Apple Cider Braided Bread

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These mini-braided breads make perfect gifts or a lovely addition to brunch.

Braided Apple Cider Bread

I know it’s late in the season for an apple cider recipe, but my ALDI is still carrying it. I am not a big fan of apple juice, but I love apple cider and cider-flavored goods. I combined a few recipes to come up with this beautiful bread that makes a fantastic gift.

I doubled this recipe and had little loaves to give out to my daughter’s supplemental class teachers last week. Homemade bread doesn’t take that much effort, but seems extra special when it is such an anomaly in our culture.



Apple Cider Braided Bread

Yield: Two small or one large loaf


  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp. bread machine or instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 T. honey
  • 1/2 c. apple cider
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. turbinado or white sugar
  • 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced finely (optional)
  • for baking
  • milk
  • turbinado sugar


In the bowl for your mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 10 minutes to proof and become bubbly.

Add apple cider, salt, and sugar and stir.

With mixer on knead setting and using a dough hook, gradually add flour about 1/2-cup at a time. When all is incorporated, also add apple pieces if using. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic; it may still be somewhat sticky, which is fine.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for an hour in a warm place.

(You can also make dough in your bread machine on a dough setting.)

After this first rise, divide dough in half. Separate the half into three balls, then roll each ball out into a "snake" about 14 inches long. The strands will shrink; that is fine. Press the strands together at one end, then braid just as if you were braiding hair. Press together and fold under on the other end, then transfer braid to a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Repeat process with second half of dough.

Cover with towels again and let rise for a half-hour.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Remove towels. Brush loaves with milk and then sprinkle with turbanado (raw) sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.


You can also make this as one larger loaf. Adjust cooking time as necessary.

Outback Bread {Secret Recipe Club}

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Outback Steakhouse's Brown Bread

It’s been about a million years since I ate at an Outback Steakhouse. But when you eat there, one of the best parts is the dark brown bread that comes before your meal. It’s kind of sweet … and really, I am a fan of any warm bread with butter.

But let’s rewind first.

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to Morsels of Life. CJ started her blog when she found herself with extra free time, and now she loves to share simple food with easy-to-find ingredients. I eyed the Sesame Chicken Sauce, Banana Bread Muffins, and Lentil Sausage Soup, but in the end I was craving that wonderful yeast-rising scent and settled on Outback Bread.

Outback Bread

I was slightly worried that this bread would be really dense, because it only rises once. (You may remember my favorite, 100% whole wheat bread, has a triple rise!) But it wasn’t. It’s a lovely flavor, with the honey and molasses and touch of cocoa, with lots of craggy nooks to sop up butter and jam.

It may not be quite as brown as that Outback bread (probably due to lack of food coloring), but I will highly recommend you try out this recipe for a lovely, dark, honey whole wheat loaf. With minimal kneading and only one rise, it’s the perfect recipe for a beginner bread-baker, too.

Outback Bread

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Outback Bread

This honey whole wheat loaf is similar to what is served at Outback Steakhouses. Adapted from Morsels of Life.


  • 1 T molasses
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 1/4 c. warm water
  • 2 T butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1 T yeast
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • cornmeal


In your mixer's bowl (or another large bowl), stir together molasses, honey, and warm water.

In a small bowl, cut butter into the whole wheat flour, until it is interspersed throughout. You can use a pastry cutter, two forks, or just your fingers.

Add the whole wheat flour mixture, yeast, and cocoa powder to the wet ingredients. Stir until uniform.

At this point, if you're using a stand mixer, you can start it on the number 2 (kneading) setting with the dough hook attachement. If not, continue stirring with a wooden spoon; you may have to knead a little with your hands.

Add all-purpose flour 1/2 cup at a time, until it is all incorporated. Knead with the dough hook or hands for 2 minutes, just until it is uniform. Shape into an oval and roll lightly in cornmeal.

Place loaf in a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Cover with a dish towel and set in a warm place. (My kitchen is cold; I turned on the oven and set it on top.) Let rise until it is about 1 inch above the lip of the pan. This took mine 1 hour 15 minutes.

If you haven't already, preheat the oven to 350. Bake loaf for 30 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you tap on it in the center. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Do you have a favorite restaurant copycat recipe?

Coda Alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stew) and Sun-Dried Tomato Bread

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OK, I know I’ve lost you just with the word oxtail. But hang with me, please? Because this. is. delicious.

Coda Alla Vaccinara - Oxtail Stew

I’ll admit that usually with Secret Recipe Club I lean toward baking. I don’t have to cook dinner during the school year because we can eat in the dining hall. But this month I was assigned An Italian Cooking in the Midwest. And she makes real Italian food, y’all. Authentico. The author, PolaM, is indeed an actual Italian working on her PhD here in the American Midwest.

I Pinned several recipes that I thought looked amazing, like tiramisu, balsamic vinegar chicken wings, and orange and chocolate cake. But what really drew me in was her recipe for Rigatoni Butcher-Style. It’s a delicious beef stew with some celery added at the end, giving an interesting texture element. The stew is so rich and amazing. And what makes it that way? Oxtail.

Searing oxtail

I had to research oxtail because I’ve never, ever made it before. It’s just the cow’s tail, chopped up. Yep. Just what it sounds like. The cut is very affordable and I was able to find it at Publix already out in the case. The bones in the tail have a lot of gelatin, which contributes to the richness of the stew, although you probably want to spoon off a little of it before serving. Some sites recommended I even refrigerate the stew overnight and skim off the fat easily, but my foodie friend pretty much promised to disown me if I did, saying that is what makes it so good.

I used my pressure cooker since that is what Pola did, but you could also do this in a slow cooker with the same results, I think. Just sear the meat beforehand and dump it in there, then let it cook for a long time. I would think 8-10 hours on low.

Coda Alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stew)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 1 1/2 lbs. oxtail
  • 3/4 c. diced carrot
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, sliced, divided in half (plus some of the inner leaves)
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. short pasta


Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Sear the oxtail on all sides; remove to a plate.

Add carrots, onion, and half the sliced celery to the pressure cooker and reduce heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with cloves and pinch of salt and add bay leaves.

When the onions are starting to turn translucent, add the red wine. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.

Add meat back into the pan, then pour in beef broth and tomato sauce.

Close the pressure cooker and bring to pressure. (Your knob thingy should be gently rocking. Yep, that's the technical terminology.) Cook 1 1/2 hours, then remove from heat and cool until the pressure releases.

Use a ladle to remove some of the lighter liquid on top of the stew - that is the gelatinous broth. Take off about three ladle-fulls. Stir in remaining sliced celery.

Boil pasta in well-salted water. Drain; mix sauce into pasta and serve.


If you use gluten-free pasta or serve as a stew, this is gluten-free as well as dairy-free. You could also serve over rice.

To go along with the stew, I wanted to try out Pola’s Sun-dried Tomato Bread. Then I looked and saw it had to rise for 4-8 hours. So I added some more yeast and hoped it would move things along quicker. It may not be as authentic, but it worked and was tasty.

This is the kind of bread you just tear off chunks of and dip it right into the delicious stew.

Sun-Dried Tomato Bread

Rustic Sun-Dried Tomato Bread


  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. bread machine or instant yeast (also known as rapid-rise or quick-rise)
  • 1 1/2 c. very warm (but not hot) water
  • 1/4 c. sliced sun-dried tomatoes (the kind preserved in oil)
  • 1 tsp. salt


Add yeast to the warm water and let sit for a few minutes.

In the bowl to a stand mixer, add flour, oregano, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the water-yeast mixture and knead for 5 minutes - that's speed 2 on a stand mixer. You can do it by hand also. You want a dough that is soft but not sticky. Add more water or flour if needed - in very small increments.

Turn dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let rise for an hour in a warm place.

Drain the tomatoes and then knead into the dough. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll toward you, then connect the ends to make a circle, pinching together to seal. Place on a baking sheet or stone, cover again, and let rise 20-30 minutes.

Preheat over to 450. Bake 25-35 minutes, until dough is brown and the bread sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Gluten Free Meal Plan via Musings of a Housewife

Brioche Loaf & Brioche French Toast (Secret Recipe Club)

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Brioche bread loaf

Doesn’t that look amazing? It is.

My Secret Recipe Club assigned blog this month was Cook Book of Trial and Error. It seems the author doesn’t share about herself, but I enjoyed browsing the recipes on her site!

I bookmarked several dinner recipes from her site, including a Persian green bean pilaf that sounds so interesting and Brunswick Stew, one of my favorite dishes. In the end, though, I decided to tackle breakfast with this homemade brioche made into French toast.

The brioche recipe is adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, which means it takes very little effort, although there is a lot of waiting time you need to factor in. I decided to just make enough dough for two loaves, but you can double the recipe and make four loaves if you want.

The bread is luscious and eggy and it made some awesome French toast that we all gobbled up. I plan on using my other portion of dough to make rolls for sloppy joes tomorrow night, and I think that will work well!

UPDATE: Here are the buns I made. I formed the dough into four rounds, let them rise about an hour, then cooked about 20 minutes.

Sloppy Joes and German Potato Salad


Yield: 2 large loaves


  • 3/4 c. lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 2 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and set aside to cool
  • 3 3/4 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 T water for brushing


In a large, plastic or glass bowl mix water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter. Stir in flour. The dough will be very loose; don't try to do anything with it until after it's been chilled.

Cover with a dish towel and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover loosely and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-lb. (grapefruit-size) portions.

When ready to bake: Grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Sprinkle flour on your refrigerated dough and cut off half the dough (a grapefruit-sized ball). With floured hands, quickly shape dough into a ball. Elongate into an oval and place in loaf pan. Let rest, covered with a dish towel, for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Five minutes before resting time is up, turn oven to 350F. Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash (the egg beaten with water). Bake bread for 35-40 minutes, until top is medium-brown. Because of the fat content of the bread, it will not get very crusty.

Allow to cool before slicing.

Brioche French toast

Brioche French Toast

Yield: about 8 slices of French toast

Brioche French Toast


  • 1 loaf brioche
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • butter for greasing your griddle


Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Grease with butter.

In a 9x13 dish, lightly whisk together eggs, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Soak your bread in the egg mixture, about 30 seconds on each side. Place bread on griddle and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Repeat until all is cooked, buttering griddle in between batches.

Serve with powdered sugar and maple syrup.

Last April, Cook Book Trial and Error also posted a Lower-Fat Brioche, if that’s your thing!

Orange-Coconut Sweet Rolls

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orange-coconut sweet rolls

My mom always made Pillsbury orange rolls as part of holiday breakfasts. I love those little suckers. I could eat a whole pan by myself. They kind of melt in your mouth like Krispy Kremes.

So for Easter breakfast, I wanted to make orange rolls. Because I love the combination of coconut and citrus, and had a can of coconut milk and a bag of shredded coconut staring at me from the pantry, I decided to mix it up a little bit and make Orange-Coconut Rolls.

coconut milk and coconut oil

I was not disappointed and I don’t think you will be either!

Just a warning, though: this recipe makes 24+ rolls. I didn’t realize that before I made the dough. So make sure you have room to store/freeze/give away some or at least 6 children before you proceed. Or cut the recipe in half.

To give credit, these are originally from The Pioneer Woman, and I looked at versions of them from The Country Cleaver, Table for Two, Running to the Kitchen, and Baked By Rachel. I took advice from all these posts, so thank you!

Orange-Coconut Sweet Rolls

Orange-Coconut Sweet Rolls


  • 14 oz. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil or butter
  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • zest of one orange
  • Filling
  • 3-4 T butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. orange marmalade
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Topping
  • 1/2 c. shredded coconut (optional)
  • Icing
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • juice of two oranges and zest of one


In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine coconut milk, sugar, and coconut oil. Heat until sugar is dissolved and oil is melted. Remove from stovetop; sprinkle yeast over the top of the milk mixture. Let sit a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups white flour. Pour milk mixture into the bowl and stir well to combine. Cover loosely and let rise at least 1 hour.

After rising, add additional 1/2 c. white flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Knead for a few minutes, then roll out to a large rectangle (about 10x30 inches).

Spread rectangle with butter, then marmalade. Sprinkle with brown sugar and press into the dough. Sprinkle with salt.

Tightly roll the rectangle lengthwise, pinching seam to seal. Use a serrated knife to cut into 1-inch slices and place slices in a buttered pan(s).

Heat oven to 375F, letting rolls rise a little more while you wait for the oven to heat up.

Bake rolls 17-20 minutes, until done through.

Mix all icing ingredients in a bowl. If you want more of an actual frosting, you can add a lot more powdered sugar. This is just a glaze.

Sprinkle shredded coconut over the rolls. Pour icing over hot rolls and let cool a little before serving.

A happy (belated) Easter from our family to yours. What’s your favorite holiday breakfast?

Vanderbilt kiddos

Bread Machine Monkey Bread (Secret Recipe Club)

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bread machine monkey bread

For a lot of this pregnancy, I didn’t want sweet things at all. Ice cream didn’t even sound good. I ate fruit. I craved Very Veggie salad and some days could eat a whole bag of it. Yep, pretty much crazy, although it made my midwife happy.

Perhaps that, and my on-and-off-until-22-weeks sickness can account for the fact that I’ve gained a total of 4 pounds this whole pregnancy.

But in the last four or five weeks? Oh, I want the sweet things. Specifically, sweet breakfast breads. See: Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, Graham Cracker Banana Bread … and my dreams are of Boston Cream doughnuts. (In my opinion, the only doughnut really worth eating.)

So I used this month’s Secret Recipe Club as an excuse to make yet another sweet breakfast bread.

My assigned blog this month was The Cookin’ Chemist. The author is Tessa, a young bride and pharmacist who uses her skills as a former chemistry major in the kitchen! I’ve bookmarked many recipes from her site to try later, like the Balsamic Chicken Noodle Bowl, Crazy Feta Dip, and Smoked Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs.

But for today, I decided on Monkey Bread. Because I’ve been craving it for weeks.

Despite what we told our daughter, Monkey Bread doesn’t involve actual monkeys. (Libbie thought it might have bananas in it – also not true, although an idea …) I loved that Tessa’s version features a yeasted dough in the bread machine. It’s a little different from your traditional canned biscuit dough (which I generally cannot bring myself to buy, anyway).

I would have – of course – added pecans to this if my children were not so picky. But even without them, it was darn good. Enjoy!

Bread Machine Monkey Bread


  • 1 c. warm milk (I microwave for about 45 seconds)
  • 1/3 c. warm water
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp. (1 package) instant or bread machine yeast
  • Coating
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 T cinnamon


In order listed (or according to bread machine instructions), place dough ingredients in bread machine. Set to "dough" setting and let it go! (Cookin' Chemist has instructions for doing this by hand or with a mixer, if you like.)

Generously grease a Bundt pan and set aside.

When dough is done, turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll into an 8x8" square. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut into about 64 pieces. (I have this awesome pizza cutter from my Flatout Bread Pizza Party.)

With a fork, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. In another bowl, melt butter. Dip dough pieces into the butter, then coat with the sugar/cinnamon. Arrange in Bundt pan, staggering seams as you layer the pieces.

When you're done, cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour or so, until the dough is 1-2 inches from the top of the pan.

Heat oven to 350. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn upside-down onto a platter.

Eat and enjoy!