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Six-Word Saturday: 18 Teves, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Less and less yeast each week…

I’ve been making the same challah for a couple of months now because it’s SOooo yummy.  My challenge (to myself) has been incorporating as much imagesourdough as possible, decreasing the commercial yeast a bit more each week.

I haven’t really said much about this challah recipe yet.  It’s based on this one, but I use sugar instead of honey, and I leave out the egg.  I found it when I was searching for a sponge-based challah, and it seems like the ideal way to incorporate a sourdough, because it gives the starter lots of time to get going overnight.

This week, I wanted to make exactly THREE challahs, so I multiplied the regular formula by 1.5…

I’ve set up a spreadsheet to let me figure out how much of my 60% starter I can substitute in a recipe that either calls for another type of starter – or no starter.

In the case of this challah recipe, the original calls for no starter, so I decrease the flour and water quantities relative to how much is in the quantity of starter I put in.  The spreadsheet figures this out automatically:  I just measure everything out the way it says.

This week, I ended up with about 165g of useable starter – that’s the only quantity that doesn’t change in the spreadsheet, because I have however much I have after resuscitating it from the fridge for a day or two.  If I was making a bigger batch of challah, I’d increase it more.

Here’s the formula the spreadsheet spit out this week, to make 1.5 loaves of challah (see all the 1.5’s?).  Every number here will change depending on the starter quantity and hydration.

MODIFIED RECIPE   165 g of 60% hydration starter
  plus 526.875 g flour
    673.125 g water
    75 g sugar or honey
    82.5 g oil
    1.5 Tbsp salt
  min 1.5 tsp yeast
  max 1.5 Tbsp yeast

Although this says 1.5 tsp yeast, I was feeling macho and took it down to one teaspoon.  Unfortunately, my starter wasn’t feeling as macho as I was, and with the wintry-cold house, the sponge took forever to start bubbling and being active.

On Friday morning, I add a few cups of bread and all-purpose flour – just enough to make a kneadable dough, and by kneadable, I mean that it’s still VERY wet, but I use the scraper to help bring it together without the whole thing adhering to the table. 

The dough was also quite sluggish on Friday – a bit of a challenge for an early Shabbos.  (Once Shabbos gets back to around 6ish, and the weather is a bit warmer, I’m going to try bumping the commercial yeast down to zero and the sourdough up as much as I can… perhaps with a backup challah in place just in case!)

Nevertheless, despite some initial concern that the loaves were too heavy and perhaps under-risen or under-baked – well, they were slightly under-risen, but baked to perfection, and delicious nevertheless. 

Instead of flour, I have started using oil when I portion it and roll out the “snakes.”  I think it helps keep the braids separate and lovely, and indeed, after tons of practice my Maggie-Glezer-style four-braid challahs are looking consistently decent. 

Pics next week!!!

Six-Word Saturday: 12 Teves, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Birthday’s a’comin’… my wish list here.

(yes, fo’sure “a’comin’” is one word!!!)

Black Forest Birthday Cake for a Neighbour

Our neighbour’s birthday was on Wednesday.  She doesn’t have much family, and I figure everybody deserves cake, so I invited her for Shabbos dinner so I’d have an excuse to present her with THIS:

cake 001

It’s a black forest cake, made out of my basic chocolate cake recipe .  I sliced the layers and spread white icing and pie-filling cherries in between.  I toasted one layer and crumbled it in the food processor to make cake crumbs to press onto the outside, somewhat messily.

In fact, it is a very messy cake, and not entirely a beautiful one, despite my amateurish efforts with the star tip.  The initial looks more like a T than a J, but, hey, it’s the thought – and the taste – that counts, right???

Today’s Project: Whole Lotta Bread!

prezzie 004This is the Pumpkin-Oatmeal No-Knead Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (which I still don’t own!). It’s a fun bread because it doesn’t taste like a “healthy” bread (being mostly white flour), but does contain token quantities of rye, whole-wheat and oat. It is a very easy bread to make, despite the sloppiness of the final dough.

I baked these seven loaves, along with gingerbread and shortbread cookies, to fill up holiday parcel boxes whicih we mailed to members of our extended families. (actually, the 7th was for our supper: shhh…)

I added cranberries and lightly toasted walnuts to make it into more of a “festive” bread.

Anyway, ours was delicious with tomato soup this evening; soft and fresh. Almost too soft, I hope, because, this being Thursday, the others won’t arrive at their new homes until perhaps Monday.

This particular loaf is one that would be delicious slightly stale and toasted, so I was hoping that even if the loaves aren’t completely fresh when they arrive, they will still be a nice treat.

But here, I must whisper a shameful, awful truth that may doom the whole exercise to failure: the loaves were not completely cool when we mailed them. It was 4:30, Ted was hanging around getting antsy, wanting to run to the post office, and I was also getting worried that we would miss out on shipping them today altogether.

So I wrapped them, quite well, in my opinion, and sent them out the door. For wrapping, I wrapped each loaf in a layer of paper bag (paper “sleeves” made from two huge paper bags), then a large-sized ziploc freezer bag.

But now I am worried that the loaves will be terrible as a result of not being fully cool. The outside was cool, but the insides were still a bit warm. I’m scared that they’ll turn moldy in transit. Ick, what a nightmare!

Six-Word Saturday: 5 Teves, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

“No knead” bread broke my mixer!

Forgot to blog about this one during the week.  I have some wonderful, local Red Fife whole-wheat flour my sister gave me that I wanted to try out, so I decided to do the No-Knead 100% Whole-Wheat Bread from King Arthur Flour again. 

I made it once before with spelt and it wasn’t fantastic.  This time around, it made a VERY dense loaf, but one that was eminently sliceable and eatable.

This is an unusual no-knead bread because you use a hand mixer (or stand mixer) to mix the ingredients.  The finished “dough” is somewhere between a thick cake batter and a thin bread dough.  Definitely not kneadable.  And as the six words point out, really too heavy for what my cheapo hand mixer could take on, apparently.  (Luckily, I had a spare in the basement, albeit a tippy one I hate.)

Once mixed, you let the dough rise in the loaf pan (mine’s a bit big, which the King Arthur blog warns about – it really does affect the height of the finished loaf).

parsha 002 

My loaf pan is bigger than recommended, and the house was a bit cool for rising bread.  All in all, though, I think this turned out quite passably well!

parsha 025

This loaf actually reminded me of the delicious round Malt Bread I loved as a child.  I’ll probably try making it again with a bit of white flour AND some of the malt powder she gave me a LOoooong time ago that is still sitting in the freezer.  Lightened up a bit, with a touch of malt, this could be the perfect toasting loaf. 

In fact, perhaps I’ll mix some up now and bake it tonight for tomorrow’s breakfast…

It’s PURPLE!!!

Elisheva made cimbuns again… but this time, she added just a few drops of food colouring to the icing.

2010-12-09 elipurpy

Mmm, purple!

The naked Sufganya (aka Jelly Donut!)

chanukah 006These are the same as Friday’s, made once again with the Balthazar’s Chocolate Bread dough.

They turned out great!  Much easier than I thought they would be, although the table is still a powdery, jammy mess.

The sourdough wasn’t quite ready from its overnight rest when I had to mix up the final dough (it was fridge-cold when I started it last night – I didn’t give it any time to warm up first), but because the recipe calls for added yeast, I didn’t worry about it too much, and the dough still rose fabulously well. 

It’s a moist dough, but far more workable (in my opinion) than the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day pain au chocolat.  If I was making it up as a loaf, I would definitely go with this recipe.

I used a plain round cookie cutter, let them rise a bit before frying, and filled the heavy pareve enamel pot with oil so as to ensure a perfect yummy sphere shape for each sufganya.

Et voila!  Here they are, fried up and naked, waiting for their powder…

chanukah 004

The jamming / jellying operation was pretty tricky, and there was quite a bit of jam goobering here and there.  I thought raspberry tasted much yummier than strawberry, but I ran out towards the end and hat to use strawberry on the last few.  The ones with strawberry just tasted like chocolatey toast, at least to me.

Here they are with a light sprinkling of icing sugar (unlike on Friday, when I overly drenched them):

 chanukah 005 

Definitely a hit at the Chanukah party!  Definitely one to make again.

Six-Word Saturday: 28 Kislev, 5771 (Chanukah Edition)

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Chocolate beignets… a newfangled Chanukah treat!

I made chocolate-bread-dough donuts last year for Chanukah, but I think I used the Artisan Bread in Five recipe, which I remember as being on the potchke-dik side (long and involved process).

This year, I went with the Balthazar’s Chocolate Bread recipe.  Chocolate bread is ideal for donut-making in so many ways – it’s definitely chocolatey but not too sweet.  My family didn’t like the bread as BREAD because the chocolatey look of it really throws you off and you’re expecting cake. 

The Balthazar’s dough, based on a gentle sourdough or overnight starter, was VERY easy to mix up and to work with.  The trade-off seems to have been that the donuts were not very puffed-up; not very rich.

Here are the steps, without much commentary, because it’s late and I’m tired.

frying 009 frying 010 

I tried filling with jelly and folding over… ugh, what a mess.  I stopped after the first four.

frying 011 

Just cut the rest into nice rectangles.

frying 012 

Followed the advice of this King Arthur author and shallow-fried rather than wasting a huge pot of oil.  Worked well enough, I guess.  This is my new pareve 12” cast-iron pan, which I found at Superstore for $9 and finally toivelled this week. 

What a great way to break it in; It’s thoroughly seasoned now!

frying 014

I wish I had sprinkled the finished beignets with icing sugar.  Instead, I tossed them in icing sugar, which made the sugar look caked and unappealing.

This is a terrible picture:

cookies 003

They went fast, so they must have tasted good.  I know I had a few, and they stayed fresh and appealing well into Shabbos afternoon.  I am making this recipe again for my extended-family’s Chanukah party tomorrow afternoon.

Happy Chanukah from all of us:  the staff, volunteers, members, board and executive of Adventures in BreadLand!

Ted's erev-Shabbos Apple Galette

I love a man who bakes!!!

They were delicious, too!
Posted by Picasa

Our Annual Gingerbread House

gingy 027From this (assortment of motley house-pieces)…

gingy 038 to this!  (triumphant gorgeous finished house!)

gingy 043 

…in a single evening, with kids helping and everything!

More steps and photos on my other blog over here.

Six Word Saturday: 21 Kislev, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Gorgeous challah, fluffy-soft… no SALT!!! :-(

gingy 018Sad but true.  And we were taking it to neighbours’ for supper.  I just gestured to keep on sprinkling more more more salt… but salt sprinkled is NOT the same as salt incorporated in dough.  Blah.

Sourdough Cornbread Math for Vegan Night

Once again, I am happy and amazed that bread – even the BEST breads – can be made not only pareve, but also completely vegan.  That’s because I have declared “Vegan Vursdays” and tonight, we are hoping to have bread with soup – a classic combination that’s perfect for a day like today.

I found this recipe for Sourdough Corn Bread that looked good (though I might not go so far as to shape it into bread bowls), except it calls for starter at 100% hydration.  The starter that I’ve been building up all week is more of a stiff starter (I estimated 50, but that’s probably not right, either).

At The Fresh Loaf, I found this primer explaining the math of how to convert recipes to use a stiffer or thinner starter, but it started giving me a headache.

So – always my father’s child! - I broke it down using a spreadsheet.  You just plug in:

  • quantity of starter called for, at what hydration
  • flour and water quantities from the recipe
  • how much starter you HAVE, at what hydration

And it does the math:  how much extra flour or water to add (or remove) to/from the recipe to obtain hopefully similar consistency.

Here’s what it came up with! 


I used my updated quantity of flour, but only about 425g total water instead of almost 500g.  The original recipe says to hold back some of the water, and I’m glad I did.  The corn flour / cornmeal may have had something to do with this, because it absorbs water differently.

I actually didn’t have what I’d consider corn FLOUR – what is that, anyway?  But I had Bob’s Red Mill stone-ground cornmeal, which contains the bits that are usually not included in cornmeal, so I think it’s roughly equivalent, if quite a bit grittier.  When it comes to cornbread, I don’t mind gritty.

Took some kneading to work in the starter completely.  If I hadn’t been so discombobulated today, and had the luxury of time, I probably would have broken it up more and maybe even stirred it well into the water before I started.  But I eventually got it evenly distributed into the dough:

marble 011

What I ended up with is a very moist dough that should benefit from a couple of stretch and fold operations in the next hour before I actually shape it into loaf/loaves (haven’t decided yet on the final portioning/shaping).

Wish me luck!!!  It’s been a terrible day in almost every other way… at the very least, I deserve good bread.  Right?

Nutella Pound Cake – why didn’t *I* think of that???

marble 004I have been having a bit of a pound cake thing going lately, but I had never made pound cake before and thought it would be a huge potchke. 

Then, earlier this week, as if reading my mind, the GourmetKosherCooking blog posted a recipe for Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake – perfect!

Super-easy to throw together (providing you have enough butter!)… and utterly decadent and delicious.  Don’t tell anybody, but we ate it for breakfast!

(Chocolate for breakfast:  just one more way we’re preparing for aliyah!)

Six Word Saturday: 14 Kislev, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Time to dust off the sourdough!

No excuses… life is as “back to normal” as it’s gonna get, and there’s no reason I can’t bake good bread this week!

(plus, now that I used up the last of the spelt, I have some nice whole wheat flour my sister gave me last week… and some rye to use up and some oat flour and… OMG, Pesach is coming!!!)

National Homemade Bread Day!

Did you know?  It’s today, November 17th!  I had no clue…

And yet, I woke up, made a yummy baguette, and later served four pizzas to my family.  Just like any ordinary week.

Sure feels nice that we don’t need a special day to honour home-baked breads!!!

Six Word Bread Saturday: 7 Kislev, 5771

 Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Breads I forgot to blog about!

…Like Wednesday night’s excellent rye-licious loaf!  Exactly the same ryelicious formula as the first time, and it worked out beautifully.  I even used corn starch – properly, this time! – to phants 001create a lovely crusty sheen on top of the loaf.  Yes, it’s peanut-shaped, the result of a mis-handled transfer from peel to stone… but I’m getting the hang of it, really I am.  And yes, there was a bit of a blowout on the side.  I don’t know why my slashing is so unsuccessful lately.  But inside, the bread was perfectly baked and absolutely luscious with Alton Brown’s beef stew.

  phants 004phants 002


And then there were Thursday’s (vegan night) Scallion Pancakes.  Super, super easy, this is a boiled-water-and-bread-flour dough that mixes up quickly and it’s ready to roll after only about half an hour.  Yes, I truly am obsessed with flatbreads these days – I can’t wait for the next Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book, which is all about flat!  (hey, I just noticed they have a new British release – using weight measurements and British cooking terms, presumably, along with the WAY more palatable, “Artisan”-free title, “Five Minute Bread.”)

scallions 002I got into a nice rhythm with these little cakes (I’d probably make them double the size next time!):  roll flat, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and onions; roll up into a cigar, coil the cigar; roll flattish again with a rolling pin, then fry on the cast-iron skillet.  As you can see, though, we were BAD VEGANS, eating pareve but not animal-free Tomato Egg Drop Soup from Kosher by Design:  Teens & 20-Somethings.  It was yummy soup, but there’s nothing quite like egg drops in an egg-drop soup.

scallions 001 

So that’s it – our week in bread!

Bake Bread Bold with “Stretch n’ Fold”!

Stretch and fold!  I heard the term many times before I actually tried it myself.  Now, I do it all the time… and it’s improved my breads considerably.

The stretch n’ fold is especially useful in developing a very wet dough, when you can’t or don’t want to do a lot of kneading.  It’s incredible when you

The wetter the dough, the more you will need your trusty dough scraper, and perhaps a floured surface, but the goal here (as I understand it) is to incorporate as little new flour as possible.

scallions 015

Before I say anything about stretching and folding, though, I want to add a big NO:  just say no to PUNCHING down the dough!  (hey, that rhymes)

Even if a recipe says you should do it, and even though I did it for years, few legitimate bread recipes will ask you to pummel all the rise out of your bread.  The bread has been working SO hard to rise that you’d be shooting yourself in the foot to handle it so roughly.

Worse, I used to interpret “punch down dough” as “knead it all over again, at great length.”  Hmm… a recipe for tough, dense, chewy bread if ever I’ve heard one!  If you like that kind of bread, well, fantastic… but I don’t. 

Nowadays, I treat dough more cautiously.  I’m not afraid of it (no matter how wet and gloppy it gets, I trust my floured hands and bench scraper to keep things tidy!) – but with a little respect for the work that’s already taken place.

Now that you’re convinced here’s how you do the stretch n’ fold with your own dough!

1) After your dough has had some amount of time to rise  (an hour or so, or as specified in the recipe), turn it out gently (using your trusty teeny bowl scraper!) onto a wooden surface.  (sorry – forgot to take a picture of this step)

2) Press, pat and spread the dough gently – you don’t want to lose all those bubbles, just redistribute them a bit – into a roughly rectangular shape.

scallions 004

3)  Pick up one short edge of the dough – use the scraper if you have to – and bring it up about 2/3 of the way down the length of the rectangle, like you’re folding a letter.

   scallions 007 scallions 008 

4)  Now, pick up the other short edge and fold it so it completely covers the rest of the dough.  You’ve just folded the dough in thirds, like a letter!  The dough now looks like a (smaller) rectangle.

scallions 009

5)  Now, we’re going to do it again.  Pick up one of the short ends of the rectangle (using the scraper again if you have to), pull it away from the rest of the dough, and then fold it 1/3 of the way back. 

6) Grab the other short end, stretch it the same way, and fold it 1/3 of the way back.  It won’t look like a letter now, it just looks like a big fat folded blob of dough.

 scallions 010 scallions 011 scallions 012 scallions 013 

7)  Return letter-folded dough back to bowl, cover with lid, and allow to rest for at least another 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough has had a chance to smoothe out, relax, and rise a bit more.

  scallions 016

Enjoy your own yummy bread!

Yummy chocolate-chiffon pie!

DSC08429 My mother’s mother used to make chocolate chiffon pie… it was one of her hallmark baked things, along with her Neapolitan Cake.  I don’t  have a recipe, but I do know that she used gelatin in hers; many chocolate mousses call for it because it lends the mousse a longer-term room-temperature stability that whipped cream or egg whites alone cannot reproduce.

I tried to make it once using the only kosher gelatin I could find:  fish-based gelatin, which I believe came in little silver packets, from France.  It was terrible.  The gelatin tainted the pie with a sour tang that I tried to convince myself was “lemony,” but let’s be honest… it was quite simply foul.

Fast-forward to last year, when I noticed that Kolatin kosher gelatin was once again on the market.  It used to be all over the place here, back when I first started keeping kosher, but I don’t remember seeing an unflavoured gelatin at the time. 

(Being new to keeping kosher, I may have just not noticed it; there’s a lot I used to take for granted.)

imageAnyway, I have been looking for the products here, and when I found out on Thursday that they were available at Sobey’s and Kosher City here, I sent Ted on a mission.  He returned with about ten packets of various flavours of Jello (sorry, Kraft, but it’s all Jello to me!) (and sorry, Ted, but strawberry is the only authentic jello flavour!), along with two packages of unflavoured gelatin.

Baking nirvana!  Naturally, my first project was tackling the chocolate-mousse pie.  The recipe I used was Susie Fishbein’s, from the Kolatin website.

I made Ted go out (again!) and buy a special chocolate-cookie crust, because the plain graham ones we had Just Wouldn’t Do.  And I changed the recipe slightly, keeping out a bit of the white whipped “cream” so the top would be a white layer on top of the chocolate layer – just like Grama used to make it.

It was incredible.  Even pareve, made with Nutriwhip, my pareve topping of choice, it was incredible.  The pie was mostly gone in minutes after supper last night, and completely demolished by the time Ted & I went to bed last night.

So what’s next in gelatin-land???  Well, my first thought was to try making the homemade marshmallows that Shoshana of Couldn’t be Pareve is always going on about.  But then I thought maybe I’m not that ambitious.

We shall see… and I will definitely keep you posted about this and any other exciting new developments in… well, not Breadland, and not even Cakeland… but don’t we all love to venture into Pieland from time to time???

Six Word Saturday: 30 Cheshvan, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Delicious challah… better the next day!

DSC08430Now that is an accomplishment, because I usually don’t like challah very much by Saturday afternoon. 

I made last week’s amazing Super Wonder Challah.  I ran out of bread flour, so it was perhaps a little softer than last week.  That made it very hard to braid.  Didn’t help that I doubled the recipe and ended up with enough to make three HUGE loaves (>2lb) that spread like crazy in the pan. 

So in the end, it was not as picture-perfect as last week, but absolutely just as yummy – if not more so.  And today, even yummier!  Hooray for pre-fermentation; definitely works for me, though it’s a mystery why prefermenting HALF the flour can make the bread tastier than prefermenting all of it (I usually make the entire batch on Thursday night, let it rise, and fridge it overnight).

DSC08431Elisheva said that this was the closest to storebought challah that I’d ever made.  She meant it as a compliment… perhaps realizing that I’ve never liked storebought challah very much.

I also want to add, for people who don’t like or can’t have egg:  this was the richest, most delicious eggless challah ever.  I can’t believe there’s none in there.  And it doesn’t even call for a ton of sugar – it uses LESS sugar than my Rosh Hashanah challahs did, and I swear, it tastes sweeter.  More magic.

Hopefully, I’ll post the recipe later on this week or – more likely – at the last minute next Thursday night!

p.s.  Have you entered my free Cooking Disaster Contest???  One day left (24 hours, give or take) to win a free Cooking by Design cookbook!

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