Baking It Forward

unnamed-3We have been so busy lately!  It always feels like a complete blur between October and the end of December.  In the middle of all the madness lately, we’ve been busy in the kitchen!  During the month of November, Cooking Light has been promoting the #bakeitforward movement on Instagram.  In partnership with Food Network, they will donate $1 to No Kid Hungry, for every photo that’s tagged with #bakeitforward.  Cooking Light did it last unnamedyear, and it was a fun way to get busy baking, and to share the love.  This year we made some applesauce bread with a yummy apple glaze.  We also made some Halloween bark, something I had seen on the Pioneer Woman’s show.  It was a great way to use up some of our leftover Halloween candy!

We had such fun making it, and even more fun eating it, unnamed-2even though we still have a ton of Halloween candy.  It was fun to package it all up and deliver it to some special friends and family.  We ate quite a bit of the toppings for the bark in the process of making it.  This was her favorite part – sprinkling M&Ms, snickers pieces, and crushed pretzels.  It was also an attempt to teach her about sharing, being thankful, and doing nice things for others.  Though she was really just in it for the M&M’s!!

unnamed-1Between November and December I’ll be pretty busy baking in the kitchen.  I’ll love every minute of it, except the clean-up!  This is a great way to share the love – with friends, family, neighbors, and with this campaign that Cooking Light and the Food Network are doing.  Not only is it raising money for hungry kids and families, it’s encouraging everyone to share some of their favorite treats, and keep the love going!  If you’re on Instagram – share the love, and #bakeifforward!!

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Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a DAy

9780312362911_p0_v1_s260x420What I want to share with this blog is my love for books.  I love sharing books with friends, especially something I know they’ll enjoy.  I have some really great friends who often return the favor.  A couple of years ago a friend shared a really special book with me: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  The title of this book is a little simplistic – and for good reason!  Can you really have homemade bread (that’s also worth the effort) in only 5 minutes?  I am a total carbaholic – so of course I had to test this “theory”…

I was so surprised and delighted by the result of my first attempt at this bread recipe!  It was similar

I made this myself!!

I made this myself!!

to the loaves I would routinely buy at Panera – which are increasingly more and more expensive!  This bread is warm and yeasty on the inside, crusty and slightly crunchy on the outside!  One other thing I love about using this recipe is the delicious smell of yeast that fills my house when the dough rises, and when the bread bakes.  I’m still completely amazed at this recipe’s simplicity and versatility.  Bringing bread to a dinner party?  Want to impress someone with your amazing baking skills?  Try this recipe out!  This is honestly the best recipe book I’ve ever had – and I use it regularly.

pre-risen dough

pre-risen dough

There is the basic recipe (that mixes in a large batch, which stays in the fridge until you’re ready to bake), and a few different varieties included that are just as delicious, and are suited to a variety of different meals, occassions, and skill level.  What’s the secret to amazing bread, baked at home, with minimal effort?  According to the Hertzberg and Francois method:  “Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.”  After mixing the dough (pictured at left), which can be easily done by hand or with a stand mixer, the dough rises in a container and be kept for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  When you’re ready to bake, take what you need from the batch, and the rest stays in the fridge.

Ready for the oven!!

Ready for the oven!!

A few other points that are made, explaining why this recipe is so much easier than traditional methods of baking homemade bread.

1. You don’t need to make fresh dough every day to have fresh bread every day.

2. You don’t need a “sponge” or “starter”

3. It doesn’t matter how you mix the dry and wet ingredients together

Homemade bread in the Crock Pot - seriously!

Homemade bread in the Crock Pot!

4. You don’t need to ‘proof’ yeast

5. It isn’t kneaded

Equipment needed includes a baking stone, cookie sheets, bread knife, baking basics.  Other equipment is suggested, but not necessary.

The master recipe includes just a few basic ingredients: water, yeast, kosher salt, and flour.  With this basic recipe, there are many variations: crock pot, rolls, bread bowls, baguette, herb.  All of these varieties can be made with 1 batch!  On a recent batch I mixed up a couple of weeks ago I did a loaf in the oven, one in the crock pot, and even made rolls – which turned out amazing!IMG_1239

I’ve seen several variations of the basic recipe on Pinterest, but nothing that that includes the variations that are included in the book.  I know when it comes to holiday baking (that some people look forward to – and many people dread), this will be my go-to source.  Enjoy!