Assorted Finished Things

Silver Socks

When I was working on my MA, sock knitting was kind of THE thing in knitting at the time. (Then it seems like shawls/shawlettes were the big thing and now it’s . . .  Cowls? I’m not sure. Maybe the online presence of knitters has become big enough that there isn’t really a single thing anymore.) Of course, sock knitting is still a thing, and people knit and design lots of sock patterns. But at the time, the knitting world was kind of in the throes of sock mania. At the height of this, I tried a lot of complex, interesting sock patterns. And then, a few years into my PhD, I realized that I most enjoyed knitting and wearing very plain, very boring socks. I make all of Aidan’s socks in 2×2 rib, and all of my socks in stockinette with a simple ribbed cuff. It makes it very easy to start and finish a pair of socks since I don’t need to refer to any patterns or instructions while I’m knitting.

But lately, I’ve been feeling like the cuffs and insteps of my socks are just a bit too tight. So on this pair, I made the heel flap a bit longer to address the tightness around the instep and used a provisional cast-on for the cuff, which I finished with a more stretchy sewn bind off. The fit is definitely better and keeps me from having to cast on extra stitches at the cuff and decrease through the leg, which I don’t want to have to do. But the tubular bind off I used doesn’t look the greatest after it’s worked on the provisional stitches. I used the exact same bind off on my Grandpa Cardigan and it looks great there. I’m wondering if this is because, having used a provisional cast-on, the stitches for the cuff and the bind off are oriented in the opposite direction? I think next time I might try using an Italian Cast On. Actually, next time I might give this basic toe-up pattern a try. We’ll see. These socks are made with Regia 4-Ply Terra in the Silver colorway.

Dog Sweater

Back in November, my sister was having trouble finding a sweater to fit her dog, Mini, and asked me to try making something that might fit better. She sent me a few basic measurements and I used two different tutorials from Sew It Love It to make this–this tutorial helps you draft the pattern for the sweater and this one guides you through actually sewing the sweater up. It took me awhile to find the time to sit down and do the drafting and sewing (or really, it took me awhile to summon up the courage to try drafting something to fit a dog that lives hundreds of miles from me), but once I started working on it, I was able to finish it all up quickly. Sewing the sweater requires a single seam down the center front of the body, and then you attach bands to the neck, legs, and around the torso. I sewed all the seams with a medium zig-zag stitch, and then top stitched around the bands with a wider zigzag to keep them from flipping up. The fabric is just anti-pill fleece from JoAnn’s. I’m pleased with how it turned out and my sister said it fits well. She also said Mini found it unnerving to be photographed from the side, so that’s why she looks a bit unhappy in the first photo.


I’ve been making a lot of bread the past two months, and this week I tried Julia Child’s White Sandwich Loaf recipe (found here, via Dinner With Julie) for the first time. This recipe produced the most beautiful loaves of bread I’ve ever made before. It’s a pretty simple recipe—no crazy ingredients and I was able to start it at around 11 am and have the bread finished before dinner. It’s especially simple in comparison to the white sandwich bread recipe that I’ve used previously from The Bread Bible. It rose up nicely and the texture is great—very soft and perfect for sandwiches. It isn’t as flavorful as the recipe from The Bread Bible, which is as delicious as it is involved, but Julia Child’s recipe contains less dairy and less sugar, which in addition to being very straight-foward, makes it a nice everyday bread recipe. I’m definitely going to make this again, but I might try using honey rather than white sugar to see if that makes any difference.

A couple of weeks ago, I also tried this Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. (This is a cell phone picture taken at night in my tiny kitchen, so sorry for the poor quality.) This is a sweet bread, with a hint of cinnamon, and the oatmeal gives it a soft but chewy texture. It’s wonderfully fragrant when you bake and toast it. I ate this bread, toasted and smeared with butter, every morning for breakfast until it was gone. The next time I make it, I want to try using some of it for French Toast. This is sweet enough that it’s not the kind of bread I’d use for a sandwich at lunch, but it is very, very good. Plus, it’s a nice way to use up the bag of White Whole Wheat flour that I have in the cupboard but never know what to do with!

In other news, I’ve started reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and last night I got to the part where Jim kills a massive rattle snake with a spade and then drags the thing home to show off to everyone. Just in case you wondering what was keeping me awake at night lately, there you go. It is a truly beautiful book with 1000% too many snakes.


Beer Bread

The first and only other time I’ve made beer bread, I used a mix that someone gave me as a gift. I don’t remember what kind of mix it was or what kind of beer I used to make it, but while other people really loved the bread, I thought it tasted pretty flat. So when I decided to make beer bread again, I wanted to make sure it had plenty of flavor.

Beer bread via


For this bread, I found a very simple, no-nonsense recipe on that had a lot of good reviews. I decided to use a bottle of Sam Adams Boston and swapped 1 c of all-purpose flour with 3/4 c of white whole wheat flour. (I had planned to use regular whole wheat flour, but it turned out that I only had white whole wheat on hand.) Thanks to the myriad wonders of winter-time artificial kitchen light, the bread looks a touch neon in these photos, but I was really surprised by the deep golden color the crust and crumb had when they came out of the oven.

This is a hearty bread with a dense, chewy crust. Because of its texture, you have to be careful about the way you measure and mix your flour or you’ll end up with a loaf of bread that’s more like a brick. The original recipe recommends sifting the flour, but since I don’t have a sifter, I make sure to scoop my flour into a measuring cup with a spoon and then gently level it off with a knife. Either of these methods will help ensure that you don’t throw off the proportion of dry-to-wet ingredients. As you mix the batter, you also want to be careful to only stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Once I had mixed most of the dry ingredients, I actually stopped stirring and started gently turning the batter over in the bowl to find and incorporate any remaining dry areas. Even taking into account those few careful steps, it only takes a couple of minutes to mix the batter up and throw it in the oven.

Beer Bread via


This bread was really excellent–a major improvement from the first beer bread I made. The combination of the whole wheat flour and the lager gave it a rich, deep flavor that had a hint of sweetness balanced with just a touch of bitterness at the end. This particular version of this recipe would go really well with a bowl or chili or beef stew. Next time, I want to try using a lighter beer, cutting back a bit on the sugar, and stirring in some cheddar cheese and scallions.

I’m curious: if you’ve made beer bread, what’s your favorite beer to use?


Beer Bread (adapted from

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat, but regular whole wheat would also work)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c of sugar
  • 12 oz can or bottle of lager (I used Sam Adams Boston)
  • 1/4 c butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the beer over the dry mixture (it will foam a lot at first, but it will calm down quickly) and stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Pour the melted butter over the top of the batter.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Cinnamon Rolls

I tried making cinnamon rolls two Christmases ago, and they didn’t rise enough and didn’t bake evenly so that rolls in the middle of the pan were too doughy to eat. It was one of my more demoralizing baking experiences and put me off of cinnamon rolls until this past Christmas when I decided, rather spontaneously, to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast while we were staying with my dad. Since I had seven people to feed, I’m very happy to report that these turned out great. To quote my dad: “These are the best damn cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had.”

Cinnamon Rolls via

These rolls are an adaptation of the Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns from Smitten Kitchen. Since these were a last-minute decision (at least, about as last-minute as you can get with a yeasted breakfast dish) and since I was at my dad’s house in the middle of nowhere, I had to do a bit of improvising with the recipe beyond simply using it to make classic cinnamon rolls. I didn’t have any buttermilk so I made sour milk with vinegar. My dad only had active dry yeast, so I proofed it in some warm milk and a pinch of sugar before mixing it with the other ingredients. We were short on eggs, so based on one of the tips at the end of the original recipe, I swapped two of the egg yolks for a single, whole egg.

The biggest challenge was that my dad didn’t have any powdered sugar on hand. I ended up dissolving granulated sugar into some milk, adding a splash of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon in the process. My improvised glaze was still a bit grainy, but it worked well enough and definitely didn’t detract from what ended up being a fantastic batch of cinnamon rolls.

The view from my dad's back yard--the benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. (Photo taken by Aidan.)

The view from my dad’s back yard–the benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. (Photo taken by Aidan.)

I think of cinnamon rolls as a special occasion food—not the kind of thing you’d eat on a daily basis—and to that end, these were exactly what they should have been: soft, rich, and gooey. They are, of course, sweet, but not the kind of super-sweet that will hurt your teeth or your stomach. This recipe also makes it easy to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast without waking up four hours earlier than everyone else. You mix up and knead the dough the night before, let it rise, roll out and form the cinnamon rolls, and then let the cinnamon rolls rise in the pan overnight in the refrigerator. The original recipe tells you to remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. I wasn’t happy with how much they had risen at the end of the 30 minutes, so I left them sitting on the counter for a full hour before putting them in the oven. The rolls rose beautifully in the oven and baked very evenly.

Cinnamon Rolls via

This recipe is so good it’s going straight to my best-hits list. I can’t wait to make these again. And again. And again.


Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This recipe makes a dozen cinnamon rolls. Although I improvised a glaze using granulated sugar, I’ve included the ingredients for a basic powdered sugar glaze that I’ve used before and would use again the next time I make these.

For the dough:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 3 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk


  1. In a stand mixer, beat together the egg yolk, whole eggs, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and the salt and mix together until just combined. Add the remaining 1 ¾ c of flour. Using the dough hook, let the mixer knead the dough on low speed for 5-7 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, and moist. The dough should still be a bit tacky to the touch, but not sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise at room temperature until doubled (2-2.5 hours).
  2. When the dough has finished rising, butter a 9×13 baking dish. (The original recipe recommends a ceramic or glass dish, but I had good luck with a basic aluminum cake pan.) Turn the dough out on a floured counter and roll it into a rectangle approximately 18 inches wide and 12 inches long. Roll the dough out so that the widest part of the dough is facing you. Brush the melted butter on the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the brown sugar and then with the cinnamon.
  3. Starting with the side of the dough farthest away from you, roll the dough tightly into an 18”-long spiral. (The best way to get a tight roll is to simply go slowly, making sure to keep the dough taut all the way across as you roll.) Using a serrated knife or dental floss, cut the log into 12 pieces—each piece should be about 1.5” wide. Place the rolls in the prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (The original recipe says that you can chill the rolls for up to 16 hours.)
  4. In the morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter for 30-60 minutes before baking. (I let mine sit for a full hour, but I think my dad’s kitchen was rather cold.) While the rolls sit, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 30 minutes, until they’re raised and golden. If you’re a sucker for precision, they should have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.
  5. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle over the rolls. Serve while they’re still warm and gooey!

Blueberry Oatmeal Quick Bread

Apparently I decided to take a summer blogging hiatus. So it goes. As with all things, it’s hard to get back into something you’ve gotten out of the habit of doing, so I’m going to be very unceremonious and jump back in.

I whipped this bread up Tuesday night when I was done teaching–it was at once a form of stress relief and a celebration of the fact that my kitchen is no longer a million degrees. It’s a simple quick bread dough made a bit heartier through the addition of some whole wheat flour and oats. The recipe calls for a fair amount of almond extract, which I was a little worried about since almond extract has such a strong flavor. I thought about substituting vanilla, but forged ahead with the recipe as written and was pleasantly surprised by how nice the almond flavor works with the nuttiness of batter and the flavor of the blueberries.

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

This bread is basically a good, hearty muffin in bread form–it’s got great flavor, it’s filling, and it’s not too sweet, making it perfect for breakfast or a mid-day snack. I followed Faith’s suggestion and ate a thick slice of this bread lightly toasted and slathered with butter. Seriously delicious and an excellent start to the day with my morning tea.

Blueberry Oatmeal Quick Bread (Adapted from An Edible Mosaic)

Note: The original recipe makes two loaves and includes chopped almonds and a delicious-looking white chocolate glaze. I cut the recipe in half and left off the almonds and glaze because I didn’t have the ingredients on hand. What I’m posting here will make a single, unglazed loaf.

  • 1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp chopped, unsalted almonds, optional (I didn’t have almonds on hand but would definitely add them if I did)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease one 8×4 loaf pan.
  2. If using fresh blueberries, add a rounded teaspoon of the flour to the berries and mix to coat the berries well.
  3. Whisk together both of the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar. Add in the milk, oil, and almond extract and whisk until well incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the oats and blueberries and then spread the batter into the prepared pan. If using, sprinkle the chopped almonds over the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool on a wire rack before removing from the pan.


Weekend Bagels

I’m in the middle of a creative non-fiction class with Minnie Bruce Pratt right now. It’s a Maymester class, which is a cutesy way of saying that the work you would do over the course of a typical 15 week semester gets condensed over the course of ten (10!) days–4 hours of class a day, five days a week, for two weeks. Plus homework. It’s intense, but it’s also been a great experience so far. Since it’s a writing class, it feels a lot like a day camp version of a writing retreat. Given the pace of the class, which is compounded by the fact that most of us are writing about deeply personal and emotionally heavy topics, I was totally exhausted by Friday. So Saturday was, by necessity, a day of relaxing and unwinding. I stayed in my pjs for most of the day, finished seasons 3 and 4 of The Guild, did some knitting, danced around to Adele, and made some bagels.

I’ve been wanting to make bagels for awhile, but have been a little hesitant about the process. It turns out that it’s not any harder than throwing together a loaf of white bread–there’s just a couple of additional steps involved. I was also surprised at how little time was involved making these, especially since I used the bagel recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible which is a book that contains a lot of recipes that take 8-10 hours or that are even best made over the course of two days. I started these around 5 and pulled them out of the oven at 11:30. The recipe begins with a sponge, which you let activate for a bit before you finish and knead the dough. After the dough rises, you shape the bagels, which only sit for a few minutes before you boil them and then they’re ready for the oven.


When these were done baking, I was more than skeptical. I was convinced I had a flop on my hands. First of all, the bagels just didn’t look good. They got really brown while baking, even though I reduced the baking time by five minutes. They are also, as Aidan quickly observed, significantly flatter than the bagels I’m accustomed to buying. To shape the bagels, I rolled the dough out into snake-like shape and then pinched the ends together in a circle. When they were boiling, a couple of the bagels came undone and then I stupidly tried to pinch them back together post-boil. The result was definitely not pretty. What you see above is the prettiest bagel of the bunch. Second, the bagels felt really hard. They didn’t have the soft, pliable crust I’m used to but felt more akin to a crusty bread. I was sure they would be a disaster. I questioned whether I even wanted a bagel that would be more authentic that what I was raised on. Aidan was surprised that I bagged them up to try in the morning rather than dumping them straight into the garbage.

bagel split open

I’m was really, really wrong because these are damn good. The outside is much chewier than I’m used to, but I realize now that this is a very good thing. And while the inside of the bagel is also chewier, it’s deliciously soft in a way that creates a really pleasing contrast between crust and crumb. These bagels are flatter simply because they aren’t as bready as the bagels you’d buy at the grocery store. I also recognize that these bagels aren’t as ugly as I first thought–they just don’t have the pale crust that I’m used to seeing on a bagel. (I would still reduce my oven temperature the next time around. I think my oven runs a bit hot.) The flavor is also fantastic. In addition to the malt powder that contributes to the distinctive taste of bagels, this dough is seasoned with a bit of black pepper, which doesn’t overwhelm but provides a nice hint of spice. For breakfast this morning, I lightly toasted one of the bagels and topped it with a bit of butter. Best bagel experience ever. These aren’t perfect–I need to work on my shaping technique and play around a bit with bake times and temperature and I’d like to try out these with some different toppings–but this is definitely a recipe that I’m coming back to again and again.

Weekend baking = win. Now back to work.

Levy’s Bagels (from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible)

Note: the original recipe includes separate ingredient lists for a full batch (which makes 10 bagels) and a half batch (which makes 5 bagels). I’ve only included the instructions for the half batch here, but it would be very easy to double the recipe–just don’t double the ingredients for the water bath. Beranbaum warns, however, that if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer to mix and knead the dough, a 5 qt. mixer will only accommodate a half batch. Also, I’ve included the original bake temperatures and times, although I reduced the time by five minutes when I made these. Next time, I think I would reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees since I think my oven runs hot. Also, I realized while typing up this recipe that I accidentally skipped a second rise in the refrigerator. My bagels were fine without it (although perhaps this accounts for the flatness?), but I’ll probably try it next time to see what happens.


  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 c high gluten or bread flour

Flour Mixture:

  • 1 c plus 3 tbsp high-gluten or bread flour (reserve the 3 tbsp to add in while kneading)
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp malt powder or barley malt syrup (I used malt powder)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (to be added when you begin kneading the dough)

Water Bath and Glaze:

  • 2 tbsp molasses or 1/4 c sugar (I used molasses)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 tsp cold water
  • Optional: 3 to 4 tbsp toppings, which could include seeds, kosher salt, sea salt, minced sauteed onions, and/or dehydrated garlic chips or dried chopped onions that have been soaked in hot water for a bit.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the starter and whisk for two minutes to incorporate air. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for the flour mixture (reserving 3 tbsp of the flour to add in while kneading) and gently sprinkle the mixture over the starter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 hours. For even better flavor, let the bowl sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. If you refrigerate the mixture, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour before you begin kneading the dough. Allow the butter to soften at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before kneading it into the dough.

Add the butter to the starter and flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon or your hand, combine the starter and flour mixture. When a dough starts to form in the bowl, dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for five minutes. Turn your bowl over the dough and let it sit for twenty minutes. After resting, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. While kneading, only add in as much of the reserved flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or to the counter. The dough should still be slightly tacky to the touch.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled, which should take 1-2 hours. Deflate the dough, flattening it into a rectangle, and then fold the dough in thirds (like you would fold a letter) twice. Oil the top of the dough, cover it, and refrigerate it for four hours or even overnight. [Note: this is the step I missed. If I make these again, I might do up to this step the night before, refrigerate them overnight and then finish the bagels in the morning.]

Cut the dough into 5 equal portions and shape the portions using one of two methods. Method 1: Pull the sides of the dough into the center and pinch them together. Make a hole in the center of the dough using your index finger and then gently stretch the hole until it is about 2 1/2″ wide. Method 2 (the method I used): Roll the dough back and forth on the counter until you have a 12″ rope. Twist the dough around your hand until the two rope ends overlap. Roll the dough back and forth on the counter at the point where the two ends overlap to join them. Set the shaped bagels on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover them with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap and let them sit for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, add in the molasses or sugar and the baking soda. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, gently add the bagels to the water, boiling two bagels at a time so as not to crowd the pot. Boil the bagels for 1-2 minutes on each side, keeping in mind that the longer you boil the bagels, the chewier the outer crust will be. After boiling, return the bagels to the parchment paper to drain.

Lay the bagels on a fresh piece of parchment on the baking sheet. Whisk together the egg white and cold water. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the bagels with the glaze. Brush with a second coat, and if using, sprinkle your toppings over the bagels. Bake the bagels for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. (I only did 15 minutes because I was concerned about the rate at which they were browning.) Turn the heat off and leave the bagels in the oven with the door closed for 5 more minutes. Open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 minutes. Allow the bagels to cool completely on a wire rack.

Butter-Dipped Rolls

Aidan and I are temporarily in the mid-west, visiting our families and enjoy a bit of a holiday break. The direct deposit notification in my inbox this morning tells me its the end of the month, which means that the new year is right around the corner. Aidan and I have been having an ongoing conversation about new year’s “resolutions,” which I think are dumb because they are usually vague and seem more like comments on things that people hate about themselves than a decision to do things differently. I told Aidan that it seems like a better idea to just set a couple of goals for things you’d like to accomplish over the course of the year. But, Aidan says, this “goals” business is really just another way of talking about resolutions, which I was ready to concede until I was watching some morning news show on Christmas and they had a psychologist on encouraging people to set goals instead of resolutions. And if a morning show psychologist says goals are better than resolutions, it must be the truth.

Thus, I’ve set five goals for 2011 that involve reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, blogging more consistently, starting a yoga routine, participating in NaNoWriMo and making more bread. I came up with this list a few weeks ago while I was distracting myself from finals work, but the dinner rolls I made on Christmas only testified to the fact that I need more bread in my life. Aidan suggested at some point that we buy the dinner rolls that come in a can so that I would have less cooking to do on Christmas. It was a sweet thought, but I assured him making the rolls was no big deal. And when we sat down to eat on Christmas, the first thing that he said was, “These rolls are amazing–way better than anything that could ever come out of a can.” They were, indeed amazing. So amazing that the picture I took of them while they were still in the pan is the only picture I have because we ate them ALL.

dinner rolls

This recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, and is really just a variation of her white sandwich loaf recipe, divided into little dough balls, bathed in butter, and then baked to cozy, soft deliciousness. The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can partially bake them ahead of time and then throw them in the oven for a few minutes right before you’re ready to eat so you can serve them warm. They’re heaven. Plus, they look so cute all nestled together in the pan. What more could you want?

Butter-Dipped Dinner Rolls (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible)

For the starter:

  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

For the flour mixture and dough:

  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp dry milk
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 4 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. For the starter, combine the flour, water, honey, and instant yeast in a large bowl. Whisk the ingredients until smooth and long enough to incorporate air into the starter–about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and set aside.
  2. For the flour mixture, whisk together 3/4 c flour, dry milk, and yeast. Reserve the remaining 1/4 c flour to add in as necessary while kneading the dough. Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the starter and cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the starter to sit at room temperature for 1-4 hours. (After sitting at room temperature, you can put the starter in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Just be sure to let the starter sit at room temp for 30 minutes to an hour before you begin kneading.)
  3. Add the salt and softened butter to the bowl and using either a wooden spoon, spatula, or your hands, mix the starter and flour mixture until all of the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it starts to come together and then turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky, but add only as much of the reserved 1/4 c flour as necessary. Cover the dough with your mixing bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. After resting, knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it is very smooth and elastic. It should be tacky to the touch but should not stick to your fingers. If necessary, add additional flour to the dough while kneading but keep in mind that adding too much flour will result in dense rolls.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until doubled–1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it into a rectangle. Pull out and fold over the dough from all four sides of the rectangle to form it into a tight package, place the dough back into the container, and cover it once again with the plastic wrap. Allow it to rise until doubled (this time the dough will rise higher because of the air incorporated from the first rise)–1 to 2 hours.
  7. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured service and gently press it down to push out the air. Roll the dough into a long log and then cut it into 12 even pieces. Shape each piece into a small bowl, being sure to pinch closed any seams that might result.
  8. Roll each ball of dough in the melted butter to coat them completely and then arrange the dough, evenly spaced, in a lightly greased 9″ round pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise until doubled–around 1 1/2 hours.
  9. When the rolls have doubled, bake them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the rolls reads about 210 degrees. If you are making the rolls ahead of time and would like to reheat them right before you serve them, bake them for 15 minutes (so they register around 180 degrees) and then reheat them for 5 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
  10. Unmold the rolls from the pan and allow them to cool until just warm and then pull apart. If desired, brush the tops of the rolls with additional butter.

Dill Bread

This summer, we stumbled across a Greek pasta recipe that quickly became Aidan’s favorite. It’s a really simple dish that involves tossing penne with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, green onions, feta cheese, olive oil, parsley, and about a 1/4 cup of fresh dill. It gives you onion breath for the rest of the day, but it is seriously tasty, especially for how little work it requires. When summer rolls around again, I think I’m going to have to try some container gardening to grow plum tomatoes and dill just so that we can eat this pasta all the time again without breaking the bank.

It was almost always cheaper to buy the dill in huge bunches, which means that we often ended up with a ton of dill on hand. Sometimes this meant that we just made more Greek pasta. But one time, I decided to try out a bread recipe for dill bread I remembered seeing on Smitten Kitchen. The result was seriously the best bread I’ve made to date.

This bread gets its kick from the red onion and fresh dill kneaded into the dough, but the real “secret” ingredient with this recipe is the cup of cottage cheese that goes into the dough. High percentages of protein tend to yield softer breads, and that is certainly the case with the recipe, which could easily be used for the best savory sandwich bread ever.

I absolutely love bread. I’ll eat good bread straight from the cutting board all day long if I don’t stop myself. Aidan is not so much of the same mindset, but he loved this bread. He ate multiple pieces the night I baked it, made himself a huge sandwich with it the next day, and cried when it was all gone. (Oops. I got carried away. Just kidding about that last part.) He was especially a fan of the sea salt-topped crust.

I also thought this was some fantastically delicious bread, but I was even more excited to make a dough that rose beautifully and that had so much oven spring it basically burst out of the pan and created a towering loaf of goodness. God, I love excess. Screw all of those dense, no-spring wheat breads I played around with last year, only to confirm the fact that I really do not like wheat bread at all.

This bread has been waiting to be blogged since the beginning of September, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t made any bread since this loaf. It’s definitely time to change that and add bread making to my weekend to-do list.

Dill Bread

I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, where it was adapted from The Joy of Cooking. If you’re new to baking bread, the SK post that featured this dill bread recipe has a number of really great bread baking tips. It’s a post that I’ve referred to often and would highly recommend. The original recipe calls for bread flour, which I didn’t have on hand so I subbed all-purpose flour and added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten. Using all-purpose flour will yield a slightly softer crumb while using bread flour should result in a slightly chewier crumb. As a final note, I always leave about 1/4 of the flour called for in a bread recipe on the side to add in as necessary while I’m kneading the dough. You don’t want to add too much flour to the dough or you will end up with a dense loaf.

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (around 11o degrees)
  • 3 c all-purpose flour (see note above)
  • 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
  • 1/2 c chopped red onion
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 c cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  1. Combine water and yeast in a small bowl or measuring glass and let stand about five minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat gluten, onion, dill, wheat germ, and salt. Add yeast mixture, honey, cottage cheese and egg to flour mixture. Mix by hand in the bowl until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. At this point, the dough should not stick to your fingers and hands but should still feel slightly tacky to the touch. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, which should take between 1 1/2 and 2 hours. (Although if, like me, you keep your house on the cooler side in winter and/or have a drafty kitchen, the first rise may take longer.)
  3. Turn dough out onto floured surface, press down to deflate the dough, shape into a loaf, and place the dough seam-side-down in a greased 9×5 loaf pan. (I actually used an 8×4 pan, which is how I ended up with the towering loaf of goodness pictured above.) Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let loaf rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When dough is finished with it’s second rise, brush the top of the loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads about 200 degrees. Allow loaf to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Pumpkin x3

Like a lot of people, we’re getting ready for Halloween over here. We’ve got all the pieces for our costumes together, and I plan to spend part of the day throwing together some Halloween treats for a party our friends are throwing tomorrow. On Tuesday night after we did some shopping for the last few pieces of our costumes, Aidan and I came home and carved some pumpkins.


Mine is on the left; Aidan’s is on the right.

I really love pumpkin carving. When I was a kid, my parents would spread news paper all over the floor, cut open the tops of our pumpkins, and set us to scooping out the guts. My dad would be elbow deep in pumpkins, even though he’s allergic to them, scraping the sides clean. He’d give us each a Sharpie so we could draw a face on our pumpkin, which was a bit dangerous since I distinctly remember drawing some weirdly complicated designs. I believe my sister also had a penchant for drawing mouths with lots of tiny teeth and would get very upset if any of them broke off. I think we all struggled with not being able to carve our pumpkins ourselves, but now every time I take a knife to a pumpkin as an adult, I totally understand my dad’s caution. Because I really appreciate the fact that I still have all ten of my fingers.

Our family would also always roast the seeds from our pumpkins.

pumpkin seeds

I don’t know how my parents did it, but I rinsed these and left them out on a baking tray overnight to dry. Then I tossed these together with 2 tbsp of melted butter and about a teaspoon of seasoned salt and baked them for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Tasty. We got about 3 cups of seeds from two pumpkins.

Continuing the pumpkin frenzy, I decided to whip up some pumpkin scones this morning when I got home from teaching my early morning classes. I followed the recipe as written, adding a bag of Hershey’s cinnamon chips to the dough and topping the scones with a cinnamon-sugar mix. I’ve never made scones before, but these came together quickly and easily–it’s a great recipe and the King Arthur Flour blog posted step-by-step photo instructions for this recipe that are also helpful.

scones ready for the oven

After the dough is formed into rounds and sliced, the recipe recommends putting them, uncovered, in the freezer for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven. Chilling the scones before you bake them is supposed to help with the rise, and while I don’t have any prior scone experience to compare it to, multiple people reviewing this recipe said that putting them in the freezer really did make a difference. As someone who can’t ever seem to get my biscuits to rise the way I’d like, it makes me wonder if some pre-oven chilling would help in that situation too. Hmmm . . . I’ll have to experiment and see.

Pumpkin scone

Anyway, these scones were seriously good. I was worried I had over-handled the dough, but they had a great tender, light texture with a crunchy top from the cinnamon-sugar mix. These scones are about a million times better than the dry, dense, iced pumpkin scone I got a few weeks ago from the Starbucks across the street from the building I teach in. Today, one of my students asked me if I preferred Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. I said Dunkin’ Donuts, but I now realize that I really should have said my house. Where else can you get warm pumpkin scones and fresh french press coffee while you watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta?

Ike the Giraffe

In closing, Ike hopes you have a fantastic Halloween weekend. He can’t wait to party.


Thank God it’s fall.

Despite the forecast showing some warmer, rainy days this week, here in Central New York we’ve mostly shifted towards gray fall days with temps in the 50s and frost and flurry warnings haunting the 10 o’clock news. I love this time of year. To celebrate the turn towards colder weather, I made some veggie chili the other night.

Veggie Chili

For my veggie chili, I start by sauteing some chopped onions, green pepper, garlic, carrot and, if I have it, celery. When the onions are translucent, I throw in a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, 6 oz of tomato juice, and a 15 oz can each of black beans, light red kidney beans, and dark red kidney beans. Then I add chili pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, and salt to taste and let the whole she-bang simmer for at least 30 minutes.

corn muffins

I also made some corn muffins to go with our chili. I’ve been using the corn muffin recipe in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible as a go-to recipe for a couple of years now, and I love it because it’s simple to throw together and a million miles away from the dry cornbread that haunts my childhood memories. The recipe makes 6 corn muffins. Following Berenbaum’s recommendation, I fill up the middle 6 cups in my muffin tin and the fill the remaining cups with about half an inch of water, which is supposed to result in more even heating and a moister texture. Works like a charm.

Quintessential Corn Muffins (from The Bread Bible)

Since I’ve been making this recipe for awhile, I’ve streamlined both the ingredients list and the process a bit.

  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar (I just eyeball the half a tbsp)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 tbsp melted butter

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and sour cream. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the melted butter. Fill muffin cups almost to the top with batter. Bake muffins for 15 to 18 minutes in a 400 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool muffins on a wire rack. Makes 6 muffins.

Zucchini Bread

I do not appreciate the smugness of the meteorologist when he smiles while saying that the combination of temps in the mid-90s and 60-70% humidity this week is going to feel “quite oppressive.” I don’t need to feel like I’m being mocked by someone who, I can only imagine, has central air when its ten in the morning and I’m gross and sweaty from doing nothing but sitting on the couch and watching the news. Especially when I know that today is just the beginning of a whole week of these “quite oppressive” conditions.

I do not handle heat well. It makes me cranky and very short-tempered. It makes me think a myriad of unsavory things. It makes it difficult if not impossible to do the things I like–knitting, baking, sleeping with sheets and a comforter. Thus, I am thankful to live in a place where I can expect reasonably mild summer temperatures most of the season and I (mostly) accept these inevitable weeks in July and August when everything just gets rather miserable for way too long. We were lucky enough to borrow a window AC unit from friends which we put in our bedroom so we’ll at least be able to sleep, and I intend to cope by seeking refuge in air conditioned spaces for the next couple of days. (Working at the library has never sounded so appealing!) When I start to get really frustrated, I will even recall the summer my family ended up tent-camping for almost two weeks during a heat wave, only to have our campsite basically washed away by a serious thunderstorm that offered a day or so of (albeit damp) relief before we hit up Six Flags outside of Chicago on the hottest day of the year. I will remember my brother puking on the park pavement from the heat and be damn glad that I’m at least not in that moment. But, Mr. Smug Meteorologist, I will not welcome this “quite oppressive” heat with open arms.

When I caught wind of this week’s forecast this past Friday, I capitalized on what I knew would be the last reasonable baking day for awhile and made some zucchini bread. (This is, of course, not the bread I spoke of in my last post. But there will be plenty of time to talk about that other  bread since I am definitely not turning the oven on this week.) Zucchini bread reminds me of coffee fellowship after church, which is probably why I’ve never made it before Friday. Coffee fellowship is, afterall, an experience filled with perplexing baking mysteries. Like how do you create something so dry you feel like you’re choking when you eat it? Or how is it possible for something to taste delicious until the moment you swallow and find yourself suffering from a strong aftertaste of mothballs? Or what possesses people to adopt bizzaro techniques like “baking” in their microwaves? And why do people seem to think that adding nuts to everything somehow mitigates the dissatisfying effects of their poor baking? Are people intentionally aiming for a perfectally freezer-burnt result when they bring in crap they baked eight months earlier? Finally, why when there is a ton of food leftover (because no one wants to eat it) do people assume that the pastor and his family will be all too happy to take it home by the plateful?

Zucchini in the food processor

There has probably been more than one loaf of zucchini bread, reduced to crumbly little half-slices stacked up on a plastic-wrapped paper plate, that has gone straight from our car to the trash can. There have probably also been decent zucchini bread specimens that I’ve eaten during coffee fellowship, but apparently not enough for me to cultivate a deep appreciation for it as a child. But I had a zucchini and a single baking day left at my disposal, so zucchini bread seemed appropriate. It turned out to be a good choice.

Zucchini bread batter

I think I’ve finally gained enough critical distance from all the mucked-up quick breads of my youth to start appreciating them for everything they have to offer. They are, indeed, quick and easy to make, and satisfying pretty much any time of the day. They are typically humble enough to be made with things that you already have on hand, and they have all the homey appeal of a good comfort food. Plus, the fact that you can use so many things as feature ingredients (zucchini, pumpkin, apples, all kinds of berries, etc.) makes quick breads a kind of trans-seasonal food.

finished loaf of zucchini bread

I once brought banana bread into a class I was teaching and was disappointed to find that none of my students were interested, even though I knew without a doubt that it was damn good stuff. Ultimately, it took one student who was both generally fearless and continually looking for ways to be a kind of class favorite to be willing to try it, and I think he probably ate three pieces before he was able to convince other people that they should have some. I don’t know what all the hesitance was about. I’m pretty sure they weren’t worried I would poison them. Maybe it’s because they didn’t think they would like it. Maybe it was because they didn’t come from the kind of tiny, rural midwestern towns I grew up in where it seems like people are constantly turning things into breads. Maybe they too had choked down more then enough dry quick breads to last them a lifetime and feared that mine would be the same. Maybe college freshman just have irrational fears of eating in front of each other. I’m not really sure. What I do know is that my days of under-appreciating the humble deliciousness of quick breads is over. The problem now is deciding what kind of bread I’d like to make next . . .

slice of zucchini bread

Zucchini Bread (From the Better Homes and Gardens 75th Anniversary Ed. Cookbook)

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini (I got a little over a cup from one medium sized zucchini)
  • 1/4 c cooking oil
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted the nuts altogether)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×4 loaf pan. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

2. In another bowl, combine the egg, sugar, zucchini, and oil. Add the zucchini mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. If using nuts, fold them into the batter. Pour batter into the loaf pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes (mine only took 45 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow bread to cool completely. Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight before slicing.