Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread


Cranberry Orange Bread is sweet, tart, citrusy and nutty. Perfect for Thanksgiving! Cranberries are one of nature’s superfoods and they taste great. I love their bright tartness that is only enhanced with the addition of orange. And they are so pretty to look at – little scarlet jewels that add a dash of autumn color to any dish. When they are dried, I actually prefer them to raisins.

This recipe (with a few changes from me) comes from Beard On Bread and makes one large loaf. I have another recipe which I have been making for over 40 years and can be found hand-written in a book that I keep of favorite recipes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it originated. It is substantially similar to the Beard recipe but fits a more conventional 9 X 5-inch pan. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

A Note on Hoarding (Okay, a justification)

As it happens, I have the larger 10 X 5-inch pan called for in the James Beard version, so that is what I made this time. More Cranberry Orange Bread for me! However, I have given the proportions below for the smaller version as well since that is the size pan that most people will have on hand. Honestly, I don’t even know why I have the larger pan. It sat in the back of a cupboard rarely used and I have no recollection of ever buying it. Probably just one of those things I inherited or picked up over the years.

Matthew and Frances will probably hate me when I die because I have collected so much stuff that they will have to sort through. But I’ve been married for over 36 years. So not only did I manage to buy things during that time, but my mother and some of her friends recognized a kindred entertaining spirit in me and gifted things to me.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some real treasures – beautiful silver serving pieces, antique hors d’oevres plates, some antique table linens that I picked up on a trip to Taormina, Italy. Decorations unique to each holiday. Well, you get the idea. It all seems kind of pointless now since there are no more large family gatherings. But the optimist in me hopes that maybe there will be a few more in my lifetime. Who knows? Maybe a grandchild or niece or nephew will want some of it. It could happen.

But I digress. This Cranberry Orange Bread is lovely on the Thanksgiving table but it’s also great anytime for brunch or an afternoon snack. I have even been known to cut a thick slice, lavishly butter it and stick it under the broiler briefly just to toast the top. OMG that is sooooooooooooooo good.

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, whether you are having any friends or family over, you also might look here for some inspiration:

Let’s Talk Turkey

Orange Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Orange Bread

Recipe

Yield: 10 X 5-inch Loaf (See below for 9 X 5-inch loaf)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice plus 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy is fine) (I actually used buttermilk)

Grated orange zest of 2 large navel oranges

1.25 cups fresh or frozen raw cranberries, cut in half (I find that freezing the cranberries first makes them less likely to “bleed” when mixed with the batter.)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 to 2 Tablespoons of crumbled brown sugar (Optional)

Cranberry Orange Bread

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (Baking spray with flour works well) a 10 X 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer or hand beater, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Stir in the melted butter, orange zest, milk and OJ. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Do NOT over-mix.

Gently fold in the cranberries and nuts by hand. Don’t worry if the cranberries “bleed” a little into the dough. Carefully spread the thick batter into the pan so that it is even. If you are using the brown sugar, crumble some over the top and lightly press into the batter.

Bake for about 75 minutes or until the center of the bread springs back when lightly touched or a cake tester comes out clean. If it seems to be browning more than you like but isn’t finished baking, cover it lightly with foil and continue baking. Ovens vary so start checking after one hour and don’t worry if it takes longer.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can just handle the pan with your bare hands before turning the bread out onto a cooling rack. This is best made a day ahead of serving for all of the flavors to fully develop. Wrap it tightly once it is completely cooled.

Note

Because this is a “quick” bread made with baking soda and baking powder, it is normal for a crack down the top to develop during the baking. Why is it called a quick bread? Because it rises without yeast or a long fermentation process. The baking soda and baking powder make the bread rise as soon as it is mixed in and you pop it in the oven.

And because this is a particularly moist bread that will get even moister over time, it is best stored in the fridge or a very cool spot in your house. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Measurements for 9 X 5-inch Cranberry Orange Bread or 3 Mini-Loaves

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice

Grated zest of 1 large orange

1 cup raw fresh or frozen cranberries, cut in half

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Follow Directions as above

The baking time is about an hour for the 9 X 5-inch loaf and about 45 minutes if using the mini-loaf pans. Always check when you begin to really smell the baking since all ovens are different.

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf is dense, dark, rich and satisfying with autumn flavors. When you bake this loaf, light a crackling fire and snuggle up with some loved ones – furry, children or adults. The house will smell so inviting that you just may have to turn your neighbors away.

I’m looking out on a dreary, rainy, chilly fall day. But inside, my husband and I (with our cat, Zoya) are snug and happy to be at home, waiting for this delicious Guiness Gingerbread Loaf to come out of the oven. I’ve recently started watching Laura in the Kitchen and when I saw this, I knew that I had to make it. It isn’t fancy and that is perfect. While I may enjoy the artistry of a beautifully sculpted and plated confection, generally I want something that is delicious without being precious or too fussy. And please, NO SPRINKLES!

This Guiness Gingerbread Loaf comes together fairly quickly and with easy- to-find ingredients. And even though the recipe uses Stout, the alcohol cooks away in the baking process leaving only that delicious molassesy, caramelly taste. The spicing is just right. My husband and I ate this still warm from the oven and after one bite we just looked at each other with these slightly silly grins. So, so good. There is just a bit of crust and then you sink into this dense, moist cake. Did I say that this was delicious?

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to kids – as is or with a shmear of cream cheese or good butter. When my son was little, I would whip up gingerbread for him to eat when he got home from school. So even though many kids are schooling remotely from home, that doesn’t mean that wonderful treats shouldn’t await them when the school day ends.

There truly isn’t enough comfort in the world that we couldn’t use a bit more. Mix up this wonderfully comforting Gingerbread Loaf and take a breath. Let the autumn leaves fall and bring on the chill!

For other delicious gingerbread recipes try these:

Chocolate Stout Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 12 slices

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2-1/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup of full flavor (robust) molasses or treacle (I actually used a combination of molasses and treacle since I didn’t have quite enough molasses on hand.)
  • 1 cup of Guiness Stout (or other Stout)
  • 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Leave a 2-inch overhang with the parchment. It isn’t essential to do this step but makes getting the loaf out of the pan a little easier, especially if you aren’t using a non-stick pan. Spray the parchment.

Combine the butter, Guiness Stout and molasses in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring once or twice to make sure that the butter melts. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Mix the flour baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla nd brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the dry ingredients along with the Guiness mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. I thought that my loaf was still a bit moist after one hour but didn’t want to overbake it. So I turned off the oven, cracked open the door and left it in for another 10 minutes. I allowed it to cool on a wire rack for about an additional 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

The bread can be cut while it is still slightly warm, but allow it to cool for about an hour first. You can sprinkle with powdered or icing sugar for presentation, if you like.

Cheesy Cornbread

Cheesy Cornbread is moist, flavorful and with a wonderful texture to accompany chili or soup. While many parts of the country – and world – are experiencing record heat waves, fall nevertheless has started. Cooler days and nights and trees turning golden turn my thoughts to earthy chili, stews and soups. And what better side than this delicious, Cheesy Cornbread.

Cheesy Cornbread

The addition of corn kernels give this cornbread a marvelous texture, With every bite you get a little pop from the kernel. I used canned corn, but you could use fresh or frozen. And while I didn’t put any cheese on top, go ahead if you want a bit of extra cheesiness.

I used a cheddar jack cheese, but for a more pronounced flavor, use the sharpest cheddar you can find. No matter which cheese you use, though, this cornbread comes together quickly and can be eaten right out of the oven. Since it is just my husband and me these days, I had left-overs which kept for several days, wrapped well and refrigerated.

Cheesy Cornbread is made with ingredients that are easy to keep in the pantry and fridge, so you can whip up a batch with very little notice. It is almost instant gratification and a wonderful thing for novice cooks or making with children.

While this recipe is clearly not vegan, you can check out my Vegan Corn Muffins for another delicious cornbread option. And here are some delicious ideas that would all benefit from Cheesy Cornbread as an accompaniment. So rather than dreading those long, chilly winter evenings, relish all of the rich and wonderful foods that make those months bearable.

Corn Muffins – Vegan

Lamb and White Bean Chili

Vegetable Chili Con Carne

Beef Stew

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey

Recipe

Yield: About 9 servings

Ingredients

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 can (about 15 ounces) corn kernels, drained well or 1.5 cups of fresh or frozen kernels

1 cup buttermillk’2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 generous cup grated Cheddar cheese (4 ounces) or any grated cheese you prefer (Cheddar Jack, Pepper Jack or shredded cheese blends)

1/4 cup, seeded and finely chopped jalapeno, Serrano, Shishito or even bell pepper (how spicy you like things is up to you)

Directions

Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan or 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using a separate medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and combine them with the corn, buttermilk, melted butter, cheese and peppers.

Heat the greased pan for about 5 minutes.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture just enough to combine the ingredients, but do not over mix. Pour the mixture into the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the bread is golden and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this straight from the pan or turn it out onto a cutting board for presentation.

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

There are many foods that I can live without, but bread isn’t one of them. I enjoy it in all of the many forms and flavors that it takes. I love flat breads and fry bread. Herbed breads and sweet breads. And breads with crusts that make me thankful I have great teeth. Olive Rosemary Foccacia raises the volume on soups, salads and pastas. The pillowy chewiness of the center with the slightly salty crust and zing of fresh herbs makes this bread almost a meal in itself.

This easy-to-make recipe comes via Valerie Bertinelli and like just about every recipe of hers that I have tried, the directions are simple and it works out on the first try. As much as I like bread, even I can’t eat a whole pan of this delectable Olive Rosemary Focaccia in one sitting. Although it’s perfect for a family. So I ended up freezing half and saving some for another dinner. I definitely encourage you to eat this bread warm from the oven. Since mine was made a few hours earlier than we ended up eating dinner, I simply warmed it for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven when I was ready to serve. The same goes for bread that you froze and defrosted.

So the next time you want to turn turn up the volume on a bowl of soup, salad or pasta, try this Olive and Rosemary Foccacia.

For another take on focaccia try this recipe.

Recipe

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon sugar 

2.25 teaspoons active dry yeast 

3 1/2 cups bread flour 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling (I have made this with just rosemary and with a mix of fresh herbs – rosemary, oregano and thyme. Works well either way.)

1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced (Red onion works too)

One 5.3-ounce jar pitted green olives, drained (A mix of black and green or one or the other works. Use what you have. I used Kalamatos and Cerignola this time.)

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (Optional but really nice)

Directions

  1. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and grease with a thin layer of olive oil. (You can also make this directly on the pan if you don’t have parchment.)
  2. Place sugar and 1 1/2 cups slightly warm tap water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  3. Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt and one tablespoon rosemary in a large bowl. Add to the mixer along with the oil. Knead the dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth, supple ball that is not sticky to the touch, about 5 minutes. Turn the dough out on the prepared sheet tray, drizzle with more olive oil and cover with a bowl or clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
  4. Using well-oiled fingertips, gently press the dough out onto the sheet tray, making dimpled indentations all over the dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again for another 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Sprinkle the dough with the onions, olives and rosemary and drizzle generously with oil. Bake the focaccia until it is puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving. Don’t be stingy with the EVOO. The focaccia drinks it up and it’s just delicious!

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

When the Good Angel Visits

I’ve decided to take another look at some of my recipes and this week it is Lisa’s Challah Revisited. It isn’t always about blogging something new, but instead, it’s reminding people just how good a recipe is. Shabbat may come every week, but it still is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar after Yom Kippur. It is an island in time where we don’t answer the phones or watch TV. No matter how busy and hectic the week was, we always sit down as a family, to a table set with our best glasses and dishes and a lovely meal. We light the Sabbath candles, sing songs and b’rachot (blessings) and take the time to really be present for one another.

When my son was little he would help me clean up and prepare the table. Like all children, he would sometimes balk. So I told him the story about how two angels would come to our house each week – a good angel and a bad angel. If the bad angel saw us fighting and the house not ready to welcome Shabbat, he would tell the good angel that he had won control and that our family would have a bad Shabbat and following week. But if our house was in order, the table set and we were into the spirit of Shabbat, including giving tzedekah for those less fortunate then she would turn to the bad angel and say that she had won control. Our house and family would be blessed with a peaceful Shabbat and a good week. Not surprisingly, the good angel won more times than not. These are precious memories and traditions that we built and ones that our son now continues with his family.

So why am I revisiting my challah recipe if I had made it for decades? Well for a long time now I was only making my Vegan Challah. We would celebrate Shabbat with my niece’s family and since her son is deathly allergic to eggs I developed a challah recipe that everyone could enjoy. I never wanted my great-nephew and godson to miss out on anything because of his allergies. If you are vegan or have a food allergy, this is a great recipe. However, as good as that recipe is, it simply is not the same as traditional egg challah. Now that my niece has moved away and we have our first grandchild, I wanted to ensure that she would grow up with the absolute best traditional challah. Lisa’s Challah Revisited delivers. It is everything an eggy, tender, sweet challah should be.

So Why the Need for a New Recipe?

I returned to my original challah recipe that I had developed over two decades. The only problem was that it no longer worked for me. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, but after several less than stellar attempts, I decided to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. Thus Lisa’s Challah Revisited. My husband and I now make this every week. We recently returned from visiting our beautiful granddaughter in San Francisco and we passed on this improved version to our son, who is the challah maker in his family.

Making Challah When You Work

Clearly it is easier to bake bread when you are at home all day. But there still are ways to enjoy homemade challah even if you work outside the home. You can start it the night before and then refrigerate the dough to slow down the rising process, completing the last rising and baking after you return home. I used to prepare my dough before I left for work and then brought a sealed plastic bucket of dough with me to the office where I could punch it down as needed until I was able to leave for the day. Bread can be pretty forgiving and an extra rising will just make for a finer crumb. Of course the first time I did this my supervisor came into my office and asked if I had been drinking beer! The yeasty smell had permeated the office. After that, though, my co-workers used to like to come into my office to check out the dough and even to punch it down on occasion. So if you don’t work from home, you can still bake your own challah. Nothing gets me in the mood for Shabbat quite like the smell and taste of fresh baked challah. If you can’t do it every week (and the bread can be frozen as well so you can make a big batch) at least make it for a special Shabbat or holiday.

I believe that welcoming and observing Shabbat is the most beautiful tradition we Jews have. And in this crazy world we live in it is actually a necessity for keeping our sanity and bringing families and loved ones together. But the truth is, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this bread.

Tradition

A word about tradition. When it comes to food, I am all about tradition. I understand that with the plethora of food blogs and bloggers out there, everyone is looking for the new “it” recipe to fill space and gain new followers. Over time, I have even tried many of these recipes and rarely do I find that they are an improvement. New is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to food. So you can take your stuffed challah and challah using all kinds of different grains and strange ingredients. For my money and my family, Lisa’s Challah is the one that will stand the test of time. The only tweaks that I will allow are whether to use raisins or not (my husband loves them; my son – not so much) and to add sesame or poppy seeds to the glaze or to leave it plain. Okay, I did once make my vegan challah using chocolate chips instead of raisins as a special treat for the children.

The Pupil Surpasses the Teacher

And while this recipe and method is mine, I will happily admit that the student has surpassed the teacher. My husband retired a few years ago and has taken an interest in doing some cooking. And after 35 years of preparing three meals a day, I’m very happy for him to occasionally cook a meal for us. He started helping me to bake bread when the arthritis in my hands got bad and now he has become the challah maker every week. Our son also is making his family’s challah and I couldn’t be prouder. And while I am always on hand to give advice and check the dough, I have to give credit where it is due. My husband is way better at braiding than I ever was and he creates a beautiful and consistent challah week after week.

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

I am including this recipe exactly as my husband has written it down. Since he was a complete novice at bread baking, he needed to have the recipe make sense for him. If he could learn to make THE best challah, you can too. We enjoy this bread every shabbat and all week long. Left-overs make great toast with butter and cinnamon or honey or french toast. You can also make next week’s dessert using left-over challah for the best bread pudding. This recipe makes one large loaf. It can be doubled or divided into two small loaves. If you do the latter, you will have to reduce your baking time by about 12 to 15 minutes,

Recipe

Yield: 1 large loaf

Ingredients

2.25 teaspoons active dried yeast

1/3 cup warm water (It should feel warm to your finger, but not burning)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ cup warm water

2 X-tra large eggs, at room temperature

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup canola oil

1/8 cup honey

3+ cups flour – either all-purpose, unbleached flour or bread flour (I prefer to use bread flour, but all-purpose will work too)

1/3 cup raisins, tossed with ¼ tsp. all-purpose unbleached flour (Optional)

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten for the glaze

Directions

  1. Place yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/3 cup warm (to the touch) water in a large bowl and mix well. Allow the yeast to proof for 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Once the yeast is bubbly, add the remaining 1/2 cup warm water, eggs, salt, oil, honey and 1 cup of flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture for 100 strokes.
  3. Add 1 more cup of flour and the raisins and stir through.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and one more cup of flour and mix using a wooden spoon or a dough scraper until there are no more visible shreds of dough. If the dough still looks wet, add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour and stir or knead to incorporate. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 12 minutes. (This allows the gluten to begin to form and prevents you from adding more flour than is needed, which would make for a heavier bread.)
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoonful only as needed to keep the dough from sticking (usually about 1/4 cup). You want to use as little as possible to produce a supple, unsticky dough. You know you have kneaded enough when you poke two holes in the dough with your fingers and it springs back quickly.
  6. Form the dough into a tight ball and place back in the bowl which has been coated with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Roll the dough in the oil to coat and then cover the bowl. I use a towel, but plastic wrap also works.
  7. Place the dough in a draft-free spot like the microwave and allow it to rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The dough will have doubled and you know it is ready when you poke two fingers into the dough and the holes remain.
  8. Punch down the dough, removing any air bubbles. Turn out onto a clean surface and pat the dough into a rectangle. Using your dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise in half again until you have 4 mostly equal strands. Try not to stretch the strands too much.
  9. Lay the strands lengthwise next to, but not touching one another. Place the top ends of the strands together.

Braiding the Challah

There are many videos and instructions out there on how to braid challah using 3, 4, 5 and 6 strands. Find one that works for you and go with it. My husband followed this video and so far it has consistently produced a beautiful 4-strand braid.

We now have four strands of dough. The left-most is in position 1, the next one is in position 2, the next is in position 3, and the right-most is in position 4. When we say “pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3” we mean that you should pick up the left-most strand (at position 1), move it to the right –  jumping over two strands – and then put it down.  The strands you jumped over are now in positions 1 and 2, your strand is now in position 3, and the right-most strand is in position 4.

  1. Without pulling (just lift) pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3. Then pick up strand 4 and move it to position 2. Finally, pick up strand 3 and move it to position 2. Keep repeating this pattern until you come to the bottom.
  2. If it starts to narrow too much, simply fold the dough underneath.
  3. Press the bottom strands together. Press the top strands together. Carefully move the braid (using the dough scraper to help) onto a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicon mat. Spray lightly with cooking spray, cover with a tented piece of waxed paper and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. While the bread is rising, heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the remaining egg.
  5. When the dough has risen, paint it several times with the egg mixture. If you are adding sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them across the painted dough. Then carefully paint them one more time to be sure they adhere as much as possible. Discard any remaining egg. Place the dough in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway if your oven is uneven like mine. Bake until the bread is a beautiful brown and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the bread to a cooling rack.

Socca Niçoise Chickpea Bread

Tonight we’re having Greek Red Lentil Soup for dinner and I wanted some kind of bread to go with it. Socca Niçoise chickpea bread is the perfect accompaniment. Between the lentils and the chickpeas I certainly don’t need to worry about protein or flavor. This would be the perfect “meatless Monday” meal! And while I have no issues with gluten and happen to love almost all breads and pastas, this recipe is not only vegan, but it is gluten-free. The Socca was especially delicious drizzled with EVOO and with either tapenade or roasted smushed garlic spread on top. I’m just sayin’.

I will never be able to eat Socca without thinking of Julia Child. She did one of her TV episodes on the South of France and highlighted Socca. At the end of the show, in that inimitable Julia Child voice and with her joie de vivre, she looked at the audience and said “Socca to me!” [For those too young to recall the TV show Laugh-In, “Sock it to me” was a recurring phrase.]

What is Socca, really?

Socca Niçoise chickpea bread is a traditional Southern French treat. There are a dozen different ways you can make it. You’ll most often find socca cooked street-side on fiery grills, where the resulting flatbread is coarsely chopped and served in a cone with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. While every home cook in the South of France may have their own technique for preparing the batter, the ingredients are almost always the same: chickpea flour water, and olive oil. The Socca sold on the street are more crepe-like than this recipe but it still is delicious and worth making.

What is chickpea flour and is it the same as besan?

Chickpea flour is made from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and is also commonly known as garbanzo flourgram flour, and besan. However, besan or gram flour is a flour of chana dal or split brown chickpeas. Chickpea flour or garbanzo flour is ground up white chickpeas. I happened to have besan on hand the first time I made this so that is what I used. I then bought chickpea/garbanzo flour and made it again. I also used 4.5 ounces of flour the second time instead of going with 1 cup. It turned out that one cup actually weighed out to 5.33 ounces. So which was better?

Both were good, but if I had to choose, I preferred the one made with actual chickpea flour and when I measured by weight rather than cups. The resulting socca had more flavor and was more reminiscent of what you would buy from a street vendor in Nice. I also drizzled olive oil on the top after 5 minutes in the oven and then returned it to the oven for another 3 minutes. When it came out of the broiler, I then drizzled more EVOO and sprinkled on my za’atar. The edges and bottom were brown and crispy and the middle was just barely flexible. I could get addicted to this especially since it is sooooooooooo easy to make. The second time I ate it with my delicious split pea soup. So, so satisfying.

Recipe for Socca Niçoise Chickpea Bread

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpea flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan and drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1+ teaspoon za’atar (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the chickpea batter. Whisk the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, rosemary and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.
  2. Preheat the oven with the pan. Arrange an oven rack 6 inches below the broiler element and heat to 450°F with a 10-inch cast iron skillet inside. About 5 minutes before the batter is done resting, turn the oven to broil. (Don’t try this with any other kind of pan. And if you don’t have a cast iron skillet – get one. They are the best for so many things but especially when you want to really sear or brown food.)
  3. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add about 1+ teaspoon of oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan when the pan is swirled. Pour the batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the entire surface of the pan.
  4. Broil the socca for 5 to 8 minutes. Broil the socca for 5 minutes. The top will begin to look a bit cracked. Drizzle generously with EVOO and return the pan to the oven for about 3 more minutes. The socca should be fairly flexible in the middle but crispy on the edges.
  5. Slice and serve. Use a flat spatula to work your way under the socca and ease it from the pan onto a cutting board. It should come right out leaving your pan practically clean. Drizzle with more EVOO and sprinkle with za’atar. Slice it into wedges or squares.

RECIPE NOTES

Storage: Socca is best if eaten immediately after baking while still warm, but can be refrigerated and re-toasted for up to 1 week.

Chickpea flour: You can find chickpea flour in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and other natural foods-type stores. Bob’s Red Mill also sells it in packages. Look for it under the name “garbanzo bean flour” if you’re having trouble finding it.

Onion Turbans

I am a true advocate for eating bread. There is nothing that beats the aroma or taste of bread that has just come from the oven. The entire house just smells delicious and warm and safe. As soon as the temperature outside begins to cool down, I turn my thoughts to cooking big pots of soup, stews and fragrant bean dishes. I love to make these things and to eat them. And best of all, they only improve with rewarming so that I always make enough for left-overs during the week ahead. This relatively simple but hearty fare really only needs some good bread to soak up the pot liquor and to fill my home with the most wonderful smells.

I own several books on artisan bread baking but a book that I often return to is a slim volume called Betty Crocker’s Breads. I have owned this cookbook for decades and it is completely unpretentious with zero snob appeal. It also is entirely accessible and when the simple instructions are followed, the result is always a perfect loaf of bread. This is a perfect book for the novice or anyone who wants to bake without intimidation. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print with only ridiculously priced copies available online. However, if you manage to come across a copy in a used bookstore – grab it!

Try this bread for a family Sunday supper or surprise your guests for Thanksgiving. No one has to know how easy it is to make.

Onion Turbans

Yield: Two 8-inch round loaves  Onion Turbans

Ingredients

4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast (2 packets if using packets)

2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F. or simply water that feels quite warm but not hot to your fingertips)

1 envelope onion soup mix (about 1.5 ounces)

1/4 cup additional fried onions (the kind from a can) (Optional)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) solid shortening

About 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

About 4-6 Tablespoons of melted butter

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a large standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Add soup mix and stir to dissolve. Add the sugar, molasses, salt, egg, shortening, fried onions (if used) and 3 cups of the flour. Beat for about 1 minute on the lowest speed, scraping down where necessary in order to mix.
  2. Add 3 cups more of flour. Increase the speed to 2 (or the next lowest speed up) and continue beating with the dough hook, scraping down the dough as necessary, for about 7 to 8 minutes more. I did not require any additional flour, but if your dough seems too sticky, add up to another 1/2 cup, a Tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks. The dough should be gathering up on the dough hook and will be smooth and supple (elastic) to the touch. [You can, of course, make this by hand, in which case you will have to knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes.] Turn the dough into a greased bowl and roll it around to cover all of the surfaces. Cover the dough and allow it to rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free spot. (I use my oven, turned off, of course.) This takes just about an hour. The dough is ready if an indentation made with two fingers remains.
  3. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a rectangles that is 24 x 5 inches. Tightly roll up each rectangle (I do them one at a time.) from the long side. You want to end up with a long, even log.
  4. Grease two 8-inch cake or pie pans. Beginning at the outside edge of the inside of the pan with the seam facing down, coil the rope of dough ending in the center of the pan. Brush each coil with melted butter. Allow to rise uncovered on a draft-free counter for 50 minutes or until doubled. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. while the dough rises to ensure a nicely heated oven.
  5. At the end of the rising, bake the turbans for about 40 minutes or until they are well-browned and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the breads from the pans to a cooling rack and brush with additional melted butter if desired.

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Cracked wheat onion bread

The weather wasn’t that great this past weekend so the idea of spending some time reading Ron Chernow’s book on Ulysses S. Grant and baking bread while my husband put up some shelving seemed like a good idea. I wanted to make sandwich bread and none of the recipes I looked at got me excited so I decided to experiment. I wanted a bread that was flavorful, had some bite to it and would make wonderful toast; I came up with this cracked wheat bread with fried onions. While you could make fried onions, I bought mine from nuts.com. They also are available at most grocery stores.

This is a heavy dough and since I have arthritis in my hands, I find that I no longer can do all of the mixing and kneading by hand that I once did so I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Feel free to go at it by hand if you want a good workout. I am not vegan and do not keep Kosher, so I used butter and dairy milk in the recipe. However, if you wish to keep this vegan, I see no reason why you couldn’t use unsweetened non-dairy milk (my personal preference is for soy but any other creamy non-dairy milk should work) and a non-dairy buttery spread.

The cracked wheat bread made incredible toast slathered with fresh butter, but it would be equally great with smushed avocado on top. However you decide to eat this bread, you can’t go wrong. It is the perfect slice – crunchy, moist, great crumb and full of flavor.

Cracked wheat onion bread3

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Yield: Two 9 x 5-inch loaves

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cracked or bulghur wheat

2 cups of water

1/3 to 1/2 cup of fried onions

1 cup of milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses

1.5 Tablespoons Kosher salt

2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/3 cup warm water

2 cups of whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground

3+ cups of bread flour

1 Tablespoon neutral oil, butter or ghee for the bowl plus more for the bread pans

Cracked wheat onion bread1

Directions

  1. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the bulghur wheat and 2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot tightly and cook for 12-14 minutes. The time might vary according to the cracked wheat you use. It is done when the water is absorbed and the wheat is fluffy.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, milk and molasses and stir through well. Allow to cool until the mixture is just warm.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, 1/3 cup of warm water and one teaspoon of sugar. Mix lightly and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast has eaten the sugar and the mixture is foamy.
  4. Add the bulghur wheat mixture and stir through with a heavy wooden spoon. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Now add 2 cups of the bread flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will likely still be quite wet. Start adding more bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture starts to resemble dough. As the dough gets heavier, you can mix in the flour on the lowest speed of the standing mixer, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  5. Start kneading the dough once it is no longer too sticky and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl as an intact dough. I use the second lowest speed on my mixer for this. Add flour as needed about 1/4 cup at a time so that the dough will pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. I cannot give you an exact amount of flour to use since humidity and different brands of flour will lead to different amounts. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky. I kneaded it for 11 minutes with the standing mixer set on Speed 2. I added flour in small amounts so that as the dough kneaded it came away cleanly from the bowl. After 11 minutes, I turned the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneaded by hand for about 2 minutes. The dough should feel warm, supple and “alive.” Roll into a large ball or disk.
  6. Coat a large bowl (I use the one from the mixer to cut down on dishes!) with about 1.5 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel that was rinsed in warm water and rung out or use plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled – about 1 to 1.5 hours. This dough proved to be very fast-rising in my apartment which I usually keep on the cool side.
  7. Coat 2 bread pans generously with oil, ghee or butter. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a shape to fit the pan. Some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll the piece up from the short end, pinching the dough along the seam at the bottom. (I don’t personally find that makes my crumb any better than when I simply shape it with my hands into a fat oblong. I then pull the two ends under and pinch the bottom seam.) Place the dough into the prepared pans seam-side down and cover lightly. Allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pans. This only took about 40 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Allow the oven to continue heating unopened while the dough has its second rise. When the dough has risen, place both pans in the oven side by side with a couple of inches between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the breads are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon or your knuckles. Turn the breads out onto a rack. While the breads are still hot, brush them with some butter, ghee or oil. Allow to cool completely. The bread will last for a week or it can be wrapped well and frozen. This bread is a real winner.

Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread1

I had planned on surprising my husband with my Ricotta Rum Pound Cake when I realized that my ricotta cheese, which had been shoved to the back of the fridge, had gone bad… I hate when that happens! It was too late to go to the store to buy more and it also was raining heavily. I could have scrapped the whole idea of baking but I was all psyched to make something so decided to experiment with what I already had in my pantry. I tried to think of what I had that was a similar texture and consistency as whole milk ricotta and remembered that I was bullish on pureed pumpkin. At first I was going to try making the same recipe just substituting the pumpkin for ricotta but then decided that the pumpkin deserved its own special bread. I tinkered around and came up with this delicious pumpkin bread with a twist.

Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread 

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

1.25 cups cake flour

1/4 cup of toasted wheat germ

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1.5 cups granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured dark molasses

3 large eggs

15 ounce can pureed pumpkin

2 rounded Tablespoons orange marmalade

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 strips of cooked bacon (any kind) cut into small pieces (Optional but recommended)

3/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You can toast the walnuts in the oven or in a dry frying pan on the stove top. Either way, be sure to watch them carefully. You really just want to barely toast them – just enough to bring up the flavor.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the pumpkin, molasses and marmalade and mix well on low speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing through on low speed so you don’t make a mess or over mix. Add the walnuts and bacon pieces and just mix through on low speed or fold in by hand.
  5. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray with flour or grease the pan well and line the bottom with waxed paper, which you then also grease. Pour the mixture into the pan and gently shake the pan to even things out. Place the pan in the center of your oven and bake for about 75 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. The outer edges make get quite brown which is not a problem. If it bothers you, carefully wrap some foil around the edges after 45 minutes to an hour to keep it from getting too browned. (I didn’t bother doing this.)
  6. Remove the pan from the oven rack and allow it to cool enough to handle – about 20 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto the rack and allow it to cool until just slightly warm before cutting.

Pumpkin Bread2

NOTE: The bread is delicious as is, but it can also be spread with cream cheese or butter. The bacon adds a subtle flavor and makes for a wonderful texture. You could leave it out if you really are averse but it really made this special in my opinion. Wrap any left-overs well and it will keep for up to a week, getting a bit moister and with the spices becoming more intense each day. While delicious at room temperature, it tastes even better when eaten slightly warmed. My husband likes to have some for dessert with a little vanilla ice cream….

Gingerbread

Gingerbread1

When my son was growing up, I used to take great joy in treating him (and my husband) to home-baked goods. But even as someone who loves to bake, sometimes I just wanted something simple and fast that I could put together no matter how late is was or how tired I was. This gingerbread recipe comes from my trusty James Beard on Bread book. It is simple, delicious, makes the house smell the way houses should smell when you walk into them and did I say it was simple?? I’m sure that you can “tart” it up as everyone seems to feel a need to do today, but trust me when I say that it needs NOTHING except maybe some additional fresh, sweet butter. Serve it with dinner instead of a roll or as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk or with a cup of tea or coffee for breakfast. But serve it! And good news for those with egg allergies – there are no eggs in this recipe.

Gingerbread 

Yield: One 9 x 9-inch pan

Ingredients

1 cup light or dark, unsulphured molasses (I use dark)

1/2 cup boiling water

5 Tablespoons softened, unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups, all-purpose, unbleached flour

Directions

  1. Place the molasses and softened butter in a medium mixing bowl. (A trick for measuring out the molasses is to lightly spray a glass measuring cup with a spray like PAM and then add the molasses. The molasses will pour right out. This works with honey as well.)
  2. Add the boiling water and stir until well mixed and the butter has melted.
  3. Add the baking soda and stir lightly.
  4. Sift in the flour, ginger and salt only enough to moisten and mix the ingredients. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth. Do not over mix!
  5. Turn into an ungreased 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (ovens vary) or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Then inhale. This can be eaten immediately. Leftovers are also good but nothing beats it fresh from the oven. Gingerbread2