Thursday, December 3, 2009

Create delicious holiday breads and buns – put your bread maker to work!

For 100 points in the Efficient Baking Category: Julia Child, Queen of French cooking stated unabashedly that she used all five of hers—daily! Help line “Tennessee Lily” scolded Yours Truly for overusing hers, griping “y’all know they’re not for industrial use, huh?” If you answered, “What is a bread maker?” you’re one clever cookie. And if you own one, now is the perfect time to put it to work. A festive party bread or basket of hot rolls makes a superb host gift or a delicious addition to any meal—morning, noon or night. After all, who can resist the sweet charm of a toasted, slice of Italian Pannetone bread or the delicious aroma of freshly-baked milk dinner rolls?

You could create bread the off-grid way and have all the dirty bowls, spoons and stress to prove it. Or, you could just assemble all of the ingredients in a bread maker pan and let the bread maker do the work. The machine warms the ingredients, mixes the dough and bakes the bread, usually within a four-hour time slot. Just enough time for you to watch the Sound of Music for the 112th time, go tobogganing or plug away at outdoing your neighbour’s inflatable Santa display. If your bare hands still need a creative indoor workout, choose the “Dough” menu option on your bread maker and shape the dough into loaves or buns, let them rise and then bake your sculpted masterpieces in the oven.

Remember the golden rules for successful bread baking—ingredient temperature is key and make NO substitutions. Although the bread maker warms the ingredients for you, don’t put very hot or very cold ingredients in the pan; lukewarm or room temperature is best. Hot liquids will kill the yeast and very cold dry ingredients will inhibit rising. While you don’t need to know the entire periodic table, good bread is all about good chemistry. Yeast, sugar and salt, may sound like boring party guests but in the bread scenario each plays a vital role in getting a rise out of the dough. Never omit or adjust any one of them or your loaves will flops.

Note: Need help choosing or using a bread maker? Got bread baking questions or need recipes? Put “bread baking” in your email subject line and email me at I’ll be happy to help you out.

Try these tried and true bread recipes to get you started:

Sambuca Pannetone (Italian Christmas Bread)
(Bake in the bread maker using the Sweet or Specialty option)
1/3 c currants
1/3 c diced dried apricots
1/3 c Sambuca liqueur

1 c water
6 tbsp butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ c dry milk powder
31/3 cups Canadian all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast (Bulk Barn)

3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp slivered, lightly-toasted almonds

3 tbsp sugar for glazing

In a small bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in the liqueur for 1 hour. Drain well and reserve liquid. Set aside. Place the ingredients [except the nuts and fruit] in the bread machine pan in the order given. Set the pan in the chamber. Set the bread maker to the 1 ½ lb loaf size. Choose Specialty or Sweet as the menu function. Press start. When the “add ingredient” beep sounds, open the lid of the bread maker and add the drained fruit, pine nuts and slivered almonds. Close lid. Once the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the machine to a cooling rack.

Prepare a glaze by combining the reserved liqueur with enough water to make ¼ c. Place in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Brush the warm bread with the sugar mixture and let cool to room temperature before slicing.

German Partybrot Buns

(Use the bread maker Dough option)
This recipe will win you rave reviews! It can be used as a base and shaped into many types of buns. It is also a good recipe to teach children how to knead dough and basic math division skills.
1 c milk
4 tbsp butter melted
2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
4 c all-purpose white Canadian flour
2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast (Bulk Barn)

1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp milk mixed with a fork
1 tbsp EACH sesame seeds and poppy seeds

Assemble all ingredients in the bread maker chamber in the order listed. Select the “Dough” cycle and press start. When the dough cycle is finished, remove dough and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes under a tea towel.

Divide the dough into 19 equal pieces. Cover with tea towel while shaping each piece into a smooth ball. (To shape a ball: knead each dough piece gently with your thumbs: push dough away from yourself, fold over and turn. Repeat until smooth and satiny. Pull dough from the bottom to top of ball and push into the centre of the ball, like a mushroom. Roll between palms for a smooth, round ball. Cover dough while working.

Grease a spring form pan (about 9 ½-10 inches in diameter) with a little cooking spray. Arrange the shaped rolls in the prepared pan by making an outer ring of 12 rolls and an inner ring of six rolls, placing the last roll in the center of the two rings. Cover the rolls loosely with spray-greased saran wrap. The wrap should be placed grease side down touching all of the dough but loose enough around the edges to let the dough to rise and expand freely. Cover with a tea towel. Preheat oven to 350F. Let the dough to rise on a cookie cooling rack over a pan of hot water placed over the vent burner of the oven while the oven is preheating. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30-40 minutes. Set timer and don’t allow rolls to over rise or they will “fall” before you bake them.

When fully risen, carefully remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle alternately with sesame seeds and poppy seeds (like a checkerboard pattern). Bake in 350F oven on upper middle rack position for 25 minutes. Turn around pan after 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom of pan. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing sides from spring form pan. Slide (don’t lift) buns from pan bottom to cooling rack. Cover loosely with tea towel. Serve warm or wrap when cooled in heavy tin foil to reheat or for transport.

Sweet Holiday Wreath
1 ¼ cups milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 2/3 cups white flour
1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast

2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
2/3 cups raisin

Optional Sweet Icing:
Combine ¾ cup icing sugar, 1 tbsp milk and ¼ tsp almond flavourings. Chopped 1/4 cup each red and green cherries.

Measure ingredients into the bread pan in the order given. Insert pan into bread maker and choose the Dough setting. Remove dough when complete and divide in half. Roll each half into a 14”x9” rectangle. Spread each half with butter and half of the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Gently pat down into dough. Roll up jellyroll style beginning at the wide side. Pinch edge to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down shape into a ring on a spray greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Pinch ends together. With sharp, long kitchen scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals. Turn each section on its side. Cover with spray greased wrap and tea towel and let rise in a warm, humid draft-free place (over a pan of hot water or on top of the fridge) until double (about 35 minutes). Repeat with other half of dough. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Cool 15-20 minutes and decorate with sweet icing and chopped red and green cherries, if you wish.