipe but found another on the Food Network Web site, an overnight recipe courtesy of Mr. Alton Brown.

closeup rosemary-raisin monkey bread

At first, the idea of mixing rosemary with butter, brown sugar and raisins sounded a little funky, but after stirring all of said ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, the aroma was so deliciously sweet and savory that I thanked the rosemary for sticking through the fight despite my initial cynicism.
This recipe does require a bit of patience (as in, waiting overnight to eat it), but let me tell you, it is so much better than rolling pieces of store-bought biscuit dough together. May your own morals coax you soon.

Debrief: Not too much to change. Maybe I’ll try a different recipe for monkey bread altogether? I know The Bread Bible has its own with pecans. And yet, that rosemary…

Overnight Monkey Bread
courtesy of Food Network

Ingredients
Dough:
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Topping:
8 ounces unsalted butter, approximately 16 tablespoons
8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
3 ounces raisins, approximately 3/4 cup

Coating:
2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 5 tablespoons
1 teaspoon ground rosemary

Directions
For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough and add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 8 ounces of unsalted butter, brown sugar, rosemary, and raisins. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the topping into the bottom of 2 bundt pans and set aside. Cover and store the other half of the topping in the refrigerator until the next morning.

Place the melted butter and rosemary for the coating in a medium shallow bowl and stir to combine. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Portion the dough into 1-ounce pieces; roll each piece into a ball. (You should have approximately 36 balls.) Roll the balls in the melted butter and rosemary.

Divide the balls evenly between the 2 bundt pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the bread from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the bread. Close the oven and let the bread rise until slightly puffy looking, 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread has risen, remove it and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the oven is ready, place the bread on the middle rack and bake until slightly golden on top, approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining topping in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Reheat until the mixture is pourable, approximately 5 minutes. Fifteen minutes into baking, pour the remaining topping over the bread, and finish cooking. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter or cutting board. Serve immediately.

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numero dos

In case you live in a bubble and/or somewhere warm like Hawaii or Florida or California (and, in which case, of whom I am green with envy), it is snowing. Yes, those tiny white flakes are falling from the sky and landing in a puffy blanket of similar friends who are all congregating in a slushy mass in an effort to A) make people drive like idiots or B) make people drive like geriatrics (also potentially idiots). I, however, drive perfectly, but that’s another story.
I don’t hate the snow, especially in the season of glad tidings and making merry. It provides a picturesque landscape, a glittering backdrop for a tree twinkling with lights, silvery tinsel and spherical gems doming over bows and wrapping paper. With such a jolly spirit, it’s hard to do anything not festive at this time of year.

fruit!flour
yeast, flour, sugar120 degrees


I chose this recipe because my husband, Elliott, drools over panettone almost every Christmas. He painstakingly compares every store’s version of the loaf until he finds the “perfect” one — a sweet tower of bread studded with ornaments of candied, dried fruits. So when I happened upon a recipe for it in my Food Network Magazine, I thought I’d try to make a panettone that blew away all the other versions.
How silly of me.

pannetone mixture

lightly beaten eggs

The recipe, though seemingly simple, turned out to be a miniature holiday meltdown. First, it was the candied orange peel — I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I substituted dried pineapple for the MIA fruit. Then, while preparing the bread, I noticed a void in the cabinet which honey — honey that I needed for the recipe — usually fills. I also forgot to buy a lemon for the necessary lemon zest, so I had to stop midway through the recipe to buy the missing products. Of course, upon return, I realized I should have bought several lemons for the required 2 tablespoons of zest, and I almost pulled a muscle grating the single lemon until it was completely bare. I managed only to get about a teaspoon, so I used lemon juice for the remaining five teaspoons needed. Whew. Everything was back on track.
Until… until the mixture didn’t rise. It struggled, and puffed up just a hair, and was then defeated. After waiting two and half hours as opposed to the intended hour, I gave up and put the un-risen dough in the loaf pans, and crossed my fingers it would rise for the first time, the second time. It didn’t. After giving up again, I put the pans in the oven and baked them for 50 minutes, when they came out a little overdone. It was a disappointment.

holiday pannetone bread

Though the process was less than a success, the taste of the bread is light, citrusy and delicious. And my husband approves.

Debrief: I’m honestly not sure what went wrong with this recipe. It seems my active dry yeast, which is very fresh, just didn’t work. Perhaps it was due to all of the substitutions I made, but none of them logically contribute to the dough not rising. Hmph.

Holiday Panettone
courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Makes two loaves

Ingredients:
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (or dried pineapple, which I used and works just as well, though the taste may differ)
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (I used skim, for convenience)
1 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp grated lemon zest (or lemon juice?)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together candied orange peel, dried cherries, golden raisins and dried apricots in a large bowl. Add sugar, active dry yeast, flour and salt. Heat whole milk, butter, honey and grated lemon zest to 120 degrees in a saucepan; stir into the mix. Mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs and vanilla extract; cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans or two empty 10-ounce coffee cans and line with parchment paper. Add the dough; cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes (or, in my case, about 45 minutes). Cool before slicing.

Extra punches (from Food Network Magazine): For a nut lover, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts in place of some of the dried fruit.

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chocolate chocolate chip bread, sliced

I have a confession to make.

Though I truly, deeply love to bake bread and delight in all its complexities, idiosyncrasies, successes and catastrophes, I must admit it is not my first love. You see, I have an indelible sweet tooth. This is no ordinary sweet tooth — oh, no. I am perplexed when I pick up a Glamour or Self Magazine and read their articles titled, “Eat What You Want And STILL Lose Weight!”, only to find that their suggestions span only as far as, “When vexed with a desire for chocolate, have one Dark Chocolate Hershey’s Kiss to diminish the craving.” This advice, however, does not subdue my monstrous sweet tooth. Once I ingest the drop of chocolate, my sweet tooth rears its ugly head and, in full force, demands several more larger portions in order to be satisfied. So when I decided to take on bread baking — a venue that often avoids recipes with heaps of sugar — it was an attempt to find a hobby that perhaps would force my sweet tooth into submission forevermore.

Then I found this recipe. With loaves like these, I will never have the courage to beat down my sweet tooth monster.

loaf pan with cooking sprayunsweetened cocoa
buttahchocolate chips


I needed to make this recipe for two reasons: one, I’ve been dying to make a dessert bread and, two, I had one of those won’t-take-no-for-an-answer kind of chocolate cravings the other day. And so, with the help of my lovely new book, The Bread Bible, I created chocolate chocolate chip bread. Yes, that’s chocolate times deux.

chocolate additionfluffy dough
chocolate bread battercoating the bread with syrup

This loaf is not really a “bread” in the sense of kneading, etc. but it is still a quickbread, and thank God, because this bread is far too delicious to have any sort of patience to eat it. Extremely moist and fluffy, with a Kahlua syrup soaking in from all sides, adds to the density and makes the bread more “grown up.” It was very, very easy to make (I randomly decided while baking the first loaf to bake a second loaf, and by the time the first one finished the second was ready for the oven), and very rich. If you don’t like chocolate, you won’t like this bread, though the bread itself is less fudge-y than you’d expect. Using a stand mixer was useful in this project, especially because the addition of ingredients and the rounds of mixing were important to aerate and “fluffify” the dough. I’m making up words.

Debrief: Next time, I may leave out the addition of the Kahlua syrup in at least one of the loaves (though the Kahlua addition is divine), just to see if the chocolate flavor, unadulterated, becomes enhanced.

finished product

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread
courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes: an 8-by-4-by-3-inch-high loaf

Ingredients:
3 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed)
3 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract (do NOT use imitation vanilla extract, or a pox on both your houses!)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (lazy as I am, I used all-purpose flour and did not sift, and survived to live another day)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, preferably turbinado (a.k.a. raw sugar — I used regular sugar)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate chopped medium-fine (optional) (I used chocolate mini chips)

Equipment:
a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer;
an 8-by-4-inch (4-cup) loaf pan, or, if using the chocolate chips, an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (5-cup) loaf pan, bottom greased and line with parchment, then sprayed with Baker’s Joy or greased and floured (if using a nonstick pan and Baker’s Joy, there’s no need to line the pan) (I greased the bottom of a nonstick pan and did nothing else and was fine)

1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the middle level.
2. Make the soft cocoa paste. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then gently whisk in the vanilla and eggs. It will be fluid.
3. Mix the batter. In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid, with the paddle attachment) for 30 seconds to blend. Add half the chocolate paste and the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium if using a stand mixer (#4 KitchenAid), or high if using a hand-held mixer, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the remaining chocolate paste in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the bowl. With a rubber spatula, fold in the optional chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate.
4. Fill the pan. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. (The batter will be almost 1/2 inch from the top of the 4-cup pan.)
5. Bake the bread. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200 degrees F. Tent loosely with buttered foil after 25 minutes to prevent overbrowning. (The bread shouldn’t start to shrink from the sides of the pan until after removal from the oven.)
6. Cool the bread. Set the bread on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a small metal spatula and invert it onto an oiled wire rack. Reinvert so that it is top side up and cool completely.
Variation: For an extra-moist cake and a subtle background coffee accent, brush the bread with coffee syrup. To make the syrup, in a small pan, stir together 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and remove from the heat. When the syrup is cool, add 1 tbsp Kahlua. As soon as the bread is removed from the oven, brush half the syrup onto the top. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a lightly oiled rack and brush the bottom and sides with the remaining syrup. Reinvert it to finish cooling top side up.

Extra punches (from The Bread Bible): To get an attractive split down the middle of the crust, wait until the natural split is about to develop, about 20 minutes into the baking, and, with a lightly oiled sharp knife, make a shallow slash 6 inches long down the middle of the bread. This must be done quickly so that the oven door does not remain open very long, or the bread could fall. When the top crust splits, it will open along this slash.

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