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Ciabatta BreadThe list of cookbooks on my wish list is always pretty long. I try to be selective, but I inevitably end up with more on my list than I expect. Like, cookbooks make up most of my wish list.

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.)

Ciabatta Bread

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

Make the Starter: InMakingBread a 5-quart Tupperware container, combine warm water (about 100F), yeast, and salt. Yeast and salt do not need to be dissolved – just give it a quick stir.

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. 🙂

Serve warm or at room temperature. Need some inspiration? Try it with chicken scaloppini saltimbocca, beef bourguignon, or as an appetizer with spinach and artichoke dip.

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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

Adapted from The Gingered Whisk via Carrie’s Sweet Life

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


  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Add salt and baking powder, again whisking in.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour into prepared pans – about 1½ scoops of batter with an ice cream scoop for each muffin.
  5. 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.
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The weather has been pretty wonky lately – 60°F one day and flurrying the next day. One lazy weekend, one where it was bitter cold and flurrying, I hosted my best friend and her boyfriend for dinner. I had all day to play in the kitchen, with no other obligations or chores for the weekend (a rare occurrence!). I put together the below menu, which brought coziness into a frigid day. Nothing about this menu is particularly difficult to prepare, although it is a bit time consuming with the chopping and long cooking time of the beef, the double-rising of the homemade dinner rolls, and the chilling of the dessert. However, it’s completely worth it. Doubt me? I made the entree twice in a three week period. I had very happy friends.


Beef Bourguignon

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls (below!) & Herb Butter

Chocolate Mousse


The buttermilk dinner rolls were easy to make and were fabulous served warm with a warm winter soup or stew. Next time, I might try adding a little fresh herbs directly to the dough for an additional burst of flavor.

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Cooking At Home p. 415

Makes 12-18 dinner rolls


  • 1 3/4 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 1.5 oz. lukewarm water (110°F)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 c. tepid buttermilk (90°F)
  • 1 oz. granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 to 2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • cooking spray


  1. Place lukewarm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Stir in pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (My water wasn’t quite warm enough, so I carefully microwaved the bowl for a few seconds. Fix!)
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-low speed, combine buttermilk, sugar, butter, egg, salt, and 1/2 c. flour until creamy. Lower speed and gradually beat in another 1-1/2 to 2 cups of flour, until mixture thickens and forms a soft dough.
  3. Switch stand mixer to dough hook. With mixer on low speed, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 1 minute. Dough will still be soft and will begin to pull away from the bowl.
  4. Oil a clean bowl and transfer dough, patted together into a ball, to the clean bowl. Turn to coat all sides, or, lightly spray the top with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a very warm place (i.e. near a warm stove/oven) and let sit until dough has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
  5. When dough has risen, prep a new workspace – lightly flour a counter or cutting board, and spray a 8 or 9 inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Turn dough onto prepared workspace and roll into a 18-inch long rope. Using a butter knife or pastry scraper, cut into 1 to 1-1/2 inch pieces, depending on how large you want your rolls to be. Working quickly, roll dough pieces into a ball and set into prepared cake pan, with the dough balls just barely touching. Cover with plastic wrap and place in your very warm spot to rise until puffy, 30-45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake rolls until lightly browned, 18-22 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool slightly before serving warm.


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I’m usually pretty fearless in the kitchen. I like trying new recipes and techniques, even when we have friends over. But there are a couple things that scare me. Making homemade caramel is my worst nightmare. I’ve tried to make it a couple times and without fail, burn it every time. Baking with yeast also used to scare me. I never had any bad experiences with it but I had heard numerous disaster stories about working with yeast. Over the past couple months, I’ve overcome this fear. I’ve made three items with yeast as a key ingredient and all were successes: soft pretzel bites, this herbed tomato focaccia bread, and dinner rolls.

I loved this focaccia bread. I followed the recipe below, complete with caramelized onions, herbs, and tomatoes. However, you could easily omit the onions and/or tomatoes, substitute them with something else, or switch out the rosemary for your favorite herb. It took quite a while – several hours, including inactive time for the dough to rise – but it was a fantastic side to some veggie lasagna.

Source: I’ve had this recipe for a while. It was torn out of one of the booklets that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer. I scoured the Internet to see if this recipe was posted to their website, but had no luck finding it.

Herbed Tomato Focaccia Bread

Makes 12 servings


  • 1 c. warm water (105-115F)
  • 1 envelope (2 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 9 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary and/or thyme, divided
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 c. canned plum tomatoes drained, seeded, and chopped)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt


  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast, and 3 Tbs. olive oil. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, 2 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbs. herbs on low speed, just to toss together. With the mixer still running, add yeast mixture and milk, beating for 1 minute. Scrape down side of bowl, and beat a few more seconds to ensure everything’s fully incorporated.
  3. Remove bowl from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm spot and allow it to rise until the dough has doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours. (I set the bowl near an oven/stove that is turned on. I know others that have let the dough rise over a heating vent or in a laundry room with the dryer running. If it’s not warm, the dough won’t rise, or at least not as quickly.)
  4. Oil a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil. Turn dough out onto pan and stretch to fill the pan completely. Allow dough to rise another hour, until it doubles in size again.
  5. When dough has just about doubled in size, preheat oven to 450F and prepare the onions. Slice onions thinly and saute in 3 Tbs. olive oil until they begin to color. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Set aside and allow to cool. If the plum tomatoes aren’t chopped, do that now as well.
  6. With your fingertips, “dimple” the surface of the dough creating little dips every 2 inches. Scatter onions, tomatoes, and fresh herbs evenly over the surface of the dough. Drizzle with 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and kosher salt.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to check bottom for browning (if getting too dark , slide another baking sheet under it to insulate the bottom and slow browning). Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes, until golden brown (about 25 minutes total).
  8. If serving immediately, transfer directly to a cutting board. Otherwise, allow to cool on a wire rack.

Number of servings (yield): 12

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I’ve been in the same office for quite a while now, and to be honest, I can’t see myself leaving any time soon. I work with an incredibly diverse group of people who are a ton of fun. We have “pig-ins” and happy hours. We draw ridiculous pictures on white boards. Some people build enormous Lego creatures and fire Nerf guns (we’re particularly fond of firing rubber bands). We work crazy hours but it’s ok, because we all love what we do.

Did I mention that this fantastic group of people are all guys? Yep, my office is almost 90% male. I’d say that sometimes it’s tough, but really, it’s not. There’s no drama and no fear of offending anyone with my matter-of-fact manner. But the best part? I can try out new recipes on the gang, and no matter how critical I am of outcome… they always love it because it’s homemade and they didn’t have to make it.

At this time, I couldn’t imagine leaving this awesome group of people for anything short of being able to spend my days in the kitchen. One of my best friends and I dream about owning a little bookstore with a bakery attached. Sometimes these sweets are being sold along coffees, lattes, and teas while other times we’re skipping the coffee and adding in a wine bar. Guess it depends on what we’re craving at the time. 😉

On that note, any investors out there?

But why do I bring this up? Because whether they know it or not, my coworkers are getting me started on my little venture. I’m what the single guys fondly refer to as “the bakery,” the cheap and tasty substitute for our awful cafeteria. Yes, my coworkers pay me to bring them lunch and the occasional breakfast. Even a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and jelly are enthusiastically accepted. Go ahead and laugh. It is pretty funny. But I love these guys and get real pleasure from my time cooking for them as well as their reactions to whatever I bring in. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. I get to test new recipes and to spend time in the kitchen without breaking the bank or going up a pant size. They get to eat something tastier and cheaper than what is offered in the cafeteria.

This scone recipe was one of the new recipes I tried out last week. One of the guys got breakfast and another coworker got a surprise when he came in to work on Sunday to play catch-up. Since the latter requested the recipe, I think I can consider these savory scones a winner. The smokiness (is that how you spell it?) of the bacon (I used turkey bacon) really shines through in these scones, a nice change from some of the sweeter breakfast pastries.

So, as you read this story and recipe, I go to start on this week’s lunch request – chicken cobb pizza. Enjoy!

Serving Suggestions: A great side for eggs, a southwest salad, or chili

Bacon-Cheddar Scones

Adapted from The Pastry Queen (p. 24)

Makes 8-12 Scones


  • 3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for counter/board
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced (or 10 chives, minced)
  • 10 slices bacon or turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 to 1-1/2 c. buttermilk (I used 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 c.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. water

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut in butter until mixture is pea-sized. Stir in cheddar, onions/chives, and bacon until combined.

Add 1 c. buttermilk. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together. If mixture is too dry, add more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Be sure not to over mix.

Lightly flour a counter or cutting board. Turn dough onto floured surface and pat into a flat disc. Use your hands (or a rolling-pin if you don’t mind another dish to wash) to flatten dough into a round disc about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into triangle-shaped wedges or use a cookie cutter to shape as desired. If the latter, reroll and cut dough until all used up. Place scones on prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart (they spread about 1/2-inch each in all directions).

Whisk together egg and water. Brush tops of scones with egg wash.

Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked throughout.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

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A couple of months ago, a friend of mine brought some Pampered Chef beer bread and dip to a party. The bread was incredibly flavorful – I couldn’t stop popping the little squares all night.

Last night, after working late with a couple coworkers, I came home to an empty house. I had my glass of wine on the table, Harry Potter on the tv, and my igoogle bookmarking my favorite blogs and hundreds of recipes I want to try. Since my coworkers stayed late on my behalf, I thought I’d bake them a treat over the weekend – perhaps cookies or a pound cake. I’ve yet to decide on a recipe for them, but stumbled across this Beer Bread recipe from The Novice Chef. I immediately thought back to that Pampered Chef recipe. Knowing that homemade is always better and having nothing else on my plate, I immediately went into the kitchen to make it.

5 minutes later, I was done. Back to my seat on the couch, starting this blog post, and keeping my fingers crossed that the bread is everything I was hoping it would be. It was. It had that wonderful spongy consistency I had hoped for, with just a slight sweetness from the beer.

Serve as an appetizer with dip (spinach dip or a crab dip come immediately to mind), as a snack with butter, or as an accompaniment with dinner (such as chili, stew, steak).

Beer Bread

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake via The Novice Chef

Makes 1 loaf


3 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. (1 bottle) beer
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-in. loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients until combined.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in beer. Be sure to get the bottom! The dough will very sticky.

Pour half of melted butter into bottom of loaf pan, then dough. Top with remaining butter.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until golden brown.

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Sunday Supper Movement