Great Harvest Bread

I had tasted some bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, but I hadn’t been to their shop until a month ago when Tartlet 2 had a field trip there. I tagged along for the field trip and loved the peek into the kitchen. The oven = WOW! Grain milled fresh daily. That day we took home a loaf of Caramel Apple Crunch and devoured it like ravenous beasts. You would think we had never tasted freshly baked bread before!

With that in our memories, I took a couple of girls with me back to the shop last Friday for some Asiago Pesto bread, which was also awesome, and we were offered a taste of the Cinnamon Chip bread. (They give everyone a free sample slice of one of the day’s breads, menu available here.) It was so great, we had to take a loaf home. The guy behind the counter said it makes awesome French toast and so our dinner plans were made for us.

Check out that oozy cinnamon sugar on the crust. Yes, it did taste as good as it looks. It didn’t really need any syrup, but the kids smothered theirs anyway. Interestingly, some of the Tartlets prefer the bread plain and at least one preferred it made into French toast.  One Tartlet thought it compared favorably to doughnuts, only healthier.  The kids have already been begging — when will I go to GHBC again?

I think most of the loaves are in the $4.50-5.50 range, scones and muffins are $2 each, and they have some great oatmeal cookies (Tartlet 2 was given one at the end of her field trip and she shared!), as well as other things we haven’t yet tried. They have a ‘club card’ — get 10 stamps and get a free loaf, and the kids think I should race to get mine filled!

Great Harvest Bread Company
The Shoppes of Knollwood
2149 S. Neil
Champaign, IL
398-5623

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Feeling Kneady

I was doing a little planning ahead today, making some rolls in advance of a meal delivery for Son of Matt and Air In later in the week (3M was born on Christmas Eve), and went back to the November Daring Baker Challenge: potato bread. I love this recipe, in case you couldn’t tell. I’ve already made it a couple of times since the challenge, making more focaccia.

Back in November, though, I saw Glenna’s soft, little buns and was envious. (Be nice!) I made mine larger than hers, my first pan quite a bit larger, but I’m happy to report they had that same wonderful soft texture. Whoohoo! What beats soft buns? 😉 Next time I’ll probably stick to smaller ones.

I’m learning a little here as I make this recipe over and over. I’ve used Fleischmann’s yeast in a jar generally in the past, but my most recent batch before this one used little packets from Hodgson Mill and I liked the smell/flavor better. Everything seems so variable with yeast bread — different temps, humidity, etc affect the results, but I think I need to learn more about the little yeasty beasties themselves. I used to think there was just one variety of beasties for bread and different types for brewing, etc, but it seems like there must be some differences in sources for baking and, apparently, how they go about their impolite business burping in the dough. I welcome information! 🙂

Note to self: this batch used Yukon Gold potatoes in the food mill, AP flour & WW flour (no bread flour), and Fleischmann’s yeast; tops spread with butter while warm.

Jazzin’ Away the January Blahs

Yesterday afternoon, after writing that I haven’t been making interesting foods, I started the pizza dough from my planned menu. I made enough to get a large baking sheet and a regular pizza pan, plus there was enough dough leftover for a third pan. Frequently I make cinnamon rolls out of the leftovers and this time I had in mind making an apple/cinnamon pizza but had used my last apple. As I was digging around for ingredients, I stumbled upon a block of cream cheese that I didn’t realize was hiding back there and decided to make something different — cheesecake pizza.

I pressed the dough into the pizza pan in a very thin layer. Next I mixed a traditional cheesecake batter:

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. almond extract

I spread that over the crust; it made a very thin layer also. I baked it at 325 F for 20 min or so — it looked done and the edges were just getting golden. Then I spread cherry pie filling over the top.

It’s not nearly as good as a 2-inch thick slab of cheesecake, but it was a very tasty end to an otherwise plain meal!

Accepting the Challenge!

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That’s right! I have become a Daring Baker, apparently alongside most of the rest of the food blog community as the group now numbers somewhere around 400. What fun! Many thanks to Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for starting the whole thing and then allowing more and more of us to participate.

Rolls made with white potato

This is the reason it’s been a little quiet here lately. All year long as I would visit some of my favorite blogs, I would see amazing things like the strawberry mirror cake, Gateau Saint Honore, even the chocolate crepe cake that so many disliked and I was so envious. Ooooh, I want to be a Daring Baker when I grow up! It would be so much fun to make the same thing as some of my favorite food bloggers and then have a little ‘Show-n-Tell’ at the end. So after a hectic summer and early fall, I committed to be a Daring Baker, to make my challenge recipes no matter what they may entail, to wait to share until the given date, and I eagerly awaited the recipe. Oh, what marvelous thing could it be?

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Good Things Come In Small Packages

Today I was delighted to participate in a baby shower for the lovely Mrs. French and the, as yet, unknown Baby French to come. The hostesses chose a French theme for the party and I was asked to bring one savory and one desserty item. Oh, the things that came to mind. But, wanting to keep it to finger foods, I knew early on that this was going to be the perfect time to finally try out the pastry dough recipe that Gattina first posted and then Helen the Tartelette adapted (not to be confused with my four Tartlets/Things).

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I won’t copy the recipe here since I used Tartelette’s version, but I will say that 14 g yeast equals two envelopes or 4 1/2 teaspoons and I used three full sticks of butter rather than leaving out roughly 10 g — I don’t use a kitchen scale so it’s purely laziness on my part to keep it simple and put in three full sticks. My other modification was simply in the sizing and fillings.

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I wanted them small and dainty for the baby shower so my squares were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches and then I folded in the corners as the recipe directs. I used three different fillings: marionberry preserves, orange marmalade, and cream cheese. I also made a glaze from milk, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla, although I didn’t take any pictures after I added the glazing.

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You’ll notice in the tag cloud that ‘yeast breads’ isn’t a common category here because I don’t like my foods to be needy.

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Chocolate is one thing — it’s just persnickety. It likes the right temperature and it doesn’t like water and it’s just a tad particular about it’s company. I understand these things. Ask The Husband about the house temperature some day or how likely I am to go sailing even though I love to be at the beach. But generally I find kneady foods to be a pain. Roll, fold, rest. Knead, knead. But this recipe, despite it’s kneading and rolling and resting, will be used again. The Husband liked the cream cheese filling best. I’d like to try a few other things with it also. When I had made all the dough into danish I sighed and said, “I wish I had some more of that dough but I’m not going to start mixing a new batch now” and Thing 1 said, “Oh, you must be having fun! You want to play with it more!” 😉

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas . . .

My true love gave to me an 8 megapixel camera. Well, it sounds better that way than to say the Husband didn’t get my gift until yesterday, which cost him big points. Not that we keep score or anything . . . 😛

So today I’m busily prepping for our New Year’s Eve party, which may be a bit smaller than some years so I’ve axed a few items from the menu — the onion & pancetta tassies will have to wait for another year, for example. But we’re definitely having mini-calzones/pizza pockets (see below), a version of Spicy Skewered Chicken, some beef skewers (I decided against the chipotle flavor in favor of a mild balsamic/Italian flavor), some Lime Jerk chicken skewers, some quesadillas but without artichoke (instead we’re going to have some plain ones, mushroom, and some with brie, pear and cranberry) and my favorite hot artichoke dip.

Here are some pictures from my new camera showing the calzone process. I used my standard pizza crust recipe. You can see my high-tech cutting instrument — a kid’s cup — it’s the perfect size!

minicalzone construction

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Here is a picture of my little calzone tester, also known as Thing 3:

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She gave them a hearty approval rating.

I also used the pizza crust recipe to make pesto bread sticks for a wedding rehearsal dinner I’m catering next week. Here are some pictures of that process:

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Recipe of the Day — Pizza Crust

Last night for dinner we had pizza. It was plain old boring stuff — pepperoni, onion, pepper and olive and one had bacon in addition — nothing like chicken with artichokes and mushrooms or BBQ sauce & chicken or other ‘interesting’ options, just things the kiddos like and I had on hand. This is my favorite pizza crust recipe — it comes from the Betty Crocker cookbook the Husband got me for Christmas in 1991 (it was what I had asked for but it served as the ‘box’ to disguise a pair of opal earrings he bought me!). What a guy! 😉
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Pizza Dough

1 package regular or quick-acting active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105 – 115 F)

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in sugar, oil, salt and 1 cup of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until almost double.

Punch dough down. Roll on a lightly floured surface. Bake at 375 – 425 F.

My notes:

I often use about half whole wheat flour. I use this recipe for pizza and calzones and breadsticks.

A really yummy breadstick is to roll this stuff out to about 1/4 thick and spread the surface with basil or dried tomato pesto and sprinkle with cheese, fold over in half and cut into strips then twist each strip several times before placing on baking sheet. They are *so* pretty! (See link above for pictures.)

Sometimes I also use part of the recipe to make cinnamon rolls for dessert — I double the recipe and make two pizzas and use the rest to roll out, spread with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, roll up and cut into rolls and bake on a greased sheet. Top with confectioner’s icing or cream cheese frosting.