I've never been much of a bread baker. There's something about yeast that scares me--the uncertainty of knowing that its doing its job. However, I do appreciate good bread and can fortunately get it in Cleveland at some wonderful local bakeries.
The extent of my bread baking is Parker House rolls, usually made at Thanksgiving. No one in my family seems willing to make these favorite rolls as they do take time. However, everyone in my family is happy to eat the rolls once I make them. My sister always exclaims "I will NEVER have to make these as long as you do!" Thanks, Sis. The rolls are “blessed” with our Moms rolling pin which I use faithfully--it has to be at least 50 years old.
In early March, when we ran out of bread, I set out to make it, not realizing that I didn't have yeast or nearly enough flour. Friends came to the rescue and shipped me both. My friend Carol who is an exceptional bread baker even sent me instructions and suggestions on what to make. How could I go wrong?
With floured fingers crossed, I made two very simple loaves of bread following a recipe from King Arthur Flour (my new best friend). I even drug out my Kitchenaid Mixer with dough hook to assist in the kneading (it helped). Admittedly, the experience wasn't as nerve wracking as I thought. And there is something wonderful about watching those loaves rise, not to mention the aroma of bread baking.
My friend, Ann, who is a pastry chef taught me how to make cinnamon rolls (I added Pat's Granola--was that even a question) during a class last year and I felt fairly confident that I could recreate these on my own. Right now having some sense of control is important as the days bring uncertainty.
These were the Tropical granola filled cinnamon rolls from Annie's Signature Sweets baking class.
I've since made orange cinnamon rolls filled with ginger spiced granola. These were, in my opinion, very, very good.
I'm also gratefully able to make a few baked goods that don't require yeast such as banana bread, blueberry muffins, my Moms 1-2-3-4 cake and biscuits. The biscuits are especially welcome because not only are they easy to make and bake, but can be frozen to be enjoyed later. Like for biscuit sandwiches or in strawberry shortcake. I dropped some of these just out of the oven biscuits to my neighbors who proclaimed "haven't tasted anything like these since my grandma made them."
Here's the simple drop biscuit recipe which I adapted from King Arthur, Martha Stewart and Sallys Baking Addiction websites. Note: I'm also a fan of Edna Lewis' biscuits, which require lard and I simply couldn't get it.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet or baking tray for easier cleanup.
2-1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour (use White Lily flour if you can find it)
1 tablespoon baking powder (I use Calumet)
1 teaspoon granulated salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Whisk lightly with a fork.
Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal--it'll look crumbly. Work quickly as you don't want the butter to melt.
Mix in milk, a little at a time with your hands until just combined. Don't over mix. Add a drop or two or milk if the mix seems dry--it should be a tad moist.
Drop dough by generous tablespoon fulls onto the baking sheet. Leave an inch or so between each biscuit. At this point, you can freeze the biscuits on a cookie sheet until frozen. Remove and place in a ziplock bag, making sure to remove as much of the air out of the bag as possible.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm, right out of the oven.
For the strawberry shortcake, split the biscuits, and add a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, fresh berries or jam. Simply delicious.