Monthly Archives: December 2010

RECIPE Craisin Pumpkin Walnut Muffins by Bakery Boy

How did I not know about Craisins until recently? Now I can’t get enough of them in breads, on salads, with cereal or yogurt, and especially in muffins.

story/recipe/photos by Bakery Boy

Craisin Pumpkin Walnut Muffins. Photos by Bakery Boy

Somehow I was unaware of Craisins until recently. They just weren’t on my radar. Are you familiar with them? Ocean Spray owns the name Craisins (the generic term is dried cranberries). By either name they’re closely akin to raisins—like big, moist, sweet raisins with a pleasantly chewy texture and a gets-noticed deep red hue.

When my local supermarket put them on an end-aisle sale at a reduced price, I picked some up to see what they were all about. After snacking on a few straight from the bag, my first inclination was to bake them into a loaf of bread in lieu of raisins, which turned out just fine. I tossed them in a green salad along with some mandarin orange slices and slivered almonds for a nice effect. I sprinkled them, plus crumbled pecans, on some whole grain breakfast cereal. I stirred them into yogurt.

Craisin Pumpkin Walnut Muffin

By far though, my favorite use for Craisins is in muffins. I experimented with several combinations of ingredients before pairing them with walnuts and pumpkin, and I like the results. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. If you have other suggested uses for my new favorite dried fruit, please share—I can’t seem to get enough of them.

CRAISIN PUMPKIN WALNUT MUFFINS

NOTE: This recipe uses a whole 15-ounce can of pumpkin to make 24 muffins. If that’s too many, you could cut all the amounts in half (see the halved recipe at the end of this post) to make a single dozen, and then refrigerate half of the pumpkin to use in a second batch later. I prefer to make the bigger batch and give some to my next-door neighbor, who by the way wholeheartedly endorses the idea!

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups sugar

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 15-ounce can of pumpkin

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup Craisins

1 cup walnut pieces

In a large bowl combine first 9 ingredients (flour through salt). In a smaller bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, oil. Stir wet ingredients into dry until thoroughly moistened. Fold in Craisins and walnut pieces. Spoon into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling them ¾ths full. Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Move to cooling rack.

Walnut Pieces

TIP: Save back a few of the most nicely formed Craisins and walnuts to place on top of the muffins just before they go into the oven. Lightly press them partially into the batter. They’ll show up much better than those that are stirred into the batter, making for a nicer presentation.

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CRAISIN PUMPKIN WALNUT MUFFINS (half recipe)

Here’s the same recipe cut in half, in case 24 muffins seems like too many at once.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup Craisins

½ cup walnut pieces

In a large bowl combine first 9 ingredients (flour through salt). In a smaller bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, oil. Stir wet ingredients into dry until thoroughly moistened. Fold in Craisins and walnut pieces. Spoon into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling them ¾ths full. Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Move to cooling rack.

Dried Cranberries

TIP: Save back a few of the most nicely formed Craisins and walnuts to place on top of the muffins just before they go into the oven. Lightly press them partially into the batter. They’ll show up much better than those that are stirred into the batter, making for a nicer presentation.

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Christmas Ornaments Made of Bread

The bread ornaments I made 25 years ago are holding up pretty well, so this month I made more to give as gifts.

story and photos by Bakery Boy

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These bread ornaments I made 25 years ago remain family favorites. Photos by Bakery Boy

Hanging little loaves of bread on the Christmas tree seems quite natural to us bakers, I suppose. As conversation pieces, they’re hard to beat. As housewarming presents at holiday parties, or simple gifts for neighbors and co-workers, or stocking-stuffers for family members, they’re fun to make and pretty much guaranteed to bring a positive reaction.

I decorate our tree with some miniature bread ornaments I made 25 years ago while working in a French bakery in Seattle. Some are four-inch-long versions of French loaves, scissor-snipped into alternating pointy “grains” to resemble ripe wheat tassels. Others are shaped into 1½-inch-diameter wreaths just the right size to hold small candles in the middle and sit upright on tree branches. I wrap the straight loaves in red ribbon that doubles as a hanging loop at the top end, and I use paper-and-wire twist ties from bread bags (how appropriate) to strap the round wreaths onto Christmas tree branches.

Wreath-shaped bread ornaments hold candles.

Over the years I’ve gradually lost some of my original bread ornaments to breakage while getting them into and out of storage or on and off the tree. So this year I decided to restock my collection and make extras to give as gifts.

Reactions to receiving the little favors usually go something like this: First a look of genuine surprise, followed by some variation of the phrase, “Are they really made of bread?” Next comes an appreciative smile of thanks. And finally the urge to hang them right away in a place where they’ll be seen.

What more could a devoted baker-turned-ornament-maker want?

Start with a basic French bread dough.

HERE’S HOW Start with a basic French dough of just flour, water, salt, and yeast—nothing like butter, oil, sugar, or eggs that will attract critters while in storage. I make a large enough batch to bake a regular loaf or two to eat right away and still have plenty left for making a few dozen ornaments.

Snip the mini-baguette into points alternating left and right to resemble wheat tassels.

When it has risen (that’s more of an Easter reference, I know, but bear with me), divide the dough into pieces about the size of ping-pong balls and roll them into four-inch “fingers” or mini-baguettes. Let them rest a few minutes, either on a cutting board to be moved gently later, or on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and ready for the oven.

Cut at a 45-degree angle about 3/4ths of the way through the dough.

Holding scissors at a 45-degree angle, snip each piece half a dozen or so times at equally spaced points, cutting about ¾ths of the way through to leave a solid line on bottom for a sturdy “backbone” effect. Set each little point off slightly to the side, alternating left-right-left-right. The results will resemble the rows of grain in harvest-ripe wheat tassels.

For wreath-style ornaments, form some of the bread “fingers” into circles about 1½-inches in diameter, leaving a center hole about the size of a small candle. Snip the dough at an angle 45-degrees to the center of the circle with the points aiming out.

Cool and dry thoroughly. For longer-lasting ornaments, coat with varnish.

Let the shaped dough relax and rise another 20 minutes on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, then  bake at 350o for about 10-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown. TIP: Under-baked, they’ll tend to sag and bend; over-baked, they’ll be brittle and more likely to break.

Let the ornaments cool and dry for a day or two. Eat any that don’t look so well, but be careful not to eat the entire project or you’ll have to start all over. This is why I bake a regular loaf at the same time, so I can eat it while I’m making ornaments.

If you really want your bread ornaments to last a long time, spray them with a thin coat of clear lacquer or varnish. Allow them to dry thoroughly before applying decorative ribbon. This also provides the kind of shine you would get with an egg-washed surface. Even without this extra treatment though, they’ll be good for a few years before they start to shrivel and crack.

Form a crisscrossing pattern with bright-colored ribbon.

Wrap each straight ornament with a thin, brightly colored ribbon to form a crisscrossing pattern like calf straps on gladiator-style sandals. I use red ribbon, but any color that doesn’t too closely match the bread itself will do. Run the ribbon into the channels made by the scissor cuts, which will keep it from slipping.

Tie the ribbon once snugly at the top of the ornament to hold the crisscrosses in place, and then again a couple of inches away to form a loop for hanging the piece. Square knots will suffice at both junctures. Or you could get fancy by tying bows for the second knot. Trim away any excess ribbon.

A bread bag twist-tie holds each candle wreath onto the tree.

For each wreath ornament, gently push the bottom end of a small candle snugly into the center hole and tie ribbon into a simple bow on the candle itself. Use paper-and-wire twist ties, recycled from store-bought bread bags and laced through the center hole, to strap the ornaments to Christmas tree branches with the candles aimed up. NOTE: These candles are not intended for lighting, just for looking good.

A child's shoebox holds my bread ornaments between Christmases.

When you take down your decorations, wrap each bread ornament in tissue paper and store them in a small shoebox. For many years I’ve had mine in the same box my firstborn’s first pair of sneakers came in!

GOT MORE IDEAS? Feel free to share your bread ornament ideas with fellow bakers by leaving a comment below or by sending an email to the Bakery Boy Blog at bakery.boy@att.net.

Finished bread ornaments, ready to hang or to wrap as gifts.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

The down-home baker known simply as “Sister,” whose irresistible yeast rolls are legendary in the South, shares recipes and her inspiring story in her cookbook, Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.

by Bakery Boy

I’ve been eating Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls for many years and for several reasons:

• Because they consistently taste terrific, from buttery to sweet to savory ends of the brown-and-serve spectrum.

• Because they’re as easy as picking up pans from the grocer’s freezer case and popping them in the oven for 20 minutes.

• Because Sister Schubert, a fine southern lady from the heart of Alabama, supports worthy charities through a foundation she created when her bread business grew from a home kitchen project into a nationwide juggernaut.

• And because I met her recently at a book signing and learned first-hand that she’s genuine “good people,” as we say down south without fretting the grammar.

THERE’S A BOOK? That there even was a book signing to attend, and thus a book, set off bells in my bakery-obsessed mind. I thought, if Sister Schubert has a cookbook out, I can make my own Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk biscuits, orange rolls, and sausage wrap rolls, just like hers.

I got a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living, and sure enough recipes for some if not all my favorite Sister rolls are included, plus many more unrelated to her frozen-rolls empire. I baked several items before going to meet her, glad to add new recipes and techniques to my personal arsenal.

Even with her book in hand, I will continue picking up store-bought Sister Schubert pans. Partly because making any kind of bread at home is very time consuming. Partly because it’s just too easy, at the supermarket, to grab those green-striped packages with Sister’s smiling face on them and know that at least that part of tonight’s dinner is taken care of.

Everlasting Rolls based on her grandmother's launched Sister Schubert's empire.

SHE’S GOOD PEOPLE Patricia Schubert Barnes of Andalusia, Alabama—dubbed “Sister” as a child by a sibling—ranks as a food celebrity in her home state. Locally the story is well known about how she started baking Parker House-style rolls the way her grandmother, known as “Gommey,” taught her, first for family, then for church fundraisers where they were an instant sensation, and soon for the world.

“I went from baking in my kitchen with a little Sunbeam mixer, to expanding onto my sun porch, to taking over 1,000 square feet in a furniture warehouse my father owned, to renting a 25,000-square-foot building, to moving into a 100,000-square-foot building in just a few short years,” Sister says of the business she launched in 1986.

“At first I took a few pans with stick-on labels to a little curb market in Troy and small grocery stores in south Alabama, asking them to sell my rolls. Now they’re sold all across the country and we’re making them by the millions every day at three locations. Two are close to home, in Luverne and Saraland, Alabama. The other is in Horse Cave, Kentucky, where we’re putting in what will be the fourth largest oven in America. That’ll make a lot more Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls!”

Most importantly, she adds: “Even though we’ve grown, we’ve stayed true to our roots. Our rolls have the same home-baked quality and taste as my grandmother’s. We use simple, wholesome ingredients like fresh milk, butter and whole eggs—never any preservatives. And every single roll is still placed in the pan by hand.”

Sister Schubert's Focaccia (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

“BRAND AMBASSADOR” Sister sold her company to a larger entity, Lancaster Colony Corporation of Columbus, Ohio, but she and her husband, George, remain involved in running the Sister Schubert division.

“My title now is Founder and Brand Ambassador,” she told me during her book signing at Birmingham Bake & Cook Company. “I do speaking engagements, appear on TV food shows, autograph books at kitchen supply shops and bookstores, and talk about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls at every opportunity.

“When I’m home I develop new products. We’re getting into sea salt now, taking the gluten out for people allergic to it, switching to unsalted butter from the lightly salted butter we’ve been using, and things like that. It’s exciting, and it’s all going to be delicious.”

THE BOOK Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters, a good holiday gift idea for bakers and cooks, shares some of Sister Schubert’s best recipes. Her grandmother’s basic Everlasting Rolls (the Parker House rolls that started it all) come first, followed by variations with cheddar cheese, sausage, orange, or cinnamon.

She veers into non-baked items such as with smoked salmon crepes, cheesy shrimp and grits, artichoke crab dip, and chicken and sausage gumbo. But she quickly returns to her popular takes on cornbread, muffins, biscuits, scones, focaccia, challah, hot cross buns, something called tipsy eggnog bread, three kinds of pound cake, and more.

Find two excellent recipes—for corn muffins and focaccia—at two related posts here on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

Besides recipes and beautiful pictures, the book also shares Sister’s outlook on life, faith, family, and community. Bible quotes appear, from a favorite psalm (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer”) to a verse from Corinthians (“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”).

Even the book’s title has biblical roots in Ecclesiastes: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”

THE FOUNDATION A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes to the Barnes Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2001 by Sister and George. Its missions include:

• Feeding the hungry by funding food banks and shelters

• Sending college students to learn about other cultures through the Sister Schubert’s Annual Scholarship for Study Abroad operated by Auburn University School of Human Sciences

• Funding an orphanage called Sasha’s Home in the Ukraine (where the Barnes’s adopted their son Alexsey, or “Sasha” for short)

The foundation’s mission, Sister says, is “To show by what we do—that we are thankful for food in a hungry world, that we are thankful for friendship in a lonely world, but mostly, that we are thankful for the opportunity to help save and love all of God’s children in the world.”

Amen to that! And please pass the dinner rolls!

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Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls: 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

To order a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 CECA Enterprises LLC; $40), visit castyourbreaduponthewaters.com. Sister Schubert provided a copy for this review.

For more about the Barnes Family Foundation, to which a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes, visit www.barnesfamilyfoundation.org.

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Two recipes from Sister Schubert’s book appear on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Country Corn Muffins

Click here for the Country Corn Muffins recipe

Focaccia

Click here for the Focaccia recipe

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RECIPE Focaccia from Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

Sister Schubert, aka Patricia Schubert Barnes, wrote Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living to share her popular recipes and to tell her family’s story. Here is her recipe for making focaccia, a type of bread that dates back to ancient Roman times.

Sister Schubert's Focaccia

Sister says: “This venerable bread deserves an introduction: In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace in the center of the home. It was then, and is now, a savory bread with many uses. Focaccia is a great snack, a versatile appetizer and a good companion to many meals. Say “foe-cah-cha” and stand by for the compliments!”

Focaccia

¾ cup war water (110°F)

1 tablespoon sugar

1½ teaspoon dry active yeast

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

Olive oil

Ideas for toppings: Coarse sea salt, fresh rosemary, freshly cracked black pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced red or yellow onion, sliced rip olives, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Combine water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl; set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon sea salt in large bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Add yeast mixture and mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes. Add remaining flour and continue mixing to form a very soft dough. Dough should hold together; if dough is too sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until consistency is correct.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl; turn to coat top. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place (85°F), free from drafts, for 1½ hours or until doubled in bulk. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking pan. Transfer dough to the pan and gently stretch to cover the bottom of the pan. Dough may need to rest for a moment or two during this process. Try not to tear the dough.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cover dough loosely with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove towel and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over surface of dough. Using your fingertips, indent the surface of the focaccia and add your choice of toppings, gently pressing them into the indentations.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until focaccia is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Brush with additional olive oil if desired.

Yield: One 10 x 15-inch focaccia

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From Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 by CECA Enterprises LLC, $40). Excerpted with permission. Sister Schubert provided a copy for review.

For more about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls or to order a copy of the book, contact Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

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RECIPE Country Corn Muffins from Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

Sister Schubert, aka Patricia Schubert Barnes, wrote Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living to share her popular recipes and to tell her family’s story. Here is her traditional Country Corn Muffin recipe, which will put your cast-iron muffin pan (or a regular pan if you don’t have cast-iron) to good use. Sister even includes helpful tidbits from her grandmother, known affectionately as Gommey.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins

Sister says: “Gommey called this type of cornbread ‘egg bread’ since the original corn cake was simply made of cornmeal and water, fried in a skillet. It would have been scandalous in many Southern kitchens to add flour to cornbread! Remember to fill any empty muffin cups half full of water before baking to distribute the heat evenly and prevent over-browning.”

Country Corn Muffins

1¼ cups plain cornmeal

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Grease a cast-iron muffin pan.*

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine eggs, milk, and oil; add to cornmeal mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.

If using a cast-iron muffin pan, place well-greased pan into the oven for 5 minutes or until grease sizzles. Spoon batter into hot pans, filling muffin cups two-thirds full.

* For regular muffin pans, spoon batter into greased pans, filling two-thirds full.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until muffins are golden brown. Remove from pans immediately.

Yield: 1 dozen

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From Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 by CECA Enterprises LLC, $40). Excerpted with permission. Sister Schubert provided a copy for review.

For more about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls or to order a copy of the book, contact Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232.

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

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