Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread

In the Middle Ages, spices were a symbol of status and prosperity. Aristocrats’ meals were ordinarily heavily spiced, and saffron was especially favored. The attractive, bright yellow was used to color a variety of dishes.

It is believed that Welsh devas, also known as faeries, thrived on saffron. A twelfth-century story by Giraldus Cambrensis tells of a boy who was taken to a faery palace and found that the whole faery court ate nothing but saffron and milk.

The saffron crocus was first found in Greece and Asia Minor. Later, medieval people found that they could grow the flower closer to home. Spain, Italy, and England all produced large quantities of saffron.

¾  Cup Warm Milk

1 (¼-Ounce) Package Active Dry Yeast

1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar

¼ Teaspoon Saffron Strands

½ Cup Boiling Water

3½ Cups All-Purpose Flour

1 Cup Butter, Softened

½ Cup Superfine Sugar

½ Cup Raisins

½ Cup Dried Cranberries

½ Cup Chopped Candied Orange Peel

1 Teaspoon Minced Fresh Thyme

Pour the milk into a bowl and dissolve the yeast and the sugar in it. Let stand in a warm place for approximately 10 minutes, until foaming. Steep the saffron in the boiling water for several minutes, then let the mixture cool.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. In a small bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then add raisins, cranberries, orange peel, and thyme, mixing well. Gradually add the flour.

Strain the saffron mixture. Add the yeast mixture and saffron liquid to the flour mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth; it should look like a very thick batter.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pour the batter into a greased and lined 10-inch round cake pan. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour, until the mixture rises to the top of the pan. Bake the bread for 1 hour. Let it cool in the pan.

Slice and serve with butter.

Gluten Free Banana Maple Bread

Everyone loves a piece of freshly baked banana bread, especially one that’s sugar, gluten and wheat free.. It is a perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee, or just on its own for a snack.

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons linseed (flaxseed) meal

2 cups almond meal

½ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup millet flakes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla powder

1/8 teaspoon Himalayan salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 ripe bananas

¼ cup melted coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 315ºF. Line a loaf tin, measuring about 9½ x 5 inches, and about 2½ inches deep, with parchment paper.

Put the linseed meal in a bowl, mix in ¾ cup water and place in the fridge for 5–10 minutes, or until the mixture gels together and takes on an egg-white consistency.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, coconut, millet flakes, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and baking soda.

In a small bowl, mash two of the bananas using a fork. Mix in the coconut oil and maple syrup.

Add the banana mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until combined, then pour the batter into the loaf tin.

Slice the remaining banana and arrange over the loaf. Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing.

The loaf will keep for 2–3 days, stored in an airtight container in the fridge or at room temperature.

Lucia Buns (Swedish Lussekatter)

½ gram saffron

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

⅓ cup sugar, plus a pinch for proofing the yeast

3½ cups flour

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon table salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

36 dried, sweetened cranberries

Swedish pearl sugar (optional, but so good – available at King Arthur Flour or Sur La Table) for sprinkling

On a small plate, grind the saffron with the back of a spoon until it is powdered. If you have a mortar and pestle, that will work wonderfully.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the milk until just beginning to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat, add the saffron, and stir. Allow the mixture to cool to the temperature of a warm bath. When the milk is warm but not hot, add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Allow the mixture to sit until it is bubbling and has grown in volume, about 5 minutes

While the yeast mixture is proofing, in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the sugar, flour, sour cream, and salt.

Add the yeast mixture, and knead until the dough is nice and smooth, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue kneading the dough until it again pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It might seem like this is never going to happen, but all of a sudden, you’ll have a nice, smooth ball of dough.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until doubled in size.

Punch down the risen dough, knead it briefly on a lightly floured counter, and divide the dough into eighteen equal portions.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, skinny strip, about 12 inches long. Roll the left end of the dough up and clockwise until it reaches the middle, then roll the right end down and clockwise until it reaches the middle. Your dough should now look like a very tightly rolled S.

Place the Ss on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the buns are rising, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Just before baking, lightly brush the tops and sides of each lucia bun with the egg wash, place a cranberry at the center of each swirl, and sprinkle the tops with pearl sugar.

Bake the lucia buns for 8 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the buns to cool. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Hearty Swiss Cheese Bread

This hearty bread is one of my favorites to make to accompany soups and stews.  It is  very easy to make and always a crowd pleaser.  I have brought this to numerous family and friends parties and dinners.  I am constantly asked for the recipe, so here I give it to the world.

½ Cup Sour Cream

1 Package Active Dry Yeast

1 Cup Warm Water

2 Tablespoons Sugar

2 Tablespoon Shortening

2 Teaspoons Salt

3 Cups Flour

1 Cup Shredded Swiss Cheese

Butter

Heat sour cream until lukewarm.  Disolve yeast in warm water in a large mixer bowl.  Add sour cream, sugar, shortening, salt and 2 cups of flour.  Blend 30 seconds on low speed.  Constantly beat two minutes on medium spped, or beat by hand 300 strokes.  Stir in remaining flour and cheese until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a warm space until double in size, about 45 minutes.  Grease round layer pan, 9 X 1 ½ inch.  Stir down batter by beating for 25 strokes.  Spread evenly in pan.  Cover and let rise until doubles, about 40 minutes.  Heat oven to 375 degrees and bake until loaf sound hollow, about 45 minutes.  Brush top with butter.

Classical Challah Egg Bread

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Challah is a special bread in Jewish cuisine, usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Sabbath and major Jewish holidays (other than Passover). Ritually-acceptable challah is made of dough from which a small portion has been set aside as an offering. The word challah likely comes from the Hebrew root halal. The etymology of this root is uncertain. It may originally have indicated roundness (“circle”) and then also came to denote hollowness (“space”), or vice versa.

Most traditional Ashkenazi challah recipes use numerous eggs, fine white flour, water, sugar, yeast, and salt, but “water challah” made without eggs and having a texture not unlike French baguettes also exists. Modern recipes may replace white flour with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour or sugar with honey or molasses.  Among Sephardic Jews, water challah is preferred for ritual purposes, because Sephardic minhag does not require the dough offering to be separated if the dough contains eggs or sugar. While breads very similar to Ashkenazi egg challah are found in Sephardic cuisine, they are typically not referred to as challah but considered variants of regional breads like çörek, eaten by Jews and non-Jews alike.  Egg challah sometimes also contains raisins and/or saffron. After the first rising, the dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided, though local and seasonal varieties also exist. Poppy or sesame (Ashkenazi) and anise or sesame (Sephardic) seeds may be added to the dough or sprinkled on top. Both egg and water challah are usually brushed with an egg wash before baking to add a golden sheen.  Challah is usually parve (containing neither dairy nor meat—important in the laws of Kashrut), unlike brioche and other enriched European breads, which contain butter or milk.  Israeli challah contains eggs or olive oil in the dough as well as water, sugar, yeast, salt, honey and raisins. It is topped with sesame.

Ingredients

Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

9 1/4 cups (1 1/3 kg) flour

4 eggs, beaten, plus 2 yolks or 1 whole egg for glazing

1 Tablespoon salt

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

2 1/4 cups (500 ml) lukewarm water

2 Tablespoons dry yeast

1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Beat well and leave 10 minutes, until it froths.

In a very large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Then add the salt, sugar, and oil and beat again. Add the frothy yeast mixture and beat well. Now add the flour gradually, and just enough to make a soft dough that holds together, mixing well, first with a large spoon, then working it in with your hands. Knead vigorously for about 15 minutes, until it is very smooth and elastic, adding flour if the dough is too sticky. Pour a little oil in the bowl and turn the dough, so that it is greased all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for 2‑3 hours, or until it has doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and knead again, then divide into four pieces to make 4 loaves.

To make round challah: Take 1 piece of dough, roll it between your palms, and pull it out into a long fat rope about 18 inches (46 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) thick – a little fatter at one end. Take the fatter end and put it in the middle of an oiled baking sheet, then coil the rest of the rope around it like a snail. Continue with the remaining 3 pieces.

To make braided challah with 3 strands: Divide 1 piece of the dough into 3. Roll each piece between your palms and pull into long thin ropes about 18 inches (46 cm) long and 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) wide. Pinch 1 end of all the strands together and plait them: bring the rope on the right over the middle one, then bring the one on the left over it and continue to the end. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the loaf. You may find it, easier to begin plaiting in the middle of the 3 strands and plait towards the 2 ends. Continue with the remaining 3 pieces.

Place the 4 loaves on well‑oiled baking sheets, leaving plenty of room for them to expand, then leave to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Now brush gently with the beaten egg yolks or if you want to sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, brush first with the whole beaten egg (the seeds stick better if the white is there too). Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 30‑40 minutes or until the loaves are beautifully golden-brown. They are done if they sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.

Crab Hushpuppies

3 cups White Lily buttermilk cornmeal mix
1 cup White Lily self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped scallions
2½ cups buttermilk
1 pound lump crab-meat
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Tartar sauce for dipping

Fill a deep-sided cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven with 1 inch of oil. Place over medium-high heat, and bring the oil to 375 degrees. Monitor and keep the temperature between 350 and 375 degrees while you are frying.

In a large bowl, whisk all the ingredients together. Working in batches, drop a tablespoons into the oil and fry until golden and crisp, usually 3 to 4 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Serve with a bowl of tartar sauce for dipping

Cathead Biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, chilled and cubed
2 cups whole buttermilk

* Use White Lily brand where available

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees with one of the racks in the middle of the oven.

Grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour (both all-purpose and cake flour), kosher salt, and the baking powder. Sift in ingredients if desired.  As an experiment make two batches one sifted and the other not to determine your preference.

Take your cold butter And cut into small cubes with a sharp knife.  Take the butter between your forefinger and thumb and make a pushing motion. This makes thin sheets or ribbons of butter that will fold into the dough perfectly and then rise in the oven in beautiful layers.  Some bakers call this snapping butter.

Add the buttermilk and fold in very gently.  Do not overmix! Scoop the dough into your pan or skillet, making sure to keep the dough scoops right next to each other on the pan. A large ice cream scoop is ideal for this.

Bake the biscuits for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and fluffy.

Southern Biscuits: Soft or Crunchy?

If a soft or crisp exterior is desired selecting the proper baking pan is paramount.  For a soft exterior, use an 8- or 9-inch pan or oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking.

For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet where the biscuits can be placed wider apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crisper exterior, and brush the pan with butter.

Spoon Bread

A long time family standard, which is admitedly.  Spoon Bread always conjures up memories of my time in Virginia growing up when I was with my grandparents.  So many amazing memories of trips to Williamsburg, Monticello, Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian.  This is an easy version of spoon bread which anyone should have no trouble making.

1 ½ Teaspoons Sugar

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Cornmeal

4 Tablespoons Butter

1 1/3 Cups Boiling Water

3 Eggs

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 1/3 Cups Hot Milk

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease deep dish.  Mix sugar, salt, cornmeal.  Add butter and pour in 1 1/3 cups boiling water.  Stir.  Allow to cool.  Beat eggs with baking powder until fluffy.  Add to mix.  Stir in milk.  Bake 35-40 minutes in shallow pan of water.

Cornmeal Hoecakes

2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¾ cups water
3 tablespoons Rendered Lard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine the cornmeal and baking soda in a small bowl.

Bring the water to a boil in a  saucepan over high heat. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the cornmeal. Stir in also 1 tablespoon of the lard.

Heat the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons lard on a griddle pan over high heat. Cooking in batches if necessary, spoon the batter onto the griddle to make cakes about 1 inch in diameter. When you see pits in the tops of the cakes, after about 2 minutes, flip them and cook for about 2 minutes on the other side.

They should be golden and crispy on both sides. Wipe out the pan between batches if the butter scorches, and add fresh butter and lard.

Serve immediately.