And Then I Baked

Monday, September 5, 2011

   Baking is is the ultimate salve for the soul. I bake to relax, to energize, sometimes to mend aches and worries, and sometimes for plain old comfort.

   This past weekend I had one of my dearest friends visit me and it was an absolute blast. We ate amazing food, talked and caught up, ate more amazing food, and shopped to our hearts content! It felt good to have some girly time and I miss her immensely already.

   Last night, after dropping her off at the airport, I soothed my post visit blues by baking a loaf of yeast risen corn bread for Steve and I to dip in our turkey chili. I've been a long time lover of corn bread, especially hot out of the oven and thickly slathered with butter, but this recipe takes the world of corn bread to a whole other solar system. Rather than using quick bread leaveners like baking soda or powder, this is a traditional yeast bread. The kneading lends it a chewy complexity that corn bread usually lacks and the slow, yeast driven rise gives it that bready complexity that I love so.

   Even though today is Labor Day proper of this holiday weekend, I woke up feeling sad that the weekend was coming to a close, that my friend's visit was over, and work would rumble back to life tomorrow. I get this end of the weekend blues sometimes, a feeling that reminds me of how I felt Christmas night as a child- deliciously tired and happy but somehow hollowed by the thought of the much awaited event being over. So I baked some more.

   This time, peanut butter called my name. These cookies are slightly adapted from the Baked cookbook- a bakery I have the great fortune to frequent whenever I chose thanks to my new locale! They are simply redolent with peanut butter- enough to satisfy those of us who already are devoted to this creamy spread, and convert the doubtful that this is one of the word's all time best ingredients.

   Since starting my new job, I always have a good time once the weeks gets going. I hope the same is true for you, but should you need a small end of holiday pick me up, these recipes should do just the trick!

Honey Corn Bread

1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast, or 2 teaspoons
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus additional for brushing
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Honey Butter

1 stick softened salted butter
1/2 cup honey

   In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a medium sized mixing bowl if you don't have a stand mixer, add the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and allow to bloom, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, cornmeal, flour and salt. Mix with the dough hook or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth, slightly tacky dough. You may need to add a little additional flour to achieve this texture.
   Coat a mixing bowl in butter. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat the surface in butter. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. During this time it will double and maybe triple in size depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
   Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan in melted butter. Shape the dough into a rectangular loaf and place in the pan. Allow to rise, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes. Brush the surface in melted butter and bake for 40 minutes (it will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped at this point).
   Meanwhile, make the honey butter. Use a wire whisk to whisk the honey into the soft butter until very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve the bread.
   Remove from the oven, and use your oven mitts to remove it from the loaf pan. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving sliced with the honey butter.
   Makes one 9 X 5 inch loaf.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1/2 cup all purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 cups rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 cups M&Ms

   In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and oats. Set aside. In a large bowl or your stand mixer, beat the butter till creamy. Scrape down the bowl, add the sugars and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, combining after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the corn syrup and vanilla extract. Mix in the peanut butter.
   Add the oat mixture in three additions, beating until just incorporated after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the M&Ms.
   Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a small ice cream scoop with release mechanism or two spoons, portion out rounded 2 tablespoon sized balls of dough, spaced two inches apart on the sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
   Makes 4 dozen.

1 comment:

  1. those cookies sound amazing!! and i'm glad your corn bread came out great! i left before it was put in the oven! much love & missing, n.