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Spent the weekend loafing around…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a bread junkie.  I absolutely love all of the fabulous rye and multigrain breads that are available here in Germany, but it’s not as easy to find a good, crusty French boule loaf (usually, the best you can find is a baguette).  I’ve made lots of different kinds of bread before, but for some reason (probably because it was easily attainable at the time), I’d never attempted a French bread.  Luckily, this fabulous, incredibly simple Le Creuset recipe that was featured on Simply So Good recently caught my eye on Pinterest, because it’s just too good to miss!

Like the bagels I posted about a week or so ago, I was initially skeptical when I read about how easy this recipe was supposed to be.  There’s NO prepping the yeast.  NO kneading.  None!  Just a quick mix, a night spent proofing on the counter, and a minute or two spent shaping the dough into a ball.  That’s it!  Could it possibly be that simple to re-create the fragrant, crusty boule loaves that I loved to buy at the French bakery years ago?

Simply put, yes!  I was pleasantly surprised when my initial test loaf came out so much better than I ever anticipated.  My house smelled like a French bakery, which was almost enough reason in and of itself to bake this bread!  The crust is thick and crunchy, and the texture is the perfect density for a good boule. The experiment was a success, and life was good.

And then, I thought, “What about other flavors?…”

But I’m getting ahead of myself- let’s begin with the basics!

 

Basic Crusty Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (Bread flour seems to work fine, too- I ran out of all purpose last night, so I switched over for today’s dough)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt (I used kosher salt for most of the batches, but once again, I ran out and went to regular iodized, and it seems to be the same)
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast (I used regular Active Dry yeast)
  • 1 1/2 cups water (The recipe doesn’t specify, but I went with lukewarm water, because that’s what other bread recipes have required)

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.  The bowl needs to be large enough that it can accommodate rising dough.

  2. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms- it doesn’t need to be pretty, just combined!

  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours (overnight works great, and I found that the longer the dough proofed, the larger the finished loaf was).

  4. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

  5. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place an enameled cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  (I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven for this, and it was perfect- I only wish that I had a big enough oven to fit two!)

  6. When the pot is safely in the oven, pour the dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  (I found that it helped to scrape the dough out with a spatula- just enough to encourage it to let go.  The dough will be sticky, so don’t be stingy with the flour on your hands and work surface!)

    The dough after proofing- it expands a bit, but it's not a huge rise...


  7. Cover your dough ball with plastic wrap and let it set until the 30 minute pre-heat time is up.

  8. Remove the hot pot from the oven, remove the lid, and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  (There’s no need to grease or oil the pot- the bread won’t stick!)

  9. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  (Because I was baking several loaves, I simply propped the lid next to the pot so that it didn’t cool off and require another pre-heat.)

    After 30 minutes covered...

    After 15 additional minutes uncovered...


  10. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.   (This step is the hardest one in the entire recipe- waiting until the bread is fully cool before eating it is downright cruel and unusual!)

 

Now, wasn’t that just beautifully simple?  Hard to believe that something so easy could produce something so very, very good!  Of course, I couldn’t let it be too simple- remember those other flavors I mentioned earlier?…

Let’s Go Bouleing!

The following are just a few different flavor mixes that I’ve put together for this beautifully basic boule recipe.  There are also some great suggestions on the Simply So Good blog (in the post AND in the many, many comments), and even that is just the beginning.  The sky’s the limit, so go crazy, and please share your ideas and successes with the group!

A few rules of thumb:

  • Unless you like your bread really chunky, aim for about a cup of mix-ins, give or take a bit.
  • Add any non-liquid mix-ins (fruit, nuts, cheese, herbs, etc.) to the dry ingredients after you’ve whisked them together.  Once added, whisk again to combine before adding liquid.
  • Try to keep the amount of liquid about the same.  If you add honey or a flavoring, subtract the same amount of water.  (I may be totally off base, but I think it keeps the dough from getting too wet…)
  • If you add a liquid, try to combine it with the water before adding to the dry ingredients.
  • Some ingredients may add moisture when baked, so you may want to decrease the water slightly to compensate.

Mixed Berry and Lemon Zest Boule

This one was an instant hit with my youngest kids- they devoured it with butter and blueberry marmelade, and Nathan officially declared it ‘the bestest’!  I also liked it with butter, but I can’t wait to try it in French toast later on…

Dry Mix-Ins:  1/4 cup each of Just Tomatoes dried strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries; 1/4 cup craisins; the zest from one lemon

Wet Mix-Ins:  One tablespoon of honey (subtract one tablespoon of water to compensate)

 


Prosciutto and Cracked Black Pepper Boule

This was one of my favorite flavors from Klinger’s Bread Company in South Burlington, VT, but I always wished that it came in a boule loaf rather than the very skinny baguette that they sell.  It’s fabulous for grilled cheese sandwiches!

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup of chopped Prosciutto ham; 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper (I used the coarsest setting on my McCormick Black Peppercorn grinder)

 


Mixed Seed Boule

This bread could be done with any variety of seeds, including sunflower, pumpkin, flax, pine nuts, poppy, and sesame.  I opted to use a pre-mixed salad blend of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts that I found at our local grocery store.  If you would like to add seeds to the top of the loaf, simply sprinkle them on top of the shaped dough ball before you cover it with plastic to rest before putting it in the pot.

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup of assorted seeds with additional to top if desired

 


Apple Cinnamon Almond Boule

Apples.  Almonds.  Bread.  Could it possibly be any better?  This is yummy with butter and a bit of cinnamon sugar on top, but I’m also planning to try French toast with this bread.  I actually caught myself standing next to the oven and sniffing the vents while this loaf baked, because the scent was absolutely phenomenal…

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup each of peeled, chopped apple (this was one average apple, I think either Jonagold or Braeburn), tossed with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar; 1/4 cup of sliced almonds

Wet Mix-Ins:  One tablespoon of honey (subtract one tablespoon of water to compensate); 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (I did NOT subtract water for this, but I leave it to your discretion…)

(Note:  I sprinkled a bit of additional cinnamon sugar over the mixed dough, just for the heck of it.  I’d planned to brush the top of the loaf with melted butter and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar when I took it out of the oven, but forgot it in the pre-dinner rush.  It’s great without it, but I think it would also be great with it if you’d like to give it a try!)

 


Baby Boules

Once I’d established that this was a great, crusty bread recipe, I realized that it was just right for bread soup bowls!  The full recipe is too big for an individual serving (although it would be great for dips), but by cutting the batch in half, you get a boule that’s just the right size for your favorite soup.  To test the mechanics of the smaller loaf, I mixed up a double batch of the basic boule recipe: 

When it was time to shape the loaves, I emptied the dough out onto my floured bowl and cut it into four portions that I then shaped into balls and covered as usual. 

When you bake the mini loaves, you’ll give them the 30 minutes covered as usual.  For the uncovered portion, I set the timer for 10 minutes and then kept an eye on them until they were the desired shade (usually about 10-12 minutes).  I thought that I could manage to squeeze two mini boules into the pot at once, but I soon discovered that this just wouldn’t work.  Unless you have a bigger pot or an oven big enough for two pots, you’ll have to bake them individually. 

Still, time drain aside, I was very happy with the two mini boules I came out with in the end- they’ll be perfect for our Zuppa Toscana tonight at dinner! 


This is just the beginning of my boule adventures, folks- there are still tons of flavor combinations that I want to test (chocolate chip is proofing as we speak, and I have plans for bacon and cheddar, sun dried tomatoes, Italian herb…), so my oven will definitely be busy.  Please, come back and share any great new combinations that you create so that we can expand our repertoire together!

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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Breads and Rolls

 

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Calling all quilters…

…Please help!!!

We are still in need of many more submissions for the Quilt Squares for a Cause Challenge, so I’m going to extend the deadline through the end of March and then re-evaluate where we stand. I really want this finished quilt to be incredible, since it’s going to support a fabulous cause, so please share the challenge with friends, family, bloggies, and anywhere else you can!

 

http://QuiltSquaresForACause.com

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Random Acts of Craftivity

 

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Quilt Squares for a Cause

Some of you may know that I also have a group on Facebook that’s dedicated to sewing, crafting, and general fabric addiction- appropriately enough, it’s called ‘I don’t have a problem, I have a well-rounded fabric stash!’  Each month we run some kind of a fun challenge (mainly to gain inspiration and keep the creative juices flowing, but there’s also a prize to be won), but this month’s challenge is extra-special in my eyes, because it’s designed to help the Fisher House Foundation, a fabulous organization that helps military families!

From March 1st through March 19th, we will be accepting photo entries of 12” quilt squares.  The top entries will then be collected and assembled into a quilt that will be auctioned off on eBay to benefit the Fisher House Foundation (see the end of this post for more information on the Fisher House Foundation).  Anyone is welcome to enter, and we would really appreciate your support!

OFFICIAL RULES

  • Entries must be made of quilting-weight cotton fabric, must be sewn in some way, and the finished size must be a 12” square (PLEASE NOTE: you will actually be making a 12.5” block, because there will be a ¼” seam allowance on each side when assembled- the 12” is the space that will be visible in the assembled quilt).  Beyond that, they can be quilted, embroidered, appliqued, dyed, painted, bedazzled, or otherwise embellished in any way that the contestant chooses!  (Please remember that the finished product must be washable.)
  • In order to have a coherent final product, we are limiting the color palette to red, white, and blue (we understand that there are tons of variations and shades within that range- basically, if the tones would work with the American flag, they’re fine).
  • Entries can be submitted from March 1st through March 19th, 2012.  Voting will take place from March 20th through March 26th, and a winner will be announced no later than March 28th.  (In the unlikely event that there is a tie, a run-off vote will be held from March 27th through March 29th, and a winner will be announced no later than April 1st.)
  • Each contestant may enter as many as five (5) submissions.
  • Entries must be the work of the contestant submitting them.
  • One lucky winner will receive a $30 gift certificate to the online fabric store of his or her choice!
    • If that fabric store doesn’t offer gift certificates (and if an arrangement can’t be made with the shop owner), the winner will receive $30 via Paypal to shop to his/her heart’s content.
    • If the winner is in a country outside of the U.S., he or she will receive the equivalent of $30 USD in the appropriate currency.
  • The top 25 squares will be sent in to be assembled into a quilt that, upon completion, will be auctioned off via the eBay Giving Works programto benefit the Fisher House Foundation.
    • Participants whose entries have been selected will be notified no later than March 28th (April 1st if a run-off is necessary) and provided with a shipping address.  
    • Squares should be shipped out (with Delivery Confirmation where possible) no later than April 9th, 2012.
    • If the response is great enough, we may opt to either do a second quilt (also to be auctioned off) or increase the number of squares selected to make a larger quilt.

HOW TO ENTER

  • Entries can be submitted from March 1st through March 19th, 2012
  • If you haven’t already, please join this group!  (It allows you to add photos)
  • Please be sure to include the following in your picture’s description:  Your name (as it’s shown on Facebook), a name for your submission if you have one, and what materials/methods you used.  (ex.  Kristin Brattlie Garst, ‘Stars and Stripes’, quilted and embroidered cotton)
  • If you used a tutorial or online pattern that you’d like to share, please provide the link in your entry’s comments.  Also, if there’s a story behind your entry, please feel free to share!
  • If you submit more than one entry, please either give them different names or number them.

HOW TO VOTE

  • Voting will take place from March 20th  through March 26th.
  • Each voter can vote only once, and additional votes will be disqualified.  However, please feel free to click the ‘like’ button for as many entries as you want so that we can share the love! 🙂
  • Please feel free to invite your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, and random people passing on the street to vote- they’ll simply have to join the group in order to have access to vote (you can add them yourself on the top right side of the page if desired).  We won’t get our feelings hurt if they ‘unlike’ us later, but we’d be thrilled if they decide to hang around!

To add this button to your blog or website, copy and paste the following code:


<a href=”http://tinyurl.com/QuiltSquaresForACause&#8221; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://i43.tinypic.com/2f096ro.jpg&#8221; border=”0″ alt=”Join the Quilt Squares for a Cause Challenge- open for entries through March 19, 2012!”></a>



Good luck, and happy creating- we can’t wait to see what results!  If you have any questions, please comment on this post or email me at FabricProblem@aol.com.  We would really appreciate it if you could share this challenge with your friends, family, and associates- there is code for a blog button below that will link to the event page (http://QuiltSquaresForACause.com).  Also, please feel free to share ideas, inspirations, anecdotes, and work-in-progress pictures with the group as you work on your submissions!

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If you own a fabric/quilting/sewing store or other business and would be interested in donating additional prizes, please contact me at the email above- we’d love to promote you, and would greatly appreciate anything that you can give!

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About Fisher House:  The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times – during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.

There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center to assist families in need and to ensure that they are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment. Annually, the Fisher House program serves more than 12,000 families, and have made available over three million days of lodging to family members since the program originated in 1990. By law, there is no charge for any family to stay at a Fisher House operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Fisher House Foundation uses donations to reimburse the individual Fisher Houses operated by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. No family pays to stay at any Fisher House!

In addition to constructing new houses, Fisher House Foundation continues to support existing Fisher Houses and help individual military families in need. We are also proud to administer and sponsor Scholarships for Military Children, the Hero Miles program, and co-sponsor the Newman’s Own Award.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Random Acts of Craftivity

 

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Let them eat (pretend) cake!

Still no real baking in sight (sick kids kind of beat the cooking instincts into submission around here), but I do have something that’s at least baking-related: felt cake slices!

I recently participated in a play food swap (everyone in the group makes a bunch of one item, sends them to a central location, and gets back one of each), and I made these yummy-looking little cakes from this fabulous tutorial by Bugga Bugs that I found at YouCanMakeThis.com. (Warning- that site is dangerous…)

It was a bit of a stretch on my comfort zone (yeah, hand sewing is NOT my niche), but once I played with them a bit and worked a bit outside of the instructional box, I was really happy with how they turned out!

This is the first time I've ever spent this much time on cake that couldn't be eaten!

P.S.- Don’t forget, my Valentine’s Owl Stuffie will be featured in the Valentine’s Day Showcase at Sew BitterSweet Designs today! I’d love to see pictures if you give it a try, so please share! 😀

 
9 Comments

Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Random Acts of Craftivity

 

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Whooooooooooo Loves Ya, Baby?…

Greetings from the Wintery wilds of Bavaria!  It has been a CRAZY month or two, and I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m just catching up to myself after the holidays.  There have been tons of projects in the works, and lots of planning for our latest challenge over at ‘I don’t have a problem, I have a well-rounded fabric stash!’  This month we’re challenging you to create the perfect hat, so be sure to visit the Hats Off Challenge event page for details and to see the fabulous entries that are already coming in!

No baking today, but I do have a sneak preview of a Valentine’s Owl Stuffie tutorial I’ve put together for the Valentine’s Day Showcase over at Sew BitterSweet Designs.  Melissa has put together ten days of tutorials from some fabulous bloggers and crafters, and I’m lucky enough to be featured on February 6th!  To download a printable PDF version of the tutorial below, click the images or visit http://tinyurl.com/ValentinesOwlStuffieTutorial .

PLEASE NOTE- THE PATTERN PIECES BELOW AREN’T TO SCALE!  YOU’LL NEED TO PRINT THE PDF TUTORIAL TO GET THE FULL-SIZED PIECES!

Thanks for reading- I’d love to see project pictures if you give the tutorial a try!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Random Acts of Craftivity

 

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