Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I had a very productive snow day… I made this amazing bread! 🙂 I was inspired to make it with my kids ever since I read this post from Quinn @Dad What’s 4 Dinner. I should have doubled the recipe as he suggested. It was beyond delicious.

I had delayed making it for such a long time, waiting for the perfect time to bake with both of my kids. On their second consecutive snow day, I decided it was the perfect time. What else did they have to do? Ironically, they weren’t really interested in my baking plans. 😦 As disappointed as I was, I really wanted to make it. What else did I have to do? 😉 and… In case you were wondering, yes, they were interested in eating it!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I made the dough in my bread machine before rolling it out for the filling. I also used a proofing oven for the loaf to rise prior to baking. Fabulous.

Baking Time: 45 min
Total Time: 3 hrs 40 min

Yield: 1 loaf

For the Dough:

  • 361 g all-purpose flour
  • 46 g potato flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 35 g dry milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 35 g granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 57 g butter (about 4 T)
  • 227 g lukewarm water (about 1 cup)

For the Filling:

  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 35 g raisins or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg beaten with 14 g water (about 3 tsp water)

For the Streusel Topping:

  • 28 g unsalted butter, cubed (about 2 T)
  • 28 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 28 g all-purpose flour
  1. Add the liquid ingredients and butter to a bread machine pan and top with dry ingredients. (If not using a bread machine, combine all of the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.)
  2. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s smooth. If you’re kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; knead it for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. *You can also simply knead the dough using the dough cycle of your bread machine.*
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (if you’re not using your bread machine’s dough cycle), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it’ll be puffy, if not doubled in bulk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a rectangular piece of plastic wrap or a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a long, thin rectangle, about 16″ x 8″.
  5. To make the filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour in a food processor (mini preferred) or blender, processing until the fruit is chopped.
  6. Brush the dough with some of the egg/water, and pat the filling onto the dough. Reserve the egg wash for the streusel topping. img_8674
  7. Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log.
  8. Pinch the side seam and ends closed (to keep the filling from bubbling out), and place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. img_8676
  9. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour at room temperature or in a proofing oven, or until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan. (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. img_8678
  10. In a small bowl or mini processor, combine the streusel ingredients, cutting in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. If you’re using a mini processor, watch carefully; streusel will go from crumbly to a cohesive mass in just a second or so.
  11. Brush the loaf with some of the remaining beaten egg and add the streusel, using your fingers to gently apply it to the dough, being careful not to deflate the loaf.
  12. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, then tent the loaf lightly with aluminum foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, gently remove it from the pan. Some of the streusel will fall off, but you can alleviate this by first loosening all around the edges of the loaf with a knife, then turning the pan on its side and gently pulling it away from the loaf. Streusel will continue to fall off as you maneuver the bread — we’ve never figured out how they make that stuff adhere so nicely on the store-bought loaves! — but you’ll still be left with some nice, sweet topping.

Note: For a deep-dark, moist, cinnamon swirl inside the bread: Blend together sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour until smooth. The addition of raisins or currants adds moistness, as well as subtle flavor.

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (ž stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ž teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1Âź cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated ComtĂŠ cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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Soft Pretzels

These soft pretzels are the real deal. I looked for a reason to make them as soon as I saw them on the cover of my Martha Stewart Living. They looked so good! I had fantasized about making them with my kids and having a wonderful time. 🙂 Well, thank goodness they were absolutely delicious because we all had a minor breakdown while making them… My kids weren’t the only ones who got frustrated!

By the time we had formed two dozen pretzels, we had established pretty good technique. The secret to managing the sticky dough was to form it into the pretzel shape on a very lightly floured surface. (Too much flour kept it from maintaining the twist.) The secret to simmering the pretzels prior to baking was to keep the water-beer mixture at a high simmer and to transfer the pretzels from the liquid to the baking sheet with two slotted spatulas.

This recipe was adapted from Lina Kulchinsky of Sigmund’s Pretzels, in Manhattan’s East Village, via Martha Stewart Living. We ate them as part of our Memorial Day barbecue but I was able to freeze a bunch to enjoy later. Yay! We ate them warm with yellow mustard for dipping.

Note: Read this link on Martha Stewart.com for tips on making fun soft pretzel shapes. We worked hard to make pretzels in the classic shape, but my son also made a “snail” and my daughter made a “heart.” 🙂

Yield: Makes one dozen large, two dozen medium, or four dozen small

  • 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) rapid-rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pale ale–style beer
  • Pretzel salt (available at kingarthurflour.com) (I used coarse salt)
  • Poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, and finely grated Parmesan, cheddar, and Gruyère, for toppings (optional)
  • Mustards and cornichons, for serving

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar; let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and coarse salt using your hands.
  3. Add butter and continue to combine with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Add yeast mixture and, still using your hands, combine until a shaggy dough is formed and water is absorbed.
  4. Using the dough-hook attachment, mix dough on medium-low speed until tight, elastic, and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection, with rack in upper third.
  7. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  8. Between 2 layers of plastic wrap, roll out dough into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into twelve 14-inch-long strips, each about 1 inch wide.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, form dough into desired shapes and sizes (see note above). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  10. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with cooking spray.
  11. In a wide stockpot, combine 8 cups water, baking soda, beer, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar; bring to a (high) simmer over medium-high.
  12. Simmer pretzels, one at a time, about 30 seconds each, holding them under surface of water, if necessary, with a wide slotted spoon or spatula. Transfer to prepared baking sheet using 2 slotted spatulas. (You can gently reshape pretzels if they become misshapen.)
  13. Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt and/or desired toppings, using one topping or combining different ones.
  14. Transfer to oven and bake 5 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake until deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  15. Transfer pretzels to a wire rack; let cool slightly. Serve warm, with mustards and cornichons.

Note: Pretzels can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container; thaw and warm in a 250 degree oven.

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Irish Soda Bread Buns

Just when I thought that I was running out of variations of soda bread to make for St. Patrick’s Day, I found this new one in the New York Times. 🙂 The genius idea from Melissa Clark was to bake the dough in small buns to maximize the amount of the fabulously crunchy outer crust. Yum!

I weighed the dry ingredients, used raisins instead of currants, and, despite pleas from my kids, included the caraway seeds. (I love them!) Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Yield: 8 buns

  • 3 T unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 155 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups), more as needed
  • 95 grams whole wheat pastry flour (3/4 cup)
  • 55 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 7 grams baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 5 grams coarse salt (1 teaspoon)
  • 5 grams baking soda (3/4 teaspoon)
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk, more for brushing
  • 1 large egg
  • 90 grams dried currants or raisins (about 2/3 cup)
  • 8 grams caraway seeds (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  3. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk and egg. Stir wet mixture into dry one until they just form a moist dough.
  5. Stir in raisins/currants and caraway seeds.
  6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. (I lightly floured a piece of parchment paper to minimize the mess.)
  7. Shape into a 7-inch round about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges.
  8. Using lightly floured hands, roll each wedge into a ball and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Using kitchen shears, snip a small “x” into the top of each bun. (You can also use a knife.)
  10. Brush tops with a little buttermilk, and dust lightly with flour.
  11. Transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake until buns are golden brown and firm, 20 to 25 minutes. (I baked mine for 22 minutes on convection.)
  12. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

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Whole Wheat English Muffins

I first tried this recipe one year ago. While the English muffins were proofing, my husband and son got into a car accident involving black ice. Long story short, everyone was okay but we had to get a new car. 😦 I was scared to make them again in case they were bad luck. A year later, I took the plunge on a snow day- when no one was driving anywhere! 😉

This recipe was adapted from 4sonsrus.com; I modified the recipe to include whole wheat and bread flours. They are so easy to make and are absolutely delicious. Not that unlucky!

  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 1/3 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 1/4 tsp bread machine or active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2 percent)
  • semolina flour or fine cornmeal
  • oil or cooking spray for griddle
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer: whisk together flours, yeast, salt, and sugar.
  2. Add water and yogurt, and using the paddle attachment, mix into a soft dough.
  3. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if it gets sticky. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
  4.  Roll dough out to a thickness of about 1/2 to 3/4 inches inch. Cut out 10 to 12 circles with a 3 inch round cutter. Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina, and cover the muffins with it on each side. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until almost doubled in size. (I used a proofing oven.)
  5. Heat a flat griddle pan on medium until hot and brush with oil or coat with cooking spray.
  6. Add the muffins and reduce heat to medium to medium-low. Cook for 6 minutes, three minutes on each side, or until firm and golden brown. Turn only once. Serve with butter and jam. (My daughter ate hers with cream cheese… I had a fried egg and cheese on mine!)

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The leftover dough made a perfect two-bite mini-muffin. Filled with kielbasa and cheese, it was a dream snack for my son! 🙂

Pancetta, White Bean, & Queso Fresco Empanadas

My son and I are huge empanada fans. (Now we’ve roped my husband in too!) So, last year we started the tradition of eating empanadas on Super Bowl Sunday. (With our guacamole, of course!) After seeing this version at Fiesta Friday, I knew I would have to choose this filling for one of our empanadas this year. They looked amazing.

The filling recipe was adapted from Bourbon and Brown Sugar Blog. I used a large shallot instead of the onion, added garlic to the filling, and chilled the empanadas prior to baking. I also made homemade whole wheat empanada dough and modified the baking temperature and time. The dough recipe was adapted from Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko. I cut the dough into 5-inch rounds as they were our main course; 3-inch rounds would be a perfect appetizer size. Yummy!

For the Whole Wheat Cream Cheese Dough:

Yield: 18 5-inch disks

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 1 /2 tsp coarse salt
  • 18 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 oz cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch dice
  1. Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours and salt. With your hands, toss the butter and cream cheese in the flour mixture until each piece is lightly coated.
  2. With the paddle attachment, beat on low-speed until the dough comes together and forms a loose mass around the paddle.
  3. On two large pieces of plastic wrap, divide the dough in half and then gently pat each half of the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle.
  4. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. (Note: The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.)
  5. To Finish: On a floured work surface (or between layers of plastic wrap), roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Using a 5-inch round cutter (I placed the plastic-wrapped dough over a cutting board and cut the rounds using a bowl and sharp knife.), cut 18 rounds out of the dough, reshaping and re-rolling out the dough as necessary.

For the Pancetta, White Bean, & Queso Fresco Filling:

Yield: 18 empanadas

  • 8 ounces diced pancetta
  • ½ jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 large shallot or Âź onion, finely diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can small white beans
  • 8 ounces crumbled queso fresco
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 18 5-inch disks of empanada dough (recipe above)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fry pancetta until it begins to crisp up.
  3. Using the pancetta drippings left in the bottom of the pan, sautĂŠ the jalapenos, red peppers and onions on low heat about 10-12 minutes (the onions should be translucent).
  4. Add the white beans, and take off the heat.
  5. Add the crumbled queso fresco.
  6. Mound 2 tablespoons of the filling on half of the round and fold the other side over to form a half-moon. Press to seal the dough and pinch at intervals to make pleats. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds and filling. (Alternatively, start at one end, pinch one corner between your thumb and forefinger and fold it over the rim. Pinch the dough next to the fold and fold again. Continue pinching and folding to create a decorative rope rim.)
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to baking but no longer than 1 day.
  8. Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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