Fried Chicken Biscuits with Cornmeal & Sage

My entire family looks forward to my husband’s birthday feast. It typically involves a lot of comfort food like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. 🙂 We always have his favorite Vanilla Bean Cheesecake as our celebratory dessert.

When my food blog friend Jess@Cooking is My Sport posted Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuits, I knew that my husband would absolutely love them. My first thought was to serve them on Valentine’s Day but then I realized that they would be perfect for his birthday dinner. Jess is an amazing cook and baker but most of all I must say that she is a complete master of biscuits. I learned many new techniques from her post in order to make biscuits thick enough to create a sandwich. Flaky and amazing! I also loved that she incorporated cornmeal in both the biscuits and the seasoned flour that is used to coat the fried chicken. This recipe also made all of us fans of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.

I served these fried chicken biscuits with classic macaroni and cheese and green salad dressed with Icebox Buttermilk Dressing. The chicken biscuit recipe was adapted from CookingisMySport.com. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, modified the proportions, cut the biscuits into squares, and omitted the topping. My daughter declared it was the best birthday feast ever. 🙂

Yield: Serves 12 to 14

For the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:

Yield: approximately 14 2-inch biscuits

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground sage
  • 1 T savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For the Fried Chicken Thighs:

Yield: about 16 to 18 pieces

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 heaping tsp savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 8 to 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds), trimmed, halved crosswise, patted dry
  • 8 cups vegetable oil
  • hot sauce, for serving, optional (we used Chipotle Cholula)
  • bread and butter pickles, for serving, optional

To Make the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, coarse salt, baking powder, sugar, ground sage and the seasoning mix.
  2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients; stir with a fork.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the sour cream. Using a fork, incorporated it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps.
  4. Make another well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough. (I added 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk.)
  5. Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board, or a clean, smooth countertop with flour. (I used a silpat baking mat.)
  6. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)
  7. Use a bench scraper (or a large sharp knife) to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square.
  8. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky.) (I formed a 9×7-inch rectangle, about 2-inches thick.)
  9. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  10. Preheat oven to 425°. (I set my oven to convection.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
  11. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it.
  12. Using a bench scraper (or very sharp knife), trim the edges of the rectangle. (I trimmed it to form a 6×8-inch rectangle.)
  13. Using a biscuit cutter or a knife, cut the dough into rounds or squares about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much. (I cut my dough into 12 2-inch squares and reformed the trimmed edges into 2 additional 2-inch squares.)
  14. Place the cut biscuits on the parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet, placing them close to each other (it will help them rise higher).
  15. Place the tray into the freezer for about 15 minutes.
  16. Spray the top of the biscuits with cooking spray.
  17. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 22 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly. (I baked mine for 22 minutes total, covering them with foil after 20 minutes.)

To Make the Fried Chicken Thighs:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom; place a wire rack on top.
  2. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels; place a wire rack on top.
  3. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, spice mix, salt, and black pepper in a bowl.
  4. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack over the wax paper/foil/plastic wrap-lined baking sheet to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Repeat dipping process until all of the chicken is double-coated.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees. (I used a large stainless steel Dutch oven fitted with a thermometer. I found it much easier to control the temperature of the oil in this pot versus using a cast iron skillet as I have in the past.)
  8. Working in batches of no more than 3 or 4 pieces at a time, use tongs to place the chicken in the hot oil. Using a slotted spoon, turn it occasionally and cook until each piece is golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side. (I tried to cook pieces similar in size at the same time.)
  9. Using a slotted spoon or clean tongs, remove chicken to the wire rack over the paper towel-lined sheet pan. At this point, use an instant read thermometer to confirm that the chicken is cooked, having an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  10. To assemble: Split a biscuit in half (it will have a natural breaking point) and assemble the sandwich with chicken topped with pickles, as desired. Serve with hot sauce to pass at the table, as desired.

Much to my husband’s displeasure, another birthday tradition is to document the many seasonal feathered visitors who arrive to celebrate with us. Like clockwork, the night heron arrived on his birthday morning while I was making pancakes. 🙂

Mother’s Day Vanilla Naked Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Strawberries

Not to brag, but Mother’s Day was my daughter’s favorite holiday when she was little. ❤ It has now been surpassed by her birthday, Easter, and Christmas, of course, but she still recognizes it is an important day. 🙂 She tirelessly made this cake- completely independently- for Mother’s Day this year.

My son made a family favorite (my choice!), Penne with Vodka-Cream Sauce, for our Mother’s Day dinner. He served it with garlic bread and a giant salad. This lovely dessert topped off our celebratory meal. Lucky me! 🙂

The recipe was adapted from one of our favorite birthday cakes, Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, contributed to The New York Times by Julia Moskin. She used 8-inch pans, omitted the sprinkles, and modified the proportions and baking time. She also topped the cake with fresh strawberries. Delicious.

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup/110 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), slightly softened, more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour, more for pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup/158 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), slightly softened
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups/225 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, optional

To Make the Cake:

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection, and place a rack in the center.
  2. Butter and line the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter the parchment. Flour the pans, coating the bottom and sides, then tap out any excess flour.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together milk and vanilla.
  5. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add egg and whites and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.
  7. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating to blend after each addition.
  8. Scrape down bowl and blend once more.
  9. Remove bowl and use a spatula or spoon to fold in sprinkles by hand.
  10. Divide batter evenly between the pans (approximately 400 g per pan), and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. (She baked the cakes for 22 minutes.)
  11. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 2 to 4 hours, before turning out.

To Make the Frosting & Finish the Cake:

  1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter and salt together at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated.
  4. Taste frosting; you should be able to taste the cream cheese and a little bit of saltiness, as well as the sweetness. If desired, add more salt or sugar. Keep refrigerated.
  5. Turn cooled cakes out of pans.
  6. Using a bread knife, cut off any domed or uneven parts of each cake to make flat surfaces.
  7. Place one of the cakes on a platter or a cake stand, cut side up. Line the edges with parchment or wax paper to keep the cake stand clean.
  8. Using an offset spatula, frost the top.
  9. Stack the other layer on top, cut side down.
  10. Place remaining frosting on top of the cake and, working from the center outward, frost the top and sides of the cake, as desired. (She kept the sides relatively naked.)
  11. Top the cake with sliced strawberries, as desired.
  12. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes or longer to set. Serve cool.

Tres Leches Cake

I made this incredibly moist sponge cake for dessert after our Cinco de Mayo feast this year. It would be perfect served after any Mexican-inspired meal.

The recipe was adapted from my food blog friend Ronit Penso’s Tasty Eats blog, originally posted as a round cake on MySliceofMexico.ca. I modified the method and the baking time for a convection oven, used sea salt and a combination of vanilla bean paste and extract, and modified the amount of topping.

Although I reduced the amount of topping, we found that it was absolutely essential. I also thought that the fresh strawberry garnish made it even more beautiful and delicious. Festive and great.

For the Cake:

  • cooking oil spray, for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 7 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the Syrup:

  • 1 can (12 fl oz/354 ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 oz/396grms) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • fresh strawberries, sliced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). (I used the convection setting.)
  2. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9”x13” (23×33 cm) metal baking pan, and dust with a bit of flour. Turn the pan upside down and tap on it, to get rid of excess flour. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, mix the milk with the vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  5. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Start whipping on low speed and gradually add the sugar.
  6. Once the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium-high, and whip until frothy and thick, about 3 minutes.
  7. Lower the speed to medium. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the liquid ingredients (milk/vanilla), in three batches, and beat shortly, about 10 seconds, after each addition. You should have a smooth and frothy batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes on convection, or up to 35 minutes in a standard oven, until the cake is deep golden in color and if you gently press on the top it springs right back. The sides should also begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. (I baked mine for 27 minutes on convection.)
  10. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly while you prepare the syrup.
  11. In a bowl with a spout, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
  12. Prick the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork.
  13. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Keep at room temperature until all of the syrup is absorbed.
  14. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. (I chilled mine overnight.)
  15. Just before serving, make the topping. In a large cold bowl, combine the cold heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla.
  16. Whip with a hand blender on medium-high to high speed, until firm peaks form, or as desired. (I stopped whipping the cream somewhere between soft and firm peaks.)
  17. To Serve: Slice cake and top each slice with a dollop of topping and a sliced strawberry.

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes

My daughter and I made these cheerful cupcakes together. She is obsessed with sprinkles! 🙂 She wanted to give them to her friends as a little surprise. We put one in each of their mailboxes with a note. ❤

The cupcake recipe is from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. The recipe is adapted from their recipe for “Everyone’s Favorite Vanilla Cake.”

The vanilla frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart.com. We used fine sea salt and weighed the ingredients when possible for both the cake and frosting. They were moist and tasty- Fun too!

For the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

Yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups (345g/12.2oz) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g/8.5oz) whole milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup (115g/4oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/226g/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup (300g/10.6oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g/4.6oz) confetti sprinkles, plus more for decoration, if desired (We used rainbow sprinkles)

For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:

Yield: frosting for 24 cupcakes (about 4 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • 1 pound (16oz/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring, for tinting, optional
  • confetti or rainbow sprinkles, for decoration, optional

To Make the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. (I set my oven to convection.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more. Once the egg whites have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for about 15 seconds, just until incorporated.
  7. Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sprinkles and mix for 20 to 30 seconds, until smooth and combined.
  8. Using a scoop or a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, evenly ration the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting & To Decorate the Cupcakes:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
  3. Add salt and vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth. The frosting can be tinted with food coloring, if desired.
  4. To decorate, fill a piping bag with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with additional sprinkles, if desired.

Note: If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Danish Pear-Apple Bars

My husband isn’t partial to summer fruit- with the exception of freshly picked strawberries. He loves bananas, Bartlett pears, and cantaloupe. 🙂 Before the summer berry and peach baking season, I made these pie bars to embrace sweet and juicy Bartlett pears.

The bars have a Danish-style pie crust which very tender because it incorporates milk and egg yolks instead of ice water. It was really delicious. I also loved the cream cheese glaze spread over the top.

This recipe was adapted from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. I weighed most of the dry ingredients as well as the peeled and cored fruit. I also used fine sea salt and omitted the brandy.

It was a wonderful springtime dessert but it would also be fabulous for Thanksgiving.

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup (120 g) whole milk, plus 1 or 2 T if needed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups (355 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 20 pieces

For the Apple-Pear Filling:

  • 8 cups (1100 g) Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced 4mm thick (I used 6 organic pears)
  • 1 cup (150 g) peeled and grated Gala apples (I used one large Gala apple)
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar, plus 2 T for sprinkling
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T brandy (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 T (15 g) water

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 2 oz (57 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 145 g) confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Crust:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and egg yolks. Place in the refrigerator.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, granulated sugar, and salt on low speed until combined.
  3. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low speed until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is broken down in various sizes. (most should be the size of small peas but some pieces may be larger) Make sure that all of the flour is moistened.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the milk-egg mixture, and mix until the dough starts to come together. If the dough is having trouble coming together, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of milk.
  6. Divide the dough in half, place each piece on a separate piece of plastic wrap and flatten each slightly into a square.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until cool but still soft, about 45 minutes.
  8. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll one square of the dough into a 9×13-inch rectangle (22×33 cm). (I covered the top with plastic wrap and rolled the dough 1/8-inch thick, using a bench scraper to cut pieces and patch to form the proper shape.)
  9. Transfer the dough to a 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Gently pat the dough into the bottom. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  10. Roll out the second square of dough into a 9×13-inch (22 by 33 cm) rectangle using the same method. Place on an inverted sheet pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Use a food processor to slice the pears 4mm thick and coarsely grate the apple(s).
  2. Combine the sliced pears, grated apple, brown sugar, 1/4 cup (4 T or 50g) granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine the melted butter, brandy (if using), and vanilla. Pour over the pear-apple mixture and toss to combine.

To Make the Egg Wash:

  1. Whisk the egg, salt, and water together in a small bowl; set aside.

To Assemble:

  1. Fill the prepared pie shell with the pear-apple mixture and smooth the top.
  2. Remove the top crust chilling on the inverted sheet pan from the refrigerator. Place the dough over the top of the filling. (It does not need to be sealed to the bottom layer.) Trim any excess with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Gently cut a few steam vents into the top layer of dough. (I cut 11 vents.)
  4. Chill the pie in the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  6. Place a sheet pan on the oven rack while the oven is preheating. (The preheated sheet pan helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust.)
  7. When the pie is ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top with the 2 T reserved granulated sugar.
  8. Transfer the pie to the preheated sheet pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. (I baked mine for 50 minutes.)
  9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool while you make the icing.

To Make the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  1. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to mix the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup (120 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and mix again until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Once the bars are cool, top them with the glaze; spread to the edges.

Note: The pie bars are best eaten the same day they are made but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Meyer Lemon & Orange Twist Bread

Happy Belated Easter! I made this elegant citrus twist bread for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter described it as similar to panettone but without the dried fruit. My son agreed but stated that this was much better. 🙂 It was very moist and tender.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52.com, contributed by Samantha Seneviratne. I used Meyer lemon zest and omitted the grapefruit zest. I also modified the method.

Because of the rise times, I prepared the dough through the first rise two days in advance and completed the second rise and baked it one day prior to serving. We ate it reheated- which was essential. The original recipe suggests sprinkling the top with confectioners’ sugar or drizzling it with glaze. I opted for the simple sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar but know it would also be delicious with the glaze. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings

For the Dough:

  • 1/3 cup warm whole milk (110°F) (I used whole milk)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

For the Filling and to Finish the Bread: 

  • freshly grated orange zest from 3 to 4 oranges (about 3 tablespoons)
  • freshly grated zest from 3 Meyer lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional

To Make the Dough:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, or a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, and salt.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the yeast mixture, the egg, and the egg yolk, and mix until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (Alternatively, knead this mixture by hand on a clean work surface.) 
  4. Add the butter, a bit at a time, and continue to mix or knead the dough until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth, another 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky. If you’re doing this by hand, you can use a bench scraper to help scoop the dough up as you knead it. It may look like it’s never going to incorporate, but keep kneading and it will.
  5. Once the dough is fully incorporated, gather it into a neat ball and place in a lightly greased bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 2 hours. (I used a proofing oven.) After the dough has doubled, you can punch it down, wrap it well and refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 days. (I refrigerated it overnight.)

To Make the Filling and to Finish the Bread:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the citrus zest, sugar, and salt together using your fingers to release some of the citrus oils. Add the butter and mix until well combined. (I reserved the soft room-temperature butter and spread it over the rolled out dough instead.)
  2. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it once or twice to expel the air. Roll it out into an 8-inch by 17-inch rectangle.
  3. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the bread.
  4. Starting from one of the long ends, roll the dough up into a tight coil. Pinch the ends to seal the roll.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise.
  6. Transfer the two pieces of dough to a piece of parchment paper, cut sides up. Pinch the two pieces together at one end and then carefully twist the two pieces of dough together. Take care not to stretch the dough and to keep the cut sides up.
  7. Coil the twist around to make a wreath and connect the ends, making sure to continue the twisting pattern.
  8. Transfer the wreath, on the parchment, to a rimmed baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise. (I used a proofing oven.) It could take up to 2 hours for the wreath to puff so it’s better to keep an eye on the dough rather than the clock. You’ll know it’s ready when it looks puffed and and it rises back slowly when you gently press it with your finger.
  9. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  10. Carefully brush the wreath with the egg wash.
  11. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 18 minutes, on convection, or up to 30 minutes in a standard oven. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bread should register between 190°F and 200°F.
  12. Transfer the wreath to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Notes:

The twist bread can also be drizzled with a simple glaze of room temperature cream cheese mixed with some warm milk and confectioners’ sugar.

The bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Garlic Knots

We have pizza night once a week- usually on Sundays. We vary the type and toppings, of course. 🙂 During the initial lockdown, we started experimenting with many variations of garlic knots to eat with our special pizza. I now realize that pizzeria versions are soaked in an incredible amount of oil.  I opted for a drizzle before and after baking instead.

We made them with different doughs and determined that a 24-hour pizza dough (one of my favorites) resulted in our preferred garlic knots. We also attempted to make them with sourdough pizza dough (of course!) but they were too puffy. We experimented with different baking temperatures as well. I found that a higher oven temperature and shorter baking time resulted in more tender garlic knots.

This recipe makes two batches of eight knots; I froze half and thawed them in the refrigerator prior to baking with excellent results. Great.

Yield: about 16 garlic knots

For the Dough:

  • 153 grams (1 1/4 cups) 00 Flour
  • 153 grams (1 1/4 cups) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
  • 8 grams (scant 2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 2 grams (scant 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast OR 4 grams (scant 1 teaspoon) fresh yeast
  • 4 grams (scant 1 teaspoon) good olive oil
  • 202 grams (1 cup minus 1 T) lukewarm water

For the Topping: (make half if freezing half of the garlic knots)

  • 5 to 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 pinches coarse salt
  • dash of red pepper flakes, or more to taste, optional
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

To Serve:

  • marinara sauce, optional
  • minced parsley, for garnish, optional

To Make the Dough (24 to 48-hours in advance):

  1. In a bowl, thoroughly combine the flours and salt; make a well in the center.
  2. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the yeast, olive oil, and lukewarm water.
  3. Pour the wet mixture into the well in the dry mixture and begin mixing the two together with your hands, gradually incorporating the dry into the wet. This process will be more like mixing than kneading.
  4. After about 3 minutes, when the wet and dry are well combined, set the mixture aside and let it rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. This allows time for the flour to absorb the moisture.
  5. Flour your hands and the work surface. Gently but firmly knead the mixture on the work surface for about 3 minutes. Reflour your hands and the surface as necessary. The dough will be nice and sticky, but after a few minutes of kneading it should come together into a smooth mass.
  6. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, shape them gently into balls, and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
  7. Refrigerate the dough for at least 24 and up to 48 hours before using. This process, called proofing, allows for the fermentation that gives the dough structure- which results in a chewy, pliable crust with great flavor.

To Shape the Dough:

  1. Roll each dough ball into an 8-inch log.
  2. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut each log into 8 pieces (approximately 1-inch each and equal in size).
  3. Roll each piece into and 8-inch long rope. (You will have 16 ropes.)(I did this by hand but my kids also used a rolling pin.)
  4. Tie each rope into a knot. (The ends can be tucked underneath or left out.)
  5. Arrange the knots on two aluminum foil-lined baking sheets. (I ultimately preferred aluminum foil over parchment paper because of the high oven temperature.)(At this point some of the garlic knots can be frozen- see note below.)
  6. Lightly cover and let them rest in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes, or up to 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (I used the baking stone setting with a stone placed in the lowest position.)
  8. When the rise time is nearly complete, prepare the topping.

To Prepare the Topping:

  1. Combine the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, if using, in a small skillet.
  2. Cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and reserve.

To Bake & Serve the Garlic Knots:

  1. When the rise time is complete, brush the top of the garlic knots with a little more than half of the garlic-olive oil topping.
  2. Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. Remove from oven and brush with remaining garlic-olive oil topping.
  4. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and/or parsley, as desired. Serve plain or with marinara sauce for dipping.

Note: Cover and store leftover garlic knots in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Freeze Dough Prior to Baking:  Arrange the shaped knots on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet. Freeze, uncovered, for 1-2 hours. Remove from the freezer. Knots should be frozen and no longer sticky. Place into a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter. Bring to room temperature, arrange on 2 foil-lined baking sheets, cover lightly, and allow to rest/rise in a warm spot for 1 hour before baking as above.

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