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

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread
June 25, 2011

by stacy
Published on: June 25, 2011
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“Soda bread is very different from any other bread you can find in the world.  It’s round, with a cross cut in the top, and it has a velvety texture, quite unlike yeast bread, and the most distinctive and delicious taste.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I’ve been enjoying the first few official days of summer, I’m a few days late posting about the Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread that I made on Thursday.  The recipe appears deceptively simple–basic ingredients, a short kneading time, and no rising.  However, there is technique to soda bread that I didn’t quite master on my first loaf.

The recipe can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.

Here are the ingredients:

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread Ingredients

All I had to do was mix the ingredients together.  My dough was a bit crumbly, but I got it to hold together after kneading it for a few minutes.  In hindsight, I should have kneaded it for a longer period of time to get a smoother texture.

Next, I shaped the dough into a round loaf and cut a cross in the top.  At this stage, I should have (1) put more time and effort into shaping the dough into a tighter ball; and (2) cut with consistent pressure, instead of letting the knife go in more deeply at the end of each cut.  Unaware of the problems ahead, I put the loaf in the oven.

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread Before Baking

After 25 minutes, I pulled the loaf out of the oven to discover that because I cut too deeply, one quarter of the loaf had separated and was falling off.  I also had no idea of how to determine if the loaf was done or not.  I tried thumping in on the bottom.  The loaf sounded hollow, but I just wasn’t sure.  In desperation, I sliced into the bread (even though Beard cautions, “Let the loaf cool before slicing very thin; soda bread must never be cut thick”).  It was a good thing that I did, because the center of the loaf was a mass of uncooked dough.  I let the bread bake for another 10 minutes, and then used the sophisticated technique of ripping off part of the loaf to look at the middle to determine whether or not my loaf was done.  It appeared to be fully baked, so I cut myself another slice.  A thick one.

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread

Over the past few days, I have been eating a lot of Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread, mostly because I have the whole loaf to myself after Mike tried a slice and pronounced it disgusting.  I, on the other had, absolutely love the taste of soda bread.  The texture of my loaf leaves something to be desired–it’s not as smooth as I would like, and instead of being nicely rounded, my loaf looks more like a glob.  This is definitely a recipe that I will have to bake again to perfect.  And then I will eat an entire loaf of delicious soda bread myself–cut into glorious thick slices.

Apricot Bread
June 15, 2011

by stacy
Published on: June 15, 2011
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“Like all of the fruit breads made with baking powder, the apricot loaves are quite rich and have beautiful color and rather tight texture.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Even though it’s an easy recipe, I have been hesitant to bake Apricot Bread.  I tried apricots once before, and I disliked them so much that I threw away most of the bag.  However, since I’m baking all 104 recipes, I had to conquer my disdain and give Apricot Bread a try.

Here are the ingredients:

Apricot Bread Ingredients

The recipe calls for “1 cup chopped nuts” but doesn’t specify what kind to use.  I used walnuts.  Preparing the dough was easy–I just had to soak the apricots in boiling water for a few minutes, chop up the apricots and walnuts, and then mix all of the ingredients together.

Next, I divided the dough in half and scraped it into two 9 x 5 loaf pans as Beard instructs.  They did seem a bit under-filled, but I decided to follow the recipe and see what happened.

Apricot Bread Before Baking

The bread was finished after 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.  I put the loaves on racks to cool, suspiciously eying the apricot chunks.  One of the loaves was rather flat, but the other rose nicely.

Apricot Bread

After letting the bread cool, I sampled a slice and was pleasantly surprised.  The sugar and walnuts almost cancel out the apricot flavor.  The texture is very similar to Raw Apple Bread, one of my favorite Beard on Bread recipes.  If you like apricots, I’m sure that you would enjoy the Apricot Bread recipe; if not, stick with Raw Apple Bread instead.

Apricot Bread

Lemon Bread
June 8, 2011

by stacy
Published on: June 8, 2011
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“[Lemon Bread] is a tart, deliciously refreshing bread with a character all its own.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

It was over 100 degrees yesterday–definitely not typical June weather in Minneapolis.  Since Mike and I are lucky enough to have central air conditioning, I didn’t let the heat wave interfere with my plans to bake Lemon Bread.

Here are the ingredients:

Lemon Bread Ingredients

I wasn’t sure how much lemon juice my lemon would yield–the recipe calls for 1/2 cup.  I only got about 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, so I had to use lemon juice from concentrate for the rest.  The batter was very light and fluffy, like the consistency of a thick butter cream frosting.

Lemon Bread Before Baking

I greased my loaf pan heavily with butter and then floured it, per Beard’s instructions.  The loaf was done after 40 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.  I let it cool for 10 minutes, and then turned the pan upside down.  Like magic, the bread slid right out.

Lemon Bread

We had Lemon Bread for breakfast this morning.  Mike thought that the lemon flavor was incredible; he liked it so much that he ate his slices plain.  I thought that the lemon flavor was nice, especially when paired with homemade strawberry jam.  However, the bread craved moisture–it was so dry and crumbly that some of the slices fell apart.  Luckily, since this is one of Mike’s favorite breads, he will happily finish the rest of the loaf.  Sometimes we just complement each other so nicely.

Banana Nut Bread
June 4, 2011

by stacy
Published on: June 4, 2011
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“[Banana Nut Bread] is extraordinarily good for small sandwiches or as a breakfast or luncheon bread…”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

This week, I was in the mood for banana bread.  Since I wanted the bananas to mash easily, I let them ripen on my counter for nearly a week.  Last night I realized it was time to make bread when they started falling apart when I moved them across the counter.

In addition to the over-ripe bananas, here are the rest of the ingredients:

Banana Nut Bread Ingredients

This was an easy recipe to put together: all I had to do was mix the ingredients together and pour into a loaf pan.  Beard’s recipe calls for using a 12 x 4 1/2 loaf pan; I don’t have a pan that size, so I just used a 9 x 5 instead.

Banana Nut Bread Before Baking

The bread was finished after baking at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  It was a bit tricky to get the bread out of the pan, even though I greased the pan thoroughly.  I loosened the edges of the bread with a knife, and then turned the pan upside down–the loaf didn’t budge.  I tried loosening the edges some more, and the bread stubbornly remained in the pan.  In exasperation, I went upstairs to do a Google search for “how to get bread out of a loaf pan” and was starting to come to the conclusion that we were going to have to dig the bread out bite-by-bite with forks when Mike saved the day.  Apparently he held the pan upside down, wiggled it like a ice cube tray, and the bread popped right out.  Although I think I should get credit for loosening it…

Banana Nut Bread

We had a delicious breakfast of Banana Nut Bread this morning.  I like this recipe much better than Beard’s other recipe for banana bread.  Since it has an extra banana (three instead of two), Banana Nut Bread is much more flavorful and moist.  I also enjoyed the flavor combination of almonds and bananas.

Of course, this wasn’t as good as my mother’s fabulous banana bread (but I doubt any recipe will ever be) but it was close.

Banana Nut Bread

Baking Powder Biscuits
April 18, 2011

by stacy
Published on: April 18, 2011
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“Certainly no bread in America has been more popular over a longer time than baking powder biscuits.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

“I love these biscuits.”
-Mike

I try to bake two recipes a week, one during the week and one on the weekend.  Weeknight baking can be tricky, since there isn’t enough time between getting home from work and dinner for dough to rise–unless we eat dinner after 9:00 pm.  Baking powder biscuits are the perfect weeknight bread: minimal ingredients, easy prep, and a short baking time.  Oh, and they’re pretty delicious to boot.  The recipe can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.

Here are the ingredients, all five of them:

Baking Powder Biscuits Ingredients

Beard recommends using two knives or a heavy fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  I had excellent results using my pastry blender.

Even after adding the milk, my dough was still too dry to hold together, so I kneaded 2 teaspoons of water into the dough.  I rolled the dough out to a half-inch thickness, as recommended for “very high, fluffy biscuits” (who in their right mind would want a thin, crispy baking powder biscuit anyway?).  Since I used a large round cookie cutter, the recipe only yielded seven biscuits instead of twelve.

Baking Powder Bisuits Before Baking

I baked the biscuits for ten minutes, at which point they were a beautiful golden color and were exploding with fluffiness.

Baking Powder Biscuits

The biscuits were absolutely incredible.  The texture was perfect: browned but not too crisp on the outside, fluffy layers on the inside.

Baking Powder Biscuit

Bearing in mind the horrendous stomachache I got last week from consuming two-thirds of my batch of pancakes, and since the biscuits were fairly massive, I limited myself to only two.  It required epic willpower.

 

Helen Evans Brown’s Corn Chili Bread
April 3, 2011

by stacy
Published on: April 3, 2011
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Today a friend came down from Duluth and we went to the Walker Art Center. I made some chicken chili in the slow cooker for dinner paired with Helen Evans Brown’s Corn Chili Bread. I have made corn bread before, but it was of the very sweet and dry variety. In the words of Beard, this recipe is “an extremely moist, rich bread.”

Here are the ingredients:

Helen Evans Brown's Corn Chili Bread Ingredients

Yes, this bread has 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1/4 pound of Monterey Jack cheese. I only used 3/4 of a cup of sour cream because I forgot that an 8 ounce container is sold by weight, not by volume. This bread was so incredibly rich anyway that it didn’t make a difference.

I also substituted 1 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed) for the 3 ears of fresh corn. As I type this, I realized that this substitution was actually incorrect–one ear of corn is equivalent to 3/4 of a cup, so I should have used 2 1/4 cups. I feel a little embarrassed about that, since I have a degree in mathematics, but the bread turned out fine (it would be hard for the bread to not turn out fine, thanks to all the butter).

This was a very simple recipe to prepare–all I had to do was melt the butter and mix the ingredients together. As usual, cooking time was 55 minutes instead of one hour.

Helen Evans Brown's Corn Chili Bread

There are several words that can describe Helen Evans Brown’s Chili Corn Bread: savory, delectable, divine, and amazing spring to mind. It is so moist that you need to eat it with a fork. The chilies provide a note of spice, the melted cheese is decadent, and the buttery goodness makes for delicious forkful after delicious forkful. Beard suggests serving the bread with “plenty of butter” which would quite frankly be overkill. This bread is so rich that it eats like a main course rather than an accompaniment. Ms. Brown created a culinary masterpiece with this recipe; Mike (my husband) has ranked this bread as his favorite so far.

I am planning on eating a leftover piece of bread for lunch tomorrow, with a salad and some fruit instead of extra butter.

Banana Bread
April 2, 2011

by stacy
Published on: April 2, 2011
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Since my bananas were finally ripe enough, last night was banana bread night.  I was excited to try Beard’s recipe because I love banana bread, but my only previous attempt was a disaster.  When I tried to slice it, the top crust separated from the rest of the loaf, which promptly disintegrated into banana mush.  Luckily, this attempt was more of a success.

The recipe can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.

The Ingredient Picture:

Banana Bread Ingredients

I picked chopped walnuts as my nut of choice, since I still had some left over from the cheese ravioli dish.

The bread mixed up fairly easily.  I could have let the bananas ripen for another day so that I didn’t have to mash them as I mixed the bread, but I couldn’t hold out any longer.

As usual, my baking time was shorter than the recipe called for, 55 minutes instead of an hour.

Because my non-stick loaf pan has been getting a sticky residue on it from the Crisco and butter I’ve been using to grease it, I decided to try this recipe without greasing the pan.  It was a near disaster–lesson learned, “non-stick” pans do actually have to be greased.  I was able to get the loaf out mostly intact with a knife, a large spatula, and lots of patience.

Banana Bread

This was a much lighter-tasting banana bread than I’m used to–for me, banana bread should be very dense and moist.  This bread had a more traditional bread texture.  I prefer a richer and moister banana bread; however, my husband liked this banana bread precisely because it wasn’t as rich.  The walnuts and bananas are definitely a nice flavor combination, and the texture issue comes down to personal preference.

Banana Bread

Raw Apple Bread
March 31, 2011

by stacy
Published on: March 31, 2011
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My plan for last night was to make Banana Bread, but the bananas I bought on Sunday refused to cooperate and ripen fast enough.  Since we are having a cheese ravioli dish with apples and walnuts tonight, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand to make Raw Apple Bread instead.

Here are the ingredients:

Raw Apple Bread Ingredients

Although there are two apples pictured, I only needed one to get the 1 cup of chopped apple called for.  Also, I didn’t have any buttermilk so instead I used regular milk with a dash of lemon juice.

The texture of the Raw Apple Bread dough was very unique–it was more like a cookie dough (it also tasted like cookie dough.  Yes, I know that it’s a bad idea to eat raw eggs, but I can never pass up the heavenly taste of cookie dough).

Since this bread used a whole stick of butter, I greased my pan using the butter wrapper.  It was quite a task to get all of the dough out of the bowl and into the pan, since the dough was so thick.  I finally scraped it all into the pan in somewhat of a loaf shape, and set my oven timer for 10 minutes less than the minimum time the recipe called for (40 minutes versus 50 minutes).

Raw Apple Bread Dough

As it baked, the bread smelled like a wonderful mixture of sugar cookies and applesauce.

I tested the loaf at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, and 48 minutes using a cake tester; it was done at 48 minutes.  Beard writes that the bread “will be better if left to mature for at least 24 hours.”  I was able to restrain myself from eating it straight out of the oven, but I wasn’t able to pass up having a few pieces for breakfast.

Raw Apple Bread

Raw Apple Bread

Beard refers to this bread as “unusual” but “delightfully textured and interesting in color and flavor.”  It is a very dense bread with a crispy crust, and is very sweet–more of a dessert bread than something one would eat with a meal (of course, I did not let that stop me from eating it for breakfast anyway).  The apple flavor is subtle, which may simply be a reflection of the type of apple I used, Pink Ladies.  Because this bread does not have any cinnamon or nutmeg, it doesn’t have the taste one typically associates with apple baked goods.  The walnuts provide a savory flavor, and as mentioned before, there is quite a bit of sugar.

Overall, this recipe was easy to prepare and produced a very unique, and yes, delightful, 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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