Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Homemade breads for the table or for gifts

By JANINE GILBERTSON November 14. 2017 9:33PM
Cinnamon raisin pecan wheat bread. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is just around the corner. Perhaps the warm temperatures this fall distracted me from the actual time of year it was, but the freezing cold temperatures and dusting of light snow this week served as a reality check: The holidays are here.

That means it’s time to think about special dinners, gatherings and gift giving. Cold days are perfect days to bake some homemade bread, and homemade bread is not only a perfect complement to a holiday meal, it’s also a thoughtful and generous gift.

A few months ago, I picked up a loaf of raisin pecan bread at the grocery store and I’ve become obsessed. Buying specialty breads at the supermarket a few times a week can get pricey, so I decided it was time to figure out how to make it at home. And now that I’ve got a few successful loaves to my credit, I’m planning to make more to give as gifts to friends and neighbors. 

(It will also be the basis for this year’s Thanksgiving stuffing, which should actually be called a dressing, since I rarely stuff a turkey or chicken when I cook it. But now I’m getting ahead of myself because that’s next week’s topic.)

What I love about baking bread at home is that you can control the ingredients you use and produce something wholesome and nourishing. Back in the day, there weren’t dozens of supermarkets with shelves full of different kinds of breads. Bread was one of those things that was made at home, usually daily, by the home cook. The flour used wasn’t bleached and processed.

In addition to my raisin bread obsession, I’ve also been trying out different kinds of rye breads too. Rye isn’t quite as popular in my house as raisin, so any that’s left over is repurposed into croutons and used in soups and salads. 

This week I will be combining pieces of both dark rye and raisin bread with some herbs and chicken stock to see if I can make a delicious Thanksgiving stuffing (dressing). If it comes out well, I will share the recipe in next week’s column. If it’s not Thanksgiving-worthy, I’ll stick to just the raisin pecan bread in the recipe. 

Stay tuned.
Cinnamon raisin pecan wheat bread. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Wheat Bread

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cups white flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp dry active yeast

1 cup raisins (packed)

1 cup pecans, chopped

Add the raisins to a medium bowl and cover with warm water. Allow the raisins to soak for about a half an hour, then drain and set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine the white flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and cinnamon. 

In another bowl, mix warm water and vegetable oil. 

Slowly add the warm water mixture to the flour mixture. Stir together, then add the raisins, pecans and whole wheat flour. Stir until a soft dough forms. 

Knead the dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. 

Divide the dough into 3 balls and place in loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes. 

Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, then transfer the loaves to wire rack to cool.
Dark rye molasses bread. JANINE GILBERTSON 

Dark Rye Molasses Bread

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast

2 tsp caraway seed

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup molasses

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cups rye flour

1 tsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 cup water

Combine the all-purpose flour, salt, cocoa, yeast, and caraway seed in a large bowl and set aside. 

Add the molasses, butter, sugar, water and olive oil to a small saucepan and heat on low until warm (about 110 degrees). 

Add the molasses mixture to the dry mixture and beat on low speed with an electric mixer for about three minutes, stopping halfway to scrape the sides of the bowl. 

Add the rye flour in small batches, mixing until a soft dough forms. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover the dough and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the dough, shaping to form a round or oval loaf. Brush with a little olive oil, then score the top of the dough with a knife. 

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for about an hour, then place in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then place on a rack to cool before serving.
Olive oil and thyme bread. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Olive Oil Thyme Bread

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

In a large bowl combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Stir in 2 cups of the flour in order to make a soft ball. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the additional and thyme to make a soft dough. 

Set the dough in a large greased bowl and cover. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Punch the dough down and form into ball or loaf shape and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.


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