Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Il Pane di Matera #BreadBakers

A wonderful crusty loaf made in the tradition of Matera bread, or il pane di Matera, from milled durum wheat and a sourdough starter.

Let me start off with a disclaimer. This loaf cannot officially be called il pane di Matera. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s what the title says. Hear me out. Pane de Matera is special, with specific requirements, including not just milled durum wheat (which I have used) but from 100% Lucanian milled semolina grain known as "Senatore Cappelli," which I have not. The water is also supposed come from a local source in the Matera area of Italy. Finally, it should begin with a piece of dough from the previous day’s loaf, with yeast made from a fresh fruit starter. I used a sourdough starter.

Such is the tradition and history behind this loaf that it was given the European Union Denomination of Protected Origin (DOP) which means, just like sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it is produced in the Champagne region of France or random ham cannot be called Ibérico unless it comes from Black Iberian Pigs raised in the Iberian Peninsula region of Spain and Portugal, it must be produced the right way in the right place to be called Il Pane di Matera.

So while I’ve made a valiant attempt at producing my own version of il pane di Matera, and it’s a fabulous crusty loaf, it doesn’t officially qualify for the name. That said, you should make this guy. With all due respect to Italy, it reminds me of my favorite baguette tradition in France and that says a lot.

With the substandard help of Google Translate, I made my bread from this recipe in Italian. That was part of the fun!

Watch this video to see how to shape the dough.

150ml or 160g sourdough starter or 20g brewer’s yeast
3 3/4 cups or 600g Italian semolina durum wheat flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
warm water

Mix your sourdough starter or brewer’s yeast with 6 3/4 oz or 200ml warm water and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour and 1 1/4 cups or 300ml warm water and mix for a few minutes. Mine was too crumbly for the bread hook so I just kept mixing with the K cake beater.

Add in the yeast mixture and beat/knead for five minutes. At this point, I did change to the bread hook.

Add in the salt and knead another few minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl dusted with flour and cover it with cling film. Poke holes the film with a toothpick.

Leave to rise for two hours in a warm place.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface and put it back in the bowl, covered again for another two hours.

After those two hours are up, you can knead the dough, shape and bake. But at this point I strayed from the recipe I was working with and turned to another source I found online which said that traditionally the dough was left to rise overnight, then it was brought to the communal ovens in the morning to bake. So, after kneading again, I popped the dough in its covered bowl into the refrigerator. If you’d rather skip this step, preheat your oven to 220°F or 104°C, with a pizza stone on a middle shelf, if you have one, and proceed down one more paragraph.

The next morning, I removed the dough from the cold and left it to warm up again.

When it was no longer chilled, I preheated my to 220°F or 104°C with my pizza stone on a middle shelf.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and knead it. (As you can tell from the photos, mine was still quite slack compared to the dough in the video.

Form the dough into a ball, press a crease in it, and then fold the ball in half.

Flour a baking sheet and transfer the dough to it. Use a sharp knife to slice three cuts into the dough. (See YouTube link above for a visual on this.) According to a source online that may or may not be Wikipedia in Italian (I forget but I read it somewhere and made a note), the three cuts represent the Holy Trinity.

Place the baking sheet on the pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes. Raise the temperature of your oven to 350°F or 180°C and bake for more about 40-45 minutes more, or until the loaf is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped. About midway through, I also slid the loaf off of the baking pan and straight onto the pizza stone.

There were plenty of holes, but I was expecting the rest of the crumb to be more open. Next time, I'm going to let the dough rise just a bit after shaping and before putting it into the hot oven but overall I was extremely pleased, especially with the crusty outside and the enormous flavor.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.


This month my Bread Bakers group are baking Italian breads and we have a fabulous line up for you. I can’t wait to travel all over Italy, loaf by loaf. Many thanks to our host, Anshie of Spice Roots for all of her hard work and this great theme.

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Pin this Pane di Matera!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pecan Sandies #CreativeCookieExchange

Buttery and rich with a delicious crunch of toasted pecans, these pecan sandies almost melt in your mouth as they leave a trail of sandy crumbs down your chin.

Buttery and rich with a delicious crunch of toasted pecans, these pecan sandies almost melt in your mouth as they leave a trail of sandy crumbs down your chin.

I have a notebook that I keep nearby at all times where I keep track of my upcoming obligations for different blogger group posts. I try very hard to write all the themes in it next to the publish date. Occasionally, if the theme is too long, I’ll shorten it so it fits but so I can still remember the whole thing. Or so I thought. This month’s whole theme for Creative Cookie Exchange is Cookies to Celebrate the End of Summer Vacation. That does not fit in my editorial calendar notebook. So I wrote, End of Summer.

End of summer, end of summer, I thought weeks later as I checked the notebook, the deadline looming. I’m such a Beach Boys fan that Endless Summer naturally popped into my mind. Hmmmm, interesting. And what goes with the Beach Boys but beaches? Now you see how I ended up making pecan sandies, right?

Pecan sandies are classic buttery cookies that are sometimes coated in or sprinkled with powdered sugar after they are baked. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t need the extra sugar at all and, for my purposes this month, the snow white shower would take away from their sandy color.

Going the other direction, I chose to sprinkle mine with the leftover crumbs of the toasted pecans for added color. But you do you, honey boo-boo.

2 cups or 250g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup or 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup or 100g granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans (about 5 ozs or 142g)
Optional: powdered sugar to decorate

Toast your pecan pieces in a dry skillet on the stovetop. Stir or toss often so they don’t scorch but become a lovely toasted color all over. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 325°F or 163°C and line two cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, salt and baking soda.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric beaters or your stand mixer until they are a pale yellow and fluffy – about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula.

Beat in the egg, vanilla and water until fully incorporated. Do not be alarmed when these look curdled. Adding the flour always takes care of that.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and continue beating, adding about a third of the flour at a time and beating until fully mixed and all the flour has been added.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooled toasted pecan pieces into the mixing bowl, leaving behind the smaller crumbs of pecan.

Mix until the pecans are incorporated into the dough.

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to measure out the cookie dough into about 25-27 cookies. I separated them nicely in the first baking pan but discovered when they came out that they can be much closer together. They don't spread much.

Roll the dough into balls with your hands and then flatten them with the bottom of a glass.

Check the crumbs left behind in the pecan toasting pan to make sure that none of them are little pieces of pecan shell. This can happen in the shelling process with disastrous results when someone bites on shell.

Sprinkle the pecan crumbs on top of the cookies and press down again lightly to make them stick into the dough. This, as you can see, is pan two.

Bake each pan for about 10 minutes then rotate it to make sure the cookies bake evenly. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the pecan sandies are slightly brown around the edges. If you bake both pans at once, you might want to rotate them from top shelf to bottom shelf as well as front to back.

Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool.


How do you celebrate the end of summer? Might I suggest baking some cookies?

Creative Cookie Exchange is hosted by Laura of The Spiced Life. We get together once a month to bake cookies with a common theme or ingredient so Creative Cookie Exchange is a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts at The Spiced Life. We post the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

Pin Pecan Sandies!

Buttery and rich with a delicious crunch of toasted pecans, these pecan sandies almost melt in your mouth as they leave a trail of sandy crumbs down your chin.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Spicy Bacon-wrapped Shrimp

These spicy bacon-wrapped shrimp will disappear so quickly that you might want to make a double batch. Serve them with some spicy bacon mayo for extra oomph.

I’m not going to give you a big song and dance story today about me and my avid relationship with bacon because no one should have to wait for bacon! My love of bacon has been fairly well documented, to the point that friends and family often send me links to bacon recipes or bacon roses, for which I am grateful. When I read that bacon was chosen as this week’s Sunday Supper theme, I sat down and wrote a list of possible recipes I’d like to share. SO MANY CHOICES. Then I headed to the grocery store.

My list went out the window when I came across the shrimp. Large and luscious, they cried out to be wrapped in bacon! Because my brain works in mysterious ways, I was already picturing them all lined up and skewered so they'd remain upright and their tails would curl up in the oven, creating the perfect little handles with which to eat them.

And so it was.

For the bacon-wrapped shrimp:
22 large shrimp – about 1.15kg or 2 1/2 lbs - before cleaning and peeling
1 lb or 450g bacon (normal, not thick cut)
3-4 hot chili peppers, cut into thin strips
Small handful chives, cut into pieces about the length of your shrimp

Extra equipment: wooden skewers

For the spicy bacon mayo dipping sauce:
1/2 cup or 125g mayonnaise
1 tablespoon bacon/shrimp drippings from baking pan
1 small clove garlic, grated finely
1 teaspoon or more hot sauce
1 tablespoon chopped chives

Preheat your oven to 425°F or 218°C.

Peel and clean all the shrimp but leave the tails on.

Use a sharp knife to split the thick part of the shrimp so that they are open enough to put in one or two strips of pepper (depending on your heat threshold) and a couple of pieces of chive.

Cut the bacon slices in half.

Wrap one half bacon slice around each shrimp and secure it with a wooden skewer, cut side up.

Continue wrapping and skewering all the shrimp, cut side up, making sure to leave space between the shrimp.

Place the shrimp in one or more ovenproof pans. The tails should have enough space to curl up as the shrimp cook, creating the little handles I imagined.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the bacon is golden and crunchy looking.

When the spicy bacon-wrapped shrimp are done, whisk together all the dipping sauce ingredients.

Serve with warm shrimp.


Many thanks to our event manager, Shelby of Grumpy’s Honeybunch and Erica of The Crumby Cupcake for all of their hard work behind the scenes. Check out all the wonderful bacon recipes my Sunday Supper group are sharing today!

Bacon in Appetizers
Bacon in Beverages
Bacon for Breakfast
Bacon for Lunch
Bacon for Dinner
Bacon as a Side Dish
Bacon for Dessert

Pin Spicy Bacon-wrapped Shrimp!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stuffing Bread with Dried Cranberries

The perfect bread for turkey sandwiches or to use for stuffing, this tender flavorful loaf also slices up beautifully for Thanksgiving breakfast toast that hints of the delicious dinner to come later.

If you’ve been reading along here for a while, you know that I like to bake bread. I love the smell of the yeast as it comes back to life in a little warm water. I love the heft of an enriched dough as I knead it and the springy bounce as I spin it in the oiled bowl of my mixer in preparation for the first rise. But the very best part of baking bread is the way the whole house smells as the bread bakes. When my girls were still living at home, nothing brought them out of their rooms and downstairs faster than the aroma of bread in the oven. Well, and the eating, of course!

But I understand that not everyone feels they have time to bake bread. So it is my great pleasure to introduce you to a book that solves the “no time to bake” problem. Make Ahead Bread divides the process into manageable parts, allowing you to make the dough ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator overnight or even for a day or two, depending on the recipe, until you are ready to bake and enjoy.

Make Ahead Bread was written by the witty and knowledgeable Donna Currie of Cookistry, a blog you might already be familiar with. If you aren’t, do go over and say howdy. Donna never fails to crack me up with her quips and I often had to watch that I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee in the morning when she shared the antics of her husband, Bob, because he could make me snort coffee out of my nose. Sadly, Bob passed away suddenly just a few weeks ago. In typical food blogger fashion, a group of us decided we’d honor his memory by helping Donna promote her bread book, a project he deeply supported, as he did all of Donna’s endeavors, hopefully sending a few customers her way through the power of social media.

I’m not just recommending this book to be nice though. I really love it! I am quite the cookbook junkie but I’d like to tell you that this was THE ONLY cookbook I asked for for my birthday this year! Yep, it’s that special. I was so delighted when my mom arrived in Dubai with Make Ahead Bread that I couldn’t help but share a photo of me and it on Facebook.

I haven’t shared recipes from it before now but I have special permission from Donna to share this one and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! You can get your own copy of Make Ahead Bread at better bookstores as well as on*

This recipe is from Make Ahead Bread – 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day © Donna Currie. Used by permission. (I’ve added the metric adaptations.)

1 cup or 240ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) or 318g bread flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup or 35g dried cranberries
Non-stick baking spray (the kind with flour in it)

Note: I had to subsitute fresh herbs so I doubled the amount since dried herbs are always stronger in flavor than fresh. Another confession, I wasn’t reading with my cheater glasses so I thought it was 1 tablespoon of both parsley and chives. I don’t think the extra chives were a bad thing though since I’m a fan.

On Prep Day
1. Combine all the ingredients and knead by hand (mix first in a large bowl, then turn out and knead) or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, until dough is elastic.

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or place it in a large plastic bag and seal the ends. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Going into the refrigerator.

The next day after a long, slow rise in the cold. 
On Baking Day
1. Spray the 9x5-in or approx. 23x13cm bread pan with baking spray. (I also chose to line the pan with parchment for easy clean up, something Donna mentions in the introductory part of her book as an option.)

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a rough 8 in or 20cm square. Fold the top half to about the middle of the dough and press the edge down to secure it. Fold the top over again, this time to within about an inch or so of the bottom. Press the edge to deal. Now pull the bottom of the dough up to meet the dough roll you‘ve created and seal the seam. Pinch the ends closed and place the dough, seam side down, in the prepared pan.

3. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. The dough is ready when it has risen about an inch or 2 centimeters over the top of the pan, about 1 hour in a warm room.

4. About 30 minutes before the loaf is fully risen, heat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.

5. When the dough has risen, remove the plastic. Bake until the bread is richly browned and the internal temperature of the loaf reaches 195°F or °90.5C on an instant read thermometer, about 55 minutes. Remove the bread form the pan and cool completely on a rack before slicing.


The hardest part of this whole recipe? Finding space for the dough bowl in my ridiculously overstuffed refrigerator.

Make this bread. Buy Make Ahead Bread.* You won’t be sorry!

Check out the fabulous list of breads we've baked for Donna from her book:

UPDATE: Win your own copy of Make Ahead Bread
Follow this link to enter:

*Affiliate links.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tangzhong Rye Bread #BreadBakers

This rounded loaf with rye and wholemeal wheat flour is perfect for toasting, smearing with butter and dipping in hot soup. It also makes the best toast soldiers to accompany a soft-boiled egg or to spread with jam.

Living = Learning
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson’s ode to London, “When a man is tired of food, he is tired of life.” I never cease to be amazed that the more I know about food, the more I realize there is to learn. New techniques, new methods, new ingredients, even new combinations of old ingredients are a constant source of excitement for me, from learning how to debone a chicken while keeping it whole (Thanks, Dai!) to attempting a bread challenge from the Great British Bake Off to buying unfamiliar produce at the farmers’ market and using the Google to find out what it’s called, to exploring the recipes of my host country, this food thing is so much more than a hobby. It’s an intellectual and cross-cultural exercise that just happens to keep the family fed as well.

Fortune favors the brave
Sometimes I learn a thing but it takes me a while to put it to use. I give you the tangzhong or water roux method of bread dough making, for instance. Although it’s been used in Japan, whence it comes, for ages, I first heard about it when my friend, fellow Bread Baker and pastry chef Jenni Field wrote a great explanatory post on her wonderful blog, Pastry Chef Online last August, but it took this month’s rye bread challenge from Anshie of Spice Roots to get me going on it. 

Rye is notorious for its low gluten content so I decided that perhaps starting with a wholemeal wheat bread flour tangzhong for extra body would be helpful. Of course, since I am almost foolhardy in my disregard of normal baking rules, even in the face of no experience, I decided that I would make my tangzhong with beer and water instead of just water, as is typically done. A rye beer, natch. 

It was a pain to knead since rye dough, even with wholemeal flour added, is so sticky but overall, I was very pleased with how it turned out. I baked it on the same day as I made this lovely chickpea veggie soup for dinner and it was the perfect accompaniment.

If you’ve been meaning to challenge yourself to bake with rye flour, make sure to scroll down after the recipe to see the list of links to all the rye creations we have for you this month. Many thanks to our host, Anshie of Spice Roots, for this “out of my comfort zone” challenge!

Oh, and one last thing, let me share my earworm with you. The whole while I was making this bread, I kept singing in my head:

Ev'rybody have fun tonight
Ev'rybody have fun tonight
Ev'rybody Tang Zhong tonight
Ev'rybody have fun tonight
Ev'rybody Tang Zhong tonight

No need to thank me. You are welcome!


For the tangzhong
1/3 cup or 45g wholemeal bread flour
1/2 cup or 120ml Battersea Rye Beer (or other beer of your choice or replace with more water)
1/2 cup or 120ml water

For Dough
Scant 2/3 cup or 140ml milk
2 tablespoons Battersea Rye Beer
250g wholemeal bread flour
1 1/4 cups or 125g rye flour (plus possibly more for kneading)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 oz or 7g Rapid Rise yeast (I used one packet of Fleischmann’s.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 1/8 cup or 100g tangzhong (which coincidentally is 100ml, if that helps you measure by volume)
1/4 cup or 60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Olive oil (for greasing the proofing vessel)

First make your tangzhong by mixing the flour with the water and beer in a small pot. Whisk till all the lumps are gone.

Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent sticking or burning. As the mixture heats, it gets very thick. Keep stirring and cooking until the spoon or whisk handle leaves furrows in the tangzhong. If you are a thermometer-using type (and I strongly encourage you to become one, if you aren’t already) you want the tangzhong to reach 150°F or 65°C.

Remove from the heat and transfer your tangzhong into another vessel to allow it to cool. I measured out the amount for my bread at this point and put the tangzhong in two bowls. The tangzhong is enough for a little more than two loaves though, so you can leave it all in one bowl if you are doubling this recipe. I just figured it would cool faster if it were separated.

Once the tangzhong has cooled to room temperature, you can proceed with the bread dough. (If you refrigerate it, let it return to room temperature before continuing.)

Slightly warm your milk and beer together in a small pot or in a measuring cup in the microwave.

Whisk your flours, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add in the warm milk/beer and the tangzhong.

Mix with the bread hook until all the ingredients come together and form a dough.

Add the butter and knead until the butter is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

I found mine too sticky to knead effectively so after about 10 minutes, I took it out of the mixer and kneaded by hand for at least another 10 minutes, sprinkling on just the tiniest bit more rye flour as needed.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and cover with plastic wrap or the lid. Leave in a warm place until doubled. Mine took about one hour.


Punch the dough down and form it into a round loaf. Place it on parchment on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with a little more rye flour.

Put it inside a clean, new garbage bag and leave to rise until doubled again. This took about another hour so set your timer for 45 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C when it goes off.

When the rising time is finished, bake the loaf in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.

Ready to bake!


Need a rye bread or cracker recipe? This is your Bread Bakers month!


#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to