It’s been ages since I made homemade bread. This morning, I realized we were out of bread and with the rainy weather; I was not in the mood to step out my front door! I looked through my vast collection of recipes and decided to make Challah bread. This is one of my favorites, next to sour dough and The Cheesecake Factory’s brown bread.
Oddly enough, I chose the recipe from “Rodelle” because I came across some vanilla beans (from Rodelle) in my pantry, and I remembered seeing one for Vanilla Challah bread (the addition of vanilla beans is optional).
I have been complimented on my bread making before, but I wasn’t sure; I have days where nothing comes out right. I think I have to be in the mood to bake!
When I saw how smooth and elastic the dough was, I knew I was on the right track. The dough rose so high; I had a feeling the recipe might be a keeper. And the smell … there is nothing better than the aroma of fresh-baked bread. Challah-lew- yeah!!!
I could not wait to taste the bread, so I made 2 individual little buns, as testers. I was so impressed that I’ve added this recipe to my T&T (tried and true) file.
If I can make this simple recipe, I know you can too! Give it a try, then have butter and jam ready!
Since homemade bread doesn’t contain any preservatives, it tends to go stale by the next day. No worries, I wrapped the bread tightly in a large plastic bag, and it was still soft the following day. It tasted great toasted. One more thing, this bread is perfect (stale) for making French toast!
Adapted from Rodelle.com
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves
- 4 ½ – 5 ½ cups unbleached flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp water
- In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; blend well
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water, vanilla extract, and butter until very warm (120°F.)
- Add warm liquid and 4 eggs to flour mixture
- Blend at low speed until moistened. Then beat 3 minutes at medium speed
- Stir in an additional 2 to 2 ½ cups flour until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl
- On a floured surface, knead in ½ to 1 cup flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes
- Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 35 minutes
- Grease large cookie sheet
- Punch down dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide dough in half; dived each half into 3 equal parts
- Roll each part into 14-inch rope. Braid 3 ropes together; seal ends by pressing firmly together
- Place on greased cookie sheet
- Repeat with other half of dough
- Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 15 to 25 minutes
- Heat oven to 400° F. Uncover dough. Bake 10 minutes. Brush with mixture of egg white, vanilla bean, and 1 tbsp water
- Return to oven; bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped
- Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire racks
- If you want to freeze the bread, make sure the loaf has cooled, then cut into thick slices with a serrated knife and freeze in Ziploc freezer bags (or Lock and Lock containers, which are my favorite)!
- Be sure to freeze the bread on the same day it’s baked for extra freshness!
I’ve tried many banana bread recipes and noticed that some call for oil or butter. I find recipes with oil have a greasy taste, whereas butter makes everything taste great! I also think the addition of buttermilk or sour cream is a must. It makes for an incredibly moist loaf.
After experimenting with over 6 different recipes, I thought the one from Martha Stewart (which I’ve been using for a long time) was the best one. Recently, I found a new recipe on the back of a Gold Medal flour bag. I like to buy unbleached flour across the border (Gold Medal or King Arthur). I tried their recipe and now it’s my favorite one. The banana bread comes out moist and flavorful, with just the right amount of ingredients.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by adding 1 tbsp vinegar or fresh lemon juice to milk, to add up to 1 cup (½ tbsp for ½ cup). Stir and let sit at least 5 minutes. If I have sour cream or plain yogurt on hand, I mix it with milk (50/50), and I get great results.
This bread freezes well and we like to take a few pieces out for breakfast. After the loaf has cooled completely, slice it into generous portions and wrap each one individually. Store in a lock and lock container, or a heavy duty Ziploc freezer bag.
H likes walnuts and I prefer pecans; either one tastes great. I like to toast the nuts and let them cool before adding to the mix. Or, you can add chocolate chips/chunks.
My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe
Adapted from goldmedalflour.com
Makes two 8″ loaves or one 9″ loaf
- 1 cup sugar (do not use less, I’ve already adapted this recipe)
- ½ cup butter (room temperature)
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups unbleached flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips, if desired
- Move oven rack to centre position. Preheat oven to 350°F
- Grease bottoms and tops of two 8.5×4.5×2.5″ or one 9x5x3″ loaf pan/s. You can also use strips of parchment paper to line the pans
- In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to combine, set aside
- Mix sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy
- Add eggs one at a time, allowing at least 1 minute between each addition, scrape bottom of bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated
- Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth
- Stir in flour mixture just until moistened. Do not overmix
- Gently stir in nuts or chocolate chips
- Pour evenly into pan/s
- Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1-¼ hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
- Cool 10 -15 minutes on a rack. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing
- Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or freeze
- Always check your baked goods before the baking period has ended, or you’ll end up with overbaked and dry treats
- Mini banana breads make great gifts! To make, grease bottoms and sides of 10 miniature loaf pans, 4 1/2×2 3/4×1 1/4 inches. I prefer to place strips of parchment paper down for easy removal. Divide batter among pans (about ½ cup each). Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
H and I love eggs! Fried to be exact. I have to share a secret though; I am NOT good at frying eggs. I’ve tried room temperature eggs, new non-stick pans, lots of oil and butter, but I guess when I’m frying 3-4 in a pan, there isn’t much wiggle room. In my defense, H says I can’t be good at everything!
Enter “Egg-in-a-Hole!” I’m sure many of you have made this very simple recipe, but I hadn’t. When I told a friend about my broken yolks, she suggested making them this way.
What I love is that they’re fast and easy. I like my hot food hot, and my cold food cold. When I cook, I try to have everything ready all at once. I even butter slices of bread before putting them in the toaster, so they come out hot and I don’t have to wait.
I LOVE this new way of frying an egg!
- Crack each egg into separate bowls
- Butter both sides of your bread
- Use a biscuit cutter and make a hole
- Add a small amount of butter to a non-stick frying pan. I like to use a silicone pastry brush and melted butter. That way, I can control the amount
- Heat your pan to moderate heat, and place the buttered bread down (my pan can fit 2 slices of bread)
- Gently pour one egg into the center of the bread
- Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper
- I kept peeking at the underside so it wouldn’t get too brown
- Use a sharp-edged non-stick spatula and flip the bread over
- When the bottom is nicely browned, they’re ready!
DELICIOUS – and, no broken yolks!!! I think kids would love their eggs this way too. H was very happy since he’s a dipper!
I haven’t made homemade pizza in ages! When H & I returned from our trip to Chicago several years ago, I was obsessed with recreating the deep dish pizzas we devoured.
H loves pizza, but I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. I found an easy pizza dough recipe that was crispy and produced a medium crust (not thin or thick). I’m not a huge fan of thin crust pizza; I like to be able to hold a slice up without it falling all over. I tried the recipe from Rachael Ray and Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), and liked both. H seemed to favor Rachael’s. I preferred Ree’s (and it was so much easier)!
Since I had to experiment several times, it meant eating pizza for 4 nights in a row! It was a bit of work, but “Sous Chef H” was up to the task.
We found that dicing some of the toppings into very small pieces helped to ensure even baking. I didn’t have time to make a homemade tomato sauce, but I would suggest using a very good quality store-bought sauce.
Pizza Crust #1
Makes 4 small or 2 medium/large pizzas
Adapted from rachaelraymag.com
- 1 cup lukewarm water (105 – 115°F)
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 3 cups (or more) all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 ¾ tsp coarse salt
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Mix the warm water and honey in a liquid measuring cup until the honey dissolves
- Sprinkle with the yeast and let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes
- Meanwhile, using a food processor, pulse the flour and salt to mix
- Pour the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp oil over the flour mixture
- Process until the dough comes together in a sticky ball, about 20 to 30 seconds
- Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead, using the heel of your hand, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes
- Lightly oil a large bowl; add the dough, turning to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour
- Punch the dough down, and then turn onto a cutting board. Using a knife, section the dough into 2 or 4 equal rounds (2 medium/large or 4 small pizzas)
- Place the dough ball on the work surface and cup your hand lightly over it. Rotate your hand counterclockwise, letting the dough roll on the work surface. Use flour sparingly if needed. Continue until the surface of the dough is smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough balls
- Place each dough ball in a large resealable plastic bag or plastic container with a lid. Refrigerate for 10 to 48 hours (the dough will continue to rise). Let the dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping, or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let the frozen dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours before shaping
- Preheat your oven to 425°F. Place oven rack in the middle
- You can use a non-stick round pizza pan or an aluminum pie plate. If you are using an aluminum pie plate, make sure you grease it well with olive oil
- Place 1 ball of dough onto your choice of pan. Press it out with your fingers and hand. The dough will stretch and resist, just keep shaping
- Spread tomato or pizza sauce sparingly and evenly over dough. I find too much sauce makes for a soggy pizza
- Sprinkle with a light layer of mozzarella cheese. Place toppings next. We used green peppers, onions, portabella mushrooms, black olives and pepperoni. Layer lightly with more mozzarella cheese
- Bake until golden brown (from 20-30 minutes, depending on your toppings and oven temperature). I always use a spatula to loosen the pizza once it starts to brown and to check underneath (to ensure an even brown crust on the bottom)
- Let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing
- If you don’t have a pizza stone, don’t worry, we made it twice with and twice without. The pizza stone will ensure a very crisp and evenly baked pizza, but it’s also a nightmare to clean, since you cannot clean it with water, soap or any chemicals. It will stain and look scary! We cleaned ours (after it cooled) with a very stiff BBQ brush
- I found little difference in letting the finished dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before assembling
Pizza Crust #2
Makes 1 large pizza
Adapted from the Pioneer Woman cookbook
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water (105 – 115°F)
- 2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Add sugar or honey to warm water and stir to dissolve
- Sprinkle yeast over water and let sit until foamy (5 minutes)
- In a stand mixer, add flour and salt and stir to combine
- With mixer on low, add olive oil, and then yeast/water mixture
- Mix until combined
- Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel
- Keep in a warm draft free place and allow to rise for 1 hour
- The dough is ready to use! Or, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the dough – see steps in Rachael Ray’s recipe above