High Rise Yeast Biscuits

A few weeks ago I visited a local Kentucky bakery. On a whim I picked up a package of rolls. They looked a little hard on the outside but I was intrigued by the name: Biscuits, though they looked a lot more like yeast rolls. The biscuits were amazing! This lead me on the hunt to try and recreate these rolls, something I’m still in the process of doing. Along the way, I stumbled upon these amazing high rise yeast biscuits. I don’t even want to tell you how many times I’ve made them since…they are so good. Adding yeast to biscuit dough increases the rise, fluffiness and absolute melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of these biscuits. They are the perfect biscuit to serve with Sunday dinner, spread with jam or use with some lunchmeat for a sandwich. I have a few different biscuit recipes on my site that I love for their ease and flakiness, but this one is worth the extra rise time for the tender, melt-in-your-mouth, high rise biscuit.

Jump to High Rise Yeast Biscuits Recipe

Three Rising Agents

A traditional biscuit uses self-rising flour or a lot of baking powder to give it a large oven rise. These high rise yeast biscuits use a combination of rising agents. Instant yeast and an hour rise gives them height and makes them fluffy and delicious. The baking powder and buttermilk react with each other to help create a beautiful rise for the perfect biscuit. One note: I like to use room temperature buttermilk. If you can, pour the buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup before making the biscuits and allow it to come to room temperature. Usually biscuit recipes call for cold butter and cold ingredients to help the biscuits rise in the oven. These biscuits actually benefit from room temperature ingredients (with the exception of the butter) because a warmer environment helps activate the yeast, which gives the biscuits their big rise.

Grated Butter and Shortening

The easiest way to mix up little pieces of butter into dough is to take a cold stick of butter from the refrigerator and grate it. This gives the perfect size pieces of butter for biscuits and is quick and easy, especially if you don’t have a pastry cutter. I also love that the butter pieces are all uniform and combine simply. If you want to substitute the shortening for butter, go ahead. Shortening reduces gluten development or in other words, it shortens the strands of gluten in making biscuits tender and crumbly. Butter, on the other hand, melts in the dough and creates little pockets of steam that lift and puff up the dough. I like including both butter and shortening in my recipe to get a tender, crumbly, flaky biscuit. If you want to just use one over the other, that works. Just beware that you may be sacrificing texture by doing so.

Fold in Half and Top with Butter

I love that these high rise yeast biscuits are rolled out, cut and folded in half before placing in a greased baking dish. The fold gives the biscuits more height and makes them the perfect vehicle for a biscuit sandwich. I think these would be great with some bacon, egg and cheese or even as a nice hearty biscuit to top with some sausage or chocolate gravy. After the biscuits come out of the oven, use a pastry brush to brush them with melted butter. You may think a single coating is enough, but keep coating them until all the butter is used up. The extra butter on top takes these high rise yeast biscuits over the top.

Gluten-Free Option

I made these biscuits gluten-free for my sister who doesn’t eat gluten and she was blown away by how delicious they were. I even sampled some of the gluten-free biscuits and I must say they were delicious. If you want to make these gluten-free, follow the recipe exactly as stated, but substitute in Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). I’ve found Cup4Cup does a great job in making cookies, muffins, and pancakes gluten-free. If you are looking for a great gluten-free biscuit, these are amazing using gluten-free flour.

Even though these high rise yeast biscuits take a little bit longer than a traditional biscuit recipe, they are worth every hour of that rise time. Still faster than traditional rolls because they only need one rise, you will love having these biscuits at your dinner table! Enjoy!

High Rise Yeast Biscuits

Fluffy, light, buttery and downright delicious. These biscuits have three rising agents, resulting in the most tender biscuit ever. High rise yeast biscuits deserve a special spot at your dinner table.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 24 biscuits

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast see note
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 cups all purpose flour see note
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening Crisco or similar brand
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for topping biscuits

Instructions
 

  • To a small bowl, add the instant yeast, warm water (temperature of baby's bathwater) and sugar. Set aside while you mix the other ingredients. The yeast will smell yeasty and become bubbly during this time.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to a large bowl. Stir together to combine.
  • Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter (affiliate link), your fingers or two knives. Continue until the shortening is in very small pea-shaped pieces.
  • Using a box grater, grate the cold butter on the edges of the grater. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture. Mix to combine.
  • To the flour/butter mixture, add the reserved yeast and the buttermilk. Mix gently until the dough forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out on the counter and fold over once or twice, being careful not to overwork the dough.
  • Pat and roll the dough into a large rectangle (roughly 20 inches by 13 inches) and 1/2 inch or more thick. Cut the dough into 20-24 rectangular pieces (depending on how many you want) using a bench knife (affiliate link) or sharp knife.
  • Fold each rectangle in half and place in a greased 9 by 13 baking pan. Continue filling up the pan and nestling the rolls together.
  • Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise about an hour. The time may vary based on the temperature of the buttermilk and the temperature of your kitchen.
  • Once the biscuits have risen (puffed up and approximately doubled in size), preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Bake biscuits for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • As soon as they come out of the oven, brush melted butter on top of the biscuits. Continue brushing until all the butter is used up. Enjoy immediately!

Notes

Dry Active Yeast: This recipe will also work with dry active yeast. Use the same amount of dry active yeast as you would instant yeast. Be sure to let the yeast mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast has activated with the water and sugar. 
Gluten Free Flour: If you want to make these biscuits gluten-free, you can substitute Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link) for the all purpose flour in the recipe. I do not have experience with any other gluten-free flours. Cup4Cup works very well in this recipe. Substitute the flour and proceed with the recipe as outlined.
 
Keyword biscuit,, fluffy bread

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All About: Vital Wheat Gluten (And why It deserves a Place in Your PANTRY)

Vital Wheat Gluten. What is it? Is it a staple in your pantry? Why should you have it on hand if you are baking bread? All of these questions I asked myself as I started baking bread many years ago. As I would research a recipe, oftentimes I would find the author recommending vital wheat gluten. Initially I had no idea what it was or why it should matter, but I started using it. I don’t always keep bread flour (or high gluten flour) on hand. If there is one ingredient that has made a big difference in my bread, vital wheat gluten is it. I’ve compiled some information on what it is and why you should have it in your kitchen as a home baker if you want to make some seriously delicious loaves of bread.

What is Vital Wheat Gluten? 

Vital wheat gluten is the natural protein that is found in wheat. It is made by hydrating wheat flour (this activates the gluten) and then processing the flour to remove everything except for the gluten. This gluten is then dried and ground back into a powder and voila: vital wheat gluten! Many people who buy vital wheat gluten use it to make seitan which can be used as a “meat substitute.” It is very popular in some Asian cultures, where it is mixed with water and some spices to form a “dough” and then cooked. It becomes very chewy and has a meat-like texture. 

The Importance of Protein Content in Flour

Vital wheat gluten is made from the protein in the endosperm of a wheat berry. I’ve written about wheat before; if you want to learn more about wheat to pick the best type of flour for your bake, you can read here. Typically, vital wheat gluten is made up of anywhere from 75%-90% protein. The more protein in flour, the stronger the gluten bond is in the flour. A strong gluten bond traps the gas produced by the yeast and gives a strong rise to your loaf of bread. If you are having issues with your bread not rising well or recipes not turning out exactly as you like, check the flour you are using. Protein content matters. 

  • Soft Flour: Anywhere from 5%-10% protein, best used in pancakes, waffles, quick breads where you want soft, tender quick breads and don’t want the gluten to develop.
  • All Purpose Flour: 9%-11% protein, best all-around flour for your kitchen. Can be used to make pancakes, waffles, muffins, breads and give a good result. If you are making bread, add some vital wheat gluten for superior results.
  • Bread Flour (hard flour): 11%-13% protein, best for baking bread (no need to add vital wheat gluten, unless you are working with whole wheat flours).

All Purpose Flour vs Bread Flour

In a standard home kitchen, you may use only all purpose flour. It is the most common flour and has a protein content of anywhere from 9-11%. You can make good bread from most brands of all purpose flour. If you want to make superior bread, it is best to increase the flour’s protein content. You can do this by buying bread flour which has a higher protein content OR you can add vital wheat gluten to your all purpose flour, essentially making your own bread flour. This increases the protein content of your flour, which results in a better loaf of bread. For best results, sift the vital wheat gluten together with the all purpose flour, though if I’m being completely honest here, I often just throw in a few Tablespoons about halfway through adding flour, and it works well too.

How Much Vital Wheat Gluten Should I Add?

When baking with vital wheat gluten, you want to be careful not to add too much to the recipe. My rule of thumb is to add 1 teaspoon for every cup of flour the recipe calls for. Wheat gluten absorbs liquid at a higher rate than traditional flour, so you may need to increase your liquid by a few Tablespoons. Let the dough be your guide.

Whole Grains and Vital Wheat Gluten

Vital wheat gluten is especially helpful when baking with whole wheat and whole grains. Adding a little to bread made with whole wheat flour produces a soft, light and fluffy texture to a bread that can often be a little coarse. Whole wheat flour typically has all of the bran, germ and endosperm in it. The bran has little shards or sharp edges that cut the strands of gluten forming in the dough. Whole grain loaves tend to be more dense and don’t rise quite as tall as loaves made with processed white flour. Adding a little vital wheat gluten and some extra liquid to these whole grain doughs helps soften the texture and give more oven rise in baking.

Substitutions

So what should you do if you come across a recipe that calls for vital wheat gluten and you don’t have any? In a bread recipe, the vital wheat gluten is there to help give structure to the bread. If the recipe calls for all purpose flour and vital wheat gluten, you can substitute bread flour (you may need a little less flour due to the high protein content in bread flour). If a recipe calls for whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten, you can leave out the vital wheat gluten. Your whole wheat bread will not rise quite as high and tall or taste quite as soft as it will if you add in the wheat gluten, but it shouldn’t stop you from making a delicious loaf.

A Pantry Staple

I have never made seitan, but I use vital wheat gluten almost weekly in my baking. I buy this large bag from Amazon (affiliate link) and it lasts me a long time. You can also find smaller sized bags (affiliate link) at your grocery store, usually in the baking aisle. A small amount of vital wheat gluten added to yeast bread recipes improves the texture and elasticity of the dough. It helps produce tall, round loaves and gives a light and fluffy texture when used in moderation. Vital wheat gluten also helps soften breads made with whole grains and results in a superior bread bake. Add it to your grocery list and start using it in your baking. You won’t regret it!

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One Year

When I started this journey, I told myself I would give it a year. As a busy mama of four elementary-school and preschool aged kids, I was at a place in life where I needed an outlet for myself. I’ve always loved to bake, share recipes and critique the things I create to make them better. And so, after a lot of thought and research, I decided to start a recipe blog. I brainstormed recipe ideas, made recipes and I hit publish on my first post, exactly one year ago today.  

A Turbulent Year

As I was feeling an impression to start this website (and acted on it), I never would have imagined the life-saver it would be to me during the pandemic. Those spring months were hard. Lonely. Filled with uncertainty. Writing and creating recipes helped me get through a pandemic, a difficult medical diagnosis, the death of my wonderful grandma (these lemon bars were her favorite) and a move to a new house. Creating recipes, baking in the kitchen with my kids and having a purpose (other than my role as mama) during this year has saved me in a way. I am forever grateful for this community. For those of you who take the time to try a recipe, share a post or leave a comment: Thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor. Your love, support and comments have meant more than you know. 

Learning Experiences

This past year has taught me so much. I’ve learned how to work with wordpress. How to create recipes in wordpress (you can see from some of my old recipes that I didn’t even know how to add a “recipe card” into the recipe at first–I’m still working on updating them). I’ve learned to make recipes over and over again and that when it doesn’t turn out exactly right, to just eat the soupy peach cobbler (for the 3rd time) and shelve the recipe to come back to next year. Pro tip: if using frozen peaches, thaw them and drain excess extra liquid before making your cobbler or just use fresh peaches to begin with. I am grateful for every experience I have in connection with running this website. Each experience teaches me and helps me do better in the future.

Top Five Recipes

I love looking at the analytics of my blog, so without further ado, the top five recipes on my blog this year. Is it any wonder that all of these recipes have something to do with sourdough? It seems fitting because Sourdough has become so popular this year with the pandemic.

5th. Coming in at number five: Sourdough Discard Banana Bread

This banana bread uses sourdough discard and a combination of white and brown sugar to deepen the flavor. Delicious banana bread, and perfect if you are looking to use up some sourdough discard.

4th. Fourth place goes to these: Cinnamon Sugar Muffins Two Ways

Make your muffins with our without sourdough discard. After baking, the top of the muffin is dunked in butter and then cinnamon sugar for a sweet and delicious crunch.

3rd: Third place: Sourdough Discard Crispy Crackers

These are definitely one of my favorites and we make them a lot. The perfect crispy cracker that can use up a lot of sourdough discard and tastes incredible.

2nd: In second place: Crispy Sourdough Discard Waffles

If you want seriously amazing sourdough waffles, these are them. They are crispy on the outside; soft and fluffy on the inside. Basically the perfect waffle.

1st Coming in first and knocking all the others out of the park really, these: Sourdough Discard Soft White Roll

These rolls have been number one on my site for the past few months. They are soft, tender and delicious with just a hint of sourdough tang. So glad so many of you love them too!

Statistics for the Year

I always find it so interesting to see how the statistics side of blogging works, so I thought I’d share a few blog statistics with you. Last year, my first full month of writing this blog, I had about 1400 page views. This year (looking at the last full month in January) that has increased to about 14,000 page views a month. Thank you for being here! I love more than anything seeing all the recipes you are making. I so appreciate every share to an audience big or small. My biggest blogging takeaway is to just keep writing. Slow and steady. Keep adding good content.

Profitability: One Year In

Well, I said I’d give it a year and I am still going. Am I making any money off this endeavor? No. Not yet. I have made a little revenue from affiliate links on this blog, but nothing to cover the cost of the site itself just yet. I’ve learned this year that I love developing recipes, writing them up and posting them. I also feel a need to balance my time with my family. My hope and goal is for this blog to pay for itself one day and maybe some of the ingredients I’m using through affiliate links and ads on the site. It took a year, but finally google Adsense qualified this website for ads. These ads are what will continue to allow me to give you all of this free content.

High Hopes for the Future

I have high hopes for this upcoming year. I want to share more sourdough recipes, give more baking tips and definitely share more of my family’s favorite baked goods with you. My little preschooler will be starting kindergarten next year (cue tears) and I will have more time to devote to this space once he is in school full-time. I hope to travel more (a few trips booked and planned already) and bring a little more travel content to this space as planning vacations and traveling is one of my favorite things to do with my family. I’m grateful that this year my love for baking and sourdough has been able to ease the loss of travel for the year. Most of all, I’m planning to keep developing recipes, keep writing and keep posting on this website.

And with that, a big giant thank you! Thank you for being here. Thank you for all your comments and shares. Thank you for trying my recipes and coming back to them. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor. Here’s to year two!

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King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

A year ago, when starting this blog, I wrote one of my first ever posts about a kid-sized king cake that I enjoy making with my kids during Mardi Gras season. We had so much fun making a traditional king cake into a smaller version to enjoy as a family. This year, Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Mardi Gras season falls a few days after Valentines Day and with all our celebrations and cookie baking, I needed something quick and easy to make this year. These king cake scones take about 30-40 minutes…start to finish! No rise time. No kneading dough. Basically, the perfect sweet treat I was looking for to give us the Mardi Gras feel after a busy weekend of celebrating.

Jump to King Cake Scones Recipe

Cinnamon Flavor

These King Cake Scones are based on the flavors in my kid-sized king cake recipe. Traditionally, king cake is flavored with cinnamon, though you may find other flavors now as well: vanilla, cream cheese, etc… I based the scone recipe off of these chocolate chip scones which we love. The scones themselves are not super sweet with only ⅓ cup of sugar in the dough. The cinnamon sugar filling and the glaze on top really give these king cake scones their sweetness and the balance between the two is perfect.

Grating Butter

One of my favorite tips when working with pastry, scones or biscuits is to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Start with butter straight from the freezer or refrigerator. Grate it into a pile and add the small bits of grated butter to the flour mixture. This grated butter is the perfect size for most recipes calling to “cut in” butter. You can also use a pastry cutter (affiliate link) to get pea-sized pieces of butter sprinkled throughout the flour mixture.

Preheat Oven

I used to be the kind of baker who would forget to preheat my oven. ALL. THE. TIME. As a busy mom, I never thought I had the time to wait for my oven to fully preheat. While that might work for some recipes (I’ll often put loaves of bread into a preheating oven to finish the rise while the oven comes to temperature), it does not work well for others. These scones really benefit from a properly preheated oven. They don’t bake very long and the high heat reacts with the baking powder giving them a beautiful rise. Basically, for this recipe, you won’t want to cut corners. Preheat the oven before baking these king cake scones.

Light Hand

Scone dough is very similar to biscuits or pie crust. If the dough is overworked, the gluten starts to develop, which results in tough, not tender scones. To achieve a tender scone, do your best to use a light hand when working the dough. I use a fork to mix the dough together until it has just barely come together. Then turn the dough out on the countertop and fold it over in a kneading motion two-three times. And that’s about all you’ll want to “work” this dough.

Sandwiching the Filling

Typically, scone dough is rolled out, cut and baked. This recipe differs because you actually cut the dough in half. Roll out both halves of the dough into equal eight inch circles. Then add a sweet cinnamon filling on top of one of the circles of scone dough. Smooth it around, leaving a little bit of space at the edge of the circle of dough. Then sandwich the other piece of dough on top. You get a nice thick layer of cinnamon filling in the middle of the scone. Pinch the edges of the scone dough closed together, moving around the edges of the dough. Initially I thought the scones would be oozing out filling but the filling holds pretty well when baked. A little cinnamon mixture will ooze out a bit, but it is easily removed from the scone after the scone cools if desired.

Glazing and Sprinkling Sugar

Once the scones have cooled, spread the glaze over the top. The glaze is meant to be fairly thick to allow the sanding sugar (affiliate link) to stick to it. If you want a thinner glaze, add a little more cream to thin it out. Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the glaze in the typical Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and yellow. 

My whole family loves these scones. They taste sweet, cinnamony and are super quick to make. My kids all enjoyed helping glaze and sprinkle the sanding sugar on the king cake scones. King Cake Scones are the perfect low-key way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year! Enjoy!

King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

Quick, fun and super delicious. These King Cake Scones, sandwiched with cinnamon, covered in sweet glaze and sprinkled with sanding sugar are the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 scones

Ingredients
  

King Cake Scones

  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold from the fridge or freezer
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk

Scone Filling

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scone Topping

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • green, yellow and purple sanding sugar

Instructions
 

Scone Dough

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Grate the entire stick of cold butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix until little pieces of butter are evenly distributed throughout. Alternatively you can "cut" the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter into pea sized shapes.
  • Mix together the eggs, heavy cream and milk in a liquid measuring cup. Pour into the butter/flour mixture and mix together until it is just combined and forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out onto a countertop or pastry mat and knead two or three times. Cut the dough into two equal sections. Let rest while you mix together the filling.
  • To a small bowl, mix together the scone filling: brown sugar, powdered sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • Lightly flour both balls of dough. Roll both balls out into equal sized 8 inch circles. Spread the cinnamon scone filling on top of one of the circles, leaving a little gap on the edges.
  • Place the other 8 inch circle of dough on top of the cinnamon filling, sandwiching the scone dough together. Pinch the seams closed.
  • Cut the dough into 8 triangular sections and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Bake scones for 14-16 minutes until baked through and a little brown on top.
  • While the scones bake, mix up the glaze. Whisk together powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract. After the scones have cooled a bit, top each scone with glaze. Sprinkle colorful sanding sugar on top of the scones. Enjoy!
Keyword King Cake, Scones

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Chocolate Puff Oven Pancake

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m the kind of mom who loves sweet, simple and easy traditions. We like eating this puff oven pancake on special mornings (ie: back to school) and we look forward to this chocolate version every Valentine morning. It is simple enough to throw together on a school morning. It’s sweet enough to be a “Valentine-kid-approved” breakfast and also has enough protein to be “mom-approved.” This chocolate puff oven pancake is the perfect breakfast to start your Valentine’s Day off right.

Jump to Chocolate Puff Oven Pancake Recipe

Valentine Traditions

In my home while growing up, the tradition was to eat a sugar cookie for breakfast on Valentines Day. Yes. It’s the day I looked forward to every year as a kid because I got to eat a frosted Valentine cookie with my name on it! Sometimes I would save it for when I got home from school, but more often than not I would eat it for breakfast…and savor every bite. You can find the recipe for these best ever sugar cookies here. As I became a mom myself, I still give my kids a cookie with their breakfast (some traditions are hard to break!), but I also like having something that has a little more protein, some fruit and not quite as much sugar as my kids will be consuming throughout the school day. This chocolate puff oven pancake hits all the right spots. It is breakfast decadence at its finest, but also filling and just delicious. It could also be a delicious Valentine dessert, or a fun anytime breakfast for the chocolate lover in your life.

Use a Blender or Whisk by Hand

I love puff oven pancakes because they are so simple. Throw ingredients in a blender, pulse for 20 seconds, pour the batter into a preheated pan and stick it in the oven. We love this recipe for an original puff oven pancake and make it frequently. This chocolate version, made chocolatey with the addition of cocoa powder, really puts a special spin on an old favorite recipe for a special occasion. If you don’t have a blender, you can always whisk the ingredients together in a bowl and it will turn out just fine.

Cocoa Powder in Chocolate Puff Oven Pancake

The cocoa powder is what gives the chocolate puff oven pancake its rich, chocolatey flavor. I’ve made it with dark/rich cocoa powder and regular cocoa powder from the grocery store. My family preferred the puff oven pancake made with the dark cocoa powder. The flavor is more intense with a dark cocoa powder and not as subtle. My favorite cocoa powder is this one from Costco, but I also like using the Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder (affiliate link) that you can find in most grocery stores. You can use a dutch-processed cocoa powder in this recipe with no issues.

Make-Ahead Instructions

This year, Valentine’s Day happens to fall on Sunday. We won’t worry about rushing off to school and can enjoy a leisurely Valentine breakfast. On a typical school-day, I like to have all the ingredients set out the night before. I’ll chop the strawberries, whip the cream and get a little bowl of sprinkles all set out. I even set my pan in the oven with a little bit of butter in it so it is ready to be preheated as soon as I get downstairs. Turn on the oven, blend up the ingredients, pop it in the oven. The chocolate puff oven pancake takes 5 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to bake. Then I’m free to wake my kids and help them get ready for the school day. We only have to double and triple check that they still have their bag of Valentines. After twenty minutes of hands-off time, breakfast is ready. I love sending my kids off to school with some protein in their bellies from a filling breakfast.

ALL the Toppings

We top our chocolate puff oven pancake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, followed by a healthy scoop of freshly whipped cream. Strawberries are up next with some sprinkles for good measure. You can use any type of fresh fruit and whipped cream. I’ve used whipped cream out of a can many times, even though freshly whipped cream makes this breakfast extra special. Chocolate puff oven pancake is so versatile and fun to make. Your kids will thank you for getting to eat chocolate for breakfast!

What are your Valentine traditions? Do you make a special breakfast? Cookies? We love celebrating traditions, and it seems that food often plays a role in them. You can find a few more of my family’s traditional foods on the blog.

Chocolate Puff Oven Pancake

Amy
Rich, chocolatey and full of protein? Chocolate puff oven pancake is the perfect Valentine or any special occasion breakfast.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 1 8 by 8 pan

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder see recipe note
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • powdered sugar for topping
  • sliced strawberries for topping
  • freshly whipped cream for topping

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place the 2 Tablespoons of butter in an 8 by 8 pan and set it in the oven to melt while you whip up the ingredients. Once the butter has melted, be careful not to let it sit too long in the oven by itself or it can burn. This usually isn't an issue if you quickly whip up the other ingredients.
  • To a blender add the eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Blend together about 20 seconds until fully combined.
  • Pour the blended mixture into the hot pan with melted butter and place in the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Prepare toppings: slice strawberries, whip cream, sprinkles, etc…
  • Dust with powdered sugar and Enjoy!

Notes

Cocoa Powder: This recipe tastes best and has a more intense chocolate flavor with a rich dark cocoa powder like Hershey’s special dark chocolate cocoa powder (affiliate link). You can substitute regular cocoa powder and it will still taste delicious, just not quite as “chocolatey” in flavor.
Keyword chocolate, Puff Oven Pancake, Valentines

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Best Ever Sugar Cookies

Valentine’s Day is the quintessential sugar cookie holiday. It’s the day that I equate with sugar cookies. As long as I can remember, every Valentine’s Day I would wake up to a beautiful, pink sugar cookie with white icing piped around the outside and my name written in the middle. This was no fancy bakery-style cookie. This was a home-made, made-with-love cookie by my mom. My childhood Valentine mornings were more about cookies than any Valentine card I received. That cookie, flavored with almond, topped with a whole lot of buttercream and oh-so-sweet will always be my top Valentine memory.

Jump to Best Ever Sugar Cookies Recipe

That childhood Valentine memory has stuck with me so much that even though we are not a “cookies for breakfast” family, I give my kids a homemade Valentine sugar cookie on Valentine’s morning…and they look forward to it all year long. Isn’t it funny how traditions are like that? To think that one simple cookie could evoke so many memories for generations. I love that about food and family and how little simple things repeated every year can mean so much.

Over the years I’ve played around with my mom’s amazing sugar cookie recipe. I love her recipe, but it calls for a lot of Crisco and truthfully, I’m not the biggest fan of baking with shortening and don’t usually keep it in my pantry. Butter on the other hand…I keep many pounds of butter on hand. This best ever sugar cookie recipe has all the nostalgia of Mom’s but with 100% butter. This is the one that my kids will be eating for years to come…and maybe my grandkids too (you know, unless they also decide to change it up 🙂 ).

Thin and Crispy or Thick and Chewy

Which is your favorite? A thin and crispy cookie or a thick and chewy cookie? Whatever way you answer, you are going to love this cookie. My personal preference is thick and chewy. I love a cookie that is ¼ inch or more in thickness and slathered with some buttercream. This cookie fits the bill for a chewy sugar cookie. BUT, if you love a thin and crispy cookie, the recipe works just as well. My kids always seem to roll the dough out paper thin and the cookies come out crispy on the outside with just a little give in the center. They almost have me converted to thin and crispy. Basically, no matter how you roll these, you can get your preference. If you want them crispy, roll them thinner. If you want them chewy, roll them thick.

Tips for Baking with Kids

One of the reasons I love this best ever sugar cookie dough is because it is so simple to make with kids. I have four kids, so I almost always double the recipe. My kids all enjoy cutting out shapes and making their own set of sugar cookies. I find it easiest to portion a section of dough for each child. I set them up with a piece of parchment paper, a little bit of flour and a rolling pin to roll out their own dough while I make my own cookies. This way, I don’t care whatever shapes they cut or how thick or thin their cookies are. They get full autonomy over their cookies and I get to make mine exactly how I like them (especially if I’m planning to gift some to friends and neighbors)

No Chilling Required and Rolling the Dough

A lot of sugar cookie recipes require you to chill the dough. One of the things I love about these best ever sugar cookies is that no chilling is required. If you need to chill the dough for planning purposes, you can, but there is no need. You can go straight from mixing up the dough to having beautiful cookies cooling in just a few minutes. I like to use a pastry mat to roll out my sugar cookie dough. Lightly flour the bottom of your pastry mat (or countertop works too). Set the ball of dough on top of the lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough or on the rolling pin and gently roll the dough until it is your desired thickness. Cut out your shapes. You may need to use a spatula to lift the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. If you notice your dough sticking a lot, add a little bit more flour. The scraps of the dough can be re-rolled a few times to use up as much dough as possible.

Almond Extract in Cookie Dough

One of my favorite flavors to add to a sugar cookie is almond extract. I love a hint of almond in these cookies, but you could substitute any other favorite flavor. Some like lemon, or a blend of coconut and almond extracts is also very good. If you want to stick with vanilla extract, they will taste delicious. It’s all about your personal preference. 

Baking with or without Convection

I am a big believer in baking cookies using the convection setting on your oven if possible (read more about that in this cookie recipe here). However, I have baked these cookies for years using a regular bake. Just recently I tried them out on convection and the main difference is that convection bake saves you a couple minutes of bake time if you want a thick, chewy sugar cookie. If you are going for a crispier cookie, using convection would be the way to go to get a crispy edge. You may want to add a minute or two onto the bake time for a crispier cookie. If you choose to use convection, bake at 325 for about 8 minutes or bake on regular heat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Buttercream Frosting

Sugar cookies taste delicious with any type of icing. I love how pretty royal icing looks, but buttercream always will be my favorite way to top sugar cookies. Growing up, my mom always used Crisco in her buttercream. I loved it as a kid, but now I prefer to use 100% real butter. If you want good piping/hardening consistency you can substitute half Crisco for part of the butter in the buttercream. It is important to whip the butter for a few minutes before adding in the sugar. This helps to lighten the color of the buttercream and give the desired light and fluffy consistency. I like adding heavy cream to the frosting for the extra creamy flavor. You can substitute milk if in a pinch, but it won’t be as creamy. If you are planning to color the buttercream with food coloring, it is best to use a gel color so the buttercream doesn’t change consistency, though drop colors will work in a pinch. The key to good buttercream: whip it, whip it, whip it.

Freezing Best Ever Sugar Cookies

One of my biggest tips for home bakers is: use your freezer. Sometimes I don’t have time to make sugar cookies from start to finish. I often will make the sugar cookie base, freeze the bases and then frost them later. Sometimes I will make and frost the sugar cookies and then freeze the whole cookie. I can pull the frosted cookies out the morning I want to gift them, let them come to room temperature and then give them away. This is a huge time saver for a busy mom and it makes the “project” of sugar cookies less overwhelming. Break the process down into a couple of days. The sugar cookie bases themselves freeze easier than a whole assembled cookie. Stack them, cover in plastic wrap or tin foil or place them in an airtight container to freeze. When you are ready to frost them, pull the cookie bases out of the freezer and frost. No need to let the cookies come to room temperature. They are actually easier to frost frozen and will come to room temperature quickly and taste delicious. If you want to store cookies that have been frosted, lay them out on a cookie sheet after frosting/piping. Freeze in a single layer. Once hardened, add a few more cookies on top of them and freeze. Cover with saran wrap and tin foil to store.

So what are you waiting for? Make a big batch of these amazing best ever sugar cookies and give a few to your Valentine, family, teachers or friends. We make the cookies ahead of time and enjoy frosting them closer to Valentines Day. Who knows, maybe you will even luck out with a cookie for breakfast this year!

Best Ever Sugar Cookies

These best ever sugar cookies are tender, chewy (or crispy…your choice), melt in your mouth and smothered in light, whippy buttercream. No chilling required!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 40 3 inch cookies

Ingredients
  

Best Ever Sugar Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter 3 sticks or 24 Tablespoons, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract optional, but we LOVE it
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar see recipe notes
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract see recipe notes
  • 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream see recipe notes

Instructions
 

Best Ever Sugar Cookies

  • To the bowl of stand mixer, mix the butter until light and fluffy. Add the granulated sugar and cream together.
  • Add the eggs an egg at a time and mix. Continue mixing until fully incorporated.
  • Add the vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix together.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, add the dry ingredients: all purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar. Whisk together with a fork.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until completely combined. Don't be too zealous with the mixing, but make sure you have a cohesive mass of dough.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees regular bake or 325 degrees convection. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper (my favorite cookie sheet here, affiliate link)
  • Lightly flour a countertop or pastry mat.
  • Turn the dough out onto the counter and split into a few pieces.
  • Working with a piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick, flouring a little as needed, though be careful to not over-flour the dough. If you want a crispier cookie, roll the dough a little thinner to 1/8 of an inch.
  • Using a cookie cutter (affiliate link), cut shapes out of the dough. Try to place your shapes as close together as possible to use up as much dough without needing to re-roll. Place cut cookie dough on a cookie sheet with a little space in between each cookie.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (or 325 convection for 8 minutes). For a crispier cookie, bake an extra minute or two. Let cookies cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan to cool.
  • Continue this process, re-rolling scraps together once or twice until all your cookie dough is used up.
  • Let cookies cool completely before frosting or freezing.
  • To Freeze: Stack cooled cookies. Place cookies in an airtight container and freeze. Pull out when ready to frost, and frost from frozen.

Buttercream Frosting

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, or to a bowl with a handheld mixer, add the room temperature butter. Whip together with the whisk attachment or beaters. Whip for a few minutes until the butter is light and airy looking.
  • Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract if desired. Whip together.
  • Add heavy cream as you are whipping the frosting, beginning with 2 Tablespoons and increasing up to 4 Tablespoons depending on how you prefer the consistency of the frosting. Add food coloring if desired.
  • Continue whipping until light, creamy and whiter in color (the buttercream loses its yellow, buttery color and turns more white the longer you whip it for).
  • Frost cooled cookies or frozen cookies with buttercream. Pipe around edges if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Cream of Tartar: This can be left out of the recipe, but I like the flavor it lends to the cookie. If you don’t have it on hand, leave it out.
Buttercream: This buttercream recipe makes enough to lightly frost a two layer cake or lightly frost all of your sugar cookies. If you want to pipe extra decorations or borders, you will want to make 1.5 times the recipe or double it.
Almond Extract: I love the added flavor almond extract gives to the buttercream and the cookies. It’s one of the “secret” ingredients that take these cookies to “best-ever” status. If you don’t like the flavor, you can leave it out.
Heavy Cream: Heavy cream gives the buttercream its creamy and luscious texture. If you don’t have it on hand you can substitute milk. Be careful not to pour too much milk because it will thin the frosting quicker than heavy cream.
 
Keyword Sugar Cookie, Valentine’s Day

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Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins

I make a lot of muffins. Muffins are delicious, quick, easy and freeze well for quick breakfasts, snacks and even perfect to pack in lunch boxes. We have been making these sweet spinach banana muffins for years and they are a hit every time. My youngest (preschooler) seems to have a vendetta against any and all vegetables (except carrots…he’ll eat carrots). These muffins though, are his favorite. Spinach banana muffins and green smoothies are about the only way I can get green veggies into him right now. The struggle is real over here folks. But these spinach banana muffins get him his greens and he begs to make them with me. I call that a win-win!

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Kid Friendly Muffin Making

Sweet spinach banana muffins are super easy to make with kids. The wet ingredients, including the banana and 8 ounces of spinach get blended up in a blender until nice and smooth. My preschooler loves packing the spinach into the blender, whirling it around and watching all those ingredients blend together into a very green liquid mixture. The dry ingredients only need a quick whisk in a bowl and then the magic happens…pouring the green spinach liquid into the flour mixture. It is very, very green. Kids love this fun green color and it’s all natural too.

Twenty-Four Beautiful Muffins

I love a muffin recipe that makes twenty-four muffins. If you fill the muffin tins just a little over halfway full, you’ll get 24 muffins out it. If I have any leftover batter I’ll usually spoon it into the tins that look like they need a little extra batter. These USA pans (affiliate link) are my favorite muffin tins. With these pans, I only need a little spritz of cooking spray and then I can bake my muffins without muffin liners. You can also use muffin liners if you prefer that option. Let the muffins cool a bit in the tins before popping them out.

Jam-Packed with Spinach and Whole Grains

I have always loved baking and cooking but as soon as I had my first baby (over 11 years ago), I became passionate about feeding my kids the least-processed foods as possible. Making almost everything from scratch was an affordable way I found to feed my family healthy foods. Spinach banana muffins have been our go-to for years because they are delicious but also filled with whole grains and veggies. I make these muffins with 100% whole wheat flour. I buy mine at our local mill, but any whole wheat flour should work. I always use fresh spinach and don’t notice much if any flavor from the spinach in the muffins…just the bright green color.

Freeze for a Quick Meal

I’ve mentioned this before but I love freezing muffins. Let the muffins cool completely and then stick them in a gallon-sized ziplock bag in the freezer. Sometimes I’ll individually wrap them if my kids take them as part of their school lunch. To reheat, just pop in the microwave for 10-20 seconds or let them come to room temperature and enjoy. A school lunch tip that we use all the time: put them in the lunchbox frozen. They thaw throughout the morning and are nice and moist when lunchtime rolls around.

Brown Bananas and Coconut Oil

Spinach banana muffins have a pleasant banana flavor. This flavor is more pronounced if you use brown (even black) bananas. The more ripe the banana is, the more banana flavor your muffins will have. If you prefer not as strong banana flavor, use a yellow-green banana. Because you are blending the banana up in the blender with the other ingredients, you can easily use any banana you have on hand, even if it’s not quite ripe. I also like to add the coconut oil while the blender is running. Coconut oil solidifies quickly if a certain temperature is not met and adding it while blending prevents the coconut oil from solidifying into chunks.

These spinach banana muffins are really and truly some of our family’s favorites. I find myself in the kitchen making them at least once a month and I don’t mind one bit if my kids eat them for an after school snack or a quick breakfast as we’re heading out the door because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients. We are a muffin-loving family, so even when we don’t have these spinach banana muffins on hand, we usually have some kind of muffins. Some of our other favorites are these amazing chocolate chip muffins, cinnamon sugar muffins (with or without sourdough discard), carrot cake muffins (perfect for spring), pumpkin spice muffins and so many more.

Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins

Sweet spinach banana muffins are packed with 8 ounces of spinach, sweet bananas and whole wheat flour. These muffins are delicious, full of nutrients and perfect for a healthy breakfast or snack.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 18 mins
Total Time 38 mins
Course Bread, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 24 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 3 medium-sized bananas mashed, see recipe notes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted you may substitute any neutral flavored oil
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 3/4 cup whole wheat flour see recipe note
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two muffin tins with cooking spray (my favorite muffin tins here, affiliate link).
  • To a blender, add the bananas, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, spinach and vanilla. Blend on high for 30 seconds to a minute until the mixture is smooth and creamy. With the blender running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and blend together until the ingredients are completely blended together.
  • To a large bowl, add the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together.
  • Pour the spinach banana liquid into the flour mixture and gently combine with a large spoon. Stir until only a few streaks of flour mixture remain (be careful not to over-mix).
  • Fill each muffin tin about half full (about 1/4 cup batter per muffin tin) until all 24 tins are filled.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes until muffins are baked all the way through. Stick a toothpick in the middle of a muffin. If it comes out clean, the muffins are ready. If a little wet batter is stuck to the toothpick, the muffins need a few minutes longer.
  • Let the muffins cool for 5-10 minutes and then remove from the tins to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Notes

Bananas: If you want a strong banana flavor in the muffins, use very ripe bananas where most of the banana is brown or even black. If you want a more mild banana flavor, use yellow bananas.
Buttermilk: I prefer to use buttermilk. If you don’t have it on hand, you can mix together 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt as a substitute. 
Whole Wheat Flour: I like using all whole wheat flour. You can also substitute all purpose flour or 50% all purpose and 50% whole wheat flour.
This recipe was adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe “Whole Grain Hulk Muffins.” This recipe makes 24 muffins instead of 16, calls for a little less spinach and I decreased the amount of sugar from the original recipe.
Keyword banana, muffins,, spinach

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Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

My family has shopped at Costco since I was a child. I was actually brought home from the hospital to Kirkland, Washington (Costco’s headquarters city) where my parents lived at the time. That name may sound familiar to you if you’ve shopped at Costco, because Kirkland is the “Costco” store brand. My grandma used to buy us Costco muffins (you know those giant muffins that are more like cake than muffin?!) and I would always, always pick blueberry. I love the taste of the tart blueberries mixed with a sweet muffin. The minute I cut into this sourdough blueberry crumb cake I had a childhood flashback to those Costco muffins. This cake is thick and full of blueberries. It also has considerably less sugar than a Costco muffin and is jam-packed with tart blueberries. The crumb topping takes it over the top and had me coming back for “tastes” throughout the day. If you are also a fan of blueberry muffins, you’ve got to try this sourdough blueberry crumb cake.

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Sourdough Discard or Sourdough Starter?

If you’re new around here, you may not know that I love baking with sourdough. I’ve got a whole bunch of recipes that use sourdough discard and sourdough starter. Because I refresh my sourdough starter often, I end up with quite a bit of leftover discard in my fridge. I don’t like this discard to go to waste, so I find muffins, waffles, crackers, pretzels and breads to put it into. The sourdough discard enhances the flavor and creates less kitchen waste. Not all sourdough discard is created equal, though. The longer the discard sits in your fridge, the more fermented and sour it will taste. If you like this flavor in your baked goods, use discard that is older. For a more mellow flavor, use discard that is only a day or two old. If you love baking with sourdough but don’t want any sour flavor, use bubbly sourdough starter instead of the discard.

Fresh or Frozen Blueberries?

My local Kroger had a great deal on blueberries this past week, so I used fresh blueberries in this sourdough blueberry crumb cake. The fresh blueberries gave this crumb cake delicious flavor. If you can, I recommend using fresh blueberries. If fresh isn’t not an option, you can use frozen blueberries. Truthfully I don’t always have fresh blueberries on hand and more often than not have a bag of frozen berries available. Toss the frozen blueberries in 1-2 teaspoons of flour, lightly coating them before stirring the berries into the cake mixture. This helps so they don’t all fall to the bottom of the cake and will be more evenly dispersed throughout. I’ve made this sourdough blueberry crumb cake with fresh and frozen blueberries and it’s delicious both times. The frozen blueberry cake did take a little more time to bake, so be prepared to add on 5-10 minutes of bake time if you use frozen blueberries.

Blueberry Crumb Topping

One of the things that sets this cake apart is the delicious crumb topping. Melt the butter, add in the dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon until you get a thick and crumbly topping. Use your fingers to sprinkle the crumb topping all over the top of the cake. I also like to dot the top of the cake with a few more fresh blueberries, pressing them in between pieces of crumb topping so that there is blueberry in every bite. Once this crumb topping is baked up, it makes the perfect sweet, crumbly crust. My four year old could be found sneaking pieces of crumb topping all. day. long. And I don’t blame him. It is GOOD!

Baking the Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

Sourdough blueberry crumb cake takes a little over an hour to bake. It bakes up nice and tall and can be cut into 16 good sized pieces. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crumb cake for a little over an hour. I like to check on the cake after about 55 minutes (oven temperatures can vary). If the cake is jiggly in the middle, keep baking for another 10 minutes. I’ve found that my cake needs about 65-75 minutes to bake all the way through. If you are using frozen blueberries it may take a little bit longer than if using fresh blueberries.

I love this sourdough blueberry crumb cake. It is not overly sweet (you can add a little more sugar if you want a sweeter cake) and the blueberry really shines through. The cake rises beautifully and would be perfect for a family brunch, to pull out as a special after-school snack or even to drink with a cup of tea on a snowy day. If you are a blueberry muffin lover like me, add this recipe to your “to-make” list. It’s delicious.

Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

Sourdough blueberry crumb cake is a lightly sweetened cake made with sourdough discard, studded with sweet blueberries and topped with a sweet crumb topping. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or a snack, this crumb cake is delicious!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 16 slices

Ingredients
  

Crumb Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Sourdough Blueberry Cake

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sourdough discard or bubbly sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk see recipe notes for substitutions
  • 2.5 cups fresh blueberries see recipe note for frozen blueberries

Instructions
 

Crumb Topping

  • Melt 6 Tablespoons of butter. Add the sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, salt and flour. Mix together until it forms a moist, crumbly topping. Set aside the crumb topping for later.

Sourdough Blueberry Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • To a small bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Fluff together with a fork. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer, mix together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and creamy.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix again, scraping the sides and bottom as needed until fully incorporated, light and fluffy.
  • Pour ¾ cup sourdough discard (direct from the fridge or use ripe sourdough starter) and add to the bowl. Mix together.
  • Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until smooth.
  • Add 2 cups of fresh blueberries (reserving ½ cup for topping) to the batter and stir lightly to combine. See recipe note if using fresh blueberries.
  • Line an 8 by 8 pan (my favorite, affiliate link) with parchment paper. Pour blueberry cake mixture into the pan and spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the cake, spreading it evenly and breaking up clumps with your fingers as you go. Dot the top with the reserved ½ cup of blueberries.
  • Bake the cake for 60-75 minutes until baked through. Once the cake has stopped jiggling in the middle, take a sharp knife and stick it straight in the middle of the cake. If it has batter on it, continue baking a few more minutes. If it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking.
  • Cool and slice to serve. The cake stores well at room temperature for a day or two or can be frozen for longer storage.

Notes

Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can substitute 1/4 cup milk mixed with 1/4 cup sour cream.
Blueberries: Fresh blueberries are best for this recipe, but frozen blueberries work too in a pinch. If using frozen blueberries, toss them in 1-2 teaspoons of flour and then gently stir into the batter. This helps the blueberries spread throughout the cake and not sink to the bottom. Using frozen blueberries may also increase the baking time about 10 minutes. 
Keyword blueberry, crumb cake, snack cake

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Hearty Brown Bread

One of my all-time favorite breads is this honey whole wheat bread made with whole wheat flour from our local mill. It is slightly sweet and has the beautiful flavor or freshly milled whole wheat. Another favorite bread that we can’t get enough of is from the Cheesecake Factory. Their brown bread is another favorite, especially of my kids. This hearty brown bread recipe is a combination of these two breads. It is made with half whole wheat flour making it hearty but is sweetened with honey and molasses. This gives it the sweetness of the Cheesecake Factory bread. In short: this bread is fantastic. My kids gobbled up both loaves as soon as they were out of the oven and they’ve been asking for more ever since.

Jump to Hearty Brown Bread Recipe

Whole Wheat Flour

Hearty brown bread starts off with a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour. Not all whole wheat is created equal. If you want a real rundown and the nitty gritty behind the different flours available, check out this post. The short version: I like to use a hard white wheat flour. I buy my flour from our local Weisenberger Mill and it is freshly milled and delicious.  You can also grind your own wheat. I used to do that for years but have had trouble finding affordable hard wheat berries in Kentucky, so I transitioned to buying from the mill. If you don’t have access to wheat berries or a mill check your local grocery store. This King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour is a good bet.

Vital Wheat Gluten

One of the properties of whole wheat flour is it doesn’t rise quite as much as traditional white flour. The rise is impeded a bit by the bran flakes in the wheat which “cut up” the dough and stop it from rising as well. Insert: vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten ups the protein content in wheat which increases the strands that trap the gas bubbles, resulting in a better rise. I love using vital wheat gluten in all of my whole wheat breads. I buy it in bulk from Amazon, here. It improves the spring, rise and tenderness of whole wheat bread, and adding about a teaspoon for every cup of whole wheat flour does wonders in my baking. With all that said, if you don’t have vital wheat gluten you can leave it out. You may not have as much rise, but it will still taste delicious. I would also substitute bread flour for the all purpose flour in this recipe if I wasn’t going to use the vital wheat gluten.

A Trick for Viscous Liquids

One of the things I’ve learned over the years of baking with particularly viscous liquids like honey and molasses is to spray the measuring cup with a little bit of cooking oil. You can also pour whatever oil is needed for the recipe into a measuring cup first and add it to the bowl before adding the honey or molasses to the same measuring cup. This helps the honey or molasses slide right out of the measuring cup. You may still need to use a spatula or stick your finger in there to get it all the way out. In this recipe I spray a liquid measuring cup with cooking spray and then fill it up with ½ cup honey and then add the ¼ cup molasses right on top of the honey and pour it in the mixer. It makes a world of difference!

Hearty Brown Bread Dough

The dough for this brown bread comes together in a stand mixer really quickly. You know when to stop adding flour if you pinch off a piece of dough, roll it into a ball in your fingers and there is just a little bit of sticky residue left. As you knead the dough, the flour will become more hydrated as you go. You may need to add a little bit of flour at a time (a Tablespoon or two as you go) to make sure the consistency is tacky and not sticky. 

Free-Form Loaf Shaping

I like to shape this bread into two free-form loaves. I pull the sides up to the center of the dough and form it into a ball giving it tension and shape. After the dough rises for a second time, take a bit of water and brush it over the top of the dough. Keep in mind, because we are using whole wheat flour, you won’t see as big of a rise. Sprinkle on some oats and then pop in the oven for some delicious hearty brown bread. You could also shape this bread into rolls if you wanted a smaller, hand-held, version.

Sweet and Hearty Brown Bread

This hearty brown bread has a beautiful sweet flavor but also the richness of the whole wheat flour and cocoa powder. It is really one of our favorite breads to make and eat. Sweet and hearty, this bread is sure to be one of your family favorites too!

Hearty Brown Bread

Sweet and hearty, this brown bread is tender and delicious. It is made with whole wheat flour, honey and molasses and is the perfect bread to sop up some soup or eat with a schmear of butter. Yum!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Rise Time 3 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups warm water the temperature of baby's bathwater
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses not blackstrap
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 cups whole wheat flour hard white wheat is my favorite
  • 1.5 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten leave this out if you are using bread flour
  • 2.5 – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 Tablespoon quick cooking oats reserved for topping

Instructions
 

  • To a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add warm water and instant yeast.
  • Spray a liquid measuring cup with cooking spray and add 1/2 cup honey and 1/4 cup molasses to the measuring cup.
  • Pour the honey/molasses into the yeast mixture. Add the cocoa powder and salt.
  • With the dough hook running, add the whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten. Add the two cups of the all purpose flour and continue adding flour a little bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is tacky (not super sticky). You should be able to pinch off a piece of dough, roll it up into a ball and have very little sticky residue on your fingers. Check out this post for how to tell when to stop adding flour.
  • Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, adding extra flour as needed, a Tablespoon or two at a time.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap to rise. Let rise for 1-2 hours until just about doubled in size (it may not rise quite as much due to the whole wheat flour).
  • Punch down the dough and separate into two sections. Shape into a rustic circular loaf by turning the edges of the dough under until it forms a smooth, tight loaf. Repeat with the second section of dough.
  • Place loaves on a lined baking sheet and cover to rise. Let rise about an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush the loaves with a little bit of water. Top lightly with the quick-cook oats. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until done. Let cool (if you can) and enjoy!

Notes

This dough can also be shaped into two traditional sandwich loaves and baked in 1 pound bread tins, my favorite linked here (affiliate link). 
 
Keyword brown bread, hearty bread

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Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss and Rich Chocolate

We were babies!

Many years ago (almost fifteen if I’m being exact), I ate my most memorable fondue dinner. My husband and I were honeymooning in Europe. We had a small wedding and spent the money we would have spent on a fancy party traveling around Europe for five weeks. This was definitely one of our better decisions. One evening we found ourselves in the tiny mountain village of Gimmelwald, Switzerland surrounded by the Swiss Alps. We were traveling on a budget trying to eke out the most of our trip but when we saw fondue on the menu, we threw caution (and a whole lot of Swiss Francs) to the wind and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals we’ve eaten together. Melty cheese, gorgeous mountains and two kids in love. Definitely a moment to remember.

Jump to Fondue Two Ways Recipe

Alcohol Free Fondue

Ever since that evening, I’ve been trying to recreate our fondue experience…sans beautiful mountains and overlooking the bluegrass fields of Kentucky instead. This recipe lives up to the hype in our minds of the perfect Swiss Fondue. It uses equal parts Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese which are pricey but totally worth it. We are not the biggest fans of alcohol in fondue and find it a bit overpowering, so we like to use chicken stock in place of the traditional white wine. If you prefer the flavor of white wine, by all means, substitute that for the chicken stock. You can add a few Tablespoons of Kirschwasser for a more traditional flavor too. I think this Classic Swiss Fondue recipe is pretty perfect without the alcohol and our kids love it too.

Cheese, Cheese and More Cheese

Can you substitute other types of cheese in this recipe? You can, but it may not give you the traditional sharp Swiss flavor that we love so much. That doesn’t mean it won’t be good. If you are looking to substitute cheese, I would look for a good melting cheese. Jarlsburg, French Comte or a generic Swiss cheese can be used. A pro tip: If you are looking for one of the easiest fondue recipes ever, just pick up a block of brie cheese. Cut off the casing and melt it in a fondue pot. Not quite as flavorful as our favorite recipe but delicious just the same. We love the creaminess of the classic Swiss fondue recipe and the sharpness of the Swiss flavors with some crusty bread or apples. 

Rich Chocolate Fondue

In our family it’s not a fondue night without chocolate fondue. Our kids love dipping fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake in the chocolate mixture and it makes for a very fun and memorable evening. This chocolate fondue recipe I’m sharing below does not make a whole lot of chocolate fondue. You may want to double it if you are just making it on its own. For our family, after eating the cheese fondue we don’t need a huge pot of chocolate fondue because our bellies are so full of cheese!  I love this chocolate fondue because it is downright delicious and so easy to whip up.

What to Dip

A good crusty bread cut into chunks is a must for cheese fondue. We also like cutting up apple slices to dip in the cheese. I will often set out bowls of nuts, cold cuts, boiled potatoes or other easy-to-eat foods with the cheese fondue. For the chocolate fondue I scour my fridge and pantry for fresh fruit and marshmallows. If I can’t find angel food cake or pound cake I will cut up muffins into small pieces to dip in the fondue. I love how adaptable fondue is to what I have on hand. It’s not hard for anything to taste good covered in cheese or chocolate.

Fondue Tradition

In our family, fondue has become a tradition. We like to have fondue for our New Years Eve dinner, setting goals and toasting around the table to the new year. We also eat this traditional fondue (cheese and chocolate) for Valentines Day. It’s a dinner my kids look forward to all year long. Every so often we’ll pull out the fondue set for a back-to-school dinner or some other special occasion. We love eating fondue together because it slows down the meal and lets us enjoy and create family memories together. We’ve had so many good times gathered around the fondue pot as a family; laughing and enjoying delicious cheese and chocolate fondue.

Fondue Pot

Do you need a fondue pot to make fondue? Technically, no. If you are planning to have a one-off fondue dinner, then maybe you don’t need to invest in a fondue pot. If you want to make it a yearly family tradition, I think it’s worth it! We started off with this fondue pot (affiliate link) and after using it a couple of years, upgraded to this one. We definitely prefer the Swissmar pot (affiliate link) because it heats so evenly, but the Cuisinart is a good value too. It can burn easier on the bottom, so make sure you stir your fondue every so often.

Fondue is fun and has become a wonderful tradition for our family. Our kids look forward to it every New Years and Valentines Day (and sometimes on other special occasions). We love these recipes because they are simple, special and delicious. I hope you love them too! Happy New Year!

Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss Fondue and Rich Chocolate Fondue

The perfect creamy and classic Swiss cheese fondue and a rich chocolate fondue for dessert. Use these two recipes for a perfect special occasion dinner!
Prep Time 20 mins
Course Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine American, Swiss
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • 2 cups high quality Gruyere cheese, freshly grated see recipe note
  • 2 cups high quality Emmentaler, freshly grated see recipe note
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock *substitute white wine if desired
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • 1 loaf soft or crusty french bread cubed

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips can substitute for your favorite chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • an assortment of items to dip ie: fresh fruit, marshmallows, angel food cake, etc…

Instructions
 

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • Grate the cheese. I sometimes use a food processor for the harder cheese and it makes the process very fast.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, add the cheese and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch. Coat the cheese in the cornstarch and mix until completely combined. Set aside.
  • To a liquid measuring cup, add the chicken stock and milk. Whisk together.
  • Heat the fondue pot, (affiliate link) and add the chicken stock and milk to the pot. Warm to a weak simmer. Then add the lemon juice and continue to simmer (weak simmer).
  • Taking a handful at a time, add the cheese to the pot, stirring constantly. Wait for the cheese to melt before adding in another handful. Continue this process until all the cheese has been added to the fondue pot.
  • Add a pinch of nutmeg and pepper to taste.
  • Eat immediately by dipping the crusty bread into the fondue. Enjoy!

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • To a fondue pot (affiliate link) or small saucepan, add the chocolate chips, heavy cream and a Tablespoon of milk.
  • Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Add a Tablespoon of milk as needed to thin the chocolate fondue. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Keep the chocolate warm as you dip fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake into the chocolate fondue. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Notes:
Pre-Shredded Cheese: This recipe works best when you use block cheese that is freshly grated. Pre-shredded cheese often is coated with preservatives which means they don’t melt together as well during cooking. 
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue: Traditional cheese fondue is made with alcohol. We prefer the flavor of the fondue made with chicken stock (and our kids do too). If you prefer, add 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine (or other alcohol) in place of the chicken stock for a deeper flavor.
Rich Chocolate Fondue: This recipe makes the perfect amount for dessert after eating cheese fondue. If you are making this recipe without eating a meal beforehand, you may want to double it.
Keyword fondue

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