ATK’s Oatmeal Raisin Bread + 5 Delicious Bread Links

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It has been a month since my grandmother passed.  I continue to walk around in a fog, seeing and hearing her everywhere I go.  Maybe at some point, I will continue my story of Ann and Tess based on my relationship with her.  Maybe I’ll share her final days with you.  Maybe not.  For now, I’ll continue to bake and cook.  I feel closer to her when I do as she was an excellent cook and baker.

I made bread for the first time.  This recipe hails from America’s Test Kitchen Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook.  This bread is a project.  It’s a commitment but like most things that take time, it is worth it.  Rustic, earthy, slightly sweet, toasts well and especially satisfying with a generous slab of butter are all great descriptions but really you should just make it and find out for yourself.

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Cook it in Your Dutch Oven Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup (3 ounces) old-fashion rolled oats

¾ cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour

½ cup (2 ¾ ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup raisins

Directions:

Microwave ¾ cup oats and water in a large bowl. Be sure bowl is covered. Stir occasionally until oats are soft and water is completely absorbed, 5 minutes or so. Cool completely and set aside.

Using the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, yeast, and salt. Whisk melted butter and milk together in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Attach the dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.  Very slowly, add milk/butter mixture to flour mixture. Mix until a dough forms and no dry flour is visible about 2 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the bowl as you mix.

Increase the speed to medium/low kneading the dough until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add raisins.  Next, slowly add oatmeal two tablespoons at a time.  Mix until well combined, about 3 minutes. Lightly grease a large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl and cover tightly with plastic.  Allow rising for 30 minutes.

Using your fingertips gently fold the dough over itself by folding the edge of the dough toward the middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again.  Turn bowl and fold 6 more times, 8 folds total. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.  Repeat the process of folding and rising every 30 minutes, 2 more times. After the 3rd fold and rise process, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes to 1 ¼ hours.

Place a large piece of parchment paper, about 18x12inches, on the counter and spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Stretch dough to 10-inch round. Be sure to deflate any gas pockets bigger than 1-inch. Working around the perimeter of the dough, fold the edges towards the center until ball forms. Flip dough so the seam of the dough ball is now on the bottom. Cup your hands and drag tiny circles on the counter until dough is stiff and round.  Mist the dough lightly with water on all sides.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of oats and press gently so the oats adhere to the dough.

Place loaf, seam side down, on the parchment paper. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap.  Let dough rise until loaf increases in size to about half and the dough slightly bounces back when gently pushed with your knuckle, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thirty minutes prior to baking place your Dutch oven with the lid on in the oven on the lowest rack.  Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Slash the bread with a sharp paring knife, making two 5-inch long and a ½ inch deep slashes to form a cross in the center of the bread.  Remove any exposed raisins.

Remove Dutch oven from oven and place on wire rack. Remove the lid. Using the parchment as a sling, lower the dough into the Dutch oven.  Tuck in any excess parchment paper and place the lid back on the Dutch oven. Place in oven and reduce the temperature to 425F. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the loaf is a deep golden brown and the temperature of the bread is 200 to 210 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Using the parchment paper sling, remove the bread and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely for 3 hours, before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

5 Delicious Bread Links

Alexandra’s Kitchen is my favorite blog.  I have yet to try a recipe that isn’t completely satisfying and delicious.  Check out her recipes for the easiest focaccia bread and the best no-knead brioche buns.  They will not disappoint!

Food 52 claims their milk bread recipe will produce the most addictive bread you will ever eat.  Curious?  Here is the recipe.

Looking for a breakfast bread to serve at your next brunch?  Check out What Should I Eat For Breakfast’s cinnamon raisin walnut bread and The Surban Soapbox everything bagel brioche bread.

 

 

St. John Banana Bread + 5 Must-Try Banana Bread Links

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“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Tess arrived two days after Ann’s daughter was born with warm banana bread in one hand and a dozen red roses in the other.  Tess wasn’t much for hugs or kisses and I love you showed far too much weakness.  Tess was many things but never vulnerable.  She was never brought to her knees in love or heartache, grief or anguish.  And if Tess had, no one was witness to it.  Food meant love.  And flowers? I’m thinking of you. Happy Birthday. Congratulations.  I’m proud of you.  I love you but I’ll never tell you.  Ann understood this about her mother.  She didn’t mind Tess’ peculiarities about love.

Ann hugged Tess harder than usual feeling her breasts now engorged with milk and nipples raw and tender press against her mother’s own aging breasts.

[Breasts that eleven years later would turn against her, forming cancer that Tess ignored, eating her body, mind, and soul a bit each day.  Days turned into weeks into months, months into years, an act of war leaving open wounds that could not heal for those that loved her.}

Mae, still pink from birth with bits of patchy Neanderthal hair on one shoulder and perfect rose-colored lips, cooed from the other room summoning the women to attend to her.  Tess picked her up and held her with such tenderness Ann felt like crying.   Ann blamed postpartum hormones on the tears forming but never coming to fruition. And yet she knew the tears were more than hormones.  Watching her mother become so accessible to this child made her heart hurt.  Ann could not bare to watch them interact any longer and then Tess asked Mae: “I wonder what your purpose will be?”

Ann thinks of this now as she sits with Tess who is covered in afghans because she can’t get warm enough. Tissues fill the basket next to the tattered chair she cannot leave and half of a banana sits on the side table next to Tess which Tess promises to eat…later.  Ann watches her mother’s swollen belly move with each breath, bandages from Tess’ now concave breast peak outside from the top of her shirt.  She notices Tess’ hair, the perm she always had now faded.  She listens to Tess repeat herself over and over while trying to draw out the woman she once knew.  Ann manages to find Tess again simply by asking: where is your banana bread recipe?

St. John Banana Bread

Makes 1 9x5x3 inch loaf

Recipe handed down by my grandmother and slightly adapted by me

Ingredients:

½ or 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups of sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ raw sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I did not use them.

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Grease and lightly flour the loaf pan and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice with a spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of raw sugar.  Bake until golden brown or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean 50-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cool remove the bread from the loaf pan.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

**Once cool wrap bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.  You can also freeze this bread until ready to use.  Be sure to defrost overnight. **

5 Must Try Banana Bread Links

If you are looking for a few interesting twists to banana bread head to the Wall St. Journal for recipes like coffee-hazelnut banana bread or black sesame coconut banana cake with white sesame cream.

Nutella lovers everywhere must check out Zoe Bakes Nutella swirled banana bread.

This banana bread recipe is one of King Arthur Flour’s recipe of 2018.

Chocolate and banana are one of my favorite combinations.  Head to Pastry Affair for chocolate cacao nib banana bread recipe that is sure not to disappoint.

Lemon Crepe Cake + 5 Can’t Miss Crepe Links!

If my memory withstands, he tried to win her back with crepes. Or maybe it was his killer meatloaf, stuffed with cheese and topped with a sweet glaze.  A decadent vodka penne also comes to mind.

The morning Dad left, his most prized possessions were haphazardly stuffed into Hefty bags and left by the side door.  When I asked him what was happening, he remained silent, a look of defeat on his face.  Or maybe it was fear.  What was next for him?  Would there be more life?  Would the life he thought he could have suit him better than the life he already made with my mother?

The months following were a bit of a blur.  Mom attempted normalcy and routine for us, but her broken heart swallowed her whole.  Working and caring for 3 children while trying to navigate our new reality was like trying to swim with your legs bound together, your arms flailing and tired.

Exhaustion and, maybe, a bit of compassion on my mother’s part likely contributed to Dad’s weekly meal preparation.  A couple times a week, he showed up with a bag full of groceries and a six pack of Budweiser.  After opening a beer, he got to work, making the sure the meal was ready and we were fed before she got home.  As mystifying as his helpful behavior was to us, we said nothing.  We watched TV with full bellies, happy Dad was near, yet confused as hell by the sudden change.

And later, I held my breath when I heard her keys in the door. Mom, still in her scrubs, exhausted from a long shift at the hospital, barely looked at my father as she made herself a plate.  She headed for the living room, curled up so small next to the coffee table, and ate her meal, barely saying a word to anyone, staring straight ahead, pretending to watch TV.

She occasionally thanked him and sometimes even complimented his food.  Yet, no matter how tasty the crepes or meatloaf, reconciliation would not happen.  The war had started.  And for them it was easier to be at war than to forgive 17 years of disappointments.

As I rotated the hot pan in a slow circle, watching the crepe batter spread and thin out until the heat began to cook the bottom to a golden brown, I thought of Dad, twenty years earlier, doing the same thing in a house that once sheltered his life.  I always thought his return was about her.  Now it seems she was his mirage.  Dad showed up and made dinner for us.  Our relationship with him, now strangely independent of our mother, began again with a meal.

Crepe Cake with Lemon Curd, Blackberry Compote and Coconut Whipped Cream

Serves 6-8

Crepe and lemon curd recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen

Blackberry compote adapted from the Food Network

Coconut whipped cream from Oh She Glows

**Make lemon curd, compote and whipped cream before making the crepes.  The curd, compote and whipped cream can be made ahead of time.  This cake is best the day it is made.**

Ingredients for the lemon curd:

6 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Directions:

Using a medium saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, zest, lemon juice and salt and whisk until well combined.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the curd is thick enough to cover the back of your spoon, about 8 minutes.  (If you drag your finger across the back of your spoon, the curd should leave a line and not run together.) Do not let the curd boil!

Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.  Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until it is totally melted.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Be sure to place the plastic wrap directly on the curd so a skin doesn’t form.  Refrigerate for an hour or up to 4 days.

Next make your blackberry compote.

Ingredients for Blackberry Compote:

2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup sucanat or sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

Directions:

Using a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of blackberries, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice and water.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the remaining cup of blackberries and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Ingredients for Coconut Whipped Cream:

1 can of full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight

2-3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Chill your bowl for about 5-10 minutes before whipping the coconut milk.  Open coconut milk and pour out liquid.  Dump the solid coconut milk into your bowl.  Whip the cream until it is light and fluffy.  Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Whip until combined.  Set aside or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  You will need to whip it again, as it will harden.

Now make your crepes!

 Ingredients for Crepes:

3 large eggs, beaten

4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 + 1/2 cups whole milk

1 + 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Grab a large bowl, crack open eggs and whisk until broken up.  Add the melted butter, milk, flour, salt and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Use a large non-stick pan and rub the pan with a paper towel dipped in oil.  I used canola oil.  Heat the pan over medium heat.  Before making the crepes, check the pan to see if it is properly heated.  Sprinkle some water on the pan, if the water dances around and evaporates it is ready.

Pour a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and tilt the pan around in a circle to spread out the batter.  Cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side for another minute.  Remove from the heat and place on a plate.  Continue with the rest of the batter.  You should end with about 12-14 crepes.

Assembly Time!

Place one crepe on a plate and evenly spread about 2 tablespoons of curd on the crepe. Place another crepe on top of the last crepe, add curd.  Continue stacking crepes until all the crepes and curd are gone.

Top the crepe cake a large dollop of coconut whipped cream.  Serve blackberry compote on the side.  This cake is best the day it is made.  Enjoy!

5 Crepe Cake Links

Brighten up your January with Hummingbird High’s coconut crepe cake.

Have a birthday coming up? Skip the traditional cake and make Will Cook For Smiles Boston cream crepe cake.  Yum!

If the Necco Sweathearts already out the at grocery store didn’t remind you, I will.  Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Spice it up, literally, and head to Food 52 for their spicy chocolate mousse crepe cake recipe.  Sick of chocolate?  Try a red velvet crepe cake.  Sweet & Savory has the recipe for you. Check it out!

Looking for a savory and sweet crepe option?  Half Baked Harvest has a recipe for spinach artichoke and brie crepes with sweet honey sauce.  I can’t wait to try this!

 

Chocolate Blossoms +5 Chocolate Lovers Cookie Links

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A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine…

I have one last cookie recipe to share with you before Santa arrives. This cookie is moist with a deep chocolate flavor.  The sprinkles add just the right amount of crunch to make you smile this Christmas.  The melted Hershey Kiss or Rolo, your choice, keeps whatever ails you at bay for a brief, but, awesome moment.

I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as we do.  Happy Christmas.

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Chocolate Blossoms

makes about 24-30 cookies

recipe slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies 2014

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Hershey’s Extra Dark Cocoa Powder

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips ( I used Guittard’s extra semi-sweet)

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses

1 bag of Rolos

1/4 raw sugar for coating

lots of holiday sprinkles for coating

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Melt butter and chocolate chips in small saucepan over low heat.  Once melted, allow to cool a bit.  Add sugar, egg, egg white  and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Grab a rubber spatula and fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, roll dough into balls.  Next, roll the balls into the raw sugar or sprinkles, coating completely.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  Remove sheets from oven and place a Hershey kiss or Rolo in the center of each cookie.  Press down lightly.  Bake for two more minutes.  Let cookies cool on sheets for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy with a glass of milk!

**Cookies are best the day they are made, but will last in an air-tight container at room temperature for 2 days.**

5 Chocolate Lovers Cookie Links

If you are looking to eat a divine sweet treat this holiday season check out The Candid Appetite’s salted caramel dark chocolate cookies.  I want to eat one right now!

Mini chocolate thumbprint cookie = cutest cookie ever to sit on your cookie platter.  Pinch of Yum has the recipe for you.

Need a tasty gluten-free option?  Food 52 has a recipe for GF chocolate cookies and they promise it really is delicious.  Score!

For those of you living in a warm, sunny place check out Foodie Crush’s double chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.

Tired of chocolate and want something sweet, yet refreshing? Head to Bakerella for their peppermint candy sugar cookie recipe.  Yum!

 

 

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies + 5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

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Memories, good and bad, often flash inside my mind when I bake.  They come on strong, and leave me laughing or tear me apart; throwing off my baking zen either way.

“Mama my eye hurts.” G. “What happened? Lets have a look.” Me.

I didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t know this was just the beginning of a very long day.

I give my Dad and his wife a hug good-bye, and buckle G into his car seat. Bubba starts the car.  N sleeps peacefully in his car seat and C happily sucks on a lollipop. “I can’t believe the Easter bunny is coming tomorrow!”

We head home.

He starts to cry. I turn around. Hives cover his arms, legs and chest.  His eye lid is now the size of a golf ball.

“He is reacting.” (To what? I checked all the candy.  I always check.)

Bubba pulls over; I give G a teaspoon of Benadryl.  He won’t calm down.  This should work, I tell myself.  We get back on the highway.

He is hysterical.  “My throat!” G.

“Mama, Daddy!” C.

Breathe. This is happening.  He is having an anaphylactic reaction.  The doctors mentioned this could happen. Remember?  You know what to do.  You played this scenario over and over, in your head, while your body ran; ran miles and miles in the rain, the sun, the bitter cold. Ran.

For a moment, amid the chaos I realize I’ve made the decision. I pull the dreaded epi-pen from my bag, unbuckle my seat belt and jam the auto-injector into my son’s thigh. He screams. C cries. “Mommy, no!” N is still somehow asleep.  Bubba drives fast and remains calm.  We are many miles from an emergency room.

Within minutes G is calm. The hives are still visible, bloodied from his constant scratching.  His eye remains swollen.  “I feel better now.” The epi-pen worked. 

We arrive at the ER and a nurse evaluates him immediately.  She detects wheezing.  G is so sleepy. Poor boy. We are escorted to a room where we spend the next 6 hours watching our son sleep peacefully on a hospital bed, the ER physician checking in every hour to see how we are doing.  Bubba kisses G on the forehead, he looks tired, and worried; tears ready to pour down his cheeks, if only he would let them.  He takes C and N home, where my sister-in-law waits for them. I wait and watch our boy.

He wakes up and asks for something to eat, as if nothing happened.  We just aged 10 years in 6 hours.  He won’t understand that kind of worry until he has kids someday. He happily eats a turkey sandwich.

It is 10 pm and we are home again. G climbs up to his sleeping sister’s bunk and says “C____ I’m back.” She hugs him.  He wants to play.  “Time to go to bed G. The Easter bunny is coming tonight!”

Bubba and I spend the next two hours hiding Easter eggs and putting together their baskets.  We climb into bed, exhausted.  We snuggle up to each other, holding on tight, tighter than usual.

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Slightly sweet with a hint of salt, Sunbutter is a tasty peanut-free alternative. The original recipe called for peanut butter and peanut butter cups, which I replaced with Sunbutter and chocolate chips.  The result is a perfectly sweet and moist brownie with just enough chocolate chips.  I love blondies because the possibilities are endless. Get creative!

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies

makes 12 bars

recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup Sunbutter (I used natural.)

1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 tbsp. milk ( I used 1 percent.)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Cooking spray

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9 inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine Sunbutter, melted butter, milk and eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl until the wet ingredients are well incorporated.  Add the Sunbutter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about an hour. Cut into squares and serve. The bars will last at room temperature, in an air-tight container for about 2 days. Enjoy!

5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

If  you love Butterfingers, head over to Jelly Toast for Emily’s peanut-free butterfingers recipe!

Looking for a nut-free Nutella? Momables has a recipe for sunflower Nutella and it sounds delicious. Check it out!

Last year I made chocolate and sunbutter pretzel bars. Bubba and the kids went nuts for them. Head over to my blog for the recipe.

Instead of making peanut butter granola bars for the kids, how about trying sunflower seed granola bars with chocolate drizzle? Averie Cooks has the recipe for you.

Divvies allergen friendly chocolate cupcake recipe is a staple in our house for birthday parties.