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Posts from the ‘Breakfast’ Category

crêpes au chocolaté

As full as life is these days, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share a special treat that a MOM might like. Besides, I promised a mom I would.

I’ve shared another crêpe recipe with you previously (“plain,”  yet not-so-plain, and simply wonderful) – partly because of its versatility, savory or sweet, it remains our favorite.

Don’t misunderstand – today’s crêpe is no slouch! And it steps in to fill the cockles of a chocolate-lover’s heart…it  might even be the one to make a Mom or Grandma swoon….if you aim for that sort of thing.


With a plateful of warm crêpes of chocolate, you’ll be faced with choices…What to pool inside? What to dribble over?

♥ A mixture of sour cream & crème fraîche, sweetened & flavored with vanilla, tucked inside (see below), and fresh berries toppled over…

 Or perhaps the yogurt of your choice, and then once again berries on top…

♥ Or even sliced bananas tucked inside and then a good dollop of cinnamon-scented whipped cream…and even an extra drizzle of chocolate…

 You might decide to roll them instead of folding them like hankies…

 You can dust the finished crêpes with either dark chocolate or confectioners sugar…or both…

For a dessert:

 Maybe you’d like to macerate your berries in melted raspberry sorbet first – you’ll know what to do with them from there…!

 You might like a softened vanilla ice-cream inside & a rich chocolate sauce dribbling over the edges of your hankies…


NOTE:  Keep in mind that it’s best to prepare these at the very least one hour ahead of cooking. Two hours is better. Overnight, or a full day ahead, is great! This allows the flour molecules to become fully hydrated and the crêpes to become their tenderest.


Chocolate Crêpes

Makes 12 – 8 to 9-inch crêpes


Butter – 1 Tablespoon

Bittersweet Chocolate – 1½ ounces (40 g) – chopped

Milk – 1 cup (250 mL)

Large Eggs – 2 

Sugar – ¼ cup (55 g)

Vanilla Extract – 1 teaspoon

All-Purpose Flour – 1 cup (125 g)



Into a small to medium saucepan place the butter, chocolate and milk and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat.

Using a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the vanilla and then the flour. Now beat in the chocolate milk mixture, slowly at first to eliminate lumps from forming. Pour the mixture into a pitcher or jug.  (If lumps are present, strain into the pitcher.)

Allow to sit for at least one hour. See NOTE above.

Check the consistency of your batter. It should be like a thin cream…add small amounts of milk, mixing thoroughly, until desired consistency is reached.

When it’s time to cook your crêpes, a non-stick skillet (8 – 10″) will work best. But any skillet of this size will work…they will just require a spraying or a buttering/oiling of the pan from time to time. Crêpes are better if they’re drier, but don’t let this stand in your way of a treat!

Heat the oven to 150°F (65°C) and place a plate inside. Place your skillet over medium high and allow it to come to temperature.

(Count on the first one or two crêpes being trials, just as in pancakes.)

Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll only need 1½ to a scant 3 Tablespoons of batter per crêpe. Once your pan has reached temperature, raise it off the heat and drop in the batter, tilting the pan in a circular motion so that it coats the bottom of the pan evenly. Any holes can be filled with a touch of additional batter. When the underside is cooked and the topside is mostly dried (only about 1 minute!) lift one edge with a butter knife, or a skinny spatula (or even your fingers) and flip it to finish the crêpe – 30 seconds or so.

Place them on the heated plate in the oven (covered with foil) as you prepare the others, or serve them as they come out of the pan, as you prefer.ChocolateCrepes-10

These crêpes will freeze well if prepared ahead. Simply place parchment paper or waxed paper squares between them, and then placed in a freezer bag. Allow them to come to room temperature and then gently reheat them in a warm oven. Then fill and prepare as you like.

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getting my way with granola

…and you getting  yours.

This has been a busy season for me, one project or commitment rolling into another. Deep messes and deadlines, some utter joys, others a bit…not. I’m poking my head up again to say hello and that I think the way is clearing.

As loaded as a schedule might get around here, breakfast is one meal that’s never forgotten. (Lunch and dinner are the other two.) I know some of you are quite content to break the fast at noon, but we need Fuel around here and we need it early. During the week, breakfast for us is frequently a bowl of good (unflavored) yogurt, topped with toasty, very crunchy, nutty  granola imbued, through and through, with the tropical aroma of coconut.  (And then there’re the extras, which hold your horses we’ll get to further down.)


It’s quite simple, not too sweet, not too fatty, and (we think) quite delicious.


Golden Granola

with coconut & almonds


Old Fashioned Rolled Oats*  – 3 cups

Shredded or Flaked* Coconut – Unsweetened – 1 cup

Slivered Almonds ½ cup

Sesame Seeds – raw – ½ cup

Ground Flaxseed – ¼ cup

Maple Syrup – ¼ cup

Honey – ¼ cup

Coconut Oil (or see alternatives below) – ¼ cup

Raw Sunflower Seeds – ½ cup


* We prefer flaked, for toasty little ribbons of coconut.

*Oats available gluten-free


Preheat oven to 300°F.  In a baking dish (11 x 14 or thereabouts) mix all ingredients except the sunflower seeds. Add them after other ingredients are combined.

Slide the granola into the oven and set timer for 1 hour. (It may take longer.) Every fifteen to twenty minutes, give it a good stir so that it all browns evenly. Bake until toasty, crisp and evenly brown. In our oven that’s about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Cool. Store airtight.


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lavender blueberry scones

Imagine this … a little girl turning 4. She tells her mother she knows exactly what she wants for her birthday. She’ll ask all her funnest of friends to dress in their finest of fine. She’ll tell them each to bring along their favorite furry stuffed companion.  And they’ll all come, laughing and tittering to her tea party! The stuffed friends will have their own table with their own tea set and treats. { They’ll get to know each other this way.}  And all the girls will gather around a table set with floral linens, lace doilies, silver tea service, brilliant bouquets of flowers, all sorts of fruits in bite-size, and scones in miniature. { Some will even practice speaking in their idea of a good British accent. } And when their tummies are full they can all retire to the lawn out back and be blindfolded and spun and play pin the cup on the saucer; then they’ll take turns (being as how they’re young ladies) swinging upside down like monkeys from the swing set!

This was Clara’s idea of the perfect birthday party.

Not a one of us could disagree.

When Clara was first learning to say her name, she called herself Lala. We’ve a hard time calling her anything but Lala ever since because Lala somehow suits her best.

~  She’s a sweet little song in the mouth, that girl!  ~

And thus, we’ve named these little treats…

Lala’s Lavender & Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon lavender sugar (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick ( 4 ounces ) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup ( approximately ) buttermilk

1/4  to 1/3 cup dried blueberries

2 Tablespoons butter melted ( for brushing )

several tablespoons lavender sugar ( for sprinkling )


NOTE: to make  lavender sugar  (a treat more scrumptious than perhaps you can imagine!) :

Place 1 Tablespoon culinary lavender (you can find sources on line or I’ll share one at the bottom of the post)

along with 1 Tablespoon sugar in a little spice grinder. Whir til all the bits are fully incorporated into the sugar. (This will be a fine lavender-y powder.) Now stir this in with 2 cups of granulated sugar. Mix thoroughly. Store in a lidded jar. Wait about 2 days before using, and then use frequently – on sliced fruits (berries, peaches)! Dusting cookies. In your tea. In dozens of desserts to replace regular sugar. Once you’ve tasted this sweetness you’ll figure it out!

I’ve used a mini-scone pan for these, but you can make them without. Simply cut as instructed and lay out about 1/4-inch apart on a baking sheet.


Preheat oven to 375F (190C)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingers, squeezing the pieces of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Allowing some largish pieces of butter to remain will add to the scones’ flakiness. Add the dried blueberries and stir.

Pour in  2/3 cup of buttermilk and, using a fork, mix only until the ingredients are just moistened. What you’ll have at this point is a soft dough with a rather rough look. (If the dough is dry and crumbly add 1 teaspoon or so more buttermilk.)

Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it together gently until it holds together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it briefly. About a dozen turns should do the trick.

Before kneading.

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buttermilk cornmeal pancakes with warm Cherry sauce

Earlier this season I was asked to participate in the Northwest Cherries ~ Tree to Table campaign, bringing dishes from chefs around the country to our tables at home. I said Yes, and then…life threw a few curve balls our way. I caught a couple balls but sadly dropped the cherries. Luckily (for us in the NW anyway) our produce stands are still teeming with beautiful cherries so I thought I’d bring you breakfast.

I’m still hoping to bring you one gorgeous dessert from a phenomenal chef, famous in these parts, but recently I’ve learned, while keeping hopes high, it’s best to keep promises to a minimum.

These are whole-grain pancakes made with cornmeal and white whole wheat flour, and it’s buttermilk that keeps them deliciously tender. They’re topped with a seductive warm cherry sauce scented with orange and cloves. It seems to me a fitting breakfast for this time of year caught between warm summer days and crisp fall mornings.

Cornmeal Pancakes with Warm Cherry Sauce


  • 1 cup medium-grind (or fine to medium-) stone ground cornmeal (4 oz.)
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour (2.25 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cherry Sauce:

  • 2 cups sweet pitted cherries (about 10 ounces – do not thaw if using frozen)
  • ¼ cup water (+ 1 Tablespoon later)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1 orange)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

* You may have noticed…I generally have a preference for mixing varieties of fruit when cooking with them. I think it’s visually more appealing, but more important I think the flavor profile is broadened and deepened…what one variety lacks, another makes up for. For this sauce, I used Bing and Rainier cherries.


In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in buttermilk and olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. (Don’t over mix or your tender cakes will turn tough. There should be lumps.) Set aside for 15 minutes – or longer if need be, but not less than.

If you’re going to be making the pancakes all at once and then serving everyone together, place a large baking sheet in a 200°F oven, on the middle rack.

In the meantime, prepare the cherry sauce. Combine the cherries, ¼ cup water, honey, orange zest and cloves in a small saucepan. 

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, cover partially, and set aside for the flavors to marry.

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just another ‘ordinary’ breakfast in India

Last fall I introduced you to my friend Amit who grew up in Delhi, India. (See a wonderful rice and beans dish of his mother’s, Rajmah, that I posted at the time.) Amit, a man who loves all things associated with the kitchen, has inspired me in my own. Now borrowed from him are chai, rice and bean dishes, chutney, a couple salads and several curries that he brought to the US when he immigrated here. This is Amit’s father’s birthday month and in honor of that, I was asked if I could share a favorite dish of his Dad’s too. I told my good friend I’d be happy to.

Have you ever heard the expression that a person grows into the name he or she was given? It appears to be the case with Amit’s father, a gregarious man with a smile that lights up his entire face, and possibly the entire room. His name: Prakash Chandra Jain. Prakash means light, and Chandra – moon! Can you imagine being given such a name?! And then, having the privilege of growing into it?

Seen here with wife Anjana, at the wedding of their son Moni to his new bride, Richa.

~ ~ ~

Sri Prakash Chandra, since retired, had his career as an experimental physicist.  He’s always been an exacting man – both in his lab and in the kitchen where he loved to cook for his family. His interest in the culinary world was already well-evidenced by the time he was a young man in college where he took the lead in his dorm’s dining hall — purchasing the food, planning the recipes for the cooking staff and in general, managing the kitchen. Experimentation wasn’t restricted to his physics lab either – he’s been known to work and work on a recipe until he’s perfected it. And one of his favorite dishes is one that Amit and his family grew up eating on a typical (ever-delicious) Delhi morning.

Paranthas stuffed with cauliflower & spices

served with cumin raita and an out-of-this-world green chutney

Sounds complicated, no? Well, it’s not a bowl of instant oatmeal or a cereal bar grabbed on the way out the door (but who writes of that?)  It’s sit-down food, meant for moments to savor.

Cauliflower stuffing

  • 1 medium cauliflower, shredded (using a coarse grater)
  • Grated ginger root (using fine grater) – a piece about 1 x 1-inch
  • Cilantro: 2 to 3 Tablespoons, chopped (Amit’s family uses leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional, but we like) – minced

(NOTE: Amit has also made this stuffing with purple potatoes, cooked & chopped finely, then prepared as in the directions for this stuffing. How very pretty that would be.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and sauté until just slightly brown. Add the cauliflower and spices. Cook uncovered over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (or until tender).

Should you have any left over, this stuffing is delicious to eat as a side.

Green Chutney

fresh ginger – 1 inch x ½ inch piece

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

15 – 20 leaves of fresh mint

2 whole bunches of fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1½ salt  (Amit likes 2)

juice of 2 limes

1 jalapeño – ribs and seeds removed

¼ to ½ water (more like 3/8)

1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt  (optional – I wanted to preserve the brilliant green color so didn’t add)

3 Tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

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insanely good buttermilk pancakes

Our breakfast choices are one of the ways we set the weekend days apart and call them special. Call them restful. Call them sweet. Call the family together, or call a friend. I think we need a day every once in a while in which we can find no good reason to change out of our pajamas – until maybe mid-afternoon in time for dinner.

Alton Brown – you know him? The quirky celebrity chef-author, droll sense of humor, with the  fascinating scientific why’s for everything that takes place in the kitchen. Have you seen all his visual aids? They’re crazy! He’s like “teacher of the year” for foodies! This is from him…

Put together the dry ingredients here, seal in a container, and then simply add a couple cups of this mix to a few wet ingredient when you’re ready for pancakes. Less to measure, less to wash, more reason to eat more pancakes. More reason to stay in pajamas.

These are incredibly light and the flavors perfectly balanced. I think you might love…

Ingredients for the “instant” pancake mix

(yields a bit more than 6 cups, making for 3 batches of fresh buttermilk pancakes)

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake very well to mix. And be sure to do so before each use – (otherwise the ingredients will tend to settle out, heavier on the bottom, and what you’ll get won’t be what you’ll want.)

Use the mix within 3 months. That should be no problem. 

“Instant” Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk *
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups “Instant” Pancake Mix, recipe above
  • 1 pat of butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired
  • zest of ½ to 1 whole lemon finely minced (optional, but wonderful)

*  have you made yours yet? you can follow the link to see how.

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350° F (175° C). Heat oven to 200°F (95° C).

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. (Just long enough to beat a little air into the them. Not looking for much of a change.) In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter along with the lemon zest. (Alton Brown makes the case for what might be seen as a bit of “fussiness”. You should trust him though. Just do as he says.) 

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk these together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out. You WANT lumps, because you want light-as-a-cloud fluffycakes.

lumpy like me

~ ~ ~

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“pint-size” spinach souffles

Soufflés – you thought they were beyond you? Tricky, prone to collapsing into an eggy puddle? Or perhaps you thought that only the French have that certain “something”, perhaps in their very genes – an innate knowledge of how to coax great heights out of these poofy delicacies, using the only love language eggs understand. It’s a common misconception, but it’s just Not So! There’s nothing about this dish that puts it out of your league…I can almost promise you that. Making a soufflé in a larger dish, that IS a bit trickier, more prone to collapsing, or rising very lopsided in the first place…but baking each portion in its own little ramekin or cocotte is nearly fool-proof. And really…how cute?

Soufflés aren’t just for breakfast or brunch either. When paired with a crunchy baguette and salad, soufflés make for a light and satisfying dinner. (Pour a bottle of French wine, and they’ll feel right at home.)

Mini Spinach Soufflés

  • 3½ ounces (90 grams) baby spinach leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 g) butter (+ extra for buttering ramekins)
  • ½ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs total – the whites of 3, the yolks of 2
  • 1½ cups milk (350 ml)
  • ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • dash or 2 nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Butter the ramekins or mini-cocottes.

If you aren’t using spinach that was pre-washed (3 times) when you bought it, it’s best to wash again and dry thoroughly. Place the dried spinach in a blender and process until fairly finely chopped.

Separate eggs. Place 2 of the yolks in a small bowl, and gently whisk.

The béchamel (white sauce): In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir to blend. Gradually add the milk, stirring or lightly whisking all the while, until mixture has come to a boil and thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add dash or 2 of grated nutmeg. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add a spoonful at a time to the beaten yolks, stirring constantly. Once you’ve added a few spoonfuls to gradually warm the egg yolks, add them to the saucepan stirring as you do so. Stir in all of the spinach and half of the grated cheese. Set aside for the mixture to cool. Read more

where do you look for sunshine?

When rain in Seattle or Portland makes national news, you know things are about as bad as they get here. Standing water on freeways, drains unable to keep pace with the deluge,  stretches of highway closed, even a few small towns along rivers evacuated. We get grey days, and mostly gentle (and occasionally incessant) rain here, but not monsoons that turn umbrellas inside out and flood boots with the rain that falls fast down our jackets.  I was hydroplaning down the freeway about 10 miles an hour below speed limit, heading toward a long (and long-overdue) coffee date with a dear friend. Carolyn had been out of town for more than a month and I’d missed her. I was thinking of her sunny self as I tried to see through the waterfall that was my windshield. I was thinking too about where it is we go looking for sunshine when our eyes and skin are hungry for it.

Carolyn and I sat drinking our large steamy cups of chai, catching up with the parts of each other’s lives we’d missed. And then, from beneath the table she brought out a canvas banana with a zipper along one side. “Bananagrams,” she said. “You’re going to love it!” She spilled the tiles onto the table, and we turned them over, letters face-down,  as she explained how the game is played. Carolyn was right of course, my friend knows me. From here on out, along with my camera, Bananagrams go where I go.

~ ~ ~

Not long ago I’d visited a fellow-blogger  – Violets and Cardamom – and was struck by her pretty mango lassi.  It was lovely.

Today, I winged my own with several changes. Knowing the deliciousness of the pairing of mango, coconut, ginger, lime, cardamom and banana, it was a simple matter to drop them into a blender, whir them up, pour them out, and stick a straw into a glass of gleaming sunshine.

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German apple pancake

No food tradition in our family is longer-lived than the German apple pancake. So central a family holiday tradition, so beloved, for years it even served as the “secret password” between my daughters and me. We never needed to use it, but it was comforting knowing it was there. ; )

Every Christmas morning for our children’s lives our house would fill with the sweet perfume of cinnamon and nutmeg and caramelizing apples. Every Christmas morning, the girls’ eyes, and later on, the boy’s, would pop at the big puff of a pancake as it came from the oven. (It’s a bit of a wonderment really.) From the oven, I’d slip it onto a warm platter and then –  into the golden heart of it a steaming skillet-ful of glistening caramelized apples would tumble. I think it’s become impossible for any of us now to separate Christmas morning from the pancake.

As true as that is, we enjoy this special breakfast too much to relegate it to one morning a year. It manages to show up at birthday breakfast tables by request, and occasionally it appears just because  someone’s in need of a little extra lovin’ or an atta-boy or -girl! This year we’ll bring it the New Year’s table too. It’s how our family celebrates with breakfast.

So disappointed I forgot to include the cranberries for this one – it’s positively beautiful with them.

German Apple Pancake

serves 6 to 8 

the pancake:

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour (3¾ oz. – 105 g.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons butter

the apples:

  • 1½ pounds apples (up to 2 pounds will work) – Granny Smith are a good choice
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (either new or freshly grated is best)
  • ½ cranberries (optional)

the sprinkling of snow:

  • powdered sugar

Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Into a blender (or food processor) break 3 eggs. Add milk and vanilla, and process for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, salt and sugar and process until lumps are gone, about 15 seconds. (Don’t overmix.) Allow to “bloom” – for flour to absorb the liquids completely – at least 15 minutes, and as long as overnight. Briefly mix again before pouring in the pan.

With oven at 500°F, melt 1½ Tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat- cast iron works very well for this. When the butter has turned to foam, swirl it around the bottom of the pan, and slightly up the sides. Pour in the pancake batter and place the pan in the oven. Promptly lower the heat to 425°F. Cook for 10 minutes at this setting, and then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for about 15 minutes longer. (If during the initial stages of the baking, the center of the pancakes bubbles up and forms a little mountain, pierce it with a long handled fork. No worries if it doesn’t completely flatten though because the apples will take care of most of that.) Like magic, the sides of the pancake will rise up and form a bowl.  Read more

a Christmas bread – Panettone

I caught a little flack from family for sharing the caramel corn. Some thought (kiddingly I’m sure) that it ought to be “sacred,” a family secret, vaulted away. These are NOT stingy people! They’re tremendously generous. Their hearts are huge. But they did have serious qualms about my going public with Ruthie’s caramel corn.

And yet…I’m here to share. So while I’m at it (and already in questionable standing with the family)… here comes another recipe from our holiday house to yours.

This bread is so deliciously fragrant! It’s a soft loaf, delicately but surely flavored with anise, slightly sweet and full of colorful dried fruit. It’s the traditional loaf on Italian tables for Christmas and New Years and has been a tradition in our non-Italian family since I was a kid and our mom first learned to bake homemade bread.  You can eat it with just a creamy smear of sweet butter or – as we do – toasted, with its fragrance roused to life again. We’ll have it for breakfast along with our scrambled eggs and fresh-squeezed juice.

I’ve suggested certain fruits to go inside, but really the choice is entirely yours. Mom used to make it with those candied fruits and peels (which, as a kid, I detested and had to go to a lot of trouble to pick out so I could get to the truly good stuff.) I’m saving you the trouble. Use whatever dried fruits you like…cherries, apricots, golden or dark raisins, cranberries or candied citrus rinds or softer nuts like walnuts or pecans. Traditionally, it’s one half raisins and one half other mixed fruits, but you can do all raisins if you like, or none at all. Be sure though not to skimp on the anise (neither the extract nor the seeds) because that’s where all the heady perfume comes from! Can you stand being adored? Then you will be so glad you made this bread!

Panettone – Christmas Bread

  • 2 Tablespoons yeast (or two packets)
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water (100-110°F)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons crushed anise seed
  • 6 to 6½ cups all-purpose flour or bread flour  (total weight 30 ounces – or 1 pound, 14 ounces)
  • 2 cups dried fruit (1 cup golden or dark raisins plus 1 cup total of a variety – dried cherries, dried apricots, cranberries, dried pineapple, candied citrus rinds or soft nuts like walnuts or pecans)

My personal choice – 1 cup raisins (¾ golden, ¼ dark), and 1 cup equally divided between apricots, tart cherries and dried bing cherries. If I had on hand a bit of candied orange rind, I’d add it too, but I don’t always.

Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water. (Don’t exceed 115°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, the elbow is a good indicator of the right temp. It’s baby bathwater warm.) Set aside.

Place the butter, sugar and salt in a medium size bowl and pour boiling water over top. Stir to melt and dissolve, then set aside to cool. (Again, no warmer than luke warm.) Once it’s cooled, add the eggs, anise extract and crushed anise seeds. (You can use mortar and pestle to crush…they don’t need to be ground.) If you’ve got a stand mixer than can knead your bread for you, hooray! Transfer these wet ingredients to the bowl of your mixer.

Measure out 6 cups of flour. Have another ½ cup standing by in case you need it. Gradually add the flour to the liquid and knead with dough hook attachment for about 7 or 8 minutes (or longer if required to achieve proper consistency.) You’re looking for most of the dough to be pulled away from the sides of the bowl. When you press the dough with a finger, the dough bounces back at you. And when you lightly squeeze it between your fingers, it almost wants to stick but you’re able to ply your fingers from it without taking dough with. The surface is smooth and baby’s bottom soft.

Lightly butter the inside of a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, place inside the bowl, and roll around the sides of the bowl to very lightly coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour. (My preferred place is inside a cold oven. I place another bowl inside the oven filled with hot water. It creates just the right environment, rising the dough but not too quickly. It should be doubled in about 1 hour.)

 While the dough is rising, place the raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and plump up a bit. Drain them in a collander and then place them on a clean towel, patting to dry.

Cut the fruits into approximately raisin-size pieces.  Mix all the fruits together.

Once dough has doubled, remove the plastic wrap, and with your fist, deflate the mound. One gentle punch or two will do.

Lay the dough out fairly flat; pile the fruits on top. Roll the dough around the fruit and gently knead, incorporating the fruit. Gather into a rough ball, then tuck the sides of the dough under until you’ve again achieved a smooth, round ball. Place it back inside the bowl to rise as before, a second time. Allow to rise until double, about an hour or so. (This may take a bit longer with the heavy fruit now inside.)

Once doubled the 2nd time, split dough in two fairly equal pieces. Allow to rest for 5 minutes under a towel. 

Forming the Loaves:  The object is to stretch the top, tucking the sides down and to the bottom of the loaf. Do this with the dough held in both hands, thumbs more or less on top, your other fingers continually curving over the sides, tucking the sides down and under. If that’s something you don’t feel confident about, not to worry. However you make a round loaf will be good. Put each loaf onto its own baking sheet or into individual cake pans. (You’ll want to put them side by side in the oven. If you put them both on the same baking sheet, they could rise to meet each other and meld their sides together. That wouldn’t be a catastrophe but you’ll be happier if they don’t.)

15 minutes before you expect the loaves to be ready for baking, place a rack 1/3 up from the bottom of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Brush the loaves gently with melted butter using a pastry brush.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes. If they begin to brown too much, lay a large paper grocery bag over the top toward the end. (Don’t worry, it won’t catch fire.) Or use aluminum foil if you’re leery.

Remove loaves from oven; cool completely on a rack before cutting. This bread keeps well for days, if wrapped tightly. Or bake ahead and freeze (double-bagged) for weeks or longer. Be sure to bring out before the holiday!

~ ~ ~

Tomorrow, continuing to be inspired by our travels to the southwest,

I’ll share yet another recipe with corn as the centerpiece

and some more photos from our trip.