Tuesdays with Dorie: Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin Loaves = Baking fail.

Artsy-craftsy reading reward chart = Mommy win.

That last one is epic for me.  Generally glue sticks and I are not on speaking terms.  Throw in some craft scissors and construction paper, and you get to witness hours of frustration on my part.  But I’m over the moon that my son’s started reading and want to find ways to encourage him.  He loves putting stickers on things (what preschooler doesn’t) so I hunted down some autumn leaf stickers and figured we’ll put a leaf on his tree for each book he reads.  Hopefully it goes better than the bread.

OMG, the bread!

Huge, HUGE disappointment.  All on my end.  I’m seeing the other bakers’ beautiful photos of beautiful loaves and I’m suffering from some serious bread envy.  My dough never seemed to double during the first rise and didn’t really rise at all during the second one.  Oddly, it seemed to rise the most after its overnight chill in the refrigerator.

I can’t figure out what caused the lack of rise on this one.  My kitchen was certainly warm enough (since it was 102 this weekend!) and the yeast I used worked fine for the whole wheat loaves a couple weeks ago.

What’s more frustrating is that this bread is REALLY good.  The texture in mine was all kinds of off but at least I was able to get an idea of what it should taste like.  And I have to say the homey combination of pumpkin, raisins and walnuts combined with the tart punch from the cranberries is perfect for fall.  Which just means that I’m attempting them again.  This time around though I think I’ll leave out the overnight step of chilling the dough.  I’m curious to see if the other bakers found that it added anything to make it worth the extra time.

Oh, and the extra pumpkin from the recipe?  Perfect for making homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup.  🙂

If you want to see what this bread SHOULD look like, check out Rebecca’s post over at This Bountiful Backyard.  She also has a copy of the recipe posted if you’d like to try this one yourself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Irish Soda Bread

Having a St. Patrick’s Day birthday has shaped my celebrations over the years.  A few things I can always count on.  Corned beef and cabbage.  Crowded bars (often with at least one drunk guy who suggests rubbing his blarney stone for good luck.)  And more green frosting and leprechaun cards than you can imagine.

I’ve tried to embrace the smidgen of Irish ancestry my mother assures me exists somewhere among our dumpling-loving Eastern European roots.  This has included several attempts to make Irish Soda Bread.  The resulting loaves have been as follows:  heavy, dry, inedible, brick-like, tossed in the trash and fed to the dog.  So, while my fingers were crossed that this one would have a better outcome, my hopes weren’t too high.  Besides, thanks to my husband, there was some surprise birthday cake and a bottle of wine waiting in the refrigerator.

Oh.  My.  God.  Can you say that about bread?  Especially one with no yeast?  And one that takes all of five minutes to make?  This was so good, I actually skipped a second helping of cake in favor of another slice of bread.

So, thank you, Dorie.  You made it a happy birthday indeed.

Thanks to Cathy at My Culinary Mission and Carla at Chocolate Moosey for hosting this week.  You can check out their blogs for more details on the recipe.

Tuesdays with Dorie — White Loaves

There are few things that beat the aroma of freshly baked bread.  (Except maybe chocolate chip cookies.)  Growing up, I remember driving past the Merita Bread Bakery off the I-4, rolling down the windows and breathing in a whiff of heaven.  It sure beat the heck out of other things I’ve lived near.   Namely citrus plants.  LAX.  A paper mill.  And a Budweiser brewery.  Bread factory wins hands down.

I love baking bread.  In my head, I have this peaceful image of effortlessly kneading out dough first thing in the morning, my kitchen lit by Rembrandt or Caravaggio, my mind focused and clear of any thoughts other than the work at hand.  Of course it never works out quite so zen, especially with a toddler underfoot.   But there’s still something so comforting in the process of mix, knead, 1st rise, 2nd rise and bake.  And in the fact that, over hundreds of years, it really hasn’t changed.  Sure, our tools are a little fancier (although I’m fairly sure my thrifty Czech great-grandmother would simply shake her head at the shiny Kitchenaid mixer) but we still follow the same steps.  Just like our grandmothers and their grandmothers and their grandmothers.   Five steps.  Hundreds of years.  The same delicious result.

As proof, after baking this bread and reading Goodnight Moon five times in a row, I settled down with a glass of wine and my husband for this week’s installment of Downton Abbey.  Cut to an exchange with Mrs. Patmore in the kitchen.  Well, I have no idea what happened in the scene because I was too busy staring at the beautiful loaf of bread arranged on her cutting board.  Which looked exactly like the ones I’d made!    My husband even paused the DVR and made the same comment.   So it’s good to know that whatever dire dilemmas the Crawleys and staff are facing, at least they’re eating well.