Celebration Bread, Braids & Burns

‘Twas a busy bread baking class this day. Non-stop, go, go, go and I have a burn to show for it.

Today we had three recipes to work on. The first was raisin bread. Big dough mound. Because of the high ratio of yeast, it was proofing like crazy.

We divided into four and into the loaf pans to proof some more.


Meanwhile, the next bread recipe was for an Easter bread. This one had raisins as well as candied citrus peel. Now, this is a “celebration” bread, a special occasion bread. It is full of eggs, and fillings and prettied up with the braids.





While those proofed, we worked on our last batch of bread – Monkey bread. Why is it called Monkey bread? It’s so sweet and tasty that once it is baked, as soon as it comes out of the oven, people attack it like crazy monkeys. Well, we’ll see…

The dough for monkey bread is very wet and it took some time to knead it to clean up stage. It is full of spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and mace. Once the dough was ready and had proofed, it was divided up into 64 pieces. These pieces were rolled into small balls and then dipped into melted butter. After being dipped in the butter, the balls were rolled in brown sugar and then placed in a round baking pan. A Bundt pan is the best pan to use for Monkey bread. It gives it a great shape once baked.


My final products…

Raisin Bread


20121125-224342.jpg Cinnamon and raisins, a great combo. This bread would also work well in French toast or bread pudding.

Monkey Bread



I can see why people would tear into this like monkeys. The sugar caramelized and contrasted nicely against the ginger bread taste of the dough. There was a nice crust on the outside and it was super soft on the inside. A terrific breakfast bread for say, Christmas morning.

Easter Bread



Gorgeous yes? I absolutely loved my braid decoration and how perfectly round the loaves stayed. The citrus peel works so well in this bread. And really, anything goes with this dough, chocolate chips, dried cranberries or blueberries too.

With the holiday season ahead, any of these breads would work well for quick breakfasts, tasty snacks or even gift giving! =)

Focaccia Fun

I have just completed week 8 of my bread class.  I remember when signing up for this class how unexcited I was about taking it.  I thought it would be hard to grasp and a lot of work, a lot of time waiting around and watching dough.  To some extent, it is a bit boring.  You can only watch dough grow for a small percentage of time before you feel like taking a nap.  But I have to admit now, 8 weeks in with only 2 more to go, that I am actually having fun in this class.  I am starting to understand what the deal is with making bread and I just get it.  It really is not hard to make bread.  So, seriously, if you are contemplating getting a bread maker, DON’T.  Save your money to buy some good flour and fresh yeast and make it at home with your own two hands.  So worth it and so gratifying.

I was unusually excited for this week’s class.  My table mates were laughing at my clapping dance that I would bust out randomly  while I worked my way through my 5 hours.  The fun started the other day when I was shopping for my ingredients to use in class.  This week we made Focaccia and Italian bread.  Essentially the same dough, with only a difference of one ingredient.

Our Table of ingredients.

Again, per the norm, we started with a yeast slurry, added the flour and the rest of the ingredients, mixed until the dough was in clean up stage and we could form a window with some dough.  Then the dough was left it to proof.  Punched down, proofed again.  Divided.  Then shaped.

Focaccia first.  I forgot to grab some “before the oven” pictures, because I had to get them in the steam oven in a hurry.  So below are my attempts at focaccia, fresh out of the oven.  I have two that are made with my olive oil infusion, rosemary, black olives and herbed goat cheese.

On my next two, I layered roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms and some more goat cheese. The steam oven made the dough nice and crispy. This could also be considered a pizza. In fact, the dough makes for a great traditional pizza dough.

Next I played around with the dough for the Italian bread. Taking the dough, I used the rolling pin to flatten out the dough into a semi rectangular shape. At this point, I still had enough focaccia toppings to use up, so I did. It all went onto the flattened dough. And then I rolled them up, almost like a stromboli. But, I then cut them into 6 pieces, closed off one end on those with openings on both, sat upright on a baking sheet with so the toppings are now fillings. For a softer bread, into the normal ovens these went.

















My last piece of dough was formed in a more traditional way. It started out like a big bagel, and ended up a nice round loaf. That’s cornmeal on the bottom, which is a common trait of Italian bread.

The day started out with a free Starbucks coffee and ended with a whole bag load of fantastic looking and tasty bread.  The herbs were fragrant and the toppings savoury.  I am obsessed with roasted garlic.  Just eating it alone smeared on some bread is amazing.  I could eat it all the time.  I learned some new recipes and some tips about how to use onions and make a tomato sauce.  It was quite a jam-packed afternoon.  *Clapping Dance, Clapping Dance*  =)

Beer and Cheese

Did you know that cheese and beer go well together? Sometimes making a better pairing than cheese and wine. Check out this article for some tips.

In part of today’s class we made cheese bread and Chef suggested we use beer as the liquid instead of water. The cheeses we used were Swiss and cheddar.

To complement, I went with Weihenstephaner – (that’s a mouthful) – a German Hefe Weissbier. “Hefe” means yeast (this helps in the leavening of the bread), “Weizen” means wheat and a Hefeweizen is a top fermented, unfiltered, bottle conditioned wheat beer with a noticeable yeast sediment and a cloudy appearance.

We made a yeast slurry with half water and the rest beer. Then mixed the dough per the norm, except adding the grated cheese near the end of mixing.


The dough ball proofed for about half an hour and then was divided and put into well greased loaf pans.


20121111-194211.jpg I decided to add some thyme to my dough and create a soft twist.
Here they are fresh from the oven.





The bread was so delicate and soft. I could not wait to tear into it. It smelled of thyme, so awesome.

20121111-194707.jpg I made a simple sandwich with Genoa salami and Swiss cheese. I swore I’d stop eating cheese (health reasons), but I could not resist this week. Definitely my best and favourite bread of this semester. So good =)