Happy summer everyone! In addition to today being the longest day of the year, it’s going to be a fun day in Canada with many concerts and masterclasses and all of the other shenanigans that go on at music camp. I’ve been having such a great time seeing amazing people play and having the time to just focus on one activity! It was a little bit weird at first, not having any school or gymnastics to worry about, but having some time to devote just to music is really nice.

photo-4Some of the best experiences I’ve had so far have been the masterclasses that I have been able to attend here at the SMI-NAC. The first one I went to was on Tuesday night, and it was a voice masterclass with Benita Valente. I’m clearly not an opera singer myself, so in addition to seeing the spectacular performers, I got to see a little taste of what voice technique involves, which was very interesting. Then, on Wednesday night, Mr. Zuckerman and Ms. Kopec had a masterclass that was honestly one of the best event’s I’ve ever been to. It was just incredible, and I would go to it every single night if I could. Finally, last night, they had a chamber music site reading “party,” which is always fun. I get to play in one every year at a camp I do during August, and they did many of the same pieces, such as the Mendelssohn Octet and the Borodin String Quartet No. 2. As you can probably tell, I’m having so much fun.

photo-4 copy

I also tried poutine for the first time, which was very delicious. Poutine is a dish made up of french fries that are covered in gravy and cheese curds. Obviously not the healthiest choice, but it was fun to taste! Speaking of food, let’s get rolling on these brioche buns! When I was younger, my mom would make challah, a Jewish egg-based bread every Friday, and this is very similar. It’s slightly sweet and it’s distinctive yellow color made it a blast to make and eat. The dough was sticky and a little bit hard to manage at times, but that’s what makes baking fun!



  • 2 oz milk, scalded and cooled

  • 2 oz bread flour

  • 0.2 oz instant yeast

  • 5 oz eggs

  • 8 oz bread flour

  • 0.5 oz sugar

  • 0.2 oz salt

  • 6 oz butter, softened


Mixing- Sponge Method

  1. Whisk the yeast, milk and flour until the yeast begins to bloom (This technique is called making a sponge). Let rise until double.

  2. Using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, gradually mix in the eggs and then the dry ingredients to make a soft dough.

  3. Beat in the butter a little at a time until it is completely absorbed and the dough is smooth. Dough will be very soft and sticky.


  1. If the dough will require much handling in makeup, as for small brioche rolls, it is easiest to retard the dough overnight. Making it up while chilled reduces stickiness.

  2. If the dough is to be simply deposited in pans, its stickiness and softness will not be problems, so it need not to be retarded. Ferment 20 minutes, then scale and pan.


  1. The traditional brioche shape, called brioche a tete (it looks like a very small tart pan). However, brioches may also be baked as simple round rolls or as pans loaves in many sizes and shapes.

  2. For a small brioche, roll the dough into a ball.

  3. Using the edge of the hand, pinch out about one fourth of the dough without detaching it. Roll the dough on the bench so both parts are round (it will look like a lopsided pear).

  4. Place the dough in the tin, large end first. With the fingertips, press the small ball of dough into the larger one.

  5. For a large brioche, separate the two parts of the dough. Place the large ball in the tin and make a hole in the center. Form the smaller ball into a pear shape and fit it into the hole. The bake loaf has the traditional brioche shape.

  6. Make an egg wash (1 egg and a small splash of water, whisk) after proofing.


  1. For small rolls, bake at 400 degrees. For large rolls bake at 375 degrees.

From: Professional Baking

I couldn’t think of a more delicious way to start off summer. Enjoy!

Rayna 🙂



Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread

This week could not be any more insane. This craziness always happens during the spring, but as you can probably imagine, during my junior year, it’s even more insane. In this week alone, I have a final that lasts for 2 days, a physics test on one of those days, a paper due Friday, journal entries due Wednesday, a graded math sheet due tomorrow, and I hope there’s no more. Needless to say, it’s one of the more stressful weeks of the year.
But, there is some great news to go along with it! This weekend I was honored to qualify for the Regional Championships, and I was able to travel to Boston in the Super Team meet. It was an awesome experience. Afterwards, I was able to meet my brother and a few of his friends at college so we could have lunch and walk around, and it was just a great weekend. Even if I’m feeling the repercussions now, it was totally worth it.
Now that I’ve babbled enough, banana bread time. If you haven’t experienced the magical ingredient that is brown butter, I can’t beg you enough to try it. I promise it’s not as intimidating as it seems, and it tastes oh so good. And, this bread not only uses mashed bananas, but it uses caramelized bananas, which not only give a nice textural contrast to the bread, but give it a burnt sugar/caramel flavor, which was just out of this world. It will certainly help you get through this week!


Brown Butter Bourbon Pecan Banana Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease the bottom only of a standard size loaf pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat in a small heavy bottomed pot. Cook until it begins to brown, but not burn; it will smell nutty and fragrant. Remove from heat, and let cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel and dice one banana. Mash the remaining bananas in a small bowl; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in a small skillet over medium heat until it begins to melt and turn golden. Add diced banana pieces and saute until well coated and caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Beat eggs on medium speed in a stand mixer.  Add brown sugar and beat until foamy and combined. Add mashed very ripe banana, cooled browned butter, vanilla and bourbon; beat until mixed welll. Scrape down sides of bowl again with rubber spatula.
  5. On low speed, pour in 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Increase mixer speed to medium and mix until just blended.  Pour in 1/3 of buttermilk and beat until just blended.  Repeat this process with remaining flour and buttermilk. fold in pecans and caramelized banana pieces. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

From: In Jennie’s Kitchen

I hope this bread can help you (and me) get through this week!




Portuguese Sweet Bread

To say that these last few weeks have been busy is an understatement. I’ve been running all around the northeast between gymnastics and music, and school stuff is getting more and more stressful. It’s like I could use a second spring break already…and it’s only been one week!
A few months ago, my mom made a delicious New England Anadama bread, and this reminds me of it very much. It’s slight sweetness makes it delicious to eat on it’s own, and the crust on top was golden brown and perfect. Toasted and spread with Vermont churned butter…it made waking up at 6:30 something to look forward to.



  • 4 ounces milk
  • 2 ounces butter, cut into pats
  • 2 3/8 ounces sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 13 3/4 ounces all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • grated peel (zest) of 1 medium lemon
  • 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)


1) Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a microwave-safe cup, or in a saucepan. Heat to lukewarm, stirring to soften the butter. Set aside.
2) In a mixing bowl, the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bucket of your bread machine, combine the flour, yeast, and lemon zest; stir to combine.
3) Add the milk mixture, stirring first to make sure the sugar and salt aren’t left in the bottom of the cup or pan.
4) Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla. Mix and knead until the dough is cohesive and smooth; it’ll be very sticky at first. If you’re using a stand mixer, beat with the flat beater for about 3 minutes at medium-high speed; then scrape the dough into the center of the bowl, switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 minutes at medium speed. It will have formed a ball somewhat, but will probably still be sticking to the bottom of the bowl. If you’re using a bread machine, simply let it go through its entire cycle, and skip to step 6.
5) Lightly grease the mixing bowl or a large (8-cup) measure, round the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl or measure. Cover, and let rise until very puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If you’re using a bread machine and the dough hasn’t doubled in size when the cycle is complete, simply let it rest in the machine for another 30 to 60 minutes.
6) Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan.
7) Gently deflate the dough, and round it into a ball. Place the ball in the prepared pan, and tent the dough gently with lightly greased plastic wrap.
8) Let the dough rise in the pan for about 2 hours, until it’s nicely puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
9) Mix the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water, and brush some onto the surface of the loaf; this will give it a satiny, mahogany-brown crust.
10) Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s a medium golden brown and its internal temperature registers 190°F on a digital thermometer.
11) Remove the bread from the oven, and gently transfer it to a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days’ freeze for longer storage.

Courtesy: King Arthur Flour

What’s not to love?

-Rayna 🙂

English Muffin Toasting Bread

Happy April everyone! It’s been one hectic month, but thankfully, I have break from school this week and I’ve been really enjoying it. Lots of sleeping in, and lots of helping my mom test some (a lot) of recipes for her website, which is launching this weekend! I think it will be an awesome place for tons of delicious, chef-quality recipes for you to enjoy.


Speaking of chef-quality recipes, let’s talk about this bread. I’m typically not a fan of foods that are trying to be other things (tofurkey, for example) so I was a bit skeptical at first. I can’t tell you how wrong I was. It had the recognizable crumb of an English muffin and had the hearty taste that you want slathered with butter any day of the week. As the recipe states, it is absolutely spectacular toasted, and I can’t praise this bread enough.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. I dare you. 🙂

English Muffin Toasting Bread

  • 12 3/4 ounces all purpose flour
  • 1/2 ounce sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 8 ounces milk
  • 2 ounces water
  • 7/8 ounce vegetable oil or olive oil
  • Cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan


1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don’t have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.
3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.
5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.
7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
8) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.
Yield: 1 loaf.
Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

Rayna 🙂

(P.S. I tried formatting the pictures in a new way. What do you think?)

Crunchy Seed Braid

I hope you guys are having a great start to your week! I am fresh off of 2 weeks of sleeping in, due to state testing that only the sophomores have to take. Sleeping in every day has been great, to say the least, but it’s not going to be easy going back into my early routine! Thankfully, we have lots of delicious tea and coffee in our house, so I’ll make it through the day.

After trying the Vermont oatmeal honey whole wheat bread, I was hooked on using yeast. I dipped my toe into the sweeter side of yeast doughs with cinnamon rolls, but I really wanted to have an awesome seedy, healthy loaf. I know it may not seem like it because I run a blog dedicated to sweets, but I try to eat pretty healthily most of the time. I couldn’t go too crazy with the seeds on this loaf from King Arthur Flour, because I would have been the only one to eat it! While I do love whole grain bread, I don’t think I could eat an entire loaf. So, I only ended up putting poppy seeds and sesame seeds on this loaf, but I would love to experiment with chia seeds, flax seeds, and wheat germ.

Just a tip for those looking to make this loaf: make all of your loaves the same size! I didn’t read the recipe closely and thought it made 3 mini-loaves instead of one braid, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the size of all of the loaves. Still, this loaf came out hearty and crunchy and a great healthy option to make!


  • 10 ounces lukewarm water
  • 1 1/4 ounces vegetable oil
  • 8 1/2 ounces Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 6 ounces Whole Wheat Flour, white wheat preferred
  • 3 ounces assorted nuts and seeds
  • 1 1/2 ounces traditional rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7/8 ounce sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast


  • 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 3 ounces mixed seeds: poppy, sesame, flax, fennel, and anise are all good choices


  1. Mix all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, stand mixer, or bread machine — to make a smooth, supple dough.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased, covered container, and allow it to rise for 60 to 90 minutes. It’ll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into three pieces. Roll/stretch each piece into a 24″ log.
  4. Brush the logs with the beaten egg white, coating them as well as you can.
  5. Sprinkle with the seeds. Roll them over, brush with egg white, and sprinkle on more seeds. Roll them around a bit, to coat as completely as possible.
  6. Allow the logs to rest for 15 minutes, uncovered.
  7. Squeeze the three logs together at one end. Braid into a braid. When you get to the end, squeeze the three pieces together and tuck them underneath. Transfer the braid to a lightly greased or parchment-lined pan, brush with more egg white, and and sprinkle with any leftover seeds.
  8. Cover the braid, and let it rise for 1 hour, till the braid has become noticeably puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  9. Bake the bread for 15 minutes. Tent it lightly with foil (to prevent over-browning), reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the braid’s internal temperature registers 190°F. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Yield: 1 large loaf.
Does anyone want to make me a loaf?

-Rayna 🙂

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Good morning everyone! I hope you all had a nice day off for presidents day that was filled with lots of delicious food. I spent my weekend out in the Show-Me State, or St. Louis, Missouri for a gymnastics meet. Even though I was only gone for a few days, it was an awesome trip. I got to spend lots of time with my teammates and it was just an awesome bonding experience.

While we had a few days off due to Nemo, I used my time wisely. That is, I baked lots and lots of loaves of bread. I already explained to you my fear of yeast and how I stood up to it a few days ago, but before I get to more yeast breads I have to tell you about this banana bread.

You know you’ve made a good bread when you have 5+ loaves and baked goods in the house and this is the only one that got completely eaten in less than 2 days. Yeah, it’s that good. What makes this banana bread different is the layer of cinnamon sugar between the 2 layers of sweet banana goodness, and when baked, it turned into a caramel-y counterpart that completed this wonderfully moist bread.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread- from Sally’s Baking Addiction


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups mashed very ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/3 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon



  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.  In a separate large bowl, beat the brown sugar and butter with a stand or handheld mixer on medium speed until well blended – about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a wooden spoon, stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla.  Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Do NOT overmix.  Batter will be thick.
  3. Spoon half of the batter into prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar swirl ingredients.  Top with remaining batter. Bake for 40-45  minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread

Hey there! I hope everyone in the northeast made out okay in Nemo! We got hit pretty hard, with around 30 inches of snow, but thankfully our power was on, so we could entertain ourselves with daytime television, and of course, lots and lots of baking! After doing quickbreads and muffins and cookies since July 2011 (it’s really been that long?), I officially decided that it was time for me to try something new. So get prepared for an entire world of yeast!

I have to admit, I was scared of yeast. I was afraid of kneading too long, kneading for not long enough, killing the yeast, have the yeast not bloom, and a variety of other issues that could go on when you’re dealing with yeast. But, after gaining some experience and learning a lot when my mom was learning about it in culinary school, I finally used the dreaded yeast. And guess what? It was fantastic- both the taste of the bread and the satisfaction that I got from making such a fantastic loaf (well, 2 loaves). This bread was a wonderfully hearty whole wheat bread, with just a smidgen of sweetness from the honey. It’s a wonderful sandwich bread, and I practically died of happiness when I got to use this bread to make my beloved almond butter sandwich for lunch. So don’t be like me and be terrified of this glorious little creature, because this recipe is simple enough to just get your toes wet in the vast world of breads and yeasts.

Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread


  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Saigon-type cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast*
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm.
  2. Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
  3. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch bread pans. Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise till they’ve crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.
  4. Bake the loaves in a preheated 360°F oven for 33 minutes.** Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown, and the interior registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Yield: 2 sandwich loaves.

*You can use active dry yeast interchangeably with instant yeast. I used that, and it worked out perfectly.

***If your oven can’t be set at 360°F, set it at 350°F and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes.

Source: King Arthur Flour



Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche

Happy Thursday everyone! These past few weeks have been filled to the brim with school, gymnastics, and music, but I’m glad I can finally share another recipe with you!

I have to confess, I have not been doing too much baking lately, but I was able to whip up this delicious recipe for Thanksgiving. I had compiled a whole list of things I wanted to make, but instead of spending my day slaving away in the kitchen for dessert (the best course, but not too good for you I’m afraid), I ended up just spending some time sleeping and hanging out with my family. It was great, but now I have the holiday season ahead of me to look forward too!

Pumpkin is one of my favorite things to bake with because of it’s versatility. I’ve made things ranging from buttercream to granola to whoopie pies with this wonderful fall ingredient, but now I got to experience another way that pumpkin could be used in a delicious and moist bread pudding. My dulce de leche wasn’t too pretty so it’s not in the picture, but it truly brings the entire dish together with it’s creamy, caramel like qualities. I hope to be back soon!


Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche- from Martha Stewart


  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • 10 ounces day old bread (I would use an egg-based bread, such as a brioche or challah)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 recipe dulce de leche 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 2-quart baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, milk, cream, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Arrange bread in dish. Pour custard over bread and top with pecans. Bake until custard is set, 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with dulce de leche.

And the holiday baking begins!

-Rayna 🙂