Saturday, February 25, 2012

OMB! Tupelo Honey Biscuits, Fresh out of MY Oven

Oh my biscuit goodness!  Last weekend, we went to Asheville and hit our (and, okay, everybody's) favorite Asheville restaurant, Tupelo Honey Cafe.  As always, the biscuits that they serve before the meal were melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I dare anyone to say anything disparaging about the South with a mouthful of these biscuits!

Last Christmas, I'd bought B the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook. (Definitely one of those semi-selfish gifts.) Case in point: Inspired by our recent visit, last night he looked up the recipe for the biscuits and about an hour later, the most amazing biscuits were coming out of our very own oven. I always gush over B's final product, because it's always gush-worthy, but these biscuits were absolutely amazing.  Maybe it's just because I was enjoying them on my own couch in my pajamas with a big spoonful of apple butter, but these were even better than in the restaurant.  In fact, they were definitely in my top two biscuit experiences of all time.  And that's saying a lot, because S.H.'s moms homemade biscuits with honey still stick in my mind from 1991! Since eating those biscuits, every biscuit experience in my life has fallen short until this one.  If I could put those biscuits side by side for comparison, I would gladly do it.

The biscuits were equal parts moist and crumbly, with the perfect amount of saltiness.  I had one as an appetizer and ended up only having half of my dinner so I could have another one.  Even though our oven turned them just a tad brown, it didn't mess with the taste.

Dear friends, I'm holding promise of these biscuits out as a carrot to come visit!

B. says one of the secrets is the frozen butter.  Also, the recipe called for 1.5 t salt, but only told what do do with the half teaspoon.  He didn't put the rest in, and (obviously) I didn't miss it.

Poolish Experiment #1

Poolish Loaf

B decided to do a weekend experiment with a poolish ciabatta, an Italian rustic loaf. Although it didn't turn out the way he wanted, I see more poolish bread in our future.

He started the "sponge" on Friday, but the recipe he'd been following was off (a mix-up in metric to imperial conversions), and it didn't rise properly.  He fixed it by readjusting the water and we (sigh) waited another 12 hours for it to rise.

Waiting, waiting

By Sunday evening, it was ready to go in the oven.

It came out late Sunday night, after I'd gone to bed. But the promise of poolish bread for breakfast helped me get out of bed at an ungodly hour for my 7am flight. I was a little disappointed when I saw it sitting on the counter. It was certainly "rustic," but our oven (which loves to char things), had done what it does best. However when I sliced it, I was pleasantly surprised.  It looked delicious on the inside.

Unfortunately, with the picture snapping for the blog and my lack of coffee, I forgot to actually take a slice with me.  That might've been for the best, though.  Even though it looked nice on the inside, it's not B's typical type of bread (where, all you need is a knife and a little privacy, and you could theoretically and easily slice and eat your way through the whole thing in one sitting). This bread wasn't much on its own, but when paired with a little salt and olive oil, wow! (Which is exactly how I enjoyed it when I got home on Tuesday.)

A little black on the outside

Perfect on the inside

I'm eagerly awaiting poolish experiment #2.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pita Picked a Pat of...Goat Cheese

Second during the week of rye, B took on a rye pita.  He's become a master pita chef, in general. They're so fun to watch pop in the oven and he cooks them so they stay all puffy.  We usually have them for appetizers with hummus.  But this time, B decided to add in rye flower to his regular white flower and substitute honey for the sugar. We weren't sure how they would taste, but (thankfully) we happened to have some goat cheese in the fridge.  Talk about amazing-tasting serendipity! I'm pretty sure that rye pita and goat cheese were made for each other. The slight bitterness of the rye with the smooth bite of the goat cheese is amazing.  And the pocket holds it perfectly and warms and softens it just slightly when just out of the oven.  I'm in love with that pairing.

Rye Pitas Proofing

Rye Pitas Popping

Out of the Oven

Rye Pita with Goat Cheese

Rye's Alright

Thanks to B's January rye streak, I'm a rye convert.  Asking me "white, wheat or rye?" at a sandwich place, you might've well have said "white, wheat or Katy Perry?" I could try to wrap my head around the fact that other people liked it, but I just couldn't understand why.  But B's rye's - amazing!

First he did a pumpernickel.  I never knew it was made with coffee and molasses.  Maybe knowing that finally made the taste make sense.  BN brought over some homemade salmon dip and we paired them together, and wow. Have I mentioned that I'm lucky to be surrounded by such amazing cooks?  We've also served it for breakfast, thinly sliced and toasted with butter in the oven, and then topped with local apple butter. Pumpernickel for breakfast - who knew? 

Pumpernickel with BN's Salmon Dip

Here's his recipe:
3 Tbsp dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, body temp
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to body temp
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp softened butter
4 1/2 cups unsifted unbleached white flour
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
2 cups rye flour (plus extra rye flour for kneading in)
4 tsp salt
Glaze: 1 Tbsp melted butter mixed with 2 Tbsp

Pour coffee and water into large bowl and sprinkle over yeast.  Stir and leave for 5 minutes.  Then stir in honey, molasses and softened butter.
In another bowl, blend 3 flours and salt.  Slowly add flour blend to other bowl, stirring until dough comes away from sides.  Add more rye flour until it comes away from sides.
Lightly flour board with rye flour.  Knead dough until smooth (5 - 7 min.), adding more rye flour to make firm.
Place dough in greased bowl and turn over so greased side is up.  cover with towel and let it rise until double in bulk (about 2 hours).
Punch dough down.  Divide in half and form into balls.  Place each ball, smooth side up, on greased baking sheet (make sure it has been dusted with cornmeal).  Cover with towel and let it rise for an additional hour, until it doubles in bulk.
Preheat oven to 450.
Brush with melted butter before putting in oven. 
Bake at 450 for 10 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 and continue to bake for another 50 minutes.

Foccacia, Four Ways

Around the new year, B got on a foccacia kick.  It proved very versatile, which was nice because I hate nothing more than when we're not able to finish all the bread.  It made a nice little side with dinner, an amazing sandwich bread to stuff with holiday leftovers, great small squares served as an appetizer or snack (or, okay, a second dessert).  We served it on New Year's for our annual food & moviethon with B.N.  and it was a big hit.
So far, B's stuck with onion foccacia, which gives a nice little kick to an otherwise mild bread.

New Year's Onion Foccacia

January weekend onion foccacia

Thankful for Challah

B. made challah for our big Thanksgiving feast at his parents' house.  We're not Jewish and it was the first challah I'd ever had, which is a shame.  Not only did it look beautiful, like a wreath, it was fun for people to tear off their little portions - very communal and Thanksgivingy.   It had a great crust on the outside and was soft on the inside.  You can also adapt plenty of songs to go with it like, "I need $50 to make you challah," although I'm sure it would taste just as good without. 

This is the recipe he followed. He doesn't recall making any adjustments.

(from allrecipes)


  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
  2. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Grease two baking trays and place finished braid or round on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

Welcome to our bread blog

Welcome to our blog.  Thanks for stopping by!  B. does the bread making and I (his wife) do the blogging, eating, and lots of oohing and ahhing.  Much to my delight, B. has been experimenting with bread making since early 2008.  He's perfected many breads, like his rosemary & garlic rustic loaf. But more often than not, he picks a new bread to tackle.  As a scientist, he finds a lot of experimental appeal in finding the right blend of ingredients, temperature, and timing.  And the raves of friends and fam are a much more gratifying form of peer review.  Sorry.  Nerdy science joke.

These past few months, we've worked our way through challah, rye pita and today's he's tackling poolish ciabatta.  I'll post a lot to catch you up on the last few months and then I'll try to track his bread making in real(ish) time, after my bread comas subside.   

B. doesn't use a bread machine but he has gotten a few upgrades over the years.  He's gone from doing it all by hand with nothing but a big bowl, a broken one-handled rolling pin, and a tiny 10 x 10-inch cutting board; to upgrading to a Roll Pat and Kitchen Aid (which, again to the delight of my belly, has increased production dramatically).

If you have your own tweaks, tricks or recipes, we'd love for you to share.