• Aviation Bread
    Breads,  Other,  Sandwich

    Marble Wheat, Spiral Wheat, or Double Take Bread? Just call it “Aviation Bread.”

    Airplanes, automobiles and Seinfeld created American crazes—and brought two-toned bread along for the ride. “Marble” or “marbled” bread usually refers to rye bread with a yin-yang swirl of light and dark. Two breads in one—what a luxury. It makes Reubens more Reubenesque. It draws us in with that hypnotic spiral. Seinfeld elevated a braided version of this deli specialty to an object of adulation and obsession in “The Rye” episode. But a two-toned bread made of wheat generally just gets called “spiral.” Although it looks like marble rye and could probably substitute for it, hardly anyone calls it “marble wheat.” Double Take Bread Years ago, someone made a valiant attempt to give spiral whole…

  • Breads,  Main Dish,  Other,  Sandwich,  Snacks

    Better-Than-Brioche Burger Buns

    In the baking aisle at Stop and Shop many years ago I passed by a young mother with two small children. She was intently surveying the shelves when her little girl reached for a tub of ready-made fudge frosting and begged, “Mommy, can we get this?” “Honey,” she snapped in a reprimanding tone, “if I’m going to go through all the trouble of baking a cake, I’m not going to put that shit all over it.” While her choice of words led me to question her parenting style, the wisdom of them has stuck with me. Yes, it’s all too easy to skimp on finishing touches. Consider the venerable hamburger.  Carefully crafted and perfectly…

  • Breads,  Italian,  Other,  Snacks,  Technique

    Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

    There is no greater glory for flour and yeast than to metamorphose into pizza dough. Yet, hard as we try, it’s difficult to capture the flavor and chew of pizzeria crust at home. What’s the secret? If you ask Christopher Kimball, he’d say the secret ingredient in great pizza dough isn’t an ingredient at all: it’s temperature. Just before baking, bring the dough to 75°F, and it will puff up and give you a lovely crust. In Naples, though, they would offer another, more powerful secret ingredient that’s also not an ingredient: a wood fire. A wood-fired oven radiates the heat of Hades for a quick, dramatic rise. The crust gets crisp on the…

  • Appetizers,  Breads,  Crackers,  Pastries,  Side Dishes,  Snacks,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Puffy Cheese Sticks

    As we dip our toes back into the sea of socializing, we need PPEs—Prepared Party Edibles—snacks that are ready to serve the moment the stars align. These flaky, cheddar-laced sticks make the perfect nibble—they are simple to prep and freeze, and then quickly bake into puffy little wands of cheesy goodness. Before snack scientists created vacuum-packed rods of mozzarella so parents could dole out string cheese to kids, “cheese sticks” referred to these savory pastry hors d’oeuvres. Also known as cheese straws, they go back to the kitchens of the 1860s, with notable recipes in UK’s famed Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) and in Godey’s Magazine (October 1865) in the US. The…

  • Breads,  Desserts,  Egg dishes,  Muffins,  Passover,  Pastries,  Snacks

    Whose Passover Popovers Win You Over?

    Before Passover is over, treat yourself to some popovers. Judy Geller, a dream client and the mastermind behind many industry-leading conferences and events, introduced me to these years ago. We would meet at a cafe where I could spread out advertising concepts and layouts for her to review. Then we’d linger and talk about family, holidays, and her family’s Passover Popover recipe. These popovers are so delicious, so un-Passover-ish, we might as well just call them “bread” and be done with the pretense. The other day when I called to ask if I could post the recipe, Judy asked, “Which one?” To my surprise, she has not one, but two family recipes for Passover…

  • Breads,  Italian,  Other,  Technique

    Italian Star Bread Secrets Revealed! Make Bakery-Quality Loaves.

    For decades I’ve sought this holy grail of bread recipes. Star bread, the American cousin of what I consider the finest bread in Italy, is the stuff of legends. Italian bakers introduced it to Springfield, Massachusetts, and a few other places in the state about a hundred years ago. Specialty Italian bakeries hooked customers on the twisty-shaped loaves, also called “horn bread” or “bolognese bread.” Those bakeries have dwindled to a handful, and star bread always sells out—often before it reaches the shelves. What makes it so special? The hard, golden brown, impossibly smooth crust has the crunch of a dry breadstick. In contrast, the soft crumb inside is fine, compact, and as bright…

  • Breads,  Technique

    Brilliant Baking with the Bread Bucket

    Now I know how I’ll make my millions. I’ll dust the cobwebs off my MBA and manufacture a shiny new version of the bread bucket, a once-popular tool for cranking out bakery-quality loaves. I betcha even King Arthur Flour will feature this brilliant energy saver in their baking porn catalog. Of course, I’ll have to cut Bruce Belden in on the deal. Bruce, the illustrious president of my high school class, has become an ardent home bread baker and he tipped me off about the bread bucket phenomenon. Here’s Bruce’s story. Once you’ve read it, you’ll want in on the bread bucket business, too. ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Cranking Out Loaves with the Bread Bucket by Bruce…

  • Appetizers,  Breads,  Breakfast,  Side Dishes,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia

    My daughter-in-law Raegan Sales, creative vegetarian home cook and baker, generously offers yet more proof that some great breads just about make themselves. She started with something called “Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread” and—yes—made it even easier. And ridiculously delicious. With Raegan’s Focaccia, a bubbly wet dough bakes into a delightfully chewy golden-crusted flatbread. It owes its tender crumb and lovely flavor to hours of fermentation in the fridge and oodles of olive oil. About all we do is stir and stare, except when we get to poke our fingers into the squishy, oily dough. The payoff: warm, aromatic, hole-studded focaccia eager to get dunked into more olive oil or devoured on the spot. It…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Cakes

    Muriel Brody’s Wheat Germ Banana Bread

    My mom died in August, just a month shy of turning 102. She was a success at more than just longevity. She became an art teacher rather than a journalist because her father thought it was a safer profession for women in the 1930s. And even though she’d never picked up a paintbrush until she entered Moore College of Art, her watercolors were as masterful as if she’d been born with the divine gift. She gave up teaching to serve as a Naval officer’s wife at a time when “entertaining” was serious business. Throwing dinner parties and organizing wives’ club luncheons were part of the job, and she had the poise and smarts to…

  • Biscuits,  Breads,  Side Dishes

    Emergency Corn Biscuits

    Emergency Corn Biscuits lured me in with the wacky name, but they could just as well have been called Cornbread-Lovers’ Biscuits. This recipe is out of the 1922 Good Housekeeping cookbook, from an era when American housewives apparently faced corn biscuit emergencies. I tried to imagine such predicaments: “Honey, the Johnsons just brought over baked beans.” Or: “The wrestling coach wants you to put on how many pounds, Jimmy?” Or: “How long has this sack of cornmeal been in the pantry?” But the emergency—and a serious one at that—was not in the American kitchen but abroad. This recipe came from World War I, when American households voluntarily conserved foods to help feed troops and save victims…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Portuguese Sweet Bread (Mazza Savada)

    Portuguese Sweet Bread shows up at Easter with dyed eggs poking out the top. Frankly, I think it looks better without them. The mahogany crust and soft, eggy interior make a luxurious slice, turning toast or sandwiches into a special occasion. With this easy no-knead recipephany, you can make this splendid bread on a whim. Just stir ingredients into a shaggy dough and let it sit overnight. Next day, form it into a ball, let it rise in the pan, and bake. That makes the hardest part remembering to start the night before. While my mom didn’t bake bread, she set aside this recipe for me back in the 90s. She found it in…

  • Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf
    Breads,  Breakfast,  Sandwich

    Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

    Oh, those French bakers. They take great pains (no pun intended) to make slender baguettes with thick, shatteringly crisp crusts. And yet, as if to thumb their noses at the whole artisan baking thing, they also crank out rectangular sandwich loaves with virtually no crusts at all. Pain de mie (“bread of crumb”) is the anti-baguette. A baguette takes days to make and goes stale after three hours. Pain de mie takes about three hours to make and stays fresh for days. (Julia Child said it tastes even better after a day or two.) Enriched with milk, pain de mie delights with a fine, light crumb and holds its shape even when sliced thin…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    Bake Yourself Happy with Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread

    In his final “Kitchen Detective” newspaper column, Christopher Kimball signed off with some advice. He said that once you find a recipe that makes you happy, just stick with it. Don’t waste your time chasing down perfection. This sounded odd coming from a guy who built an empire on his own obsession with finding “The Best Recipes.” But even he could admit that, as the saying goes, better is the enemy of good. Since whole wheat sandwich bread is a character actor in a supporting role, a good loaf can range from dense to airy, dark to light, sweet to slightly bitter. There are plenty of recipes kicking around, and if you’ve found one…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Challah Sandwich Loaf, or How to Bake Yourself to Sleep

    It takes chutzpah for me to post a challah recipe. My niece Ariel (see Hugs and Cookies) is the one known for all manner of gorgeous eggy braids, coils and pull-apart rolls. She even uses special challah flour. While I’ve made competent challahs using a traditional recipe, this recipephany is remarkable because it produces the same rich taste and pillowy-soft texture without kneading. You stir it up using only a wooden spoon or (my preference) a dough whisk. What starts as a gloppy, blobby Jabba-the-Hutt mass turns smooth and elastic while it rises. It stops just short of braiding itself. I discovered this recipe recently after lying awake in the wee hours thinking of how…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Other

    Matt Murphy’s Irish Brown Bread

    If you’re looking for Irish Soda Bread—the slightly sweet scone-like raisin bread that is as much a part of St. Patrick’s Day as green beer—sorry, this isn’t it. This recipephany is for authentic Irish Brown Bread, the hearty whole-grain soda bread served on cutting boards alongside a crock of butter or ragged slices of cheddar. Well, at least at Matt Murphy’s Pub. Everyone in Ireland makes Irish Brown Bread. It’s a kind of national institution. I wish I could say I brought this recipe back from our trip there a couple of years ago. I had made it my mission to track down the best recipe. One woman rattled off the recipe from her…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Ingredient

    Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

    Cinnamonth continues with this recipephany for cinnamon-lover’s bread. With a swirl that leans toward gooey, it’s a warm morning greeting when toasted, and a fun twist with peanut butter and jam. If you’re like me and enjoy stirring up mounds of cinnamon and sugar to create a spice cloud you can inhale while you bake, this is for you. Just thinking about it gives me a tingling in my sinuses. When my daughter Claire gave me the recipe she got from Allrecipes, she said, “Use TONS of cinnamon.” She reasoned that if you’re in this for the cinnamon—and it is “cinnamon bread” after all—then the more you can taste the better the bread will…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Pastries,  Snacks,  Technique

    Last Gasp of Summer: Blueberry Whole-Wheat Scones

    As part of September denial, I’ve been manically buying up fresh blueberries. The season is fast slipping away, and before you know it, blueberries will cost a dime apiece again. I’ve been making these sunny whole-grain blueberry scones for the past two weeks. They’re buttery, pastry-like and tender, with tangy berries that melt on the tongue and make me wonder what I ever saw in chewy raisins. While this is an amalgam of recipes, it is mostly a repurposing of Liz’s Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake recipephany. I’ve borrowed the key ingredients, the spices, and the technique of soaking oats in buttermilk to create a sweet mush without any hint of roughage (or as…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Pastries,  Technique

    Croissant Crazy

    I just tried this recipe and was thunderstruck. Here were high, flaky croissants, the kind I’d expect to pull out of a butter-stained bakery bag rather than right out of my oven. The French call it un coup de foudre—love at first sight—and I’ve fallen hard for this recipephany. My dreams of baking authentic croissants go way back to my advertising copywriting days at “The Pit.” (See “How to Fowl-Up a Chicken.”) In a desperate attempt to escape that basement sweatshop, I came within a gluten-strand of opening a bakery with a “Best-in-Boston” croissant baker who happened to live downstairs from us. In a moment of over-caffeinated inspiration, I named the prospective bakery Croissant…

  • Breads,  Technique

    No-Knead Rustic Bread

    I’m one of millions of home bakers who, after failed attempts at making crusty bread, achieved the impossible with the New York Times’ No-Knead Bread recipephany created by Jim Lahey (owner of Sullivan Street Bakery) and turned viral by Mark Bittman (big-time food writer). With no special ingredients or equipment, this phenomenal bread essentially makes itself. It has the holey, airy, chewy and crusty goodness of a European-style loaf from a respectable bakery. We use this for everything, from sandwiches, bread pudding, and bruschetta to (in its last gasp) toasted breadcrumbs. Once a week I stir up the dough after dinner, then bake it the next morning or early afternoon. The toasty aroma and…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Dick’s Sticky Buns

    With the exception of our family tree trimming—when nostalgia and aesthetics collide as we unwrap ornaments and debate which deserve center stage—the sticky bun is my favorite Christmas tradition. The tradition goes like this. The week before Christmas, we bake these fluffy, high cinnamon rolls glazed with caramel and topped with pecans. On Christmas morning, the buns, wrapped in foil crinkled from storage in the freezer, warm in the oven. Meanwhile, the kids squirm and whine on the stair landing, as if restrained by Santa’s Invisible Fence, until buns and coffee are ready. Once out for all to grab, the sticky buns fuel the strenuous morning of gift opening and debris management. My late…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Vegan

    Vegan Banana Bread — can it be a guilty pleasure?

    It goes beyond moist to practically gooey. Think banana intoxication with a nutmeg buzz and a chocolate rush. Does this come in IV form? Is it right to swoon like this at breakfast? Yet this can’t be a guilty pleasure, right? It’s vegan, for goodness sake! Raegan Sales, a talented vegetarian cook, may have created this cake-like bread for vegans, but it’s also for anyone with too many bananas and no eggs. It bakes beautifully with all non-creature ingredients. And I admit I was pleasantly surprised with Earth Balance, a delicious faux butter. Thank you, Raegan, for sharing this special recipephany. Be forewarned, though: waiting the eternal half-hour for this to cool is a…