English Muffin Bread

I have another special breakfast to share. Having a treat to start the day brings a little sunshine. 🙂

I am not really a bread person, but I do really enjoy English muffins. I often have a whole wheat “British muffin” from Trader Joe’s for breakfast. Naturally, this bread full of nooks and crannies caught my eye.

The recipe is from Shauna Sever’s Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland. It is easy and relatively quick to prepare, with only one rising time. She suggests baking the loaf in a German Rehrucken (crimp loaf pan) or standard loaf pan. I baked the loaf in my favorite Pullman loaf pan and modified the baking time accordingly.

The original recipe recommends making it a day ahead to serve it toasted the next day. We ate warm from the oven, slathered with salted Irish butter and our homemade strawberry-vanilla bean jam. We did toast the leftovers! Perfect.

Yield: One loaf

  • nonstick cooking spray, for pan
  • 3 T (30 g) yellow cornmeal, divided
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) warm water (110° to 115°F/43° to 46°C)
  • 3 tsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 cups (384 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (225 g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 T plus 1 tsp (32 g) vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 T unsalted butter, melted
  1. Lightly spray a 9×5-inch (23×12.7 cm) metal loaf pan, German Rehrucken crimp loaf pan, or Pullman loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Wipe away any excess that pools in the edges.
  2. Dust the pan all over with about 2 tablespoons of cornmeal; tap out the excess.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let rest for a couple of minutes.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, the remaining 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  5. On low-speed, stir in the buttermilk, oil, and finally the yeast mixture. Mix until incorporated. (It is very important that the buttermilk is at room temperature so that the dough can rise well.)
  6. Increase the speed to high and mix for 1 minute, stopping halfway through to scrape down the bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky.
  7. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan.
  8. Oil your hands lightly and pat the dough gently and evenly into the pan.
  9. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of cornmeal.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled and the dough comes about 1 inch from the top of the pan, about 1 hour. (I used a proofing oven.)
  11. During the rise, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400°F/200°C.
  12. Bake the bread until golden and risen, with a hollow sound when tapped int he center, 22 to 25 minutes for a standard or crimped loaf pan, or 18 to 20 minutes for a Pullman loaf pan. The internal temperature should register at least 190°F/88°C on an instant-read thermometer.
  13. Turn out the bread onto a wire rack. Brush lightly all over with the melted butter. (I only brushed the top.)
  14. Let cool completely before slicing- if you can wait!

Light Wheat Sandwich Bread

This sandwich bread was so pretty! It also sliced like a dream. 🙂

The recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, via Smitten Kitchen.com. I weighed the flours and used coarse salt. I mixed and kneaded the dough in a stand mixer and used a proofing oven as well.

The original post had a link for the windowpane test– which was quite helpful! I added additional kneading time to my dough after it failed the test.

Yield: One 2-pound loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz) granulated sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz) coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1 oz) powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz) instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz) water, at room temperature
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the high-gluten/bread flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter, honey (if using), and water.
  3. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.
  4. Using a dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (To knead by hand, sprinkle flour on the counter, and transfer the dough, and begin kneading, adding more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F.
  5. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  6. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. (I used a proofing oven for 1 1/2 hours.)
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long.
  8. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it.
  9. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs.
  10. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
  11. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes (final rising times vary), or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan. (I used a proofing oven and the dough was ready in about 45 to 50 minutes.)
  12. Preheat the oven to 350° F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. (I used the true convection setting.)
  13. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  14. Rotate the pan 180° for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190° F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  15. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

European-Style Crusty Bread

On Long Island, this bread would be called really good Italian bread. 🙂 The King Arthur Flour website titled it “The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake.” I think this may be true!

My husband is a bread guy, so I’ve made one of our favorite loaves a few times in the bread machine during this self-quarantine. It may be a little bit easier to use a bread machine, but not significantly. This loaf was a nice change- completely different- crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

This simple recipe is from King Arthur Flour.com. I weighed the flour, made the dough in a stand mixer, and used a proofing oven. My daughter declared that it was the best bread she’s ever had in her life!

Yield: 2 loaves

Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  2. Stir together all of the ingredients (except the cornmeal) in a large bowl, starting with 542g (4 1/2 cups) of the flour. Use a sturdy spoon, or your stand mixer equipped with the beater paddle. Mix until everything comes together in a rough, shaggy mass of dough.
  3. If you’re using your stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead the dough at medium speed for about 7 minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and feels a bit bouncy. If the dough doesn’t form a ball that clears the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in just enough of the additional flour to make this happen. (I sprinkled in 1-2 additional tablespoons of flour.) (*If you’re kneading the dough by hand, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, using some of the additional 1/2 cup of flour called for. Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you, then press it away from you with the heels of your hands. Rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this fold-press-rotate process with a rhythmic, rocking motion for about 6 minutes. When fully kneaded, the dough will be bouncy and smooth.*)
  4. Lightly grease a bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl; turn to coat.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or another airtight cover, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. If your kitchen is particularly cold (below 65°F), place the bowl of dough in your turned-off oven with the oven light on. (I used a proofing oven.)
  6. Gently deflate the dough and cut it in half. Pat each half into a rough 6” x 8” oval.
  7. Working with one piece of dough at a time, grab a short side and fold the dough like a business letter (one short side into the center, the other short side over it). Use the heel of your hand to press the open edge of the “letter” closed.
  8. Gently pat and roll the dough into a log about 10” long. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
  9. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; generously sprinkle with cornmeal. The cornmeal will keep the bread from sticking and give it a crunchy bottom crust.
  10. Place the loaves, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet.
  11. Let the loaves rise, lightly covered with greased plastic wrap, for 45 minutes. They should become nicely puffy. Gently poke your index finger into the side of one of the loaves; if the indentation remains, your bread is ready to bake. (I used a proofing oven.)
  12. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F, preferably on convection.
  13. For extra-crusty crust and a great rise, add steam to your oven as follows: While the oven is preheating, place an empty cast-iron frying pan on the lowest rack. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  14. When your bread is risen, use a sieve to dust the loaves with a thin coat of flour. Then make three or four 1/2” deep diagonal slashes in each loaf; these slashes will help the bread rise evenly as it bakes. (Next time, I plan to cut the slashes deeper.)
  15. Place the bread in the oven and pour the boiling water into the frying pan below. Quickly shut the oven door. Wear good oven mitts during this process to shield your hands and arms from the steam.
  16. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a loaf sounds hollow to the touch when you tap it on the bottom. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  17. Turn the oven off, crack the door open, and allow the bread to remain inside for 5 additional minutes; this helps keep the crust crisp.
  18. Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. It’s best not to cut into the bread until it’s cooled down a bit; cutting into hot bread can negatively affect its texture.
  19. Store the bread, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days. Freeze for longer storage.

Note: An equal amount of active dry yeast can be substituted for instant yeast. Add it along with the other ingredients, no additional proofing is necessary.

Donut Loaf

I felt very “out of the loop” recently when I saw numerous posts about this viral donut loaf one morning. I had to make it right away! 😉 It delivered as promised- it tasted like a giant cake donut. Ridiculously good. The freshly ground nutmeg made it exceptional.

This recipe was adapted from Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever, via thekitchn.com. It was reminiscent of a pound cake but had a lighter texture. Fabulous! Next time I plan to try baking it in my Pullman loaf pan.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) loaf, Serves 8 to 10

For the Loaf:

  • nonstick cooking spray for pan
  • 2 3/4 cups (352g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 T (197g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (175g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature

To Finish:

  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, divided, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 2 T (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  1. Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch light-colored metal loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with 2 perpendicular strips of parchment paper — 1 cut skinnier to fit lengthwise across the bottom and up the 2 short sides, 1 to fit crosswise and up the 2 longer sides. Cut the strips long enough to have a few inches of overhang on all sides.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
  5. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Beat in 1/4 cup of the flour mixture.
  7. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.
  8. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk in 5 alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  9. Finish folding the batter by hand to make sure everything is incorporated — the batter will be very thick.
  10. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  11. Bake until the loaf is golden with a couple of cracks on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.
  12. Let cool in the pan set over a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  13. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf from the pan. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. When the loaf is cool and firm enough to handle, but still slightly warm, sift 2/3 cup of the confectioners’ sugar all over a large rimmed baking sheet (keep the sieve handy).
  15. Peel the parchment from the cake. Gently turn the loaf over in 1 hand, using part of your forearm to support it.
  16. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the cake with some of the melted butter. Carefully set the loaf, right-side up, in the powdered sugar.
  17. From there, brush the long sides with the butter, turning the cake from side to side to coat in sugar, then brush and coat the short sides.
  18. Lastly, brush the top with the butter, and sift the remaining 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar over the top of the loaf.
  19. Roll the entire loaf in sugar once more so that it resembles a giant powdered sugar donut. (I skipped this step and my loaf had plenty of sugar.)
  20. Carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving, touching up the loaf with a quick sifting of sugar as needed.

Chocolate Babka

I have wanted to bake this special cake ever since first seeing photos of it from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book all over the blogosphere. It always looks stunning and delicious.

This version is an adaptation of the Chocolate Krantz Cakes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi from Smitten Kitchen.com. I loved that she had already made this babka FIVE times, and modified the recipe to perfection. Tried and true. Thank you, Deb Perelman! 🙂

Perelman’s adaptations included omitting the nuts, using granulated instead of superfine sugar, large instead of extra-large eggs, and reducing the amount of sugar syrup topping. She also modified the technique for ease. I melted the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and let the dough rise in a proofing drawer as well.

We enjoyed it warm from the oven for Easter dessert. Rich and wonderful.

Yield: 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

For the Dough:

  • 4 1/4 cups (530 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (rapid rise)
  • grated zest of half an orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter (150 grams or 5.3 ounces), at room temperature
  • Sunflower, Canola, other neutral oil, or cooking oil spray, for greasing

For the Filling:

  • 4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • scant 1/2 cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Sugar Syrup:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar

Make the dough:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the paddle or dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes. (If it doesn’t come together, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass.)
  3. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
  4. If using the paddle, switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. After 10 minutes, the dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If not, add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.
  5. Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Leave in fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The dough will not fully double, so don’t be concerned if it doesn’t look like it grew by more than half.

Make the filling:

  1. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Add cinnamon.

Assemble the loaves:

  1. Coat two 9-by-4-inch (2 1/4 or 1 kg) loaf pans with cooking spray, oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper.
  2. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.
  3. Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around.
  4. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log.
  5. Transfer the log to a plastic wrap-lined, rimmed baking tray. Place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. (This allows the log to be cut in half more easily.) Repeat with second dough.
  6. Trim last 1/2-inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. (The dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry if the pan isn’t filled.) Note: Next time I would try crossing the dough more than once, if possible.
  7. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a proofing drawer or at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F (190°C), preferably on convection.
  2. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into an underbaked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If your babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While the babkas are baking, make the sugar syrup:

  1. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat.
  2. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist.
  3. Let babkas cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating. (or serve warm!)

Do ahead: Babkas keep for a few days at room temperature. Reheat prior to serving, if desired. If longer, freeze them. They freeze and defrost well.

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Classic Sandwich Bread

My husband is obsessed with fresh bread. I grew up pulling slices of bread out of the freezer and toasting them. I do have an appreciation for fresh bread now! 🙂

Having a bread machine is wonderful- this is one of the standard breads that we make. This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour. I modified it (simplified it!) to make it using a bread machine. I also incorporated white whole wheat flour.

The bread has a golden crust and a soft, sliceable texture. It’s great for French toast too.

Yield: 1 loaf

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (1/2 amount can be substituted with whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour) (I used 2c all-purpose & 1c white wheat)
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature (skim, 1%, 2% or whole, your choice)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup hot water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
  • 4 T melted unsalted butter, vegetable oil, or applesauce
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 1 T warm water OR 2 tsp instant yeast

Bread Machine Method:

  1. Place wet ingredients and salt in the bottom of the pan of your machine.
  2. Top with flours and sugar. Spread the flour to the corners of the pan.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour and add yeast.
  4. Set machine to 1 1/2 pound, basic loaf.
  5. About 10 minutes before the end of the second kneading cycle, check dough and adjust its consistency as necessary with additional flour or water; finished dough should be soft and supple.
  6. Complete baking in machine.

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