Eggnog Cranberry Bread

Eggnog Cranberry Bread

Words cannot begin to describe how much I love eggnog. The holiday season hasn’t begun until I chug a glass of the stuff. I know it’s super bad for you, but hey, Christmas only comes once a year, right?

I’ve been looking for a recipe involving eggnog to bake. I made cookies a while back, but those were pretty darn cakey. Almost whoopie pie like. Then, I heard about this recipe from Jessica Lynn of  The Tale of Two Kitchens. I knew I had to make it happen. Instead of muffins, though, I wanted to make mini loaves to include in the coworker’s gift baskets.

I ended up over filling a bread pan and some of the batter spilled out onto the cookie sheet. It was fate since I made just enough for coworkers. So, of course, I sampled the baked on spillage. :) It was PERFECT!

Now, I know eggnog is hard to come by nowadays, but for next year, definitely give this recipe a try. The eggnog flavor isn’t very prominent, but it gave the mini loaves a wonderful, spicy note reminiscent of the holiday season. I also found that when making this recipe into mini loaves, I only really needed half of the streusel topping, so the recipe I’m posting has different measurements for the streusel topping.

Eggnog Cranberry Bread
Source: Slightly adapted from Recipe Girl, found on Tale of Two Kitchens

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup eggnog
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup coarsely chopped frozen cranberries
2 Tbs granulated sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 4 mini loaf pans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, eggnog, butter and almond extract. Mix in dry ingredients just until combined. Toss cranberries with 2 T. sugar and then stir into batter.

4. Prepare streusel topping: Combine topping ingredients using a pastry cutter (or two knives) until crumbly.

5. Fill prepared loaf pans until about 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full (this batter rises a lot!). Top with streusel topping. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until the breads test done with a toothpick inserted in the center coming out clean.

If Heaven made me breakfast…

French Toast

I know what you’re thinking…what’s with the title? Well, writing challah french toast with subtle notes of orange drenched in orange berry sauce is a little bit lengthy for a blog title, don’t you think?

So, I decided if Heaven could cook me breakfast in the morning, I imagine this is what they would serve. Delicious, fruity french toast. There’s something about french toast. It’s just so simple, yet yummy and you can flavor it any way you want. Versatile little breakfast you are, my french toast.

One of my fellow Weddingbee pals (Yes, I know I got married over a year ago. Once a bee, always a bee darnit!), who writes the blog I love you much, came up with this recipe. This recipe is the reason I made challah and it was worth it. Make the challah/buy the challah…whatever it takes. This bread redefines french toast, folks. Seriously…you don’t even have to make THIS french toast. Just make any french toast with this bread from now on. You will NOT regret it!

Challah French Toast with Orange Berry Sauce
Source: adapted from I love you much

Ingredients for toast:

  • 1 loaf challah
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup reduced fat milk
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Ingredients for sauce:

  • 1 bag of frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • pinch of salt

(optional: some powdered sugar for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients for the berry sauce in a small pot on medium low heat and allow to cook down, stirring/slightly mashing berries every few minutes.
  2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  3. Whisk all ingredients (except for the challah) in a large bowl until well incorporated.
  4. Slice challah into 1/2 inch slices.
  5. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet at medium heat.
  6. Soak 3-4 pieces of challah in the egg mixture for 30 seconds on each side (until the bread is fully soaked but not soggy). Shake off excess mixture and place on the skillet (cook 2-3 minutes on each side until barely brown).
  7. When finished on the skillet, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet in an oven to keep warm/finish the toast.
  8. Repeat 6 & 7 until all toast is done. Keep in the oven an extra 10 minutes.
  9. Serve with berry sauce and powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Challah

Challah

I’ve never heard of challah before I started this food blog. My knowledge of bread was sandwich bread, french/po’ boy bread (of course), and dinner rolls.

Around the holidays, I remember reading about this bread on many blogs, and thought it looked divine. Heck, what am I saying, MOST breads to me look divine. I’m a carb lover, that’s for sure!

I actually didn’t plan on making this. I wanted to purchase this bread at a store, because my blogging friend sent me a recipe for some killer looking french toast, and I wanted to surprise my husband/sister (who came to visit) with a nice Sunday breakfast. (Post to come on this fantastic french toast soon!) However, I live near a Target and a Wal-Mart. I don’t think they know what challah is…it wasn’t there. It was too late to go across town to the swanky part of town to check Whole Foods, too. So, I had to crank out the mixer, locate the yeast in my pantry and make this bread happen. My craving for french toast was too strong to ignore.

So, at 10:30 on a Saturday evening, I made this dough. I wanted to halve it, because I’m fairly positive my waistline would be disappointed after a snack fest involving the second loaf. The dough was rising while my husband, sister and I watched Avatar. Avatar and dough proofing: perfect Saturday, eh?

Anyway, the dough really didn’t rise as much as the recipe made it sound. Perhaps directly halving yeast is a no-no? Eh, regardless, this bread was awesome! The only issue I had was making a pretty braid, but I’m not sweating over it. :)

Challah
Source: Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
  2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)
  3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
  4. At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
  5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
  6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
  7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.

Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones

Scones are the typical coffee shop pastry item. They are crumbly, fruity and just so delicious. However, at about $2/each, I really wanted to see if I could make coffee shop quality scones on my own. I’ve tried making scones before, but they always ended up cakey and not quite the texture I desired in a scone. This time, though, I think I found my recipe.

I will admit, the directions, especially for rolling the dough, sound completely ridiculous, but I almost always follow a  baking recipe exactly the first time I make it, so that I can give a proper critique of it. It’s a pet peeve of mine to go to a recipe site and see that a recipe has 3 stars because people made 4-5 substitutions that didn’t work. It’s fairly stupid, in my opinion, since those substitutions were the reviewer’s doing and had nothing to do with the original recipe.

Anyway, this recipe is really good. The only thing I will change next time is subbing dried blueberries for fresh. I didn’t really like having fresh blueberries in it, because as much as I love blueberries, the random bursts of juice from the berries just were not expected or desired much in this recipe.

Blueberry Scones
Source: Cooks Illustrated (Annie’s Eats‘ adaptation)

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
  • 1½ cups (7½ oz.) fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • ½ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425˚ F.  Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater.  (I like to use my food processor for this – fast and easy.)  Place the blueberries in the freezer until needed.
  2. Whisk together the milk and sour cream in a medium bowl; refrigerate until needed.  Combine the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined.  Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface.  Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball.  Add small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  4. Roll the dough into a 12-inch square.  Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter (a dough scraper really helps with these steps).  Fold the short ends of the dough into the center in thirds, to form an approximate 4-inch square.  Transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  5. Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square again.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface.  Using a dough scraper, roll the dough up to form a tight log.  Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  (If freezing ahead of time, flash freeze on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed.)  Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Banana Choc. Chip Bread

When I was a cashier in high school, we had to learn PLU (product look up) codes to ring up produce. The first code I knew was bananas (it is 4011 in case you are wondering…type that code in at a self check-out and see what happens). Why? Because almost every shopping cart has bananas. They are delicious, cheap and very nutritious.

Every week, I buy my husband and I a bunch of bananas. Most of the time, we finish them, but sometimes, I forget about them. Of course when I forget about them, they become this unappetizing brown color from overriping, but fear not, when they are that overripe, they are PERFECT for baking!

This past week, we had 3 bananas that got too ripe for snacking on, and I decided to made some banana bread. I’ve made it before, but decided to give Baking Illustrated’s version a shot, since they never steer me wrong. This was the winner. If you want to try a banana bread recipe from this blog, make this one first! It’s so unbelievably moist, flavorful and light (since I subbed the butter out for applesauce). Plus, this is another recipe that you don’t need the KA for. A simple wooden spoon and 2 bowls will suffice. Your breakfast will never be the same either.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
Source: adapted from Baking Illustrated

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips together in a large bowl; set aside.
  3. Mix the bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Do NOT overmix! Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Skinny Holiday Baking: Pumpkin Scones

I do enjoy baking from scratch, but sometimes, I’m up for trying shortcuts. I found this recipe by perusing the Weight Watchers boards, because I wanted to try something a little different than pumpkin bread for breakfast.

This was a pretty good scone, but I think the recipe needs a little work. I think next time, I’m going to try brown sugar, more white sugar and more spices. I also didn’t have Splenda, which was recommended for the recipe, so I subbed sugar.

This was also a fairly wet batter, so I couldn’t really shape these like traditional scones. I ended up using a large cookie scoop to scoop individual scones out, and it worked out fine.

Pumpkin Scones
Source: adapted from a Weight Watchers forum

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Bisquick Heart smart mix
  • 1/3 cup mini choc chips (omitted to save calories)
  • 6 packets of Splenda (used 4 tbsp. sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. skim milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.
  3. Mix pumpkin, egg and milk in a separate bowl and add to dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, place scones about 2″ apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the scones start to brown on top.

The Skinny: per serving, serves 8

Calories: 124.4
Fat: 2.6 g
Fiber: 1.5 g

Pumpkin Bread

bread

I can’t believe this pumpkin shortage. I mean, who would have thought that store shelves would be empty where this stuff is usually stocked? In fact, around this time, most groceries have special holiday baking sections with rows and rows of pumpkin. None to be found. It’s SO weird!

However, as a woman with a craving, I went on a mission to find this rare canned pumpkin. Five stores later, I found myself in a grocery store in a pretty bad part of town. (I went during the day, if you are wondering how wild I am.) I walked down the baking aisle in crazy anticipation. There they were – two large cans of pumpkin puree. I grabbed them quicker than a kid grabs the bubble gum off the candy aisle.

I was so excited when I got home, but I knew I have 58 precious ounces of pumpkin puree. I need to ration this wisely, just in case I can’t find any for the beloved Thanksgiving pie. (You never know!) I couldn’t help but make myself pumpkin bread. It’s a Fall breakfast staple for me!

I’ve seen this recipe from Allrecipes around many food blogs, and people rave about it, so I decided this would be the lucky recipe. It turned out to be a really good pumpkin bread, however, it wasn’t very spicy. I prefer spicy pumpkin bread, like this one I made last year.

Of course, I did my favorite applesauce for butter/oil substitution and it didn’t disappoint. I also halved the recipe  since I don’t need 2 loaves at one time.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (full recipe)
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (sub applesauce)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (When I halved the recipe, I used one large loaf pan.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes (took mine 60 minutes) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The Skinny - per serving, Serves 24 (in full recipe)
Calories 187.6
Fat 1.1 g
Fiber 1.3 g

Banana Bread

banana bread1

I always make sure to have some fruit options at home. This past week, I realized that I overlooked a small bunch of bananas which were ripening quickly, so I knew it was time to make some banana bread. The last time I made banana bread, I wasn’t very impressed, so I tried another recipe. This one was much better!

Banana Bread
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 12

Calories: 184.5
Fat: 1.3 g
Fiber: 1.7 g

banana bread

Pita Pizza

pizza

I really hate to get rid of leftovers, and after the Chicken Gyros, we had a few pita breads leftover. I figured the bread would make a great crust for single pizzas, so we did that for lunch one day.

All you need to do is layer pizza sauce (found at the grocery), mozzarella cheese and pepperoni (or any fully cooked toppings you prefer). Then, bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Like I said, super easy and pretty darn yummy. I love finding new leftover ideas! :)

Pita Bread

pita5

I’ve always loved pita bread, mostly because it has pockets in it that holds sandwich fillings very well. I never thought you could make it in your own kitchen. I’m a fairly new cook, so you have to give me some credit here.

I first saw the recipe on Annie’s Eats, and I made sure to star it for whenever I was feeling ambitious in the baking department. I finally pushed myself to make it, because I wanted to try a very popular recipe for Chicken Gyros one night (which will be featured in the next post).

I will admit, it does need a lot of rising/resting time, but as far as your effort goes? Couldn’t be easier, in my opinion. Plus, it’s so much more flavorful than the bread you buy in stores and probably cheaper! I would say, if you’re new to bread, this is a great recipe for you to start with!

Pita Bread
Source: Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour, plus 1/2-3/4 cup more as needed (I used bread flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar or honey
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups water, roughly at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, vegetable oil, butter or shortening

Directions:

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar.  Add the olive oil and 1 ¼ cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon.  All of the ingredients should form a ball.  If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.  As the dough is mixing, continue to add flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky.  (I add a significant amount of flour, so don’t be afraid to keep adding more until you reach the right consistency.)

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the dough around so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

pita1

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it will be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while it is preheating. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between ¼ – 1/8” thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently, you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5-10 minutes before trying again.

pita2

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

pita3

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy (When the recipe says puffy, it is completely puffy!  Wow!) after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.

pita4

The Skinny – per serving, serves 8

Calories 240.6
Fat 4.0 g
Fiber 1.8 g

I’m thinking of incorporating some whole wheat flour for next time to lower the calories, and to increase the flour. I didn’t want to lighten the recipe for the first time that I made it, so that I could familiarize myself with the process and understand for next time, how it’s supposed to come out, just in case whole wheat doesn’t work out. I have a good feeling that subbing 1 cup of whole wheat for the regular flour would work, though. We’ll see!