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.

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

These soft sugar cookie bars were one of the most popular recipes this week on The New York Times’ website. They described them as “worth the hype” and, with their cheerful frosting and sprinkles, as “happiness in a 9-by-13 pan.” 🙂

Thanks to cream cheese in the dough, they are soft and tender- similar to Lofthouse cookies, my daughter’s favorite cookie. I made them to celebrate the release of my daughter’s middle school musical. Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the school was able to successfully stage their annual musical in a movie format instead of live performances- great. She had a lot of fun participating in the show.

This recipe was adapted from American Girl Cookies, via The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. I baked the dough in a rimmed sheet pan and used Meyer lemon juice in the frosting. I love bar desserts! They would be a crowd-pleaser served for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just as a special treat.

Yield: 20 cookies

For the Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 3/4 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (8 ounce/225 gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional (or Meyer lemon zest)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (I used Meyer lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a drop or two of gel food coloring, optional
  • assorted sprinkles, for decorating, optional

To Make the Cookie Base:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or coat with cooking oil spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or rimmed sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
  8. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers or a greased offset spatula, spread the dough into an even layer.
  9. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Place the 6 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.

Note: I stored the leftover cookies in the refrigerator and we actually preferred them chilled.

Soft-Baked Funfetti Cookies

While I’m sharing kid-friendly treats loaded with colorful sprinkles, it seems like the perfect time to post these funfetti cookies! 🙂 I made these for a special annual lunch that I have with friends from my former job. I miss them. ❤  All of our kids have known each other since they were babies- it is also wonderful to get them all together at least a few times a year.

This recipe was adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I doubled the recipe and reduced the baking time. They were a big hit. 🙂

Yield: 42 cookies

  • 1 cup (230 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (380 g) spoon & leveled all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (80 g) sprinkles, plus more for sprinkle on top before baking
  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  4. With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. The dough is quite thick and you may have to stir the rest by hand.
  5. Once combined, fold in 1 cup sprinkles.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Make sure the balls are taller, rather than wide. Add a few more sprinkles on top of each ball dough.
  7. Chill the balls of dough on the cookie sheet for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. This step will prevent spreading in the oven. (I chilled the balls of dough for 22 hours prior to baking.)
  8. Preheat oven to 350F, preferably on convection.
  9. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats.
  10. Bake chilled cookie dough for 9 to 10 minutes. The cookies will appear undone and very soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes and move to wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies stay soft & fresh for up to 1 week at room temperature. They also freeze well. Cookies may be rolled into balls and frozen up to 3 months to bake at a later date.

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Soft Baked Snickerdoodles

I am drawn to recipes promising soft-baked and perfectly puffy cookies because I love the texture. BUT… I think it’s me… My soft-baked cookies are soft and delicious, but never as puffy. It’s weird! (and disappointing…) I’m blaming every oven I’ve ever had. 🙂 It just can’t be me! 😉

Snickerdoodles just seem like the perfect autumn cookie. The cinnamon sugar topping is really season-less, but it just speaks to me this time of year. Most recipes seem to include shortening which is an ingredient that I completely avoid. This wonderful shortening-free recipe is from Buttercup Baking. Her cookies were SO puffy!! Mine were a little flatter (as you now know!) but super tasty.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ž cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix.
  4. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  5. Add the salt after sifting and add the flour mixture slowly to the butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated.
  6. To Make the Topping: In a small shallow bowl, mix 2 T of sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop, make equally portioned balls of dough, about 3 dozen.
  8. Roll the balls of dough into the cinnamon sugar topping and place on baking sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.
  9. Bake in oven for 8 minutes on convection or up to 10 minutes in a standard oven (do not overbake). Let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes before moving to cooling rack. The cookies will continue to cook on the baking sheet (so do not be tempted to put them back in the oven).

Note: These cookies are best eaten within a few days. For best taste, store in an air-tight container with a slice of white bread to absorb excess moisture.

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