Category Archives: Bake on Tuesday

bread: part 3

Another special bread, to me and countless others, has been my mother-in-law’s (Susie’s) homemade loaf bread.  The first time I ever came to her house, I was in high school and visiting the Asheville area.  Her daughter, Elizabeth, was my friend and I went to see her.  Elizabeth invited me into the kitchen, cut off a large slice off a fresh loaf of bread and spread it thickly with raspberry jam from a large pot sitting on the stove, before we headed out for a tour of their farm.  I was very impressed that there were four loaves of this home made bread on the counter (and impressed about all that jam!).  Elizabeth said her mother made 6 loaves of bread every other day – to feed, I found out soon, 5 of her own children, 2 high school exchange students, many of the 10+ cousins who came through the house, plus all their friends, and her husband.  This amount of bread – delicious, fresh, homemade bread at that – was almost magical.  And, as I came to know Susie and her bread, I never really changed my mind about it – there was definitely some magic.

Elizabeth and I tried to reproduce her bread when we were in college (even attempting to sell loaves to other home-deprived students).  But, ultimately, our bread lacked something.  Elizabeth would make new suggestions about how to make the bread, based on many observations and conversations with her mother about bread baking.  We finally gave up trying to make Susie’s bread – it just never turned out quite right – edible, yes, but not like hers.  We decided there really must be some magic in Susie’s kitchen that made her bread come out so well (and so much better than ours using the same recipe).  Was it the oven?  Her large, blackened, finicky thing filled with random objects from egg shells to pottery to cookies and bread?  Was it the general fermentation happening in her kitchen at all times?  All those fermenting (some might call it rotting) jars of jam, pickles, leftovers, and who knows what else, scattered over nearly every surface of the kitchen.  Was it her bread pans?  Old, blackened, thick – that she never washed, ever.  Was it the flour?  She claimed she thought it was important to use some pastry flour, but I’ve seen her use any kind of flour on hand and turn out great bread.   Susie was a conjurer – churning out great loaves of some of the best loaves of bread.  However she did it, her bread never lasted long at her house.  Which was good, because those homemade loaves did go stale more quickly than any store bought, less tasty, less textured bread.

Now, I incorporate some of all these bread traditions and some of my own into my cooking.  I make biscuits and cornbread.  I knead dough and form loaves.  I’ve now also made the no-knead bread – which is wonderful and easy but requires planning and time (and I tend to fall short on both).  I also enjoy making tortillas – corn and flour, and occasionally make batch of one or the other to keep the family fed with burritos, quesadillas, and tacos.  Even though we have no Latin roots, the influence is definitely felt and influence has become important (the food is so delicious!).  Will that get passed on to the next generations’ bread traditions?

Anyway, below is a simple recipe for the most basic bread I make a few times a month – a yeast-risen loaf bread.  Do you have any bread traditions or culture in your family?

Simple loaf bread (makes 2)

Mix 1 cup oats with 1 cup hot milk or water.  Let sit for 10 minutes

Add 1 Tablespoon (or 1 package of yeast) and 1 1/2 cups more of water or milk.  Mix and let yeast dissolve.

Add 1/4 cup honey or molasses (or brown sugar) and 3 cups of whole wheat flour.  Mix with a spoon for about a minute.  Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Then, add 1 T salt, 1/4 cup oil or melted butter (and an egg if you want).  Mix in well, then start adding white bread flour until the dough is too hard to mix with a spoon (about 2 more cups).

Turn dough out on counter and start to knead, adding flour as needed.  Knead for 5-10 minutes and shape into a ball.  Put the ball back into your original bowl after you sprinkle flour in the bowl to keep it from sticking.  Put a damp towel over the bread while it rises.

When it has doubled in size, take it out and cut in half and shape each half into a football shape.  Put each shape into greased (or buttered) loaf pans.  Let rise again, with a damp towel over the loaves.  After about 30-45 minutes you can bake the loaves (when they’ve doubled in size again).  I like to slice the tops a little with a serrated knife just before baking.  I bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  There are a lot ideas about how to know when your bread is done.  I tap the loaves on the bottom to see if they sound hollow, but I also bake until they are golden or browned on the outside.  Susie says she can tell when they are done when she put a loaf to the tip of her nose and it does not burn.

Let cool out of the pan.

We eat lots of toast and sandwiches, so this bread does not last long.  I’m lucky if it lasts a week, but usually, it’s just a few days.






bread: part 1

One of my new favorite magazines is a quarterly called Taproot.  It is homestead-y, literary, artsy, sweet, and ad-free.  Each issue has a theme, and this winter’s theme was Bread.  It got me thinking about all of the breads that have been important to me throughout my life (so far).  My grandmother’s sourdough, corn bread, biscuits (a Southern staple), my mother-in-law’s bread, tortillas, and my own manifestations of bread as I feed my husband and growing children.  Bread is important and it can tell as story.   It can be difficult and surprisingly easy – to make, to understand.  And, it can be delicious!

The first homemade bread I remember was my grandmother’s sourdough bread.  She made two loaves at least once a week, every week, when I was young — and she had done so for many years.  That bread had a slight sourness, and a good kick of sweetness (I found out later was from a fair bit of sugar in the recipe).  The bread was absolutely delicious warm from the oven – even without butter.  I loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with that bread.  I loved the smell of that bread, and I loved seeing Mom-mom make the bread.  Her house would fill with it’s aroma when she was baking and that smell always made me feel at home and happy. I think she got her starter from a cousin in Oregon, and she told me once that she made the best bread of her life when her mother was dying of cancer.  She said she put all her anger, frustration, and sadness into the kneading of the dough, and would knead for long periods of time, working it all out.  That bread would come out wonderfully light.

Mom-mom gave me some of her starter when I was in college and I tried to make bread as a way to link me to some semblance of family life – probably I wanted that feeling that her bread gave me of being at home, loved, and happy.  It was hard moving to a city of over 100,000 people (and a dorm of a few hundred), when I’d come from a town of 15,000.  I wanted some security, to belong.  But, Mom-mom’s starter did not last long.  I could not keep it going with the erratic schedule of classes, breaks, and dorm living.  I also could not get quite the right result.  The taste was right, but the texture and rise were not.

Mom-mom never did give me any formal bread baking lessons, as she did for making cakes and cookies.  I guess I learned from just watching her work dough through on the counter and shape her loaves to rise – gently laying a wet towel over the bread while they rose.  I still use her techniques, even if I don’t use her recipe.




preparations and celebrations










We’ve been preparing for and enjoying this Christmas season – and only one more day till Christmas!  It has been busy and joyful.  Cookies have been baked.  But . . . this year, I only got around to making two batches of cookies.  I am not sure what happened, except that I found myself one night at 9:30, by myself (everyone else was in bed), incredibly tired, in the kitchen searching for eggs – no eggs.  So I drove over to my in-laws and borrowed 5 eggs only to come back and not be able to find the coconut and then couldn’t find the pecans.  I was feeling very un-holiday-ish and I realized I really did not have to bake more cookies.  The only person who would had that expectation was me!  So, to bed I went.  The only cookies I made were ones you see above which was a recipe from my great-grandmother’s collection, an unusual but delicious sesame seed-cinnamon cookie, and (my favorite) what we call St. Nick Cookies but everyone else calls Mexican Wedding Cookies.

I bought a gorgeous wreath that my sister-in-law made at their farm and used it as an advent wreath for the table.  I did not have candles so i made roll-up beeswax candles every week – and after teaching myself, I taught the girls how to make the candles.  Though, we were a little slow getting some weeks’ candles in the wreath, they are all there now.

Kids made gingerbread houses at church and they were cute for a couple of days until I noticed teeth marks on them and candy that had been gnawed off.  So, we said they had 10 minutes after dinner to eat as much as they could off their house – then the desecrated houses went in the trash can.  They had fun!

Crafting is happening everyday in our house now, too.  I am trying to get some sewing projects done for Christmas (originally for Solstice, but that letting go of expectations thing was great).  Snowflakes cut and hung. The girls and Hythe are making presents and decorating gift bags.  It has been fun.

I am looking forward to spending time with family and taking some hikes in the next few days as we celebrate a beautiful holiday.  Blessings to you!


Sesame Seed Cookies
½ cup sesame seeds
¾ cup butter
1 ½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cups sifted flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon (I accidentally used 1 tsp, which was fine)
Toast seeds in heavy fry pan, stirring constantly so seeds won’t burn.
Cream butter and brown sugar till fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time with vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in sesame seed. Add to creamed mixture, mix. Line cooky sheet with waxed paper. Drop by tsp. onto waxed paper. Allow room for cookies to spread. Bake in 325 oven for 20 to 25 min. or till cookies are done and slightly brown.
For a change, replace cinnamon with ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice or ¼ tsp. cardamom.
Makes 6 doz.

These come out crisp and delicious!  Make sure you only drop tsp sized cookies and give them plenty of room to spread.  Next time I want to try them with the cardamom – and maybe a little cocoa powder!


bake on Tuesday (post on Wednesday): Self Rising Bread (Estella Cox)





This recipe again comes from my great-grandmother’s (maternal) recipe collection.  I am not sure who Estella Cox was, but I think she might have been a friend.  When I first saw the title of this recipe, I thought it would be a soda bread, but then I read the recipe–it is an old-fashioned sourdough.

I did not have any cornmeal so I used flour in the first sponge.  I am not sure if using cornmeal makes a big difference, but I let this bread (and the sponges) ferment for much longer than the recipe called for.  I did not see the bubbles in either sponge for a few days, and then I let the bread “rise” for another day.  I was not sure it had worked at all but I heated up the oven on the 4th day and baked the bread on a stone.  I thought I would be cutting into a brick, but amazingly (or not, to those of you who know about fermentation) the bread was fairly light and had lots of nice air bubbles in it.  It tasted great too, moist with a very sourdough-y taste.  Since I’ve never made a naturally risen, or fermented, bread this was impressive to me–the power of native yeasts!

Anyway, here’s the recipe.

Self-Rising Bread (Estella Cox) [comments at bottom]

Sponge – i cup milk – t tsp. salt
2 Tblspns cornmeal – 1 Tblspn sugar

2nd Sponge
1 cup lukewarm water – 1 tsp salt
1 Tbspn sugar
2 Tbspn butter – 2 cups sifted flour

Dough – 3 1/4 cups sifted flour (about)

Scald milk, cool to lukewarm, add cornmeal, salt and sugar. Pour into covered fruit jar or pitcher. Place in pan of hot water 120 deg. Let stand for 6-7 hours or until signs of fermentation (gas bubbles) appear. Add ingredients for 2nd sponge. Beat thoroughly, cover, place in pan of hot water 120 deg. Let rise till very light then add remaining flour gradually till dough is stiff enough to be kneaded. Knead 10-15 min. Shape into 2 loaves, place in bread pans, brush top with melted shortening. Cover and let rise till very light, more than double. Bake in 375 deg oven for 10 min. Then lower heat to 350 deg. Bake 25-30 minutes longer.

As I mentioned before, I did not use cornmeal, but flour, for the first sponge. Then, I forgot to sift the flour for the last addition.

It took much longer to get fermentation bubbles in the first sponge, but I could not keep a consistent 120 deg bath for either sponge, and I didn’t even try. So, I am sure that slowed things down some. Finally, since I was not at all sure the bread was going to work out, I did not put the dough in loaf pans but just let it rise on a baking sheet. Even after a full day and a half, it did not rise to double it’s bulk. I finally decided to go ahead and bake it–at 400 for the entire time–and it turned out fine.

I might make this again, just to see if I can get different results–better rise, etc.

Anybody else have experience with making a sourdough sponge or bread?


Bake on Tuesday (post on Wednesday): French bread

French bread

Initially, I was not excited about this recipe from my great-grandmother’s collection.  I have tried once, and failed, to make French bread before–loaves shaped like French bread that were extremely disappointing. I have also read through many French bread recipes that seems terribly complicated and required things I did not have (a lot of time and special pans). But, when I read through this recipe, it seems almost too simple. There must be some steps missing, or maybe this would not turn out at all. But, I decided to try it yesterday, on my day when I usually have time to bake. I say “usually” because I have not had time in the last month, as you can tell by the dearth of baking posts.

This bread was amazing! It was not the baguette with the hard crust and big holes inside. It was the bread that you make the best market (or sub) sandwiches from, with a chewy, crusty crust and a VERY soft, white middle. It was the bread that I’ve gotten from many bakeries in other countries – perfect for a piece of soft cheese or butter and jam or avocado and tomatoes. The flavor was wonderful too. I will definitely be making this bread again, and probably often, despite the very “white-ness” of it.

Here is the recipe with my notes below. It is really pretty simple.

French Bread
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 ½ cups very warm water
1 T. sugar
1 ½ t. salt
1 T. soft shortening
4 c. sifted flour
melted butter or oleo
Sprinkle yeast into ½ cup of water. Stir until dissolved. In a larger bowl dissolve sugar and salt in remaining c of water. Add shortening and yeast mixture, mix well. Add flour and mix well. Work through dough with spoon at 10 minute intervals for 5 consecutive times. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape into 2 balls. let rest 10 min. Roll each ball into a 12 x 9” rectangle, then roll as for Jelly roll from long side . Seal edge. Place rolls on pan. Score top 6 times. Cover, let rise 1 ½ hours. Bake 400 degrees – 30 to 35 min. Brush with melted butter while warm.


Rolled out

My notes:
I did not sift the flour, but I did put it in a bowl and whisk it a few times before I measured it. I was a little slack about getting to the bread every 10 minutes because I was taking care of my little boys (reading books, pushing swings, changing clothes, etc.), but every 10 to 15 (maybe even 20) minutes worked. Also, I did not know how to “work through dough with a spoon” so I just kneaded it a few times in the bowl instead. I probably let my bread rise a little longer than 1.5 hours because we were down in the garden and I forgot about the bread for a little while. Finally, I did not brush with melted butter–it was still good.


Bake on Tuesday: English muffins






I remember my grandmother, Mommom, making these English muffins once or twice when I was a girl. At the time, I was so impressed that she could make something that we normally bought from the grocery store for breakfast – and hers tasted so much better! They were a treat, and I remember her telling me they were not difficult to make.

As an adult, I’ve made these English muffins a few times, and they really are pretty easy. You just need a little bit of time, but not even that much! These little breads are tasty and tender. They are really good fresh, but store pretty well for a few days (and serve up well toasted). Officially, these are not baked in an oven, but on the stove top — so I am still with my theme!

Here’s the recipe with my notes below.

English Muffins
½ c. scalded milk
¼ c. shortening
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tblspn sugar
½ c. water
1 pkg. yeast
3 c. sifted flour
4 tblspn cornmeal
If dry yeast is used, dissolve in water according to directions on pkg – and subtract water used from water in recipe. Combine scaled milk, shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm by adding ½ c. water. Add flour, gradually and mix until well blended. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Roll out on floured board to ¼ in. in thickness. Cut into rounds with 3 ½ “ cutter. Place on baking sheet with has been sprinkled with 2 T. meal. Let rest 30 min. Sprinkle tops with additional meal. Bake slowly on hot ungreased griddle about 7 min. each side.

My notes:
I used dry active yeast dissolved in a 1/4 cup of water. But, I still used 1/2 cup scalded (very hot) milk and used 1/4 cup of cool water to cool the milk down. It worked fine. I also think that the sugar could be cut back just a little, and the rise time could be a little longer, 30 minutes, maybe more. If you are like me and you get distracted by someone who needs you to help them with homework, fine art supplies, read them a book (or by running errands, playing outside, getting in the garden) — I think the dough will be fine. Also, I do not have a 3 1/2″ biscuit cutter, so I used a wide mouth jar lid (perfect size). I have a griddle to cook on, but a thick fry pan (cast iron) would work well, too.

Also, don’t forget to open them with a fork (poke fork around the edge till it comes open).  Good with breakfast, lunch or supper.



Bake on Tuesday: Twinkling Rolls






I made these rolls for to have with soup for supper the other night. They were easy to come together, took a little wait time, and were really good. The children loved these rolls (white and sweet, what’s not to love?), and we had leftovers to fill with ham or cheese for lunches.

These rolls reminded me of the rolls that the ladies in the school cafeteria made when I was in high school – a little sweet, soft with a slightly chewy crust on top, and very delicious. The cafeteria rolls were set to rise very close to each other so they stuck together when baked. They were then brushed with lots of melted butter. When I make these rolls next time, I think I will do it that way.

Here’s the recipe with my notes below:

Twinkling Rolls
1 cake yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar. Dissolve yeast in water and sugar
Scald ½ cup milk. Dissolve in it 1 tsp. salt, 3 Tblspoons sugar. Beat 1 egg. Melt 3 Tbspn of butter.
Measure 2 cups of flour in a bowl. Add to this the yeast and lukewarm milk mixture. Beat till smooth, then add the egg and melted shortening. Beat again, then stir in just enough flour until mix is stiff to beat with a spoon. Beat well. Let rise in warm place till double in bulk. Shape as desired. Let rise until doubled. Bake 15 to 20 min. in 400 deg. oven.

My notes: I used 1 scant Tablespoon yeast instead of 1 cake. I also kneaded the dough instead of “beat well”. Maybe in a mixer, you could just “beat well” with a dough hook. The dough was a little sticky, but go with it. The one problem I found was the towel I used to cover the rolls while they were rising stuck to the rolls. Maybe I won’t cover them next time for the last rise. I imagine these rolls could be shaped many different ways–lots of ideas to try with these (cinnamon rolls, knots, twists, etc.)


Bake on Tuesday: Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is not what I think of as “in season” cooking right now. I am ready to be done with winter foods. I am ready for fresh salads, green onions, and peas. But, I have a little while to wait still. And, meanwhile, I have a few things from the fall garden in the freezer that need to be eaten. One of the things I dug out was a perfect 2 cups of pureed pumpkin. I was looking through Nana’s recipes for something to bake and found pumpkin bread — calling for exactly 2 cups of pureed pumpkin.



This recipe made a great pumpkin bread, but I would really consider it a cake with all the oil and sugar. It called for 1 cup of Mazola oil, which not only seemed like a LOT of oil, but made me suspect that she copied the recipe off a Mazola label or advertisement. Anyway, while it may not be heirloom, it was good. I did not use 1 cup of oil, but instead used 1/2 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup applesauce (from my canned stock). I also cut back on the sugar by 1 cup (so used 2 instead of 3 cups). The bread was sweet, but not too sweet, and tender/moist. I’ll make it again because the little ones loved it and it does use up a good bit of pumpkin. Perfect for fall!

Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Bread
Sift together:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. B.P.
3 tsp. cinnamon
Beat 4 eggs – add 2 cups pumpkin, 1 cup Mazola oil, 3 cups sugar
Then add sifted dry ingredients, ½ cup nuts – optional
Makes 2 loaves
Bake 1 hour at 350 deg.

pumpkin bread

Bake on Tuesday: Mae’s Cream Cake


So, this past week was Evva’s 7th birthday (my baby girl is growing up)!  And, even though I don’t think my cakes are anything spectacular (you should see my cousin Susan’s cakes), I have become known in the Hamilton family for making good cakes. I have an old Southern Living cake book, inherited from my grandmother, that I often use to find a good cake to make. Some of those recipes are quite old and complicated. However, I usually make the simplest cake possible–one where I don’t have to beat the egg whites separately and it comes together quickly and easily–with an easy buttercream icing. That usually means lots of butter to keep the cake moist and tender, which is fine by me. I love butter.


But, since I was doing this baking series, I thought I’d look in my great-grandmother’s recipes and see if she had a cake recipe that would be appropriate for a child’s birthday (a basic layer cake–no nuts or dried fruit). And, I found one: Mae’s Cream Cake. But, the recipe did not make sense to me–there was no butter! There was cream, though, so I went ahead and made the cake. Because there is not butter to cream, it had a different type of construction.

The cake was good, not the best I’ve ever made. Maybe a little on the dry side, but that was probably because I overcooked it. There was no baking time in the recipe, so I just tried to keep an eye on it, which is hard with many little ones running around needing help with projects, dressing, changing, etc., not to mention I was also trying to get my act together to get ready for a day out and about with children.


Anyway, everyone loved it. It was frosted with a chocolate buttercream and decorated by the little ones. It has now disappeared and I will probably make it again for another birthday.

I buttered and floured the pans, but ended up only using 2. My panes are 9″, so maybe 8″ pans would have made a three layer cake as the recipe indicates.

Folding in the egg whites.
My little taster was very eager to try the cake.

Little hands decorated the cake.

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday, Evva!

And, here is the recipe with my notes added.

Mae’s Cream Cake
1 1/3 cup sweet cream
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour measured after sifting
3 eggs
3 tsp. B. P. [this is baking powder, if anyone didn’t get it]
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat egg yolks till creamy
Add sugar, beat thoroughly, alternate cream and flour. Add beaten egg whites, save 1/3 cup sugar to beat in egg whites.
Bake in 3 layers.

**My notes begin**
So, if anyone did not really “get” this recipe, you are supposed to beat the egg yolks till creamy, then add 1 cup of sugar and beat again. Then add vanilla, then alternate adding flour (mixed with baking powder) with the cream, starting and ending with the flour (i.e. add 1/3 of flour mix, 1/2 of the cream, 1/3 of the flour, other 1/2 of cream, then finally the last 1/3 of flour–mixing each addition till just mixed in). Then beat the egg whites with 1/3 cup of sugar till soft peaks are formed, and fold the egg whites into the mix. I baked at 325 till done, but you could probably bake at 350.

Any bakers out there, chime in with tips on this type of cake, if you wish.

Also, family–who was Mae?


Bake on Tuesday: Angel Biscuits


For the first week of re-creating my great grandmother’s (Nana’s) recipes, I was looking for something fairly quick and easy to make for supper and my eyes fell on Angel Biscuits. I’ve always wanted to try to make Angel Biscuits because they sounded light and delicious (they have angel in the name!) and were not complicated to make. Also, they are one of those foods you can mix together now but cook later which is always helpful in our household of busy, hungry children. It is a basic biscuit recipe with a little less instant leavening and with the addition of yeast. Since you don’t cut and cook them right away, they take on a little different texture and flavor than regular biscuits.

You can mix these up before going to bed and roll out and cook them the next morning, or do as I did and mix in the morning after breakfast, cook at night for supper. This recipe also makes a large number of biscuits–also great for our household–so we had biscuits for breakfast the next day as well. You can bake some or all of the biscuits at one time. You can have fresh biscuits for a few days if you just take out a little dough each day to roll, cut, and bake.

These biscuits were light (though not flakey) and delicious and had a slight yeast-y flavor which I loved.

You will like them too!

Mix dry ingredients

biscuit dough

roll and cut



I am putting these recipes in as Nana had written them, but I have my own notes in brackets

Angel Biscuits

5 cups flour
¾ cup vegetable shortening [I used butter and lard, but all butter would be great too]
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3 tsp. B. Powder
3 TBlspn. sugar
1 cake yeast dissolved in ½ cup water [I used a little less than 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast]
2 cups buttermilk, warm [Barely heat the buttermilk or it will curdle. I forgot about it on the stove and ended up with cheese. The second time, I warmed it up for a very short time.]

Sift dry ingredients together, cut in shortening, add warm buttermilk and yeast mixture. Stir until all flour is moistened. Cover bowl, put in refrigerator until ready to use. Take out as needed. Bake 450 deg.