Silan bread with olive oil and cooked grains

AriCooks, Yeast bread

Jerusalem olive trees in Fall. Image from photoree.com

For about three days it was gorgeous here in Jerusalem. Crisp but not too cold, sunny, clear and very Fall-like. I headed out to the shuk with a renewed optimism for choosing Jerusalem over Tel Aviv as our home base here in Israel. I smiled at the vendors, bought butternut squash which I cooked into Katherine’s amazing tagine recipe, I stopped into the second-hand shop across from my favorite spice vendors and bought an adorable hand-made hoodie, I busted out my soft corduroys and cuddled with my favorite purple scarf. It was a short-lived but wonderful in-between season.

Now the rain and cold have arrived and I am trying to find ways to keep warm in our drafty, old, stone apartment. Though getting under the comforter until March or building a bonfire in the living room are both appealing options, turning on the oven is more practical and productive. This bread is a great excuse.

Silan bread with olive oil and cooked grains 

2 1/4 cups of warm water, divided (~100°F)

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup silan (date honey) or molasses

3 Tbs olive oil

2 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cooked grains such as rice, tabbouleh, wheat berries, oatmeal etc

2 cups all-pupose flour

3-4 cups whole wheat flour

Stir 1/4 cup of the warm water into the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Let sit about 5 minutes until foamy. If your yeast does not foam, check the expiration and the water temp and start over.

In a mixing bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of water with the cooked grains, silan, salt, and oil. Add the yeast mixture, then stir in the white flour. Add the whole wheat flour, one cup at a time. When it becomes too hard to mix, turn the dough out onto a surface and knead in more flour. Knead the dough until it is smooth but still a bit tacky, adding more flour as necessary.

Form the dough into a ball and put it in a greased bowl, turning it over once to grease the top as well. Cover with plastic (loosely) and a towel and set aside to rise for 1 1/4 hours – dough should double in bulk.

Turn the dough out and shape it into 2 loaves to fit into two, greased 8 x 10 inch loaf pans or 9 inch round cake pans. Cover and allow the dough to rise in the pans for 40 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the loaves for 50 minutes.

Note: This bread seems to have a shorter shelf life than others, perhaps because of the moisture from the cooked grains. Be sure to freeze the extra loaf if you will not eat it within a couple of days. 

Before Cheesecake…

Dairy Free, Savory pies and quiches, Tips and Tricks, vegetarian, Yeast bread

I am trying to get quite a lot in here before Wednesday’s holiday, which is all about cheese. Well, it’s actually about Revelation, but we eat cheese while feeling that something is being revealed. For more on Shavuot you can check out Jeff’s blog here. For more on food, stick with me.

Before I get swept up in the cheesecake baking, I have this Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Tart to share with you all, which is actually dairy free and nearly vegan (with the exception of one egg in the yeasted dough). The addition of caramelized red onions gives it depth of flavor and a nice consistency. I suggest making it in stages; roasting your peppers a day ahead, and maybe chopping and caramelizing your onions a day or two ahead as well. The more you can simply assemble — rather than cook and prepapre — on baking day, the more you can enjoy sitting down to eat (i.e. not exhausted)!

Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Tart with Yeasted Crust, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

For the Dough:

2 Tbs active dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup warm water

3 Tbs olive oil

1 egg lightly beaten

3/8 tsp salt

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in a medium bowl and let stand until bubbly ~ 10 minutes. Add the oil, egg, and salt, then stir in flour (not all at once, you may not need all of it). When the dough is too stiff to work with a spoon, turn it onto the counter and knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Add more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking. Set dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk — 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

Tart Filling:

2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced

3 Tbs olive oil, plus extra for the crust

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (I used 4)

3 large red bell peppers

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1/8 tsp saffron threads

1/4 tsp anise seeds

salt and pepper

2 Tbs chopped basil

8 kalamata olives halved and pitted

Roast the red peppers whole, under a broiler, rotating every couple of minute until they are evenly mottled. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a plate or cutting board to let the skins steam off ~ 15 minutes. Peel and seed the the peppers and finely chop up all but 2/3 or one pepper. Cut the reserved 2/3 pepper into thin strips.

Cook the onions in the oil over medium heat until they are soft, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, turn down the heat to low and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes more. Do not burn. While the are cooking, peel, seed, and finely chop the tomatoes (to peel tomatoes, cut an X shape in the bottom of each tomato, place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for a minute or two, then pour out the hot water and cover them in cool water. Drain and peel). Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes and diced peppers to the onions, crumble the saffron threads and anise seeds into the mixture, and season with 1/2 tsp salt and a little pepper. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, especially towards the end. The mixture should be quite thick. Taste for salt and stir in the basil leaves.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/210°C. Roll out the dough and drape it over a 10 inch tart pan. There will be plenty of overhang.

Trim it and crimp the dough around the rim. Add the filling. Take the reserved, narrow strips of pepper and use the to make a lattice design over the top (I didn’t have quite enough pepper to do this — any design you make will be lovely). Place the olives in the spaces formed by the peppers.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove and brush the rim of the crust with olive oil. Unmold the tart onto a platter and serve.

No Knead, a slightly dorky guide to easy bread-making

AriCooks, Tips and Tricks, Vegan, Yeast bread

Like many apartments in Jerusalem (and around the country) ours was built around the time the State was founded… and has remained more or less the same since. That is to say, vintage. Now, it could be worse. There are certainly many, many buildings in this city that are much older than 60+ years. For example, when I was nine years old my family lived in an old Arab house that had been divided rather haphazardly into many units. Our apartment was part of what used to be the ancient water cistern, and the mold that grew as a result aggravated my asthma so much that after a night in the emergency room my parents were forced to look for alternate housing (we subsequently ended up in an apartment in which the gas heater had never been checked and we all nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but that is another story). Oh the adventures of antiquated living conditions…

This apartment does not seem to possess the same level of danger as those of my childhood (let us hope), but it is also what you might call…basic. Not updated with the modern allowance of electrical units, running anything stronger than an electric kettle trips the breaker in an instant. I tried running my friend’s vacuum — no dice. Hair dryer, forget it. Okay, I am fine with air-drying my hair, and sweeping the rugs or shaking them out off the balcony is not that bad either. I was  a bit disappointed, however, about my mixer. Though I am a pretty resourceful gal with an affection for the old-fashioned, there is only so much hand mixing, kneading, and butter-beating that this little baker can do before carpal tunnel sets in.

Luckily, amidst the large number of cookbooks I brought over from the States is the gem, Artisan Bread in Five minutes a Day, which uses a technique I became familiar with in pastry school, autolyse. [Warning: the following information is for baking nerds only, the rest of you can reap the benefits of the technique by skipping to the recipe below] Autolyse is a method that produces a wonderful finished product with practically no kneading, using time rather than effort. After mixing the ingredients together briefly, the flour is given 2-12 hours to absorb moisture and ferment, while developing gluten, thus making it ready to shape, rise and bake at the end of the resting period. The dough is kept in the refrigerator after the initial two hour rise, slowing down fermentation so it stays fresh, and making it easer to handle when shaping.

Light Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Makes 4 one lb loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

3 cups luke warm water

1 1/2 Tbs dry active yeast

1 1/2 Tbs salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

5 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

flour for dusting

semolina or cornmeal for the baking tray/pizza peel (if you have one)

Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5 – quart bowl, or  a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the remaining dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Cover (not air tight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and then collapses on top ~ 2 hours.

Dough, after rising and falling.

The dough can be used right away (though it is easier to handle when cold), or refrigerated for up to 14 days.

On baking day (you can use a 1/4 of the dough at a time, whenever you want fresh bread over the next 2 weeks), dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a 1/4 turn as you go. Allow to rest on a cornmeal covered pizza peel or baking tray for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450°F, with a baking stone (I don’t own a baking stone, so I just put the tray the dough rested on, in the oven).

Sprinkle the loaf the liberally with flour (you can tap it off when it’s done baking) and slash a cross or tic-tac-toe pattern in the top with a serrated knife.

Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (or put your pan in the oven) and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm (I check mine with a kitchen thermometer- bread should register at 180-200°F when pierced in the center). Allow to cool before eating or slicing — bread does what is called “carry-over baking” as it cools, an essential part of the baking process.

A little crooked, but perfectly delicious

Yemenite Bread

AriCooks, Yeast bread

Eating dinner at Irit's, photo courtesy of Liz Steinberg

This recipe for the Yemenite bread known as lachoch (or Lahoh) comes to you with thanks to Irit, of Irit’s Place, who makes culniary magic with with her eyes closed, the ever industrious Liz Steinberg — who was smart enough to take notes — and Ben Brewer of Israel Food Tours, who not only organized the event but was kind enough to invite me along to watch and EAT. In other words: I am just the messenger.

Lahoh is one of the lesser known flatbreads outside of Israel and (I assume) Yemen. Similar to Ethiopian Injara, in its soft, spongelike consistency, Lahoh is made with regular flour, water, salt and yeast, as well as a pinch of fenugreek, a spice that flavors almost every Yemeni dish. A very versatile bread, Lahoh can be used for stuffing, dipping, wrapping, and rolling, and is really quite simple and quick to make, after a brief rise.

Lahoh:

1 kilo flour
pinch fenugreek
1 T yeast
pinch salt
warm water (no more than 110º F)

Mix everything with enough water to get a loose batter.

Let rise until bubbly. Mix up batter, add water if it’s stiff. Oil a pan and heat over medium high. Turn pan over and  bottom rinse to cool (careful not to get water inside the pan. The purpose of this is to keep the bread from sticking and burning), and then pour in a ladleful of batter. Let cook on one side until dry. Remove finished lahoh from pan, cool pan with cold water and lightly grease. Repeat with rest of batter.

Irit and me, in her tiny kitchen. Photo by Liz

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Pull-Apart Rolls and a Bread-Baking Primer

AriCooks, Tips and Tricks, vegetarian, Yeast bread

If you have not caramelized an onion yet  in this life, the time is now. You need to seize the day. You have this weird, round, papery root. And you peel it, slice it, and throw it in a saute pan with a little heated oil or butter over moderate heat, and 30 minutes later you have a delicious, sweet, saucy topping for pizza, focaccia, pasta, a warm salad, or for these doughy, savory pull-apart rolls. oh yes, it is that simple.

Thinly sliced onions beginning to soften- the step before caramelization

Admittedly, the bread-making process is not quite as simple as the caramelizing, but it’s also not nearly as intimidating as people seem to think it is. So right and here and now I am going to share a few tips with you that may de-mystify bread-making a bit, I hope they are helpful! If you are already comfortable with bread-baking, then just go ahead and skip to the recipe- it’s a good one!

1. Yeast and Water: Most bread recipes call for adding your yeast (usually “dry active”) to your water first (or a small portion of total water in the recipe), sometimes with a little bit of sugar. Dry active yeast likes water to be at about ~100 F (yeast dies at temps above ~130 F)in order for it to become active- i.e. begin eating sugar and producing carbon dioxide. You always want to check the expiration date on your yeast to make sure it is still fresh.(I highly recommend buying an inexpensive kitchen thermometer for bread-making.) Also, Keep yeast in the fridge, especially if you are not using it that frequently. The process of combining your yeast with warm water in order to check to see if it becomes active and will therefore make your dough rise, is called “proofing”.

Note: You can “proof” your yeast with a small amount of warm water, even if your recipe does not tell you to. That way, if you have inactive yeast you will know before you waste all the flour and other ingredients.

2. Adding your flour slowly (and don’t forget the salt!!): Your recipe is going to specify an amount of flour to be used in your dough. However, you do not want to add it all at once because you may not need it and your dough will be too dry. Adding a cup at a time at first, and then half or a quarter cup as your dough thickens will help you determine whether you will need more or less flour than your recipe calls for. On a humid day, your flour will be holding more moisture and you may not need as much, and vice versa for a dry, winter day. (You need to use flour with a protein content of at least 13 percent or so, to develop the gluten you need to give your bread body and make it elastic. All purpose flour and bread flour (not bread-machine flour) are more or less interchangeable, but be careful not to add to much of higher-protein content flours until you get the hang of the proportions. Whole wheat flour can be used in place of all purpose, if your dough has milk, sugar or eggs, but it is best used in combination with all-purpose for leaner doughs, such as french bread, pizza dough and peasant breads. Rye flour has a very high protein content and should be used more as a flavoring.

Note: you cannot make bread without salt. Salt is absolutely crucial not only for bread’s flavor, but from preventing the yeast from rising your bread too much. Over-rising results in flat, flavorless loaves and rolls- quite a disappointment after all your work!

3. Mixing and Kneading: When you begin adding your dry ingredients to your liquids (i.e. flour and salt to yeast/water/milk/egg mixture), you are basically just mixing to incorporate everything. As your dough thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, you want to begin kneading. If you are using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, you can knead, on the lowest speed in the mixer bowl. If you are doing it by hand you want to turn your dough onto a lightly-floured surface and fold the dough toward your, knead a coupe times, then turn and fold again, repeating for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic– adding more flour as you go.

4. The “Window Pane” Test: If you have been kneading for a while and your are not sure whether or not your dough is ready to rise, take a small piece between your fingers and flatten and stretch it out so it becomes thin like a window pane. If the dough can stretch and become transparent without breaking, your gluten has developed sufficiently and you can shape your dough into a neat ball for rising.

kneading

5. Rising: Your dough needs to rise in a well-oiled bowl, turn your dough once to cover it lightly with oil so that you can cover it with plastic wrap and the plastic with not stick and pull at your dough, when removed. Cover the plastic wrap with a kitchen towel and set the dough in a warm (but not hot ~70-75 F) place to rise for the indicated time. When your dough has risen enough, if will be about double the size that it was, and you will be able to leave a large indentation that does not immediately pop out when you poke it with your finger.

it doesn't always rise quite this much...

What happens after rising, depends on your recipe. Most have a second rise and are some are divided into rolls, loaves etc.

Baking and cooling: Whether your dough is baked in pans or on a sheet, testing for done-ness could not be simpler with the help of a kitchen thermometer. Besides the standard “tap the loves to see if they sound hollow” and “bake unitl loaves are golden brown”, you can simply stick your thermometer into the loaf or roll and make sure it registers are around 190 F.

Cooling is part of the baking process! Once your bread has come out of the oven it is still doing what is called “carry over baking”. Let the bread cool for as long as you can wait  (ideally an hour, but half and hour will be okay) before slicing.

Moving on to the Rolls!

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Buttermilk Pull-Apart Rolls, adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2005

Makes about 1 dozen

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), softened, plus more for bowl, plus 5 tablespoons melted (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, and it worked swimmingly)

1/4 ounce active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons warm water (105 degrees to 110 degrees)

3/4 cup buttermilk (as always, I use rice or soy milk, with a couple of teaspoons of cider vinegar added to it- let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and pin (I used about half whole wheat flour with excellent results)

2 teaspoons salt

2 pounds sweet onions, such as Rio (1 1/2 pounds cut into 1/4-inch slices, 1/2 pound finely chopped)

A couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Grease a 9-inch cake pan using 1 tablespoon softened butter/margarine. Grease a large bowl; set aside. Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl; let mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved. Stir in buttermilk and egg.

Mix 2 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Make a well in center. Pour in buttermilk mixture; mix to combine. Add 6 tablespoons softened butter/margarine; mix on medium-high speed until a soft dough forms, about 10 minutes.

Scrape dough onto a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to buttered bowl. Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons softened butter/margarine in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; raise heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. During the last 5-7 minutes, add the chopped rosemary. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let cool.

Punch down dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 17-by-10-inch rectangle, and brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spread onions evenly over dough. Starting on 1 long side, roll dough into a log. Press seam to seal. Cut into about 12 slices, about 1 1/4 inches thick each. Arrange slices, cut sides up, in buttered pan, and brush with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Immediately invert and unmold rolls onto a wire rack. Serve warm.


Bagels + Ari 4-ever

breakfast, Yeast bread

Okay, it’s Valentines Day– we get it. Everywhere you look there are chocolates and cakes shaped like hearts. Everyone on facebook has changed their profile picture to a shot of them and their beloved embracing, kissing or canoodling. Don’t get me wrong, I love love, but having a “day of love” feels pretty contrived to me. Plus, I worked in the floral industry for seven wonderful years, and I know that there is nothing, NOTHING in this world that will turn you off of Valentine’s Day like the dread of de-thorning 2000 roses, and then hastily wrapping and arranging dozen after dozen for dazed, slightly panicked-looking men, shopping for their wives, girlfriends, mothers and mistresses at the LAST MINUTE. Okay, I know I am the Valentine’s Grinch. Oh well.

How about some Bagels?!

Nothing says love like a chewy, doughy bagel, smothered with your favorite spread.

Now you may have noticed that I love making bread. But for some time, I have been wary of experimenting with bagel-making because the whole boiling and then baking ordeal seemed daunting somehow. But then my friends Ryan and Kate started a blog a couple months ago, and one of the very first things they made: bagels. Now I don’t often let my competitive side get the better of me (okay maybe that’s not true…), but I was like “What?! Bagels? You guys have been blogging for five minutes and you make bagels?” From that moment I knew doing a bagel post would be on my mind until its fruition…and really, what’s a little healthy competition between friends. Try theirs, try mine, and let us know what worked for you.

Egg Bagels, adpated from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 1/2 cups water

2 packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs at room temp

7 1/2 cups flour (I used 4 cups all purpose and about 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat)

1 1/2 Tbs salt (yes, Tablespoons)

1 large egg, beaten (for brushing the bagels)

Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)

In a saucepan, combine the potatoes and water, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender ~10 minutes. Drain, reserving the water for the water for the dough (the potatoes can be refrigerated for another use)

Measure 2 cups of the potato water into a large bowl and let cool to room warm ~ 100 F. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and eggs and use a wire whisk to combine. Whisk in 2 cups of the flour (if you are using both AP and whole wheat, begin with the AP) and the salt and mix with a wooden spoon or on a stand mixer, with the dough hook, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour about 1 cup at a time, until a soft cough forms. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer it a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it in the oil and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and turn it onto a very lightly floured work surface once more. Cut it into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces (it helps to use a kitchen scale for this, but as long as your pieces are more or less the same size they will bake evenly). Using your palms, roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope (keep the dough you are not working with, lightly covered). Using the heel of your hand, flatten the end of each rope. Form each bagel by overlapping the flat end of the rope over 1-inch of the round end. Pinch together firmly- otherwise the ends will separate while bagels boil.

As the bagels are formed, set them aside on a lightly floured surface. Cover the bagels loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rest until they are slightly puffy ~15 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 425 F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly brush the parchment with oil or spray with cooking spray.

Fill a large, wide (use the widest you have) pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Using a large slotted spoon, gently lower 3 bagels into the water. Do not crowd them or they will become misshapen. Simmer 1 minute then turn over and simmer 1 minute longer. Transfer the bagels to the prepared pan, spacing them 1-inch apart. Repeat until all bagels are boiled. (I used 2 half-sheet pans with 6 bagels per pan).

Brush bagels with the beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes, Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Simply Cinnamon Buns

breakfast, Dairy Free, Yeast bread

It’s winter vacation and I am feeling quite spent from the bustle of the past several months. Getting the dance school up and running and taking care of my two-year-old have left me a little short on witty and humorous stories to share with you all. Luckily these cinnamon buns stand on their own quite well without a lot of introduction. They are delicious; sweet and orange-scented with just the right amount of cinnamon and sugar, but without the gooey stickiness that makes some cinnamon buns more of a dessert than a breakfast. I used half whole wheat flour (next time I would try whole wheat pastry flour, for a slightly lighter finished product) and substituted vegan margarine for the butter, which worked very well. You can make these buns the night before and bake them in the morning, which is nice since it won’t feel like you just slaved over them right before eating, and their aroma will definitely get late risers out of bed.

Cinnamon Buns, Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

I halved the original recipe and made about 10 buns. Feel free to double this if you are feeding a crowd.

For the dough:

2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast (or one package)

1/2 cup whole milk/soy milk, heated to warm (no hotter than 115 F)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 medium eggs (I’m sure large would be fine)

2 1/2- 3 cups flour (I suggest a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

grated zest of 1/2 a smallish orange (no more than 3/4 tsp)

1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter or vegan margarine, at room temp

For the Filling and egg glaze:

3 Tbs granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbs melted butter/vegan margarine

For the Vanilla Glaze (optional, I did not make this. But I am sure it would be yummy)

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 oz (2 Tbs) heavy cream/soy milk/soy creamer

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Make Dough:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar, salt, pepper, zest, eggs, butter and 1-2 cups of the flour. Mix by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, on low speed, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the remaining flour in small increments until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl. Knead with dough hook or on the counter for 7-10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2-2 hours.

Meanwhile stir the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and set the butter in a small saucepan (or microwavable bowl) for melting.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out into a 10 x 16 inch rectangle and brush the surface with melted butter/margarine. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Beginning with the long side farthest from you, roll up the rectangle toward you into a log.

Cut the log crosswise into about 10 slices, each ~ 2 inches thick. Nestle the slices, cut side up into a 9 inch square cake pan, lined with parchment paper.

Now you have two choices: You can either preheat the oven to 400 F, and let the buns rise for 30-40 minutes, then bake then for 20-25 minutes. Or, you can let them rise slowly in the fridge overnight and then set them on the counter for 30 minutes and bake as described.

Let the rolls cool slightly on rack before  brushing with the combined glaze ingredients. Serve warm.

Potato Buttermilk Pull-Apart Rolls

Dairy Free, Vegan, Yeast bread

This past weekend we had our first big storm of the season and with it came the usual feelings of cozy holiday anticipation. However, for those of us living in one of these charming old New England houses, the quaint image of families warming themselves around the stove is not some old fashioned practice from a bygone era. It’s drafty in here! And since I don’t need much of an excuse to bake bread even without the sound of an icy wind rattling our old wooden windows, today it’s time to turn on the oven and warm things up.

I love everything about these Potato Buttermilk pull-apart rolls. They are soft, chewy, wholesome and so adorably plump. If you prefer you can shape this recipe into two loaves and bake in 9 x 5 inch pans. Of course then you’d miss the satisfaction of ripping them apart and sinking your teeth into a hot buttered hunk of bready deliciousness. But if you prefer a more civilized, sliced-bread experience, be my guest.

I easily converted this recipe from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking into a vegan bread, by substituting soy milk mixed with a little vinegar for the buttermilk. It worked beautifully, so feel free to try either way.

Potato Buttermilk Pull-Apart Rolls

1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed

1/2 cups water

1  1/2 cups buttermilk or soy milk mixed with 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)

3 cups all purpose flour, plus some for dusting rolls

3 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra if needed

2 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs salt

1/2 unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), plus extra for greasing cake pans

Heavily butter two 10-inch cake pans and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the potato and water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, until potato is fork-tender.

Pour the cooked potato cubes and water into a large bowl or the 5 quart bowl of a stand mixer. Mash the potato cubes with a fork. Stir in the buttermilk or curdled soy milk and let cool slightly to ~100 degrees F. Dissolve yeast into potato mixture and let sit about 5 minutes, until foamy. Add the sugar, salt, butter/margarine and 2 or 3 cups of the flour and mix with a wooden spoon or dough hook attachment. Add more flour as needed, until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead in mixer or on the a flour-dusted counter for 5-7 minutes.

Form the dough into a tight ball and out into a clean, greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough as well and cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and kitchen towel. Set in a warm, draft free spot to rise for ~one hour, until dough doubles in bulk.

Punch dough down on a clean work surface. Cut it in half with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Cut each half into 8 equal pieces (I use a small kitchen scale for accuracy, but you can eyeball it) and roll into balls (you may need to cover the half of dough you are not working with to prevent it from drying out). Roll the pieces into balls and arrange in greased cake pans with one in the center and seven surrounding it. Do the same with the other half of dough and cover both pans with plastic wrap and leave to rise again for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 F.

When rolls have risen , dust the tops with a little flour and bake until they are puffed and lightly browned ~25 minutes (a baking thermometer inserted into the rolls should read at about 190 F).

Cool on racks in pans for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool for 20 minutes or so.

Challah

Yeast bread

IMG_0712 My people have this thing that begins every Friday at sundown and goes until Saturday night. It’s called Shabbat, and it is meant to be our day of rest. Unfortunately it does not always work out that way in my world, but there is one thing that really does separate Shabbat  from the rest of the week, and that is making Challah bread.

If you haven’t had challah, it is a lot like brioche, panettone or greek easter bread (which I sometimes make in its place, because I love the sweet spices that are included in the dough). It is a rich, sweet, eggy dough that needs quite abit of rising time and is traditionally formed into a braid or a spiral. You can add raisins to your dough if you wish (golden raisins are the most commonly used) and you can also sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds over the top, after the eggwash.

The recipe I use most, comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Gourmet Cookbook, 2004 Edition, Edited by Ruth Reichl, and is more or less a traditional formula. I substitute 1/3-1/2 whole wheat flour for the white, and put in a little less sugar than they call for. Their recipe also calls for peanut oil, but you could use a different vegetable oil or even melted butter. As always, don’t forget to check the expiration date on your yeast and make sure your ‘warm water’ is around 100 degrees F.

Braided Challah, Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

you can make this challah into two large, or four small loaves. This is definitely a half day project, as it has to rise three times before baking. The baked bread freezes extremely well.

For the Starter (really you are just ‘proofing’ the yeast here- making sure it’s active.):

3/4 cup warm water (~100 F)

2 tsp sugar

1 Tbs bread flour/all purpose flour

2 (1/4 oz) packets active dry yeast (about 5 tsp)

For the Dough:

1/2 cup + 1 Tbs peanut oil (you can also use canola or even melted butter)

1/2 cup sugar (I use 1/4)

2 Tbs kosher salt (if you only have table salt, use about 1 1/4 Tbs, it is saltier than kosher)

4 tsp honey

3 extra-large eggs, at room temp

2 extra large yolks at room temp

1 1/2 cups warm water (~100 F)

7 1/4 cups of flour (all purpose, bread flour, whole wheat or a mixture– I do not recommend that you use more than three cups whole wheat)

For Baking:

shortening, butter or non-stick spray for greasing baking sheet

cornmeal for dusting

1 extra large egg beaten with 2 Tbs sugar for the egg wash

Make the Starter:

In a very clean jar or small bowl mix together warm water, sugar, flour and yeast, stirring until yeast dissolves. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot until mixture foams reaches halfway up the side of the container. If mixture does not foam, begin again with new yeast.

Make the dough:

Fit a mixer with the paddle attachment (you can use a wooden spoon and a very large bowl if you do not have a mixer, but get ready to do some serious mixing and feel free to use your hands when the dough gets too thick). Add oil, sugar, salt, honey, eggs and yolks to bowl and beat together until blended. Add warm water and beat until sugar and salt have dissolved. Spread starter over batter and then add 2 3/4 cups flour, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl ~ 5 minutes.

If using mixer, switch to dough hook. Add 4 more cups of flour (one at a time, if using mixer, half a cup at a time, if mixing by hand). Knead on a lox speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl until dough is elastic, 8-10 minutes (dough will be softer than normal bread dough).

Shape dough into a neat ball and transfer to a well-greased  bowl to rise, make sure the top of the dough gets greased as well and cover with loosely plastic wrap and a towel. Put the bowl in a warm, draft free spot and let it rise until doubled in bulk ~ 2 hours.

it can get really big...

it can get really big...

Punch down dough, cover again with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Turn dough out onto well floured surface and knead in remaining 1/3 cup flour. Let dough stand, covered with inverted bowl for 10 minutes.

Braid and Bake the Challah:

Generously grease a large baking sheet and dust with cornmeal, knocking off excess. Halve dough. Set one half aside, covered with inverted bowl. Divide other half into three equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch long rope. To form a 3-rope braid, place ropes parallel to each other about 1 inch apart. Pinch ends together and tuck under a bit and begin braiding by crossing ropes over whichever rope is center until you reach the end. Pinch ends together and tuck under. Do the same with the second half of dough.

rolled out ropes of dough

rolled out ropes of dough

securing ends

securing ends

beginning to braid

beginning to braid

IMG_0875

braided!

braided!

Carefully transfer the loaves to prepared baking sheet (you may need to use two sheets) making sure they are at least 5 inches apart. Brush well with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if using. Let loaves rise uncovered in a warm place for 30 minutes- during which you should preheat the oven to 375 F and place rack in the middle.

Bake loaves until they are deep golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped ~ 40 minutes (if loaves brown too quickly, cover with foil). Transfer to wire racks to cool.



Perfect Brown Rice and Brown Rice Bread

Tips and Tricks, Vegan, Yeast bread
brown rice bread-dough after kneading, before the first rise

brown rice bread-dough after kneading, before the first rise

I think we can all agree that it takes some effort to perfect one’s rice-cooking skills. There is also no one right way to cook rice (although plenty of wrong ways, including but not limited to: stirring the rice while cooking– unless it’s risotto, simmering rice uncovered/partially covered or adding too much water). The following recipe from Cook’s Illustrated is by far the BEST way I have found to cook short or long grain brown rice. And while it is certainly not as fast as a rice cooked or even the stovetop, I love how tender and separate the grains are after baking slowly in the oven. This recipe serves about six and we rarely finish it all, so I have also included my favorite recipe for using up the leftover rice. Personally, I will use any excuse to bake bread, but if bread baking is a little intimidating for you I can assure that this recipe always comes out well. Just remember to check the expiration date on your yeast and to use water that is between 90 and 110 degrees F.

Perfect Baked Brown Rice from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/2 cups long, medium, or short-grain brown rice
2 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Adjust the oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice into an 8-inch square baking dish.

Bring water and butter or oil to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately stir in salt and pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Bake rice 1 hour, until tender.

Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with a fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer; serve immediately.

“Brown Rice Bread” aka, Molasses Bread with Cooked Grains from, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

This recipe makes a dense chewy bread that is perfect for slicing.

makes 2 loaves

2 1/4 cups warm water, divided

2 1/4 tsp (one envelope ) dry active yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

3 Tbs corn or sunflower oil

2 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cooked rice/oatmeal/cracked wheat etc

2 cups all purpose flour

3-4 cups whole wheat flour

Stir the yeast into 1/4 cup warm water with the 1/2 tsp sugar. Set aside until foamy ~10 minutes. Meanwhile butter or spray two 8×10 inch loaf pans and oil a bowl for resting the dough.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups warm water, molasses, oil, salt and cooked rice. Add the yeast, then beat in white flour, followed by a cup at a time of the whole wheat (if you are doing this on a stand mixer, you should be using a dough hook and beating on the lowest speed.  If you are doing it by hand then add the flour as slowly as you need to and use your hands to really incorporate all the dry ingredients into the wet). When the dough forms a ball and begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto the counter and knead it until smooth but still a bit tacky ~ 7 minutes, adding flour as needed.

Turn the dough into the oiled bowl being sure to get it oiled all around. Then cover loosely with plastic wrap followed by a towel, and set it in a draft-free location to rise for about 1 1/4 hours until doubled in bulk.

Turn out the dough and shape it into two loaves. I usually do this by flattening the dough out slightly into a square-ish shape, then rolling it up like a fat newspaper. Put shaped loaves into pans and press them in to fit. Cover and let rise in pans for 40 minutes, during which you can preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Let the loaves rest in pans on cooling racks until cool enough to touch, then turn out onto racks and let bread cool completely before slicing.