Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 6 — Breads

I love bread — any bread, all bread. But these are my favorites.

Angie’s Dilly Casserole Bread
I love this savory bread warm from the oven or slightly toasted and spread with lashings of butter. So comforting!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day 
I’ve been making the basic “Boule” recipe from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for many winters. I keep a batch in the fridge, and we frequently enjoy a crusty loaf with soup for a cold weather meal. You’re not supposed to cut the bread until it’s cool, but I usually can’t resist. It doesn’t keep long, partly because you’ll eat it all and partly because there are no preservatives in the recipe. If you have a large family, you’ll need more than one loaf because they are fairly small. The authors of this book have also written Gluten-free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayI’ve shared these books with so many people — encouraging friends to borrow them from the library (which usually ended with them buying their own copy) and given it to others as a gift. It’s great paired with a baking stone or pizza peel.

Bread Sauce 
2-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves
6 peppercorns
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
2/3 cup dried white bread crumbs (not seasoned)
4 tbsp single cream or mascarpone (I use whipping cream.)
Pinch nutmeg, freshly grated (Freshly grated, hahahaha. I use it out of the shaker in my spice closet).
Simmer the milk, butter, onion, cloves, peppercorns, garlic, and herbs for 20 min. Strain and return milk to pan. Add bread crumbs and simmer 3-4 min. Stir in cream or mascarpone, add nutmeg, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. May make up to three days ahead and heated in microwave or on stove. 
You can click on the link above for the recipe, but I’ve translated it for American cooks, who won’t know what bread sauce is anyway. The best description I can come up with is it’s like a delicious, creamy cross between stuffing and gravy. After spending many Christmas dinners in England saying, “No, thank you” to the dish, which looks, dare I say, a trifle pallid and rather unappetizing — I finally tried making it myself. Wow! I could easily spend my holiday feasting solely on bread sauce!

Dutch Baby 
I love to make this simple, but elegant dish for breakfast when we have friends or family staying overnight because the batter can be made the night before and refrigerated. Serve with seasonal fruit and wait for the compliments. 

Easy Pumpkin or Chocolate Muffins
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 box of spice cake mix or Devil’s Food cake milx
Mix the ingredients. You’ll be tempted to add water, but don’t. Mixture will be very thick. Bake in lined or greased muffin tin at 350 F until a toothpick inserted in muffin comes out mostly clean (20 min or so).
They can’t be too bad for you, right? Pumpkins are full of nutrients. Go here, if you don’t believe me. 

English Muffin Toasting Bread 
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp instant yeast
1/3 cup instant dry milk powder
1-1/4 cups warm water
2 tbsp oil
Cooking spray for pans
corn meal 
Measure dry ingredients into bowl. Add water and oil and mix until there are no lumps. Spray sides and bottom of 1 8-1/2”x4-1/2” loaf pan or two 8”x3”x3” disposable foil pans. Sprinkle bottom and sides of pan(s) with cornmeal. Scrape dough into pan(s), then smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until just over the rim. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see dough, but it shouldn’t be more than 1/4” over the edge (about 45-60 min). Once risen, preheat oven to 400F. Remove plastic wrap and bake 22-27 min until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool five min and turn out of pan onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. 
This is a recipe from my good friend and fellow librarian, Lynne. She likes to freeze individual pieces for toasting later. 

Four Ingredient English Muffins 
2 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 cups fat-free Greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 400F. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add yogurt and mash until the mix forms a dough. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for a few seconds until smooth. Divide into 8 even pieces, then lightly roll each into a ball. Pat into a puck 3-1/2” in diameter and about 1/2” thick. Set on parchment lined baking sheet with some space between. Bake 10 min. Flip and bake another 10-12 min until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving. Can be stored for a few days and reheated in a toaster or oven. 
Very easy. Very good.

Peanut Butter Bread
Apparently, this is the viral recipe of the pandemic — or one of them anyway. I tried it and will certainly be including it in my COVID comfort baking this winter. Easy and not super sweet as some quick breads can be. 

Yorkshire Pudding
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Combine flour all ingredients and whisk until smooth. These are baked until golden and puffy at 425 F in a hot pan filled with drippings from roast. 
Because we never eat roasts, I preheat oil in a largish cast-iron skillet in the oven until it’s sizzling. I also make the batter the night before and refrigerate it. When our chicken is done, I take it out of the oven, cover with foil, and let rest near where the heat comes up from the oven. Meanwhile I raise the temperature of the oven, preheat the skillet and bake the pudding. Good with gravy.
I first tried making individual puddings in a muffin tin, but the tin was not deep enough, and the oil spilled over causing loads of smoke and setting off our fire alarm. Such a pleasant way to start the holiday meal, don’t you think? The puddings tasted good, but had so much oil in them that when I tried reheating one in the toaster oven the next day, it caught fire and set off the alarm again! Now I use the cast iron skillet, which works very well. NO more fire alarms. 

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