Has the gluten-free moment passed yet? I’m asking because I’m ready to get back to eating bread without people looking at me funny. (This never happened in Paris, by the way, where if you’re not walking around with a baguette with a torn-off end, you’ll look like a tourist.)
I’m not saying that we should eat bread all day long, but a little bit here and there is pretty great — as long as, and here’s the important thing, it’s really good bread. Which is why I’ve started making my own.
As it turns out, it’s easier than I thought. Easier, even, than making biscuits — but I’m including a biscuit recipe here, too.
Why now with all of the fluffy carby things? Because it’s spring — and spring means parties, right? And parties mean friends over and glasses clinking and having a little something along with that — perhaps a slice of French-inspired feta and tomato bread (which is more of a savory cake, but let’s not get caught up on semantics — it’s delicious).
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Or let’s say you’re doing something kinda sorta Italian for dinner. Wouldn’t a nice piece of fresh-baked ciabatta bread be just the thing to soak up the rest of that sauce? Know that this recipe is one of those that looks intimidating but is super-easy — there’s no kneading. The hardest part is waiting for the dough to do its thing in the fridge overnight. The next day, wake up, pour your coffee, and shape that dough into ciabatta loaves, which is really only a careful slice down the middle, and let it rest for a short spell. Then, bake.
This bread is delicious on its own, but I especially love it toasted, because it wakes up the crust and takes it to full-on crunchland. Dip into lemon-pepper oil, repeat, and keep repeating.
The easy dinner rolls are just what they sound like; however, I’d argue that they are fine as breakfast rolls or lunch rolls or even afternoon-snacking-with-your-coffee rolls. Start to finish, an hour and a half. Super simple. Speedy as it gets.
If you’re the brunch sort, I’m including a recipe for black pepper biscuits with sausage and jalapeño jam that you may regret making because people will eat all of them and you won’t have any leftovers. I’m not saying this is a certainty, but it happened to me, and I was hoping to try out some strawberry jam on the black pepper biscuits, split and toasted for breakfast.
I told you I like toast — and toasts — so congratulate yourself on your bread- and biscuit-making by opening a bottle of bubbly. It’s something to celebrate.
Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com, @cowgirlchef.
Black pepper biscuits with sausage and jalapeño jam
Makes 8 big biscuits
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper (large grind)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
32 ounces breakfast sausage, such as Jimmy Dean
9-ounce jar jalapeño jam
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and black pepper, or just pulse a few times in your food processor. Add the cubes of butter and pulse quickly until the butter pieces are pebblelike throughout, or use a pastry cutter.
3. Pour in the buttermilk and gently mix or pulse until the dough begins to come together — don’t overmix or your biscuits will be like hockey pucks.
4. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gently bring the dough together with your hands so it’s a fat rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Gently pat the dough down with the palms of your hands. Go easy, and you’ll be rewarded with light and fluffy biscuits. Cut the dough into 8 fat biscuits. Put them on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bottoms are brown.
5. While the biscuits are baking, slice the sausage into 8 thick pieces and cook in a skillet over medium-low heat. Put them on a paper towel to drain.
6. When ready to serve, use a fork to split the hot biscuits, then put a piece of sausage inside, and top with a spoonful of jalapeño jam.
Nutritional analysis per biscuit: 806 calories, 58 grams fat, 54 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 1,493 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 64 percent of calories from fat.
Feta and tomato bread
Makes 1 (8-inch-by-4-inch) loaf
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces feta cheese, sliced into small cubes
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1. Line an 8-inch-by-4-inch loaf pan with parchment.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sea salt.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter until light, for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute for each one.
4. Add the flour mixture, mixing only until combined. Pour in the milk and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the feta, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme leaves. Pour into a prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
5. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the cake for 30 minutes or until the edges brown and the cake is firm to touch. Let cool completely before serving.
Nutritional analysis per slice: 188 calories, 13 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 88 milligrams cholesterol, 500 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 62 percent of calories from fat.
Inspired by a recipe from Jean-François Piège/French Elle
Ciabatta with lemon-pepper dipping oil
Makes 2 loaves
6 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, cool (55 degrees)
Olive oil, for oiling the board
Cornmeal for dusting
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 cup olive oil
1. Put the flour, salt, yeast, and water in the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix for 2 more minutes. The dough should be sticky on the bottom of the bowl and release from the sides of the bowl — if it’s too wet and isn’t releasing from the sides, sprinkle a little bit more flour into the bowl; if it’s too dry, add a little more water. The objective is to have a wet, sticky dough.
2. Pour a little bit of olive oil onto a clean counter or large cutting board — your space for working the dough. Oil your hands and transfer the dough to the prepared space. Stretch and fold the dough to make a ball, and cover it with a bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Leave this for 5 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough once again, then 2 more times at 5-minute intervals, for a total of 15 minutes. The dough will be more firm and less sticky, but overall still sticky — it’s a very wet dough.
3. Put the dough into the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day, pull the dough out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or longer if necessary, to allow the dough to wake up, lose its chill, and continue fermenting. It should double in size.
5. Sprinkle the workspace with flour. Gently transfer the dough from the bowl to the workspace, using oiled hands or a well-oiled plastic scraper. You want to degas the dough as little as possible, so handle it with care.
6. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and make sure the sides are well-covered, too. Remove the oil from your hands and flour them before you handle the dough. Pat it into a rectangle 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Cut the dough into 2 long pieces with a well-oiled pastry cutter. These will be your ciabatta loaves. Let the pieces rest for 1 to 2 hours.
7. Put a baking stone in the oven, if you have one, and if not, use an upside-down baking sheet. Heat the oven to 525 degrees.
8. Take out 2 more baking sheets and turn them over. Put parchment paper on each one, spray or lightly oil them, then dust with cornmeal. Gently transfer the dough loaves to each baking sheet.
9. Put a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet.
10. Slide one of the loaves of dough, parchment and all, onto the baking stone. Close the door, wait 1 minute, then reduce the heat to 475 degrees. After 8 minutes, turn the loaf 180 degrees. Bake for 10 more minutes or until well browned. Let cool for at least 20 minutes on a rack. Repeat with the other loaf.
11. To make the lemon-pepper oil, simply combine lemon zest, fresh black pepper and olive oil. Serve on the side.
Nutritional analysis per slice: 130 calories, 1 gram fat, 25 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, no cholesterol, 201 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 8 percent of calories from fat.
Adapted from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart
Easy dinner rolls
Makes 24 rolls
1/2 cup water
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
6 to 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter, for brushing the tops
1. Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over very low heat. When it’s just barely warm, or 100 to 110 degrees, pour it into a mixer bowl along with the yeast. Let this sit for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the yeast becomes foamy.
2. Add 5 cups of flour to the bowl and mix with the paddle attachment. The dough will be shaggy at this point; it won’t come together in a mass yet.
3. Remove the paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook.
4. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough becomes a smooth ball. (I just added 1 more cup; I only needed 6 cups, total.) Either knead for 4 to 5 minutes with the machine or by hand, until the dough is soft, elastic and slightly tacky.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl. Put the dough in the bowl, lightly oil the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Let this sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. It should puff up, doubling in size.
6. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Deflate the dough and gently remove it to the work surface. Pat it into an 8-inch-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut it lengthwise into 4 long strips; then 6 pieces per strip for a total of 24. Shape the dough into balls, put them on a baking sheet, and brush the tops with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Brush the tops with more melted butter and serve right away.
Nutritional analysis per roll: 164 calories, 4 grams fat, 24 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 312 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 24 percent of calories from fat.
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe