Archive for February, 2011


Lately I’ve been having so much fun baking different kinds of yeasted breads.  It takes a little practice, and I made one thing that didn’t turn out, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun!  And I don’t think there’s anything better than homemade fresh bread or baked treats.  Some things I’ve recently made are the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls (so amazing!), raspberry swirl sweet rolls (a yummy variation of classic cinnamon rolls), cinnamon raisin bread (delicious), and monkey bread (you must make this!)

Not too long ago, I purchased the cookbook “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.  This is a well known book that came highly recommended, and I bought it hoping that it would help me take my bread baking skills to the next level.  The book is filled with recipes for all kinds of bread including ciabatta, challah, brioche, sourdough, whole-wheat bread, etc.  It’s really informative and I like the easy to follow step-by-step instructions.  With this book, I think anyone can make delicious fresh bread from home.

First up on my list of breads to try from this book was focaccia.  Focaccia bread is one of my absolute favorites – I love the fluffy doughy texture, dimpled effect, and flavors of herbs, garlic and olive oil.  It takes two days to make this bread (most of which is inactive prep time) but it is well worth the time and effort it takes to make it.  I like that you can customize this focaccia bread to suit your tastes by adding more or less garlic, and any combination of herbs (fresh or dried) that you like.  I can’t wait to make this yummy focaccia bread again!


(print recipe)

Ingredients- For the Dough

  • 5 cups (22.5 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (.5 ounce) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) olive oil
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • ¼ to ½ cup Herb Oil (recipe below)

To Make the Herb Oil: Warm 2 cups of olive oil (it does not have to be extra virgin) to about 100 degrees F.  Add 1 cup of chopped fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, sage, or any combination of those.  (Alternatively, you can substitute 1/3 cup of dried herbs instead of using fresh herbs.  Or, you can use a combination of fresh and dried herbs). To the herbs and warmed oil, add 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and 5 or 6 cloves of chopped fresh garlic.  If desired, you may also add 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, or 1 teaspoon of onion powder.  Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


  1. Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  2. Add the oil and water and mix on low speed using the mixer’s paddle attachment.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.  (You might need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky).
  4. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square.  Using a dough scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 
  5. Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size.  Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape.  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 
  6. Stretch and fold the dough letter style again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover and let rest for 30 minutes. 
  7. Repeat step #6 one more time.
  8. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour.  It should swell but not necessarily double in size. 
  9. Line a 17×12 inch sheet pan with baking parchment.  Drizzle ¼ cup of olive oil over the parchment paper, and spread it with your hands or a pastry brush so that it covers the surface.  Lightly oil your hands, and using a pastry dough scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangle shape as much as possible.  Spoon half of the Herb Oil that you made (recipe above) all over the dough. 
  10. Using your fingertips, dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan simultaneously.  Do not use the flat part of your hands – only use your fingertips – to avoid tearing the dough.  Try to keep the thickness of the dough as uniform as possible across the surface.  If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for 15 minutes and then proceed with dimpling.  It’s okay if you can’t fill the pan 100%, especially in the corners, because as the dough relaxes and proofs, it will naturally spread out.  If necessary, add more Herb Oil to ensure that the entire surface of the dough is coated with oil. 
  11. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to 3 days).
  12. Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking.  Drizzle a little more Herb Oil over the surface of the dough and dimple it in.  This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough to a thickness of approximately ½ inch.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough  doubles in size and rises to a thickness of nearly 1 inch.
  13. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  14. Place the pan in the oven.  Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown.  The internal temperature of the dough should register above 200 degrees F in the center.
  15. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack.  Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing or serving.

Makes: one 17×12 inch focaccia

Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

See the air pockets in the dough?


Lemon Tea Bread

These little lemon tea bread loaves are the perfect dessert or breakfast to make for your Valentine (or just make them for yourself!)  The batter takes only a few minutes to make, and as long as you have a lemon on hand, the rest of the ingredients are baking staples.  (I used a meyer lemon).  The bread is light and fluffy and it has a nice balance of sweetness and tartness.  The bread is topped with a tangy and sweet lemon glaze that soaks into the bread and makes it super moist.

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I served this bread with heart-shaped strawberries (just use a small heart shaped cookie cutter to cut strawberries that have been hulled and sliced in half lengthwise).  Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or peaches would also complement this bread really well.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lemon Tea Bread

(print recipe)


For the bread:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup whole milk

For the glaze:

  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease two 5-3/4 x 3-inch loaf pans.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Add the egg and lemon zest.  Beat well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in two additions alternating with the milk.  Beat until just blended and smooth.
  5. Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. As soon as the loaves come out of the oven, prepare the glaze. Mix the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth.
  7. Cool the loaves in the pans for 5 minutes and then pour half of the glaze over the loaves.  Let the loaves cool for another 5 minutes, and then remove the loaves to a wire rack.  Drizzle the remaining glaze over the loaves.  Cool completely and serve plain or with fresh berries.

Makes: Two 5-3/4 x 3-inch loaves

Source: Adapted from Cookie Baker Lynn

Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies Part 2 – Hearts

Yesterday I posted photos of my conversation heart cookies.  Here are some photos of the other Valentine sugar cookies I made.  For these cookies, I used various heart-shaped cookie cutters that I have collected over the years, as well as two different sizes of the crinkle cut square cookie cutters from this set.  There are endless ways to decorate heart shaped cookies.  Here’s what I came up with:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The inspiration for these cookies is from one of my favorite cookie decorating blogs – Whimsy Cookie Co.

Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies Part 1 – Conversation Hearts

Valentine’s Day is a little over a week away, so of course I had to make some sugar cookies!  This past week, I made a double batch of Valentine’s Day sugar cookies.  I decorated the first half of the cookies to look like conversation heart candies.  I have always loved conversation hearts – they are so cute and I like all of the little phrases on them.  Before decorating my cookies, I did a quick internet search and made a list of some of my favorite conversation heart phrases.  (Alternatively, you could purchase a bag or box of conversation hearts and make a list of the phrases while you are snacking on them- yum!)

Tomorrow I will post photos of the rest of the sugar cookies.  They are a much more traditional Valentine bunch – lots of pink, red, and purple hearts!

If you want to see photos of other sugar cookies I have made, check out my Sugar Cookie Gallery.  The sugar cookie and royal icing recipes that I use can also be found there.

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