Brown soda bread and reuben dipHappy St. Patrick’s Day! Have you already celebrated or is that happening today? The answer is both for me. Erik and I had my family over on Saturday (last minute plans) and I cooked up a storm. And today is the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at work so the chances of much work getting done are not good (the party begins at 11:30am).

I mentioned I had a baking bug last Friday and I seriously spent about 3 hours in the kitchen making:

Brown soda bread, recipe below
Reuben dip (and rachel dip,which just swaps out turkey for the corn beef), recipe below
White cheddar topped shepherd’s pie (one with beef and one with lentils. I followed this recipe pretty closely but swapped chicken stock for the water and added frozen peas)

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It’s amazing what you can create in the kitchen with just a few simple ingredients. I was off work Monday with little to do since I was snowed in from the previous day’s blizzard.  Nothing sounded better than the house warm with the smell of baking bread in the oven. I was inspired when I found this recipe on Honey and Jam, the bread in the gorgeous photos looked lovely and rustic.

No knead french bread (recipe found on Honey and Jam, original by Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)

Note, I cut this recipe in half and it was still enough for two rounds of bread.

Ingredients

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a large container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. I’ve even used just regular tap water, and it’s worked well for me. Just let that sit together for a while (you don’t have to wait for the yeast to dissolve completely), then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours. When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.

To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough, about the size of a grapefruit. Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. The dough won’t be entirely in the bottom, where it may look bunched up, but don’t worry about it.

Put it on a cutting board that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a cast iron skillet (or a pizza stone) in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan (I used a cookie sheet) in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and slash the top, about 1/4-inch deep.

After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. Remove and let cool completely

I ate this bread a few different ways.  Pictured above, slathered with apple butter (homemade by my friend Libby) and also with regular butter and a pinch of sea salt.  Both sinfully good.

Trust me when I say this bread was one of the easiest things I’ve ever baked.  Delicious and beautiful, too.  I loved everything about my Monday off, but this homemade bread was my fave part of the day.

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This blueberry banana bread is delicious and simple. The oatmeal streusal topping sets it apart from typical banana bread. Prep is quick but the baking time is not. I had it in the oven for about 75 minutes (it was worth the wait).

Blueberry banana bread (recipe from My Recipes)

Ingredients

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained, or frozen blueberries
2 cups plus one tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3)
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg

Oatmeal Streusel

In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup each all-purpose flour, regular rolled oats, and chopped dried banana chips; 2 tablespoons each firmly packed brown sugar and butter, cut into chunks; and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Mix with your fingers until fine crumbs form.

Note – I skipped the chopped dried banana chips.

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. In a small bowl, gently mix blueberries with 1 tablespoon of the flour.

3. In another bowl, blend remaining 2 cups flour, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

4. In a third, large bowl, whisk bananas, buttermilk, butter, and egg to blend. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture just until evenly moistened; the batter will be stiff. Gently stir in blueberry mixture.

5. Spread batter level in a buttered 5- by 9-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with oatmeal streusel and press in lightly.

6. Bake bread in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.

7. Let bread cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert bread onto a plate, remove pan, and turn over onto rack to cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Nutritional Information
Calories:319 (31% from fat)
Protein:4.8g
Fat:11g (sat 6.8)
Carbohydrate:51g
Fiber:1.8g
Sodium:347mg
Cholesterol:48mg

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