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Country Bread

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Home baked bread, eaten while still warm, slathered with butter, accompanying a hearty soup on a cold winter evening…what’s not to like? Country Bread is dense and sturdy, full of flavor and texture from whole wheat, rye, and white flour. It takes a couple of days from start to finish (unless you get started before dawn or want to eat it at midnight, by my calculation.) The procedure includes making a sponge that requires a six to eight hour rest at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. So it requires some planning, although not so much active time.

I’ve always admired artisan bread that has a pattern of the weave from the basket or banetton in which it is formed. Not owning a banetton, I lined an oval basket with a kitchen towel rubbed with flour, amazed by the quantity of flour that was absorbed. My loaf came out of the oven with just a slight ghost of the basket weave pattern…but that was enough.

The half cup of rye flour in the sponge really called to me to add more rye flour to the dough, so I substituted a cup of rye flour for a cup of the white flour, possibly adding to the density of this loaf. Oh, and if you try this recipe, beware of adding the second yeast/water mixture to the dough while the mixer is running. I had yeasty water splattered all over the mixer, counter, and floor.

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This bread was fun to bake, but my go-to recipe for a rustic bread will still be the Pane Integrale in Jim Lahey’s book My Bread (similar to this recipe on the Sullivan Street Bakery website.) The recipe for the Country Bread is from Baking With Julia, on pages 136-137. Bakers participating in the Tuesdays With Dorie bake and blog project have posted links to their blog posts at Tuesdays With Dorie.

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Gingersnaps

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A cookie recipe with only two tablespoons of butter…it didn’t sound promising. I thought of those rock hard gingersnaps that you can buy. This is a surprisingly small batch recipe. It makes about two dozen small thin cookies which happily are not hard at all. The recipe is a contribution from David Blom in Baking With Julia. I actually wound up making it twice, because the first batch was gone before I took photos. I tried some minor variations with both versions.

For the first batch, I doubled the amount of the spices, ginger and cinnamon, and I used whole wheat flour. The cookies were very sweet and chewy, and for my taste, the spices had just the right kick. The second time around, I added chopped pecans to add texture and cut the sweetness. I also used grated fresh ginger in place of powdered, again doubled the amount of cinnamon, and used a third whole wheat and two thirds white flour. I omitted the molasses glaze on the second batch…it seemed fussy without adding significantly to the flavor or appearance.

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I don’t make rolled and cut out cookies very often any more. When my daughter was young, I made them pretty frequently…we had a growing collection of cookie cutters…and we usually made gingerbread families at Christmas. These gingersnaps were so easy to put together, and the dough so easy to handle, that I may be motivated to start baking rolled cookies again.

The brightness of the fresh ginger and the crunch of the nuts made the second batch my favorite – a truly snappy gingersnap. The recipe is on pages 324-325 of Baking With Julia. To read what other bakers have to say about these gingersnaps, visit Tuesdays With Dorie.

Pumpkin Apple Galette

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When I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Apple Galette on the Food52 website, I knew I would have to make it during the Thanksgiving weekend. I always bake a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, partly as tradition, and partly because, like turkey, stuffing and gravy, I never make pumpkin pie at any other time.

This galette has a layer of pumpkin filling topped with sliced apples and dried cranberries. Brown sugar and spices are combined and then divided between the pureed pumpkin and the sliced apples. I like this kind of shortcut…it makes sense and saves time. One thing I would do differently next time is to layer the dried cranberries under the apples, so they do not dry out in baking.

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The warming spices, creamy pumpkin, and tart apples merge and offset the crunchy crust. I used a different crust recipe from here. The recipe was contributed to Food52 by Nicole who writes a beautiful food blog, A Local Choice, where she travels to a destination within 100 miles of Columbus, Ohio, focuses on an ingredient they are growing or producing, and writes a recipe based off that ingredient, in this case apples.

Challah

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This was my first time making challah, although I’ve made some similarly egg-and-butter rich breads. Feeling overly satiated after Thanksgiving, I made half the recipe for one loaf, rather than baking two and freezing one. I already have a loaf of pumpernickel in the freezer waiting for an occasion or opportunity. The challah, baked from a recipe contributed by Lauren Groveman in Baking With Julia, is both delicious and beautiful. Challah 060

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Like brioche, challah is a bread rich in dairy products – milk, eggs, and butter – lending it a soft, luscious and slightly chewy texture. To see and read about challah as baked by other bakers, follow their links on the Tuesdays With Dorie blog.

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Challah, as painted by my friend Judith McCabe Jarvis.

Double Chocolate Cookies

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Double Chocolate Cookies are really brownies masquerading as cookies. They’re super chocolatey, and I love chocolate and brownies, but I was a little disappointed that they didn’t surprise me with something new. They contain a full pound of chocolate and only a half cup of flour. And although they have a lot of sugar, they’re not very sweet. They are definitely a chocolate lover’s cookie…there is nothing subtle about them.

The recipe calls for refrigerating the dough before baking the cookies. That was great, since I like baking just as many cookies at a time as we’re likely to eat in one or two days.

The recipe is on pages 329-330 of Baking With Julia. To read about other bakers’ versions of Double Chocolate Cookies, you can find links to their blog posts at Tuesdays With Dorie.

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This rustic cobbler of seasonal fruits is topped with a biscuit dough rich with butter and heavy cream and spiced with fresh ginger. It gains added texture and crunch from cornmeal. I enjoyed the fresh ginger flavor with the peaches and plums…a good flavor combination.

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The recipe, from Baking With Julia, on pages 389-390, is imagined as individual cobblers baked in ramekins. I made one large cobbler in a baking dish, distributing the cornmeal biscuit dough in clumps over the fruit.

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More versions of Johnnycake Cobbler can be viewed by following the links on Tuesdays With Dorie.

Raspberry Fig Crostata

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I baked this raspberry fig crostata back in August, so I’m a little sketchy on the details of the baking process. I’m sure we loved it. The crust is made from a sesame almond dough, rich with butter, almonds, sesame seeds, and eggs, sweetened with some sugar, and flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon zest. And that is just the crust.

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The filling is a lush but simple blend of figs, raspberries, brown and white sugar, more lemon zest, and a bit of flour. Half the fruit is precooked on the stovetop with the remaining ingredients, bringing out the fruit juices and allowing them to thicken. The uncooked fruit is added before the crostata crust is filled.

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I do remember that the lattice strips for the top crust were difficult to handle with a tendency to break and crumble. I just sort of stuck them back together, and it turned out fine.

The recipe is on pages 374-375 of Baking With Julia. Visit the Tuesdays With Dorie website to read about other bakers’ experiences and variations on the Raspberry Fig Crostata.