Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits are one of the perfect breakfast foods; next to pancakes and oatmeal, of course. Yes, oatmeal is in the top three but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, biscuits are perfect because like rolls, they are the perfect vehicle for a number of different fillings and toppings, and don’t necessarily have to be exclusive to breakfast.

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When we think of biscuits, the word “buttermilk” is not that far away. Buttermilk biscuits are traditional, although they can also be made with heavy cream, too. When I was a kid, the only biscuits that were made in my house were the ones that came in the can. One twist (and maybe a bang) and the carton would pop, revealing one long, indented log of dough. My folks were fans of the ones that had those peelable layers but I was a classic biscuit kind of girl. We bought those on and off for years, and then eventually moved on to the frozen kind. We’d buy this huge bag of frozen biscuit pucks that’d thaw on the way home from the store; turning into one giant biscuit conglomerate that was impossible to separate without any casualties. Obviously, we stopped buying those as well.

It had been a long minute since we had biscuits, but I missed them and often longed for them at breakfast time. Armed with a carton of buttermilk that recently came into my possession, it was time to quell my craving. I went to the trusty Smitten Kitchen for a foolproof recipe that can be put together in minutes. These biscuits are basically a one bowl wonder that can be done two ways; drop or cut outs.

I made these twice within a week and decided to try them both ways. I didn’t make many adjustments to the recipe; aside from switching half of the flour for whole wheat. The dough comes together fairly quickly and is easy to work with. For the drop biscuits, I used my 1/4 cup measure to spoon out them out onto the baking sheets; just to make sure I got the right amount per biscuit. For the cut outs, I patted the dough onto a floured surface and cut out the rings using a biscuit cutter (that you may have seen in last week’s post). The important tip Deb outlined in the cut outs is DO NOT TWIST THE BISCUIT CUTTER WHEN CUTTING OUT THE BISCUIT. She says this limits the biscuits from rising into fluffy layers and I believe she’s right. I mean, I didn’t want to try twisting it to see what would happen but it’s science! So, she’s got a point.

Anyway you make these biscuits, they come out fluffy, buttery and delicious. The taste was reminiscent of a scone, which makes sense as biscuits and scones are closely related. The whole wheat flour lends a bit of nuttiness to the tender and crumbly biscuit. I personally prefer the drop biscuit because there’s less mess/clean up, and because the uneven surface lends to more brown and crunchy bits. With that, my biscuit craving was finally settled. Like a fresh loaf of sandwich bread, homemade biscuits will always be within reach. Whether you decide on dropping them or cutting them out, these will make a great addition to your breakfast table anytime.

Buttermilk Biscuits – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes about 10 biscuits; depending on size and thickness

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour(s), sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large, wide bowl. Using fingertips, a pastry blender or two forks, work butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. The butter pieces should be about the size of peas; don’t fret if there are bigger pieces.
  3. Add buttermilk and stir until large, craggy clumps form. Reach hands into bowl and knead mixture briefly until it just holds together.
  4. To form biscuit rounds/cut outs: Transfer dough to floured counter and pat out until about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick. Using a round cutter (2 inches for regular sized biscuits, 3 inches for the monstrous ones), press straight down — twisting produces less layered sides — and transfer rounds to prepared sheets, spacing two inches apart.
  5. To make drop biscuits: Drop 1/4-cup spoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing two inches apart.
  6. Both methods:Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly, and serve warm.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used 1 tbsp sugar in my biscuits; not too sweet or too savory. Add according to your desired sweetness. 
  • My favorite ways to eat a biscuit is with sausages, scrambled eggs, and cheese. I also love them with butter or plain. Serve these babies up with whatever you like; butter, jam, eggs done any way, cheese, lox, ham, etc. The options are endless!
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Homemade Samoas

Tis the season — for Girl Scout cookies! It’s that time of year again; when adorable little girls peddle their green boxes of awesome, in exchange for some cash for their troop. Many of you probably grew up with these cookies, or were even a Girl Scout! I did not.

I was born and raised in New York City, in a neighborhood all the way uptown. The Girl Scouts were something I only heard about on TV. I almost thought they were just some made up thing that didn’t exist, as I had never seen a Scout in real life. When I was in high school, I became aware of their existence through teachers, friends and the Internet. All everyone ever mentioned about the Girl Scouts were the cookies; the Thin Mints in particular. The way people talked about Thin Mints, I thought they were the only cookie they sold. After a little bit of my own research; because really, when someone mentions cookies or any kind of popular sweet treat, I NEED TO KNOW MORE. Anyway, I found that there were several different kinds and flavors of cookies. All of them sounded absolutely delicious, but sadness set in when I realized that there were never any being sold near me.

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I didn’t get to taste a Girl Scout cookie until a couple of years ago. One of my mom’s friends somehow got a box of Samoas (or Caramel deLites) and offered us some. OH MY GOD, it was amazing. That was the first and last time I had a Girl Scout cookie. Sad, right? Well, no. I kept hearing about the cookies year after year but it never occurred to me that I could possibly make them myself. I saw a few knock offs online, and just decided to take the plunge. The only caveat was that I had to figure out how to make the cookie as close to dairy free as I possibly could.

I used this recipe as a guide. The shortbread cookie recipe was fantastically easy, so I didn’t change that. The caramel/coconut topping in the recipe was semi-homemade; using packaged caramels. I looked online for a homemade, dairy free replacement and just decided to sub the coconut milk for the heavy cream. This was both a good and bad idea. It was the first time I attempted that caramel candy recipe, as well as a coconut caramel so I had no idea what to expect or if it was even going to turn out. Despite the uncertainty, I think they came out pretty well.

The shortbread was really simple and easy. The dough comes together in a flash, and is easy to roll out; so long as it’s not too soft! The cookies held their shape pretty well after baking and didn’t crumble under the coconut caramel’s pressure. I used a biscuit cutter and the plastic cap off the soy milk container to make my cookies into the doughnut shape. It was fairly easy but a doughnut cutter is even easier if you own one. Once all the cookies were done, I moved on to the caramel.

For the caramel recipe, I went to TheKitchn. I’ve made caramel sauce before but since I needed a chewier consistency that held its shape; I had to get a new recipe. I followed it pretty much verbatim, except that I used full fat coconut milk in place of the heavy cream. Everything was going fabulously until I poured the caramel into a bowl. There was an oily film that rested on the caramel’s surface. I had heard of separation but I thought I’d get lucky. I didn’t but because I didn’t want to waste any ingredients, I tipped the bowl and got rid of the excess oil. It sounds gross but the caramel itself was still tasty!

After that was ready, my sister and I assembled the cookies. I got more cookie bases than anticipated, so I left a few without any topping. My parents were pleased. After topping with coconut, we dipped a few in melted semisweet chocolate, and used the rest of the chocolate for the drizzle. Despite the fact that I forgot to toast the coconut, these cookies came out tasting amazing. The coconut flavor in the caramel gives that deep nutty taste. The cookie wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet and didn’t interfere with the coconut caramel. All together, the cookie is a crispy, chewy and extra coconutty. They may not look like the real Samoas but they are still fantastic. Even though there still aren’t any Girl Scouts near me, it’s good to know that I can still enjoy the season (and the cookies) at home!

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Homemade Samoas – adapted from Just a Taste

Makes about 40 2-1/2″ cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a medium sized bowl with a hand mixer; cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three increments, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
  3. Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as possible using doughnut-shaped cookie cutter, or a circular cookie/biscuit cutter and a smaller cookie cutter (or the plastic cap off a carton of milk). Place the cut-out cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through, until the cookies are pale golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire wrack to cool completely.

Coconut Caramel Topping – adapted from TheKitchn

  • 1 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded coconut, toasted

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in the coconut milk. Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat, but keep the pan close by. Make sure your coconut is toasted and set aside before you begin. NO MULTITASKING.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. In the larger 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
  3. Cook the sugar syrup. Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F.
  4. Whisk in the cream and butter (WEAR AN OVEN MITT WHILE STIRRING! The steam is REALLY hot). Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
  5. Heat the caramel to 245°F – 250°F. Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.
  6. Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel. Pour the caramel over the coconut and stir until coconut is completely coated.

Assembling the Samoas:

  • about 8oz dark or semisweet chocolate, melted
  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside.
  2. Carefully spread on a small amount of the coconut caramel on each cookie, taking care not to press down too hard onto the cookie. Continue until all the cookies are topped or until you run out of coconut caramel. If caramel is getting too hard to spread, you can try to reheat it a bit in the microwave to soften.
  3. Let set for about 15 minutes; the caramel should begin to harden pretty quickly.  Dip each cookie bottom into the melted chocolate; scrape off some of the excess if desired. Place dipped cookies onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat with all of the cookies.
  4. Drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies in a striped pattern. Original samoas have equally spaced and organized stripes. Feel free to freestyle your drizzle!
  5. Place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, or until chocolate is set. Alternatively, you can leave them out to set at room temperature. To store the cookies, I’d recommend placing them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also store them in the fridge but make sure they sit out for a couple minutes to soften before eating!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For a detailed explanation on how to make the caramel (with pictures!), please visit TheKitchn by clicking the link above. 
  • If you don’t have a lactose intolerant family member, use the packaged caramels or make the caramel using heavy cream. 
  • I also added 1/3 more coconut milk than the recipe asked for because I wanted the caramel to be soft and chewy instead of firm, like the original recipe describes. Up to 1/2 cup more cream/milk can be added to the caramel (1 1/2 cups of liquid total) but any more and it’ll become a caramel sauce. Not what you’re aiming for!
  • Just to reiterate, please wear an oven mitt to stir in the milk (or cream) into the sugar syrup. The steam that comes off of the pot is ridiculously hot and you may burn yourself. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
  • I made over 40 cookies using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter. Sizes obviously vary, depending on the size of your cutter. 
  • USE WAX PAPER! For the love of God, use wax paper. I only had parchment and a few of the ones I dipped in chocolate got stuck to the parchment. When I finally lifted the cookie, almost all the chocolate stayed on the paper. 
  • Also, don’t forget to toast the darn coconut. 

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Happy Valentine’s Day! I planned this post, at least a month in advance. That’s just my style; I plan as far in advanced as I can. But no matter how much I plan and prepare, something almost always goes wrong.

I knew I wanted to make something on theme for this week’s festivities. Valentine’s day is one of the big candy holidays, behind Halloween and Easter. The main sweet is obviously chocolate. I’m positive that everywhere you turned so far this month, there has been chocolate. One of my personal favorite chocolate desserts for Valentine’s day is definitely red velvet. The quintessential southern dessert is a perfect way to get your on theme chocolate fix because it is both red and chocolatey.

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This is the second time I attempt anything red velvet, and the first time I try to make whoopie pies. And both times, there were major mishaps. The first try was a batch of red velvet cupcakes for my sister’s birthday a couple years ago. I used Magnolia Bakery’s recipe, and topped it with the classic cream cheese frosting. Somewhere in the recipe, I screwed something up because the cupcakes spread all over the tops of the pans instead of rising and doming. We had to basically cut the cupcakes out to get them off the pan. I felt defeated and worried I ruined my sister’s birthday. Despite this misstep, they came out delicious! They were fluffy and moist, and my sister loved them.  Anything red velvet from that day forward, was a no brainer.

Since then, we haven’t really had anything red velvet; which is a disappointment in itself. We were excited about re-experiencing the magic, so I went with whoopie pies instead. Whoopie pies are basically two cake domes, sandwiched together with some sort of frosting or cream. The tops may resemble cookies but texturally, they are closer to a cake. Whoopie pies have gotten so popular lately, they have their own pans (which I think is absolutely ridiculous).

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Anyway, I was pretty much seduced by  Jonathan’s recipe and his amazing pictures on his blog, The Candid Appetite. I wanted to replicate his results SO BAD. We all know we eat with our eyes first, so getting these right was very important. Except, that’s where everything went wrong.

I set up my mise-en-place, and had my recipe written out and posted to the refrigerator for easy viewing. I pretty much followed everything verbatim except that I messed up two crucial steps to the whole recipe. Firstly, I listened to my baker’s instinct and took out all of my refrigerated ingredients so that they’ll be room temp by the time I was ready to bake. Usually, I ignore this instinct as I rarely remember to do this unless directly stated. For some reason, I did it yesterday; even though it wasn’t stated in the recipe. The implication of this step? My batter was very, very runny. The cakes spread out into odd, oblong shapes instead of the cute and uniform circles I longed for. For the second batch, I popped the batter into the fridge while I waited for the first batch. That seemed to help but they still spread out into weird circle like shapes.

My second misstep was almost a huge one. I almost forgot the sugar! I had it set out in front of me but I never put it in the batter! If it wasn’t for my sister, who was sitting at the table while I mixed, I would’ve left it out completely. I threw it in before I finished the batter, hoping I didn’t ruin the recipe.

Alas, the mess ups were not over. I wanted to make the frosting mostly dairy free, as my sister is lactose intolerant. We have been experimenting with different alternatives for certain ingredients that I could use to bake for her, and have been somewhat successful. She tried a vegan cream cheese and liked it, so I thought it’d be perfect for the frosting. I don’t really have a problem with non-dairy substitutes, so I was willing to go through with it for the whole recipe. Along with my first misstep, this was one of the items I left out so it’d be room temperature. Oh my goodness, what a BIG mistake. The “cream cheese” was way too soft, had an off color and had a distinct and strong smell. I went forward with the recipe anyway, and we got a giant bowl of funky smelling sort of glaze. We tried to salvage it by glazing some of the tops but no dice. My sister ate the ones she glazed but it wasn’t thick enough for sandwiching.

Hot mess on my kitchen table.

Hot mess on my kitchen table.

On top of all of this, I decided to skip buying a jar of marshmallow fluff and got marshmallows instead so that I could melt them myself. Another mistake! Not only did they take forever to melt on a double boiler, the melted marshmallows produced a stringy, sticky and melted mass that hardened pretty quickly. I tried making a small batch of the frosting with some leftover ingredients and it turned into a sticky, slimy mess because of the melted marshmallows.

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It was a screw up of massive proportions that led me to try and save this dessert. For a few of them, we decided to make some of the tops into s’mores. We roasted marshmallows over the stove, and sandwiched them between two of the tops with a bit of melted semisweet chocolate. Regardless of everything that happened, the whoopie tops themselves were amazing. They were spongey but firm, and had an amazing chocolate taste. Most red velvets skimp on the chocolate but this one is an exception. As a s’more, the melty and gooey marshmallow adds some sweetness to the triple whammy of chocolate.

Honestly, I almost didn’t even make this post but it’s something that happens even to the best bakers, and is something everyone should know. Not only that, but there’s a lesson behind every mistake. What did I learn this time? Even though there were a lot of mistakes, the end product was still deliciously worth the trouble. Much like a relationship; baking is my love and even though I (frequently) mess things up, it always works out in the end.

For the recipe (and mouth watering pictures), please visit Jonathan’s blog, The Candid Appetite

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Another loaf of bread! I have been definitely getting almost knee deep in some bread dough lately and while it is a challenge, I love it. This is my second documented attempt at sandwich bread. It’s actually my fourth or fifth attempt at a sandwich loaf; the others were not reserved for this blog! I made a lot of mistakes the first couple times, but I kind of have the hang of it now.

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This loaf is very different than the last loaf I posted. There is plenty of kneading time in this recipe but a shorter wait time, which is a way better trade off. As a result, you have the fluffy and soft bread you’re used to buying at your local grocery store but tastier and fresher.

For this post, I knew I wanted to take as many photos as possible because I feel that many are turned off of making bread completely by hand. I know I was when I started, so having visual aids help. To sort of demystify the process, I got creative. I just want to preface by saying that I have very accessible and beginner type equipment. I take my pictures with my little digital camera, and video tape with my rinky-dink handheld. It’s not the best, clearest quality but it still works.

I used my handheld this time, to tape how I formed the dough into a loaf! Loaves are folded using the envelope method, which is folding the dough in thirds, then once again in half before placing into the bread pan. These GIFs will demonstrate the process.

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Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently flatten your turned out dough, using your fingertips, to about the length of your bread pan. Mine is larger than the standard size; which is why dough is bigger. Starting from the end closest to you, fold it into the middle of the dough and flatten slightly.

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Grab the end furthest to you and fold into the middle, flattening slightly. This is why it’s called the envelope method; because it’s similar to how we fold letters before inserting into an envelope!

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After folding, gently flatten the dough using your fingertips. We’ve got one more fold coming, so the flatter it is, the easier it is to complete the final fold.

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Grab the end closest to you and fold it over; starting in the middle. Kind of like folding a paper in half, make sure the ends are all even.

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Once folded, pinch the edges together. Start at one end, and work your way to the other end. Dust off any excess flour, so that the edges will stick.

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Once the edges are pinched together, roll the log onto its seam. Gently pick up your log and place it into your greased loaf pan. If your dough elongates to a length longer than your pan, do not fret. Do what I did; the “dump and squish.” It’s not a technical term, yet! Place the dough in the pan and gently push it in with your fingers until the dough is comfortably in the pan. Cover and set aside for its second and final rise.

This loaf was tall, dark and very handsome! Sliced, it’s fluffy, nutty and slightly sweetened; thanks to the whole wheat flour and honey. My slices were so large, one slice was enough to make a sandwich! It was so delicious and disappeared very, very quickly. It was such a hit with my family that this recipe will 100% be my standby for loaves. I’m seriously considering not buying store bought sliced bread anymore!

I had fun making this loaf, and the instructional GIFs. I plan on making more instructional stuff  in the future; possibly with better lighting and clearer video quality! I hope that these little GIFs will help you want to try making a homemade loaf of bread. It is a bit labor intensive but the end result is most definitely worth it.

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread – adapted from Gold Medal Flour

Makes two small loaves or one really large loaf

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1/2cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups very warm water (120°F to 130°F)
  • 4 1/2cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 3/4 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add honey, butter, salt, 2 1/2 cups very warm water and 3 cups of the whole wheat flour. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Beat in remaining 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour.

  2. With spoon, stir in 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups of the all-purpose flour until dough pulls cleanly away from side of bowl.

  3. On lightly floured surface, knead in remaining 1/2 to 1 cup all-purpose flour; continue kneading 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening or cooking spray; place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover; let rise in warm place 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  4. Generously grease 2 (8×4- or 9×5-inch) loaf pans or one large loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray. Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. Shape dough into loaves using the envelope method (pictured above) and place in pans. Cover and let rise in warm place; 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  5. Heat oven to 375°F. Uncover dough; bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If loaves aren’t your thing, these could easily be split up into rolls. After the first rise, portion into rolls, making sure they are evenly distributed. Cover and let rise as normal. Bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes.
  • This bread can last up to a week in a bag or large plastic container at room temperature. I’d put it in the fridge after a week, if it lasts that long!
  • Not into two loaves (or a really big loaf) of bread? This recipe can be easily halved. 

Blog updates:

I added a mini Blogroll to the sidebar; I’m going to keep adding faves as I go. So far so good! I also added the Instagram widget (above the Blogroll), so you can see what’s happening in sort of real time! If you’d like to follow me, my Twitter and Instagram links are above that widget; either way, I am @lalaluluj on both sites.