Breads, Biscuits, Bagels and Such

Slow Cooker Herb Loaf
I love this recipe. It’s a great alternative for those of us who love home-baked bread in the summer but don’t own a bread machine and hate to light the oven. And when the oven is full (think turkey), the slow cooker provides a useful alternative).

2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 packet instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water, divided
2 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour (more as needed)
3 tablespoons herbs (your choice of rosemary, thyme, basil, chives, parsley) chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk

Remove the cooker bowl and preheat the cooker (high). Oil the bowl and line with a greased parchment paper liner. Sprinkle with cornmeal.

In a small bowl, stir yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water and let stand in a warm place until very foamy (10 minutes). In a large bowl, mix flour, herbs, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, olive oil, and remaining water. Mix by hand until a dough begins to form.

Knead on a well-floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. To prevent sticking, add up to 3/4 cup additional flour. Place dough in the prepared cooker bowl and brush the top with the milk. Let stand in warm place for 5 minutes to rest.

Place bowl in slow cooker, cover and bake on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the dough springs back when lightly pressed on top and the sides of the loaf are browned. Remove the bowl and place on a dry folded towel. After 5 minutes, turn bowl upside down and shake to release the loaf. Place loaf under the broiler to brown (2-3 minutes–optional). Cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long).

Mesquite Cornmeal Muffins
You can purchase mesquite flour online, if you can’t find it locally. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a mesquite tree in the neighborhood, see if you can find enough ripe beans to grind into mesquite meal. Go here to read about my adventure with mesquite meal and to check out another muffin recipe.

1/2 cup mesquite meal
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 green chile, diced, or 1 can green chiles, chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced

Preheat oven to 400°. Blend mesquite meal, flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine olive oil, eggs, and milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry, mixing until just wet. (Don’t over-mix. A few lumps are fine.) Lightly stir in chiles and onions. Fill greased muffin tins about two-thirds full and bake about 20 minutes in 400° oven. Remove from tin and cool on rack.

Rosemary Bagels
Bagels are yeast breads that are boiled, then baked. These rosemary-flavored bagels are easy to make and a favorite at our house. But do give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the process.

4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 to 1/4 cup unbleached flour, as needed

Mixing and rising: Combine dry ingredients and rosemary in a large bowl. Stir in the water and oil. (If it’s humid, water should be cool; if humidity is low, lukewarm. When the humidity is low, moisture is drawn from the dough, inhibiting rising. The warmth gives the yeast a bit of a boost.)

Kneading: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, using additional flour as needed to create a slightly sticky, smooth, pliable dough. Cover it with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Shaping and rising: Flatten each ball slightly, and poke your thumb through the middle to create a hole. Pull the bagel gently to widen the hole to about 1 1/2”. Place the bagels 2″ apart on a cornmeal-covered surface and allow to rest 40-60 minutes, uncovered, until they hold their shape when you pick them up.

Boiling: Boiling is what gives the bagels their dense, chewy texture. Use a pan large enough to hold four bagels. Fill nearly to the top and bring to a slow boil. Place the risen bagels gently in the water. For lighter texture, boil for 1 minute on each side; for denser texture, 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a rack to dry for a few minutes. Repeat with remaining bagels.

Baking: Place each bagel in a plate of cornmeal to coat the bottom. Arrange on a greased baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 20 minutes, turning the bagels halfway through. Cool slightly, then slice.

China’s Jalapeño Cornbread
The jalapeño peppers give this cornbread a little zing, but if you don’t want the heat, leave them out. The pimentos give it a bit of nice color. We love this cornbread with a bowl of chile or hearty beef stew.

1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated onion
1 cup cream style canned corn
1/2 cup chopped jalapeño peppers, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons chopped canned pimentos
1 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mix dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, and eggs. Beat well. Add remaining ingredients and stir until blended Pour into greased muffin tins, cornbread pan, or greased cast-iron skillet. Bake at 425° about 25 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Queenie’s Rosemary Biscuits
This recipe comes from Blood Root, one of my favorite China Bayles’ mysteries. Do yourself a favor and mince those rosemary leaves. It’s no fun to get rosemary stuck in your teeth.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoon cold shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried, chopped very fine

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Stir in remaining ingredients. Turn out onto floured board and knead 10-12 times. Cut out 2″ rounds and place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-14 minutes. Serve warm with butter and honey.

Currant-Rosemary Scones
British scones typically have less butter and sugar than American biscuits because the Brits love to slather their scones with butter and jam–especially gooseberry jam. Starting with soft butter (instead of cold) means that the texture is more like cake, rather than like a flaky biscuit. As well, our British cousins usually cut their scones in wedges instead of circles. No currants? Substitute raisins or dried cranberries. That is, unless you’re having a Brit to tea–in which case leave out the extras (raisins, cranberries, rosemary) and stock up on gooseberry jam.

1/2 cup currants
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced very fine
1 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk

Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add butter and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles coarse meal. Add currants and minced rosemary. Combine sour cream and egg and add to flour mixture. Stir until it comes together–use a light hand, please. Don’t overmix. Place on floured board and knead very lightly just until the mass holds together. Pat out to a rectangle about 3/4” thick and cut in half. Cut each half into 4 triangles. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.