Orange Honey Sweet Rolls

Well, these are absolutely delicious. Not that I’m surprised; the recipe comes from my Better Homes & Gardens Baking book. And BH&G recipes have never – I repeat, never – let me down. Other sources are not so reliable, but I suspect that BH&G has the best test kitchen in the entire world. Which would make sense, when you think about it. They’ve been in business quite a long time.

My orange and honey sweet rolls are adapted just slightly from the original version, which included golden raisins in the filling and slightly less orange icing for the top. The dough is very easy to work with, which is good for amateur bread bakers like me. Next time, I might add a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg to the filling for a more aromatic treat, but these are wonderful with just the flavors of the orange and honey.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (about 105-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder*
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups bread flour

*I bought mine at King Arthur Flour

For the filling

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • zest of 1/2 medium orange

For the icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preparation

Place yeast and warm water in a mixing bowl and let stand for five minutes. Add dry milk powder, butter, honey, eggs, wheat germ, and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, add 2 cups plain flour, and beat on low for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl a few times during mixing.

Stir in remaining 1 cup plain flour with a wooden spoon, then stir in 1 cup bread flour. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in as much as the remaining bread flour as you can to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes total. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, make the filling; stir together butter, honey, and orange zest until smooth; set aside. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin and set aside.

Roll dough into an 18 x 15 rectangle and spread with filling, leaving a gap of about 1/2 inch around all four sides. Starting from a long side, roll the rectangle into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut into 15 slices and place cut-side down in the prepared baking tin. Cover and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool in tin for 1 minute, then carefully invert on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then flip onto your serving platter (or a rectangular cake caddy, which is what I used) and drizzle with orange icing. Serve warm or cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 15 (though mine only made 13 because I’m terrible at math).

Sour Cream Quick Bread – Spice Version

Sometimes you think of something brilliant the moment you put a bake in the oven and hope you’ll remember for next time. Adapting my lemon poppy seed sour cream quick bread to a version with apple pie spice and chopped pecans presented me with a liquid dilemma. I couldn’t use juice, like in the original recipe, so I went with milk instead.  But the moment I closed the oven door, I thought that applesauce, or better yet grated apples, would have been a great choice instead.

Truth be told, although this bread is very tasty, texture-wise it’s a bit too dry for my liking. Next time, I’ll go with either applesauce or grated apples and see what happens. This is one of the many benefits of baking; you’re always learning something new.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons apple pie spice
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 3 teaspoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan or spray with baking spray.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and apple pie spice in a large bowl; set aside. Combine sour cream, egg, vegetable oil, and milk in a medium bowl, mixing well.

Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture all at once, stirring to combine until no dry streaks remain. Stir in chopped pecans. Your batter will look a bit dry, but that’s normal.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, then cover with a foil tent and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the spice drizzle by combining powdered sugar, apple pie spice, and water in a small bowl. Pour over top of bread; allow to harden before storing.

Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes about 8 servings.

Sour Cream Quick Bread – Lemon Poppy Seed Version

Every baker needs a few good quick bread recipes, and this is one of mine. Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, this bread provides a great base for a number of flavor combinations, and today’s combination is lemon and poppy seed.

This bread is on its way to my friend Carrie, because now and then we all just need someone to send us baked goods, right? We’re both Eastern European, so poppy seeds are kind of the seeds of our people. Lemon poppy is a great flavor combination, of course; you could enhance this bread with a lemon drizzle icing, or just serve it with some lemon curd, whatever you like. I’m betting it will be delicious with Earl Grey tea, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan or spray with baking spray.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Combine lemon zest and juice, sour cream, egg, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl, mixing well.

Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture all at once, stirring to combine until no dry streaks remain. Your batter may look a bit dry, but that’s okay – don’t be tempted to add more liquid. Stir in poppy seeds.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, then cover with a foil tent and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes about 8 servings.

Maple Oat Whole Wheat Bread

Bread baking requires a different set of skills and instincts than I currently possess. Need a cookie? I’m your gal. But bring things like yeast, kneading, and resting into the mix and I feel a bit like I’m back in kindergarten.

Anyone trying to call herself a baker really needs to know how to make a decent loaf of bread, and so I’ve entered a new era of experimentation: yeast breads. Fortunately the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion offers a host of tips and tricks for novices like me, and I’m reading as much as I can; this recipe is their Vermont whole wheat oatmeal maple-honey bread, which I made with maple sugar and regular whole wheat flour, as opposed to white whole wheat as the recipe stated. These loaves smelled amazing while they baked, but I wasn’t as happy with how they turned out texture-wise. Perhaps it was the regular whole wheat flour? Mike loved them, so I guess that doesn’t matter.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup traditional rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Preparation

In your mixing bowl, combine water, oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, maple extract, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Fit the dough hook onto your mixer and mix for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour; I set my bowl of dough on a towel-wrapped heating pad, set on its lowest setting.

Gently deflate your dough and divide it in half, then shape each half into a loaf. Place loaves in two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans.

Cover loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise until they’ve risen about 1 inch above the rim of the pan – about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35-40 minutes; check them around 25 minutes and place a tent of foil over their tops if they’re browning already to avoid burning. Remove from oven when they’re golden brown; you can also use a thermometer to test internal temperature, which should be 190 degrees.

Remove from loaf pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for several days, or freeze for future use.

Makes two loaves.

Irish Soda Bread

My mom’s maiden name is O’Donnell, and she’s quite proud of her Irish heritage. I, however, identify much more with the Eastern European cultural traditions I learned from my Hungarian grandma and Slovak grandpap, who lived just five doors down from my childhood home. So while I’ve got fair skin and freckles, my Irishness has always been much more in theory than it has ever been in practice.

Until today, I’d never made Irish soda bread, and I have to admit that I felt like a total amateur. This recipe comes from my friend Ciara, a woman whose knowledge of Irish culture could certainly put mine to shame. She was Miss Smiling Irish Eyes Pittsburgh a few years back, and this recipe is one she and her mom make each year. You could add raisins if you like, but I chose to leave mine plain.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour*
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs plus buttermilk, enough to equal 2 total cups of liquid**
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened

*You could use regular or gluten-free flour for this recipe as well. 

**Place your eggs in a measuring cup, then pour in enough buttermilk to yield 2 total cups of liquid. I lightly beat my egg/buttermilk mixture before pouring it into the dry mixture. 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan or cast iron skillet.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

Add egg/buttermilk mixture and stir to combine, then add butter and stir as best you can; while you’re not supposed to knead Irish soda bread very much, I kneaded my dough to distribute the lumps of butter more evenly throughout the mixture. Next time, I might cut my butter into my flour before adding the wet ingredients.

Shape into a ball and place in prepared cake pan; cut a cross shape into the top using a very sharp knife.

Bake for 1 hour; remove from oven and cake pan and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Poppy Seed Babka

Earlier today I undertook my first quilted sewing project, a patchwork table runner. I’m a total amateur when it comes to sewing, and both patchwork and quilting are challenges on their own, let alone together. While my project turned out just fine (with a few minor mistakes, but it’s all part of the learning process), I wanted to get into the kitchen to remind myself that there once was a time when I was an amateur baker, and now I can make really awesome stuff like poppy seed babka.

My love for poppy seed treats knows no bounds, and this poppy seed babka is a delicious twist (ha! See what I did there?) on traditional poppy seed roll. While babka definitely takes patience, what with rising and resting time, it’s absolutely worth it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast* (or 1 package active dry yeast)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 10 ounces poppy seed filling
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

*I’ve started using SAF Red Instant Yeast, available at King Arthur Flour. 

Preparation

Place 2 cups flour and yeast into the bowl of a mixer and stir together. Fit the dough hook onto your mixer.

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter, heating to 120 degrees (the butter will almost melt completely). Pour milk mixture into flour/yeast mixture along with egg and mix until combined, scraping the sides of your bowl to combine. Add remaining 1 cup flour and mix on low speed for 3 minutes, until dough becomes smooth – it will gather itself around the dough hook.

Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it for 20-30 seconds by hand, then shape it into a ball.

Place dough in a large, greased bowl; turn the dough once to grease it. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Gently deflate your dough by pressing it to release some of the air; turn onto a very lightly floured surface and let rest for 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting, in a small bowl, combine poppy seed filling and lemon juice, stirring to combine.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Roll dough into a 16 x 12 rectangle. Spread filling evenly over dough. From the long side, roll dough into a log and cut in half to make two shorter logs.

Place one log on top of the other to form an X, then twist ends together. Place in the loaf pan, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine egg and milk to make an egg wash; brush over dough. Bake for 50 minutes, then cover with foil and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped or the internal temperature reaches 180 to 190 degrees. Loosen loaf from pan; allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Autumn Spice Bread

Sometimes people tell me that they don’t bake because baking isn’t as creative as cooking. This bread is a perfect example of how baking can be much more creative than people realize.

This recipe began as a basic quick bread and used cinnamon and walnuts in the filling and topping, but when I thought about it, that flavor combination didn’t seem to pack enough of a punch for me. I added both cinnamon and allspice to the batter and swapped pecans for the walnuts, creating a richer, autumn-themed treat. Next time, I’ll put about half of the batter into the pan and sprinkle it with the nut mixture instead of two-thirds; my nut layer rose to the top a bit more than I expected, and although that’s definitely not a bad thing, I’d like more bread between it and the crunchy streusel topping.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2/3 finely chopped pecans
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 1/4 cups flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and pecans. Stir together well.

In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Add all at once to flour mixture and stir just until no dry streaks remain; batter should be lumpy, so be careful not to over-mix.

Spoon half the batter into the loaf pan and top with half the nut mixture, then spoon in remaining batter. Add flour to remaining nut mixture, then stir in melted butter to make a crumb topping. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. You may need to cover the loaf during the last 20 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.

Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days.