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Tag: bread

Spelt Focaccia with Rosemary

This focaccia is light and delicately flavored with olive oil and rosemary.  Spelt flour gives it a softly sweet, earthy flavor and packs in more nutritional value than conventional flour.  It is perfect alongside a bowl of  soup or a salad, as a snack, or as a base for countless toppings of vegetables, meat, and cheese.

Focaccia, an oven-baked Italian flatbread, is similar to pizza dough.  It is like a blank slate on which you can add a variety of toppings.  In this recipe, the focaccia is simply topped with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and fresh rosemary.  I based my recipe on one by Paul Kahan, which I found on the Food & Wine website.  His recipe calls for topping the focaccia with kale, squash, and pecorino cheese, which sounds absolutely delicious.  However, the other day, I was just looking for a simple, flavorful bread to use as a side with our dinner of leftover soups, so I left off the vegetable toppings in this case, since we already had a lot of vegetables in the soups, and I wanted just bread.

spelt focacciaThis bread is lovely.  It is easy to make.  Maybe a little time-consuming, yes, because it has to rise twice.  But the actual hands-on time is not much.  It’s good to make on a day when you will be home for about three hours, but the good part is you can do lots of things around the house while the dough is rising and baking.

Spelt flour comes from an ancient whole grain, and though it does contain gluten, its gluten is more fragile and water soluble, so it is easier to digest than conventional wheat flours.  Spelt also has more iron, fiber, and B vitamins than conventional flours.  I am not about to give up wheat flours, but it is really nice to add some variety to our diet, and I really like the slightly nutty, slightly earthy taste of spelt flour.

spelt focacciaThe spelt flour does not need to be kneaded as much as conventional wheat flour, and tends to create a stickier dough.  This surprised me a bit the first time I worked with it.  But don’t worry, even if it feels sticky when you are forming the dough on the baking sheet, it bakes beautifully.  And if your dough gets too sticky to work with, you can add a bit of all-purpose flour as well.  I love the flexibility of bread-making, because you can always add a bit of flour or a bit of water or olive oil, and things usually work out!  I also love the flexibility of focaccia, and I expect I will be making it again soon, either with spelt flour, conventional flour, or a combination, and maybe next time topped with some vegetables.

My fingers are soft from the olive oil and they smell wonderful, like rosemary.  As I was making this spelt focaccia with rosemary, I was once again struck by the primal comfort I feel when working with dough.  There must be something deep within my genetic makeup that calls me to the kitchen to bake.  It is deeply rewarding and comforting to me.  And everyone in my family enjoyed this bread–that is a bonus!

The other day, I came across a quote that struck a chord with me.  I was waiting for our car to be repaired, reading an online article on   The article is written by Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward, known for the great blog, Dinner: A Love Story.  If you are ever tired, discouraged, or frustrated about making dinner for others, remember this quote from that article: “Don’t ever let someone convince you that cooking a meal for your kids–or anyone else for that matter–is one more thing to check off the to-do list.  Every time you feed someone, you’re offering love, security, comfort, therapy, and memories shrouded in happiness and warmth.  It’s no small thing.”

I just love that quote, and I agree wholeheartedly with it.  We all have our unique ways of cooking and putting meals on the table, and it’s not always easy, but never forget how important it is.  I hope you all have a great weekend!  It’s March! It came in like a lion, but hopefully spring will be here soon!spelt focaccia doughspelt focacciaNow it’s time to head over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Angie and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

Spelt Focaccia with Rosemary

  • Servings: 4
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  • 2 cups of spelt flour
  • 1 envelope of dry active yeast
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt, plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling at baking time
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped


In a large mixing bowl, combine the spelt flour, yeast, warm (make sure your water is luke-warm and not hot) water, honey, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt.  Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, not more than a minute.  If the dough is too sticky, you can add some more spelt flour or a couple tablespoons of all-purpose flour to make it easier to work with.

Clean out the mixing bowl or get another one and oil it lightly with olive oil.  Place the dough in the oiled bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour, or until it about doubles in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Punch the dough down and then transfer it to the baking sheet.  Gently press it into a 12 x 8 inch oval shape.  If it is too sticky, put some flour on your hands to make it easier to shape the dough.  Then brush about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of olive oil over the dough.  Press small indentations all over the dough with your finger and then sprinkle evenly with the coarse sea salt and rosemary.  Let the dough rise, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place for about 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake the focaccia for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Enjoy as a side for a bowl of soup or a salad, or as a snack!

This recipe is adapted from Paul Kahan’s recipe on the Food & Wine website.

Brown Soda Bread With Molasses

This rich, hearty, earthy bread is so satisfying, so delicately flavorful, that you will find yourself enjoying every bite.  With just a few ingredients, it is very easy to make, and you can have a homemade loaf of bread on your table in a little less than an hour.  It’s delicious for breakfast with a little butter or marmalade, or with dinner alongside a bowl of stew or soup.

soda bread with hands 4Sometimes the best things happen as a result of necessity.  I often freak out when life throws me a monkey wrench or a curve ball, but really, often, something good comes of those curve balls.  Discovering this bread recipe was one of those good things.

Yesterday, the kids and I were snowed in with no bread in the house.  After a winter with a relatively small amount of snow (for Michigan anyway), we suddenly got hit with a big snowstorm, and it snowed all day and all night.  My husband went to work amidst snow drifts and howling wind, but the kids had a snow day off of school, and I stayed home with them .  My husband barely got out of our driveway, so I knew I had a lot of shoveling to do before we went anywhere or he got home.  We also lost electricity for a few hours.  My original plans for the day vanished into the winter wind.

soda bread against whiteWhile the kids and I were sitting close to our gas fireplace to stay warm,(thank goodness for that during power outages!), I found the recipe for this tasty bread in a cookbook my mom recently gave me called The Irish Kitchen: 150 Recipes for Everyday Cooking from the Emerald Isle.  As soon as our electricity came back, I made this bread, and then made another loaf this morning.  We had it with soup last night, and with breakfast this morning.  I am really excited about this bread, because everyone in my family likes it, and it is so versatile.  It tastes rustic and homemade, yet only takes around an hour to make, including baking time.  There is just the tiniest hint of sweetness from the molasses.

DSC_0945And after raging for a few minutes about losing electricity for the second time this week due to the weather, I found myself enjoying the quiet time.  My kids and I ate pretzels and pistachios for lunch, sat around the fireplace together, and listened to music on our hand-crank-powered radio.  They went outside and built a fort in the snow, and when they came in, all their wet things dried quickly by the fireplace.  Our power came back within a few hours.  I didn’t get a lot done that day, but had quality time with my kids and made this awesome bread.

I hope you all have a great weekend! soda bread with dogsnowy pines 2I am sharing this recipe with the group of amazing bloggers at Angie’s Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

Brown Soda Bread with Molasses

  • Servings: 1 loaf
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  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons of molasses


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, oats, salt, and baking soda.  In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses.  If you don’t have buttermilk, substitute with regular milk and a tablespoon of vinegar.  Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour the buttermilk mixture into the well.  Gently stir the mixture together, until well combined.  Using floured hands, form the batter into a soft ball.

Shape the dough into a circle and place it on the lined baking sheet.  Press the ball gently to about 2 inches thick.  With a sharp knife with a long blade, cut a deep cross across the top.

Bake in your 450-degree oven for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 400 degrees.  Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool slightly on a wire rack, and slice.  Serve warm.  Also tastes great the next day, warmed up or toasted, or just as is. Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from The Irish Kitchen: 150 Recipes for Everyday Cooking from the Emerald Isle.


Recipe for Homemade Wheat Bread and the Satisfaction of Making Bread by Hand

wheat bread loafMaking bread is such a basic, yet artistic task.  It is an ancient tradition that has stayed with us even in this modern world.  Though we can easily buy bread, there is something about making it with one’s own hands that is soothing and gratifying.  For me, it is also a good way to get creative ideas flowing.  Bread-making is such a rich field for symbolic interpretation, the way the temperature cannot be  too hot or it will kill the rising powers of the yeast, yet it needs to be warm enough to allow the dough to rise, the fact that we get to create the shape the dough becomes.  I also love the fluidity and flexibility in making bread. risen dough 1 I never do it exactly the same way twice, and there is no exact amount of flour to use.  The bread-making conditions change depending on the room temperature, humidity, and lots of other things.  So much of it depends on how the dough feels, and really I think bread gets better and better with practice, as is the case with almost everything.  I recently wrote an essay about the beauty of bread-making, and it has been published in the current October/November issue of one of my favorite magazines, MaryJanesFarm.  If you have never read this magazine, you should check it out at the newsstand or at  This magazine is full of information about natural living, healthy eating, gardening and farming, with beautiful photographs and great recipes and ideas.  In my bread-making essay, I write about the therapeutic effects of kneading the messy, sticky batter into a soft, smooth, elastic ball of sweet-smelling dough, and how as I knead, I can work through whatever is on my mind.  And the beauty of it is that the more one kneads the bread dough, the better the bread is.  So if I am working the dough extra much to figure out a problem, the bread turns out that much more tender. And the heavenly scent of bread baking in the oven! That alone is worth all the labor of making bread by hand.  These days, I don’t have the time to make bread as often as I used to, and I know many of us are usually too crunched for time to make our own bread.  But when there is an open morning or an open afternoon, I savor the chance to work with the dough and create something so necessary, yet so luxurious.   Below is the recipe I use most often for bread.  It is very basic, holds up well for making sandwiches and toast, and tastes especially delicious right out of the oven with butter melting on a freshly-sliced piece.  This recipe comes from “The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book”, though this trustworthy book is definitely not “new” anymore–my mother gave it to me in the early 1990s! However, I find myself going back to this recipe time and time again because it works well for me, and my family loves it.

cut wheat bread 3wheat bread close up

Homemade Wheat Bread

  • Servings: two loaves of bread
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  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup water


Combine 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and the yeast in a large bowl.  In a medium saucepan, heat and stir the brown sugar, butter, 1 and 3/4 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt until warm (about 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit) and the butter is mostly melted.  If the brown sugar/butter mixture is quite hot, let it cool.  I usually wait until I can (carefully!) dip my finger in the mixture to know if it is cool enough.  If the mixture feels comfortably warm, then it is cool enough.  You don’t want to pour a hot mixture into the flour/yeast mixture, because that could kill the yeast’s rising powers.  When the brown sugar/butter mixture is slightly warm but not hot, pour into the flour/yeast mixture.  With a large wooden spoon, stir vigorously for a two to three minutes, until the mixture is completely smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl regularly.  Then stir in the whole wheat flour and as much of the remaining all-purpose flour you can.

When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the sides of the bowl to get everything out.  Now comes the fun part.  Knead in enough of all-purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic.  There is no exact amount of flour to use–it really depends on so many different variables–so just gradually knead in flour and watch the texture of the dough change.  Make sure you knead energetically, folding the dough over and pushing down with the heel of your hand, and then using your fingers as the dough gets softer.  Knead a minimum of 8 minutes, but you can knead longer if that is what it takes to get the dough to the texture you want.  It should be soft and moist, but not sticky, with the flour worked in evenly.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn once.  Cover with a dish towel, and let rise in a warm (not hot–around 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal) place until double the size (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

When the dough has about doubled in size, punch it down and turn out again onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half.  Cover and let the dough rest for ten minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly grease two 8x4x2 inch loaf pans.  Then shape each half of dough into the shape of a loaf.  Place in loaf pans.  Cover with the dish towel and let the loaves rise in a warm place until they are the size you want them when you bake them (they should about double in size–it takes about 45 to 60 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Bake the bread in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.  Cover loosely with foil the last 10 to 20 minutes of baking time.  Remove the bread from the pans and let cool.  Enjoy!