Challah

January 18, 2011

I have been wanting to try making my own Challah for a while now (like, a couple of years). My excuse: I just have an overwhelmingly long list of things that I would like to try someday, although my Bucket List here may not reflect it. One of my motivations for making Challah is they are wonderful bread for French Toast. I finally decided to take the plunge and give this bread a try. One of my friends, Sena, a great baker — often makes this bread; and I asked her if she had any tips for making my first Challah. She graciously offered up her recipe; and I was doing the happy dance at work (thankfully, my co-workers are very tolerant). I knew that her recipe would work, because she makes this bread often.

I had initially planned to take the steps by steps picture of the braid, but (sigh…), just like I always do… I ended up starting this bread at 8 o’clock at night; and probably didn’t finish until after midnight because my kitchen was a little bit drafty, and the dough took longer to rise. The cold winter outdoor really provided a cozy backdrop of my warm baking adventure in the kitchen, but not too great with my energy level. Therefore I only ended up with a final picture. I hope you enjoy this recipe – and would give it a try. I enjoyed this bread toasted with jam and Red enjoyed his with peanut butter. Charlotte enjoyed a couple of ends pieces as well. Everyone in the family was happy and satisfied with this bread. Finally, I also made a fantastic new stuffed French Toast recipe  with the leftover that I would post in the near future. Many thanks for Sena for sharing the recipe; and letting me share this with the rest of the world through the blog. Happy eating & baking!

Adapted from Bobbi Kazenelson via Sena Cooper

Ingredients
¾ cup warm water
2 large eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3-2/3 cups flour
2 tsp yeast

Directions
Put all of the ingredients together in a stand mixer bowl, fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low for approximately 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stiff with a slight sheen. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 2-3 times.

Fold the bottom third up and top third down, fold left and right sides in, and turn the seams’ sides down into a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with lightly oil plastic wrap for approximately one hour or until it is doubled in size.

Punch dough down; divide dough into three equal pieces and roll them into cylinder approximately 18-inches long. Braid the three cylinders together.

Move braided Challah carefully onto a lined baking sheet. Let rise for 30 to 45 minutes in a warm area. Make a glaze of egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Brush over bread and sprinkle with kosher salt or sesame seeds.

Bake at 375 for 27 minutes.

Yield: 1 large loaf.

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Now or Later Cinnamon Buns

December 24, 2010

I wanted to post this recipe just in case you haven’t decided yet on what to serve on Christmas morning. Every time I browse through the King Arthur’s website, I have the sudden urge to bake something with yeast. Yes, it is crazy right? Then I ran into this recipe that promises that I can actually prepare these buns ahead of time, and then just pop them in the morning just before breakfast instead of starting the dough at 3 in the morning (yawn!).  I think we’re all always in the lookout for something special that we can deliver on the table for those special mornings , so I was hooked right away. I didn’t improvise with the recipe and I was really glad that I left it alone.  They have the flavor of good old fashioned yeast buns filled with cinnamon, slathered in icing. It really doesn’t get better than that! I hope you will give this recipe a try, if not today, maybe some other days for that special morning with your loved ones. Wishing you and your family a very special Christmas and a happy New Year.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients
Dough
3 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons soft or room-temperature butter
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk

Filling
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Topping
2 tablespoons melted butter

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Directions
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased container — an 8-cup measure works well here — and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s just about doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

Roll the dough into a 20″ long rectangle, about 12″ wide. This soft dough rolls easily, so you shouldn’t have much trouble with shrinking or “push back.”

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon over the surface of the dough. A small sieve or tea strainer works well here.

Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a 24″ log; it’ll naturally stretch from its original 20″ to about 24″ as you roll. In order to make the neatest job of cutting out the buns, use a sharp knife to mark the log at 1 1/2″ intervals.

Slice the dough into 1 1/2″-thick buns. The neatest way to do this, by far, is by looping a piece of dental floss underneath the dough where you want to cut it, then pulling the ends in opposite directions. The floss will cut the dough neatly, without squashing it.

Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Divide the buns between the two pans, spacing 8 in each pan.

Cover the pans, and allow the buns to rise till they’re crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the buns, and bake them for 20 to 23 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top and the edges of the center bun spring back lightly when you touch it.

To serve buns now: Just before the buns are done, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and cream or milk to make the glaze. Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Spread with the glaze, and serve immediately.

To serve buns later: Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Cool completely. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature for a couple of days; for longer storage, freeze. Just before serving, tent the buns lightly with foil, and rewarm in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes (a bit longer, for frozen buns). Stir together the glaze, brush over the buns, and serve warm.

Yield: 16 glazed cinnamon buns.


Cranberry Orange Bread

December 11, 2010

Cranberry is one of my all-time favorite berries. I love buying extra when the season arrives and freeze some so I can still enjoy them months after the season is over. This recipe features my favorite quick bread recipe with cranberry and grated orange zest.  This is a variation of my Easy Zucchini Bread, so I knew that this recipe works.

I have made them also using whole wheat flour (it tasted great!). When I first made the recipe, I chopped the cranberries, but decided that they bled too much after it was done, so I went back to just leaving them whole and it looks so much better. Sometimes I throw in a handful of chopped toasted walnuts in there to add a little bit of crunch. I have frozen this bread before and it held up well… If you are looking for other cranberry recipes for your holiday entertaining,  try these two recipes below. Happy eating!

Cranberry Harvest Muffins
Cranberry Orange Scones, Mini

Slightly adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of fresh cranberry, if using frozen, thawed and drained well
2 large eggs
1/3 cups of flavorless oil
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated orange zest

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease bottom of 8-1/2 X 4-1/2 X 2-1/2 inches pan. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, do not over-mix.

Bake for 50-60 min (I would start checking at 40 min to make sure that it is not over-baked). It is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 1 8×3-inch loaf


Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns

November 24, 2010


I haven’t really made any dinner rolls, but really wanted to serve homemade rolls for our Thanksgiving dinner. I went to the always-reliable site of KAF and picked out this simple yeast dinner roll’s recipe among many that they had and did a test drive on the recipe. It’s so difficult not to want to bake when I browse their mouthwatering recipes on their website.

This recipe was pretty straight-forward, except the “not too standard” ingredients like dry milk and potato flakes which I normally don’t have around the house. But they were really worth it if you think that you will make more yeast breads. These buns were “melt in your mouth-rolls” with soft interior and yeasty-inside. They were so delicious, and I can see them being a regular at our house. But they will  make an appearance on my Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow! Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving day!

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
3 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons soft butter
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
2 tbsp melted butter, for brushing the finished buns

Directions
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased container — an 8-cup measure works well here — and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s just about doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, by dividing in half, then in halves again, etc. Round each piece into a smooth ball.

Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Space 8 buns in each pan. Can you use 9″ round cake pans, or a 9″ x 13″ pan? Sure; the buns just won’t nestle together as closely, so their sides will be a bit more baked. Cover the pans, and allow the buns to rise till they’re crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the buns, and bake them for 22 to 24 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top and the edges of the center bun spring back lightly when you touch it. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the center bun should register at least 190°F.

Remove the buns from the oven, and brush with the melted butter. After a couple of minutes, turn them out of the pan onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm. Store leftovers well-wrapped, at room temperature.

Yield: 16 buns


Olive Oil Rolls

November 7, 2010

I have been wanting to try this recipe for a while. Finally when I made my Curried Squash and Apple Soup, I decided to make these rolls. A good olive oil is really key in this bread because it will make a huge difference in the final flavor. I had a hard time keeping the dough into “rounded” balls especially when transferring them onto the stone, so my “rolls” turned out flatter than I had anticipated. The dough was very soft and elastic, I’m not sure how well it would have handled the transfer. While the rolls didn’t exactly have the shape that I had anticipated, they were really delicious: rustic and had those gorgeous little air pockets that made them great for dipping into soup. The recipe allowed for this recipe to be made into one big round loaf, so that is also an option that I think I will do next time. Happy eating!

Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

Ingredients
2 cups water, room temperature
1-1/2 lbs (~4-1/2 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 ounce fresh yeast
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and plastic wrap
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Cornmeal, for dusting

Directions
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine water, flour, yeastm and olive oil; stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 hr to 1 hr and 15 minutes.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt, and mix to combine on low speed. Raise the speed to medium, and beat until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl but is still sticky, about 3 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surfacce. Knead it for 1 minute, then transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Return dough to a lightly floured work surface. Fold in the following fashion: fold the bottom third of the dough up, the top third down, and the right and left sides over, tapping the dough after each fold to release excess flour, and pressing down to seal. Flip the dough seam side down on the work surface, and cover with oiled plastic wrap; let rest for about 15 minutes.

Dust a large wooden peel with cornmeal; set aside. Transfer dough to a clean work surface. If the dough is overly sticky, you can lightly flour the surface. Divide the dough into 16 pieces with a bench scraper (~2-1/2 ounces).  Then cup each individual dough between your rounded palms; roll it in circular motion, pulling down on the surface of the dough to form a tight smooth round. The bottom of the dough should drag a bit on the table as you roll; this will help it take shape.

Transfer all of the individual rounds of dough to the prepared peel, and drape with a piece of oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rest on the peel until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile place a baking stone on the floor of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degree.

With lame or a razor blade,  make four slashes on top of each individual round (this was difficult for me to do since the dough was so elastic, like it should), to make a square. Slide each individual dough onto the stone and bake until the crust is dark golden brown about 20 minutes.

Yield: 16 rolls


Cheddar and Scallion Bread

April 10, 2010

I have made garlic breads in the past. Most of the times though… pssst, it’s semi-homemade… maybe I’d grab a loaf of bread from a local grocery, and then make my own garlic spread, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I don’t really have a go-to garlic bread recipe that I absolutely love. Then I saw an episode of Giada at Home where she made these cheddar and scallion breads, and I thought that it sounded delicious, and very cheesy! Using one of my classic French baguettes, which now I always keep around the house, I decided to whip up her spread’s recipe. The scallions really added a new dimension to the spread’s mixture; and it’s absolutely fantastic! I love the contrast of sharp cheddar cheese and the tangy onions with garlic. If you don’t have a favorite garlic bread recipe, give this one a try and let me know what you think. I think they would make great pairing not just for pasta type dishes.

Ingredients
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or coarsely grated
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 pound) loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the cheese and butter. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the scallions and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the cheese mixture on the cut sides of the bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Using a serrated knife, cut the bread into 1-inch thick slices and serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Classic French Baguette

March 27, 2010

I was introduced and fell in love with crusty baguettes a long time ago through a friend of mine who loved them with good sharp cheese and red wine. When I discovered that our local grocery stores actually sell par-baked baguettes at their bakery; these breads became a staple at our house. All we needed was to warm it up in the oven prior to serving and we will be delighted with crusty bread with soft interior at meal times. Since we love it so much, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I had to try my hand in making my own homemade baguettes.

The recipe that I used here was taken from one of the best books out there for bread making, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you have not had the opportunity to read it, I’d recommend it very highly. It is a great bible so to speak for aspiring bakers, because it really simplifies the mistery of bread baking.  The dough used here is boule, and it is so versatile since it can actually be used for baguette, ciabatta, and foccacia to name a few.  

You can also par-bake this bread:  bake them to about 90% of its regular baking time (in this case, about 25 mins), then cool it off on the rack, and freeze them as soon as they’re cooled. When you’re ready to enjoy them, just defrost them to room temperature and warm them up at 350 degree for about 8-10 min. Happy eating!

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Boule Dough (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
This recipe makes (4) 1-lb loaf

Ingredients
3 cups lukewarm water, about 100 deg
1-1/2 tbsp granualated yeast (1-1/2 packets)
1-1/2 tbsp kosher salt or other coarse salt
6-1/2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour

Directions
Add yeast and salt to the warm water in at least a 5-qt capacity bowl. You don’t need to get them all dissolved by mixing.

Add all of the flour at once and mix using a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook until the mixture is uniform. It should not take more than a few minutes at the most, until everything is uniformly mixed. The dough should be wet and loose.

Cover with a plastic wrap or clean cloth, and let it sit at room temperature for approximately 2 hours. Leave this dough overnight in the refrigerator. (Up till this step, this dough can be refrigerated up to 14 days in lidded, not airtight, container. If you plan on using it at a later time, the dough should be stored in the freezer). The storage time also has been said to improve the flavor.

Baguette direction
1 lb dough of boule
1 tbsp of whole wheat flour

Place a baking stone in the middle rack of your oven. Heat the oven to 450 degree.

Using regular flour, shape the dough into 2-inch diameter cylinder by elongating it with back and forth rolling motion.

You can make this into two small loaves, or one large one. Make sure that if you choose a large one, it will fit on your baking stone. I actually made 3 medium sized loaves from 2-lb of dough.

Place the loaves on a pizza peel covered with the whole wheat flour. Allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

After the dough rests, glaze the top of loaves with water using a pastry brush. Make slits on top of the loaves using serrated bread knife. Then transfer the loaves directly onto the hot baking stone.

Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray or a regular pie pan, and quickly close the oven over. Bake about 25 mins or until browned.

Cool on a rack before cutting or eating.