Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

I’ve been inspired to do more with cornmeal lately and it has nothing to do with my buying a 5lb bag of freshly ground cornmeal at the farmers market. Nothing at all!

After watching a TV chef add cornmeal instead of semolina to their focaccia, I looked around for more recipes. I found several different versions online of cornbread focaccia (including this one from Southern Living) that I used as a stepping off point.

I love the crust it gets from baking it in a cast iron skillet. While this doesn’t make the best sandwich bread (as it is a little crumbly), it is delicious on its own as an appetizer or snack or with soup.

Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
25 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped (about half cup chopped)

Combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, yeast, eggs, butter and honey in a mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to proof for a five minutes. Stir together until well combined. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and stir to mix. Let stand while the oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

Lightly oil the skillet, using a basting brush to get up the sides as well. Pour dough into hot skillet. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary and the chopped olives.

Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the focaccia to a rack to cool completely before serving.

 

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Cornbread Sticks

I’m giving one of my cast iron cornbread stick pans to Michelle and I just had to check that it was working properly. I can cheerfully report that it does. It really does!

I inherited this one from my dad’s parents and it is perfectly seasoned after years and years cornbread making.

I like cornbread sticks as they increase the ratio of crunchy to the rest of the bread. Trust me, it makes scientifically better cornbread!

If all you have is fine or medium ground corn meal, use just the one cup. But I like the texture from the crunch of coarse or stoneground corn meal so I add that. I do soften it in milk, as I don’t fancy chipping a tooth!

Soften some butter as the cornbread cooks, to make slathering it on super easy.

Cornbread Sticks

1/4 cup coarse ground corn meal
1/4 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup finely ground corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten into 1 cup of milk
1/4 cup Crisco shortening

Place the coarse ground corn meal in the milk and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes to soften and absorb the liquid.

After 30 minutes, pinch off pieces of the shortening and place dollops in each slot on the cast iron cornbread stick pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with the pans in the oven, melting the shortening.

Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the melted shortening until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter. Pour the mixture into each of the corn sticks in the pans and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Tops will be golden brown. Immediately remove from pans to cool.

Serve with lots of butter or crumble some in a glass with a drizzle honey and plenty of cold milk.

Olive Semolina Focaccia Loaves

I’m out of sandwich bread and there was the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade between me and grocery store. It was make my own time. I didn’t want to make just a plain white loaf of bread, though.

Earlier this week, I broke one of my old fashioned mason jars I was using for storage and the next size I had available was just slightly too small for a new bag of semolina flour I had bought. Luckily, I had a recipe for focaccia that uses 1/2 cup, so it was a win-win.

Instead of making a sheet sized loaf, I divided the dough into eight pieces. I pressed them into the corners to form squares about the size of sandwich bread.

I started my bread making early in the day so I had a lovely ham sandwich on olive focaccia for lunch and then a turkey on focaccia for dinner.

Olive Semolina Focaccia Loaves

Starter
1 cup​ all purpose flour
¼ cup​ semolina flour
½ teaspoon ​kosher salt
2 ¼ teaspoon ​active dry yeast
1 cup​ lukewarm water

Dough
3 cups​ all purpose flour
¼ cup​ semolina flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons dry non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup ​lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Kalamata olives, chopped plus 8 olives sliced into four pieces each
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
1 teaspoon salt flakes (I used Maldon)

Mix together the starter ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Let rise for 1 hour.

Put the 3 cups of flour, semolina, salt and dry milk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to combine. Pour the water, oil, and starter in the mixing bowl and mix to combine. Add in chopped olives.

When the dough comes together (add up to 1/2 cup additional all purpose flour if necessary), switch to a dough hook and let the machine knead for 5-10 minutes. The mixing can be done by hand as well.

Form into a ball and place into a large, well oiled bowl. Spin the dough to coat lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Coat the bottom and sides of a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and then flatten into loaves – I cheat by using the corner of the sheet pan to help form them into sandwich size squares. Cover the sheet tray with plastic wrap and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place four olive pieces on top of each of the loaves. Using your fingers make indents all over the dough disks, pressing in some of the olives. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 tablespoons water until emulsified. Brush the top of the focaccia with the oil and water mixture. Scatter with salt flakes.

Place in the 400 degree F pre heated oven. The focaccia will take 30-40 minutes to bake. Lift an edge to check that the bottom is golden brown, like the top.

Let cool completely. Slice the loaves in half for perfect sandwiches.

Skillet Rustic Olive Bread

I was in a yeasty mood when I spied a jar of Kalamata olives in the fridge. Perfect to do some olive bread. This is great bread with soup, plain dipped in olive oil or to make sandwiches. For day two, I made sandwiches with some turkey breast brought to me by my sister from Bates House of Turkey Restaurant outside of Greenville, Alabama.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4-5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
coarse salt for sprinkling

Combine water, honey and yeast.
 Let sit for ten minutes to activate yeast.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup of flour and salt; whisk to mix. On low speed, stir in yeasty water. Mix in olives, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic powder.
 Switching to the dough hook, add remaining flour, one cup at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
 Let the machine work the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl but will still be very sticky and loose.

Transfer to a large, well oiled bowl. Cover and set in a warm spot to rise for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.
 I placed the bowl in the cold oven with the light on.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Coat bottom and sides of skillet with the olive oil.

Transfer dough to prepared skillet and shape into a disk. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes on the counter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush remaining olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle with coarse salt.
 Score the top of the loaf three times with a knife.
 Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is nicely browned.
 Remove from oven and turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

It is important to take the bread out of the skillet immediately or it will trap moisture and become soggy.

 

Raisin Bread

I had an urge for raisin bread on Sunday morning and searched through my recipes to find one that looked good. I flipped through my James Beard and Father Dominic cookbooks and ended up combining the best of both worlds.

I set everything up before the New Orleans Saints kickoff so it was ready to be put it together during halftime. The dough rose during the second half and I divided the dough before overtime started. Once we won the game, I preheated the oven and began to bake.

A couple of notes:

I make my own cinnamon sugar by combining 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. For this recipe, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar, so store the rest in an air tight container for another use.

If you don’t want to cook both loaves at once, after the first rise and once you’ve divided the dough, press the bubbles out of one half and wrap it in plastic and put in an airtight bag. You can now freeze the dough. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking as described below.

 

Raisin Bread

2 packages of instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl and stir gently to mix. Let proof for 10 minutes.

Soften raisins by putting them in a steamer basket over boiling water while yeast proofs. Set aside once plump.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is almost entirely melted. Pour into a bowl of an electric mixture and let cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture, sugar, salt and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add five cups of flour, one cup at a time and stirring after each addition. Mix until dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Stir in raisins.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Add additional flour in half cup measures, as necessary, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place (I put mine in the oven with the light on) for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and form into two loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Brush the top of each loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

After the loaves have been rising for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake loaves for 10 minutes. Loosely cover the loaves with foil and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more. Loaves should sound hollow with tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans and let cool on wire racks.

Blueberry Muffins

I tried a new blueberry muffin recipe and they were pretty good. I usually make this Double Blueberry Muffins recipe, where you mash part of the blueberries. With less smashed fruit, the muffins in this recipe aren’t a strange grey from the blueberry juices, which was a plus as I brought them for the Forum for Equality Candidate Interviews for the upcoming election. Only problem was they didn’t want to come out of the muffin tins, so I ended up with a lot of muffin tops (which is frankly the best part). Next time, I’ll put these in cupcake papers, though.

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 – 12 cup muffin tins

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the extracts and mix to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then add the eggs one at a time.

Add in one third of the dry ingredients. Pour in half the milk. Add in half of the remaining dry ingredients and then the rest of the milk. Add the final bit of dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Rotate and switch the pans midway through baking.

Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Focaccia with a Beer Assist

I’m watching World Cup Soccer Round of 16 games today and I’m also craving yeasty, salty, rosemary-ie focaccia bread. I worked out the time needed and, so, started the dough after the France-Argentina game to allow for the first rise. It was ready to spread it in the pan right before the Portugal-Uruguay game began. I let it rise through the first half and then baked it during half time.

By using beer, I got a very light texture even with higher gluten bread flour plus an added flavor boost of yeasty goodness. I went with a wheat beer from Blue Moon.

Focaccia with a Beer Assist

2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 package)
1 12 ounce bottle of beer (wheat beer, if possible)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a dough hook, add 2 cups bread flour, sugar, 1 tablespoon rosemary, and yeast. Warm beer in the microwave to 120 to 125 degrees F. Add the beer to the stand mixer and let stand for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to medium, mix until combined.

Add in the all-purpose flour, ¼ cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Switch the mixer to medium high, and knead for 10 minutes.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat the dough. Cover and allow to rise in a warm room until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I use the oven with the oven light turned on.

Lightly oil a rimmed baking pan. For an optional, added crunch, sprinkle on a little corn meal or semolina flour. Transfer the dough to the pan, pulling to cover the entire pan. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425.

Press your fingers into the dough making holes across the entire loaf. Brush with remaining oil, sprinkle with remaining rosemary and the coarse salt. Bake until golden brown and it sounds hollow to the tap, about 15 minutes.