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Quick-Prep Breads That Are Long Remembered

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"Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day" by Donna Currie (Taunton Press, $19.95)

Bagels get beat when it comes to Donna Currie's description of her true-to-its name Sweet Breakfast Rounds with Dried Blueberries.

"These sweet breads are fatter than a pancake but thinner than a bagel," Currie writes. "They're great sliced horizontally and slathered with butter or cream cheese, but they're just as good eaten plain, next to a plate of bacon and eggs. They're good toasted, too. Or sliced and spread with peanut butter.

"These rounds freeze well. Slice them first, then wrap them well and stash in the freezer. When you want one for breakfast, pop the halves in the toaster to defrost and toast at the same time."

Multiply these tasty and convenient results by 100, and you have the contents of Currie's "Make Ahead Bread." Currie, a Colorado-based newspaper food writer and blogger, has put a lot of thought and planning into her simple recipes so that you don't have to.

All dough can be prepared overnight or up to 24 hours before baking. Currie has decided all the technical stuff that makes these go from mundane to out-of-this-world, like whether water should be room temperature or warm, whether you should use active dry yeast or instant, and just what easy add-ins will make a noticeable difference, such as the instant mashed potato flakes in the Sweet Breakfast Rounds with Dried Blueberries.

This is a book of standouts. Some include light and airy vanilla buns that follow the trend of whitening whole wheat by combining both types of flours, Rye Sandwich Wraps with Caraway, Strawberry Rolls with Walnut Swirl and Feta, Rosemary and Sun-Dried Tomato Turnovers.

"It didn't take long before I abandoned recipes and started putting all sorts of things into the bread," Currie confesses of her many years as an avid baker. "First, it was different types of flour. Then it got crazy. What happens if you add peanut butter? Fruit puree? Marshmallows? It was an exciting adventure, and a delicious one."

Once you taste the results, you'll probably be excited, too, that Currie let all of us tag along.

WHITE-WHOLE WHEAT HONEY VANILLA BUNS

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 tablespoons honey

3 cups 50/50 flour (half white and half whole wheat) plus more as needed

1 / 4 cup nonfat dry milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon olive oil

Yields 9 buns

On prep day: Combine all of the ingredients and knead by hand (mix first in a large bowl, then turn out and knead) or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, until the dough is elastic.

It will be a little "bumpy" from the small bits of whole wheat, but the dough itself should be smooth rather than shaggy.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour in a warm room.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Divide it into 9 equal pieces and form them into round balls.

Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with baking spray and arrange the dough balls in 3 rows of 3 in the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or place the whole pan in a large plastic bag and tie the open end closed. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.

On baking day: Take the pan out of the refrigerator and heat the oven to 350 F.

Remove the plastic and bake the buns until nicely browned and the internal temperature registers 205 F on an instant-read thermometer, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until cool.

SWEET BREAKFAST ROUNDS WITH DRIED BLUEBERRIES

1 cup room temperature water

2 1/ 4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 / 4 cup sugar

1 / 4 cup instant mashed potato flakes

2 1 / 2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 / 4 cup dried blueberries

Yields 8 rounds.

On prep day: Combine all the ingredients and knead by hand (mix first in a medium bowl, then turn out and knead) or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, until the dough is elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour in a warm room.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Flour your work surface, turn out the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Form the pieces into balls, then flatten them into disks that are about 3 1 / 2 to 4 inches in diameter; you can do this by pressing and stretching the dough with your fingers. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

On baking day: Remove the pan from the refrigerator and heat the oven to 350 F.

Remove the plastic from the pan, then bake the buns until they are golden-brown, about 35 minutes. Transfer the buns to a rack and let cool.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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