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Knead some dough?

It’s Alive! Thanks to its short list of fairly accessible ingredients, bread, in its many forms, is the world’s most-eaten food. Most leavened bread gets its rise from yeast, and the way this little organism works is pretty interesting. Yeast is alive, and each individual yeast cell must eat to continue living. Yeasts’ favorite food is sugar, and when they’re added to bread dough, the yeasts feast on the sugars, breaking them down and emitting carbon dioxide and alcohol. As a gas, the carbon dioxide forms bubbles, which grow and expand, “plumping up” the dough. This process intensifies in the heat of the oven, as does the evaporation of the alcohol.

By Jennifer Kornegay / Food Photography by Brooke Echols

A warm-from-the-oven slice of freshly baked homemade bread is worth its weight in gold and definitely worth the effort required to make and bake it.

Bread has long been associated with money. The person bringing home the majority of a family or household’s income is the breadwinner. We often say someone doing well financially is “raking in the dough.” The link has its origins in the important role bread has played in the welfare of cultures around the world since man first started farming. As one of the oldest “prepared foods,” daily bread was essential for life, and thus, it attained high value. In places like ancient Egypt and middle-ages France, bread was used as credit and currency.

     Today, most of us no longer live by bread alone, and as some of us try to watch our waistlines, bread — with its high calorie and carb count — has been given a lesser place of prominence in many modern diets. But this just puts it on a pedestal again, giving it a new kind of value as something some deem a splurge or a luxury.

     Our access to all kinds of bread makes it even more special. We can easily get our hands on bread types from all over the globe: flat but pillowy Indian naan; a skinny, crusty French baguette; or a round of chewy Italian ciabatta. If you prefer to go all-American, you’ve still got lots of options: a soft loaf of tangy sourdough, a slice studded with raisins and swirled with cinnamon, a beer-boosted bread or just a plain piece of basic white.

     And if you want to stay true to our region, cornbread is certainly the South’s favorite bread. Or is it the biscuit? (It’s definitely risen beyond the realm of bread but is still bread nonetheless.) That’s a debate with no wrong answer.

     Wherever your bread cravings take your taste buds, set aside some time to try out a few of this month’s reader submitted recipes.


Cook of the Month: Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC

Robin O’Sullivan loves fresh, local strawberries, and when they’re in season each spring, she’s always looking for ways to incorporate them into her cooking. She’d made chocolate-banana bread for years, and then one day, decided to branch out and try chocolate-strawberry bread instead. “It was really just an experiment,” she said. “I love the flavor combo of chocolate and strawberry, so I figured it would work.” It did. It’s become a regular in her baking rotation, and while it is technically bread, she admits it’s flirting with being a dessert. “It’s sweet and a bit rich, but like a banana bread, you can still eat it for breakfast,” she said.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate-Strawberry Bread

  • 1 pound whole strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms of two 9×5-inch or 8×4-inch loaf pans. Lightly flour. Slightly mash strawberries; set aside. In a large bowl, mix sugar and oil. Stir in eggs until well blended. Stir in strawberries until well mixed. Stir in remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips, just until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into pans. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.


Garlic Rosemary Bread

  • 2 cups lukewarm water (105 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (21/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine water and yeast. Add 1 cup of flour and salt; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in rosemary leaves and minced garlic. Add remaining flour, one cup at a time, stirring until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour. Add one tablespoon of olive oil in an 8 or 10-inch cast iron skillet; using a napkin or your fingers, coat bottom and sides of skillet with the olive oil. Flour your hands; remove plastic wrap and using your hands, transfer dough to prepared skillet and shape into a disk. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. Score the top of the loaf with some shallow knife cuts. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and turn the bread out onto a wire cooling rack. Leave to cool for a few minutes and serve. (If you do not have an iron skillet, you can use a stoneware baking dish).

NOTE: Remove bread from pan as soon as  it comes out of the oven because bread left in the pan will become moist and soggy.

Mary Rich

North Alabama EC


Mayonnaise Biscuits

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup milk

Combine all ingredients and spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Yield: 6 biscuits. Easily doubled or tripled for more biscuits.

Sherry Phillips

Central Alabama EC


No Corn Jalapeno “Cornbread”

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2-3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pickled (not hot) jalapenos dried on a paper towel
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar or Fontina cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

Place an 8-inch cast iron skillet into the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Add in egg and milk; mix lightly until smooth and fluid. (Add more milk if necessary so that batter is loose enough to spread evenly into bottom of skillet). Remove hot skillet from the oven and add 1 tablespoon oil. Spread oil over bottom. Place back in oven and heat for 5 minutes.

Remove skillet again and pour in half the batter. Spread into a layer over the bottom. Place the dry jalapenos over the batter and then add the cheese over the top. Pour the rest of the batter over the jalapenos and cheese. Spread with spoon to cover evenly. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until top is golden. Serves 2 to 4. Delicious, Paleo and gluten free.

Gay Cotton

Baldwin EMC


Spoon Bread Muffins (Rolls)

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ sticks margarine, melted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 package yeast
  • 2 cups warm water

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in flour, beaten egg, sugar and melted margarine. Stir until mixed well. Can use immediately or will keep well in a covered bowl that is refrigerated for one week. To bake: spoon mix into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

LaCretia Bevel

North Alabama EC


Easy Popovers

  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 6-cup popover pan. Pour milk into mixing bowl, add flour and salt and use a hand mixer to blend well, making sure not to over-mix the batter. Add eggs one at a time, beating each until completely blended. Pour batter evenly into popover cups, filling will be about 3/4 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Shari Lowery

Pioneer EC


Easy Beer Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup optional ingredients: shredded cheese, olives, jalapenos and 1 teaspoon (or more if you like) Italian seasoning blend

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3-inch bread loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Slowly pour the beer and honey into the flour mixture, add optional ingredients if you desire and stir until combined. Pour half of the melted butter into the bottom of the loaf pan and spread it around evenly. Then add the batter to the pan in an even layer and brush the rest of the butter around evenly on top of the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Shari Lowery

Pioneer EC


Coming up in May… Junior Cooks!

It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!

Themes and Deadlines

June: Heirloom Recipes | April 8

July: Frozen Treats | May. 8

August: Corn | June 8

Submit your recipe here.

Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.