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: Baking Powder and Soda Breads

Boston Brown Bread
February 17, 2012

by stacy
Published on: February 17, 2012
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“This is as American as any food can be because it was created by our early settlers as an accompaniment for Boston baked beans.  It has a delicious personality of its own.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

The hardest part about Boston Brown Bread was finding a metal coffee can to bake it in.  In 1973, when Beard on Bread was published, they were commonplace; today, the coffee aisle is a sea of plastic.  My mother managed to track down a two pound metal coffee can at Wal-Mart for me so that the project could continue (thanks, Mom!)

Here are the ingredients:

Boston Brown Bread Ingredients

Since I couldn’t find rye meal, I used rye flakes that had been run through the food processor.

Boston Brown Brown is simple to prepare: you just mix the ingredients together and pour into a well-greased coffee can.

Boston Brown Bread Before Baking

The next step is to steam your bread.  After covering the coffee can with foil, I placed a small can upside down in a stock pot and set the coffee can filled with batter on top.  Next, I filled the stock pot with enough water to reach halfway to the top of the coffee can.

Boston Brown Bread Baking Set Up

I covered the stock pot, turned the stove up to medium-high, and let it boil, replenishing the water a few times to ensure that the level remained even.

After two hours, my bread was finished.

Boston Brown Bread

It ended up somewhat lopsided, because the boiling water knocked the small can underneath the coffee can to its side and the coffee can was at a tilt.  However, it did cook evenly throughout.

Boston Brown Bread

Boston Brown Bread has a texture similar to cornbread, but is slightly coarser due to the rye meal.  The molasses is nicely balanced out by the buttermilk and rye, and it is delicious with the traditional pairing of baked beans.

Boston Brown Bread

Pain de Fruits
February 8, 2012

by stacy
Published on: February 8, 2012
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“Interesting in flavor and nicely textured, this French fruit bread is excellent for toast.  It bakes to a delicious-looking rich brown and is a very attractive gift bread.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I like to think of myself as a fairly open minded eater.  I enjoy ethnic restaurants and cooking with new ingredients.  But the Brooks Bakes Project has taught me that when it comes to dried fruit, I’m downright picky.  I already knew that I despised raisins, but I learned that I also don’t like prunes, apricots, currants, or candied pineapple.

Since I wanted to enjoy my Pain de Fruits, I modified the recipe, replacing the figs, candied citron, and raisins with dried blueberries, cranberries, and cherries.

Stacy’s Pain de Fruits for the Picky Eater
Based on Pain de Fruits from Beard on Bread, by James Beard

Ingredients:

Pain de Fruits Ingredients

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 ounces hazelnuts
4 ounces almonds
4 ounces dried blueberries or blueberry-flavored dried cranberries
2 ounces dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Beat eggs and sugar together.  Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter and mix well.  Grind the hazelnuts and almonds in a food processor until they form a coarse powder.  Add the ground nuts and blueberries, cherries, and cranberries to the batter and blend well.

Pain de Fruits Before Baking

Line a 9 x 5 inch bread pan with wax paper and grease the ends.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pain de Fruits

Pain de Fruits is an unusual bread, since about half of the “flour” is actually ground nuts.  This gives the bread a drier, crumblier texture that the typical quick bread, but it also provides a delectable, mildly nutty flavor throughout the loaf.  I thought my dried fruit mixture of cherries, blueberries, and cranberries was delicious, but definitely experiment and find a mixture that tastes good to you.  Maybe you’re a bolder person than I, and want to try the figs and candied citron.

Quick Fruit Bread
January 20, 2012

by stacy
Published on: January 20, 2012
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“This can be made with either candied orange or chopped marinated prunes, or a combination of both…It is an excellent gift bread, makes pleasant toast, and keeps well.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I couldn’t track down any candied orange, and know from Prune Bread that I hate prunes, so I used candied pineapple to make my Quick Fruit Bread.

Here are the ingredients:

Quick Fruit Bread Ingredients

Since this is a baking powder bread, all I had to do was chop up the pineapple, melt the butter, mix everything together, and pour the batter into a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Quick Fruit Bread Before Baking

After 47 minutes at 375 degrees, the bread was done as gauged by my cake tester.

Quick Fruit Bread

Quick Fruit Bread tastes like a baking powder biscuit studded with chunks of whatever fruit you happen to use.  I discovered that I like candied pineapple about as much as I like prunes, so it wasn’t much of a hit with me.  Mike thought that it was good.  Since I deviated from the recipe in a pretty major way, I don’t feel like I can pass judgement on it one way or the other.  However, I do think that I would have enjoyed it more if I had used either the candied orange called for, or dried apples and some cinnamon.

Gingerbread
December 12, 2011

by stacy
Published on: December 12, 2011
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“Many people consider gingerbread to be a cake, but it was originally meant to be a bread served at lunch or dinner with sweet butter.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since Christmas is less than two weeks away, and I needed to bake something to make up for the Pissaladiere disaster, I made Gingerbread for dinner tonight.

Here are the ingredients:

Gingerbread Ingredients

I mixed all the ingredients together and poured the batter into a greased 9 x 9 pan.

Gingerbread Before Baking

Since the batter is fairly thick, I smoothed it out with a spatula.

After 22 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees, the house smelled like Christmas and the Gingerbread was done.

Gingerbread

Gingerbread is a very unusual recipe.  It tastes nothing like the little man-shaped cookies; there’s no sugar involved, so it is savory instead of sweet.  It has a rich, full-bodied flavor from the molasses, with pronounced bite from the ginger.  The texture is crumbly and moist.  Mike and I agreed that it was delicious, but it has such a distinct flavor that it would be tricky to pair food with it (we ate it with grapes and cheese).

The best part about this bread?  How incredible it smells!  Three hours after pulling the bread out of the oven, my house still smells like a North Pole bakery.  I feel downright merry.

Quick Cranberry Bread
November 13, 2011

by stacy
Published on: November 13, 2011
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“The cranberries give the loaf good touches of color and a pleasant tartness.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I was in a Thanksgiving frame of mind after yesterday’s turkey dinner, I made Quick Cranberry Bread today.  The recipe can be found on the James Beard’s Foundation’s website.

Here are the ingredients:

Quick Cranberry Bread Ingredients

The white bowl has the chopped walnuts.  I skipped the rosewater called for by the recipe.

Quick Cranberry Bread lives up to its name: all I had to do was measure out the ingredients, stir, and it was ready for the oven.

Cranberry Bread Before Baking

After one hour and two minutes at 350 degrees, the bread was done (I tested it with my cake tester).

Quick Cranberry Bread

Quick Cranberry Bread is a wonderful quick bread: the walnuts and cranberries are a tasty flavor combination, and there is a perfect balance between the sweetened bread and the tart cranberries.  This is an easy and delicious recipe that is perfect for autumn.

Quick Cranberry Bread

Persimmon Bread
November 6, 2011

by stacy
Published on: November 6, 2011
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“This old recipe, sent to me by a dear friend from the Middle West, makes a bread that is almost cakelike in texture…It is unusual, rich, and thoroughly delicious.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I have been a persimmon quest for almost two months now.  They are extremely difficult to find in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area in the fall: I struck out at my big-box grocery store, the farmer’s market, and the Linden Hills Co-op.  Just as I was about to give up and buy persimmon puree online at an exorbitant price, I happened along some persimmons at the Mississippi Market when I was visiting St. Paul.  It was a happy day, up there with my last day of high school gym class and the day I discovered Nutella.

So what is a persimmon?  It’s an orange fruit that looks like a pointy tomato:

Persimmon

After letting my persimmons ripen on the counter for a week, I tackled Persimmon Bread last Friday.

Here are the ingredients:

Persimmon Bread Ingredients

There are a couple inaccuracies in this picture: 1) the recipe calls for baking soda, not baking powder, which I luckily realized before mixing it in, and 2) there were four persimmons, not three, but I had already made persimmon puree with one of them.  I also substituted nutmeg for mace and left out the raisins (no surprise there!)

Beard doesn’t specify how to go about making persimmon puree.  I used a potato masher.  From experience, I can assure you that it works much better to peel the persimmon first, instead of smashing the persimmon and then picking out pieces of peel.  The persimmon puree tasted like peaches.

Persimmon Puree

Pureeing the persimmons is the most difficult part of this recipe.  Since this is a baking soda bread, I simply mixed the ingredients together.  There is a lot of everything in this recipe: two sticks of butter, four eggs, two cups of sugar, and 2/3 of a cup of bourbon.  Feeling slightly woozy from the alcohol fumes, I poured the batter into three quart-sized Pyrex dishes.

Persimmon Bread Before Baking

I baked the loaves for 1 hour at 350 degrees, checking for doneness by poking the loaves with a cake tester.

Persimmon Bread

The loaves looked pretty darn cute.  The taste was another matter: Persimmon Bread tastes like bourbon.  This may be a positive selling point for some people, but after hunting for two months and spending $7.96 on organic persimmons, I wanted my bread to actually taste like said persimmons.  On the plus side, Mike thought the bread was pretty good and has made his way through one loaf.  Next time, I’ll skip the persimmons and just add some more bourbon.

Cream Biscuits
September 14, 2011

by stacy
Published on: September 14, 2011
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“We had a reputation at home for very special biscuits…The secret of their unique quality is this: They use heavy cream instead of butter or shortening.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Whatever the calendar says, today was the first day of fall.  It was 46 degrees as we drove in to work this morning, there was a frigid wind as I waited at the bus stop, and tonight we have a frost advisory.  I needed something to make myself feel better about this whole fall thing, and a dinner of baked acorn squash and cream biscuits seemed like it just might be the thing.

The ingredients:

Cream Biscuits Ingredients

I mixed all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder) together, then slowly added the cream.  I had to use the whole 8 ounce carton, as well as a splash of whole milk, to get my dough to the right consistency.  It still seemed crumbly when I turned it out onto my kneading surface, but a bit of light kneading turned the mixture into a heavy dough.  I rolled it to a half inch thickness and cut out the biscuits using a round cookie cutter.

Cream Biscuits Before Baking

I baked the biscuits at 425 degrees for 12 minutes, which was enough to bake them to  golden-brown perfection.

Cream Biscuits

Dinner was wonderful.  As I ate my biscuits, with spoonfuls of moist, flavorful squash in between each bite, fall seemed a bit more bearable.

Although they are tasty, Cream Biscuits don’t have a fluffy texture like Baking Powder Biscuits–the cream makes them much heavier.  Personally, I prefer Baking Powder Biscuits, but Cream Biscuits are certainly delicious and well worth a try.

Carl Goh’s Zucchini Bread
August 19, 2011

by stacy
Published on: August 19, 2011
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“This rather unusual loaf has a very pleasant flavor, a little on the sweet side, and a distinctive texture.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Yesterday I bought some giant zucchinis at the farmer’s market and made Carl Goh’s Zucchini Bread.  Back in May, I spent almost 6 hours making Carl Goh’s Bread, with mediocre results.  His zucchini bread is the opposite: a minimumal amount of time that produces some delicious loaves.

Here are the ingredients:

Carl Goh's Zucchini Bread Ingredients

Any potential health benefits from the grated zucchini are completely negated by the cup of oil and two cups of sugar.

After I mixed the ingredients together, I poured the batter into two 9 x 5 pans lined with wax paper to prevent the loaves from sticking to the pan (thanks for the tip, Mom!)

Carl Goh's Zucchini Bread Before Baking

My loaves were ready after 50 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.

Carl Goh's Zucchini Bread

Carl Goh’s Zucchini Bread is amazing.  The vanilla, cinnamon, and walnuts were a perfect blend of flavors, while the zucchini made the bread incredibly moist.  Carl Goh has redeemed himself in my eyes with this recipe.

Prune Bread
August 14, 2011

by stacy
Published on: August 14, 2011
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“Like all fruit breads, [Prune Bread] is moist and rather rich and sweet.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

The hardest part about making this bread was tracking down the ingredients.  After searching high and low for prunes, I discovered that thanks to some sort of public relations decision, prunes are now referred to as “Dried Plums.”  Next, I had to track down some sherry.  Mike and I are not big drinkers, so I didn’t have any sherry lying around the house.  I bought a bottle of sherry at the local liquor store that wasn’t ruinously expensive and popped the cork to see what it was all about.  I’m not sure if it was just the brand I purchased or if all sherry is this intense, but I think that you could get tipsy just from sniffing the fumes.  Well, I thought, this bread will certainly be interesting.

Here are the ingredients:

Prune Bread Ingredients

I diced the prunes and marinated them in sherry the night before.  If I thought the fumes out the bottle were strong, that was nothing compared to sherry fumes that have been stewing in a closed container with prunes for 24 hours.

The preparation was simple: all I had to do was mix the ingredients together.  Beard suggests using a round mold or souffle dish; since my souffle dish substitute (aka slow cooker liner) was busy cooking dinner, I just used a regular 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Prune Bread Before Baking

I set the timer for 50 minutes, but then didn’t hear it ring.  When I finally realized I should probably check on the bread, it was a little over-browned.

Prune Bread

Unfortunately, I don’t like the taste of Prune Bread at all.  I don’t mind prunes.   However, when chopped up, marinated in sherry, and baked into bread, prunes end up tasting like my food enemy, raisins.  The sherry, as far I could tell from my one slice, contributed nothing to the loaf besides turning the prunes into raisin impostors.  Mike is going to be eating this loaf.

Prune Bread

Clay’s Cornsticks
July 5, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 5, 2011
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“Cornsticks are different in their way from cornbread.  They are baked in a mold shaped like a row of corn ears…The cornsticks usually bake to a golden color and are puffy inside and deliciously crunchy on the outside.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I bought a cornstick mold a few weeks ago and have been itching to try it out.  I went with the deluxe cast-iron model, because I love cornbread so much that I foresaw many batches of cornsticks in my future.

Cornstick Mold

Here are the ingredients:

Clay's Cornsticks Ingredients

Beard’s recipe calls for a cup of milk or buttermilk; I recommend using buttermilk, since it gives the cornsticks a rich, tangy flavor.

The batter was very light and fluffy, more the consistency of whipped cream than a dough.  I spooned the batter into each corn ear and baked for 15 minutes.  At that point, the cornsticks had puffed up to about twice their original size and were nicely browned.  The problem was getting them out of the mold.  I thought that I had greased the mold thoroughly, but apparently not thoroughly enough.  Using patience and a spatula, I got the cornsticks out mostly intact.  For the next batch, I used more grease with better results.  My advice for greasing a cornstick mold: use as much shortening as you think you need, and then grease the entire mold again.

Clay's Cornsticks

Although they weren’t very aesthetically pleasing, the cornsticks were delicious.  Since there isn’t any sugar in the recipe, they were a savory instead of a sweet cornbread.  Mike remedied that deficiency (in his opinion) by eating them with lots of honey; I ate mine plain.  I particularly enjoyed the texture, which was much lighter than a typical cornbread.

Despite the minor difficulties extricating the cornsticks from the pan, this recipe was a success–and I’m glad that I invested in the deluxe cornstick mold.

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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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