Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread

Two Boules of Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread
I host a monthly fiction book club. Successfully running for about 2 ½ years, our lineup ranges from historical fiction to surrealism to sci-fi and everything in between. I started the club with visions of it becoming a modern version of the traditional salon… a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing a shared interest, in this case – reading and books.

The other day, a potential new member asked me if we tackle uncomfortable issues – poverty, homelessness, women’s issues, and BLM. This was my response (in part):

“This is a fiction book club and while the books we read have, at certain times, focused on various issues such as slavery, poverty, the rise of Nazism in Germany, family issues, etc., these topics are always couched within a fictionalized story. Our primary focus is reading for pleasure and a good discussion.”

After responding, I felt guilty – guilty for reading for mere pleasure and a good discussion. In the face of MAGA, global warming, COVID-19, school shootings, and BLM, why am I gathering a group together to discuss fanciful escapism stories? Shouldn’t we be tackling these bigger issues? And what about my blogging? Why am I spending hours testing, writing, photographing and posting a recipe for some complicated artisanal version of bread when children in my own city went to bed last night without a morsel in their belly? Shouldn’t I focus on moving the needle rather than my own pleasure? Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more?

I’m confident I’m not alone in this feeling and, I decided, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We can donate, march, vote, and volunteer to support the causes important to us, but we aren’t doing anyone good if we don’t also support ourselves through self-care:  recharging by doing the things we love like reading and cooking and gathering socially. It’s a balance – no guilt required.

I seem to be a collector of flours.  I currently have eight (eight!) in my refrigerator, which doesn’t include the All-Purpose in my pantry.  I chose this recipe to help use up leftover semolina flour. This recipe was inspired by artisan semolina bread from breadworld.com.


Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread

This is a hearty, savory bread that’s great for toast and rustic sandwiches. The Poolish needs to be started the night before.


Ingredients

    Poolish
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.)
  • Dough
  • ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.)
  • Poolish
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup bread flour
  • 8 slices bacon, fully cooked and crumbled
  • 8 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 cup strong-flavor grated cheese (such as aged white cheddar)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried sage

Directions

  1. Make Poolish: Stir together flour and yeast in a medium bowl. Add water and stir until blended. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours at room temperature. The poolish will become frothy.
  2. Make Dough: Dissolve yeast in water and let rest for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer, combine water, poolish, olive oil and salt and mix on low speed with a dough hook until blended. Add semolina and ½ cup bread flour and continue mixing on low until fully combined. If dough is too sticky, add additional bread flour, if needed. On medium  speed, knead dough with a dough hook for 5about minutes until dough becomes a silky, smooth ball.
  3. Add bacon, scallions, cheese and sage and knead about another minute until ingredients have combined. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and proof in a warm location for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Working with each half, pull the edges of the dough towards the center, working your way around and shaping it into a round ball. Turn the ball over, cupping the sides of the ball, and roll the bottom around in a circle until the top is smooth and tight. Place both boules on a parchment-lined rimless baking sheet. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film does not touch the dough and proof for another hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 475⁰, arrange an 8×8 pan filled with 1” of hot water on the bottom rack (steam ensures a crisp crust), and a rack above for the baking sheet  (the sheet should be as close to the bottom of the oven as possible). Score each boule. Place the baking sheet on the rack and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the internal temperature  of the bread reaches 200⁰. Cool on wire rack.

Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
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This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cranberry Swirl Bread

Cranberry Bread
This recipe is about a week too late. I should have posted it immediately after Thanksgiving – but, after hosting two back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners, I succumbed to post-holiday laziness and didn’t get around to it until today. Apologies for my tardiness. So, close your eyes, pretend it’s Black Friday, you’ve finished shopping and you’re staring at a fridge full of leftovers – including a big Tuppperware of cranberry sauce. My go-to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce makes a generous four cups of the sparingly-used condiment and, after the big T-day, I always have a bowl of leftover sauce hogging fridge space. I have a few recipes for using up the leftover sauce including cranberry panna cotta, cranberry gelato and, my personal favorite, cranberry-cherry tart. Rather than my standard array of dessert fare,  this year I wanted to make a lovely, not-too-sweet cranberry swirl bread that could be toasted, slathered with mayo and layered with leftover turkey and warm stuffing for the ultimate savory post-holiday turkey sandwich. I’m rather happy with the results – I used the bread for sandwiches on Friday, French toast on Saturday and, finally, a creamy bread pudding studded with tart cranberry swirls on Sunday.


Cranberry Swirl Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce, drained
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch x 12- inch rectangle. Cover dough with cranberry sauce..
  3. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed to contain the cranberry filling. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with mayo and make the best leftover turkey sandwich ever.

Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

A basket of Bacon, Cheddar, Green Onion Scones
Certain weeks, this week for example, I struggle to post even once. I’m typically not confounded by the culinary piece (although I can get frustrated when a day-long recipe results in an inedible flop), but by this part – the header, the “intro”, the story behind the recipe. Often, I’ve cooked (and eaten) my creation days, if not weeks, before I hit upon a header for the recipe, if ever. Many dishes never make it to publication.

Last night, “D” and I were batting around  fictional “intro” ideas for these scones (baked last Sunday) that included a faux picnic featuring these scones at last night’s Hollywood Bowl concert (à la Sunset Magazine) and another story involving Jared Kushner, Russia meetings and his desire for sweet scones vs. savory.

Unfortunately, in my world, the truth behind the recipe is never that compelling.

I baked these savory scones for no other reason than I wanted kitchen time. The flavor combination idea (a classic) resulted from watching a rerun of The Great British Baking Show. Originally, I was imagining a yeasty swirl bread, loaded with a filling of bacon-cheesy goodness when I hit upon the idea of scones instead. Using my favorite sweet scone recipe as a base, I decreased the sugar, swapped sweet ingredients for savory and, voila – buttery, savory scones.

Granted, the Kushner-Russia connection would have been more interesting.


Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

I’ve taken my favorite American scone recipe and turned it savory and loaded with flavor. With three sticks of butter in the dough, no additional butter is needed on these babies.

Ingredients

  • 8 strips bacon, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk, divided
  • 1 whole egg
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add green onions to bacon grease in pan and sauté until softened. Add onions to bacon and cool both. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until butter is pea-sized.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, measure 1 cup buttermilk. Beat in whole egg until well combined. Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and gently combine with your hands until dough barely comes together. Add bacon, green onion, and cheddar and gently combine. The secret to flaky scones is not to overwork the dough.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into two disks about 1 ½ inches high. Cut each disk into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on the baking sheets. Brush scones with remaining ¼ cup buttermilk and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes until scone are golden brown. These scones are best served slightly warm.

 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sliced homemade cinnamon raisin bread and a cup of tea
9:30 p.m.: I’m ravenous for a snack, but I really must eat healthy for a change. Damn, I need to grocery shop – there isn’t a healthy morsel in the house. Oh wait, is that canned tuna way back in the cupboard? Tuna is healthy – all those Omega 3’s. I could whip up an easy tuna salad. Yawn, plain tuna salad bores me. Perhaps a tuna salad sandwich instead? Ugh, I’ve run out of bread. No matter, I can bake a quick white loaf. Flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar…oh wait, here’s a bag of plump raisins. Forget the white loaf; I should make cinnamon raisin bread instead! Yum!

11:30 p.m.: Mmm…there’s nothing better than thickly-sliced toasted cinnamon raisin bread slathered in melted salted butter. Healthy what?!


Cinnamon Raisin Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 3 Tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water to soften and drained
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, 1 Tablespoon sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and 2 Tablespoons melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Combine remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Punch the dough down. Place the dough between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch square. Brush the dough with the remaining Tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and drained raisins. Lightly press raisins into dough.
  3. Roll up dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with butter, and push the guilt away until tomorrow.