After one year and 104 recipes, I finished the Brooks Bakes Bread Project on March 27, 2012. You can still find me baking and cooking at my new blog, Tangled Up In Food.

Categories: Sweetened Breads and Coffee Cakes

Mother’s Raisin Bread
March 19, 2012

by stacy
Published on: March 19, 2012
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“This was a raisin bread that my mother made very often, modeled on one she had admired at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  During World War I she used to do benefit teas for the British Red Cross, and there were always requests for this bread, thinly sliced and spread with good sweet butter.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Over the course of this project, I researched James Beard and read many of his other books.  It is clear that his mother was a tremendous influence in his culinary life, and he very much admired her.  In her honor, I am making this raisin bread recipe as written (for the most part) because I felt it would rather sacrilegious to substitute dried cranberries.

Here are the ingredients:

Mother's Raisin Bread Ingredients

Modifications: I halved the recipe, and I soaked the raisins in water, nutmeg, and orange peel for a few hours instead of in sherry, mace, and orange peel overnight.

My dough mixed and kneaded up quite nicely, but the first rising took almost three hours.  When it had finally doubled in size, I punched it down, kneaded lightly, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.  Next, I rolled it into a rectangle and topped it with melted butter and the drained raisins.

Mother's Raisin Bread in Progress

I rolled the dough up from the short side (after doing it backwards on my first attempt, ending up with a very long loaf that didn’t hold together) and placed it in my 8 x 4 loaf pan for another half hour of rising.

Mother's Raisin Bread After Second Rising

I baked the loaf at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Mother's Raisin Bread

The verdict?  For a bread that involves raisins, this one isn’t bad.  It has a buttery, fluffy texture, and the hint of orange from the prepared raisins is a nice touch.  If you must make raisin bread, Mother’s Raisin Bread is a good one.

Mother's Raisin Bread

 

Verterkake
March 1, 2012

by stacy
Published on: March 1, 2012
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“A very special Norwegian sweet bread baked in round loaves, verterkake takes its name from verterol, or brewer’s wort…dark beer can be substituted in its place.  The bread is densely textured and has a highly interesting, spicy flavor…”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Mike: It tastes…interesting.
Me: In a good way?
Mike: If you like the taste of potpourri.

Yesterday Mike and I closed on our first house.  How did I celebrate?  By baking bread (there was also a bottle of champagne).

Here are the ingredients (minus the raisins, of course):

Verterkake Ingredients

I started by mixing the milk, two cups of flour, and the yeast together to form a sponge.  I let that rise for 45 minutes, and then added the rest of ingredients.  It took an extra half cup of flour to form a firm enough dough, which I let rise for an hour.  Then, I lightly kneaded the dough with some more flour and formed two loaves.  After yet another hour of rising, the loaves were ready for the oven.

Verterkake After Second Rising

I baked the loaves at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Verterkake

I would characterize Vertekake as one of the few recipes that I have taken an active dislike to, solely because the mixture of cloves and pepper actually does taste like potpourri.  I don’t like potpourri as a scented decorative element, so I definitely don’t want to eat it.  This is not a bread that I would recommend, to put it mildly.

 

Kugelhopf
February 28, 2012

by stacy
Published on: February 28, 2012
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“This is supposedly a recipe that Marie Antoinette took with her from Austria to France, where it became increasingly popular.  It is traditionally baked in a special Kugelhopf mold, which gives it a festive look.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

The recipe for Kugelhopf can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.  I substituted a similarly shaped Bundt pan for a Kugelhopf mold.  Of course, I left out the raisins.

Ingredients:

Kugelhopf Ingredients

While the yeast proofed with the sugar and water, I cut the stick of butter into two cups of flour with a pastry blender.  One by one, I added the eggs to the flour mixture and then alternately added the yeast mixture and the remaining flour.  Then I poured the dough into a buttered bowl and let it rise.

After an hour of rising, I stirred the dough down.  I placed half of the almonds in my buttered Bundt pan, spooned in half of the dough, sprinkled on the remainder of the almonds, and then finally poured in the rest of the dough.  Then I let the dough rise for another hour.

Kugelhopf After Second Rising

I baked the Kugelhopf at 475 degrees for 10 minutes, and then at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Kugelhopf

I would characterize Kugelhopf as an egg bread rather than a sweet bread–the egg flavor seemed far more pronounced that the sweetness, and it has a very rich, buttery texture.  I found this recipe to be very similar to Italian Holiday Bread, but with a pleasant crunch from the toasted almonds.

Swedish Limpa
February 25, 2012

by stacy
Published on: February 25, 2012
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Whole-Wheat Nut Bread
February 4, 2012

by stacy
Published on: February 4, 2012
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“The addition of toasted pine nuts and a few raisins gives this loaf its distinction, both in texture and in flavor.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I have a well-documented dislike of raisins, I omitted them and just used pine nuts for this recipe.  I am a big fan of Mike’s belief that if the ingredient isn’t in the title of the recipe, you can leave it out.  This works better in some instances than others (for example, I don’t think you can skip the yeast even if it isn’t in the title).

Ingredients:

Whole-Wheat Nut Bread

I started by mixing the dough together, leaving out the pine nuts for the time being.  This dough was a joy to work with: soft, pliable, and easy to knead.  Since I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes from Maryetta’s Oatmeal Bread, I was patient and gave the dough about two hours for its first rising.  The recipe specifies that the pine nuts be “toasted for 3 minutes”, so I cooked them in a warm skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes before kneading them into the risen dough.  Next, I shaped my dough into two loaves.  Beard’s recipe calls for 9 x 5 pans, but based on my loaf size I used 8 x 4 pans.  This turned out to be the right call–after one and half hours, my dough had risen filled out the pans.

Whole-Wheat Nut Bread After Second Rising

I baked the loaves at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, and then reduced the heat and baked them at 350 degrees for an additional 20 minutes.

Whole-Wheat Nut Bread

Whole-Wheat Nut Bread is an amazingly light, fluffy bread with the occasional crunch of a toasted pine nut.  As far as flavor, although it is included in the “Sweetened Breads” section, I would not characterize it as such.  My strongest impression was of the salty, smokey flavor of the toasted pine nuts.  Overall, this was a nicely textured whole-wheat bread with a bit of a twist (and I didn’t miss the raisins one bit!)

Moravian Coffee Cake
January 12, 2012

by stacy
Published on: January 12, 2012
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“This is typical of the medium-sweet, yeasty coffee cakes that one finds in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country where Moravian groups have settled…I recommend it highly.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

After days of sandwiches, we finally polished off the Italian Holiday Bread and Pullman Loaf, and it was time to make more bread last night.  Since I’m trying to work my way through the rest of the sweet breads, and happened to have some instant mashed potatoes on hand, I settled on Moravian Coffee Cake.  (Also, I should get bonus points for correctly identifying Moravia as part of what is now the Czech Republic.  I do have moments when I feel like I could win some serious money on Cash Cab.)

Here are the ingredients:

Moravian Coffee Cake Ingredients

I attempted to mix the ingredients using an electric mixer, as instructed by the recipe.  However, my electric mixer is a little hand held model: great for mixing cake batter, but not very effective at mixing a thick bread dough.  I resorted to my favorite wooden spoon (yes, I do actually have a favorite spoon) to mix in most of the flour, and incorporated the rest during kneading.

After a first rising of about 45 minutes, I rolled the dough into rectangles to fit my 9 x 5 pans.  I sprinkled each loaf a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon and then drizzled with melted butter.  The recipe calls for an entire stick of melted butter.  Since there was already one stick of butter in the bread dough, and I am not as avid a member of the butter fan club as James Beard, I only used half a stick of melted butter.  I think that a whole stick would have been overkill–most of the butter would have slid right off the dough anyway.

Moravian Coffee Cake After Second Rising

I let the loaves rise for another 45 minutes, and then popped them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, after which the house smelled like a giant cinnamon roll.

Moravian Coffee Cake

In the interests of quality control, I sampled some Moravian Coffee Cake right out of the oven.  It is a very unique bread texturally, with a spongy, moist center and a crisp, struesel-like top crust.  The bread itself has just a hint of sweetness, with most of the flavor coming from the topping.  Beard includes a recipe for an icing to drizzle over the cake, but the top is so sweet already that I think the icing would be too much.

Moravian Coffee Cake

Note: Mike thought that this recipe would be better if the bread was sweetened with honey.  To me, the combination of honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon seems strange, but it might be an interesting experiment.

 

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake
November 19, 2011

by stacy
Published on: November 19, 2011
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“This is another coffee bread, baked in a tube pan, one that I have enjoyed all my life.  In fact, it is my favorite of all the sweet breads.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I usually don’t mess with Beard’s recipes.  That seems to defeat the purpose of the project: why bake all the recipes from a cookbook if you’re going to change them?  I am guilty of leaving out raisins and the occasional exotic liqueur, but I mostly bake by the book.

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake is an exception.  James Beard was a man who really, really loved butter, so when he calls something “rich” it means “obscenely decadent.”  Furthermore, the recipe as written yields two large coffee cakes and contains ingredients I know I hate, like currants and apricot jam.  So I decided to step outside the box and modify the recipe a bit.  Instead of my usual post, I’m posting my recipe variation.

Stacy’s Blueberry-Sour Cream Coffee Cake
A variation on “Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake” from Beard on Bread

Ingredients:

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake Ingredients

For the dough:
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold skim milk
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/8 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup finely chopped walnuts

For the glaze:
4 ounces blueberry jam

Instructions:
The night before, combine the yeast, 1/8 cup sugar, and water in a large bowl and allow to proof.  Stir in the remaining 1/8 cup sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla; mix well.  Add the egg; mix well.  With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour in a separate large bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture; stir.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  Shape dough into a ball, place in a tightly covered bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, roll out the dough into a rectangle (it will be stiff and difficult to work with, but persist).  Brush the rectangle with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon; then sprinkle with walnuts.  Roll dough up from the wider end.  Form into a ring and place in a Bundt pan that has been buttered or sprayed with baking spray.  Join the ends together.  Let dough rise until puffy and doubled in bulk.  (To make your dough rise faster, preheat oven to “keep warm” setting.  Turn off oven and place dough in the oven to rise.  This is particularly helpful if you keep your house cool during the winter months).

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake After Second Rising

Bake bread in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown and hollow sounding when rapped with knuckles.  Turn out of Bundt pan onto a large plate or cake stand.

Melt jam over medium-high heat in a small saucepan.  Drizzle jam over cake.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake

 

Monkey Bread
October 31, 2011

by stacy
Published on: October 31, 2011
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“This is a sensationally good and oddly textured sweet bread or coffee cake.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

The last time I made Monkey Bread was in seventh grade Family Consumer Science class (aka “home ec”).  We used refrigerated biscuits that we cut into quarters, arranged in a Bundt pan, and then dumped a homemade caramel sauce over the whole thing.

The Beard version of Monkey Bread requires you to actually make the bread dough yourself, but other than that the technique is the same.

Here are the ingredients:

Monkey Bread Ingredients

I skipped the currants the recipe calls for, due to my deep-seated hatred of them as miniature versions of raisins.  Also, I think the idea of caramel with raisins is disgusting purely on principle.

Monkey Bread starts as a fairly basic, albeit rich, white bread dough.  After the first rising (an hour and a half), I pulled off little chunks of dough, rolled them in melted butter and brown sugar, and then arranged them in a Bundt pan.  Mike graciously agreed to help, and we created a little Monkey Bread assembly line.

Monkey Bread After Second Rising

After letting the dough rise again (for only half an hour, since I was getting hungry), I baked the bread at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  The caramel sauce did overflow from the Bundt pan, creating a small mess in my non-self cleaning oven (Mike was nice enough to clean that up, too.  He is really the best husband a bread baker could ask for).

The finished product looked quite lovely, if I may say so myself:

Monkey Bread

Beard’s Monkey Bread recipe was quite good (the only way for something with two sticks of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar to not be good is to add raisins to it).  But as I pulled of little chunks of bread, I felt somewhat nostalgic for my Family Consumer Science Monkey Bread.  Yes, the bread itself was obviously better than refrigerated biscuits.  But one thing that recipe had going for it?  Lots and lots of caramel.  Beard’s recipe has a mere glazing.  Now, if only I still had that class hand out…

Raisin and Nut Bread
October 17, 2011

by stacy
Published on: October 17, 2011
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“This can be baked in two loaves with a mixture of raisins and nuts in both or with raisins in one loaf and nuts in the other.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

“Or, you can just skip the raisins altogether and make two loaves of nut bread!”
-Me

I feel slightly guilty that I made Raisin and Nut Bread without any raisins, but any misgivings disappeared as I gobbled down slice after slice of delicious, raisin-free bread.

Here are the ingredients:

Raisin and Nut Bread Ingredients

I used two different types of nuts: sliced almonds on the left, and pecans on the right.

Raisin and Nut Bread starts as a basic white bread.  After the initial rising, I attempted to divide my dough into two equal portions and kneaded almonds into one portion and pecans into the other.  I shaped the dough into two loaves and placed them in my 9 x 5 pans.

After the second rising, I realized that I didn’t divide the dough as evenly as I could have:

Raisin and Nut Bread After Second Rising

After only 20 minutes at 400 degrees, my loaves were golden brown and ready to be eaten.

Raisin and Nut Bread

Raisin and Nut Bread (or my version, Nut and Nut Bread) is delicious–fluffy, soft, with just a hint a sweetness and a satisfying crunch from the nuts.  I preferred the pecan loaf, since the pecans provide more flavor.  Also, the rich nutty flavor of the pecans is brought out nicely by toasting, in the unlikely event you have any bread that didn’t get gobbled down fresh out of the oven.  The only thing that might ruin these lovely loaves?  Raisins!

Currant Bread
September 11, 2011

by stacy
Published on: September 11, 2011
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“[Currant Bread], which I used to eat very often as a child, is a rich, flavorful, extremely pleasant loaf that keeps well and toasts magnificently.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

This week I made a trip to the Linden Hills Co-op to pick up ingredients for some upcoming recipes.  I hadn’t had any luck finding currants at my local grocery store, but the co-op had them in abundance.  Given my hatred of raisins, I was disappointed to discover that a currant is nothing more that a dwarf raisin.  But since I had to make currant bread, I decided to get it over with this past Friday.

Here are the ingredients:

Currant Bread Ingredients

After my experience with Prune Bread, I have decided that sherry is disgusting and contaminates everything it comes into contact with.  Instead, I marinated the currants in bourbon (Beard recommends using sherry, rum, or Cognac; if you can use any of those liquors, I figured bourbon would be fine).

Also note the two sticks of butter; those will come into play later.

The technique used for Currant Bread was unusual.  I started by mixing the the milk, some sugar, yeast, half of the butter, salt, and flour together to form a dough.  Then, I kneaded the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes.  At that point, I punched it down and was instructed to knead in the rest of the sugar and butter along with all of the currants.  Huh?  It wasn’t clear to me exactly how I was supposed to knead in 1/2 cup of sugar, a stick of butter, and 1 1/2 cups of currants.  The answer?  With great difficulty.  Mike assisted by laughing and taking pictures as my bread dough degenerated into a gloppy mass of butter studded with currants.  There may have been some profanity involved.

Currant Bread Dough

At this point, with my hands glistening with butter, I abandoned any hope of the Currant Bread being edible.  I slopped it into two 8 x 4 loaf pans, let it rise another 45 minutes (surprisingly, it actually did rise–I figured all of the butter would weigh it down too much), and put it in the oven at 400 degrees.

Currant Bread After Second Rising

After putting the bread in the oven, I decided that it would be a good idea to fall asleep on our bedroom floor.  Luckily, Mike saved the day (and redeemed himself after making fun of my kneading attempts) by pulling the bread out of the oven before it burned.

Currant Bread

So what was the verdict?  Currant Bread did turn out better than I thought it would.  It has a surprising light texture for the amount of butter used, reminiscent of Portuguese Sweet Bread.  Yes, the currants do taste like raisins, but the bourbon gives them an interesting flavor.  And Beard was right–it does toast magnificently.

Currant Bread

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About the Baker
I'm a paralegal living and working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Besides baking, blogging, and eating bread, I love knitting and enjoying the Minnesota outdoors. My husband, Mike, is the Brooks Bakes Bread website developer, bread photographer, and chief taste tester.
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