An Invitation

It is with great joy that I can now invite all of you over to my new site, One Hundred Eggs!  There is joy not only because I’m excited about my new blog, but also because now I’m finally done with the coding nightmare that comes with trying to make a website look pretty when you know absolutely nothing about the process.

But after all the failed attempts, I finally hit on the combination that worked, and the site is up and running!  Phew!  Now I can get back into the kitchen, and just see what happens.  Thank you all, my Dear Readers, for sticking with me all this time.  I truly hope you like the new site; please let me know what you think!

Go here!  One Hundred Eggs

Posted in Everything Else | 2 Comments

And finally…

This is the post I’ve been both keenly looking forward to all year, and dreading these last few weeks.  Of course, I’ve been putting it off.  This is the last post, the one where I’m supposed to reminisce over the course of the year, think profoundly about what I’ve learned, and wonder what the future holds for me in its little hands.  But that feels too final, and, frankly, a bit maudlin.

Besides, though this is the last real post of this particular blog, I’m not even close to being finished with blogging.  This project was a long, intense haul, and you may have noticed that I became rather (ahem) relaxed with it towards the end.  I loved blogging about bread, and very much enjoyed having something productive to do with my spare time, something concrete to work on every day.  But despite my love of bread and the making thereof, the strict focus of the project did wear on me at times.  I’m absolutely itching to flex my culinary muscles, and see what else I can do.

And so, I’d like to invite you all to join me at my new blog, One Hundred Eggs.  It’s not ready quite yet, but should be fully functional in the next few days; I’ll post a link when the doors officially open.  One Hundred Eggs will be a place for me to stretch out and enjoy cooking, photographing, and writing about whatever food strikes my fancy on any given day.  I’ve got about 10 million recipes that I’ve saved up over the years, and I’m dying to make each and every one; hopefully, this will give me a chance to whittle that pile down a bit.

But I hope that I can say this without sounding too sentimental: thank you.  To all the readers who have left such sweet and encouraging comments, and to all those who didn’t, thank you.  It always seemed that those same moments I felt like I couldn’t even look at another loaf of bread, someone was letting me know that I’d featured a bread that he hadn’t seen in twenty years, or one that her grandmother used to make, or one that had turned out particularly well in his own kitchen.  It’s might sound cliché, but it’s true; things like that truly did make it worth all the effort.  Just to know that I wasn’t spinning my wheels all alone, that I was actually helping bring good, honest, homemade bread into people’s lives… it’s why I started this project in the first place.

Thank you, Dear Readers.  This is how I feel about you all:

sand-kitteh-2

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cooking to do.

Posted in Everything Else | 8 Comments

Pretzel Knots, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

pretzels-again-1

And here we are.  It’s the very last bread of the year.  I’ve made sure to leave you with a good one, too.

When I first made these pretzel knots, I was intrigued by the excellent flavor of both the dough and the poaching liquid, though the rising method left quite a lot to be desired.  I’m not entirely sure why the original recipe directed the cook to refrigerate the rising dough for a shamefully short time (less than an hour), but my dough rose hardly at all that way.

By the time I’d realized that the specified method would never work in my kitchen, my dough was well and truly chilled, and it took ages to come back to room temperature.  The only reason I can pinpoint for the use of such a technique is that the recipe comes from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where high-altitude rules (such as refrigerating dough to slow yeast activity) would certainly apply.

The result of the first attempt at this recipe was slightly disappointing, as the pretzels were extremely flat, but it held great promise, as they were nonetheless fluffy-textured and flavorful.  When I tweaked the rising method to better suit my nearly-sea-level kitchen, the bread that resulted was shockingly good.

pretzels-again-2

With the same complex depth of flavor that had convinced me to try it again, this second batch had a much better and rounder shape, with a cheerful loft to the crumb that teetered impossibly between fluffy and chewy.  Pulling one apart, the dough resisted with a perfect tug that melted into a creamy softness on the tongue, the hallmark of any well-crafted bread.  The subtly and pleasantly metallic notes imparted by the poaching liquid reaffirmed its formerly-conferred status as my go-to mixture for any pretzel; but this time, the pretzels themselves convinced me to make this dough my go-to recipe.

I tried serving these pretzels with mustard, because, you know, that’s just what you do; but after a few bites, I put the mustard away.  Mustard here is a disservice, and I have never said those words before.  I love, love, love mustard, especially mustard on a soft pretzel.  Even more especially good mustard on a homemade soft pretzel.  But mustard on these things actually detracts from their phenomenal flavor; it covers it up and makes it taste merely great, instead of mind-blowingly incredible.

Hyperbole?  Hardly.  It’s the last bread of the year, and I wasn’t about to leave you with anything less.

pretzels-again-3

PS – Beer is still a go with these.

Pretzel Knots, For The Last Time!
Adapted from Cut in Las Vegas, via Bon Appétit
Makes 8

For the dough:
9½ ounces (2 cups) unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons vegetable oil

For the poaching liquid:
8 cups water
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

For finishing:
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Add the water, buttermilk, and oil.  Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms.  Turn off the mixer, and without removing the hook or the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

2.  Remove the plastic wrap.  Turn the speed to medium-low and knead for about 5 minutes, or until supple and smooth.  The dough should be sticky.  Transfer to a large lightly-oiled bowl, and let sit at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface.  Gently deflate, and divide the dough into 8 even pieces.  Keeping the unused pieces covered loosely with plastic wrap, roll each piece into a long rope, about 8 to 9 inches long.  Tie the ropes into single or double granny knots.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap.  Let sit at room temperature until puffy and risen, but not necessarily doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450º F.

4.  To prepare the poaching liquid, combine the water, beer, baking soda, and sugar in a medium to large pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to about medium, or hot enough to keep the liquid at a lively simmer.  Cut the parchment paper between the pretzels so each rests on its own square.  Line a second large baking sheet with parchment paper.

5.  Gently lifting by the paper, lower each pretzel into the boiling water, removing the parchment as soon as possible.  Poach pretzels for about 20 seconds on one side, gently turn over, and cook for about 20 seconds more.  Transfer boiled pretzels with a skimmer or slotted spoon to the second baking sheet, letting the liquid drain off well before setting each down.

6.  When all the pretzels have been cooked, let cool briefly, 5 to 10 minutes.  Brush gently and evenly with vegetable oil, and sprinkle generously with salt.  Bake the pretzels at 450º F for about 15 minutes, or until deeply browned.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve warm.

Notes:
1.  Don’t store pretzels in an airtight container, as the salt will make them shrivel.  Pretzels can be stored at room temperature, uncovered, for about 1 day.  Remaining pretzels should be frozen in an airtight container (such as a zip top bag), and reheated unthawed in a 350º F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | 13 Comments

Caramelized Garlic Bread, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

caramelized-garlic-1

This bread was a spectacular failure the first time I tried it.  I was attempting to recreate a bread that I’d never tried or seen in person, but the descriptions of which sounded too fantastic to let a recreation remain unattempted.  Made by Brasserie Bread in Sydney, Australia, the Caramelised Garlic Bread is one of their more popular creations.  My knowledge of this loaf was limited, at best; but the thought of pulling from my oven a “soft Italian dough” resplendent with garlic “caramelised in a sugar syrup with balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper corns [sic]” spurred me onwards.

The resultant loaf from that first attempt was so insanely garlicky that I actually threw it away (and if you know me, you know that’s not a thing I do lightly).  I harbored brief delusions of using it to thicken a brothy vegetable soup, but I quickly realized that unless I wanted everything in my freezer to taste like garlic, it had to go.  Out it went, and the stinky disservice I had done to the otherwise delightful dough weighed on my conscience.

For this second attempt, I immediately reduced the amount of garlic.  Shocker, I know.  And since the blanching procedure I originally used did nothing noticeable, I eliminated that in favor of a more obvious cooking technique: caramelizing the whole cloves in a pan, as one would caramelize onions.  This newer method worked so much better that I’m still smacking myself in the forehead for not realizing it sooner.

caramelized-garlic-2

Caramelization, you see, means one thing: it’s the way sugars cook.  But this can refer to any kind of sugar, whether plain white granulated sugar, or the natural vegetable sugars in, say, onions.  When given little to no information about the type of caramelization that should occur in this bread, my pastry chef brain took over, and decided that white sugar caramelization was being referenced.  Unfortunately for my bread, the temperatures at which white sugar turns to caramel are far too hot for precious garlic, which will burn within an instant, turning bitter and generally nasty.

If I’d used my less pastry-oriented brain, I would’ve realized that obviously, garlic should be caramelized like onions, at a low heat that would preserve the nutty and buttery flavors that can be coaxed from garlic, if treated properly.  After slowly cooking this garlic, I knew in an instant that this bread would be a far greater success; this garlic was soft and sweet, with that delicious slow-cooked garlic flavor, rather than tasting harsh and evil as the previous attempt’s garlic had.

The dough here is exactly the same as last time, amazingly easy and delicious.  I’ve adapted the vaunted Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day method, which results in a truly fantastic loaf with excellent flavor, texture, crust, and crumb.  When folded around these slightly sweet bursts of buttery, balsamic-coated whole garlic cloves, it was just fantastic.

Overall, this bread is crusty, tender, and full of the best flavors garlic has to offer.  If you’re not a fan of garlic, you might not appreciate it all that much; but if you buy garlic as often as you buy milk or eggs, this one’s right up your alley.  Me, I finally got a caramelized garlic bread that I can actually eat and enjoy, and that’s good enough for me.  Mission accomplished.

caramelized-garlic-3

Caramelized Garlic Bread, For The Last Time!
Adapted in part from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes 1 loaf

For the dough:
9 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting as needed
1½ teaspoons yeast
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the caramelized garlic:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1.  To make the dough, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Add the water and olive oil, and mix until smooth and all flour is moistened.  Cover well, and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.  Transfer the dough to the refrigerator, where it should sit for at least 12 hours and up to 12 days.

2.  When ready to continue, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while you make the caramelized garlic.  In a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm the butter and olive oil just until the butter is melted.  Add the garlic cloves, crushed peppercorns, and salt; toss to combine.

3.  Slowly cook the garlic over low or medium-low heat until very soft and browned, about 45 minutes.  If the garlic starts to over-brown, reduce the heat.  Towards the end of cooking, sprinkle the sugar evenly over the garlic, and slowly add the balsamic vinegar (the mixture will bubble up).  Reduce the liquid slightly, then remove garlic to a plate to cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

4.  Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal, or line with parchment paper.  To make the bread, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.  Flour the top, and gently press into a flat rectangle, being careful not to deflate it too much.  Place the garlic evenly over the surface of the dough.

5.  Starting with a long side, roll the dough up jelly-roll style into a long cylinder, pressing the seam to seal.  Transfer the roll to the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down.  Tuck the ends underneath if you like, for a more even shape.  Dust liberally with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.  Dough is fully risen when an indentation remains in the side after prodding gently with a fingertip.  Preheat the oven to 450º F, with a baking stone if possible.  Place a rimmed pan (cast iron is ideal, but any pan will do) in the oven to heat also.  Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup water to just simmering.

6.  When fully risen, quickly slash the loaf with a sharp serrated knife 3 to 4 times, letting only the weight of the blade press into the dough.  Pour the heated water into the hot pan in the oven, and place the dough on the baking stone.  Bake at 450º F for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and fully cooked.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | 4 Comments

Blueberry Orange Muffins, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

blueberry-orange-again

One of the worst things that can happen in the kitchen (outside of an injury, I suppose) is a baking failure.  With other forms of cooking, mishaps can be corrected to a certain extent: burnt bits can be scraped off, seasoning errors may be corrected, recipes not up to par may be adjusted in the midst of cooking.  But with baking, you have one shot to get it right, an arguably impossible task when dealing with things like, say, raw eggs and baking powder.

This was my problem when I made these blueberry orange muffins previously.  What seemed to be a perfectly respectable recipe (okay, I should’ve noticed and amended the tablespoon of baking powder) ended up in a batch of truly horrible muffins.  It was like a plateful of unrepentant spite.  And there was nothing, just nothing, I could do.  But the basic idea of a blueberry muffin, brightened with orange and made nutty with oats, was too good to give up.  And so, after severe modification, I bring you these resurrected muffins, now with actually good flavor.

One major problem (aside from the amount of baking powder) was the awful, half-cooked texture of the oats.  To solve that, I’ve given the oats a quick soak in buttermilk to soften them up a bit.  Alternatively, you could process them finely in a food processor (but I killed mine whilst making marzipan, so that wasn’t an option).  By soaking them, the unpleasant texture was done away with, while still retaining a slight chew from the whole grains.  To complement the rustic texture of the oats, I substituted half the white flour for whole wheat flour.

Additionally, I swapped flavorless vegetable oil for an equal amount of delicious, delicious butter, and increased the amount of sugar to a level that gives more of a muffin-y taste, but doesn’t over-sweeten the batter at all.  I tossed in a bit of lemon extract, to boost the citrus flavor, and vanilla to give a bit of depth.  Oh yeah, and I decreased the heck out of that baking powder; I would not like soap-flavored muffins please.

What came out of the oven this time beat the pants off of that first sorry batch.  These muffins were flavorful and light, despite the hearty texture of oats and whole wheat flour.  The leavening still needs perfecting, as they might have risen a little taller and domed a little more, but beggars can’t be choosers.  I was just tickled pink that my modifications had worked.  (But since I’m picking nits here, I also found the orange flavor to be a bit more subtle than I’d ideally like, but I think a bit of orange extract or orange liqueur would solve that problem nicely.)

Other than that, this recipe might actually make it into my permanent recipe file, with the aforementioned tweaking.  Yes, it ended up that good.  But then, when you’re working with blueberries, orange, and oats, you can’t really go wrong, now can you?

Blueberry Orange Muffins, For The Last Time!
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
3 ounces (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 ounces (2/3 cup) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed, and tossed with a spoonful of flour to just coat)

1.  Preheat the oven to 400º F.   In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk and the oats.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes while the oven heats.  Meanwhile, grease 12 standard muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest.

3.  When the buttermilk-oat mixture is ready, and the oven fully preheated, whisk the egg, butter, brown sugar, orange juice, and extracts into the oat mixture.  Add the dry ingredients, and fold together gently and quickly until almost combined.  Add the blueberries, and quickly fold until just incorporated.

4.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups.  Bake at 400º F for 18 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown, and muffins feel firm when pressed lightly on top.  Remove from pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Notes:
1.  If using fresh blueberries, there’s no need to toss them with flour.  If using frozen blueberries, tossing them with a bit of flour will help them stay suspended in each muffin, rather than sinking to the bottom.

Posted in Quick Breads, Sweet | 2 Comments

Arepas, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

In the middle of making (or trying to make) arepas for the first time, I realized that plain corn meal is not the same thing as masarepa (arepa flour).  Not at all.  I had never tasted or even seen an arepa before, and my idea of what exactly they were was fuzzy at best, but I could clearly tell that what I was making was not an arepa.

Masarepa and corn meal are about as much alike as bread crumbs and flour; both are made from the same basic stuff, but the latter is milled raw, while the former is cooked, then milled.  As you can imagine, the two do not act at all similarly in a dough.  After I managed to track down some proper masarepa, I was able to see for myself exactly how massive the difference was.

Corn meal, when mixed with liquid, kinda just sits there, never fully absorbing the moisture.  Masarepa, on the other hand, quickly absorbs liquid, turning into a dough with an almost putty-like consistency.  You are then able to easily form it into the traditional English-muffin-shape, something regular corn meal could never do.

While mixing the arepa dough, I was struck with the way it smelled: it smelled exactly like the Quaker instant grits I grew up on.  Considering the similarities in basic composition (ground cooked corn), I’m sure that’s no coincidence.

All that aside, real arepas are really tasty, you guys!  Rarely, if ever, eaten plain, the humble things bring a gentle corn sweetness to whatever you might fill them with.  You could describe them as very dense hamburger buns made of corn; but that does no justice to the soft and moist interior, or to the golden and enticingly crisp exterior, or to the slightly petite size that only helps make it dangerously easy to reach for another, as filling as they are.

Though masarepa (like all corn flours) comes in both white and yellow, you’ll find strict devotees to one color or the other, arguing fiercely that theirs is the only correct option.  As far as I’m concerned, the two varieties taste nearly identical; use whatever kind you prefer (or can find).  I used white here simply because I thought it would look pretty.

As far as filling goes, the sky’s the limit; I made some black-eyed pea burgers to help use up a giant pot of leftovers.  More traditional fillings would be items like cheese, vegetables, jam, eggs, pork, beef, or chicken.  A famous combination called La Reina Pepiada involves chicken, avocado, and mayonnaise (much like chicken salad), and sounds absolutely mouth-watering.

Whatever filling you choose, though, it should be heavily seasoned or spiced, as the relative blandness of the arepa will balance it beautifully, much like a tortilla does with, say, a very spicy pulled pork.  So in the event that you ever run across a bag of masarepa in your local supermercado, you may want to throw it in your cart.  As easy, fast, and delicious as real arepas are, you absolutely won’t regret it.

Arepas, For The Last Time!
Makes 8 arepas

2 cups masareapa (arepa flour)
1 scant teaspoon salt
3 cups water, divided
Vegetable oil, for browning

1.  Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the masarepa and salt.  Add 2 1/2 cups water, and stir until incorporated and all dry spots are moistened.  Check the consistency by rolling a bit of dough into a ball.  If it is too wet and sticks to your fingers, add more flour; if it is too dry to hold together in a ball without cracking, add more water.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for about 10 minutes; the dough will stiffen in this time.

3.  With moistened hands, form about 1/4 cup of dough into a ball, rolling between your palms and gently pressing to form a disc about 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.  Gently press around the side with a wet finger to eliminate any cracks.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat the shaping with the remaining dough.

4.  Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Brown arepas in batches of 2 or 3, or as many as will fit in the pan without crowding.  Flip once, and cook until each side is deeply golden, about 5 minutes per side.  Place again on the baking sheet after browning.

5.  When all the arepas have been browned, transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake at 350º F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped.  Serve immediately.

Notes:
1.  If any dough is left over wrap it in plastic – to keep in the moisture – and place in fridge. It will keep for three to four days.

2.  Masarepa may be found in Mexican or Latino markets.  Goya or Harina PAN are well-regarded brands.

Posted in Savory, Unleavened Breads | 3 Comments

Matzo, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

matzo-again

When I first made matzo, there was one important thing that I neglected to mention.  Matzo, you see, is an unleavened bread; but you all knew that.  What some of you may not know is how strict Jewish dietary law is about this.  From the time you mix the water into the flour, you have no more than 18 minutes to get those suckers into the oven.  After that time (which was determined… somehow?), fermentation begins, and any yeast present on the flour or in the air can begin to leaven the dough.

This all means, of course, that you have to work quickly to roll out your matzo.  And this brings me to the reason I neglected to mention the 18 minute window when I first made matzo.  I might be handy with a rolling pin, but I’m sure not fast with one. By the time I’d had the dough all rolled out, my 18 minutes were well and truly up.  I wasn’t about to tell you, Gentle Reader, to roll out dough in under 18 minutes when I myself couldn’t do it.

That’s not to say that I didn’t try, though; but my hasty rolling, however careful I tried to be, was awfully uneven, resulting in patchy matzo that was burnt crisp in some spots, and chewy-thick in other spots.  To get a better matzo, I was going to have to seriously up my rolling pin game, probably through months of arduous practice.

Or, you know, I could go to Plan B: the pasta roller.  I know they’re not common gadgets in American kitchens (the one at my house is on extended loan from a good friend with a truly miniscule kitchen), but I know of no other way to roll out dough so quickly and so evenly.  And yes, it worked like a charm.  I was able to whip up eight gorgeous ovals of matzo, that all browned evenly and perfectly, within the allotted 18 minutes.  I was working alone, but it of course would be more efficient if you had a friend to help out, especially with the docking (that always takes me longer than I think).

This recipe is for whole wheat matzo; if you prefer white flour, you may need to decrease the water a little.  The flavor is good, despite the total lack of time the dough has to develop any flavor-boosting enzymes or acids.  You can roll these to any thickness you like, but I think a thinner matzo works best; it turns out delightfully crisp.  Just be careful to not over-bake these, as they can go from crisp to tough sooner than you think.  Otherwise, as long as you can make these within 18 minutes, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Matzo, For The Last Time!
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Makes 8 matzo

8 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water, at room temperature

1.  Thirty minutes before starting, preheat the oven to 350º F, heating a baking stone as well if you have one.  If not, just bake the matzo on a large baking sheet (not preheated).  Set up a pasta roller (by clamping to a countertop).  Lay out one or two large pieces of parchment paper, to hold the dough after rolling, either on a peel for sliding onto the baking stone, or on the baking sheet.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the water, and stir until a shaggy dough forms.  Your 18 minutes begins as soon as the water hits the flour.  Turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface, and knead just until smooth, about 1 minute.

3.  Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.  Quickly form each piece into a roughly round shape.  Using the pasta roller at the thickest setting, roll each piece out, and set aside on a lightly floured surface.  Dust each piece lightly with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Repeat rolling, using a thinner setting each time, until desired thickness is achieved.  Transfer rolled-out dough to the parchment paper.

4.  When all dough is all rolled out, thoroughly dock each piece with a fork, to prevent puffing in the oven.

5.  If using the baking stone, slide the parchment with the matzo directly onto the stone.  Otherwise, place baking sheet with matzo in the oven.  Bake at 350º F for 10-12 minutes, or until crisp and just barely browned.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Notes:
1.  You may choose to roll out half the dough at a time, baking in batches.  As long as you get it all into the oven within 18 minutes, you’re fine.

2.  If you don’t have to keep kosher, the dough will develop significantly better flavor and texture if you let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature (or in the refrigerator overnight).

Posted in Savory, Unleavened Breads | 2 Comments

Orange and Mint Bread, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!

orange-mint-again-1

And so, we come to my final week of bread.  Like I’ve done at the end of every three-month period so far, this week is devoted to righting all my bready wrongs.  It’s the week I get to have a second chance at recipes that I mishandled, ones that I tinkered with too much (or not enough), or ones that were just flops to begin with.

To begin, I’m revisiting a bread that didn’t exactly go wrong.  In fact, this orange- and mint-scented beauty was quite delicious the first time around; but half the reason I’d chosen to make it in the first place was the novel mixing method. Why, in my flour-addled state, I’d elected to forego this method in favor of the comfortable crutch of a stand mixer, I’ve still no idea.

This time around, I wasn’t going to let myself miss out on any of the sloppy fun.  And let me tell you, it was indeed that: sloppy and fun.  What started out as a messy, sticky, wet mass of goo ended up as one of the prettiest, silkiest doughs I’ve seen, all through a slightly brutal process of slapping, flinging, and generally roughing it up.  It’s liberating.

It seems hopeless at first, just an awful mess to have to clean up later; but then, magically, the dough starts to cooperate and come together in your hands.  Before your eyes, it morphs into a supple and smooth ball, the sort of thing you thought you needed a stand mixer to make.  And don’t be afraid to really slam it down and put it through the paces – as long as your counter is sturdy enough to take it, you’ll do no harm.  Once it starts to come together, the more you sling it around, the quicker you form the gluten.

The word “wondrous” comes to mind to explain the process; it’s really quite extraordinary.  Richard Bertinet, the chef who brings us this technique, aptly describes the finished dough as being “full of life”.  It’s springy, vibrant, and gorgeous.

But however admirable the dough may be, the proof is in the baking.  The first time around, when I made the dough with the stand mixer, the bread ended up very pretty, shiny and properly dark-crusted, with good flavor and texture.  Nothing had seemed wrong with it… until a tried a slice from this second batch.

I can’t really explain what the difference was, but all I know is I couldn’t stop eating it.  Soft and buttery, each slice was like a reprimand for not trying it sooner.  Like in many similarly rich breads, there was a gentle citrus brightness, but here it was the warmth of orange, as opposed to the more typical zing of lemon.

My one complaint is one that I had with the first attempt as well: the lack of mint flavor.  I even doubled the amount of mint this time, but it still didn’t come through in the final loaves.  I suggest either not bothering with the mint at all, or adding a few drops of peppermint oil to really give it a boost.

Otherwise, I found this light and flavorful bread absolutely sublime.  Between the fantastic flavor, the impeccable texture, the picture-perfect looks, and the gleefully messy and almost gymnastic mixing technique, I couldn’t choose my favorite aspect of this one if I had to.

orange-mint-again-2

Orange and Mint Bread, For The Last Time!
Adapted from Richard Bertinet, via Gourmet Magazine
Makes 2 loaves

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 bunches mint, leaves only (about 1 cup, tightly packed)
18 ounces (about 3 3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of salt to make an egg wash

1.  To make mint-infused milk, bring milk and mint just to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour.  Strain through a sieve and discard mint.  Milk can be chilled for up to a few days at this point; reheat as needed before using per recipe.

2.  Heat milk to 120 to 130° F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and zest.  Add milk, eggs, and liqueur.  Using a large nonstick spatula or bowl scraper, mix until a very wet, sticky dough forms.  Don’t be tempted to add more flour.

3.  Scrape dough out onto an unfloured surface.  Slide your fingers underneath both sides of the dough with your thumbs on top.  Lift dough up (to about chest level) with your thumbs toward you, letting dough hang slightly.  In a continuous motion, swing dough down, slapping bottom of dough onto surface, then stretch dough up and back over itself in an arc to trap in air.  Repeat lifting, slapping, and stretching, scraping surface with flat side of bowl scraper as needed, until dough is supple, cohesive, and starts to bounce slightly off of surface without sticking, about 8 minutes.  For a video showing the proper technique, click here.

4.  Form the dough into a ball by folding the outside edges into the center of the dough, pressing down to seal.  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, seam side down.  Cover tightly with a plastic wrap.  Let sit at warm room temperature for 1 hour (dough may or may not double in size).

4.  Remove plastic wrap and, using a broad nonstick spatula, fold the dough over itself, as though you were folding a letter: 1/3 over the center, then the opposite 1/3 over that.  Lastly, fold dough in half again, perpendicular to the first folds (like you’re folding the letter in half).  Dough should end up being roughly a square.  Replace towel or plastic wrap, let dough rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.

5.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.  Gently turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, taking care not to punch down or deflate too much, and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Flatten each piece with the heel of your hand into a rectangle, about 8 x 6 inches in size.  Fold a long edge into center and press seam down to seal.  Fold opposite edge over to meet in center, pressing seam to seal.  Fold in half along seam, pressing edges to seal. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, and cover loosely.  Repeat shaping with remaining dough.

6.  Brush tops of loaves with some of the egg wash, chilling remainder.  Let stand a few minutes until egg feels dry.  Cover with a dry kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise at warm room temperature until almost doubled, and feeling springy when gently prodded with a fingertip, about 1½ hours.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425º F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

7.  When fully risen, gently brush top of each loaf again with the egg wash, taking care not to deflate.  Using a sharp serrated knife, make three decisive slashes diagonally down the center of each loaf, letting only the weight of the blade press into the dough.   Transfer to the oven and immediately reduce temperature to 400º F.

8.  Bake at 400º F until loaves are a dark golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.  An instant-read thermometer should register about 200º F when fully baked.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Notes:
1.  After heating the milk and mint, and straining, remeasure to make sure you still have enough.  I found my milk had lost about 1 tablespoon of volume in the heating process.  Add milk as necessary.

Posted in Savory, Sweet, Yeast Breads | 1 Comment

Challah

Week Fifty-Two: Christmas Breads

challah

I feel safe in offering up challah as the final bread in this week of Christmas breads; for challah, like the bagel, has long ago entered the panary repertoire of the goyim, no longer a strange or foreign item.  But the grouping is still apt, as challah is a celebration bread in Jewish tradition, as the rest of the breads this week have been.

Generally speaking, challah is made with a rich dough, like all the other breads this week have been.  But unlike them, it is only mildly sweetened to the point of being nearly savory, and only eggs are used to enrich the dough (as opposed to milk and/or butter), so that the bread may be eaten with meat according to Jewish dietary law.  The gluten structure is well formed here, giving each airy bite a slight pull and pleasant chew.

This recipe uses a lengthy fermentation, giving a fabulous depth of flavor, and excellent texture.  As has become customary in the last century, this loaf is braided, and can be split into however many strands you like (the recipe only uses a 3 strand braid).  But however you choose to form it, this recipe will produce a really excellent bread, no matter if it’s served at your Shabbat meal, or used for the French toast you whip up on Christmas morning.

Challah
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart
Makes 1 large loaf, or two smaller loaves

19 ounces (about 4 cups) unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole large eggs, slightly beaten
1 large egg, yolk and white separated
1 cup water, at room temperature

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Add the oil, eggs, egg yolk, and 1 cup water.  Using the dough hook attachment, mix at low speed until a rough dough forms.

2.  Increase the speed to medium-low, and continue kneading until the dough becomes soft and supple, about 6 minutes.  The dough should not be sticky; add additional flour or water as needed to correct the consistency.

3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the outside edges into the center, and pressing gently.  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil, leaving the dough smooth side up.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

4.  Using a large nonstick spatula, tri-fold the dough over itself, as you would fold a letter.  Fold the dough in half, perpendicular to the other folds, as though you were folding the letter in half crossways.  Cover again with plastic wrap, and let sit an additional hour at room temperature.  The dough should be not quite doubled in size.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently deflate.  Divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves.  Form each of the pieces into a rope as long as the dough will allow, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

6.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.  Roll each rope into a strand, all of the same length.  Braid three strands together.  Transfer the loaf (or loaves) to the prepared pan.

7.  Beat the remaining egg white with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash.  Brush the loaf (or loaves) with the egg wash (refrigerating the remainder).  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 60 to 75 minutes.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350° F, placing an oven rack in the middle position.

8.  Gently brush the loaf (or loaves) again with the egg wash, taking care not to deflate.  Bake at 350º F for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180º and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf (or loaves).  The bread should be a rich golden brown, and and instant-read thermometer should register around 190° F when inserted into the center.  Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Posted in Savory, Sweet, Yeast Breads | 6 Comments

Kugelhopf

Week Fifty-Two: Christmas Breads

kugelhopf

Though I’ve always seen it called “kugelhopf”, this Germanic bread is also known as “gugelhopf”, “kougelhupf”, “guglhupf”, or any combination of the aforementioned prefixes or suffixes.  To-may-to, to-mah-to, it’s all the same bread no matter the label.

Well, almost.  In its native land, kugelhopf is a rich yeast bread, only barely sweetened, and dotted throughout with rum-soaked raisins; but in America, versions tend to be far more cake-like, sometimes not yeasted at all, with a broader variety of fruits.  To me, the yeast-leavened sort is the superior one, but I’m not about to tell you to stop enjoying whichever one you prefer.

You do occasionally run across savory versions of kugelhopf, with meat and cheese folded into the dough, much like casatiello, the savory cousin of Italy’s panettone.  Indeed, many would compare kugelhopf to panettone, as they are both made with a dough enriched with eggs, milk, and butter, and both use generous amounts of dried fruit; but the comparison is not entirely apt.

Yes, there are similarities, but panettone tends to be airier, and have more of a brioche-esque pull to the crumb.  Kugelhopf typically has a shorter crumb, with a texture that may be described as fluffy.  Panettone also comes in a variety of flavors from plain to chocolate and everything in between, whereas kugelhopf generally comes in the one raisin-studded sort (savory types aside).  Additionally, kugelhopf is often intentionally served slightly aged, as the drier texture better soaks up the traditional accompaniment of coffee or wine; panettone is usually served in a fresher state.

I did take small liberties with the dried fruit here, swapping the traditional raisins for currants instead, as I prefer how the smaller currants spread throughout the dough more evenly.  Otherwise, this version is a very typically German rendition, not overly sweet, and with a pleasingly complex flavor from the use of a quick starter.  No matter what you call it, it’s perfect for enjoying with a coffee in the morning, or a glass of riesling at night.

kugelhopf-2

 

Kugelhopf
Adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef, by Bo Friberg
Makes 1 loaf

3 ounces currants
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) rum

For the starter:
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105º to 115º F)
1 tablespoon honey
4 ounces (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) unbleached bread flour

For the dough:
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
9 ounces (a scant 2 cups) unbleached bread flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, well softened

Powdered sugar, for finishing

1.  Combine the currants and rum in a plastic zip top bag, and squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag before closing.  (This maximizes the surface area contact between the fruit and the liquor, and makes sure no fruit is left dry.)  Soak for at least 8 hours, and up to several days.

2.  To make the starter, whisk the yeast, water, honey, and flour together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cover and let stand at room temperature until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes.

3.  When the starter is fully risen, whisk in the milk, salt, sugar, egg, and lemon zest.  Add all but a handful of the flour, and mix at low speed with the paddle attachment until a rough dough forms.

4.  Switch to the dough hook attachment.  Mixing at medium-low speed, add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, letting each piece incorporate fully before adding the next.  Increase the speed to medium, and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  The dough should be slack, but not wet; add additional flour or water as needed to correct the consistency.

5.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise 45 to 60 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.

6.  Using a nonstick spatula, fold the dough over itself once or twice to deflate.  Cover again, and let rise a second time for 45 to 60 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.  Meanwhile, thoroughly grease a kugelhopf or bundt pan, taking care to coat every crevice.  Dust the greased pan with a spoonful or two of flour, and shake it around to coat the whole surface (don’t forget the stem on the inside!).  Knock out any excess flour, and set aside.

7.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, pressing gently to deflate.  Scatter the rum-soaked currants over the top, and knead in by hand just evenly distributed, dusting with only as much flour is needed to prevent sticking.  If any currants fall out, just pop them back in.  When fully incorporated, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest 10 minutes.

8.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole in the center of the dough.  With floured hands, open the hole slightly, and transfer the dough to the prepared pan, placing the ring of dough around the center stem of the pan.  Gently press the dough into the pan, making it as flat and even as possible.

9.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375º F, positioning a rack in the lower third of the oven.

10.  Bake the bread at 375º F for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  An instant-read thermometer should register around 195º F when fully baked.  Remove from the pan as soon as possible, and invert onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly before cutting.  To serve, sift powdered sugar liberally over the top, and slice into wedges.

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