Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread

We have quite a number of Sisters in the Convent who have celiac-sprue or gluten allergies. Buying gluten free bread can be extremely expensive and well, frankly, you might as well be eating cardboard! We have wanted to find a recipe for quite a while that is healthy, inexpensive to make and tastes like real homemade bread. This recipe fits the bill. It’s high in fiber from the oat content, easy to make and tastes wonderful! It’s especially lovely toasted with butter and jam. Most oats are gluten free — check the label to be sure. The only reason they wouldn’t be is if they are manufactured in a factory where they also make products with gluten. We are so fortunate to have a company that supplies us with oats, so this bread costs literally nothing to make. You can find xanthum gum in the health food aisle of the supermarket — don’t leave it out — it’s an “all natural” emulsifier and you need it as a binding agent when baking without gluten.

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Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
20-30minutes
READY IN
2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the hot tap water in the bowl of a standing mixer and let sit for a few minutes, until the yeast is active and bubbles start to form on the surface.
  2. If you're using whole oats, blend them in a food processor or blender until they're pretty fine (as fine as you can get them) to make the oat flour.
  3. Once the yeast is active, add the oil, honey, corn starch, white rice flour, xanthan gum, and oat flour to the mixer and beat until combined.
  4. Add the salt and eggs and beat for a few minutes until fluffy.
  5. Pour into two well greased 9 inch loaf pans and allow to rise for about 45 minutes until doubled (only fill the loaf pans about 2/3 - 3/4 full - any excess can fill up a smaller loaf pan). Sprinkle the top of the loaves with some oats.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Once the loaves have risen, cut a few slits in the top with a serrated knife.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

Tasty Pumpkin Rolls

Our Convent bakers are always thinking ahead and experimenting — their thoughts and ideas are often very innovative! This week they were totally into Thanksgiving and enjoying it thoroughly. They assured me that I would be pleased with the final outcome of their efforts and how right they were! I had heard pumpkin being mentioned so I was expecting a pumpkin dessert of some sort. Instead they produced the tastiest dinner rolls which could not have pleased me more — whimsical little pumpkin-shaped creations, each complete with its own stem. I can’t wait to see the smiles on every person as they gather around the table this year.

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Tasty Pumpkin Rolls
SERVINGS
2dozen
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen
COOK TIME
12-15 minutes
PREP TIME
40min + rising
READY IN
approx. 2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle with sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add milk, brown sugar, pumpkin, butter, salt, spices and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 24 evenly-sized pieces. Working a few at a time, roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch rope on an un-floured surface. Before shaping, lightly dust ropes with flour, and then, with floured hands, turn each one into a pumpkin.
  3. Create a small loop in the rope with a long tail on one side and a short tail on the other. Wrap the long tail around the edge of the loop 2-to-3 times. Hold the remaining end of the long tail on the bottom-side of the loop with a finger to keep it from unraveling as you continue to work. Wrap the other tail around the edge of the loop, tucking it through the center of the loop.
  4. Pinch both of the ends together where they meet on the bottom side of the loop. If you’re not happy with the look of any of the rolls, simply set them aside for about 10 to 15 minutes and reshape. Place finished rolls on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 10 minutes.
  5. Just before baking, brush rolls with an egg wash for a shiny look or butter for a matte finish. Insert a sliced pecan into the center of each roll, pressing so the pecan touches the pan. In an oven preheated to 400° F, bake rolls for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Rolls should be golden brown and gently firm to the touch. If not serving right away, shorten the baking time by several minutes and finish baking right before eating.

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Syrian Pita Bread

Years ago before pita pockets, as we now know them, had become so common and readily available commercially, they were a regular everyday staple in our home. We called these Syrian bread, because we had an authentic Syrian neighbor who baked it regularly for her household and taught my mother how to make it. I have many happy memories of helping my mother shape the dough into the round loaves. I loved watching these magically puff up into inflated discs in the oven as they baked; and then settle back down into their original shapes after they came out of the oven and cooled.

Always we would roll some of the bread up into towels while still warm; when it cooled this way it had a much chewier texture which I especially liked just with plain butter. However there are so many ways to enjoy it. Sisters particularly love it stuffed with fried or roasted eggplant and fresh sliced tomatoes, roasted onions, peppers, and zucchini or yellow squash slices, with a sprig of fresh basil.

Another favorite way we eat it is split in half, brushed with oil, herbs of choice, onion salt and grated Parmesan. Then baked in 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until brown and crisp. It is a fun bread to bake and a fun bread to eat in whatever way you like.

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Syrian Pita Bread
SERVINGS
6-8pitas
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pitas
COOK TIME
5-7mins.
PREP TIME
1 1/2hrs.
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the water and allow to get bubbly.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the salt.
  3. With the machine on, pour in the yeast mixture and then the oil and process until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times.
  5. Form the dough into a ball.
  6. Lightly oil a bowl with olive oil.
  7. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn to coat
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  9. Take the dough and divide it up into 6-8 sections.
  10. On a floured surface, shape the dough into little flat circles.
  11. Heat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Baking the breads 2-3 at a time bake them for 5-7 minutes. Just till they turn a nice golden brown.
  13. Take them out the oven, let them cool and then ENJOY!

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dough01

Simple French Bread

This week took me back to serving at Villa Via Sacra, the home of the Mount Tabor Center for Art and Spirituality in Barga, Italy. What a blessing to be back in this verdant and beautiful area of Tuscany. This is the peak of Tuscany’s summer season when tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, peaches and nectarines are all in abundance. After a busy summer of offering hospitality to various groups, the villa household has quieted down for a wee bit. August 15th is a national holiday for the Feast of the Assumption. We felt it was only right to celebrate this special day in true Italian style, which means pack a picnic and head for the cooler air of the mountains! We did just that: a simple meal of homemade bread, cheese (pecorino stagione, ricotta and parmigiano), meats (mortadella, sopressata and prosciutto cotto), some garden vegetables of cucumbers, tomatoes and olives, a bottle of red wine and a fresh fruit salad.

We enjoyed this fresh French bread with our picnic. Delightful to eat with cheese and meats or just a little olive oil, it requires little rising time, so it’s a wonderful go-to bread recipe that you can make and bake within an hour.

Andiamo mangiare!

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Simple French Bread
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
25-30 minutes
PREP TIME
10 minutes
READY IN
1hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Activate your yeast by sprinkling it over the hot water in a bowl and whisk with a fork until dissolved and add 1 Tbsp of the sugar - let sit until foamy - about 5 min.
  3. Add the remaining sugar (3 Tbsp) and then the flour a cup at a time, mixing in as you go (you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this step, if you'd like). Add the salt at some point along the way. Stop adding the flour if your dough is no longer sticky.
  4. When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl, turn the dough out onto your counter and divide into two balls.
  5. Using the palm of your hand to kneed out any air bubbles, roll the dough into two long loaves.
  6. Let rise slightly (about 10 min.) and brush with the egg-wash.
  7. Bake for 25-30 min, or until golden or reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees.
  8. This recipe can also be used to make nice breadsticks.

Zesty Orange Rolls

One of our Sisters — who is an experienced cook and baker — is teaching one of our Community young girls how to bake, and she is becoming quite successful at it. Not only is she acquiring valuable experience, she is at the same time using this as an effective fund raiser by selling the bread to the Community houses. Proceeds from the sales are divided between the convent and the “young baker in training” to pay for her music lessons and other band related expenses.

I love to watch the two of them together turning out beautiful, fragrant warm loaves of various breads: whole wheat, oatmeal raisin, English muffin, and cinnamon swirl to mention a few – such a wholesome nurturing sight! From time to time they will feature some type of sweet roll such as sticky buns, or cheese Danish. This week they are offering frosted orange rolls. I doubt there will be any left over.

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Zesty Orange Rolls
SERVINGS
30rolls
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
rolls
COOK TIME
25minutes
PREP TIME
2hours
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.
  2. In large bowl, mix milk, shortening, sugar, salt, and egg.
  3. Add yeast mix; blend well.
  4. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.
  5. Kneed on floured board for about 7 minutes.
  6. Put in greased bowl, turn to grease top.
  7. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Punch dough down; divide in half.
  9. Roll each into a 15"x10" rectangle.
  10. Mix filling ingredients until smooth.
  11. Spread half on each rectangle.
  12. Roll up, starting with the long end.
  13. Cut each into 15 rolls.
  14. Put in 2 greased 11"x7" baking pans.
  15. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  16. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.
  17. Mix glaze ingredients, spread over warm rolls.

Good Friday Hot Cross Buns

Good Friday marks the second day of the Triduum (from the Latin for ‘three days’), the day on which we commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and death. The Good Friday liturgies at our monastery (and many others around the world) mark our observance of Christ’s final hours, picking up from Maundy Thursday Eucharist, and continuing through the Holy Saturday Vigil, the Great Vigil of Easter, and carrying us all the way to Easter morning.

In keeping with the solemnity of the day, we remember Christ’s death by bringing to the liturgy of the hours the full range of spiritual depth and beauty found in the ancient texts; we participate in the veneration of the cross, and chant Gospel Passion Narrative. It is a special and holy time, filled with moments of silence, listening, reflection and conviction, as well as a time of joy-filled anticipation.

This day of the Cross marks us with God’s presence, and He marks us for his own.

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Rating: 5
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Good Friday Hot Cross Buns
SERVINGS
1dozen buns
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen buns
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
  2. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
  3. In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
  4. Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside
  5. To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
  6. Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
  7. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  8. Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
  9. Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
  10. Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
  11. Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min. **
  12. To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
  13. Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
  14. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
  15. Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
  16. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
  17. Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.

** Please note:  This dough might take a long time to rise, but be patient...it is worth the wait because they will come out nice and light!