Corny Cornbread

Corny cornbread. There should be a joke. It seems like it would be really easy to come up with one or write one from memory. I’m much too tired to do it. Three hours of sleep will do it. And going up to the barista and saying ‘give me something with  a lot of caffeine doesn’t help much.

I had my first open water certification scuba class last night. It was just classroom and playing with some equipment. Then I was on the phone with a friend until after 11 pm. Then I kept waking up until about 3 am and was wide awake at that point. Three hours of sleep may be over-generous.


The cool thing {and I can admit it may only be cool to me} is that scuba is a lot easier than it seems. Last December I went on three dives. Prior to the dives, I had to demonstrate competency of some skills in a pool (or confined water as they say in the scuba world). Once I actually dove, I realized even though it sounds complicated everything they teach you comes naturally once you are in the water. However, one thing I did not learn in December was how heavy all the equipment weighs. In December, the dive team did everything. Last night we learned how to assemble the gear, again it’s pretty easy, but sounded complicated reading how to do it in the book.It’s just heavy.


Now I know I should make a connection between scuba and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Cornbread here, but with lack of sleep the only thing I can come up with is that making cornbread is as easy as it reads, but because it is a Peter Reinhart recipe there is a required overnight step~soaking cornmeal in buttermilk~to get more flavor. Making cornbread is not like scuba at all. Actually, if I think about it more, making bagels is more like scuba. They sound more complicated to make and there is buoancy and float testing involved.

Or maybe the connection is that I made the cornbread more complicated than I needed to. I decided to make 1 1/2 times the recipe and bake the cornbread in a jelly roll pan so I would have a lot of cornbread that is a little flatter. I also made the cornbread without the bacon. I made it more complicated by forgetting that I only increased the recipe by half and would add in double the ingredients. Sometimes this was easy to correct and sometimes it was a little trickier, like with the baking powder.

In spite of my mistakes,  the cornbread was a success. The fresh corn makes it wonderful. Like one of my eaters said, it’s like eating a garden. I thought it needed a little more salt (I should have accidentally doubled that ingredient), but everyone else thought it was perfect.

In addition to serving it straight, I made some cubes, toasted them in the oven, and made a Caprese salad panzanella. Delicious!

If you would like more information about The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, please visit HERE.


cinnamon cranberry walnut bread

The next formula up for me in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge was the Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread. Out of raisins, I used cranberries. I also made the bread using half white whole-wheat flour. I was able to make three 7-ounce mini loaves out of half a recipe.

The bread was quick and easy, made and baked in the same day. I used my fresh yeast again, made the optional cinnamon-sugar swirl, and topped the fresh from oven loaves with a cinnamon-sugar topping.

I’m not the first person to say this about the bread: This bread is crack. Which is why I froze one loaf, took one loaf to work, and only ate the third. It was hard to take pictures without eating. No, not hard, impossible.

If you would like the recipe, buy the book: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. It’s a great book and I’ve learned a lot about bread baking.

Vegan Cinnamon Buns

I had fun with this week’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread–Cinnamon Buns or Sticky Buns. First of all, I used fresh yeast for the first time. It’s weird, it’s like clay.

Fresh Yeast

Secondly, I veganized the recipe. My sister, Desiree, has to cut out dairy from her diet for health reasons. Instead of butter, I used Earth Balance. For the milk, I used almond milk. And for the egg, I used one tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water.

The dough rose quickly and it didn’t need the full 2 hours for it to double in size. It was doubled in about an hour. Once shaped the buns rose beautifully. They were big before they went into the oven and they were ginormous when they came out.

Overall, this was an easy recipe. Not a lot of work for a great deal of bang. Eating these was like eating a soft pillow. They were light and very flavorful. These were the best I ever tasted, vegan or not. Definitely better than Cinnabon.  Sometime in the future I would love to bake the Sticky Bun version.

Ciabatta al Funghi

I have had problems pronouncing ciabatta. No matter how many times people have told me the right pronounciation, I always said it wrong the first time it comes out of my mouth. I always wanted to pronounce the “i”–saying chee-a-bah-tah instead of cha-bah-tah.

One of the bonus benefits of baking along with a group like The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is tweeting about our bread. I’ve previously mentioned learning how to spell international words and I can now proudly announce that I can correctly pronounce ciabatta. By tweeting so much about it, I’ve said it in my head so many times. Practice makes perfect.

Last September I made the poolish version of ciabatta out of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. You can see it HERE. I hesitated linking to my post about it. A lot has changed in a year. One is that my ciabatta now has holes! Not big massive holes, but there are holes. The other, as you know, is I will not be celebrating my anniversary this year. And if I want to get metaphorical like I did with my previous attempt at ciabatta, there were things obviously wrong with both my ciabatta and my marriage.

Back to the bread…this time around I decided to make the biga version and the Wild Mushroom (Ciabatta al Funghi) variation. This variation uses a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms. For the dried mushrooms, I used Trader Joe’s Mixed Wild Mushroom Medley which has: porcini, shiitake, black, and oyster mushrooms. I used cremini mushrooms for the fresh. The formula says to use a pound, but when I went shopping I mistakenly only bought a half a pound.

The dried mushrooms are rehydrated and added during the dough mixing-phase and the fresh mushrooms are sautéd with garlic in olive oil and added during the two stretch-and-fold turns.

Instead of shaping standard-sized ciabatta, I made twelve mini-ciabatta. The bread is incredibly creamy. It melts in my mouth. Every other bite, I’m hit with the taste of garlic. The bread tastes great plain, but it also makes a wonderful sandwich.

mini-challah rolls

I baked The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challah for the first time last September. You can see my previous attempt HERE. For a twist on the traditional braid, I decided to make mini-challah rolls.

I made 3 ounce rolls, with each strand weighing 1 ounce. I also added 1/2 cup of diced dried pears and dried cherries to the dough the last two minutes of kneading.

Making half a recipe, I yielded six rolls. Perfect.

I made these as part of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challange, a group dedicated to baking our way through Peter Reinhart’s book.