Hearty Italian meals have always been some of my favorites to both make at home and order out. I can eat pasta day and night for weeks without getting tired of it. And sometimes I do. But it’s rare that I serve or indulge in the wonderful Italian breads that so often accompany those meals. After all, a girl has to watch her figure with all of those carbs, right? 😉
But in all seriousness, I do enjoy a good Italian bread, slathered in sweet butter, dunked in herb-infused olive oil, or well toasted with a hefty dose of garlic. All of that goodness comes out when I entertain. This garlic ciabatta bread is one of my favorites to prepare, as it’s got enormous flavor and is easy to prepare. When entertaining, I make the garlic-olive oil mixture in advance, so that it only takes a minute to put together and move to the oven for a quick bake while I spend time with friends. Enjoy!
Garlic Ciabatta Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (p. 184)
- 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 6 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat olive oil, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper until garlic is translucent and has infused the olive oil, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Slice a loaf of ciabatta horizontally. On one half, spread butter. Spread the garlic-olive oil mixture on the other half. Put back together and wrap in aluminum foil.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until bread is heated throughout. Remove from oven and slice.
This month’s What’s Baking? theme was chosen by Nicole from Seven Ate Nine – Bake With Garlic. At first I was excited by the theme, the chance to do something a little more savory. But then I started worrying about what to make. With Easter entertaining on the agenda, I decided to accompany my usual Beef Wellington with fresh bread, inspired by this month’s theme. The “baking” was twofold – first roasting the garlic until soft and sweet, flavoring good olive oil, and then using the two components to bake into bread.
I’ve made fresh focaccia bread once before and was impressed with both the ease and the wonderful flavor. This recipe produced the same results. Like most fresh breads, it’s takes a little while to make, due to the rising time, but the result is worth the effort. (For your convenience, I added the time required for each step in bold, at the step, in case you need to break up the steps or plan your day around them.)
Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from Kitchen Konfidence
Makes a 9×13 pan
- 1/2 c. good-quality olive oil
- 1 large head of garlic, top cut off
- 2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1 3/4 c. warm water
- 4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (from 4 springs)
- flakey sea salt
Roast the Garlic and Flavor the Olive Oil: Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place olive oil in a small oven-safe bowl. Add garlic, top-side down. Cover bowl with foil and cook until garlic is soft, 45-60 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing garlic from oil and removing garlic cloves from the skin, setting aside the cloves to use on the bread later. If needed, pour oil through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove solids. Set aside.
Time: 1 hour
Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, gently stir warm water and yeast with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula to dissolve yeast. Allow to sit until the mixture begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and fit with the dough hook. Add flour, fine sea salt, and 2 Tbs. roasted garlic olive oil. Mix on low speed, stopping periodically to scrape dough off hook, until mixture is smooth and slightly sticky, 10-15 minutes.
In a clean bowl, place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil. Add dough ball to bowl and turn to coat completely in oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. Dough should double in size, about 2 hours. (Note: In my house, I find that dough rises best when placed in the kitchen while I’m using the stove/oven or by my gas fireplace, left on. I apparently keep my house too cool for dough to rise easily without an additional heat source.)
Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Rest: Place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil in a 9×13 baking dish (I used a Pyrex dish). Spread, ensuring bottom and sides are coated.
Uncover and punch down dough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, stretching so that it covers the entire dish. Cover again with clean towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Time: 45 minutes
Bake the Bread: When dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°F.
After dough has finished resting, use clean fingers to a dimple dough (pressing slightly with fingertips, all over). Brush with remaining roasted garlic olive oil (you may have some leftover) and add reserved garlic cloves. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and chopped rosemary.
Place in oven and immediately lower temperature to 375°F. Bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
Allow to rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
Time: 30 minutes + time to cool slightly (additional 15ish minutes)
This month’s theme for What’s Baking? – baking bread – was chosen by Heather at Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks. I definitely debated about whether to use this as an excuse to make a warm, crusty baguette. I contemplated a dinner of fresh bread and cheese, maybe a little fresh fruit and olives… but I bet my hubby would tell me that’s not an acceptable dinner. After all, he scoffed at a box of Girl Scout cookies for lunch. Apparently 6+ months pregnant isn’t an excuse to indulge. Anyway, in the end, I decided that with the cold weather we’ve been having, I’d make a hearty dinner of chili and made-from-scratch traditional cornbread.
This recipe is super easy – it took only a few minutes to put together and surprisingly little time to bake. My oven runs a tad hot, so I ended up with a slightly crispy edge that I couldn’t help but eat first. 🙂
Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 107 (p. 37)
- 1 3/4 c. stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. table salt
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into a couple of pieces
Ensure that a rack is placed in the center of the oven. Place a 9-10 inch cast-iron skillet in an oven and heat to 425°F. Allow skillet to sit in the oven until the oven is completely preheated, if not longer.
In a large bowl, whisk together remaining cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a small pot, bring 1/2 c. water to a boil. Whisk in 1/2 c. of the cornmeal until a thick mush has formed. Whisk in buttermilk, sour cream, and eggs until smooth.
When oven has been properly preheated, about 20 minutes, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir together with a wooden spoon until smooth and no clumps remain. Switch to a whisk if a few stubborn clumps remain.
Remove hot skillet from oven and add butter pieces, swirling pan to spread the butter and coat the bottom. Immediately pour cornmeal mixture into pan. Return to oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until top is golden and bread begins to pull away from the sides.
Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Welcome to the first in 12 weeks of Christmas treats, a weekly blog hop hosted by Meal Planning Magic. Now I know it’s early to be thinking about Christmas, but the holiday season is a particularly busy one for me and I like to get a jump start on those holiday care packages and the big holiday party that my hubby and I host each year. So I’m already making lists of goodies that I want to make, and trying to pencil in some time to get baking. This particular bread recipe freezes well without the glaze (and tastes great without it, if you prefer) and will definitely be making an appearance in some of my care packages this December.
Cranberry Orange Bread
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes 1 standard loaf (or two smaller, half loaves)
Ingredients for the Bread:
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan
- 2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 c. cranberries, halved
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
Ingredients for the Glaze:
- 1 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 4 tsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
Preheat oven to 350F. If using a standard loaf pan, grease the pan with 1 Tbs. softened butter and lightly flour. Same thing for a disposable aluminum pan. (My pans, purchased from Michael’s craft stores, did not need to be greased, so I omitted this step.)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries.
In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and orange zest. Pour mixture, as well as melted butter, over dry ingredients. Gently fold in until no dry ingredients remain.
Pour into prepared baking pan and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes for a standard loaf pan, and 35-45 minutes for a half-loaf.
Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert bread onto a rack to cool completely before adding glaze.
If using disposable liners, cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze, without glaze.
Glaze Bread: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and orange juice until smooth, adding extra orange juice by the teaspoon, if needed, to thin glaze. Drizzle over loaf. Store at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days.
If glazing after freezing, allow bread to thaw completely before adding glaze.
This month is my first to participate in a blogging event called What’s Baking? Every month or two, a blogger will choose a theme, and the rest of us will bake something that fits in with the theme. It’s a great way to try out new recipes, sometimes out of your comfort zone.
This month, the theme of “Heritage Dish” was chosen by Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen. This theme couldn’t have come at a better time, as I recently saw my Polish grandparents. What’s Baking? was the perfect excuse to make something that my grandpa always enjoyed – babka.
Babka is a sweet yeast bread or cake from Eastern Europe. Growing up, my family served the Jewish version, a bread (the cake version is associated with Christian Easter and other holidays). I don’t recall anyone ever making it but it was ordered from bakeries a time or two around both Easter and Christmas.
This version is streaked with semisweet chocolate. My coworkers polished off two loaves of this bread before noon one day. My grandfather, however, was not as impressed. He reminded me every time he had a slice, that I should have used raisins in it, and that it was a little heavy. But he ate two or three slices a day, so it couldn’t have been that bad. 🙂
Baking Note: The original recipe made 4 loaves of bread. I halved the recipe below, because even though it’s freezable, four loaves is quite a lot. If you choose to freeze the dough, it can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge 24-hours before using. Then roll out the dough, allow it to rest and rise, and bake.
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois), p. 221
Makes 2 loaves
- 1 1/2 c. lukewarm milk
- 8 egg yolks
- 3/4 Tbs. granulated yeast (1 packet)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- 3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. finely chopped or shaved semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate
- 1/8 c. rum, divided (for soaking the bread)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together milk, yolks, salt, and butter with a wooden spoon until fairly well combined. Attach bowl to mixer and fit with dough hook. Add flour and stir on speed 2 (the highest speed my mixer could handle using the dough hook) until all of the flour has been incorporated. The mixture will be fairly loose.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), about 2 hours. (I tend to place the bread near the oven/stove, when it’s turned on to help it along a little).
When the dough has risen, brush with half of the rum and refrigerate (still covered loosely with plastic wrap) until chilled.
Here, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to a month. If using dough from the freezer, allow to defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before resuming recipe below.
On baking day, grease a standard loaf pan and set aside. .
Lightly flour a work surface with flour. Remove dough from fridge and cut dough in half. Dust with flour and shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the below around to the bottom. Roll out into a rectangle, approximately 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle the entire piece of the dough (including edges) with half of the shaved chocolate (1/2 c.). Roll into a log, starting at the short end. Fold the ends of the log into the middle, so that the ends meet. Place in prepared loaf pan and allow to rise and rest, about 2 hours.
Repeat with the second portion of dough, if you’re baking both at once.
Shortly before before baking, ensure that a rack is in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and firm.
Remove from the oven and brush with rum. Allow to rest for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve at room temperature.
Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.
While Christmas is still 3 months away, I’m already making lists upon lists of recipes I want to make for the holiday season. There are care packages to send, a holiday party to plan for, and menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and whatever other days my family invade my parent’s house. But let’s be honest. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I probably start thinking about food to share, crafts to make, and gifts to purchase as early as July.
Thus, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m once again participating in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Meal Planning Magic. Over the next 12 weeks, I’ll be sharing a holiday recipe for you to keep in your arsenal for your own holiday planning. Some items will get frozen for my own holiday plans, but more likely, my husband, coworkers, and friends will get treated to 12 weeks of Christmas Treats along with you. And now on to the recipe.
A few weeks ago, I received the latest (October/November) issue of Fine Cooking and flipping through it, I knew exactly which recipe I’d try first. Nope, it wasn’t one of the featured holiday pumpkin desserts. I was going to try one of the flavor combinations in the quick bread article. I figure, the recipe is a great recipe to have in my repertoire for unexpected company or a last minute event. The version I made – chocolate, coconut, almond bread – was a tasty snack for afternoon coffee, but would also make a great dessert. I made two loaves, one of which I plan on shipping to a special someone (unless it gets eaten first!).
Chocolate, Coconut & Almond Bread
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 125 (p. 68)
Makes 1 loaf
- 9 Tbs. (1 stick + 1 Tbs.) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pan
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1 c. sweetened, shredded coconut, toasted
- 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 – 1/2 c. slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350.
In a small bowl, melt 8 Tbs. (1 stick) of butter. Allow to cool.
Using 1 Tbs. butter, grease bottom and sides of a 9×5 inch loaf pan (if your butter isn’t softened, you can melt it and grease the pan that way). Sprinkle with a little flour on bottom and sides of buttered pan, tapping pan to move around flour, ensuring that pan is completely covered. Tap out excess flour over the sink. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Pour milk mixture and melted butter over dry ingredients and briefly stir with a rubber spatula until most of the wet ingredients are incorporated. Some dry streak are ok. Add toasted coconut and chocolate chips and stir until all ingredients are fulling incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with slivered almonds.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and return to rack to cool completely.
This past Christmas, I received Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I had seen recipes from the book on various blogs and was intrigued by the concept – fresh bread with only 5 minutes of active time per day. After unwinding from holiday travel, one of the first things I did was whip out the book to give this ciabatta recipe a shot (to accompany weeknight bolognese for New Years Eve, with leftovers toasted to accompany a brunch of herb baked eggs). We were not disappointed. Since then, I’ve made several batches of the bread (as well as the bagels) in the book. Artisan Bread has rapidly become one of my most used cookbooks.
I was a little daunted when I opened the book and started reading the intro and notes, but the bread was actually super easy to make. Here’s the highlights:
1. Prep the starter. Refrigerate starter until needed, up to 2 weeks. The bread will slightly change flavor the longer it sits in the fridge.
2. Baking day: shape and allow to sit at room temp while the oven heats up. Bake and enjoy.
Prep Note: If you make a full batch and use a stand mixer, you’ll want to use a 7-quart mixer. If you don’t have one and want to make a full batch, mix by hand with a wooden spoon. (If you make half a batch, a 4.5-quart mixer will work fine.)
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (p. 26 and 37)
Makes 4 1-lb. loaves (each loaf serving 4-6)
- 3 c. lukewarm (100F) water*
- 1 1/2 Tbs. active dry yeast (2 packets)**
- 1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 6 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus some for the counter
*If water is cooler than 100F, dough will still rise, but probably in 3-4 hours, rather than the 2 hours stated below.
** The book notes that you can use whatever yeasty is available – the directions below won’t be impacted if you’re using instant, regular, or granulated yeast, although you may need to double the quantity of yeast if using cake yeast. This is because the longer storage time equalizes the yeast.
- 5-quart Tupperware with a lid
- 1/2-inch thick baking stone
- pizza peel or something else to slide dough from counter onto hot pizza stone (I used an Epicurean cutting board)
- broiler pan
Pour flour into a 7-quart stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Pour water mixture into center and mix on low speed (speed 2) until all flour has been incorporated into the dough. Dough with be wet and sticky.
Place dough back into Tupperware used to mix water/yeast/salt. Cover with a lid that is not airtight. (I used a traditional Tupperware, covered loosely with plastic wrap. I sealed 3 of the 4 corners, leaving one corner popped open). Allow to rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours, until top begins to flatten. Dough may take as long as 5 hours to rise, if the water was cooler than 100F 0r if the room is on the cooler side.
At this point, you can either refrigerate the dough as is, use it all, or use a portion and refrigerate the rest. Dough will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Just be aware that as the dough rests, the flavor develops and changes slightly. (I have only used refrigerated dough, which is a little less sticky than the fresh dough.)
Bread Baking Day!
This bread takes ~45 minutes to make the day of, including rest and baking time. The below timeline is I used to make fresh bread for dinner.
- unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 c. hot water
1 hour before dinner: Set one rack in the middle of the oven and another in the lower half. Preheat oven to 450F. Place baking stone on a rack in the middle of the oven and an empty broiler pan on a lower rack.
Remove dough from fridge and cut off a 1-lb. piece of dough (1/4 of the dough if using the full recipe above) for every loaf of bread you’re making. Using wet hands to keep from sticking, place on a clean, unfloured surface. Shape dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides. Flatten ball into a circle or oval, about 3/4 inch thick. (Thinner is ok, but thicker will result in a puffier bread.)
Lightly flour a pizza peel or cutting board. Place dough on board, lightly flour top, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
30 minutes before dinner or whenever your 20-minutes rest is up: Slide dough from pizza peel/cutting board directly onto hot baking stone. Pour hot water into broiler tray and close oven door.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack before cutting or eating. I cooled the bread directly on baking stone – after 20 minutes, bread was still quite hot, but we ate it anyway. It was wonderful. 🙂
It’s rare that I read a recipe and want to make it immediately. Usually it goes on my list, perhaps getting fit into the meal plan over the next month. This bread instantly appealed to me. I read it one evening and planned to make it the next morning. I pictured enjoying a slice with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast, tempting my mom (who would be in town visiting) with a slice, telling her that it is way better than her lemon poppy seed bread. The best part was that there were ingredients that I always have in the house.
Most of the time. Not yesterday morning. I had apparently forgotten to restock both my almond extract and poppy seeds. So instead of enjoying my bread for breakfast, I ran out to the grocery store where I spend about an hour (because it’s always crowded and they never have enough cashiers working), came home to bake the bread, and enjoyed a slice with an afternoon cup of coffee.
This bread makes me wish I had afternoon tea more regularly or that we had coffee after dinner because it’s the perfect accompaniment. I loved the light, slightly sweet flavor of the bread. I have a feeling that I will be regularly stocking my freezer with these muffins.
Almond Poppy Seed Bread & Muffins
Makes 2 loaves bread or 24 muffins
- 3 eggs
- 1⅛ c. vegetable oil
- 2¼ c. sugar
- 3 c. flour
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 1½ c. milk
- 1½ tsp. vanilla
- 1½ tsp. almond extract
- 1½ Tbs. poppy seeds
- Preheat oven to 325F and prepare your baking pans – 2 bread pans, 24 muffin cups, or a combination of the two. Grease the bread pans and line the muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Add salt and baking powder, again whisking in.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and add half of the flour. When mixed in, add half the milk. Add remaining flour. When mostly combined, add remaining milk as well as vanilla, almond extract, and poppy seeds.
- Pour into prepared pans – about 1½ scoops of batter with an ice cream scoop for each muffin.
- Bake until slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes for muffins and 1 hour for bread. Allow to cool slightly before moving to a serving plate and serving.