Italian Easter Bread

April 3, 2018

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Happy Easter! Yes, I do realize that Easter was back on Sunday, but I really wanted to share this recipe for this beautiful Italian Easter Bread with you, even though I’m doing so a bit late. Truth be told, I had every intention to have this posted on Saturday morning, before Easter, but then life got in the way and it just didn’t happen. But hey, as it turns out, folks celebrate Easter every single year, so with this recipe already in hand you’ll be way ahead of the game for Easter 2019.

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This light and airy Italian Easter bread is similar to brioche. Rich and only slightly sweet, it looks amazing on your Easter brunch table. If you have a real sweet tooth, you can amp up the sugar factor by adding a sweet glaze once it comes out of the oven.  These lovely loaves are also a great way to display your brightly colored Easter Eggs.

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I love trying out Easter breads from around the world. Last year I baked Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) . Tsoureki also has an egg or eggs baked into it.

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I’ve also made Slovak Paska

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And even tried my hand with the impressive Russian Kulich (Easter bread)

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And of course every year I bake Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.

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But let me get back to talking about this year’s offering – Italian Easter Bread. It was really very easy to make, rose like a champ and looked so festive on the brunch table. My only disappointment was the egg. The recipe said that you should use RAW eggs that have been dyed, not hard-boiled ones. The claim was that the eggs would cook perfectly as the bread baked. I was skeptical. I thought a baked egg would have a weird rubbery texture, but I was hopeful, so I did use raw eggs. Although it looks like Sprinkle Bakes (the blog on which I found this recipe) eggs came out great, mine did not. They were just not done, very runny. And I could not have left the bread in the oven for any longer than I did as it was perfectly golden. Turns out it wasn’t a disaster, we just ate around the offending egg. In the future I think I will just use a raw egg which has not been dyed, as a place holder in the oven. Once the bread is done baking, I will carefully remove that egg and swap it out for a perfectly hardboiled dyed egg. Another advantage of doing it that was is that you won’t have to worry about any of the eggs coloring bleeding onto the loaves. And don’t forget to rub your finished eggs with a little bit of oil to really make them shine!

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So, once again I hope you will forgive my tardiness with this Easter post. Please keep this Italian Easter Bread at the ready for next year. Happy be-lated Easter!

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Italian Easter Bread

  • Servings: 6 braided loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups (301 ml.) milk or half and half
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/16 teaspoon)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups (408 to 544 grams) bread flour (approximate)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Rainbow nonpareils
  • 6 raw eggs, room temperature, dyed in rainbow colors *please see my above note on use of raw eggs

Directions:

Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Warm just until the butter is completely melted and remove from the heat. Let cool until just warm.
Combine the yeast, salt, eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the warm milk and half of the flour. Knead with the dough hook until combined. Add more flour gradually until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixer. You may not have to use all of the flour (but I did!). Knead the dough about 3-5 minutes longer, or until completely smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it over once to coat the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place, about 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough with a fist. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and pat it down slightly so that the dough has an even thickness. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch thick rope about 14 inches in length. Take two lengths and twist them together; loop the twist into a circle and pinch the ends together. Place the circle onto parchment lined baking sheets. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small condiment cup. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle on the nonpareils and gently place a dyed egg in the middle of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and fragrant. Let cool on wire racks..

Notes:

  • For a simple milk glaze, mix 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar with 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Whisk together until smooth. A little vanilla extract couldn’t hurt, either.
  • After the dough is raised and turned out onto a work surface, 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit and 1/4 cup blanched almonds can be mixed in.  2 tablespoons of citrus zest may be added to the dough also.

Enjoy!

Italian Easter Bread brought to you by: Runcible Eats www.leaandjay.com

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Italian Easter Bread:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Hand Held Zester

Oxo Good Grips small silicone pastry brush

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

 

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Theresa’s Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream

March 12, 2018

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I can’t believe it! Here it is, March already. And St. Patrick’s Day is a mere 5 days away! That means it is time to start my annual St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-thon. In the days leading up to March 17th I will be sharing a delicious assortment of Irish-y recipes. I’ve been doing this for several years now, so I’ve collected 106 St. Patrick’s Days recipes at this point. Yup! I said over one hundred!!! And that doesn’t take into account all the delicious dishes coming your way this year. If you’d like to take a peek at my past St. Patrick’s Day posts, you can click Runcible Eat/Recipes up at the top navigation bar and scroll down to the St. Patrick’s Day category. That’s where you’ll find them! And stay tuned here for my latest additions. I am very excited to kick off this year’s series of Irish recipes with Theresa’s Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream.

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You may be thinking “Who’s Theresa?” – well let me tell you. Theresa is one of my best friends from college. She is amazing in the kitchen. I remember back when we were starving students, and practically surviving on buttered toast (and perhaps the occasional pint or two…), we had actually run out of sliced bread. I looked around the kitchen and quickly announced “We’ve got nothing to eat in there.” Theresa popped out to the kitchen and returned in no time with a big plate of warm fluffy lovely scones. Just like that! To me, who definitely was not of any use in the kitchen at that point (all my cooking skills developed post marriage) it was nothing short of magic! A couple of years ago, Theresa published her first cookbook where you can find the recipe for these scones and the strawberry jam along with over 100 other delicious seasonal fruit recipes. It is called Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen.

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Theresa runs a business, The Green Apron, which is an artisan preserve company. Theresa grows much of the fruit and vegetables she uses in her preserves at her family’s orchards at Derryclough and in the walled vegetable garden at her parents 18th Century castle, Glenwilliam.

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Her award-winning preserves are made in small batches by traditional methods using locally sourced, organic produce where possible and without artificial preservatives, colours or setting agents. The Green Apron has won 12 Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards, 7 International Great Taste awards and is listed not only in McKenna’s Guide, but also in Georgina Campbell’s Guide. The Green Apron is also now offering workshops on sustainable living, preserving and bee keeping.

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Theresa’s book, Fruit on the Table is a top 10 best-selling cookbook in Ireland , has won a Gourmond award there and has been selected to compete for an International Gourmond award. In her book, Theresa follows the seasons and tells you how best to keep fruit on your table all year round. It is an absolute treasure trove, filled not only with her family recipes for jams, jellies and chutneys but it also runs the full gambit of meals, including recipes for cocktails, snacks , mains and going all the way through to desserts. And it doesn’t stop with the mouthwateringly delicious recipes, Fruit on the Table also gives you the low down on growing your own fruit, the ins and outs of preserving, tips on foraging as well as drying fruit. I’m proud to be sharing these recipes from her book this year and I shared quite a few last year as well, but I’m telling you, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. You’ve just gotta get ahold of this essential cookbook. And if you find yourself in Limerick, you simply must stop by the Limerick Milk Market and pay the Green Apron shop a visit!

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I’m sure you must now be inspired to make both these tender fluffy scones as well as the divine strawberry jam with which they are topped. Your first step will be making the scrumptious Strawberry Jam. You will end up with a bit more jam than you require to slather over these scones, but it is great to have on hand. It is very versatile and you can use it many other recipes…hint, hint – it might make an appearance again later this week. Strawberry Jam is my favorite and this jam, free of pectin, is just bursting with strawberry goodness.

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And scones…Well, I just love them. With the first bite of these little gems you will understand why they are prize-winning.

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And topped with strawberry jam and clotted cream…I am absolutely over the moon! The Husband loves scones with jam and clotted cream as well. In fact, his first experience with this delicacy was in Dublin, shortly after we were married. As he gobbled down every morsel, I just might have heard him murmur “Where have you been all of my life?!!” And I’m fairly certain he was referring to the scones rather than me.

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As it turns out it recently came to my attention that there is an etiquette to topping your scone. My friend Keela informed me that spreading your scone with the clotted cream first and then dolloping your jam on top is the Devon way, whereas jam first and cream second is the Cornish way. I checked for the Irish method with my friend Theresa and she said butter goes on the scone first the jam and then cream. No one she is aware of puts the cream on first. Hmmm….the good news here is that Scones with Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream are pretty heavenly no matter which way the toppings go on. Make up a batch and see for yourself!

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Theresa's Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream

  • Servings: 18 dainty scones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen by Theresa Storey

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 300 ml (1/2 pint) milk
  • 450 grams (1 lb.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 110 grams (4 oz.) unsalted butter
  • strawberry jam (recipe to follow) and clotted cream for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).

Beat the eggs in a measuring jug with enough milk to make 300 ml (1/2 pint) of liquid. You will have a little milk left over.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add three-quarters of the liquid and mix well. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit more liquid or, if wet, add a bit more flour. You should have a soft dough that you can stick your finger through. (Don’t over-handle the dough or the scones will be tough.)

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick and cut into the desired shape. I use a 5 – cm (2 inch) round cutter usually, but sometimes I cut the dough into squares or diamonds.

Place the scones on a lightly floured baking tray and then brush the top with the remaining egg and milk mixture. This gives them a nice shine and color when they are cooked.

Bake for 10 -15 minutes or until they are golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Spread with strawberry jam and clotted cream. You can even go crazy and slather the scone with a little butter first before adding the other goodness. The sky is the limit!

Variations:

Add the zest of one lemon to the dry ingredients; or 2 tablespoons of raisins or sultanas; or ground cinnamon and the juice and zest of one orange. For savory scones, leave out the sugar and add herbs or grated cheese.

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients: 

  • 2 kg (4 1/2 lb) Strawberries (hulled and halved if big)
  • Juice of 3 large lemons
  • 150 ml (1/4 pint) water
  • 2 kg (4 1/2 lb) sugar

Directions:

Place a saucer into the refrigerator to chill. You will use it to test the setting point later.

Put the strawberries, lemon juice and the water into a preserving pot and cook over low heat until the juice starts to run from the berries and they begin to soften. Remove the pot from the heat and put it onto a sturdy work surface.

Take a potato masher and squash the strawberries in the pot. You don’t want them completely puréed but you do want them broken up. Give it about six mashes.

Put the pot back onto the stove and continue to cook the fruit over a low heat until the strawberries are completely soft and the juice starts to darken in color.

Add the sugar, stir in well, and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches settings point. Spoon a little of the boiling preserve onto the cold saucer. Let it cool and then push it with your finger. If it has reached setting point, the top of the blob of jam will wrinkle. You want strawberry jam to be barely set, because if you cook it for too long some of the flavor will be lost.

Pour into warm sterilized jars to within 6 mm (1/4 inch) of the top. Wipe any drips off the rims of the jars to make sure there is a good seal between the jar and lid. A dampened paper towel works well for this. Place lids on and seal.

Enjoy!

Theresa’s Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful kitchen tools & ingredients for Theresa’s Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream:

Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kilner Stainless Steel Jam Pan

Ball Mason 4 oz quilted jelly jars

Canning Magnetic Lid Wand

Norpro 600 Jar Lifter

Ball Canning Funnel

 


The Model Bakery’s English Muffins

February 1, 2016

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Here it is…February already. It seems the Husband and I made it through the recent blizzard event, lovingly dubbed “Snowzilla” relatively unscathed. And tomorrow, my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if perhaps Spring is on the way. Groundhog Day is nigh!

One extraordinary rodent!

One extraordinary rodent!

Phil & all the folks up in Punxsutawney aren’t the only folks celebrating now. February 1st, which falls half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, also marks the festivals of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas, all of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. Quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 5th year anniversary of  the my cooking blog! Yup… Five years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.

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I’ve posted some tasty “Anniversary Edition” recipes since then as well like Banana Rum Muffins:

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And last year I was able to successfully bake up a genuine Crack Pie!

IMG_0897So the pressure was on to pick a great dish to share on this my 5th Year blogging and I definitely have a winner for you: The Model Bakery’s English Muffins!

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I mean who doesn’t love an English Muffin? With all of those delightful nooks and crannies, it’s just the perfect vehicle for lashings of salty butter and sweet fruity jam. Seems I’m not alone in my adoration of the muffin. Folks have been enjoying these for a long, long while. Certainly you’ve heard the traditional English nursery rhyme “The Muffin Man”

Oh Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

In Victorian England folks were able to have fresh “muffins” delivered right to their door by a fellow known as….you guessed it, The Muffin Man. In 1874, Samuel Bath Thomas moved from Plymouth England to New York City. Once there he set up a bakery and began selling what he called “toaster crumpets”. They were similar to English crumpets but were thinner and pre-sliced. He was the founder of Thomas’s English Muffins which are still sold in many groceries today.41g0DUQLjuL

And whilst I’m thankful to Mr. Thomas, having enjoyed the convenience of easily buying a packet of English Muffins, whenever the mood struck me, I’ve got tell you…those store-bought muffins don’t really hold a candle to these homemade gems! Oh Good Lawd above! Once you taste these big honking, tender, moist & fluffy Homemade Muffins, you’ll be hooked. Sooooo worth the effort. You’ll never be found in the Muffin aisle of your local grocery again. (Sorry Mr. Thomas!)

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Now there are many recipes out there for homemade English Muffins, but this one from the Model Bakery reigns supreme! There is a reason their muffins were featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. The Model Bakery has been open in Napa for over 80 years. Dedicated to authentic artisan baking traditions, they specialize in Artisan Breads but also will tempt you with a complete range of pastry products. And if you’re not planning on visiting Napa anytime soon, they not only mail order some of their delicious baked goods, but have also published a great cookbook: The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery , so that you can bake them at home. I’m telling you these muffins are just heavenly. Larger than your usual English Muffin, they bake up wonderfully fluffy and light as a cloud, yet are substantial enough to hold up to any breakfast sandwich you might send their way.

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And with this dough, you don’t have to fiddle around with any old-fashioned muffin rings. You cook them up on a griddle, completely free form.  If you can resist eating the whole dozen in one sitting, a feat of self-restraint that would definitely be worthy of admiration, I’m glad to say these little darlings freeze well, allowing you to have these awesome muffins on hand at the drop of a hat! So what are you waiting for…

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The Model Bakery's English Muffins

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Difficulty: easy, but several steps and dough rising times to be factored in
  • Print

From: The Model Bakery Cookbook

Special thanks to Steven & Julie, fellow baking enthusiasts, for sharing this killer recipe with me!

Ingredients:

For the Biga:

  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
  • 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups / 315 ml water
  • 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows) as needed

Directions:

To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.

To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)

Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)

Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)

Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.

Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.

Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.

Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Psssst: If you can’t be bothered making your own clarified butter, you can just go buy some Ghee off the supermarket shelf or order on Amazon!)

Enjoy!

The Model Bakery’s English Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Helpful Links to Kitchen Tools & Ingredients I used in making these English Muffins:

So this is a new feature I’m adding to my blog. Below you will find a list of Amazon Links to some of the Kitchen Tools and Ingredients which may not be found in your local grocery store, that I used in making the above recipe. You certainly don’t have to order them from Amazon if you’d prefer not to, but you can at least take a look at them there and then proceed as you wish. You also might be able to make the recipe perfectly well without any of these tools, but I use them and feel they make things much easier for me.

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

Kitchen Aid Artisan Series 5 Qt. Stand Mixer

SAF Instant Yeast

Le Creuset 11 3/4″ Cast Iron Frying Pan

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 


Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

November 6, 2015

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Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

So….did I hear someone say “Indian Summer”? Because that is what we’ve got going on around here! Good grief! Here it is November and tomorrow it is supposed to hit 80°F! Let me tell you it is super bizarre seeing folks running around in shorts with all that lovely Fall foliage as their backdrop. And although most people seemed thrilled with the weather, it kind of makes me a bit uneasy. I’m afraid it portends no Fall whatsoever. One day it will be 80° F and with little notice at all, besides my head exploding as it usually does with big swings in temperature, the mercury will crash down to freezing. I hope I’m wrong. I love autumn and would like to get in a few brisk jacket days and bonfires before I’m buried in layers of wool!

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Luckily these Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins are great no matter what the temp, though the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors do give them a very Fall-type vibe. Though I must confess, no matter what the season, I just can’t get enough of them.

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These little muffins are kind of like a cross between a doughnut and a muffin. The batter is actually a doughnut batter, but then these muffins are baked, not fried. The buttermilk makes them oh so moist and tender. And the cinnamon/sugar coating is not only delicious and crunchy but also adds to the doughnut-ness of this treat. Now you can make these muffins full-sized, but I love to bake them in a mini muffin pan. The mini muffins are just the right size to pop straight into your mouth. You know, like a doughnut hole. And being so pint-sized, you won’t feel as guilty when you have more than one….Oh and believe me you will!

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Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

  • Servings: 30 mini muffins or 9-11 full-sized muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe from: Williams Sonoma

Ingredients: 

  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin or standard muffin tin with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill any unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Slovak Paska (Easter Bread)

April 3, 2015

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Is it really Good Friday already?!! Where has the time gone? It seems that I just finished writing about Malted Scáiltín Cupcakes on the last day of my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-polooza. I guess my little blogging vacation is over. Time to get back in the kitchen! And on this Good Friday I’d like to tell you all about a delicious bread, Paska, which is traditionally enjoyed at Easter in many Eastern European countries.

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Baking bread around Easter is certainly not new for me. Every Good Friday you will find me in the kitchen baking up a batch of Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns. These buns are delicious and because I am always very careful to bake them on Good Friday, they have some magical powers.

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It’s true. I always save at least one bun from my yearly batch. That bun, if you hang it in your kitchen, will not only protect your household from fires but will also work as a charm to ensure all of your bread baking endeavours will be successful. Indeed, a dried bun from the previous year, also has medicinal properties. You can grate a bit of it into the liquid of your choice to make a restorative elixir that will help sick folks regain their health. This powder can also be applied directly to wounds with the same curative results. So yup, I always bake up a batch on the appointed Friday. Not to mention I Love me some Hot Cross Buns and really, to be honest, I just love bread. Pretty much all bread. The only exception I can think of is Rye bread…I’m not too keen on that. Oh yeah and Irish Soda Bread which contains caraway seeds…but I’ve already told you how much I loathe that. Otherwise, bread is always welcome at my table. A couple of Easter’s ago I tried my hand at a Russian Easter Bread called Kulich. Kulich is a sweet yeast bread filled with spices, rum drenched raisins and apricots and topped with frosting and sparkling sugar.

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Todays Easter Bread, Slovak Paska, is an egg and butter rich bread which is light, fluffy and slightly sweet. The loaves are often decorated with Christian symbolism. As I mentioned, it is enjoyed in many eastern european countries with each country’s version slightly different, some with raisins, some without, some with cheese in the bread, or sour cream. Actually I’m sure Paska recipes vary from Granny to Granny, regardless of country borders. The recipe I chose is a Slovak Paska. I am not of Slovak descent, but did run the recipe by my friend John, who is and he definitely remembers his Granny making just such loaves of bread for Easter.

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Slovak Paska was easy to make. I couldn’t believe how high it rose! It really looks amazing and if you can believe it, it tastes even better! And while it is delicious all on its own, really you don’t even need to butter it….but hey – I will never pass up butter…

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we’re already drooling just thinking about it wrapped around a few slices of Easter ham. Not to mention the Easter morning Paska French toast! There’s still time for you to get in on this action. Bake up a loaf for your Easter table today.

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Slovak Paska (Easter Bread)

  • Servings: 20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup luke warm (98° – 105° F /36.5° -40.5° C) water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • coarse white sparkling sugar, optional

Directions:

**The King Arthur Flour site, where I first saw this recipe, simply instructs one to “Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – to make a soft, smooth dough.” This sounds very easy and straightforward to me. However, although everything I have ever made from a King Arthur recipe has been a success, that is not how I make the dough for yeast bread. I proceeded to make it how I am accustomed to doing it, which takes a few more steps. I have written them out below. Feel free to proceed with whichever method you prefer to arrive at a soft, smooth dough.**

Heat the milk, butter sugar and salt in a sauce pan over low heat until the butter and sugar are melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to luke warm.

Place the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave for 5 minutes or so until the yeast is foamy.

Add approximately 2 cups of flour to the bloomed yeast mixture and mix on low-speed until combined. Add the lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and the remaining flour. Mix until combined.  The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the mixer bowl. If the dough seems too “loose” slowly (1 tablespoon at a time) add flour until you see it pulling away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and adhering to the beater.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 -8 minutes until you have a soft smooth dough which springs back slowly when you poke your finger into it.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.

Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid.

Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough.

Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.

Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

Enjoy!

Slovak Paska brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


Dundee Cake with Hot Whisky Marmalade

January 20, 2015

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O.k. It seems like corks were just popping on New Year’s Eve and BAM...next thing I know we’ve nearly reached the end of January! Indeed the 25th will be happening this Sunday. So what is the significance of January 25th you might ask. Well, throughout the world, though especially in Scotland, folks will be celebrating with a Burns Night Supper to mark the occasion. Robert Burns, who is regarded as the National Poet of Scotland, was born on that day in 1759. I’m quite a Burns fan myself and will certainly be raising my glass to The Bard this weekend. I have given you some great Scottish recipes in the past in case you might be planning a Burn’s Night Supper of you own. Last year it was Scotch Egg Pie, which is a type of meat pie that has spicy sausage surrounding an inner circle of hard-boiled eggs all wrapped up in a buttery flaky pie crust.

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The year before I shared Cock-a-leekie soup

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 which I served with delicious, crusty Struan. Struan, also known as Celtic Harvest Bread, is thought to have taken its name from a town in Western Scotland called Struanmoor, on the Isle of Skye. It was originally enjoyed once a year as a harvest bread, using whatever grains were available from the previous day’s harvest. This is my absolute favourite bread, so it is almost always available in my house. It toasts up particularly brilliantly.

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The year before that it was Deviled Scotch Eggs.

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And I had also previously given you the traditional Scotch Egg recipe. If you don’t know what Scotch Eggs are, believe me it is time that you find out! Basically it is  a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage and then deep-fried. Good Lord Have Mercy!

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So I have already set the bar pretty high for myself when it comes to Scottish delicacies for your Burn’s Night Supper. Nevertheless, I think I’ve risen to the challenge yet again. This year I’m going to turn my attention from the savory to the sweet. I’ve got a great Scottish dessert I’d like to share with you, Dundee Cake with Hot Whisky Marmalade Sauce. Now I bet that’s got you drooling huh?

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Dundee Cake is a famous traditional Scottish fruit cake which hales from…bet you guessed it already huh? Yup…Dundee. You see, there is a famous marmalade company, Keiller’s, which is located in Dundee and they are credited with developing this recipe in the 19th Century. Actually, there is a chance that although they popularized this cake at that time, the recipe is much older, dating back to the 16th century perhaps. The legend goes that Mary Queen of Scots did not like glace cherries in her cakes. I can’t say I blame her. I think those things are quite suspicious to say the least. So the classic fruit cake recipe was somewhat altered for her and a cake was made without the usual cherries, but with blanched almonds instead.

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Dundee Cake is often served at Christmas time throughout the British Isles, but definitely in Scotland. Indeed, recently the town of Dundee has put in a bid to have Dundee Cake awarded a Protected Geographical Indicator Status from the European Commission. That will prevent anyone who is not from Dundee from selling a cake labeled as Dundee Cake. You know, it is like Champagne. Champagne is only bottled in Champagne France. If it is produced in any other locale, it is not Champagne and needs to be called Sparkling wine. If the Dundee Cake is awarded PGI status, consumers will have 100% guarantee of its authenticity and confidence that they will enjoy all of the unique characteristics that have long been associated with this type of cake traditionally made in Dundee.

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So what is this cake like? Well, it is delicious of course! And don’t even start raising your eyebrows and giving me that “are you kidding me… it is a fruit cake” kind of face. Unlike many fruitcakes you might have encountered in the past that were most likely used as a door stop rather than eaten, this cake is light and buttery with a touch spice and warm citrus notes. Not to mention that it is chock full of juicy, whisky soaked fruit and festooned with circles of almonds.

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Notice I spelled whisky properly here. When referring to Scotch, there is no “e” in whisky. And speaking of whisky, don’t forget that each slice of this moist, rich cake should be served with a generous pour of Hot Whiskey Marmalade Sauce and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Yum! It will change everything you thought you knew about fruitcakes! I hope I have inspired you to host a Burns Night Supper of your own or at least to raise a wee dram and drink a toast to Scotland’s Favourite Son this Sunday.

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Dundee Cake with Hot Whisky Marmalade Sauce

  • Servings: one 8 inch cake
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Epicurious

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Scotch whisky (plus more for soaking fruit)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup dark raisins
  • 3/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel (I used mixed candied peel from King Arthur Flour)
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • Whole blanched almonds (Can’t find pre-blanched almonds in the store? No problem. See instructions below**.)

For the Hot Whisky Sauce:

  • 2/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 3 tablespoons whisky
  • 4 oranges

Freshly whipped cream for serving.

Directions:

For the cake:

The night prior to baking, place the raisins and currants in a bowl. Pour enough whisky over fruit to cover it. Allow fruit to soak overnight. This is an optional step, but I believe that it not only allows the fruit to plump up a bit, but it gives it a wonderful boozy flavour!

Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter 8-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; line bottom with parchment paper. You could also use a springform pan or if your 8″ cake round does not have 2″ high sides, line the sides with parchment paper to gain the 2″ height. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spice into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, whisky, and grated orange peel in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir in dry ingredients, then all dried fruits and candied peel. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake 1 hour. Remove cake from oven. Brush top with 2 tablespoons marmalade. Arrange almonds around edge, pressing lightly to adhere. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes longer. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.) Turn cake out of pan; peel off parchment. Place upright on plate.

For the Whisky Sauce:

Combine marmalade and whisky in medium saucepan. Cut all peel and white pith from oranges. Working over bowl to catch juices, cut between membranes, releasing orange segments. Add 2 tablespoons orange juice from bowl to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until marmalade melts and sauce is heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer sauce to serving bowl.

Serve cake with warm sauce, orange segments, and whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Dundee Cake with Hot Whisky Marmalade Sauce brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

*Don’t have pumpkin pie spice?: Pumpkin pie spice is a combination of mostly cinnamon, with some ginger, allspice and nutmeg added into the mix. This recipe only calls for 1/8 tsp. of the spice. You could just add a dash of the above spices and call it a day.

**How to blanch almonds: Take raw unsalted almonds and drop them in boiling water. Allow them to boil for 60 seconds, but no longer. Remove almonds to a colander and rinse them with cold water. Blot them dry with a paper towel. The skins can easily be removed at this point by simply squeezing the almond between your fingers. Let the almonds dry entirely. Voila! You now have blanched almonds ready to use in this recipe.


Christmas in Vermont Bread

January 16, 2015

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So wooo-wheee! That’s it!! The holidays are over!!! Now please don’t take my obvious joy at that statement as a hint that perhaps I have a bit of a  “grinchy” attitude towards Christmas.

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I don’t…for the most part anyway, though I feel a disclaimer should pop up here saying something like ” Mood subject to change a the drop of a hat”. There are a lot of things about the holidays that I enjoy, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t a whole heck of a lot of work. So I do admit when they are finally done and dusted, I am definitely relieved as well as somewhat delighted. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this past Christmas and whipped up some delicious treats. As usual, before everything was in a full frenzied Christmas whirl, I swore that I would take the time to get pictures of all of the delicacies that I made. And as usual, guess what? Things got hectic and heated and as if you hadn’t guessed from my sudden disappearance from the blog-a-shpere around mid-December, yeah, I didn’t really get any photos….Except….Of one of my favourite new recipes this year, Christmas in Vermont Bread. I love, love, LOVE this bread. The fact that I snapped photos of it are nothing short of a Christmas miracle in itself, so I just had to share it with you, even though Christmas is indeed gone. (I might be doing one of those jumping up and down hands waving about over  the head silent cheers right now.)

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This bread was very easy to make and looks pretty impressive if I do say so myself. It is a soft and tender sweet yeast bread which has a scrumptious ribbon of pecan and maple sugar running through the middle as well as generously sprinkled over the top.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, there is also an addictive maple sugar glaze drizzled liberally over the top. Great to gobble down toasted (the bread, not yourself…though the festive holiday season has been known to involve a bit of tipple or two…) with lashings of butter, or to take to a holiday get together or even give as a gift! As I mentioned, it is easy to make with one caveat. It does call for Maple Sugar, which might be difficult for you to find. King Arthur Flour sells it on their site or you could always order from Amazon. Or you could always just substitute brown sugar. (I really like the Maple flavour though, so you might want to plan ahead and procure the true blue maple stuff) Bottom line is this bread is amazing! It will be a Christmas tradition around here without a doubt. But I should mention, it would also be lovely to have at Thanksgiving. I think all of its warm maple and pecan flavours certainly evoke a Fall-time, Thanksgiving -y vibe. Heck, who am I kidding. I’m sure the next time you check in with me I’ll have a loaf of “Easter in Vermont Bread” or “Height of Summer” in Vermont Bread. It is that good, there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyed year round. Unless you’re concerned about being able to zip your britches up I suppose. I don’t know, maybe skinny jeans are over-rated. Stretchy yoga pants are quite fashionable now a days. But I digress….I guess what I’m saying is that this Christmas in Vermont Bread is worth a little indulgence. You should give it a try, no matter what time of year. I guarantee you will be hooked!

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Christmas in Vermont Bread

  • Servings: 16 -18 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk (reserve the white)

 For the Filling and topping:

  • 1/2 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup pecan meal or almond flour, or very finely ground pecans or almonds
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

For the Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup glazing sugar or confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Melt the butter in the milk, and let cool to lukewarm (98° – 105°F). Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead them—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—until you have a very soft, shiny, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

To make the filling: Stir together all of the filling ingredients until they form coarse crumbs. Set them aside.

Grease a large tube pan. (make it a large one – lots of ovenspring here). Scoop about half of the dough into the greased pan. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the filling atop the dough. Top with the remaining dough.

Beat the reserved egg white till foamy. Brush over the dough, and sprinkle with the remaining filling/topping. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, or till puffy.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool while you make the glaze. Mix the glaze ingredients together and heat them, in a saucepan or in the microwave, till the sugar dissolves. Place the loaf on a serving plate and drizzle with the warm glaze. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

Enjoy!

Christmas in Vermont Bread brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


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