We’re having a virtual book party and you’re invited. It’s for Donna Currie, food writer, recipe developer extraordinaire, blogger and cookbook author. Her book, Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day, will have its first anniversary on November 4th and a group of her blogging buddies are celebrating. On that day, I’ll do a round-up featuring our posts on the book, including this one, and in the meantime, I’m baking from her book.
For my first Make Ahead Bread recipe, I chose Sweet Potato Monkey Bread. I’ll stop eating the bread long enough to write this post, although it is questionable how much will be left, once I clear my laptop off the kitchen table to begin dinner preparations.
If you don’t know Donna and her blog, Cookistry, you’re missing out.
Her appealing recipes have easy-to-follow instructions. Whether it’s comfort food like celery root and sweet potato puree (a fabulous alternative when you’re tired of plain old mashed potatoes) or one of her delectable ice creams (chai anyone?), Donna’s posts often include a good story and she can snark with the best of ’em if a topic deserves it.
And Donna blogs about cooking questions too. She doesn’t just wonder about whether something works and why – she tries it and gives her readers the benefit of her careful experimentation. Should you start cooking pasta in cold water or boiling water? Donna did a side-by-side comparison and rocked my world with her blogpost on the results. Want to know why corned beef is often pink? Donna can tell you and show you how to cook it too.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of blogger product reviews. Too often, bloggers write rapturously about a gadget as if it is indispensable, while I’m left wondering how many times the average cook would even think to use it, much less pull it out of the kitchen junk pile or drawer – if we even have space to store it.
Not Donna. Her reviews include cons as well as pros, and she often includes a “wish” when she sees a way a product could be improved or made more versatile.
You get the point – so go check out Cookistry and we’ll move along to Make Ahead Bread.
I’m not much of a bread baker. But I bought Make Ahead Bread when it came out last year, because I knew that if I started any serious bread baking, I wanted Donna to be my guide. Her pragmatic and confidence-building approach begins in the very first chapter, “Get Ready to Bake Bread!” She immediately set me at ease with her comment that baking bread is not like art or science, “more like live theater – with a stray cat loose in the building.”
Her bread-baking advice is calming and the recipes are adaptable to a busy lifestyle. You throw together the ingredients for a loaf of Make Ahead Bread on day 1, let the dough rise in the bowl for an hour, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and bake the bread on day 2. Presto! Homemade bread.
The only equipment required that you might not already own is an instant read thermometer, used to gauge if the bread is done after baking for the prescribed time. These thermometers are useful for many purposes, and inexpensive ($10-20), so it would be a good investment even if you don’t plan to bake bread regularly.
I chose Donna’s Sweet Potato Monkey Bread as my first bread-baking adventure in a long while and I was thrilled with the result.
Monkey bread recipes are all over the foodie world these days. Many look overly sweet to me and quite a few “cheat” with refrigerated biscuits as their base.
By contrast, Donna’s version begins with a sweet potato, roasted or microwaved to deliciousness. Her ingredients include sugar, but the natural goodness of the sweet potato shines through; you could easily serve this bread at breakfast and not worry about sugar shock first thing in the morning.
The steps are simple. Throw all of the ingredients except the topping in a bowl.
Mix everything up and let the dough rise for about an hour.
Make those crazy little balls and put them in a cake pan. Refrigerate overnight. Next morning, pop it all in the oven.
Don’t get worried when it looks like it doesn’t fill the pan – it will rise. You don’t have to trust me – trust Donna.
Then pull the bread apart and enjoy.
This recipe from Make Ahead Bread is provided with the permission of Donna Currie.