Bread and other baked goods

As an on-the-go breakfast or after-school snack, portable, kid-friendly granola bars are a boon to busy families. When it comes to nutrition, though, all bars are not created equal. They can be reasonably virtuous or downright decadent.  My whole-grain, high-protein recipe is a little of both — hearty and satisfying, dense and chewy, and just sweet enough.

Chewy sunflower seed granola bars

Yield:  16, 2-inch squares

2 c. rolled oats

1 c. raw sunflower seeds

1 c. raisins

1/2 c. toasted wheat germ or unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. brown sugar

1/3 c. canola or safflower oil

1/3 c. sunflower seed butter

1/3 c. honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp. hot water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure oats into the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse about a dozen times — some of the oats should be ground to a flour-like consistency, some oats should be whole, and the rest should be somewhere in between.  Pour processed oats into a large  mixing bowl.  Stir in sunflower seeds, raisins, wheat germ or coconut, salt, and cinnamon.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil, sunflower seed butter, honey or syrup, hot water, and vanilla.  Fold into oat mixture with a rubber spatula, stirring until evenly moistened.

Lightly oil an 8 x 8-inch baking dish.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and extend up and over two of the sides (this will help you get the baked granola bars out of the pan).  Press paper into pan, smoothing out bottom and up sides.  Lightly oil paper.  Spoon granola mixture into pan and press down very firmly with an oiled spatula to form a compact, even layer.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until edges are nicely browned.  Let cool completely (summon all your will power — if you try to cut them when warm, they will crumble).  Use parchment paper overhang to lift granola from pan.  Place on a cutting board and, using a long, serrated knife and firm downward pressure, slice into 16 squares (if you don’t have a good knife, you may want to chill them a bit in the refrigerator before cutting).  Wrap each square in a small piece of wax paper, and store in a tightly sealed container.


Soft yet substantial, these hearty rolls turn a simple soup and salad into a memorable meal.  The dough also works for sandwich bread and the recipe will yield two loaves.  See here for instructions on forming the loaves and bake them 35-40 minutes.

Honey wheat rolls with oats and flax

Yield:  2 dozen rolls

2 c. warm water

1/3 c. honey

1 packet active-dry yeast

1/4 c. safflower or canola oil, plus a little more for the bowl

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

2 1/2 c. bread flour

2 tsp. salt

1 c. rolled oats, divided

1/3 c. ground flaxseed

2 tbsp. butter or dairy-free margarine, melted or 1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine water and honey in a large mixing bowl (use the bowl of an electric stand mixer, if you have one).  Stir to dissolve honey.  Sprinkle in yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes until yeast blooms.  Pour in oil.

Add flours and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon (or use your electric mixer’s paddle attachment).  Add 3/4 c. oats and flaxseed.  If you’re using a spoon, stir as best you can, then turn dough out on a lightly floured counter and knead until oats and flaxseed are evenly incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes.  If you’re using a mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Form dough into a ball, lightly oil the bowl, return dough to bowl and turn once to coat dough in oil.  Cover bowl with a barely damp, clean dish towel or piece of plastic wrap and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  The easiest way to tell if your dough is sufficiently risen:  Poke  it with your finger.  If the hole doesn’t spring back, it’s ready.

Lightly oil two 9-inch round baking pans.  Turn the dough out on the counter and divide in two.  Roll the first half into a rope, then divide into 12 pieces.  The best way to make uniform pieces is to divide the rope in half, then divide each half in half, then divide each of those halves into three equal lengths.  Shape each piece into a ball, and arrange in one of the baking pans.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Brush tops of rolls with melted butter or beaten egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining oats.

Set dough aside to rise again until the rolls reach the tops of the pans, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  I usually leave the pans on the counter, but if my kitchen is very cold, I use my mother’s technique to encourage the second rising:  Open the oven door a crack and turn the oven on (any temperature, it doesn’t matter).  When you hear it ignite, look at the clock — when 1 minute has elapsed, turn the oven off, put the covered bowl or pan of dough inside, and close the door.

When the dough is ready, bake it in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 22-25 minutes (if you’re rising the rolls inside your oven, remove them before turning the oven on!).  The rolls are done when their tops are nicely browned and they sound hollow when rapped on the bottom (put on oven mitts and tip the rolls briefly out of the pan to do this — they will come out in a single loaf).  Remove immediately to a wire rack.

Let the rolls cool at least 10 minutes before separating and serving.

Rolls keep well, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The holiday baking frenzy is well underway in our house.  Good thing, since the 18-plus inches of snow we’re expecting to fall overnight will mean more shoveling and snowman building (and less cookie making) tomorrow.

Two dozen gingerbread people are already tucked away in the freezer, as are two pans of cinnamon rolls (one for Christmas morning, the other for New Year’s Day).  A pot of clementines is simmering on the stove right now, the first step in making a candied clementine bundt cake for the grown-ups in the house.  And the kids helped out this morning with these snickerdoodles, rolling the tiny balls of dough in cinnamon sugar and sampling the finished products.  Firm on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and delicately spicy-sweet, these little cookies are lovely with a cup of hot chocolate after a busy morning out in the snow.


Adapted from Vegetarian Times

Yield:  Makes nearly 6 dozen

For dough:

1 3/4 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 c. cornstarch

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 c. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or use dairy-free margarine)

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. soy or rice milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

For cinnamon sugar:

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine buttery sticks and sugar.  Beat until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl and beater occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add milk and vanilla and mix until well combined (mixture will look curdled — this is fine).  Scrape bowl and beater again.

With mixer running on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Chill dough at least one hour or overnight before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.  Roll small spoonfuls of dough into 1″ balls.  Roll balls in cinnamon sugar to coat, then place on pans.  Flatten each cookie gently with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern.   Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are set, bottoms are lightly browned, and tops look dry.  Cool on wire racks, then store in an airtight container.

When I was younger, my mom and I would hunker down at the kitchen table on Christmas Eve and churn out scores of these spicy little devils.  Her recipe, if I remember correctly, called for 7 cups of flour and yielded a dough so stiff and massive the stand mixer would whine and groan and nearly lurch off the counter with exertion.  My mixer is smaller, as is my recipe.  The dough is soft and easy to work with, and makes a tender, lightly spiced cookie.  Our kids love them, and love to help — we save this treasured activity for when Grandma comes to visit.

Gingerbread cookies

Yield:  Depends on the size of your cutters

3 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 c. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or other non-hydrogenated, vegan shortening)

1/2 c. dark brown sugar

1/2 c. unsulphured molasses

1/4 c. water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Make dough:

Sift together flour, salt, soda, and spices.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine buttery sticks and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, scraping bowl and paddle occasionally, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together molasses, water, and vanilla.  Stir into buttery stick mixture (it will separate — this is fine).  Scrape bowl and paddle.  With mixer running on low speed, add dry ingredients one cup at a time until evenly encorporated.  Divide dough into two balls, flatten each into a fat disc, and wrap tightly in plastic.  Refrigerate at least one hour or up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.

Make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  On a floured counter, with a floured pin, roll one dough disc to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut out cookies, placing cutters as close together as possible.  Using an offset spatula, transfer cookies to baking sheet.  Gather scraps, re-roll, cut more cookies.  Repeat with remaining dough disc.

Bake cookies 8-10 minutes.  Let cool briefly on pan, then remove to a wire rack.

Decorate cookies:

To make icing, sift a cup or two (depending on how many helpers you have) of confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl.  Add a small amount of milk (any kind — I use rice) or water, a teaspoon at a time, until icing is smooth and glossy but not runny.  If you accidentally make it too thin, just add a bit more sugar until it’s the right consistency.

If you don’t have a piping tube or pastry bag, you can make one:  Spoon about 1/2 c. icing into one corner of a zip-top freezer bag (not a sandwich bag, as I learned from experience, because the seams tend to burst when you squeeze it).  Press the icing all the way into the corner, then twist the bag a few times right above the icing (for kids, I secure the twist with a rubber band, then press out the excess air and zip the bag for good measure).  Using a scissor or sharp paring knife, snip a tiny piece off the corner of the bag.  Voila!  Leak-proof, miniature pastry bag perfect for any size hand.

Clockwise, from top left: Homemade pastry bag & piping tube; 2-year-old decorates her first gingerbread person; Mummy decorates her billionth; kids' masterpieces.

Soft and light, fluffy and stretchy, these easy yeast rolls are pure pleasure.  The sweet potatoes (and the potato cooking water — yeast loves potato water!) are to thank for the supple texture, tender crumb, and amber hue of this milk-free, egg-free recipe.  I cook mine in unsalted, boiling water until very tender, then mash them with a potato ricer.  The ricer helps strain out the stringiest sweet potato bits.  If you don’t have one, a regular masher or food processor will do a fine job.

Make them at your leisure — I suggest a double batch —  and freeze them for Thanksgiving.  Thawed to room temperature and warmed briefly in the oven, they’re as good as freshly baked.

Sweet potato dinner rolls

Yield: 1 dozen

1 ¼ c. sweet potato cooking water, cooled to lukewarm

1 tbsp. packed, light brown sugar

1 envelope active dry yeast

3 tbsp. safflower or canola oil

½ c. mashed, cooked sweet potato, at room temperature

3 c. unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed for kneading and shaping

1 tsp. fine sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine potato cooking water, sugar, and yeast.  Swirl bowl gently to moisten yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes until yeast blooms.

Stir oil and mashed potatoes into yeast mixture.  Add flour and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Dough should be soft and sticky.  Turn out onto a floured counter and knead gently, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 1 minute.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover lightly with plastic or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Turn dough out onto a floured counter.  Using a bench scraper or large knife, divide dough into 12 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball (or roll into a rope and tie in a loose knot) and place about 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Bake rolls for 20-22 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Completely cooled rolls may be stored at room temperature for a few days or frozen for up to 3 months.

When adapting pastry recipes to accommodate food allergies or special diets, cookies are by far the most forgiving.  They are small in size, fairy sturdy in texture, and don’t need a lot of rise.  Unlike cakes and loaves, which tend to sink or crumble when eggs are absent, cookies require relatively little leavening (a little baking powder or soda works just fine) and aren’t picky when it comes to binding (pureed fruit, ground flaxseed, or even a little milk or water will suffice).

This chocolate chip cookie is adapted from the classic Toll House recipe and remarkably similar to the original.  I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks instead of butter.  They’re salted, so I reduced the salt in the recipe from 1 tsp. to 3/4 (you could reduce it further — I like a little extra salt in a chocolate chip cookies).  1/4 c. soy or rice milk replaces the 2 eggs.  Milk adds moisture but won’t bind like eggs, so to prevent excessive spreading I cut the sugar by 1/3 (I find Toll House cookies a little too sweet, anyway) and lowered the oven temperature by 25 degrees.  To compensate for the missing flavor of the brown sugar, I doubled the vanilla.  And since the new cookie dough has less volume than the original, you don’t need the whole bag of chips.

Classic chocolate chip cookies, egg- and dairy-free

Yield: 2 1/2 – 3 dozen

2 ¼ c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

1 c. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or dairy-free margarine

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. packed, light brown sugar

¼ c. soy or rice milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter or margarine and sugars until very light and fluffy, scraping beaters every few minutes.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in chips.

Drop by spoonfuls, 2-inches apart, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden and centers are just set.  Let cool a few minutes on the pan, then remove to wire racks.

Fall has arrived in New England, and I am celebrating by pulling on my fleece socks and rekindling my love affair with all things pumpkin.  First from the oven:  soft, chewy, delicately spiced cookies, blissfully (and undetectably) egg- and dairy-free.  Save your homemade winter squash puree for soup — the unmistakable flavor of canned pumpkin is best for these homey treats.

Pumpkin cookies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 c. butter (or use non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening — I like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. packed, light brown sugar

3/4 c. pumpkin puree (half of a 15-oz. can)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 c. chocolate chips (I like the miniature variety for this recipe, and use the allergy-friendly Enjoy Life brand)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer and periodically scraping bowl and beaters, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy.  Beat in pumpkin and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in chips.

Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2-inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges of cookies are just browned and centers are set.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

Cookies keep, tightly covered, for a few days.  Leftovers freeze beautifully.

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