Italian Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Arugula Topping

According to the original recipe, in Romagna, in Northern Italy, piadine are often served with cured meats, greens and fresh cheeses that soften in the warmth of the freshly cooked bread. They are folded in half and eaten like a sandwich. This version is based on the classic presentation. Yum.

The recipe was adapted from MilkStreetTV.com, contributed by Erica Bruce. I bought lard for the first time in my life to make this flatbread! Christopher Kimball convinced me that lard was the secret to both the optimal texture and flavor in this wonderful bread. In the article, they found that when using lard “the piadine were tender with just the right chew and (had) a deeper, richer background flavor. (They) also tested vegetable shortening, which gave the same supple dough but lacked a bit of flavor. Lard was the clear winner.” The flatbread was perfect.

This special sandwich was a fabulous and fast summer dinner. We hope to try piadine with all sorts of other toppings in the near future. It was dangerously easy to make. 🙂

Yield: 4 flatbread sandwiches (4 servings)

For the Piadina:

  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 311 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 63 grams (5 T or 1/3 cup) lard, at room temperature
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the water and the yogurt.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds.
  3. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. With the processor running, add the yogurt mixture.
  5. With the processor still running, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough doesn’t ball up in the processor, gather it together and briefly knead it by hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. (I used a kitchen scale.)
  7. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
  8. Using a rolling pin, form each dough ball into a 10-inch round. (The round will be approximately 1/16-inch thick.) Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.
  9. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes.
  10. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. (I cooked mine for a little less than 1 minute.)
  11. Using tongs, flip and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat.

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, at room temperature
  • baby arugula (about 1 cup per person) (we also used baby spinach)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice to the ricotta, or reserve to toss with the arugula (or spinach).
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over half of each piadina, then top with 2 slices of prosciutto.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the lemon juice (if not in the ricotta mixture) and a pinch of salt. Mound on top of the prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with oil, if desired, and fold. (I omitted the oil.)

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. 🙂

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.

Creamed Corn & Pepperoni Sourdough Grandma Pizza

Inspired by pizza she loved on a tropical vacation many years ago, my daughter has been eating corn on her pizza for nearly 10 years. Apparently she is ahead of her time! We were so happy to see that Bon Appétit realized that this delicious pizza topping was worthy of their publication. 🙂

I loved that this pizza recipe used creamed corn instead of tomato sauce- it brought our usual “corn pizza” to the next level. It was also a sheet pan “Grandma” pie which is a family favorite. Lastly, it can be made with fresh or frozen corn. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kay Chun. I used a homemade sourdough pizza crust instead of store-bought. I also used fresh mozzarella, frozen white corn, Campari tomatoes, and more garlic. I modified the method and baked the sheet pan on a pizza stone positioned on the lowest oven rack. Great.

Yield: One Grandma Pie (half-sheet pan)

For the Pizza Dough:

  • 1 cup (241g) sourdough starter, unfed/discard
  • 1/2 cup (113g) warm water (plus 2 tsp water- if using whole wheat flour)
  • 1 1/4 cups (150g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (141g) white whole wheat flour (can substitute and additional 1 1/4 cups/150g all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • cooking oil spray or olive oil, for the pan

For the Pizza Sauce & Toppings:

  • 1 sourdough pizza crust (recipe above) or store-bought pizza dough (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from about 2 medium ears) or thawed frozen corn, divided
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 oz sliced pepperoni (more or less, as desired)
  • 8 to 9 oz Campari tomatoes (sliced 1/4-inch thick) or cherry tomatoes (halved, about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
  • fresh basil (or oregano) leaves, sliced, for serving

To Make the Dough:

  1. Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
  2. Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500°F. (I heat a baking stone positioned on the lowest rack of the oven.)
  5. Oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan or coat with cooking oil spray.
  6. Place the dough in the pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. (If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
  7. Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the sauce and toppings.)
  8. While the dough is rising, make the sauce.

To Make the Sauce, Toppings, & Bake the Pizza:

  1. If using Campari tomatoes, slice and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let sit to remove excess moisture.
  2. Process the Parmesan, ricotta, cream, garlic, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup corn, and 2 T oil in a food processor until mostly smooth (mixture will still have some texture). (I used a mini-food processor.)
  3. Scrape creamed corn into a small bowl; stir in 1/4 cup corn.
  4. Spread creamed corn over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  5. Top with pepperoni, then tomatoes and remaining 1/2 cup corn.
  6. Tear the fresh mozzarella and distribute the pieces evenly over the crust.
  7. Bake until crust is golden underneath and cooked through and the cheese is lightly browned, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  8. Top with a drizzle of oil and sliced basil (or oregano) leaves.

Note: The creamed corn mixture can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

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.

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

My kids ate this tender and delicious soda bread with their bowl of celebratory Lucky Charms for breakfast this morning. 😉 It was also wonderful on its own with and without a little butter and jam. It could be warmed and served with dinner as well.

The recipe was adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins and Breads by Kathleen King, the founder of Tate’s Bake Shop. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour, unsalted butter, coarse salt and modified the baking time for a convection oven. My husband thought that it may be the best version I’ve ever made. Great.

Yield: two 7 to 8-inch round loaves

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 8 T (1/2 cup or 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 to 3 T caraway seeds, to taste
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used low-fat)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Add the raisins and caraway seeds and toss lightly.
  5. Add buttermilk and mix with a fork until all dry ingredients are moistened. (The dough will be very soft and wet.)
  6. Form the dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured board or counter. Knead for about 30 seconds or until the dough is smooth.
  7. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape into balls.
  8. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut and “X” on top of each loaf about 1/4-inch deep.
  9. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 50 minutes in a standard oven, or until crusty and golden. (I baked my loaves on convection for 37 minutes.)

Everyday Soft French Bread

Recently, my friend’s husband made this wonderful bread. It was so delicious, she ran over to give us a few slices to sample. Lucky me! 🙂 She also shared the recipe, of course. This bread is completely different from a classic crusty baguette. It is soft, tender, and quite dense. The dough is more manageable and it can also be made from start to finish in a single day.

The recipe was adapted from The French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis. The texture and flavor of this loaf are reminiscent of my husband’s favorite sourdough sandwich bread, which also includes milk and butter in the dough. Both this loaf and the sourdough sandwich bread seem to be resistant to becoming stale- if they’re not eaten right away. 😉

Yield: One 18 by 3-inch (45 by 7.5 cm) loaf

For the Bread:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 325 g to 360 g (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur), plus more for dusting
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Glaze:

  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp whole milk
  1. Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until it has tiny bubbles around the edge of the pot.
  2. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a large bowl.
  3. When the milk is slightly cooled (and no longer feels hot), sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Let sit until some of the yeast has bubbled up to the top of the milk, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the salt, stir, and slowly add half of the flour.
  5. Add the melted butter.
  6. Add up to 1 1/4 cups (187 g) of the remaining flour to form a fairly thick dough. If the dough is still soft and very sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get a dough that is firm, but not stiff. (I started with 325 g flour and incorporated an additional 20 g to achieve the desired consistency.)
  7. If using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the paddle attachment on low-speed for 5 minutes. Alternatively, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
  8. Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (I used a proofing oven.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and position a rack in the center.
  10. Gently punch down the dough down. Pull to form it into a baguette shape measuring 18-inches by 3-inches (45 cm by 7.5 cm). (I formed mine into a 16-inch long shape because of the length of my baguette pan.) Crimp the ends.
  11. Let it rise until it is about one-third larger, about 30 minutes. (I placed it on a baguette pan in a proofing oven.)
  12. To make the glaze, melt the butter and the milk together, whisk to combine. Keep warm until ready to use.
  13. Brush the loaf with the glaze. (I used about 2/3 of the glaze.) Score the top of the loaf 4 or 5 times using a sharp knife, lame, or kitchen shears.
  14. Bake until the loaf is golden and baked though, about 25 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven, brush the loaf with any residual glaze, and let cool before slicing.

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