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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Bread, Crackers, Muffins, Sandwiches

TIP OF THE DAY: Jumbo Croutons

Most croutons are miniature cubes. Some crouton lovers would like them much larger: more flavor, more crunch.

And they certainly make salads more fun.

So today’s tip is. Make jumbo croutons. They make salads more fun. And you can customize the flavors each time, so there’s no “crouton fatigue.”


  • Pick your bread. While baguette is a standard, you can use whole grain, seeded, raisin-semolina or whatever you like.
  • Pick your texture. Crunchier croutons come from drier bread. For the crispest crouton, use day-old or two-day-old bread. Fresh bread takes longer to dry out in the oven; so if that’s what you have, adjust the baking time accordingly.
  • Use a flavored oil. If you have basil oil, chili oil, etc., use it to add more flavor. Whatever oil you select, more oil creates a heavier, more sumptuous crouton.
  • Spice it up. Herbs and spices take your croutons in any direction you like, from the heat of cayenne or red pepper flakes, to the elegance of fines herbes, to exotic notes of curry or Chinese five spice. One of our favorites is toasted sesame seed. You can also add grated cheese.


  • 1 baguette or ficelle*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic, minced


    Make jumbo croutons any shape you like. These are crouton “fingers.” Photo courtesy MorningStar Farms.

    *Ficelle is slender French loaf, thinner than a baguette, no more than two inches wide. The word is French for “string.” It’s a better shape if you want to make round croutons with a diameter of two inches or so.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Cut the bread into rounds or fingers.

    2. TOSS the ingredients in a large bowl, coating bread thoroughly. Bake until toasted to your preference (light or dark), 15-20 minutes.

    3. PREPARE and dress the salad. Top with warm croutons and serve. You can store croutons in an airtight container for a day or two.



    FOOD FUN: Berry Croissants


    Berry croissants: a yummy idea. Photo courtesy Castello Cheese.


    For Sunday brunch or afternoon tea*, here’s a fun alternative to a chocolate croissant that provides another reason to enjoy seasonal berries.



  • Croissants
  • Berries: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries or a mix
  • Mascarpone, fresh chèvre (goat cheese—look especially for the honey chèvre at Trader Joe’s), cream cheese or other spreadable cheese

    1. SPLIT the croissant and spread the bottom half with cheese.

    2. ADD the berries, whole or sliced, depending on size.

    Thanks to Castello USA for the idea (they used blue cheese).

    *Who has afternoon tea, you say? Well, THE NIBBLE is a far cry from Downtown Abbey, but we serve afternoon tea daily. Not everyone drinks tea, but it’s our chance to sample some of the many foods that arrive at our doorstep—baked goods, candy, jam, crackers, cheese, pâté and so forth—including coffee, tea and other beverages. If you want to serve a proper afternoon tea, here’s how.



    RECIPE: Macaroni & Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich


    A grilled cheese sandwich made with macaroni and cheese! Photo courtesy QVC.


    We’re closing out National Grilled Cheese Month with something out of the ordinary: a grilled cheese sandwich made with macaroni and cheese. It’s the creation of Chef David Venable of QVC, who created it to use up leftover mac and cheese. (Really? Who ever has leftover mac and cheese?)

    He uses extra slices of cheddar on top of the mac and cheese, which melt and will help hold the mac in place. And, since you don’t want to wait until you have leftovers, you make the mac and cheese from scratch.

    If you like heat, add some chili flakes to the recipe.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced, cooked, and fat drained
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 1–1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 slices white bread or bread of choice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
  • Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

    2. ADD the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. When the sauce begins to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the shredded cheese, mustard, optional chili flakes, salt and pepper. Stir until all of the cheese has melted. Add the bacon and the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir to fully coat the macaroni. Set aside.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    4. PLACE 8 slices of bread on a work surface and spread the mayonnaise onto one side of each slice. Flip over 4 slices of the bread and place 1 slice of cheddar on each.

    5. DIVIDE the macaroni over the cheese-covered bread slices and spread evenly. Top with the remaining slices of cheddar and cover with the remaining bread slices, mayonnaise side facing out.

    6. PREHEAT a square griddle pan to medium heat. Place the sandwiches on the hot griddle and toast until golden brown on one side, about 5–8 minutes. Flip the sandwiches; then place the griddle, with the sandwiches, in the oven and bake for about 5–8 minutes, or until golden brown and the cheese slices have melted.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches For Dessert


    Bananas Foster on French toast. Photo
    courtesy Heidi Larsen | Foodie Crush.


    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Wisconsin, American’s premier cheese-producing state (California is runner-up), even has a chef-spokesperson for the occasion.

    She is MacKenzie Smith of the blog Grilled Cheese Social, where she creates recipe after recipe for innovative grilled cheese sandwiches. She’s also the sandwich expert for

    Mackenzie developed five new grilled cheese sandwiches for National Grilled Cheese Month—made with delicious Wisconsin cheese of course. The first is what we’d call “dessert grilled cheese,” although you can certainly have it as your main for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    It takes the idea of Bananas Foster—bananas sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum. Mackenzie combines these ingredients with sweet, creamy mascarpone and cream cheese on a sandwich of French toast.

    It’s a smash, and our tip of the day is dessert grilled cheese.


    Ingredients For 1 Sandwich

  • 1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or brandy
  • 1/2 small banana, thickly sliced
  • 2 slices brioche bread
  • Sea salt flakes

    1. BEAT the mascarpone and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside.

    2. PREPARE the French toast batter: In bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla and set aside in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold sandwich for dipping.

    3. MELT 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the liqueur and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the banana, stirring constantly to evenly coat bananas. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the bananas are well coated in sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    4. PREPARE the sandwich: Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly on one side of each bread slice. Top one mascarpone-covered slice with the banana mixture, a sprinkle of sea salt and the remaining bread slice, mascarpone-covered slice down.

    5. SOAK (gently!) each side of sandwich in the French toast batter for a 1 minute. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to rest 2 minutes. Serve immediately.



    Dulce de leche fans will enjoy this dessert grilled cheese sandwich, made with mascarpone and the addictive Argentinian dessert (made by caramelizing sugar in milk).

    The recipe is courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries



    Mascarpone and dulce de leche on cinnamon raisin bread. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

    1. COMBINE the mascarpone, dulce de leche and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. BUTTER one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 of the bread slices. Spread raspberry preserves on the non-buttered side of the remaining 4 slices of bread.

    3. PLACE one slice of bread with raspberries or preserves on each mascarpone-topped bread slice, buttered sides out. Place the sandwiches on an electric griddle heated to 350°F, or in a preheated skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until bread is lightly toasted.

    4. REMOVE and serve immediately, unsliced, since cheese is very soft.


    Here’s another dessert recipe: Mascarpone Grilled Cheese With Chocolate “Soup.”



    RECIPE: Cinnamon Crescent Rolls


    Make warm and fragrant cinnamon crescents
    for breakfast or brunch. Photo courtesy Taste
    Of Home.


    Today is National Cinnamon Crescent Day.

    Crescent is the English word for croissant, the buttery, crescent-shaped laminated dough breakfast roll (there’s more about croissants below). Make your own with this recipe from Taste Of Home.


    Ingredients For 4 Dozen Small Rolls

  • 6-1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg yolks
    For The Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened, divided
    For The Glaze

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


    1. COMBINE 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

    2. HEAT the butter, milk, shortening and water to 120°-130° in a large saucepan. Add to the dry ingredients and beat just until moistened. Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (the dough will be sticky).

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

    4. COMBINE the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

    5. PUNCH the risen dough down. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface; knead about six times.

    6. DIVIDE the dough into four portions. Roll out one portion into a 12-inch circle; spread with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar. Cut into 12 wedges.

    7. ROLL up each wedge from the wide end and place it point side down, three inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Curve the ends to form crescents. Repeat with remaining dough, butter and cinnamon-sugar. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven.



    One of the three different types of cinnamon. Photo by Ben Fink from Indian Home Cooking
    by Suvir Saran.


    8. BAKE at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. Make the glaze: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla; drizzle over warm rolls. Combine the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the rolls.


    Meaning “crescent” and pronounced kwah-SAWN in French, this rich, buttery, crescent-shaped roll is made of puff pastry that layers yeast dough with butter—a technique known as laminating.

    Traditionally a breakfast bread served with jam and butter, two classic variations include the almond croissant, filled with frangipane (almond paste) and topped with sliced almonds, and the “chocolate croissant,” correctly called pain au chocolat, baked with a piece of dark chocolate in the center.

    In the early 1970s, croissants became sandwich substitutes as they evolved from their two traditional fillings, chocolate and almond paste, into many savory variations, from broccoli to ham and cheese, as well as additional sweet varieties.

    There’s also the Bavarian croissant or pretzel croissant, made of a pretzel-like dough that combines bread flour and whole wheat flour with salt sprinkled on the top, like a pretzel. Some are made of puff pastry, others of a soft pretzel-type dough in a triangle wrap, like a croissant.

    The Real History Of Croissants

    Stories of the croissant being made in the shape of the crescent of the Turkish flag, after the defeat of the Turks in the Siege of Vienna in 1683, are a perpetuated myth. Recipes for croissants do not appear in recipe books until the early 1900s, according to the Oxford Companion To Food. The earliest French reference is in 1853.

    The croissant is descendant of the Austrian kipfel, a yeast roll usually filled with chopped walnuts, dried or candied fruit, or other filling, and shaped like a crescent. It arrived in Paris in 1938 or 1939 with August Zang, an Austrian military officer. He opened a bakery, Boulangerie Viennoise, and introduced Viennese techniques which would one day lead to the baguette and the croissant. The crescent-shaped kipfel was ultimately made with puff pastry by French bakers.

    You can read this history in Jim Chevallier’s book, August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoisserie* Came To France (Kindle edition).
    *Viennoiserie are buttery, flaky breakfast breads and pastries made with laminated dough, a technique of layering and folding a yeast dough to create brioche, croissants, danish, pain au chocolat and other so-called “Viennoiserie.” It is a marriage between traditional bread baking and sweet pastry baking. The technique of lamination produces many buttery layers that can be pulled apart to reveal thin leaves within. You can see the striations, or layers, of pastry when you look at the top of the Viennoiserie or when you cut into them. This technique is time-consuming and expensive (because of the amount of butter needed).



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Sourdough Bread Day

    April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day. Sourdough is an ancient bread made by a long fermentation of dough, using naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria and wild yeasts (other types of breads use cultivated yeasts, which became available only in the 19th century).

    In comparison with breads made with cultivated yeast, sourdough usually has a mildly sour taste and aroma, the result of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

    The preparation of sourdough begins with pre-fermenting, using a “starter” made from flour and water (the starter is also known as levain, the chief, chef or head). It can be a fluid batter or a stiff dough, as the ratio of water to flour varies by baker.

    The starter helps to develop the uniquely tart flavor of sourdough bread. Starters are maintained for years, even generations. The colony of bacteria and yeast inside the dough is kept alive by the baker, who needs only a piece of it to bake a new batch of bread.

    If you bake bread in a bread machine, note that the rise time of most sourdough starters is longer than that of breads made with baker’s yeasts. Thus, sourdough typically doesn’t work in a bread machine; you need to use conventional baking techniques.



    Sourdough bread baked at Lafayette Restaurant | NYC.


    One of the oldest sourdough breads was found in a Swiss excavation; the site dates to 3700 B.C.E. But the origin of sourdough fermentation is likely thousands of years older than that, originating in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.

    Bread production has relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history (the alternative to leavened bread was flatbread, such as lavosch and tortillas). The development and use of [cultivated] baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back only 150 years.

    Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening in European into the Middle Ages. Then, it was replaced by barm, the yeast-laden foam that forms in the process of brewing alcohol (for bread, the barm typically came from beer brewing). Centuries later, scientists learned to culture yeast, so bakers no longer had to rely on barm.



    Sourdough starter. You can also purchase ready-made starter. Photo courtesy



    French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the Gold Rush (1848–1855), and the bread remains part of the culture of San Francisco, where it has been in continuous production there since 1849. Some bakeries can trace their starters back to those days!

    In English-speaking countries, where wheat-based breads predominate, sourdough is no longer the standard method for bread leavening. It was gradually replaced, first by the use of barm from beer making and then by cultured yeasts.

    Thanks to the artisan food movement in the late 20th century in the U.S., it has undergone a revival [Source]. Now, most of us can enjoy it whenever we like—for toast, sandwiches and in the bread basket.

    If you haven’t had sourdough bread recently, today’s the day!


    Check out the different types of breads in our Bread Glossary.



    RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Benedict


    A yummy mash-up of Eggs Benedict and grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.


    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There are got lots of grilled cheese recipes on, but here’s something new: a mash-up of a grilled cheese sandwich with Eggs Benedict.

    The recipe is from the Grilled Cheese Academy, which has dozens of amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes made with Wisconsin cheese.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 tablespoons Sharp Cheddar cheese spread, at room
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Optional garnish: minced chives
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT 3-4 quarts water to just below the boiling point. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Gently stir the water and lower the heat so water is simmering.

    2. CRACK the eggs into the water one at a time and poach gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. As the eggs cook…

    3. HEAT a griddle or skillet over medium heat and fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the griddle and set the bacon aside.

    4. ADD 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Spread the cut side of each English muffin’s bottom half with 1 tablespoon Sharp Cheddar cheese spread. Place in the heated skillet and top each half with 1 slice Gouda, about 1 ounce spinach, 2 slices Canadian bacon and 1 slice tomato.

    5. COOK over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Remove to a plate and top each with a poached egg. Serve open-faced with remaining muffin halves, toasted and buttered, on the side.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Bread


    Tsouréki, a braided yeast loaf with red-colored
    hard-boiled eggs. Photo courtesy Artisan Bread
    In Five


    Modern bakers make loaves and rolls shaped like rabbits. But from early times in Europe, rich, festive breads were baked as a celebration of the end of winter. Later they became associated with Easter.

    Often they were yeast breads, filled with luxurious ingredients such as almonds, candied citrus peel and other candied and dried fruits, cinnamon, and saffron. Some loaves were decorated with colored eggs or sugar, elaborately braided or shaped into doves. Most are sweet, some are savory.

    Most of the recipes are European, with a few South American specialties. Add one or more of these 21 Easter breads to your celebration. Head to a bakery in your town, or find recipes online.


    Babka is a rich yeast loaf that is now enjoyed year-round. Made with butter, eggs and raisins, is native to Poland and the Ukraine. A savory version is made with cheese.

    This cheese bread has a dense, chewy texture, similar to a bagel or bialy.


    This rich, sweet dough, topped with sliced almonds, is sweetened with the mahleb, a spice ground from wild cherry pits that’s also used in the tsouréki yeast bread from Greece (below).
    The dough for is similar to panettone, with flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and butter. Unlike panettone, it usually contains candied peel but no raisins. The dough is then fashioned into a dove shape (colomba in Italian) and topped with pearl sugar and almonds. Some modern versions use a chocolate topping.

    Also called Five-Egg Easter Bread, this round yeast loaf is sectioned into five triangles, each with a hard boiled egg nestled on top.

    From the Friuli region, this strudel-like bread is made from a cocoa dough and filled with pine nuts, raisins and walnuts.

    This savory yeast loaf is stuffed with hard boiled egg and sausage—typically chorizo.

    Commonly found in the U.S. as well, raisin-filled yeast buns are marked with a cross of white icing.

    These crisp breakfast biscuits, originating on the Aegean island of Ikaria, are sweetened with honey.

    An eggy dough is mixed with lemon zest, nuts and raisins. It can be oblong or round, or braided and studded with eggs, like Greek tsouréeki.



    This dome-shaped yeast bread is brushed with an egg wash or white glaze, and typically garnished with brightly colored sugar, candied orange peel, chopped almonds and currants. The dough can be mixed with candied citrus, cardamom, nuts, raisins and saffron (photo at right).


    This means “Easter bread,” a generic term that can take many forms. One popular shape is a braided ring with a red-tinted hard boiled egg in the center—a riff on Greek tsouréki. Also see torta pasqualina, below.


    This lightly sweet, golden loaf is scented with saffron.

    Almond paste is the signature filling of this sweet loaf, along with golden raisins (sultanas) and candied lemon peel.



    Kulich, Russian Easter bread. The baker used her decorating skills to create chocolate scrollwork instead of a simple garnish of dried fruits. Photo courtesy Russian Mom Cooks.

    This yeast bread is filled with currants, glacé fruits and raisins are first soaked in brandy. It can also include almond paste.

    Also known as sirnica, this sweet, eggy, buttery bread especially popular in Dalmatia and Istria. Pinca is similar to a briche and is traditionally shaped into a round loaf with a cross cut into the surface, like hot cross buns. Flavorings citrus zest, raisins and rum. Similar to hot cross buns, it is eaten on Good Friday to celebrate the end of Lent.


    This braided loaf is infused with cardamom.

    In Liguria, the special Easter bread is savory, consisting of thin layers of unleavened dough alternating with a stuffing made of sautéed chard, spinach and/or artichokes plus eggs and cheese, accented with nutmeg. Arugula, asparagus, chicory and radicchio can also be used.

    This classic Greek Easter bread dates back to Byzantine times. By the Christian era, red-colored boiled eggs, symbolizing the blood and rebirth of Christ, were tucked into the braids. The rich yeast dough is flavored with orange peel and a charming spice called mahleb (mahlepi, makhlépi), ground from the pits of wild cherries. Other traditional spices include anise seeds and mastic (photo at top).

    These sweet buns are flavored with candied citron, cardamom, ground almonds, lemon zest and raisins, vanilla and brushed with an egg wash.

    This sweet yeast bread is studded with golden raisins (sultanas).

    If we haven’t included your favorite Easter bread, let us know!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Cross Buns For Easter


    Homemade hot cross buns. Photo courtesy
    Hot Bread Kitchen.


    With Easter a week away, you can start baking the seasonal treat, hot cross buns.

    The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun made with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts in the dough. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

    The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Actually, they are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons in to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring.

    In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon. Eostre is probably the origin of “Easter.” Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

    You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. While Good Friday—this year, April 3rd—is National Hot Cross Bun Day, we’re giving you the heads up.

    If you don’t celebrate Easter, go back to the roots of this recipe and celebrate spring!

    This recipe, from the California Raisin Marketing Board, adds a twist to the traditional recipe: The icing is flavored with lemon, adding a tart counterpoint to the straight sweetness.


    Ingredients For 18 Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or Zante currants
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten and diluted with 1 teaspoon water
  • Lemon icing (recipe below)
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon water


    1. SCALD the milk, stir in the butter and cool the mixture to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.

    2. SIFT together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the raisins until well coated. Stir in the eggs and the cooled milk and yeast; blend well.

    3. TURN the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

    4. PUNCH down the dough, pinch off pieces and form smooth, round balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough on a greased baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Brush each bun with the diluted egg yolk. Cut a 1/2-inch deep cross in the center of each bun with a greased scissors. Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    5. BAKE for 8 to 10 minutes or until the buns look lightly browned. Cool on wire racks, about 5 minutes.

    6. MAKE the icing: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. Pipe the icing to make a cross on each bun.


    Hot Cross Buns

    If you want to enjoy the hot cross buns as toast, leave off the icing. Photo © Woodsy | Fotolia.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Irish Soda Bread

    Having published a recipe for Irish soda muffins for St. Patrick’s Day, we hadn’t planned to feature Irish soda bread this year.

    Then, we received this recipe from The Baker Chick and realized how much we wanted to tear into a warm loaf of soda bread and slather it with Kerrygold butter from Ireland.

    So we bumped our previously scheduled Tip Of The Day for this suggestion: Bake a loaf of Irish soda bread. If you’re already at work, bake it when you get home. It’s delicious with dinner—or in our case, instead of dinner. (We can make a joyous meal of great bread and butter.)

    Traditional Irish soda bread, the recipe below, has just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Other recipes add butter, caraway seeds, chocolate, eggs, orange peel or zest, raisins and/or sugar.

    The style of soda bread we enjoy in the U.S. is American-style, developed by Irish immigrants with butter, sugar and raisins.

    We adapted the recipe to meet in the middle: no butter or egg, but a bit of raisins and caraway.


    Ingredients For 1 Loaf



    Traditional Irish soda bread has no raisins or caraway. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

  • 1 pound (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk
    We couldn’t help ourselves: We added these optional, non-traditional ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raisins, sultanas or dried cherries, currants or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
    But in the name of tradition, we held back on the butter, egg and sugar.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    2. STIR together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk. Use a wooden spoon or your hand to combine the ingredients. You want the dough to be soft, so don’t over-mix it. Add more buttermilk if needed to get the dough to come together.

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface and give it just a few kneads (more will result in a tougher crumb). Shape it into a 6-inch diameter disk, about 2 inches high. Use a sharp knife to score a shallow X on the top of the loaf. Transfer to a cookie sheet or pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes.

    4. REDUCE the heat to 400°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.



    For St. Patrick’s Day, spring for Kerrygold butter, made with milk from cows who graze
    on the green grass of the Emerald Isle. Photo
    courtesy Kerrygold.



    Baking soda, called bread soda in Ireland, was invented in the early 1800s. In those days most people didn’t have an oven—they cooked in a fireplace over coals or a peat fire (called turf fire in Ireland). They placed the dough in a lidded cast-iron pot which went right on top of the fire.

    In County Donegal and County Leitrim, there was a tradition of adding caraway seeds to bread. Immigrants brought that recipe to the U.S. In America, the recipe evolved to include butter, eggs, raisins and sugar—ingredients which frugal housewives in Ireland wouldn’t have thought to add to the dough.

    Today, the soda bread recipe options include:

  • White soda bread: all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and optional caraway seeds.
  • Brown soda bread, also a traditional recipe that substitutes whole wheat flour for part or all or all of the white flour.
  • Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway, the classic Irish-American version also made with sugar, butter, and eggs.
  • Numerous modern recipes, from healthier variations of whole grains, flax and sunflower seeds to walnut soda bread to oat soda bread with browned butter, rosemary and black pepper.
    Check out these and other recipes here.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The cross cut into the top of the loaf before baking allows the heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread. As a bonus, in a Catholic country it adds the symbolic note of giving thanks.



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