Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

How to bake bread in a dutch ovenI love the smell of freshly baked bread. They should make that into a candle (surely someone has by now). I especially love adding a little rosemary to bread as it reminds me of my mom. She often baked a loaf of rosemary bread in her bread machine back when I lived at home. And if there's one thing I love eating, well, it's bread.

And pizza.

And donuts.

OK, let's focus. I can feel myself starting to drift off into a food day dream. And as I write this, it's getting dangerously close to dinner time, so I need to try and shift my thoughts away from donuts for a minute.

How to bake dutch oven bread via A Beautiful MessA few years ago I set off on a bread baking challenge. I had recently read 52 Loaves and also recently been dumped. So, baking a bunch of bread really appealed to me on a lot of levels, you could say.

I tried lots of different kinds of breads and methods. It was a delicious adventure for sure. But I've got to say that one of my very favorite methods is one of the first ones I ever tried. It is what is commonly called French Oven Bread. It's super easy and makes your whole kitchen smell amazing (and it's totally yummy too). So, I thought I'd share a simple French Oven Bread recipe with you in case you've never tried it. And yes, this one involves a little rosemary. :)

How to activate yeastRosemary Olive Oil Bread, makes one loaf

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
big pinch of sugar (I don't measure this, but it's probably a little less than 1/8 teaspoon.)
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil

Add the sugar to the warm water. Give it a stir. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and allow it to start to come alive for a couple of minutes. It should begin to foam a little (like in the photo above). It's black magic!

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, rosemary, and olive oil. Pour the yeast water into the bowl. Stir until a soft dough ball forms. Then knead for 3-4 minutes. I do this directly in the bowl with well-floured hands. This dough is quite soft, so it's super easy to knead. If you find that it's sticking to the bowl or your hands too much, just sprinkle in more flour. A super soft dough like this can withstand some added flour during the kneading process. :)

Homemade bread doughPlace the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1-2 hours (until it doubles in size). If you're house is super cold this time of year (like mine is), I'll often turn the oven on for a couple of minutes, turn it off, then place the dough inside and shut the oven door. Just make sure the oven isn't hot enough to cook the dough. 

First riseHoly cow—that's what I'm talking about! It blew up like a hot air balloon!!!!

Calm yourself. OK, now punch the dough down. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Then place back in the bowl and allow to rise for another hour. 

Ready for second riseI moved my dough to a proofing bowl because it makes a fun shape on top of your loaf. This is totally optional. You could just allow the dough to rise the second time in the same bowl if you want. Remember to cover your dough while it rises so it doesn't dry out.

Second riseBoom—balloon moment #2. Now we're ready to bake. Depending how long it takes for your oven to preheat, you can turn your oven on a little before the end of the second rise. Set your oven to 400°F.

Remove the knob on a dutch oven before bakingDepending on your French oven (or dutch oven), you may need to remove the lid knob before baking at this high of a temperature. As you can see, I have a Le Creuset. Some of their French ovens (the Signature range) have lid knobs that can withstand higher temperatures while other French ovens (the Classic range) are only recommended to go up to 375°F. Check your brand's website if you're unsure. And I say, better safe than sorry, so I tend to remove the lid knob before baking bread out of habit as I've had a number of different French ovens over the years. Some French ovens won't have any of these features and you won't have to worry about this at all! But if you're new to baking in a French oven, I just wanted to make sure I draw this aspect to your attention in case you have one that needs special care.

Dutch oven breadCover the bottom of the French oven with parchment paper, place the lid on, and allow the pot to heat up with the oven. Then flip the bread out of the bowl and into the pot. Be careful, the pot will be hot, so you don't want to touch it. As you can see, my flipping was subpar. Boo! So you can only see about half of the proofing bowl design. Oh well, doesn't affect the flavor or texture of the bread, so it's not a big deal. But I'll have to work on my flipping skills some more. :)

Bake with the lid on for 10-12 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for 18-22 minutes until the bread looks crusty and done. Once you remove the bread from the oven, sometimes you'll hear it kind of crackling. That's a good sign!

How to bake bread in a dutch oven How to bake dutch oven bread via A Beautiful Mess Allow the bread to cool enough to handle before slicing into it. I love to eat fresh bread when it's still warm enough to melt butter added to a slice. That's what I call luxury. This would make a great companion to soup or if it gets stale, French toast. :) If you have an oven safe vessel, I highly recommend you bake some bread this week! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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Simple Winter Village DIY

Make a winter village— So easy!One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is setting up our holiday village every year. My mom had collected several ceramic buildings with electric lights inside, including houses, a church, a school, and a general store. I loved setting up the little people and trees, then watching when the houses lit up, glowing in the early dark of evening. Such warm fuzzies!

I wanted to create my own winter village to capture the nostalgia of my childhood, but decided to tailor the idea a bit for my taste and decor. My village consists of simple set-like facades, backlit by a strip of LED lights and accessorized with wintery bottle brush trees. Check out how simple it is to make your own winter village!

Make a winter village— So easy!Supplies:
-building templates (see below to download)
-colored foam board (or you can paint or spray mount colored paper to foamboard)
-gold or white vellum
-small L-brackets
-X-Acto blade (with plenty of refill blades)
-drafting tape or painter's tape
-hot glue gun (or glue of your choice)
-puffy paint
-LED spotlights (optional)

  Template Template Template Template


To begin, click any or all of the above templates and print onto 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper. You should not need to scale the image to fit because printer margins have been factored in.

Make a winter village— So easy!Step One: Use drafting tape (or painter's tape) to fasten the template to your foam board. Use an X-Acto blade to cut out the windows and shape of each building. It will take a few passes of the blade to cut all the way through. Be patient! If you push too hard on the blade, you will break the tip.

Note: I also used artist's board (like a mat board material) for this project, and it was very difficult to cut through compared to foam board. Foam board is stiff and easy to cut through— the perfect material for this project, in my opinion.

Step Two: Trim the windows and doors with puffy paint. You can add any interest that you want during this time too, such as shingles, bricks, or even a little wreath.

Make a winter village— So easy!Step Three: When the puffy paint has completely dried and hardened, flip the building facade upside-down and glue vellum to the windowed areas. Then glue one or two brackets onto the back, making sure not to glue a bracket onto any window or door openings.

Make a winter village— So easy!I used this strip of LED spotlights to backlight my little village. I chose this set because it was the perfect size (each light lines up with each building), has two settings, and is also battery powered. I'm a big fan of no cords!

Make a winter village— So easy!This set of buildings was inspired by the city of Amsterdam, but the puffy paint sort of adds the effect of a gingerbread house, doesn't it? I think it's quite charming. Maybe next year I will add a cathedral or a school! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

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January Book Club Selection

Midnight good evilHey, guys! Just wanted to let you know what we'll be reading for the A Beautiful Mess book club in January so you can order or put your copy on hold at the library soon. We'll be reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. If you're more of a viewer than a reader, you'll be happy to know this book was made into a film starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. So feel free to cheat on your homework and watch the movie, or both. I can't stop you.

Jtb breadI'm super stoked for January because Joy the Baker will be guest moderating for us. I've been a fan of Joy's since before I even blogged my first recipe. It's true! Joy doesn't know it, but we go way back. :)

Joy might be mostly known as a baker and cookbook author, but she also has great book recommendations on her site and a whole lot of personality in her writing, so I'm excited to welcome her to the ABM book club next month. 

ABM book club year one selections!And as we near the end of 2014, I can't help but be amazed that it was nearly a year ago that we started the ABM book club. Time flies! My main goal with the club was to force myself to read more regularly and to share awesome books with my virtual friends (that's you guys!). It has been a year full of really fun books and interesting discussions. I've loved it. I hope you have to. I can't wait to see what we read in 2015 together. :) xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Joy Wilson, Emma Chapman and Sarah Rhodes. Most photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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15 Sweet Treats for the Holidays

Peppermint marshmallowsIt's the time of year when you are surrounded by all kinds of treats and goodies and you indulge and don't feel guilty about it because it's the holiday season, right? At least that's what we tell ourselves. :) We thought it would be fun to create a roundup of our favorite sweet treats to give you some baking ideas for all the family gatherings and holiday parties coming up. Let's start with these homemade peppermint marshmallows

Peanut butter sticky bunsThese peanut butter sticky buns would be the perfect treat to enjoy on Christmas morning.

Peppermint bark petit foursImpress your guests or co-workers with these delicious peppermint bark petit fours.

Pomegranate glazed donutsDonuts are always a good idea! These pomegranate glazed donuts are extra festive.

Favorite no-bake cookie recipeEmma's no-bake cookies are SO good and super easy to make. Warning: they are really addictive. :)

Mocha mint frappeDriving around to look at Christmas lights? This mocha mint frappe would be a fun treat to take along with you.

Candied gingerFill your candy dishes with this candied ginger for a little after dinner treat.

Skillet cookiesMake this amazing skillet cookie for your guests (and you won't be tempted to eat half of it by yourself!)

Eggnog cinnamon rollsLooking for something to add to your brunch menu? Try these eggnog cinnamon rolls.

Peppermint hot chocolateGet cozy by the fire with this peppermint hot chocolate

Sweet and spicy peanut brittleWe love this sweet and spicy take on peanut brittle

Baked french toast sticksLooking for something for the kiddos to enjoy too? They will love these baked French toast sticks.

Classic sopapillasNot in the mood for chocolate or candy? Try these classic sopapillas instead.

No-bake cheesecake trufflesCherry cheesecake without all the fuss. These no-bake cheesecake truffles are so good, and they are a little bit fancy!

Nutella hot chocolateLast but far from least, take your Nutella addiction to the next level with this Nutella hot chocolate. It's just plain amazing, you guys.

Happy Holidays! - The ABM Team

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