Girl Versus Dough

Round Thirty Seven — Peanut Butter Bread

Peanut Butter Bread

I’m going to tell you another story. Are you ready? Get ready. It’s going to be rad.

This is where we were last week, on vacation. Lutsen, Minnesota. It was lovely.

We had time to relax, sleep, eat and take awkward pictures of ourselves. Like this one. (So, so far away.)

When we got home, I had a hankerin’. For peanut butter. And bread. Thus, Peanut Butter Bread. And it’s from Paula Deen, no less! A win-win… win.

First, I had to make the list of ingredients and directions. I love lists.

Then, baking powder.

Which turned into scary smiley faced baking powder! (I tried making him look happier, I swear. It did not go well.)

Add some peanut butter, of course…

Which, when mixed with some of its friends, turns into peanut butter batter…

And then, hoorah! Tasty Peanut Butter Bread.

And with this lovely creation spread along the top…

It’s peanut butter jelly time!

Which is almost as fun as vacation.

Almost. Peanut Butter Bread Courtesy of The Food Network


2 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 1 tsp salt 4 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 cups milk 1/2 cup peanut butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together dry ingredients. Add milk and peanut butter to the dry ingredients and mix. Pour mix into a lightly-greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pan and bake 40-50 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and loaf pan and allow to cool on wire rack.

Round Thirty Six — French Boule

French Boule

When I look at this loaf, I think of the word “peasant.” Like, a peasant bread. Like something you’d see coming out of the hearth in the background of “A Christmas Carol,” while poor Tiny Tim tries to cut the single pea on his plate in half. (Probably one of the more devastating scenes I’ve ever watched in a Disney flick — that, and when Nemo’s mom dies within the first five minutes of the movie. C’mon, Walt!).

So it’s no surprise that this peasant loaf was coming out of our oven just a few days ago.

No, I’m not saying we’re poor — gosh, no. There are so many people in the world with a fraction of our wealth. Still, we are in the early stages in our marriage, and as many young couples can empathize (and single, 20-something professionals — I’m leaving no one out of this), these are financially trying days. While we’re trying to move up from the college staples of Ramen noodles and frozen pizza and to more sophisticated daily menus, sometimes, it’s just too dang expensive, and you find that jar of peanut butter is the only source of sustenance for days (OK, it’s really not that bad, but you get the idea).

All this to say that, when I decided to make this loaf, simple as it may be, I knew it had to be put to good use. I mean, we can’t just go wasting bread around here! Not that we do, of course… goodness, what kind of bread baker throws out uneaten bread? Not this one, I’ll tell you that… yeah.

Luckily, we happened to need a country loaf (peasant, country, artisan; tomato, to-mah-to) for one of our favorite dinners we were making that night — Espinacas con Garbanzos (OMG if you haven’t made this yet, do it right now. You know if I react with “OMG,” it’s got to be delicious). With a crusty crust and a soft, dense center, the French boule is the perfect conduit for any tapenade, chutney or other chunky topping. Like bruschetta, for instance. Or said recipe, above. This bread worked perfectly as a slab for our dinner of tomato-y garbanzo beans, sauteed spinach and garlic.

And so, thanks to the fresh food cooking on the stove and a fresh “peasant” bread in the oven, we had ourselves a meal and good conversation — and that’s all we really need. (I so want to say here, “God bless us, every one!” But I won’t, to curb the risk of cheesiness, of course.)

Debrief: Pretty straightforward here. Just be careful with the measurements if you plan to make only one, two or three loaves. That is all.

Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf) Courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved (or quartered, as I did) Ingredients:

3 cups lukewarm water 1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast 1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour


In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour lukewarm water (should be about 100 degrees F) and add yeast and salt to the water. Add all of the flour at once and mix with the dough hook (kneading is unnecessary — just mix until ingredients are incorporated). Once the dough is moist and consistent, pour dough into a clean, greased large bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. After dough has risen, sprinkle the surface of the dough with a dusting of flour and divide dough into four, 1-pound pieces. With lightly-floured hands, gently stretch the surface of each dough piece around the bottom of all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Shape until a smooth and cohesive ball and place on a lined baking sheet or baking stone. Allow each dough ball to rest about 40 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that doesn’t interfere with the bread. Dust the tops of each loaf with flour and slash several 1/4-inch deep cuts for a “scallop” look (as I did). You can also make a tic-tac-toe pattern or a giant plus sign across the top of the bread. After a twenty-minute preheat, you can put the loaves in the oven, even if it isn’t up to full temperature. Quickly and carefully pour 1 cup of hot water in the broiler tray and close the door immediately. Bake for about 30 minutes until a lightly-brown crust develops. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Round Thirty Five — Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls

Gosh, I know, I know, it’s been a while.

I’m sorry.

I have so much to tell you. I could tell you about one of my dearest friend’s weddings I was in a few weeks ago (oh, I already told you about that?). I could also tell you about going to the county fair and seeing the OMG-adorable piglets and yummy funnel cake (or you could just take a gander for yourself). I could also tell you that my wrists have decided to go numb randomly and feel tingly, and how my very sympathetic, physician-assistant-studying husband comforted me by telling me I might. Have. Carpal. Tunnel.


But I won’t tell you about that.

What I will tell you about are these amazing rolls I made last night. Finally, after a long couple of weeks of running to this, that and the other thing (which, unfortunately, is still not done, but I just couldn’t hold out on you any longer!) I was able to find a few hours in my schedule to make these rolls. I found them on Joy The Baker (naturally) the other day and knew they had to be made — mostly because she mentions wearing an apron and “Mad Men,” and I’ve been pining for/watching both lately.

While making these rolls, however, I discovered that I really didn’t have as much flour left in the apartment as I thought, so after scooping out the very last smidgens of bread flour and all-purpose flour and even whole wheat flour I had around, I officially ran out of flour. I would be shocked that I, one who bakes bread often, let my kitchen go without a speck of flour, but then again, it’s been one of those weeks. All this to say that my dough was slightly stickier than I would have liked, but no less workable in the long run.

These rolls definitely evoke that 1950s housewife where’s-my-lung-blackening-cigarette-and-old-fashioned-on-the-rocks kind of feeling, and suddenly you think you should be donning pearls and curling your hair and putting on bright red lipstick and walking around in heels in the kitchen. Yeah, that won’t happen. But it sure is a nice thought (minus the cigarette, ick).

Debrief: Um, I don’t know, just that these are insanely easy to make? Be careful when pulling apart the dough into 20 equal pieces — if you keep reworking it, your rolls will turn out bumpy like mine. But they’ll still taste just as good. And just make sure you have enough flour in your kitchen — but, like I said, it worked out anyway.

Parker House Rolls Courtesy of Joy The Baker

Makes 20 rolls


3 tbsp warm water 3 tbsp sugar, divided 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 1 stick unsalted butter 1 cup milk 2 cups bread flour 1 1/2 tsp salt 3/4-1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


In a small bowl, stir together 1 tbsp sugar, yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Add milk and heat until lukewarm. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, bread flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add and stir in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, and dump dough onto counter. Knead and keeping adding flour a tablespoon at a time until dough is smooth and just slightly sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Divide dough into 20 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet and cover with a towel until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. When rolls are risen, use a floured chopstick or edge of a ruler to make a deep crease down the center of each roll. Let rolls rise, covered, about 15 more minutes. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and brush the tops of the rolls with the butter. Place rolls in the oven 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool rolls in the pan 5 minutes, then remove and serve warm.

Sifted Words — Where you at?

In case you’ve been pining for more recipes in my absence, you’re not alone. The fact is, I’ve missed baking, too. But it’s been the craziest of weeks, namely for one reason: A wedding.

Don’t you just love weddings? They brighten my mood no matter how I’m feeling (Case of the Mondays? Gone. Smells like cat pee in the hallway? No probs. Nasty sunburn peeling off while I’m fighting off laryngitis and can barely speak? OK, that sucked, but a wedding would still make me slightly cheery.). And this past weekend, I was blessed to be a bridesmaid in my dear, dear friend Sarah Jean’s wedding in St. Paul, Minn. It was a lovely affair.

Aw, pretty bridesmaids. We were fun. And pretty.

That would be the bride, brush-a-brush-a-brushin’ her teeth minutes before getting hitched. Naturally. Still, she’s dang beautiful.

Not sure what I’m doing here. I planned to look diva-ish, but I ended up looking, well, not so diva-ish. I blame the non-diva dress. Sarah’s looking mighty nervous (but excited!) before the ceremony. Clearly I pay no attention to anyone’s feelings whence trying to look like a diva.

And finally, the lovely bride, Sarah Jean, and groom, Nate. They are happy. (Though it might be for the cake, I don’t know.)

So there you have it. My big fat excuse for not baking. Don’t worry, I’ve got thoughts swirling in my head and a loaf in the oven right now (a gluten-free surprise for Tablespoon, but that’s for another day). Things are happening, indeed.

P.S. First photo courtesy of Sarah Vande Kamp; Other photos courtesy of Ashley Moore

Round Thirty Four — Golden Raisin & Caraway Scones

Golden Raisin Caraway Seed Scones

It’s dang hot outside.

Can I just say that? I know how we all love to talk about the weather (it is, after all, the most common — pause. My husband is rapping about scientific terms behind me. What a NERD. — topic of conversation among strangers). But we’re not strangers here, are we? I hope not.

But if you are a stranger, these scones will make us instant friends. I promise you that.

I was searching for the perfect scone recipe the other day. I write perfect because, well, I’m mighty picky when it comes to my scones. I’m a scone snob, I admit it. I don’t like scones that are extra crumbly. Fact. I also dislike scones with sweet fruits in them, like raspberries or blueberries. Also a fact. I’m also partial to their shape — if they aren’t in triangle form, I may or may not turn up my nose in disapproval. They’re just not the same.

That being said, I took a bit of a gamble when I decided to make this recipe. I found it on the North Fork Table & Inn’s Web site by way of Smitten Kitchen by way of Whisk The Pantry. After all this adventure, I finally settled on what appeared to be an acceptable scone recipe — a triangular, sweet (but not too sweet!) and savory, less crumbly creation. But I was still skeptical.

You see, I’m trying to find my way around the chemistry of baking. Like, how does bread rise (or not)? Or, how do you make your own ingredients from things you already have tucked away in the pantry? In this case, I’m learning that the more sugar you add to a recipe, the more cake-like it will become. Or at least I think so. Still haven’t aced this class yet.

What is so absolutely perfect — yes, perfect — about this recipe is that it yields the most delicate balance between a flaky, buttery consistency and that loaf-like sponginess. Not too crumbly, but not too cakey. And with the genius combination of sweet, golden raisins and hearty caraway seeds, they go perfectly with a tall glass of iced tea on one dang hot summer day. But a perfect day, nonetheless.

Debrief: This recipe originally states that it yields 12 to 16 scones, but I got a little overzealous with the bench scraper and managed to cut around 20 triangles in all. It worked out — I had a lovely mix of mini scones and regular-sized ones. That said, take the “yield” with a grain of salt — you can make as many scones as you darn well please, thankyouverymuch.

Golden Raisin & Caraway Scones Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen from North Fork Table & Inn

Yields 12 to 16 triangular scones (or, as said above, up to 24 miniature scones)


2 3/4 cup pastry or unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 tbsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda 6 oz. butter (about 1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1 cup golden raisins 1 tbsp caraway seeds 1 cup buttermilk (or just under a cup of regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice and refrigerated for 5 minutes) Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put cubed butter in freezer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, place flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix, using paddle attachment, in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter to stand mixer bowl and mix until butter and flour mixture are the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk, raisins and caraway seeds, mixing on the lowest speed until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently about 2 minutes until dough mostly sticks together. Roll out dough using hands or a rolling pin, into a rectangle slab about 1 inch thick. Cut into squares, and then cut squares on a diagonal to form triangles. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Extra punches: If you are partial to a fruit scone, you can substitute 1 cup of any chopped fresh fruit for the raisins and caraway seeds, and use only 3/4 cup of buttermilk. If using fruit, also make sure you use aluminum-free baking powder, or your scones may result in a blueish tint and a slight tinny flavor.

Sifted Words — Tablespoon, part deux.

Mom's Zucchini Bread


I forgot to tell you (OK I didn’t forget, I just haven’t gotten around to it. There, I said it. Confession.) — I’m posting recipes on Tablespoon again. So far: Blueberry Muffin Bread, Avocado Quick Bread and today, Mom’s Zucchini Bread (yes you, Ma. Love you!). And there will be more, even yummier recipes on the way. So you should check out the blog every week for what I’m up to over there (or, if you’re here already, click on that nifty little box in the right column. The one that reads “Featured Tablespoon Blogger,” in case it’s been a long day and you still don’t get it.).

For now, a happy day to you all. It’s the weekend soon, so cheer up! Life is dang good, isn’t it? Indeed.