Category Archives: Bread

Wifey’s Spicy Cornbread

This week I followed The Missus around and took pictures while she made cornbread. She makes fantastic cornbread and I thought it would be cruel not to share this with the world. There are those of you who will be aghast at the presence of sugar in the recipe; but I should let you know that neither I, nor my wife, comes from a family native to The South. I should also let you know that the original recipe we started with came from The Joy of Cooking. We’ve been tinkering with it over the years, but I should give credit where it’s due.

Adobo Chili Cornbread (for a 6 inch cast-iron skillet. If using an 8 inch skillet, double the recipe)

-7/8 cups cornmeal (1 cup minus 2 Tablespoon)

-2 Tablespoons sugar

-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 egg

-1 cup buttermilk (in a pinch you can fake buttermilk by mixing 1 Tablespoon distilled vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup milk)

-2 chipotles in adobo sauce (available at most grocery stores with a decent Latin American selection)


Butter up your skillet real good, then place in the oven and pre-heat to 350F.

Chop up the peppers in an 1/8 inch dice. I like to use a plastic bag so I don’t mank up my cutting board.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix the buttermilk and egg together with a fork in a separate bowl.


Pour wet into dry, and whisk together quickly. Once the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, the timer on leavening starts. Mix in the chopped chilis, remove the pan from the oven and pour in the batter. The batter will start to cook immediately, this is good just be careful.


Put the pan back in the oven and set your timer for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s done, a knife will come out clean. Let it cool about 10 minutes and it should pop right out of the pan. You can eat this immediately if you want, but the chili flavor will come out better the next day.


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Everybody Does a No-Knead…

No-Knead bread made the rounds online back in ’06 when Bittman made it famous writing for the New York Times. It wasn’t the first such recipe, but it definitely popularized the technique. Since then, there have been myriad variations and of course I have my own. I’ve also  experimented with combining this technique with a similar one I learned about in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, called pain a l’ancienne, which I’ll talk more about later.


No-Knead Boule

-14 oz. or 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour (you know I love my King Arthur)

-2 oz or 1/2 c. Whole Wheat flour

-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast

-1 teaspoon table salt

-1 1/2 c. water

The mass appeal to this recipe lies in the high fiddliness to tastiness ratio. By which I mean, it’s really tasty and really easy. The only problem with this recipe is that you need a cast iron or enamal Dutch oven. A steel stock pot will not work.

Step one is just mix all this together, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 but not more than 16 hours. For some reason leaving it longer than 16 hours has a slightly detrimental effect on the flavor. UNLESS you want to let it go a solid 24 hours, in which case you can also employ the pain a l’ancienne technique by making the dough with iced water, and leaving it in the refrigerator for 12 hours then moving it to room temperature for another 12 hours. The advantage here is a more complex flavor due to enzymes and stuff. Try it out, it’s fun.


12 to 24 hours later, you’re going to have a big, wet, bubbly mass of dough. It looks pretty thin, that’s alright. Using a rubber spatula, maneuver the dough onto a well-floured surface into a round-ish shape. I like to use the whole wheat flour for this, and I’m serious about the well-floured part, you’re better off using an extra couple of Tablespoons of flour than having the dough stick to the counter. Let is sit for 15 minutes, it’s not going to look any different afterwards, but the glutens will relax and the dough will be much easier to work with.

Run your fingertips under the edge of the dough to make sure it’s not sticking, then fold the dough into thirds like a letter. ‘Cause you know, that’s still a relevant turn-of-phrase. Now fold it in thirds the other way, so you have a nice looking ball. Do your best to brush off any major lumps of flour.

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Flour up a piece of fabric (butter muslin, a linen napkin or even a tee shirt, but not terry-cloth) which you can transfer the dough, seam side down, onto. Fold the corners up to loosely cover the dough and let sit 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Whatever you do, don’t let it get wider than the base of your Dutch oven. Speaking of which, put the Dutch oven in your oven now and pre-heat to at least 500F, or higher if your oven goes higher.

No comes the fun part. When the oven is heated and the bread is risen do these in this order:

-Unwrap the bread, make sure the edges aren’t stuck to the fabric.

-Take the super-hot Dutch oven out of the oven, take the lid off, leave the oven door open.

-Pick up the dough, with your hand under the fabric.

-Flop the dough, seam side is now up, into the pot. Shimmy the pot a little to center the dough. It’s fine.

-Lid on the pot, pot in the oven, shut the door, set timer for 20 minutes.


After the first 20 minutes, take the lid off the pot and set your timer for another 20. Depending on your oven you may need 25 minutes, the bread is done when the crust is brown and crunchy.

Remove from Dutch oven, let cool to room temp, enjoy. Feel free to knock off any excess flour.

This bread makes a particularly excellent grilled cheese sandwich, by the way.

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Whole Wheat Focaccia

Before I forget:, a new social networking site which puts regular people in touch with experts, is currently in beta and looking for cooking experts. Check them out if you’re interested in being an expert or finding an expert in photography, gardening, fashion and a few other subjects I can’t remember off-hand.

Anyway, in American bakeries and grocery stores, focaccia tends to be a much thicker bread so the thinness of this one may be surprising to some of you. But take heart, you can still use it to make a lovely grilled cheese sandwich. Credit where credit is due, this is a variation on a recipe I originally saw in the New York Times a few months ago, and I always stick with my King Arthur Flours.

Whole Wheat Focaccia

-6 oz. (by weight) whole wheat flour (1 1/2 cups)

-6 oz. all purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)

-1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

-1 1/2 teaspoons salt

-1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

-7 oz. (by volume) water (7/8 cup)

First things first, mix your flours together in a bowl.

Now, take a bigger bowl and your salt, yeast, oil and water. Pay attention because this is important: Some people have very strong feelings on the order in which you add the ingredients e.g. combine the yeast with the water to make sure it’s active, add the yeast to the flour to prevent clumping, add the salt at the end, etc. Unless your using a recipe which specifically says otherwise, do it however you like. And unless you haven’t used your yeast for 2 months or more, it’s probably fine.


Stir until the salt and yeast are dissolved, then add in the flour mixture about one quarter at a time. Once the last of the flour is incorporated, cover the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. This will allow the starches and gluten to absorb the water in a process called autolyzation. The upshot of this is higher rising and less kneading.

Once the dough has had a chance to rest, knead it on a well-floured counter for 10 minutes. Keep a little pile of flour so you can dust your hands if the dough starts to get a little too sticky.

Now back into the bowl, oiled this time, and let rise at least 2-6 hours.

If you’ve got a cast iron griddle or 8 inch frying pan, awesome. Get it. If not, place some parchment paper (or flour) on a baking sheet.


When done rising, flop the dough onto a floured work surface , form into a rough eight inch circle and transer to your baking sheet. Cover lightly with a damp cloth or oiled plastic wrap and let rise for one hour. Halfway through, dimple the bread with your finger tips and top. I like to keep it simple with: 1 Tablespoon olive oil, a sprinke of a big, crunchy sea salt and some dried rosemary. Lately I’ve been using Hawaiian Red sea salt.

Pre-heat the oven to 425F and let the bread rise the other half-hour.

Bake the bread in the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes. The finished product should look a little like this.


Alternatively, you can roll the dough out very thin after rising, and use it to make pizza. Boo-yah. Top it with whatever you like and bake it at the same temp for 15-20 minutes. This one has summer squash, home-made pepperoni a buddy shipped me from Iowa, mozzeralla and leftover marinara I pureed into pizza sauce.


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Potato Bread

Studies have shown that the most popular posts on Simple and Complex are the baking posts. So without further ado…

Potato Bread (from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri) one of my new favorite cookbooks

-1/2 lb AP flour

-1/4 cup potato, boiled and mashed up good

-3/4 teaspoon dry yeast

-1 1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/3 cup milk

-1/3 cup warm water


Use a fork to make sure the potato is mashed up nice and fine, then use your hands to work it into the flour. Add the salt and yeast to the flour next and stir it around to make sure you don’t get any clumps.

Regarding flour, I usually use King Arthur but being back in The South I had to buy some White Lily. For those of you who don’t know, White Lily is highly regarded for making cakes and biscuits because it’s made with soft winter wheat as opposed to hard. This leads to a lower amount of protein and gluten, but I’m going to give it a try in potato bread just for fun.

Measure the milk into a 1 cup measuring cup, then add the 1/3 cup of hot water. This way it ends up being warm-ish, which is about what you want. Add this to the flour mixture, and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.

Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to let the flour hydrate and yeast activate.

After 10 minutes has passed, knead the dough by hand for 3 minutes. Then place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours. Go ahead and oil up your loaf pan now.


When the dough has doubled in size, flop it onto a well floured surface and form it into a rough rectangle which you can roll into a bread loaf. You might need to fold the edges over, it’s fine. In some regards, bread is more forgiving than people tend to think. Loaf shaping is one, also baking temp (but that’s a different story.)


Preheat the oven to 400F and place the dough in the greased up loaf pan seam-side down, let rise about an hour until it’s almost doubled (as per usual.) I could tell at this point by White Lily experiment wasn’t going so well.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Immediately remove from the bread pan and let cool on a rack for about an hour. As you can see, the White Lily didn’t work for a sandwich bread. However, it is still delicious with brie and jam. I have since learned that White Lily makes a bread flour. Perhaps I’ll use that for a future experiment.


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Another Perfect Baguette

Never has there been a food with so many wildly different recipes, each of which is Perfect, as the baguette. A quick search online will yield recipes ranging from three to twenty-four hours, with two to twenty minutes of kneading and proportions of ingredients varying just as drastically. In French bakeries this is less the case as there are laws regulating the contents of the dough, but not the size or specific shape, of the baguette.

Of course, as home-bakers we are bound by no such legal standards and since the word baguette simply refers to the shape why not try a dozen different recipes and figure out which works best for your taste in your part of the world? That’s what I did, I learned a lot and had tons of fun. The recipe I’m sharing today most closely resembles Martin Ginsburg’s in Chef Supreme, a delightful cookbook assembled by the spouses of the Supreme Court Justices in memoriam of Mr. Ginsburg. I usually make this on a baguette pan, sometimes I’ll use one section of the dough to make a batard or boule which you can make on a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dusted with cornmeal. Or a cast iron griddle if you’ve got one.


-1 lb. AP flour (I like King Arthur)

-1 teaspoon yeast

-1/2 Tablespoon fine grain sea salt

-1 ¼ c. warm water


Mix flour, salt and yeast together in a mixing bowl. This will prevent the yeast from clumping up, a common problem when you add the water to the yeast first. Drizzle the water all over the top of the flour mixture and stir until their is no dry flour, but it isn’t a proper ball yet. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.


Stir the dough a little more until it starts to come together as a ball and knead for just 2 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the kneading process, here’s an episode of FOODLANDia, a public access cooking show I was on back in Iowa. I’m using a different recipe so the dough is more dense, but the technique is the same. The bit where I’m kneading is at 10:12. Also, don’t miss what may be the only hip-hop song about tea at 20:06.


Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly and let rise on the counter for 2 hours. Afterward, flop the dough onto your counter, shape into a rough rectangle and cut into three equal pieces (each should weigh 8 1/2 to 9 ounces.) Shape these into balls, cover with a damp towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.


To shape each loaf, gently form a rectangle about 6” wide and 4” long. Fold it like a letter, the bottom third up, then the top third down. Create a trough with the edge of your hand, like I show in the video, then pinch it shut. Do this with each dough ball, replacing them under the towel when done. After the last ball is shaped, go back to the first and roll it out about 13”-14”. Start in the middle, moving your hands toward the ends of the loaf. For a batard, just keep it a bit shorter. After each loaf is formed place it on your pan or baking sheet, cover again and let rise about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 475 now, so it has plenty of time to warm up.


10 minutes before the final rise is finished, heat up a cast iron skillet on the stove until it’s very hot, then place it in the bottom of the oven.

 Use a razor blade or bread knife to slash each loaf on a sharp bias 3 or 4 times, about ⅛” deep. Then immediately put them in the oven and turn the oven down to 450. Wait 2 minutes, get out 2 or 3 ice cubes, open the oven, drop them in the cast iron and then quickly close the oven again. Set the timer for 22 minutes and don’t open the door until the timer goes off. When done, move the loaves to a cooling rack and let rest for 1 hour before slicing. If three are too many baguettes, wrap one in plastic and freeze. It will be fine. Serving suggestion: Cheddar and Branston Pickle sandwich.


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