Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bread Basket

November is the perfect time of year to get into the kitchen and bake some bread -- either quick or yeast. With the shorter days and cooler temperatures, the warmth of the oven and the tempting aroma of freshly baked bread will lift everyone's spirits.

Pumpkin muffins are an ideal treat for breakfast, afternoon snack, or as an accompaniment to soup and salad. This recipe is so versatile -- you can make it sweet for dessert (and even bake it in cake pans and top with icing), or you can make it healthy by substituting whole wheat flour and honey. I'm also thinking of trying a gluten-free version by substituting rice flour and masa meal for the flour.

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PUMPKIN MUFFINS

3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. pumpkin
1/2 c. brown sugar (use 1 c. if you want a sweet cake or 1/2 c. honey if you want it without sugar)
1/2 c. oil

1 c. flour (here's where you can substitute whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 c. raisins (optional)
1 c. walnuts, chopped (optional)

Beat eggs. Add vanilla, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and nutmeg. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Add raisins and walnuts. Pour into lined muffin tins. I like to sprinkle the muffin tops with rolled oats at this point -- just to make them look more inviting. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until done.  Makes 12. (You can also bake this as a loaf -- it will take 50-55 minutes to bake.)

Dinner rolls are another type of bread in high demand during the months of cold weather. I have made this recipe countless times, relying on my bread machine to do the hard work for me.

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BREAD MACHINE DINNER ROLLS

1 1/3 c. water
8 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2  c. all-purpose flour (can use some whole wheat)
4 Tbsp. dry milk powder (if you have it)
2 tsp. dry yeast

Measure ingredients into bread machine in order given. Use the "dough" setting (mine takes about 2 hours). Once ready, divide dough into two halves. Roll each half into a circle about 14 inches or so in diameter.

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Cut the circle into twelve "pie" pieces. Roll each piece from the large end to the point to form crescent rolls.

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Place rolls on greased cookies sheets and brush with egg glaze (1 egg mixed with 2 Tbsp. water). Let stand 10-15 minutes and then bake at 375F for 25-35 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

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A favorite yeast bread of mine is Pumpkin Raisin Bread. It combines my love of pumpkin with my love of yeast bread, along with hints of another kind of bread I love so much -- Cinnamon Bread. If you enjoy making yeast breads, you need to give this one a try!

PUMPKIN RAISIN BREAD
(original recipe from Laura T.)

2 pkg. yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp.)
1/3 c. honey
2/3 c. warm water
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/4 c. oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
6 1/4-7 1/4 c. flour (can be all white, all whole-wheat, or a combination of both)
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. raisins

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water; stir until dissolved. Add pumpkin, oil, salt, spices, and 1 1/2 c. flour. Beat with wire whisk at low speed until well blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 c. flour; beat 2 minutes more.

With a wooden spoon, stir in raisins and enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

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Punch dough down. Divide in half or thirds (for round loaves). Shape dough into loaves and place in greased loaf pans or on greased cookie sheets. Let rise for 45 minutes.

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Bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes. Makes 2 loaves (or 3 small loaves).