Cinnamon rolls will always and forever be my special breakfast of choice. I love everything about them, from the mixing and shaping to the frosting and devouring. This is a very slightly adapted version of the sourdough cinnamon rolls in my book, Baked to Order. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for a few years now, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see photos of them in your kitchens.
My favorite feature of Baked to Order is the multiple suggested variations for each recipe. This dough is a prime example. It’s been the base for both sweet and savory loaves, wreaths, swirls, buns, you name it. If something works, find a way to make it work even harder for you, I say! I love trying out different sweeteners, liquids, fillings, and frostings — so many possibilities!
I’m always looking for ways to use up our annual carton of eggnog, so for this variation I’ve snuck eggnog into both the dough and glaze. Dark brown sugar, a touch of molasses, and a punchy spice mix add to the festivities. Eggnog for me is all about the nutmeg (I love love love freshly grated nutmeg; fresh really does make a difference here); so if you’re a nutmeg junkie like me, grate a little extra over the top of the glazed rolls for maximum holiday vibes. Or be like my kids and go the sprinkle route. 🙂
Wishing you a safe, healthy, and joyful holiday season!
A few notes:
If you want to have these rolls ready for Christmas morning, I suggest the building your stiff levain the evening of December 23rd, mixing the dough and doing the 2-hour room temp proof on the morning of December 24th and shaping the rolls right before going to sleep that night. Leave them out on the counter to proof overnight. Then preheat the oven and bake first thing when you get up Christmas morning. Note that you need a ripe, active 100% hydration starter to build the levain, so make sure your starter is nice and happy by giving it a feeding or two beforehand.
If you don’t have einkorn/spelt/whole wheat flour, you can omit it and increase both the bread and all-purpose flours to 142g (284g total) in the final dough ingredients.
If you don’t have eggnog, replace it with 100g whole milk and use milk (or cream or coffee….mmmm) for the glaze. I’ve also included my go-to cream cheese frosting for these buns if you prefer that route!
If you’re new to enriched sourdough breads, please read my tips here before starting! Cliff’s notes: make sure to knead your dough until it’s very strong and smooth (this will take awhile with a stand mixer) and not to rush the proofing — this will give you the softest, fluffiest, “shreddiest” rolls!
If you don’t plan to eat all the rolls right away, store unglazed/unfrosted rolls in a sealed plastic bag. They keep well for several days — just heat individually for about 15-20 seconds in the microwave to refresh.
Make the levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed, about 8 to 12 hours.
Autolyse and mix the final dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together flours, sugar, milk powder, egg, molasses, eggnog, cream, and levain until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45 minutes.
Add the salt and knead on medium-low speed until the gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter about 1 tbsp at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up to medium-low and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test, about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled container.
Bulk fermentation: Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Stretch and fold the dough, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.
Shape and proof the rolls: When ready to shape, in a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, spices, and salt to form a spreadable paste. Lightly grease a 9 x 9–inch (23 x 23–cm) baking pan or a 9- or 10-inch (23- or 25-cm) round cake pan (preferably aluminum).
Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Turn the roll so the seam side is down.
Cut into nine even pieces using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss (my preferred method).
Transfer the rolls, cut side up, to the prepared pan, leaving space between each (they will grow into each other during proofing).
Cover the rolls with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature, about 74-76F, until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled, about 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven and bake the rolls: About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake until the rolls are lightly golden and register 195 – 200F in the center, about 20 minutes. (Tent with foil partway through baking if browning too quickly.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze or frosting.
Prepare the spiced eggnog glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and spices. Whisk in the eggnog a teaspoon time until you get a thick glaze that drizzles easily off the whisk (I used the full 1 Tbsp). Drizzle glaze over the rolls and serve immediately.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack before spreading with frosting (or for an extra gooey situation, spread a thin layer on while they’re still quite warm then spread more on after they’ve cooled down). Serve immediately.
Making a 100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread has been on my baking bucket list for a long time. With cookbook recipe testing finished, the time was finally right! Although this loaf took many, many trials, I am pleased with how wholesomely delicious it turned out!
While I often replace about 30% of the flour in my go-to soft sourdough sandwich bread with whole grains, I knew making a completely whole wheat loaf would require some adjustments. One adjustment was amount of dough — because whole wheat does not rise as much as white flour, I had to increase the amount of dough in the tin to end up with slices that I considered tall enough.
Another adjustment was fermentation timetable. There is less “wiggle room” when it comes to whole wheat — the added nutrients cause fermentation to move quickly, which can cause the dough to overproof if you aren’t paying attention. Overproofing whole wheat doughs can lead to unpleasant sourness and a rougher crumb. For these reasons, I make this loaf all in one day (minus building the levain and soaker, which I prepare the night before). I experimented with refrigerating the dough partway through bulk fermentation (which I often do with other enriched doughs), but even with my fairly cold fridge the dough rose more than I expected and I ended up with overly sour loaves.
In addition to whole wheat flour, I decided to include an oatmeal soaker — I love the nutty tenderness oats add! Oats also hold on to moisture, helping this bread stay soft for days (though I especially enjoy this bread toasted)! I also used milk powder, maple syrup, and oil for additional softness and subtle sweetness. You can omit the milk powder if you want to keep this bread completely vegan, or try substituting a non-dairy milk powder. All in all, this loaf is nutty, wholesome, and just subtly sweet — — perfect for sandwiches and toast!
A few additional notes:
If you’ve made any of the enriched sourdough loaves on this site, you may remember that two keys to a soft crumb and good rise are thorough mixing and full proofing. This is still the case with this loaf. However, it is easy to overknead whole wheat dough, especially using a stand mixer; go slowly and check the dough often for the windowpane. (Alternatively, you can knead this dough by hand.)
If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I worked quite a bit on trying to eliminate some small dense areas that can show up on the bottom and sides of pan loaves, particularly when using a 9x4x4 pullman loaf tin. After talking to some other bakers, a lot of reading, and additional tests, I’ve concluded that provided your fermentation is on point, this probably happens because the dough is being compressed as it rises and bakes. I don’t notice this issue in a standard 9×5 loaf tin (see comparison photos below), which has tapered sides (allowing the loaf to relax outwards). To me, this is an aesthetic issue — I don’t notice these areas when I eat the bread. Personally, I am willing to sacrifice a “perfect” crumb for a nice, tall slice; so I will continue to happily use my Pullman pan for this loaf! Keep in mind that there may be other reasons for dense spots — underfermentation or underbaking being the main ones.
There are many different ways to shape a sandwich loaf; I describe one I like below. It is similar to how I shape my soft sourdough sandwich bread; but instead of dividing the dough into three pieces, I keep it in one piece — the dough seems to compress a little less this way.
It’s important to bake and cool this loaf fully. Make sure the very center of the loaf registers 205F — there’s a lot of moisture in this loaf with the oat soaker, and if you underbake the insides will turn out gummy and the sides may cave in. Additionally, wait for the loaf to cool fully before slicing so the crumb can fully set — I like to give it at least 3 hours.
As with all recipes but especially sourdough ones, the times listed below are for guidance/general ballpark. Exact timings will vary depending on the strength of your starter, how fresh your flour is, and the temperature of your environment. Paying attention to the physical cues — the appearance and feel of the dough and amount of rise — is much more important than sticking to a strict timetable!
100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread with Maple and Oats
Make the stiff sweet levain (Day 1, evening): In a medium bowl, mix together the starter, water, whole wheat flour, and sugar until well combined. It should resemble a stiff dough. Cover and ferment at room temperature (74-76F) until tripled in volume and the top is starting to flatten, about 10-12 hours.
Make the oatmeal soaker (Day 1, evening): Place the oats in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to make sure all the oats are hydrated. Cover and let sit until you are ready to mix the dough. (I do this at the same time I mix the levain.)
Autolyse the dough (Day 2, morning): In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, oil, and maple syrup. Tear the ripe stiff levain into several pieces and add it to the liquid. Stir with a flexible spatula to disperse and break up the levain. Add the whole wheat flour and milk powder. Stir just until all the flour is hydrated and there are no dry spots. The dough should be fairly stiff at this point. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
Mix the dough: Add the salt to the autolysed dough. Mix on low (speed 1 on a KitchenAid) until the salt is evenly dispersed and the dough begins to smooth out, about 3-4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium low (speed 2-3 on a KitchenAid) and mix until the dough is very smooth and supple and reaches windowpane stage, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook a couple of times during this process to make sure the dough is evenly mixed. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand — it will take longer, but this dough is easy to handle.)
Add the oatmeal soaker: Add the oatmeal soaker and use your hands to squish it into the dough, folding the dough over onto itself several times to disperse the soaker evenly. Mix on low for one minute to make sure the dough is evenly mixed — do not overmix, or the gluten may start to break down. The dough may be a little sticky, but still strong and smooth and hold together easily. Transfer to a large oiled bowl or container for bulk fermentation. Desired dough temperature is 76-79F.
Bulk fermentation: Let the dough rise at room temperature until it has risen 60-75%, about 2-3 hours at 75-77F. Because the dough was well-developed during mixing, there’s no need to do any stretches and folds (though you can if you want to). When ready to shape, the dough should feel airy and puffy, but still strong — do not push the bulk too far as the high whole-grain percentage can cause the dough to overferment quickly.
Shape: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. To create a very tight, even crumb (my preference for sandwich breads), use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 x 13. Starting with a short edge, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Let rest 10 minutes, uncovered. Roll into a rectangle again, along the seam, and re-roll like a jelly roll as tightly as possible. (Try to get the short edge as close to 9″ as possible, but a little under is fine — the dough will relax to fill the tin.)
Coat: Lightly grease a 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf pan. If you want to coat your loaf with oats, lay down a clean, lint-free tea towel and sprinkle with a thin, even layer of rolled oats. Lightly spritz the shaped loaf with water, then carefully flip the loaf onto the towel, seam side up. Use your hands to rock the loaf back and forth a few times so that the oats stick to the loaf. Transfer the loaf to the prepared pan, seam side down. Cover with lightly oiled plastic.
Proof: Proof the loaf at room temperature until it has doubled in size and passes the “poke test” — when you gently poke the loaf with a floured finger, the indentation should fill back very slowly. In a 9x4x4 pan, the dough should have risen about 1 inch above the rim in the center (in a standard 9×5 pan, about 2 1/2 inches). This typically takes me about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours; but exact timing will depend on the warmth of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
Preheat the oven: About 45 minutes before you anticipate your loaf being ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and a rack below (for steaming, optional). About 10-20 minutes before baking, place a few small dishtowels (preferably ratty ones) in a roasting pan. Pour enough very hot or boiling water over the towels to fully saturate them. Place the roasting pan in the oven on the lower rack. (This is optional but helps create steam in the oven. I find this gives the loaf a better rise and shiny crust without needing to use an egg wash.)
Bake and cool: Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then remove the roasting pan. Turn the oven temperature down to 400F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the internal temperature of the very center of the loaf reaches 205F. (If the loaf is taking on too much color for your liking, tent it with foil midway through baking.) Once the center has reached 205F, remove loaf from the tin and return to the oven to bake for 1-2 more minutes (optional, for more color on the sides/bottom). Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and brush melted butter over the top and sides — this optional finish helps keep the crust soft and flavorful. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting, at least 3 hours. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag for 4 to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.
Just popping in to share this simple, festive bread idea for your holiday baking inspiration! A bread wreath is perfect as a dinner table centerpiece (just put a bowl of good salted butter in the middle!) or edible gift. You can also use this technique with larger or smaller pieces of dough (the bake time might change slightly), though I like the crust-to-crumb ratio of this size plus the fact that it’s the size of an actual wreath! This would also work well with any lean bread dough that’s not too slack (hydrated).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loose round. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these wreaths to keep the bottom from scorching.)
Degas and shape into a tight, smooth boule (round). Lightly flour your hands and use your thumbs to poke a hole in the center. Gently stretch the dough to widen the circle. The wreath should be about 10 inches across and the hole in the center at least 4 inches (it’ll shrink back a bit when you put it down).
Place the wreath on a prepared sheet, seam side down. Lightly mist with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until the wreath is puffy and has increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
When the wreath is ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water and a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Dust the top of the wreath with rice flour. Use the kitchen scissors to cut the dough at a sharp angle (30-45 degrees) almost all the way through the dough. After snipping, pull the point away from the center (towards you). Repeat all the way around the wreath.
Transfer the wreath to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the wreath is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Finding a solid sourdough challah recipe has been on my bread baking list for awhile. While I have a sourdough enriched sandwich bread recipe that I love, the appeal of challah to me is that it’s dairy free and the dough is easy to shape into beautiful braids — perfect for holiday celebrations! Leftover challah also makes excellent French toast, bread pudding, bostock…basically, I’m never sad to have a few extra slices!
After trying a few different recipes/methods, I’ve finally landed on one I like. The dough handles beautifully; and so long as you use fresh starter, there is barely, if any, a hint of sourdough tang. The formula is based on Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah recipe, with a few adaptations to the flour mix and fermentation times. I’ve also been experimenting with add-ins and substitutions, so stay tuned for more challah-based recipes soon!
A few notes:
As with all bread recipes, proper fermentation is key to success. Although I’ve provided general timings which work in my kitchen, keep in mind they may vary greatly depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the strength of your starter. I’ve tried to provide visual cues to help you along — as they say, watch the dough and not the clock!
The original recipe called for all bread dough, but I prefer a mix of bread, all purpose, and whole grain for a balance of softness, chew, and flavor.
To make pumpkin challah, replace the 60g warm water in the final dough ingredients with 75g pumpkin puree. I like to use maple syrup as the sweetener in this variation. Pumpkin provides more color than flavor in this variation (see photo below), though for extra “pumpkin spice” you can spread the filling from this sourdough cinnamon raisin bread on the rolled out dough before shaping the dough into logs (replace the cinnamon with pumpkin spice). Make sure to firmly seal the seam and ends or liquefied sugar will leak out of the braid!
Like other enriched sourdough recipes, this recipe takes time — though most of it is hands-off. I like to break the work into the following 3-day schedule:
Day 1, right before bedtime: prepare stiff levain.
Day 2, morning: mix dough and ferment until doubled. Refrigerate dough once doubled.
Day 2, right before bedtime: shape challah and let proof at room temperature overnight.
Day 3, first thing in the morning: bake challah.
Note: If you want to mix and bake all in one day, you could shape and proof the dough right after the dough has doubled. Proof time will likely be a little shorter since the dough doesn’t have to warm back up to room temperature. I personally prefer the above schedule because I find cold dough easier to shape and I like having the bread freshly baked in the morning.
40g very active, fully fermented 100% hydration sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier
52g warm water
108g bread flour
Mix all ingredients together to form a stiff dough. Allow to ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or until ripe (it should triple in volume).
For final dough:
60g warm water
3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
10g fine sea salt
55g olive oil (or other neutral oil)
65g honey or maple syrup
250g bread flour
100g AP flour
50g whole grain flour
All of the levain
Sesame / poppy seeds or pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together all ingredients from water through honey/maple syrup until combined.
Add the flour and levain (torn into several pieces to make it easier to incorporate). Use a silicone spatula or your hands to mix until ingredients are roughly combined.
Mix the dough on a low-medium speed (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 5 minutes. You can also do this by hand, which should take 8-10 minutes. The dough should be on the firm side but still easy to knead. If your dough is overly sticky and doesn’t hold together after kneading, add additional bread flour 1 tbsp at a time until the dough holds together. Avoid adding too much flour as this may make your loaf dry and overly dense.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Ferment at warm room temperature until doubled. This took me about 4 hours, but will depend on the temperature of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
Fold the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 12.
When you are ready to shape, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide equally into the number of pieces desired on a lightly floured surface. (I like to do 6 pieces for a 6-strand braid or 4 for a round challah.) Loosely round, then cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Also, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for the egg wash.
Working one at a time, roll each piece into a thin sheet (about 1/8″ thick) — the shape isn’t important, but aim for an even thickness. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Repeat with other pieces.
Roll each piece into ropes of even lengths (I aim for 24-26″), tapering the ends. Braid as desired (see notes above).
Transfer shaped loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the entire surface with a coat of egg wash, then cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg wash; you will need it later.
Allow the loaf to proof at room temperature until at least doubled and very puffy (but still defined). This takes me 8-10 hours at cool room temperature. About half an hour to 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Right after preheating the oven, uncover the loaf and brush with another coat of egg wash.
When the oven is ready, brush the loaf with a final coat of egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame/poppy seeds or pearl sugar, if desired.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking, or until the top is well browned and the loaf registers 200F. (Tent with foil if the loaf is browning too quickly). Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Every so often my kids and I will walk down to our neighborhood Italian bakery. I usually let them pick a treat for the road, and my son almost always walks past the cookies and pastries and chooses a plain, white Italian roll. (Once he did ask for a rum ball. Good thing I asked the cashier what it was before agreeing.) And he absolutely has no problem demolishing the whole thing (they’re probably 6-7 inches long!) in one sitting.
As an avid bread baker, I was determined to make something similar that would garner the same enthusiasm. And this is it! Simple rolls that are crusty-but-not-too-crusty and a soft but chewy crumb. They are naturally leavened, but are very mild and slightly sweet in flavor.
Also, these rolls are a lot of fun to make. The dough is easy to handle, and you can either make them in one day or retard the dough overnight (I’ve noted in the method when to refrigerate the dough if desired.) They are the perfect all-purpose roll: use them for sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soups and stews, or just eat them plain, like my kid. Personally, I like them slightly warm from the oven with some good salted butter.
(By the way, I asked my son why he liked this particular recipe so much, and he explained that it was because the rolls were oval. What can I say? That being said, you can shape this dough any way you want — baking time may need to be adjusted.)
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low to combine, then raise the speed to low-medium (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid). Continue mixing until the gluten is moderately developed. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.
Transfer the dough to an oiled container. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled, folding every 30 minutes for the first hour. The time it will take to double will depend on how active your starter is and the temperature of your room; mine took about 2.5-3 hours. (Note: if you’d like, you can retard the dough overnight after it’s almost doubled. When you’re ready to bake, allow the dough to rest and come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes after dividing.)
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces, about 130g each, and shape into loose rounds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these rolls to keep the bottoms from scorching.)
Shape each round into a batard (oval) and transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. For these rolls I like to degas fairly well and shape tightly for a nice, even crumb.
Lightly mist the rolls with oil and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature until the rolls have increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
When the rolls are ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water. Lightly dust the tops of the rolls with rice flour, if desired, and slash the top of each roll down the center with a sharp blade (I like a curved lame for this).
Transfer the rolls to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Have you ever tried making cheese? If not, ricotta is a great place to start — it’s one of the simplest cheeses you can make at home and honestly tastes so much better from what you find in the supermarket. And all you need is some milk and an acid!
Although you can make ricotta on the stovetop, this time I used the Paderno 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Using a slow cooker offers a couple advantages. First, it allows for a more gentle heating of the milk (which you can stretch to a few hours if you are busy with other things). Second, it helps maintain a constant temperature once the acid is added.
While most ricotta recipes instruct you to let the acidified milk sit for 5-10 minutes before straining, I learned from a Serious Eats article that the yield and taste of homemade ricotta is vastly improved if you keep the mixture at a higher temperature for 20 minutes. On the stovetop, this means constant heat adjustments and pan babysitting. But thanks to the heat retention of the enamel crock and the precise temperature settings of the slow cooker, this part of the ricotta-making process is simple. Just hit a button and let the slow cooker do the work for you!
My favorite way to enjoy fresh ricotta is on fresh bread; and for these toasts, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread in the Paderno Dutch Oven. Baking bread in a dutch oven is a simple way to mimic the steam ovens commercial bakeries use. The thick walls and tight cover of the dutch oven seal in moisture and heat, allowing the loaf rise to its potential and develop a shiny, crackly crust!
Sometimes I top ricotta toasts with a drizzle of honey or swirl of jam. But during the summer (aka tomato season) you can’t beat blistered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I could honestly eat this any meal of the day — simple perfection!
A few notes:
This ricotta recipe is easily doubled; just note that it may take a bit more time initially for the milk to reach temperature.
To bake a loaf of bread in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven (with the cover) in the oven while the oven is preheating. Turn your unbaked bread dough onto a piece of parchment and score as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and take off the lid. Transfer the dough, still on the parchment, to the dutch oven and replace the lid. Return the dutch oven to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (or roughly half the baking time); then remove the lid and continue baking the bread until finished.
Homemade ricotta and blistered cherry tomato toasts
For the homemade ricotta:
4 c whole milk (substitute up to 1/2 c heavy cream if desired)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 ml) distilled white vinegar
Pinch of fine sea salt (to taste)
For the blistered cherry tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 thick slices sourdough or country-style bread, homemade or store-bought
Extra virgin olive oil
Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
For the homemade ricotta: Pour the milk into the slow cooker. Heat, partially covered, until a digital thermometer reaches 185F. This can be done over a few hours on the low or medium setting, or in 30-60 minutes on the high setting. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the sides.
Once the milk reaches 185F, turn off the slow cooker. Add the vinegar and gently stir for about 10 seconds to distribute. Turn the slow cooker back on to the low setting and maintain a temperature of 175-190F for twenty minutes without stirring. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheesecloth and suspend over a large measuring glass or bowl.
After twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the lined strainer. Allow to stand until the excess liquid has liquid has drained off, or until you reach desired texture (less time for a softer ricotta and more for drier). Add salt to the curds and gently stir to distribute. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
For the blistered cherry tomatoes: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and saute until blistered, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste.
Assemble the toasts: toast bread if desired. Spread on ricotta and top with blistered tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and fresh basil leaves.
While I love a hearty whole-grain sourdough loaf, nothing hits the spot like a fresh piece of focaccia fresh out of the oven. With a salted top, chewy interior, and crisp bottom, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. But it’s also a pretty tasty snack on its own, dipped in some good olive oil.
Focaccia is also one of the simplest breads to make, so it’s great for beginners or for days when you don’t have the time to babysit your dough. You don’t have to do much shaping or kneading for this bread — just mix, let it double, fold and let double again (this gives an extra airy, even texture); then gently turn into an oiled pan and let it rise some more before topping and baking. I’ve found that the key to really good focaccia is patience — really give it time to double twice for the best texture and flavor, and don’t be in a hurry to push it out to the edges of your pan.
For this sourdough focaccia, I used Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a flavorful bread with a crisp bottom and luscious, chewy interior. It’s especially delicious served with Carapelli Founders Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a fresh and well-balanced blend with notes of wildflower and citrus. While you can top your focaccia with anything you want, I like to keep it simple with flaky salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs and parmesan to let the flavor of the bread and olive oil really shine.
A few notes:
I typically mix and bake focaccia in the same day, but you can retard the dough overnight too. You can refrigerate the dough either after the first doubling (fold, then put in the fridge to double again, then proceed as written); or you can refrigerate the dough after it’s been turned out into the oiled pan.
If you’re baking for a crowd, you can double this recipe and bake it in two 8-inch pans or in one 9×13 pan.
Makes one 8×8 pan
95g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the pan and drizzling)
213g bread flour
10g rye flour
5g sea salt
Flaky salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and grated parmesan
Mix together all ingredients from starter through sea salt until smooth. Transfer to a well oiled container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
Let dough rise until doubled (this can take 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter). Fold, then let double again.
Pour a couple Tbsp of olive oil into 8×8 pan and tilt to cover the entire bottom.
Carefully turn dough into the oiled pan, doing your best not to let it deflate. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes, then gently press from the center out to fill the corners. (If the dough resists at all, let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.) Let rise, covered, until very puffy and airy (in my 2-inch high pan, the dough comes up halfway). This usually takes me 2-3 hours (longer if the dough has been refrigerated overnight — see notes above). About 30-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack and baking stone (if you have one) in the middle.
When you’re ready to bake, drizzle the focaccia with olive oil and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle with flaky salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves, if desired.
Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned and risen. Sprinkle on some parmesan during the last 10 minutes of baking, if you’d like.
Let the focaccia cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It’s best served fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven the next couple of days.
One of the first recipes I ever posted on this site was Chinese Cocktail Buns, or gai mei baos. These soft, fluffy buns with a buttery coconut filling were a favorite from my childhood and definitely the first item I reach for in any Chinese bakery.
It’s hard to improve on a classic, but for a long time I’ve thought that my ideal Chinese bun would have the luscious filling of a gai mei bao and the sweet cookie topping of another favorite, pineapple buns (or bo lo baos). (These buns don’t actually contain pineapple — they’re named such because of the crackly topping that vaguely resembles a pineapple.) I finally had a chance to test this theory by making these hybrid pineapple coconut buns, and let me tell you — Best. Idea. Ever. I honestly could eat these for breakfast every day! They were just divine slightly warm from the oven, but lasted very well for several days, just needing a few seconds in the microwave to restore the soft texture.
A few notes:
As written, making these pineapple coconut buns is a two day project. I prepare the levain for the bread in the morning, mix the dough in the afternoon, and shape/fill/bake the buns the next day. If you don’t have a sourdough starter or want to make this a shorter project, you can use the dough in the original Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns post — just divide into 12 pieces and shape/fill/bake as directed below.
I highly recommend using caster (or superfine) sugar for both the filling and topping for the best consistency. I make my own by just grinding regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute.
Pineapple Coconut Buns
Makes 12 buns
For the sourdough milk bread:
For the levain:
57g bread flour
Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature (6-12 hours, depending on environment).
284g bread/AP flour
52g unsalted butter, at room temperature
21g milk powder
All of the levain
For the coconut filling:
180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
80g caster sugar
50g cake flour
60g milk powder
90g unsweetened desiccated coconut
For the pineapple topping:
125g cake flour
55g caster sugar
40g lard or shortening, at room temperature
7 g milk power
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp cream (plus more, if needed)
1 tsp condensed milk (optional; use extra cream instead)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten
For the sourdough milk bread:
Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed (about 5 minutes on medium speed, using the dough hook on a stand mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading at medium speed until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into loose rounds. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour.
While the dough is resting, prepare the filling and topping. To make the filling, cream together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the cake flour, milk powder, and coconut and mix to combine. I like to chill my filling for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to handle.
To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the lard or shortening and rub it into the dry ingredients. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, vanilla, and condensed milk and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, then knead until a dough forms. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add cream a tsp at a time until everything is hydrated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
When the dough has rested, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Take the filling mixture and divide it into 12 equal portions (I like to roll it into rounds, then flatten slightly). Take a piece of dough and roll it into a circle, making the edges a little thinner than the middle. Place a portion of filling in the center, then fold the edges up and over the filling and pinch tightly to seal. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover the buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until about doubled in size, about 5-7 hours. When the buns are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F.
Just before baking, top the buns. Divide the topping dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands to form a ball. Working one at a time, flatten a piece with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll into a thin round big enough to cover a bun. (I find covering the dough with a piece of plastic wrap while rolling makes this easy to do.) Brush the top of the bun with a bit of water, then carefully place the topping round on top, using a small offset spatula. Repeat with remaining buns.
Brush the top of each bun with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until the tops are golden brown and buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 10-15 more minutes. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush with simple syrup. Leftover buns store well for a few days in an airtight container. Microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften.
A few months ago, my husband casually mentioned that one of his favorite breakfasts was a bagel with cream cheese. How did I not know this, after five years of marriage??? After bemoaning that fact for awhile, I decided to get to work on a house bagel recipe.
I’ve posted a bagel recipe before, which is definitely delicious and worth making. But this time around I really wanted to put my own spin on bagels, incorporating my favorite features of New York (chewiness) and Montreal-style (a touch of sweetness and enrichment from eggs and oil) bagels and adding sourdough. After test batch after test batch, here we are!
A few notes:
There are many ways to shape bagels, but I prefer the rope method. It makes for a nice even crumb and the center hole stays a bit more open. If you need a visual, this video is similar to what I do.
This recipe calls for a couple special ingredients — vital wheat gluten and barley malt syrup. I can get both easily at my local bulk food / health food stores. In a pinch, you can sub in more bread flour for the VWG and honey or brown sugar for the barley malt syrup, but I really do feel like these two ingredients make bagels more….bagel-y! The VWG adds extra chew and the barley malt syrup has a unique flavor that is so distinctive.
This dough is quite stiff so it’s easiest to mix it in a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you do it by hand be prepared for a good workout — it’ll probably take a good 15+ minutes of hand kneading.
Bagels are best enjoyed soon after baking. You can toast them on the second or third day (store them in a plastic bag), but any longer than that I’d recommend splitting and freezing, then reheating in the toaster.
Makes ten 3 oz. bagels / Adapted from many sources
340g bread flour (I have subbed in 15% whole wheat flour with good results)
10g vital wheat gluten (makes bagels extra chewy — sub more bread flour if you don’t have it)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, vital wheat gluten (if using), milk powder, sugar, and salt.
In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the water, olive oil, egg, barley malt syrup, and starter.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, then turn the mixer on low to combine.
Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix until the dough is very smooth and strong (about 8 minutes, but depends on the strength of your mixer).
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and form into a smooth ball. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a large mixing bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 equal portions, about 85g / 3 oz. each. Round each piece into a ball (it doesn’t have to be too tight) and let rest another 10 minutes.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with semolina.
To shape the bagels, roll each piece into an even rope (not tapered) about 10 inches long. Wrap the rope around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about 2 inches in your palm. Roll your palm firmly on your unfloured work surface to seal the ends together. Use a bit of water to help the ends stick together if needed. Transfer shaped bagels to the prepared baking sheet.
Once all the bagels are shaped, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 4 hours, or until noticeably puffy (they will not double in size). To check if the bagels have risen enough, fill a bowl with warm water. Place a bagel in the water and if it floats within 10 seconds, the bagels have risen enough. If not, keep checking every 15-20 minutes until a bagel passes the float test. (Pat the water off the test bagel before returning to the sheet pan.)
Place the bagels in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
When you are ready to poach and bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack in the middle. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large cooling rack with a dishtowel underneath and carefully transfer the bagels to the rack, brushing the semolina off the bottoms. Redust the sheet pan with more semolina.
Once the water comes to a full boil, add the honey/barley malt syrup and baking soda. Stir to dissolve.
Drop as many bagels as will comfortably fit in your pot (usually 3 or 4) and poach for about 45-60 seconds. Flip the bagels and poach for another 45-60 seconds. Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and transfer to the cooling rack. Let drain for about 30 seconds, then transfer to the sheet pan and sprinkle with desired toppings. Repeat with the remaining bagels.
Bake the bagels at 500F for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until you reach the desired color. Cool bagels on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before splitting, slathering with cream cheese, and devouring. Bagels are best enjoyed the day they’re baked, but leftovers can be stored in a plastic bag for a couple days or split and frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.
This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.
Around this time of year I tend to have a few extra apples / apple butter lying around, the products of slightly-over-enthusiastic orchard trips. Not that I mind at all — I really enjoybaking with apple butter (in addition to spreading it on toast). Like applesauce, apple butter adds moisture and flavor to baked goods. I actually think the flavor you get with apple butter is better than applesauce, because the fruit is much more concentrated!
This time around I wanted to use apple butter to make a hearty breakfast quick bread, full of spice and whole grains. Enter this Apple and Ginger Loaf! I’ve been crushing on ginger lately, so it’s a major player here. I ground some fresh ginger up with the sugar to see what would happen, and I love the fragrance and spice it adds (and that grinding it with the sugar avoids those gingery strings)! If ginger isn’t your thing feel free to cut back or substitute with your favorite fall spice (I think cardamom would be lovely here). Conversely if you’re really into ginger, you could go wild and toss in a handful of chopped candied ginger, or sprinkle some on top.
Apple and Ginger Loaf
Makes one loaf, about 16 servings
60g dark brown sugar
60g granulated sugar
50g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
99g neutral vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
170g apple butter
177g white whole wheat flour or sifted whole wheat flour
50g rolled oats (not instant)
57g chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
For the topping:
1 Tbsp rolled oats
1 Tbsp coarse sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and line a loaf or Pullman pan with a parchment paper sling.
Place the sugars and ginger in a food processor. Pulse until ginger is completely broken down. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
To the sugar-ginger mixture, add the eggs, molasses, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then turn up the speed to medium and whip until the mixture is thick and expanded, about 5 minutes.
Turn the speed down to low and slowly stream in the oil and vanilla. Mix until homogeneous. Add the apple butter and whisk on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour and oats. Mix on low just until combined. Add the nuts if using and use a silicone spatula to mix just until the batter is smooth and combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is evenly mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the rolled oats and coarse sugar evenly over the top.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Using the parchment sling, lift the loaf out of the pan to finish cooling completely on the rack.