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The lure of fresh bread and butter

Generale Lee/ Wikimedia Commons You can mix a lot of different things into focaccia dough. Try olives, dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, rosemary, any of your favorites.


This happens every year at this time. It’s winter, it’s cold, and I can’t stop thinking about spreading some butter on a hunk of fresh-from-the-oven baked bread. Being that I am currently doing the low-carb thing, and being rather successful at losing some weight and lowering my blood sugar, I have been fighting the urge to bake the type of bread I am thinking of.

Yes, there are other types of flours, but I must admit I am still trying to get used to them. Some have no gluten, so recipes sometimes call for the addition of mozzarella cheese to bind the dough together.

All I can say is there are many bakers who are finding success making breads with the no-gluten flours, but at this point in time, I am not one of them. Anyway, I think I can manage to convince myself that it’s okay to indulge in regular bread once in a while.

Here are some of the recipes that I have in my files in case you are hungry for homemade bread, too. Stay warm in this cold weather.

Pane Bianco

Courtesy of King Arthur Flour.


3 cups unbleached bread flour *see note

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup lukewarm milk

1/3 cup lukewarm water

3 tablespoons olive oil


3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own oven-roasted tomatoes

3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, green or purple

*Note: Substitute all-purpose flour 1:1 for the bread flour in the recipe, if desired. Reduce the water to 1/4 cup.

1. To make the dough: Combine all dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine), and mix and knead — by hand, using a mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, very soft dough. The dough should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl if you’re using a stand mixer.

2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover, and let it rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, work on the filling: Thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits. Shears are also useful for slicing and chopping the basil.

3. Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22-by-8 1/2-inch rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic and basil. Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

4. Using kitchen shears, start 1/2 inch from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1 inch deep, to within 1/2 inch of the other end. Keeping the cut side up, form an S shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the S to form a figure 8; pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.

5. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350. Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

6. Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

Braided garlic bread


2 1/2 cups flour

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)

1 1/4 cups warm milk

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt


1 head garlic, peeled and minced

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a bowl, combine warm milk, yeast and sugar. Once the mixture becomes foamy, gradually mix in the flour and salt. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour in a warm spot.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: combine all ingredients in a bowl, except the mozzarella. Set aside.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough and make sure to leave an inch around the edges. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top.

4. Roll the dough into a log lengthwise. Slice the roll in half lengthwise leaving one end (about 1 inch) intact. Twist the two sides into a braid, while trying to keep the cut sides facing up.

5. Grease a loaf pan and place the braided dough inside. Cover and allow to rise again for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 before the rising time is over. Uncover, brush with olive oil, and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.

30-minute dinner rolls

A mixer with a dough hook makes this easy.

4 cups bread flour

1 1/3 cups whole milk

1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) yeast, such as Red Star Platinum

2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, add the flour and make a well in the middle. In a measuring cup, add the milk, butter, sugar and salt. Microwave in 15-second increments until the butter is melted and the mixture’s temperature is between 110 and 120. Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour well. Scatter the yeast over it.

2. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Start mixing on low speed, slowly pouring the remaining milk mixture until the dough comes together. If the dough seems dry, add more milk.

3. The dough should be soft and elastic and cleans itself from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and divide it into 12 pieces. Place all the rolls into an 11-inch round baking pan or a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

4. Preheat oven to 400. Cover the rolls with a clean tea towel and let rest for about 5 to 8 minutes while the oven is heating.

5. Bake the rolls for 17 to 19 minutes or until golden brown. As soon as you remove the rolls from the oven, brush them with melted butter, if desired.

Roasted garlic focaccia

Yes, garlic again. Start this recipe one day before you plan to bake it. Avoid it if you are in a hurry.

1 whole head garlic

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt, for seasoning

3 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 cups, minus 1 tablespoon water

For garlic butter:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350. Remove 4 cloves garlic from head and set aside. Place remaining head in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt. Wrap tightly with foil and place in an oven-safe cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel skillet, then transfer to oven. Roast until garlic is completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and refrigerate until ready to use the next day.

2. Combine flour, salt, yeast and water in a large bowl. (To account for rising, the bowl should be at least 4 to 6 times the volume of the dough.) Mix with hands or a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains.

3. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure that edges are well sealed, then let rest on the countertop for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl.

4. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to a 12-inch cast iron skillet or large cake pan. Transfer dough to pan by tipping it out of the bowl in one large blob. Turn dough to coat in oil. Using a flat palm, press dough around skillet, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and sides of pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let dough stand at room temperature for 2 hours. After the first hour, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 550. (Note: I used 425, worked fine.)

5. At the end of the 2 hours, dough should mostly fill skillet, up to its edge. Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape. Repeat, moving around dough, until no air bubbles are left underneath and dough is evenly spread around skillet. Peel roasted garlic cloves and break up large cloves into 2 or 3 pieces each. Scatter roasted garlic evenly over surface of dough, then push down on each clove until it is embedded in a deep well of dough.

6. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and bottom appears golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 16 to 24 minutes. If bottom is not as crisp as desired, place pan on a burner and cook over medium heat, moving pan around to cook evenly, until bottom of focaccia is crisp, 1 to 3 minutes.

7. For garlic butter: Mince 4 reserved raw cloves of garlic. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil with butter in a small skillet and melt over medium-low heat. Add garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant and garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and season with salt.

8. When focaccia has finished baking, spread garlic butter over top with a spoon. Transfer to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, slice, and serve. Extra bread should be stored in a brown paper bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

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