Archive for the ‘Adventures in Baking’ Category


July 7, 2006


Well it took about 24 hours but I’ve finally done it. I made a loaf of sourdough that rivals what I could get at a bakery. The crust was golden and the perfect combination of crispy and chewy. The crumb was moist and full of holes to soak up the butter. The flavor was as good as any I’ve ever had.

It did burn a little on the bottom but that’s something that is easy to fix next time around. The important thing is that I was finally able to combine all of the lessons I have learned from my previous attempts (along with tips from several baking books that I’ve been reading lately) and produce something that I was beginning to think was impossible from my home oven. And the best part is that I did it without destroying or shattering anything!

Harvest Grains Bread

July 5, 2006


I’ve been baking bread like crazy since my sister and brother-in-law have been here. Every time I bake a couple loaves, they seem to disappear! This is my latest favorite. It’s made with King Arthur Flour’s Harvest Grains Blend and it’s really tasty!


Whole Wheat Banana Bread

July 3, 2006


This recipe come from The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook and it’s definitely my favorite banana bread recipe. I never used to use whole wheat wheat flour in quick breads but I think it really adds to the flavor (and nutrition) in this bread. The only changes I make to the original recipe are to occasionally add equal parts wheat germ and applesauce (about 1/4 cup each).  Here is the recipe:

Whole Wheat Banana Bread 

1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
1 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. mashed ripe banana (2 or 3 bananas)
1 t. vanilla
2 C. King Arthur Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional, pecans are also good)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add the eggs, bananas and vanilla (plus applesauce if using) and beat well.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt (plus wheat germ if using).
  5. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. At this point, add the chopped nuts if using.
  6. Pour this mixture into a greased, 9×5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then take it out and let cool on wire rack.
  7. Enjoy!

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My Oven is Fixed, My Sister is Here, New Books!

July 1, 2006

First of all, my oven is back! The first time they came to fix it, they didn’t. But two days later (thursday), a couple of guys showed up, replaced my oven door and all is well again. There is still some shattered glass deep inside the oven that my husband couldn’t reach with the shop-vac but there’s not much I can do about that. I baked some cracked wheat bread on Thursday night that turned out really good and some decent sourdough yesterday. The bread disappears fast with four people in the house which brings me to the second part of this post…

My sister and brother-in-law have arrived! I picked them up at the airport on Thursday afternoon. Of course their flight was delayed since we are in Italy and that’s just the way things work. I ended up stuck at the Catania airport for a couple of hours (no air conditioning) and they ended up stuck on the plane in Rome (no air conditioning). I think they had it worse since they were trapped in a confined area and I had the freedom of walking outside to escape the odor (deodorant, while gaining in popularity, is still not widely used here). But they did finally make it and their luggage even arrived at the same time (this only seems to happen about 50 percent of the time here). We’ve been taking things slow since I’ve had lots of homework and they’re still jet-lagged but yesterday we went out exploring and then they had their first Sicilian pizza last night. Today we will hit the big outdoor market in Catania so I should have some good photos to post tonight.

Finally, my latest order from Amazon arrived yesterday and I now have three new books on baking (these arrivals are usually a surprise to my husband!). I’m really excited and stayed up late last night reading and did the same thing when I woke up this mornng. Even though I have a million cookbooks, I don’t have many books dedicated to bread. These are the books I got:

Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman; The Breadbaker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhardt; The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum

Bye bye Oven :-(

June 25, 2006

I guess it will be a while before I can bake anything again. Today the glass door on my oven exploded into a million pieces. I was about to put a couple loaves of sourdough in and I was filling a pan with hot water to create some steam for the bread. As I was closing the oven door, it exploded. Some of the water must have splattered onto the inside of the door (I assumed that an oven door was built to withstand such things but apparently not this one). When I say exploded, I mean it exploded into a million pieces that flew both into the oven and out of the oven, all over the floor and even melted into my kitchen rugs! How it is that both my husband and I escaped unscathed, I don’t know! It was safety glass but that glass was HOT (close to 500 degrees I would guess).

I have been warned about exploding oven lights but have never heard of an exploding oven door. I even did an extensive search of the Web trying to find someone with a similar story but no luck! I don’t know how long it will take to have the oven replaced, but it’s been so hot that it’s probably better that I don’t bake anything anyway.

So much for the lovely sourdough that I had been working on since last night!

Sourdough IV

June 20, 2006


This morning was my fourth sourdough attempt. This was the first time I supplemented the wild yeast from my starter with some commercial yeast. I just wanted to see what kind of difference it made in the bread. Although I got a better rise this time and the dough was easier to work with, I prefer the taste of the bread made using the traditional method. Now I just need to practice shaping and slashing the loaves because I’ve found that my “traditional” dough spreads too much and is so soft and sticky (no matter how much flour I knead in!) that it doesn’t lend to easy slashing.


Sour Cream, Cheddar and Chive Biscuit

June 18, 2006


I made these up this morning from things I had on hand and they turned out great! Here’s the simple recipe:

Sour Cream, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits:
2 C. Bisquick
1/2 – 3/4 C. shredded cheddar cheese
2 T. snipped fresh chives
1/3 C. sour cream
1/3 C. milk

Garlic Butter (optional):
In small saucepan melt 2 T. butter over low heat. Crush one small clove of garlic and add to the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes and then turn off heat. Brush biscuits with garlic butter as soon as they come out of oven.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In bowl, mix together dry biscuit mix, cheese and chives. Blend milk and sour cream together in measuring cup then pour into dry mixture. Mix with spoon until just combined (do not overmix!). Sprinkle counter with some extra Bisquick and dump mixture onto counter. Knead gently a few times until everything is fairly well incorporated. At this point more Bisquick can be added if dough is too moist to work with. Pat out to 1/2 thickness and cut into biscuits (whatever size or shape you want). Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes until golden. Brush with garlic butter (optional), place on rack to cool for a couple minutes then eat while warm.

I ate mine for breakfast filled with thinly sliced ham…it was wonderful!


Even more bread

June 7, 2006


I baked whole wheat bread today and aside from rising a little too quickly, it turned out ok. They might not look perfect but I just had a slice and it’s much better than my last whole wheat attempt. The sourdough was really good last night with spaghetti and salad and then I had my sourdough french toast for breakfast this morning…yum!

Today’s bread

June 6, 2006


Here’s what the sourdough looks like. Turned out well except I put the loaves too close together and they grew into each other a bit. Tastes so good…I already had two pieces with lots of butter for lunch 🙂 It will be good with some salad for dinner tonight and french toast for breakfast. I LOVE sourdough french toast!!

Baking bread again

June 6, 2006

Today is my second attempt at homemade sourdough bread (actually third if you count the english muffins). The first time the bread tasted good but I had some problems with shaping the loaves. I’m still at a loss when it comes to shaping anything that doesn’t go into a loaf pan! I just haven’t been able to learn from my books and I haven’t found much help online either. Today the loaves are round which was much easier than the french style loaves I made last time.

Tomorrow I’ll try some more whole wheat bread. I wasn’t impressed with my last batch of whole wheat. It didn’t rise enough, the recipe called for too much salt and I didn’t like the flavor of the molasses. Tomorrow I’ll probably try the same recipe with less salt, honey instead of molasses and I’ll replace some of the whole wheat flour with bread flour to see if I can get a better rise. I don’t have a good selection of whole-grain flours here and I just haven’t had good luck with what I’ve been buying at the commissary. I would like to order my flour from King Arthur but it’s way too expensive to ship!

But even the worst loaves that come out of my oven are better than the bread we buy at the commissary here. All of the bread is baked in Germany, frozen, and then shipped here. I’m not sure what they do to it but if you don’t stick it in the fridge, it molds within 2 days. I love bread from the Italian bakeries of course but I prefer whole wheat bread for sandwiches and toast.

So, I’ll keep working at it and hopefully I’ll come up with a good whole wheat recipe for everyday bread and some good sourdough for the occasional treat.