Bleu Cheese Garlic Bread

These are those magical days of summer when the produce is plentiful and motivation to spend time in the kitchen is at an all-time low. We’re keeping our meals simple: veggies, grilled meat, often polenta, and usually a crusty bread of some type. Today’s post on Bleu Cheese Garlic Bread really is just passing along a tasty brainstorm I had.

Blue Cheese Garlic Bread

I had a half a leftover baguette, a bit of butter, garlic (but of course, I ALWAYS have that) and some blue cheese crumbles that really needed to be used up.

I started by slicing the baguette lengthwise.

Then I melted the butter (about 1 T.), stirred in about 2 t. minced garlic, and about 1/2 c. blue cheese crumbles. The melted butter was warm enough to soften the bleu cheese crumbles. That made the entire mixture quite spreadable.

I slathered the butter-cheese mixture on both sides of the baguette and put it under the broiler in the oven until the edges of the baguette were browned. More importantly, the bleu cheese started was getting lightly browned and a little bit melted. The blue cheese won’t ever melt like a cheddar or a jack cheese, so don’t let it bake too  long.

After removing the garlic bread from the broiler, I sliced each half into 3 inch pieces and served with our simple yummy dinner of  grilled venison, polenta, caprese salad, and grilled squash. It took everything over the top!

Blue cheese garlic bread with dinner

During these summer days I often have small moments of food brilliance that take a meal from  yummy to FABULOUS. I’d love to hear what brilliant new ideas you’re adding to your summer table. Care to share?

Barb

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Mardi Gras Sweet Potato Bread

Added Note: It’s been brought to my attention that this post ALMOST contains a recipe for a Mardi Gras King cake. I have to admit that until I started googling this morning, I had no idea what a King cake even was! But this colorful bread only lacks a green component and a plastic baby doll baked inside to turn it into a fairly traditional King cake, perfect for Shrove Tuesday. I mention below that using pureed spinach can give you a nice green strand for your braided vegetable bread, so really…it’s all here. I just didn’t know it!

Two different types of sweet potatoes give this fun bread its circus-like color. Sweet potatoes add great texture, flavor, and color to homemade bread. I used deep orange Beauregard sweet potatoes and deep purple sweet potatoes that I purchased from SauraPride. If you google purple sweet potatoes, you can find plenty of suggestions for where to find them. Larger cities may have Asian markets that carry purples. There are a number of places that ship purple sweet potatoes, including Stokes Foods which sells the Saura Pride purples that I buy. (The website can direct you where to buy the purples.)

sweet potato bread

Sweet Potato Twist

I started by baking 3 small sweet potatoes of each color at 375° until they were fork-tender. I peeled the skins off of them and mashed them up thoroughly. Of course I made sure that I didn’t get the colors mixed together. Purple and orange mixed together make brown…not really any fun if you’re looking for the circus.

I actually made two different doughs that I eventually twisted together to make loaves. For each loaf I did the following:

I made a sponge out of

  • 2 c. warm water
  • the mashed sweet potatoes of one color
  • 2 c. bread flour
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 2 t. salt

I let that sponge bubble and develop gluten for about 30 minutes. Then I gradually kneaded in 3 to 4 c. of additional bread flour. I do this in my Bosch mixer. Once I’ve added all the flour, I knead the dough on 2nd speed for 9-10 minutes. When I had a working Kitchenaid, it only took about 5 minutes. Kneading by hand takes 12-14 minutes.

I let the dough rise for about an hour or until it doubled in size. While this batch was rising, I finished up the second batch of dough using the second color of sweet potato.

Now…about those colors….I didn’t get a strong enough orange color from the orange sweet potatoes so I added 2 t. of turmeric which gave me a bright yellow. The turmeric gave the bread a little bit of savory bite which contrasted nicely with the sweet potato flavor. I’ve also found that fresh cooked beets can be pureed and used to make beautiful deep RED bread. Spinach can give you a deep green bread if you puree the spinach first in the blender. Tomato powder will turn bread a nice orange-red too. My son Michael informed me that whole wheat  or rye flour would have given me a deeper purple color.

multi-colored sweet potato bread

Once I had both colors of dough kneaded and doubled in size, it was time to form the loaves. I opted to roll the two colors out and twist them together into long loaves. I’m not very good at braiding dough but I’m sure this would look just amazing with a 3- or 4-strand braid of the two colors.

Once the loaves were formed and on the baking sheets, I covered the loaves with lint-free tea towels and let them rise until they were approximately doubled in size. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400° for about 30 minutes.

I baked the loaves for 35-40 minutes (until the quick-read thermometer read 190° when inserted into the middle of each loaf.)

This bread was really delicious; the sweet potatoes gave it a great flavor. It was also just plain fun. The bright colors were all a natural result of the sweet potatoes and the turmeric, so there were no artificial dyes making it look that way.

I really love to add veggies to my breads because it gives me more nutritional value for my sandwich, if you know what I mean. It’s also just fun to see what you end up with!

bread made of purple and orange sweet potatoes

Barb 

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Soup Saturday — spending time with old friends and getting to know new ones

It’s time to talk about how we spend our Saturday nights around here. Three words: Soup. Bread. Friends.

bread and soup

A few years back we started a tradition that we fondly call Soup Saturday. It goes like this. I make many gallons of soup, bake many pounds of bread, clean the house like crazy, post an open invitation on Facebook, put out the word among my sons’ friends, and wait for everyone to arrive.

I always make a point of starting the bread the day before.  Our favorite is Clair’s Sourdough but I also like to make Cinnamon Swirl Bread. Occasionally, cornbread seems to be the right bread for the occasion.

French Bread

Because of the crowd a Soup Saturday draws, I always make sure to have a vegetarian option with the soup. Here are some of our favorite soups:

Hearty Pumpkin Soup

Potato Chowder

Black Bean and Ham Soup

Sweet Potato Sausage Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Tortilla Soup

Vegetable Soup

Two big pots of soup

You can also find a lot of other soups under our Soups, Stews, and Chowders tag.

I rarely bother with desserts because everyone fills up on soup and bread.

One of the best things about our Soup Saturdays is the lack of agenda. The goal is to eat, talk, and grow friends. Friends bring THEIR friends and the circle gets bigger. Something really cool happens when people share a meal together.

Serving soup and bread is simple enough that anyone can pull it off. You can open cans of soup and buy your bread at a bakery if that’s what works for you. The point is to do what works for you.

Laura has also hosted Soup Saturdays at her house with great success. I highly recommend this as a great way to ease into practicing hospitality. And I should probably add that there’s nothing set in stone about doing this on Saturdays. In fact, this past week, we had Soup Sunday.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve met some fascinating new friends and spent some really great time with old friends. We’ve never run out of food, dishes, or fun. Give it a try; I dare you!

soup and bread

Barb

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Homemade Hawaiian Sweet Bread (aka Portuguese Sweet Bread)

Is Hawaiian Sweet Bread part of your holiday tradition? My Auntie Joan, maker of all perfect breads, has added this bread in to their otherwise VERY Dutch tradition and she shared this recipe with me. The store-bought Hawaiian Sweet bread is okay, but homemade is sooooooo much better! If you have a hankering for Portuguese or Hawaiian Sweet Bread, you do NOT need to buy the commercially made bread.

Hawaiian Sweet Bread

With a little bit of time and a little bit of effort you can make your own homemade Sweet Bread!

Auntie Joan tells me that this is perfect for a Christmas Brunch. I can’t share a photo of this bread with you yet because I haven’t made it yet. I DO know  I don’t want to serve guests the stuff I can buy in the deli section of our grocery store because it doesn’t hold a candle to Auntie Joan’s homemade version:
Hawaiian Sweet Bread (also known as Portuguese Sweet bread because they brought it to Hawaii)

  • 1/4 c. instant mashed potatoes
  • 2/3 c. boiling water
  • 1/4 c. nonfat dry milk
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 pkg. (2 T.) dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup very warm water..I add a pinch of sugar to feed the little guys
  • 4  1/2- 5 c. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/4 t. lemon flavoring

Beat potato flakes into boiling water, stir in sugar, dry milk, and butter. Cool to 110 degrees.
Dissolve yeast,
Add to potato mix: 2 cups flour and beat until smooth.
Stir in eggs, salt, vanilla and lemon flavorings and blend with 1 1/2 cup flour.
Add 1 1/2 cup flour to make a stiff dough, and knead on floured board until satiny and the texture of your earlobe.
Turn over in greased bowl, let rise until double. Punch down, knead briefly and let rest 10 minutes. Divide in half and roll each half into a 30 inch rope. Twist and coil in small pie plate. Let rise, brush with beaten egg.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Every bread that Auntie Joan makes is amazingly good. This one is definitely worth a try and it might be worth expanding the Christmas brunch menu to fit it in!

Barb 

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Thanksgiving Dinner: Bread or Rolls

Over the next couple of weeks, Laura and I will be posting recipes (LOTS of recipes) for Essential Foods in the Thanksgiving Feast.

The bread plays a humble, unobtrusive role (roll?)  at the Thanksgiving feast. There are so many delicious sides AND the turkey that bread might almost seem unnecessary. BUT a slice of bread or a Parker House roll is your best tool for mopping up the last of the turkey gravy off your plate, a small but critical job. And the bread group bears the heavy responsibility of being a conveyor of butter, a job not to be underestimated.

loaves of homemade bread for Thanksgiving dinner

We have an entire tag devoted to bread, containing links to many types of breads.

Here are a few of our favorite breads for a holiday meal.

Of course, sourdough is good with every meal, holiday or otherwise.

A hearty oatmeal molasses bread is a good addition to Thanksgiving dinner. A 9-grain bread is great too.

You can even use some of the extra sweet potatoes to make a delicious sweet potato bread.

sweet potato bread

One of my favorite tricks is to use my favorite cool rise sweet dough to make into dinner rolls. Without the cinnamon sugar and raisins, this cinnamon roll dough does a great job of filling the bread role (roll?) at dinner.

And for those of you who can’t imagine adding homemade bread to your list of to-dos this Thanksgiving, we have three suggestions that will work just as well.

1. Check out your nearest local bakery and their bread selection. Many bakeries also sell dough by the pound for pizza crust or dinner rolls. You could totally fake everyone out with home-BAKED rolls!

2. Check out the brown-n-serve breads available in your local grocery store. There are some really nice options nowadays.

3. No guilt. If bread isn’t your thing, don’t worry about it.

cranberry walnut whole wheat bread for Thanksgiving dinner

Barb

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