(The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.)

Quick breads!  I used to make a lot of quick breads, but I haven’t done one in a while.  So I took the opportunity this month to make two – a Beer Cheese Bread and a Lemon Bread.

They were both simple – mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, pour in a pan, and bake.   I did the beer bread first.

When I used to skydive, the woman who ran the kitchen made amazing beer bread.  It was thick and crusty and always warm.  Every beer bread I’ve had since has been compared to it.

This one had two kinds of cheeses – a sharp cheddar and asiago, plus sautéed green onions.  I put too many onions in it – the recipe called for a cup, but I accidentally grabbed the two cup measure out of the cupboard, and didn’t realize it until I was putting dishes in the dishwasher.  But I like green onions, so we didn’t mind.

Beer Bread 

After baking for an hour:

 Beer Bread

It was really good.  It was even better toasted the next day.  And I expect it will be good again tonight.

Then I made a lemon bread.  This one had lemon zest and lemon juice.  It was supposed to make two loaves, but I only have one small loaf pan, so I made one loaf and baked the other half into muffins.

Lemon Bread

It was also really good, particularly with the Meyer Lemon jam we got on Saturday from Revival Market. I also picked up some smoked lard there, which is going to have to make it’s way into biscuits soon.

I’m going to make one more loaf this month – the America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread.  It needs very ripe bananas, and they’re still not quite ready, so it’ll wait until later this week.

It was a fun, easy month.  Now I just have to find homes for more of this bread…

( see the recipes )

(The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.)

My grandmother was from Pennsylvania, and I remember her always bringing stollen for the holidays.  I’ve been talking about trying one for a few years now, but I always spend my days before Christmas frantically making chocolate.  This year, instead of chocolate gifts, I made jams.  The jams were done in advance, so I had plenty of time this year.

It wasn’t a difficult bread – it actually reminded me a lot of a cinnamon-raisin challah that a local bakery makes.  Just a basic egg yeast bread, slow-risen, with fruit.  I used candied peel and cherries from the grocery store, and raisins that were rehydrated in orange juice. 

Mixed and in my bread-rising-bowl, it looked like this:

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I let it rise, then rolled it out into a big square.  It was almost too big for my silicone rolling mat:

Christmas Stollen

I rolled it up from the long side, then formed it into a round.  I tucked one side inside the other, then "glued" them together with a tiny bit of egg wash.

Christmas Stollen

I snipped around the outside, let it rise one more time, then baked.

Christmas Stollen

Have a close-up:

Christmas Stollen

It was very good. I remember my grandmother’s having more fruit in it, and a glaze on top.  Next year, I’ll make my own candied zest, which should make it a bit more citrus-y, and add another kind of fruit besides the raisins and a few candied cherries. And maybe I’ll replace the powdered sugar with a citrus based glaze, with more fruit on top for decoration.  But those are all just tweaks – it really was quite good just the way it was.

( see the recipe )

This may be the silliest recipe I’ve ever posted.

I saw it on Tasty Kitchen and I couldn’t resist the urge to try it.

Take one pint ice cream – I used butter pecan – and let it sit until it’s soft enough to be squished around with a wooden spoon.

Then add 1.5 cups self-rising flour.  Mix until it’s thoroughly combined.  Dump into a 8×4 loaf pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

You get this:

Is it a great gourmet masterpiece? No. But it was solidly good.  I’ll probably never make it again, but it was a fun thing to do once.  And it would be a great project for a kid on a rainy afternoon!

For no apparent reason, I’ve been in the mood for banana bread.  I’d been putting it off until I went to the grocery store this weekend, where I found a bunch of 5 overripe bananas marked down to $.69.  I couldn’t pass them up, so they came home with me.

I have a really good banana bread recipe, with coconut and lime, but I didn’t really want something quite that complicated.  I’m not sure where this recipe came from originally – it’s one of those recipes that lurks in the depths of my recipe database.

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I always cheat, and instead of mashing bananas by hand, I just toss them in the stand mixer for a few minutes. After they were sufficiently “mashed”, I took them out of the bowl, then creamed the butter and brown sugar, then added two eggs and put the bananas back in.

I never bother putting dry ingredients in a separate bowl – I just use a bigger measuring cup, and mix them in there.  In this case, I put the 2 cups of flour in my 4-cup measuring cup, and there was plenty of room to mix in the baking soda and salt.  I added a dash of cinnamon to the dry ingredients, but it wasn’t in the recipe.

The dry ingredients went on top of the wet ingredients and got mixed very lightly.  If you wanted nuts, you could add them here, but I didn’t have any.

Then the batter went in a greased loaf pan and baked for an hour.

This is one of the most banana-y banana bread recipes I’ve ever had.  The texture is perfect:

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Not every recipe has to be complicated. Sometimes the simple things are perfect just the way they are.

( see the recipe )

Leek Bread Pudding

I don’t think of bread pudding as savory – or at least I didn’t.  Then I found this Leek Bread Pudding recipe.

The recipe sounds just like bread pudding: toasted bread (I used challah), eggs, milk, and nutmeg.  But instead of sugar and raisins, it’s got leeks and cheese.

What you end up with, though, is closer to dressing.  In fact, it’s going on my list of Christmas side dishes for this year, to replace the bread stuffing that never seems to turn out.

I used about half a loaf of the challah I had leftover.  The leeks got sliced and caramelized while I cubed and toasted the bread.  Then everything got tossed together – the bread, some fresh thyme (I doubled the thyme, and I’d probably throw in some sage as well next time I make it), the caramelized leeks, and the fresh chives. 

The NYT recipe called for a 13×9 pan, but I tried Smitten Kitchen’s idea and put it in a large loaf pan.  I don’t have any clue how she managed to get it back out of the loaf pan in one piece, because despite using a non-stick loaf pan and butter, the cheese still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Whatever pan you use, layer in the cheese and the bread mixture, pour in the milk and egg mixture, let it sit for 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the milk, then put it in the oven.  The entire house will smell amazing for the hour it takes to bake.

Leek Bread Pudding

Since mine refused to let go of the pan to be neatly sliced, I just spooned it into a bowl.

I served it with a beer-can chicken:

Leek Bread Pudding

It’s definitely replacing all my existing stuffing recipes.  You could modify the spices to make it fit with pretty much any meal – the thyme and sage would go fine with poultry, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add other traditional stuffing ingredients, like oysters, apples, or sausage.

But I might not tell my Christmas guests that it’s bread pudding.  At least not until after it’s all been eaten.

( see the recipe )