Unique, savory and sweet breads

January 11, 2012 11:01:00 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


The aroma of just-baked bread is a delight for the senses at any time of year. But there's something extra special about opening the oven door on a batch of fresh, hot rolls or a homemade loaf during the winter months. The comfort food is ideal for serving alongside hot soups or hearty stews, and the kitchen's cozy warmth can dispel any gloom outside. Not to mention, that sense of accomplishment can make you feel like a blooming genius. 


When we stop to think about it, the process of bread-making is about as old as time. Bread, in one form or another, has been one of the most celebrated foods of every culture. Ancient Greeks offered ritual bread to their gods and 12th century BC Egyptians purchased flat bread called "ta" from stalls in the village streets.  


The bread baker transforms relatively tasteless flour starch into a satisfying product, bringing out all the richness of the grains. With a world of ingredients -- from spinach to poppy seeds, bananas to chocolate -- the creative cook can elevate her game. Today's recipes offer a few options. 


A savory, swirled tomato spinach loaf is as decorative to look at as it is tasty to eat. This multi-layered loaf will take a little time, but will definitely brand you as a artist in the kitchen. A recipe for sweet potato rolls offers a twist on the same-old roll. Serve these with honey and butter. A sweeter route are white chocolate cranberry muffins. 


Experienced bread bakers share plenty of pointers online. A few from Thursday Bram of wisebread.com include:





Keep it fresh 


Homemade bread doesn't have preservatives, so to help it stay fresh, tasteofhome.com recommends storing at room temperature in a cool, dry place. Storage in the refrigerator can turn it stale quickly, and heat and humidity cause homemade bread to mold. To keep it soft, store in an airtight plastic bag.  


You might want to try storing homemade bread in the freezer, where it will keep fresh for up to three months. Slice it before freezing, then just take out the number of slices you want as you need them. 


Tasteofhome.com suggests learning the true meaning of "warm" when we see "warm water" in a bread recipe. More than lukewarm, water should be 110 to 115 degrees. (Water that's too cool or too hot can kill the yeast.)  


"You can use a candy thermometer to check the water temperature. ... Once I learned what 'warm' really meant, it helped a lot, and my yeast has 'lived' ever since," says a blogger at the site. 






Makes two loaves 




1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast 


1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees) 


4 teaspoons butter, melted 


1 teaspoon salt 


2 3/4 to 3 cups bread flour 




For the spinach dough: 


1/4 cup cold water 


1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry 


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast 


3/4 cup warm water 


4 teaspoons butter, melted 


1 teaspoon salt 




For the tomato dough: 


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast 


1 cup warm water 


4 teaspoons butter, melted 


1 teaspoon salt 


1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste 


3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups bread flour 


1 egg white 


1 teaspoon cold water 




(Source: Avanell Hewitt, for Country Women) 






Makes 15 muffins 




2 cups all-purpose flour 


1 cup sugar 


2 teaspoons baking powder 


1/2 teaspoon salt 


2 eggs 


1 1/3 cups buttermilk 


1/2 cup butter, melted 


1 cup dried cranberries 


2 squares (1 ounce each) white baking chocolate, grated 


1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 


4 to 5 teaspoons cranberry juice 




(Source: Erica Keip, for Country Women) 






Makes 2 1/2 dozen 




1/2 cup water 


1 egg 


3 tablespoons butter, softened 


3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes (without added milk or butter) 


4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 


3 tablespoons sugar 


1 1/2 teaspoons salt 


2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast 




(Source: Peggy Burdick, for Country Women) 






Makes 6-8 servings 




3 tablespoons granulated sugar 


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 


1 cup light brown sugar, packed 


8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) 


2 tubes refrigerated crescent roll dough (12 ounces) 


3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk 


2 bananas, sliced 1/4-inch to make 48 slices 


4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 2/3 cup) 


1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped