Cheddar and Black Pepper Bread: A Mouthwatering Savoury Match Made in Carbohydrate Heaven

The Bread Illustrated cookbook has done it again: another home run of a bread recipe.

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When I first sank my teeth into a still-warm slice of this loaf, I knew that the combined flavours reminded me of something I’d had before – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

A few slices later, I figured it out: fancy macaroni and cheese. Not the kind that comes from a blue box (though that kind, too, can be delicious in the right context) – the kind that you order at a restaurant that also has bison burger and truffle curly fries on the menu. Classy mac n cheese.

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I’m not sure how we ended up cutting this loaf so strangely…

Had I known the cheddar and black pepper bread would be so astonishingly delicious, I would have made it a lot sooner. I held off because it seemed less all-purpose than many of the other loaves; for instance, it probably wouldn’t taste very good toasted and topped with jam for breakfast.

(On second thought, that actually sounds amazing.)

I made it to accompany a salad we had for dinner, and Cedric has already requested that we add it to the rotation. It requires making a sponge the day before, which can sit out between 6 and 24 hours. I let it sit for nearly an entire 24 hours, which I like to think helped it taste extra delicious.

The day two directions aren’t necessarily tricky. They’re just a little time consuming. Mix for two minutes; rest for 20. Mix for 5, rise for 30. Fold dough; rest for 30 minutes; repeat three more times, then let it rise for another hour and a half, then an hour more. Whew – that’s a lot of waiting around.

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There are two secret ingredients to this bread – actually, given that they’re in the name of the bread, they’re not all that secret. The first is cheddar: one cup is mixed into the dough towards the beginning of the process, and another is rolled in later, kind of like a cinnamon raisin bread. Cracked pepper is added both in the dough and as a final topping before baking. I didn’t measure out my pepper – I just cracked away until it looked about right. I was pretty happy with the flavour.

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I used approximately this much pepper

I was careful with all the resting and rising times because it was quite warm the day I baked it. It didn’t take as long for the dough to rise and double and all that good stuff, so I stuck to the low end of any suggested ranges. You guys – I think I’m finally getting it!

It felt really good for the bread to come out looking as it should and tasting better than I could have imagined. I was planning on using Cedric’s camera to take some photos of the final product, but we couldn’t wait to dive in. Whoops. My phone photos will have to suffice.

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Savoury breads, I’m not longer afraid of you.

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PS – I’ve made this bread once more since – both times, it hasn’t lasted more than 24 hours. This is a bread for the books.

Bobbette & Belle’s Classic Hummingbird Cupcakes with Sour Cream Frosting

There was a time I considered myself a Cupcake Queen. No matter the occasion, I brought cupcakes – the more decadent, the better (think chocolate peanut butter cupcakes with peanut butter cups both hidden within the cake and perched atop the icing).

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These days, I identify more as a Bread Baroness, if you will. Though my sweet tooth has not disappeared altogether, it has moved towards the back of my mouth to make room for various iterations of salt, water, yeast, and flour.

But on occasion – a friend’s birthday, usually – I dig deep into that drawer under the oven to unearth my cupcake tin to see if she still has another dozen cakes in her. And she always does.

The last time I made cupcakes was in February, when I whipped up Bobbette & Belle’s Piped Rose Lemon Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes (not the aforementioned diabetes-inducing one). This time, I decided to try my hand at another B&B recipe: the Classic Hummingbird Cupcakes.

This recipe is most curious – it is the only one in the cupcake chapter NOT to have a photo demonstrating the final product. I wonder why: last minute book addition? Disastrous hard drive crash? Dropped the final product on the floor? While it’s a little unsettling to not know what your bake is supposed to look like, it also allows a little freedom, which is a nice thing.

I think the idea of spirit animals is kind of dumb, but if I had to choose a spirit animal for myself, it would be the hummingbird, largely because they thrive on sugar. Luckily, the hummingbird cupcakes don’t contain any birds – they traditionally contain an apparently hummingbirdly combination of banana and pineapple. The Bobbette & Belle version also throws in coconut and pecans, and promises the recipe acts “as a nice alternative to carrot cake”.

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Making the cake is very simple; in addition to the ‘bird ingredients, the usual suspects apply: all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, an egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla. After all the bread I’ve been baking, it felt so modest to use just one cup of flour in a recipe.

I’m sure there’s a reason that this recipe uses vegetable oil and not butter, but I don’t know what it is. It felt kind of weird to “cream” sugar with the oil (and egg and vanilla right away). The directions are a little vague (“beat on medium-low speed until creamy”) – I beat it for about three minutes, but it wasn’t sufficiently creamy for my tastes, so I boosted the power level and kept going for another couple of minutes. The flour is added in stages, then the hummingbirds are added (crushed pineapple with juice, mashed ripe banana, finely chopped pecans, and flaked coconut). Bake for 20 minutes, and ta-da: hummingbird cupcakes.

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The icing was a point of contention: it called for sour cream frosting.

Really? Sour cream? For icing?

When it comes to icing, I prefer cream cheese to buttercream every time. People think they like buttercream more, but I believe that in a blind taste test, they would choose cream cheese. The name throws people off – and I was hoping the same thing was happening to me with the whole sour cream thing.

I’m not a fan of sour cream. When a recipe calls for it, I almost always sub in plain Greek yogurt instead. But when it comes to baking, I like to stay loyal to the ingredient list – and B&B said that “the addictive sour cream frosting [is] our twist on the traditional cream cheese frosting”.

I had to trust that they were leading me down the right path. In the recipe description for the sour cream frosting, they promised “it’s sure to become a favourite”. So I took a leap of faith.

Though I was trusting them blindly, I probably should have opened an eye to read through the recipe carefully ahead of time. The first step: drain the sour cream in a sieve with cheesecloth in the fridge overnight. Not only did I not have time for this, but I also didn’t have cheesecloth. I compromised by draining the sour cream for an hour in a few layers of paper towel.

The temperature directions are a little finicky, too: for the sour cream, you are to “bring almost to room temperature”, and the butter is meant to be “cool room temperature”. Other ingredients include lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and icing sugar.

Things looked good as I creamed the butter and the sour cream, but when I added the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt, the mix started to look a little curdled. This has happened to me before when making icing, and I’ve learned that you just need to keep mixing through the curdledness. I persevered until things were a little better, though still not 100% smooth. Luckily, everything worked itself out when I added in the icing sugar. As a bonus, I threw in an extra teaspoon of pineapple juice – YOLO.

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Without visual aids to guide my icing, I had free reign. I chose to colour the icing yellow (kind of banana/pineapple/lemony, right?) and I consulted YouTube for ideas on how to decorate the cupcakes. I didn’t want to pick something overly labour intensive, so I settled on this pretty – but very easy – flower, which is piped using a simple round tip.

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Now, the fun part: taste testing the creation.

Scrumptious. Absolutely delicious. The cake is moist and not too sweet; the chopped pecans are the key to texture perfection. Lo and behold, the icing was really, really good. It pairs wonderfully with the cake and it certainly leans more towards cream cheese than sugar sweet buttercream.

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At times like this, I wonder why I don’t make cupcakes more often!

Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to plan my meals for the entire week ahead of time. I thought this would help me manage my grocery budget and reduce the number of Craig’s visits per week. I now only pop by the grocery store 5 days a week, instead of 7. What a victory!

Although I often consult Budget Bytes for recipe ideas, I generally find the internet to be too vast – I prefer to use good old fashioned cookbooks. I typically pick a cookbook at random from the library, cook from it for a couple of weeks, and then return it when it comes due. I’m pleased to say that we’re more than halfway through the year and I’ve stuck to my resolution – and cooked a lot of new things in the process.

When planning this week’s meals, I decided to try a recipe for a veggie chili. I know mid-summer isn’t usually chili weather, but the recipe looked good (no canned tomatoes – only fresh!), so it made the cut. I usually serve chili with bread, but I thought I’d take this chili to the next level: cornbread.

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I can only remember making cornbread once before, back in my Vancouver bachelorette days. For whatever reason, I had a craving for cornbread, so I made a batch. I had a piece – and it was great – but then I was left with an entire tray of bread (minus one piece). I popped the pan on top of the fridge to keep it out of the way. I then proceeded to forget about it until some time after.

It was green, fuzzy, and enough to steer me away from cornbread for a good decade.


The “Southern-Style” in the Bread Illustrated recipe for cornbread refers to the fact that this cornbread is not “sweet and light – more cake than bread”, as is often found in “Yankee territory” (so says the book). It’s true; I’ve had cornbread at restaurants that tastes more like cupcake than bread. I happen to like cupcakes – just not with my chili.

The recipe is straightforward and the only weird-ish ingredient is sour cream, something I don’t usually have on hand. I also don’t own a skillet, so I used my dutch oven. The best part is that the recipe takes only just over an hour to cook – I am NOT used to that.

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Not overdone scrambled eggs – just the start of cornbread batter

Everything went according to plan except for one little hiccup. I didn’t quite catch when I was supposed to make the jump from stove top to oven. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Toast the cornmeal – stove top.
  2. Remove toasted cornmeal, add oil to skillet – put in oven. D’oh – I put it on the stove because my mind associates heating oil with stoves, not ovens.
  3. Add butter, pour melty butter/oil into batter, than pour the batter into the skillet/dutch oven and put it in the oven.
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Smooth top – nailed it!

I left my bread in the oven for 17 minutes – two minutes longer than the suggest 12 to 15 – but it never quite reached the cue of “until the top begins to crack and sides are golden brown”. My sides were golden but my top was in tact. I tried the toothpick test and it came out dry, so I pulled it out of the oven.

There are three troubleshooting tips for this recipe: crunchy cornbread (not a problem for me); soggy crust (not a problem for me); and difficulty releasing the cornbread from the skillet (er…). The troubleshooting says that a 15 minute cool down is imperative before releasing the bread. I did this… but…

 

Yeah. Luckily, this one was just for Cedric and me to eat at dinner – aesthetics could be forgiven.

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The verdict? I liked it. It was a little bland, but isn’t that often the case with cornbread? If I were to do it again, I would try the spicy variation, which includes jalapeno and lime zest, to add a bit of a kick. It’s very filling and sits a bit heavy in the stomach, but I’m determined to work our way through it – and not store it on top of the fridge.

New York-Style Bagels – With Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

This might be too bold a statement, but here it goes:

If you’ve never had a Montreal bagel, then you haven’t lived.

Growing up, I think I took Montreal bagels for granted. We have a lot of family in the area, so we visited a few times a year. Most times, we’d return home with several bags of the skinny, dense bagels. Whenever I felt like one, I fished a bagel out of a Ziploc bag in the freezer, popped it in the toaster, and enjoyed the goodness.

When I moved out West, I left behind many things – including the magical bottomless bagel bag in the freezer. Truth be told, I kind of forgot about them.

That changed a few years ago. We were in Ontario, staying at my parents house, and Cedric wasn’t feeling great. He spent most of the day in bed and didn’t have much of an appetite. My mom mentioned that there were bagels in the freezer (of course), so I offered to make him one, and he accepted.

I think it’s fair to say that his life changed in that moment. It was his first Montreal bagel – but not his last, as he decimated my parents’ stash in no time. It appears that the bagels cured him of his sickness. He still talks about Montreal bagels.


There’s my bagel anecdote for you. Unfortunately, the Bread Illustrated cookbook doesn’t include a recipe for Montreal bagels – I’m pretty sure you need a fancy brick wood-fired oven to make those. It doesn’t matter, because I know mine would never be as good as the real thing.

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Not a Montreal bagel.

However, the book does include a New York-style bagel recipe. I have never had a New York bagel. From what I gather, they don’t look like Montreal bagels, but they have their own cult following. The distinguishing factor of a New York bagel – so I’m told – is the chewiness, which comes from giving the bagels a bath in boiling water before baking them in the oven.

My first bagel baking challenge began with the ingredients. There were two I had never heard of: vital wheat gluten and malt syrup. The former proved easy to find at Nesters (who knew!?); the latter, I could not locate in Squamish. Luckily, the America’s Test Kitchen people anticipated my predicament: “If you cannot find malt syrup, substitute 4 teaspoons of molasses”. This is exactly what I did. I can’t really tell how it influenced the final outcome, since I haven’t had it with malt syrup, but I feel like they turned out fine – though the molasses might have slightly affected the colour, because my bagels look a little more golden/yellowish than the ones in the cookbook pictures.

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Is this dough shaggy?

Over the course of two days, I followed the recipe to a T. My water was ice cold, I processed the dry ingredients for exactly 5 pulses, and I waited patiently as my ingredients combined for form a “shaggy dough” in the food processor. A bread recipe that doesn’t use the stand mixer – now that’s a first!

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Next, the dough had to be formed into a ball and split into eight equal baby balls. Then it’s time to shape.

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I know what you’re thinking – no, this is not a Timbit. (As noted below, you don’t have to be this heavy handed with the flour.)

The internet tells me there is a shortcut for making bagels: take the little ball, use your thumbs to tear a hole in the middle, and voila. But the internet also tells me that bagel purists frown upon this bagel hack. The real way to shape a bagel is as is outlined in the recipe: flatten the ball into a disc, roll the disk into a cylinder, and spiral the cylinder before joining the two ends together into a ring. I contemplated taking the easy route, but then ultimately decided to stick with the recipe for the sake of authenticity.

 

Shaping proved to be a little harder than anticipated. The recipe says, “coat 1 dough ball with flour and place on lightly floured counter”. I did this with my first ball, but I found there was way too much flour – when it came time to joining the ends, they wouldn’t stick to one another. For future balls, I skipped the extra flour and had better luck.

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Eight carefully coiled bagels. The question is: will the coils survive 24 hours in the fridge without unravelling?

The bagels are placed on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal, then rest in the fridge for 16 to 24 hours. I left mine in for a full day – I’m learning that the longer they hang out in the fridge, the better the flavour (as long as you stay within the recommended time frame).

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24 hours later: only one unravel victim.

The next day, I created an assembly line of sorts for the boiling and baking process. One: preheat the oven and put in a baking stone (which, for me, is a cookie sheet). Two: bring a big pot of water, spiked with sugar and baking soda (essential for colour), to a boil. Three, set up a dipping bowl for the toppings. I opted to make these everything bagels – Cedric and I ate everything bagels every day for lunch on Cape Cod, and I picked up some “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning from my beloved Trader Joe’s. Four, set out a wire rack to receive the boiled and seasoned bagels.

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Boil, bagel, boil!

I deviated from the recipe in two minor ways. It says to use a dutch oven to boil the bagels, but I used a regular pot because my dutch oven was busy holding leftover chili and I couldn’t be bothered to clean it. It also says to boil four bagels at a time, but I went two by two instead to avoid overcrowding.

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Turbo speed seasoning.

As instructed, I only seasoned one side of the bagels (the non-cornmeal side). They looked kind of like donuts. I added a little extra seasoning at the end – I should have held off doing this, as I didn’t realize the TJ’s mix is heavy on the salt.

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The final product

After a tantalizing 22 minutes in the oven and 15 minute rest, I dove in. I tried to take a crumb shot, but I couldn’t tear the bagel cleanly – the spiral of the dough made it tear apart awkwardly. Though it wasn’t much to look it, it tasted very good.

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Behold!

The chew is definitely there. (Cedric, not knowing that they’re NY style bagels, told me he thought they might be too chewy. Bagel amateur status right there, folks.) I really like them and they’re better than the any bagel I’ve had in recent memory…

… but they’re not as good as Montreal bagels.

; )

 

*I remade a second batch of this because the polished off the first batch rather hastily. I reduced the boiling time to 5 seconds per side (down from 10 seconds per side) because the first batch was REALLY chewy. This helped – they were still delicious, but less strenuous on the jaw.

A Ranking of the Ice Cream Sandwich Flavours from Tall Tree Bakery

When I heard that Tall Tree Bakery was making ice cream sandwiches using their own cookies, I nearly cried.

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This is what dreams look like.

I also nearly cried when I paid them a visit and discovered they were sold out. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could very well be the best thing ever.

Luckily, they upped their production to keep up with the demand of the ravenous dessert lovers of Squamish, and I’ve had the chance to work my way through their ice cream sandwich menu throughout the summer thus far.

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Cedric took this picture because he was making fun of my dirty face

The sandwiches are delicious. The flavours are inventive. The price is insane(ly low): $5 for two big cookies and a thick slab of high quality ice cream. The cookies alone would set you back $3 if you bought them individually. I say with utmost confidence that this is the Official Squamish Treat of Summer 2017 – and beyond, I hope.

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Bring a friend = try two kinds at once! Brilliant.

What follows is my official ranking of the Tall Tree Bakery Ice Cream Sandwich flavours.*

*Sadly, I seem to have missed the boat on the coconut cookie with coconut ice cream flavour. I think I would have loved this one, but it appears to be off their menu. I’ll edit this post if it resurrects.

#1: Cranberry White Chocolate Cookie with Black Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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I won’t lie – at first, I was intimidated by this combination. I thought it might be too much of a good thing. I forgive my earlier, naive self, for I was used to simple pairings, like vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

A friend raved over this flavour and said it was the only one she ever got – it was too good to risk trying anything else. Well, with a testament like that, I made the leap and ordered one for myself. I got it after a hike on a hot, sunny day, and three words describe my experience: Oh. My. God.

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The combination is not too much – it is utterly perfect. The tartness from the cranberries, the sweetness from the white chocolate, the cold creamy ice cream, and the fruitiness of the black raspberries are the TOTAL, MAGICAL PACKAGE. It’s a brave combination, but it works better than basically anything I’ve ever had before.

(I’m still dreaming about this one.)

#2: Ginger Molasses Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Wait… you don’t bring a knife to the bakery so that you can split ice cream sandwiches?

If you’re a little intimidated by some of the bold flavour combinations of the Tall Tree Bakery ice cream sandwiches – in other words, if you’re like my brother-in-law and choose to order vanilla when you’re at an ice cream store with 50 flavours – I recommend the ginger molasses/salted caramel sandwich. The flavours complement each other rather harmoniously, because the ice cream flavour is pretty mild. It tastes good, but relatively neutral – like vanilla with pops of caramel swirl.

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The aforementioned pop of caramel swirl

The ginger molasses cookie should be familiar territory for most cookie fans, and this one is good. I recommend letting the sandwich thaw juuuuust a little to let the cookie get that classic ginger cookie chewiness. Overall, this is a delightful combination and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – a safe bet, for instance, if you’re buying a sandwich for someone else and aren’t sure what to get.

#3: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grasshopper Ice Cream

This was the first sandwich that I tried. It seemed like a relatively safe bet. The grasshopper ice cream is a mint concoction, and I already know I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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Obviously, the flavour combo works, and though it is delicious, it isn’t my favourite. The cookies shine bright in this sandwich (it is also mighty good in a standalone state), but the ice cream falls just a little flat for me. It’s just mint – I think it could use some chocolate chunks or a fudgey swirl to add a little texture. Plus, the chocolate on mint is very sweet – and that’s coming from a lover of all things sweet.

But the fact of the matter remains that chocolate and mint is a killer combination – so there are absolutely no complaints from me.

#4: Peanut Butter Cookie with Heavenly Hash Ice Cream

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If I’m not mistaken, this combination was a later addition to the ice cream sandwich offerings (i.e., not one of the original menu items). On paper, I loved it: the nuts from the heavenly hash ice cream were the perfect tie in for the nuts in the peanut butter cookie. Nuts on nuts – what’s not to like?

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Individually, the peanut butter cookie and the heavenly hash ice cream are both stars. Together, it’s a lot – not in a bad way, but almost like both are competing for your attention. It’s like the peanut butter cookie is so good that it needs to be enjoyed on its own to be fully appreciated. It’s got the classic peanut butter cookie crumbly texture and it has full, non-crushed peanuts mixed in for a bonus crunch. The ice cream layered between these two, thick peanut cookies has it battle it out to get noticed.

(Am I weird for talking about treats in this much detail?)

Here’s how I recommend making the most of this sandwich without going overboard on the flavour train: take the top cookie off for an open-faced ice cream sandwich. Sure, your hands might get a little messy, but you’ll strike the perfect nutty balance. As a bonus, you’ll have an extra peanut butter cookie to enjoy later on. It’s a win-win.

Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread – Because Why Not Add Quinoa to Bread?!

I recently returned from two weeks of vacation. Our freezer was empty, meaning our bread stash was non-existent. Cue the panic.

I started the three day process towards baking a fresh loaf of sourdough, but I knew we’d need something to tide us over until the process was complete. I whipped up a batch of my quick, easy, and trusty American Sandwich Bread.

Then Cedric and I both had toast for breakfast. Then Cedric made two open faced sandwiches as a post-gym snack. And I started worrying about our bread stash again.

Since variety is the spice of life (so they say), I decided to branch out a little and try a new bread from the Sandwich Breads chapter. The whole-wheat quinoa bread caught my eye because it was a little different, but still neutral enough to support a range of toppings (from raspberry jam to cheese and tomatoes, as is often the case in our house).

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This recipe is very similar to the American Sandwich Bread one, except:

  1. It uses more whole wheat flour (1.5 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  2. It calls for flaxseed
  3. It uses quinoa

The recipes requires you to cook up some white quinoa. It actually uses a microwave to cook it, which I’ve never heard of before. We don’t have a microwave, so I did it the regular stove way.

 

The flax is added to the flours (and yeast and salt), but the quinoa doesn’t come into play until the wet (milk, honey, oil, water) meets the dry. As the mixer whirls, you drop in a bit of quinoa at a time until it all comes together into a wet gob.

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“We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand,” says the recipe. I can back up this statement – the dough was seriously wet and sticky, to the point where I was questioning whether I’d maybe measured something wrong. I floured my hands for the 30 second kneading to prevent the quinoa from sticking too much, and when I put it in the bowl to rise, I doubted whether it would behave like a normal dough.

 

Alas, it did! I doubled in size, as instructed, and when I shaped it into the loaf pan, it felt a lot like regular bread dough. This recipe called for an egg wash, which I often skip, but II included it this time – it serves as the glue to keep on the topping of uncooked quinoa and flax.

 

As always, the aromas were tantalizing and while I respected the “Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes” direction, I blissfully ignored the “let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours” instruction and cut myself a big old slice.

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The verdict?

Here’s what I wrote after my first time tasting the bread: It was just want I wanted: a neutral and versatile sandwich bread, with a bit of texture (thanks to the topping and the flax seed) and a lot of moisture (thanks to the quinoa). It won’t replace the American Sandwich Bread as my go to, simply because it has a few extra steps and I like to keep it pretty simple for my sandwich bread – but I may bust it out from time to time when we’re looking to mix it up. It’s a good, if not somewhat forgettable, bread.

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Here are my thoughts now that I’ve been eating it for a few days: This bread is good. It is seriously, seriously moist – even after a few days in the freezer and some time in the toaster. It’s more work than the regular sandwich bread, but I have to say – I like it better. It’s worth the extra work. I will incorporate it into my regular bread routine (as long as I have quinoa kicking around the house).

(And then I made another loaf a few days later.)

Cranberry-Walnut Loaf: One of My Top 3 Breads from Bread Illustrated

My grocery list as a bachelorette looked a lot different than it does nowadays.

For example, I used to have to throw out half a block of cheddar cheese because it would go moldy before I had the chance to finish it. These days, that simply does not happen.

Also, bread. Before I entered my fanatic bread baking phase a few months back, I bought regular loaves at the grocery store just like everyone else. (Okay, I bought slightly fancy regular bread – I just can’t do the bagged stuff.)

Before I met Cedric, my go to bread was a cranberry walnut loaf with some crunchy grain that I bought at Nesters in Whistler. It was slightly tinted blue, if I recall correctly. It was a pretty small loaf and wasn’t the cheapest, but it was so delicious.

Eventually, Cedric started eating the bread at my house and it was revealed that he didn’t love my special blue bread. What?!!? He confessed that he doesn’t love raisins (or craisins, evidently) in his bread. I was astounded, but because relationships are about compromise, I started buying a different kind of bread.

Fast forward to the present day – here I am, flipping through my trusty Bread Illustrated cookbook (which I’ve already had to tape some pages back into due to excessive wear and tear), when I stumble across a recipe for a cranberry-walnut loaf. Where has this recipe been all my life?

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(Cue the heavenly angel music)

This loaf is astounding. I’d place it in my top three recipes from the book so far (the other two being the cinnamon bread and the Sicilian style pizza). Not only is it tasty as all heck, but it’s extremely convenient to make. It takes under 5 hours total (minus cooling time) from start to finish, so you can do it all in one day or even one afternoon. You don’t need any weird gear or equipment – no lava rocks here.

The bread is made with a combination of bread flour and whole-wheat flavour. As the book says, this results in a dense, earthy bread – one that would take a turkey sandwich to the next level, or that can simply enjoyed lightly toasted with nothing on it (or butter would be good, too).

You throw the flours, cranberries, walnuts, yeast, and salt all together at once into the mixer. I was hesitant about this because I’ve always thought that dry flour + dried fruit = flour gets stuck in the little folds and doesn’t get mixed with the other ingredients which can result in a nasty surprise when you bite into the final product. But I followed the book’s directions and it all turned out fine.

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Next, you pour in some water, brown sugar, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil and mix it for about ten minutes total. Then you leave it to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours. I went for a trail run and when I noticed I was getting close to the two hour mark, I forced myself to hustle hard to get back home. Nothing makes me run faster like the possibility of ruining a good loaf of bread.

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The dough gets shaped into a little torpedo, then placed on a bread covered with aluminum foil. The aluminum is a first – normally the book calls for parchment. Maybe the reflection factor affects the bake. Maybe the bread is just channeling its inner Chuck from Better Call Saul (does anyone else watch this show? It is so very underrated!)

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The only thing I screwed up was the score. You just had to cut it down the middle, which I did – and I thought I went pretty deep with my knife – but when I was rotating the loaf halfway through the making, it looked like the score had been swallowed up, so I re-cut the score. This is probably a bread baking faux pas and it may have ruined the integrity of my loaf’s aesthetic – but I don’t think it affected the taste.

Oh, I also skipped the egg wash. Unless the bread is a fancy dessert type bread, I’ve started skipping the egg wash. It just feels like a waste of egg to me, especially because most of our bread gets sliced up and tossed into the freezer right away.

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The loaf came out of the oven around bedtime, and I let it cool overnight. When I had it for breakfast this morning, I just about lost my mind. It was PERFECT. The cranberry and walnut were present, but the bread wasn’t overstuffed with them. They were also properly dispersed among the loaf (which I believe would earn me points on the GBBO). The walnuts are so deliciously buttery to bite through – mm mm mm mm mm.

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When it looks just like the picture in the book, you know you’ve got a winner on your hands

Unless you are like Cedric and have an aversion to dried fruit in your bread, I HIGHLY recommend trying this recipe out. It is a beginner friendly bread and it will take your breakfast (and possibly lunch, dinner, snack, and hey – even dessert) to the next level. My name is Magee, and I approve of this bread.


Edit: I loved this loaf so much that I made it again to bring to my family across the continent. I even sprang for the egg wash! I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in a paper bag, and it survived three days being squished in my luggage (which was lost for 24 hours).

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