Golden Pita Bread

Photo by: K. Henriques

I ran across a recipe online for Greek chicken and decided this past weekend to go all out with dinner. So I made my own hummus, grilled potato salad, feta tzatziki sauce, Greek chicken and then thought it would be fun to make my own pita bread too. I knew it could be a little tricky but figured as long as it was edible it would be fine. Since this was a new endeavor I decided to use King Arthur’s recipe and was surprised to see it wasn’t quite as time intensive as I had imagined.

Like many bread recipes, you mainly just mix all of the ingredients together and them knead them (or let the stand mixture do the work!). Once the 5 minutes was up I let the dough rest and it actually ended up resting a little over an hour since I got busy making the hummus.

I divided the dough and then began rolling the dough out. I ended up with three on a large baking pan and then popped them into the 500 degree oven. They don’t bake long; 5 minutes on the bottom rack and then 2 minutes on the top rack. My first round were a little harder than I would have liked and didn’t puff up at all. I think I left them in there a little longer on the bottom than I was supposed to, hence the slightly crispier texture. I decided these would be perfect for the hummus and started on round two but since they didn’t puff up I decided to bump up the oven temperature to 515 degrees. I was able to get two of the three from this batch to puff up, which was exciting! My last two didn’t puff up either but weren’t quite as hard as round one.

I was a little disappointed I only got two of the eight to actually puff up like pita, but they tasted great so it wasn’t a huge loss. I think it’ll take a little more testing to consistently get puffy pita’s, but I would definitely make these again and they were perfect with our Mediterranean inspired dinner and the hummus.

Baking Ease8
Time Spent8
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: King Arthur

Irish Soda Bread

Photo by: K. Henriques

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Usually I’d bake some kind of fun dessert but I ran across this recipe for Irish Soda Bread and decided to give it a try. Spoiler alert: this is the easiest bread recipe ever. Well, I take that back, these Cream Biscuits are also super easy.

Basically all you do is mix all of the dry ingredients together, then add the buttermilk and mix until it’s a rough dough. Knead it a few times and then pop it in the oven. Be sure to watch for the varying oven times and temperatures as that’s important.

The bread is quite dense and since there aren’t a ton of ingredients it isn’t super flavorful. It was really good with some Irish butter and leftover pot roast though! I think you can add spices, cheese, and other ingredients to Irish soda bread (this was just the basic version) so that would probably have been really good. I’d definitely try it again and probably add herbs next time!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste9
Visual10

Recipe Used: Baking a Moment

12 Days of Christmas Baking- Pastry Edition Day 8: Baker’s Croissants

Photo: K.Henriques

I’m starting the new year off with one of the most well-known and time consuming pastries: the croissant. I had the opportunity to eat a delicious freshly-made croissant while in Paris around this time a few years ago and it was heavenly! I didn’t expect these to turn out like those in France, but I figured if I managed to get something half decent it would be success. My husband made these many years ago and swore he’d never do it again because of how much time it took. While he didn’t make these, I did make him supervise so I didn’t mess anything up.

The first section of this recipe isn’t too difficult. You prep all the dough ingredients and mix; then let it sit. While it’s resting you make the butter square, which was pretty easy as well. I popped the butter square in the fridge while I finished the dough and then once it was done I let it rest in the fridge as directed. It doesn’t say this in the instructions, but my husband remembered that having both the dough and butter is a pretty sharp square makes it easier later.

After letting the dough/butter rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes it’s time to laminate the dough. I rolled the dough out to the proper shape and then put the butter square on top like a triangle. Then you just fold over the edges like you would a letter. Note: One thing I love about King Arthur is they often have tips and more photos for their recipes on the baking blog so if you need a visual aid (as I often do!) then this is a huge help. I also have a video on my Instagram which shows some of these techniques too. Once you’ve got the butter completely covered by the dough then it’s time to roll it out to the proper size and fold it like a letter. Be sure to let it rest in the fridge in between each turn so the butter doesn’t get too soft and seep out of the dough. Once all of the turns were done I let the dough rest in the fridge overnight. Note: after reading through the baking blog the next day so I knew what to do to shape the croissants I realized I missed the “book” turn. Obviously there was nothing I could do about it now so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Despite having read the baking blog multiple times I pulled the dough out of the fridge and immediately got to work and completely forgot to cut the dough in half. Again, by the time I realized it there was nothing I could do so I just kept going. In hindsight, this is where having a second set of eyes is helpful for new and complicated recipes because it’s easy to put the recipe down and get to work and miss a step. Unfortunately my husband was busy while I was doing this portion and even with him we still missed the “book” turn for each laminating session so both of us missed that step. Once I finally got the dough into triangles I rolled it out a little so they were slightly bigger. I think my dough was a little thicker than it should have been since I didn’t cut it in half (though maybe that didn’t make a difference??) so I had a little trouble getting my croissants to angle in a little. Once this part is done though you let the dough rest for another 60-90 minutes. I wasn’t sure how much more they would rise but they seemed ready a little after an hour of rising at room temperature so it was time to actually bake them!

A few of my little croissant tails pulled slightly and ended up coming out from under the bottom of the dough, so next time I need to be sure to use a little water. They might have been a little crispier than they should have been but they looked pretty good and tasted delicious with both honey butter and later with homemade chicken salad!

I know this recipe takes a lot of time, but despite my few mishaps, this recipe is really straightforward and made a complicated recipe seem less intimidating. It did help to be able to leave the dough in the fridge overnight as well and somehow that made it feel like it took less time than it actually did. I wouldn’t make this all the time, but I do want to try this again and see if I can make them look a little more like croissants. Plus, I want to try the version with the chocolate inside!

Baking Ease6
Time Spent6
Taste10
Visual9

Recipe Used: King Arthur

Overnight Panettone

Photo: K. Henriques

Last year during my 12 Days of Christmas Baking I made Panettone for the first time and it failed quite miserably. I was determined to try again and made sure I bought the large molds since using the smaller ones last year potentially made things a little more difficult. I’m honestly not sure what all happened last year, but I decided to use a different recipe just in case.

King Arthur’s recipe requires an overnight starter, but once you throw the ingredients together and stir you can just leave it on the counter overnight which is nice. The next morning I combined the starter with everything else on the ingredient list except the fruit and zest. I let the dough rise about 1 1/2 hours and then gently added the dried fruit and zest. I appreciated the note stating the dough would be puffy, but not necessarily double in size as I always freak out a little when making dough recipes.

I put the dough into the panettone pan and popped it in the oven (which was off) to proof. I came back after letting it rise another hour and noticed it hadn’t risen hardly at all. Based on the notes, it should have been at the rim of the panettone pan. I realized it was pretty cold in the house and after looking some things up decided to try a steam bath in the oven. I actually turned the oven on for a few minutes so it was a little warm while I waited on the water to boil. Then I poured the boiling water into a pan and put it on the bottom rack. I kept checking and even though it ended up taking at least another 1 1/2 it finally did rise.

Finally, it was time to bake! Be sure to follow the baking instructions since it requires you to change the temperature several times. We put a little foil tent on the bread about 20 minutes in since it was browning a good bit. After letting it cool a little I went ahead and peeled the paper wrapping (pan) off and despite the recipe saying to let it cool completely we went ahead and cut into it while still a little warm. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was really good! It was also better warm than cold later, but that’s just an opinion. Despite the issues getting the bread to rise, this was actually a fun bake and I’d definitely make it again. Plus, there’s still time left for you to make this before Christmas Day if you wanted!

Baking Ease8
Time Spent7
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: King Arthur

Ciabatta Bread

Photo by: K. Henriques

My husband really likes bread bowls, especially with chili or salad, but it’s not something I’ve ever tried to make from scratch. A friend had made this Ciabatta recipe one night for dinner and had mentioned how easy it was so I decided to give it a try. I think I’ve mentioned before that I get nervous every time I have to bake yeast breads. I’m always scared I won’t knead it enough or that it won’t rise the way it’s supposed to. Putting those fears aside I decided to just try it and see what happened.

When it comes to the actual ingredients and putting those together, this couldn’t be easier. My friend kneads her dough by hand, but I don’t trust myself to do that yet so I just used the stand mixer instructions since we don’t have a bread machine. If you follow the stand mixer instructions be sure to withhold the olive oil while mixing initially and then add it later. I made the mistake of not timing my kneading but I don’t think I did it long enough so that’s something I’d make sure to do next time since my bread came out a little dense.

I didn’t really notice the dough rise during the first 15 minute rising period, but thankfully I could tell it had risen during the 45 minute rising period. I let mine bake for around 25 minutes, but upon cutting into the loaf they could have used another 5 minutes so I’ll make that adjustment next time. All in all, this was a simple recipe that honestly didn’t take a ton of time (considering it’s a yeast bread recipe!). It tasted very good and was perfect for a bread bowl or just snacking. 🙂

Baking Ease10
Time Spent8
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: All Recipes

Cranberry Nut Bread

Photo: K. Henriques

I made Cranberry Bread last year and while it was good I wanted to try a different recipe this time. This is a really simple recipe to throw together: liquids in one bowl, dry ingredients in the other. Mix those together and then gently add walnuts and cranberries. Voila – you’re ready to put this in the oven!

As a note, anytime a recipe calls for spooning and leveling flour be sure to do it. I used to cut corners and just scoop it out until I realized that you might accidentally be putting in more flour that way, which of course can throw off the recipe.

The only reason this is marked as a 9 in time spent is just because it bakes for a little over an hour. Be sure to pay attention to the temperature change about a third of the way through the entire baking time. I’m not quite sure exactly what this does but I imagine it’s helping even out the baking since the top can often get super crispy and might still not be fully done in the middle. This is an adaptation of a Cooks Illustrated recipe so if you find the recipe in their cookbook I have no doubt they’ll explain why!

I looked at the recipes side by side and noticed the recipe I’m sharing today uses both baking powder and soda; whereas last year’s recipe uses only baking soda. This recipe uses orange juice rather than vegetable oil which also imparts a more orange flavor; something I felt was a little lacking in last year’s recipe. It also calls for cinnamon which adds a little more flavor as well. Last year’s recipe was good (and likely would have been better had I not forgotten the streusel) but in my personal opinion this recipe was more flavorful and will likely become one of my go-to recipe’s. I actually ended up freezing this bread after baking it and ate it a few weeks later and it was still super delicious so that was nice to know as well. I’m sure it would have been even more amazing right out of the oven!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent9
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Once Upon a Chef

Banana Bread

Photo: K. Henriques

We always seem to have a ton of banana’s in the freezer and while I love the banana bread recipe we grew up making I like to vary things up sometimes. I found this recipe from Pioneer Woman and since I had just gotten a new bundt cake pan I thought this would be the perfect recipe to break it in.

This is a pretty simple recipe to throw together and while it takes 70 minutes to bake it doesn’t take a lot of active work time. While the sour cream is supposed to keep the bread from being dry I felt like it was still a little dry. I used 4 bananas so it’s possible that wasn’t quite 1 1/2 cups of banana but I also could have used a little more banana flavor too so I might add a little more next time. I love walnuts in my banana bread too so that might be something else I would add as well.

All in all I enjoyed trying this recipe and thought it was very good and it looked beautiful. Certainly a nice change of pace and I’d definitely try it again.

Baking Ease10
Time Spent9
Taste8
Visual10

Recipe Used: Pioneer Woman

Soft Pretzels

Photo by: K. Henriques

I love a good soft pretzel, especially during the fall with some beer cheese or German mustard to help celebrate Oktoberfest! Last year we discovered an amazing sweet german mustard that goes great with soft pretzels as well so if you’re feeling adventerous you should look for that or find a recipe to make it yourself. We loved watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats when it was on the air years ago and since we have a lot of his cookbooks that’s the first place we went to find a great soft pretzel recipe.

This recipe isn’t really hard, just a little time consuming. We’ve made this recipe several times so the key here is just make sure you follow the directions. Trying to create the pretzel form can be a little difficult, but do your best as it’ll get better with practice. We’ve got a large fryer spider to help get the pretzels out of the boiling water/baking soda mixture. As a note, the last time we used Maldon salt flakes for the top, but I felt like it wasn’t as salty as I would have liked so might be best to stick with actual pretzel salt or kosher salt.

Baking Ease8
Time Spent8
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Alton Brown

Cream Biscuits

Photo by: K. Henriques

If you’re looking for a quick biscuit recipe it can’t get much easier than this recipe! You literally only use 2 ingredients: two! J. Kenji López-Alt does a great job of explaining why this recipe works with only 2 ingredients and there’s the option to add a little sugar to make a sweet shortcake-style biscuits. These biscuits are a little crumbly and don’t have a ton of complex flavors, but they’re perfect if you want a quick biscuit and did I mention you only use 2 ingredients?! Super easy to make and great it you want quick biscuits without a lot of effort.

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste9
Visual9

Recipe Used: Serious Eats

Southern-Style Cornbread

Photo: K. Henriques

If given the choice, I will choose biscuits over cornbread but every once in a while I get a craving for it. Since we have the cast-iron skillet, it seemed only fitting to make a nice batch of cornbread just like my grandmother would have made. Growing up we would actually put a piece of cornbread in a glass of milk and eat it with a spoon. That probably sounds weird but I remember it tasting really good!

This recipe really isn’t difficult, though I should mention that this particular recipe is one my husband made. I was just there for moral support and of course taste-testing. We used a medium-ground cornmeal but as the recipe notes don’t use a coarse-ground cornmeal.

You’ll start off this recipe by toasting the cornmeal for a few minutes in a very hot oven. Then add the toasted cornmeal to the sour cream and milk mixture. According to America’s Test Kitchen, this is what gives the cornbread the perfect texture inside. Then you heat some oil in the skillet, mix together the remaining ingredients, and bake. Ta-da – the perfect southern cornbread.

The cornbread is baked at a higher temperature to help give it a nice crunchy crust but I should probably let you know that something weird happened while baking. At one point I was upstairs and saw smoke coming up from the bathroom window. Not realizing what it was I walked downstairs and immediately smelled smoke. My husband opened the stove door and smoke came POURING out. I honestly have never seen so much smoke and every smoke detector in our house was going off. We actually had to go outside it had permeated the entire house and there was such a thick layer of smoke we couldn’t breath and it was still a little smokey that evening. We have no idea what happened because the cornbread itself wasn’t burned at all. It could totally be a weird fluke on our end but something to keep in mind if you try this recipe just in case! We will for sure try this again so I’ll update this post when I do so you know if it happened again.

Thankfully the smoke incident didn’t affect the taste and it was so good with our meal. Again, I prefer biscuits over cornbread, but this recipe had a great flavor and looked so good in the cast iron skillet! Hands down we’ll make this again, especially since fall is right around the corner and this would taste great with a nice soup!

Baking Ease9
Time Spent9
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: America’s Test Kitchen