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Six-Word Saturday: 21 Av, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

Blueberry, almond, lemon:  not my favourite…

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These Blueberry Almond Bars are from the Odense (marzipan & almond past products) website.  They are exactly as promised, but just as in the Lemon and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake, which I’ve now tried twice (once pareve, once with butter), the combo enthralls me in the description, yet evades charm in the execution.

Maybe there’s something wrong with my tastebuds…?

Braggety, brag, brag…

No, not ME (for once!)!

Just annoyed at the propensity of bakers to brag about their sourdough.  It comes up everywhere, like on this page I was just reading through, where somebody “complains” modestly that “I'm beggining to suspect my starter is a very hyper active one; my loaves are always beating the given times.”

Yeah, well, I am beginning to suspect that you need to go back to tenth grade and take a spelling course.  And grammar.  And, well, snootiness.  Yeah; a snootiness course.

Me, I’m proud to have an underperforming starter.  I think.  Off to go feed the beast!

The best bakey sale day ever!

Well, for me, anyway.

Here’s my menu/sign.  Very windy day; the sign kept blowing over:

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These signs just make me happy to look at, for some reason.  Maybe it’s Elisheva’s hand-painted magen david happy faces!

I managed to sell out all the beer bread mix I made, 10 bags, I think, at $3 a bag.  Plus the entire loaf of beer bread, at 75 cents a slice.

Absolutely the world’s BEST pletzl ever!  Here’s a picture of the two I made before baking; I took one with Ted’s camera, I think, afterwards.  They were golden and beautiful and rich and savoury and slightly sweet and ever so amazing.  I used the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day Master Dough instead of any kind of enriched dough.  The only special thing I did was mix it on Thursday night so it had three days to retard in the fridge.

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Muffins!  Blueberry, strawberry – both frozen because I didn’t have fresh-picked this time.  About three dozen, a giveaway at 50 cents each!

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And the “Very Vegan” brownies, which are entirely virtuous until you whomp them with the Tofutti “Better than Cream Cheese” frosting.  Somebody was disappointed because the term “vegan” made them feel like it would be unprocessed and healthy in some other way.  Which is exactly the kind of assumption that annoys me…

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Anyway, it was a fun day, a sunny day, and I had a great time.  Looking forward to the final one of the summer, the last weekend in August!

p.s. favourite email after the event:  “your pretzel bread was DELICIOUS!”

For recipe links, click here.

Losing my braids! Sourdough Challah, part 2

Okay, so if anyone knows what could cause Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challahs to lose the definition of their braids between rising and baking, please let me know!!!  (p.s.  this also happened the last time I baked this recipe – photos here and here)

Continuing the sourdough experiment yesterday afternoon, after five hours’ rise time, we brushed the loaves with egg and sprinkled with sesame.  Naomi did the brushing.  We sprinkled the “quick-rise” same-day challahs for our neighbours with poppy seeds because they’re water challahs.  Don’t ask me why:  egg challah = sesame; water challah = poppy.

Brushing on the egg:

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Sprinkling the seeds:

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Look how loose the braids are already, after brushing and sprinkling.  The dough looks quite slack to me now.  Overrisen, maybe???  That’s certainly never happened to my sourdough before…

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After baking, quick-rise same-day challahs, nicely done:

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Maggie Glezer sourdough challahs?  Not so much.  Y\ou can’t see it well here, but these were basically big puffed-up ovals of bread; the definition of the braids was almost completely gone.

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Still – they were nice inside, and – to my surprise – even better (and sweeter; weird!) today at lunchtime.

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This was not my favourite challah, however.  Despite the absolutely perfect, light texture, I found it too eggy. 

I wonder if I could do it again only leave out the egg?  At what point does it cease to be a sourdough challah and just become sourdough bread that happens to be braided?

Meanwhile, I found a couple of recipes in Bread Bakers Apprentice that I want to try, including a lovely semolina bread (sicilian?).  After tomorrow’s bake sale pletzl, of course…

I mixed up the no-knead dough for that on Thursday night so hopefully it’ll be ready to go tomorrow.

Six-Word Saturday: 14 Av, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

 Beer bread mix!  Comin’… get it!

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This is for tomorrow’s FunFair bake sale.  And yes, I know it ought to be “come n’ get it.”  But that would be SEVEN words, which is a whole ‘nother meme.  :-)))

The sourdough experiment worked!

On Wednesday, I set about reviving a VERY old sourdough starter, and I am VERY pleased to report that the experiment was a success.

So I decided to jump right in with both feet and attempt, once again, to make Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah.  Last time, they didn’t rise well and turned out dense and weird… let’s see how it goes this time.

Starter – last night, I took some of the revived starter and mixed it with some bread flour and water to make the quantity of starter required for the recipe.  It was actually below the level of the bottom line when first mixed (don’t you love these containers?!); I took this picture before bedtime, two hours later, and it had already puffed significantly.

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And by morning… here’s what it looked like!  An easy quadruple in volume, I’d say.  Pretty impressive for a starter many people would have thrown out.

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Here’s the finished dough, sitting, well, like a lump of dough.  She says in the recipe that it won’t rise much during its first ferment, and, indeed, the dough looked puny when I went to form it into two challahs.

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And here they are.  On the left is my standard easy 4-braid, and on the right, a Maggie Glezer-style 4-braid.  I made these with a friend watching, and she apparently makes this style of 6-braid on a regular basis.  I guess having a bread blog really does mean I don’t know everything there is to know about bread artistry.  (as if there was any doubt!)

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Meanwhile, in a panic this morning, I forgot that I’m taking Shabbos dinner – including challah – to people with a new(ish) baby.  Well, I don’t feel like running out to the bakery or even the grocery store for a Lenchner.  And I’m not about to bring them a puny OR experimental sourdough challah (I only experiment on family), so I whipped up my standard “Jennifer’s Reliable Challah” recipe, which I actually haven’t made in probably over six months.

Just out of the food processor:

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Fully risen, just a couple of hours later:

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And here it is braided into two loaves, just over 1lb each:

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Like I posted once before, this quote on The Fresh Loaf (part of a list) definitely sums up what I’m feeling as I whip up these quickie challahs alongside the sourdough ones:

“You know you’re a true breadmaker when…you think making a 4 hour yeasted bread instead of using your starter is ‘cheating’.”

Baking Sale

Another funfair at our local park and once again, I’m having a baked-stuff table.  What am I making this time??

Plus, more beer bread mix to sell!!  I’m going to mix it up ahead of time, ie motzaei Shabbos, rather than at the last second again this time.

Yay, fun, wow!

Well, looky here…

risen 002This is Day 2 of reviving the VERY OLD starter which began yesterday.  The starter indeed showed some promising activity by 8 am today, and even more so after its morning refreshment.

This picture was taken about fifteen minutes ago (at about 6 hours) and, while it hasn’t quadrupled (the Maggie Glezer “gold standard” is quadrupling within 8 hours), it is definitely awake and alive. 

It smells fairly strong, but not unpleasant.

Now I’m wondering if it’s active enough to actually use in a pre-ferment tonight to start a challah tomorrow.  Risky… but we don’t have guests, or even big kids, so maybe it’s worth a try.

Reviving a VERY old sourdough starter

I guess I’m wired backwards from the rest of humanity… for some reason, when the weather heats up, I start to think about baking.  Why???

Anyway, the kids’ trip to Calgary tomorrow has reminded me of the effort I went to last summer to obtain a living sourdough starter – something I had found impossible here in Toronto, but very easy at the bakery in Calgary, which had a nice sourdough herb olive bread and happily shared some starter with me.

A few months ago – quite a few; the jar said FEBRUARY ( :-o), I converted my runny pancake-batter sourdough to the Maggie Glezer “preferred” firm starter.  Firm starters are apparently more maintenance free (revive better; keep better), and are just as effective as a runny starter.  You only need to keep a little bit around and not much of it to start a new batch of dough.

So here’s what I found in my “stiff starter” bowl when I retrieved it from the downstairs fridge.dough 001

I should have frozen it – that’s what I would have done if I’d known I wouldn’t use it for SIX whole months.  But I found this post, where some commenters say to chuck the thing (after only 2 months!), while others say it’s worth a try.  And I find myself firmly planted on the “worth a try” side.  I will only waste a few days’ worth of flour and water on this experiment, and what have I got to lose??? 

(And I figure photo-documenting the whole thing will encourage whatever yeast is left in here to perform its heart out for the camera.)

Anyway, the starter wasn’t mouldy, which was a good sign.  It had a bit of “hooch” on top, but not much (probably because it was a fairly dry starter to begin with).  I poured off most of the hooch and stirred in the rest, thus completely side-stepping the “what to do with hooch” controversy (many say pour it off, others say mix it in; I do a bit of both!).

To start reviving the starter, I followed Maggie Glezer’s 15/30/50 refreshing formula and added 15g of the stirred VERY OLD starter to a clean container.  15g is not much; more of a SMEAR on the side of the container:

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Now I added 30g of water:

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And 50g (okay, 51!) of unbleached flour – she calls for bread flour, but all I have is (Canadian) all-purpose:

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Stir, stir, stir, with a spatula until it’s mostly mixed; a very shaggy dough.

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Close it up and leave it!  I’ll feed it again – 15/30/50 every time – tomorrow morning…. and keep you posted if and when it shows any signs of life.

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Ta ta for now!!!

Jim Lahey’s no-knead potato focaccia, continued

Here are the steps, picking up where I pulled it out of the fridge yesterday morning.  The initial mix – and why I chose this recipe – is in this post from Sunday night.

I’m still fasting, but so far I’m holding up okay and thinking about food isn’t driving me completely crazy. I’m making the blintz leaves in the background.

Out of the fridge – nicely risen overnight & brought to room temperature:

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Plop – drop it on the pan!

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Smoosh – olive oil on my hands and spread it to the edge.  No trouble at all here… lots of pizza experience recently, I guess.

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Now drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and fresh rosemary from the garden and – POINK!!!  Poink!  Poink!  All over.

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Bake ‘till golden brown on top.  Absolutely perfect underneath as well.  Where did all the rosemary go?  It looked like a lot before it was baked… afterwards, it just seemed kind of sparse.

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Sparse or not, the focaccia was delicious!

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Reheated this today with sauce and cheese to make “pizza” for the kiddies’ supper!

Oooh, easy sandwich loaf? And Jim Lahey’s potato focaccia!

Well, I don’t really LIKE sandwich bread, and I don’t like whole-wheat bread particularly much.  But fresh, easy, no-knead sandwich bread?  This definitely looks like one to try for the future.

This week, I’ve taken out Jim Lahey’s “My Bread” from the library, and for our before-the-fast meal tomorrow, I’m making an easy lasagna, along with Lahey’s focaccia, which I will sprinkle with olive oil, rosemary and a bit of kosher salt. 

I am intrigued by this recipe because instead of plain water, the recipe uses a boiled potato, puréed in the boiling water.  The potato is supposed to add moisture, I guess, and if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I am unnaturally obsessed with the idea of mushing potatoes into bread.potto 003

Now, I am forewarned:  this guy (oops – it’s a girl, or rather, a woman) had miserable failures the first few times he (oops - she) tried making this bread – to the extent that he (oops – she) had to throw out the PAN.  Okay, enough oopses!  SHE claims the potato starch made the thing adhere like glue, and now says this is not her favourite focaccia by far.

Hmm… so it might be a dismal failure.  But I’m still intrigued.  I’m also curious, when you’re weighing the water and potato and THEN boiling them together, how he knows exactly what the final weight will be?  I mean, some of the water must boil off, right?

In fact, I can weigh it myself:  just a second!  I started with 600g of water and 200g of potato.  After boiling and puréeing, I ended up with only 425g of potato/water purée – to mix with 600g of flour! 

That’s not much.  And indeed, the dough was very dry when I mixed it together – almost kneadable, which is not what I wanted from a no-knead dough.

So I “corrected” the ratio myself.  Lahey’s Pizza Bianca recipe, a couple of pages earlier in the book, uses a ratio of 350g of water to 400g of flour.  SO… if the focaccia uses 600g of flour, it seems one must multiply by 1.5 to obtain the appropriate quantity of water:  525g.  Since I only had 425g of potato/water, I added another 100g of plain water to make up the difference.

I hope that was the right thing to do.  It may not have been, given the well-known tendency of potato to release additional moisture INTO dough (which is why people use it).

So that’s yet another reason this whole experiment could turn out to be just a dismal failure.  Or a yum-delicious success story and a rave review!

The dough is rising now; let us wait and see.

Six-Word Saturday: 7 Av, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

Two new bread books inspiring discoveries…

The two books are Artisan Baking Across America: The Breads, The Bakers, The Best Recipesand My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method(cover images below).

Funny, because they seem kind of opposed in lots of ways.  Yet both are obsessed with creating the best bread in the home kitchen.

Despite that tedious word Artisan in the title, Glezer’s book offeres riveting insight into the baking process, all the way down to the flour and beyond.  I have only just begun to delve into it.

Lahey’s book is more hands-on and more evangelical in its approach, but it was a surprise in that I assumed that he, like Jeff Hertzberg of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Dayfame, came from a non-baking background.  True, he used to be a sculptor, but was also a professional baker, looking for a way to teach home bakers how to create professional-quality bread (or better) without complicated commercial kitchen equipment or ovens.

Definitely makes me want to buy a cast-iron pot to try baking in.  I think that’s the next step, but the “bakey-wanty-list” just keeps on growing:

  • instant-read thermometer
  • dough whisk
  • decent rolling pin (SO sick of using wine bottles!)
  • peel
  • baking stone
  • closed cast-iron dutch oven

Well, it could go on and on.  Meanwhile, lots of happy new breads to try.  Lahey has a potato-based focaccia that seems right up my alley.  His potato pizza is also very inspiring-looking… which means yet another item for the wish list:

  • mandolin slicer


More from the Famous Challah

So last night, I started making a new challah recipe from Recipezaar.  I mentioned how perfect the texture of the dough was, and it continued to perform well today.

Here’s what it looked like when I finished kneading:

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Now here it is, going to bed in the fridge last night.  Already risen nicely.

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Out of the fridge this morning:

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And a couple of hours later, after our Shabbat Party circle time…. yikes, it’s escaping!

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Isn’t yeast amazing?  Isn’t dough amazing?

Rolled the snakes the “proper” Maggie Glezer way – rolling pin to make a flattened obling, then roll them up “sideways” to make snakes.  I like how nice and pointy the ends look this way.

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And here is my “Maggie Glezer-style” 4-braid (kind of like how she does her 6-braid, only simpler!):

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And now, to pop it in the oven for half an hour or so…

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Golden brown and delicious!  Lookin’ good!  As usual, I’ll have to report back on the actual taste after Shabbos because I’m not cutting into these babies.

That’s Ted’s rhubarb pie in the background, by the way.  He is a pie-maker extraordinare, whereas I mostly have very little interest in pies and the like.  It’s not exactly a true lattice crust, but it’s really quite snobby to say so consider it really does look lovely.

Yet another new challah (it’s FAMOUS!)

Searching for an eggless or almost-eggless challah, I set out to see what the most popular one was on Recipezaar. 

And, well, gack!  Recipezaar is apparently now   And my login doesn’t work… well, it sort of does, but kind of doesn’t.  I assume they’ll work out all the kinks eventually.

But there IS one recipe that, with 77 reviews – apparently ALL five stars – seems to be the outstanding favourite.  And the pictures are gorgeous.  It’s called Tante B’s Famous Challah.

First of all, let me just say that the recipe is PERFECT.  I rarely find a bread recipe that doesn’t need some kind of tweak.  Not this one.  I did ignore some of the technique; I use instant yeast, so no proofing or premixing required.  Plus, I used the food processor, not a mixer, for the initial step.

I also “metricized”/scaled the quantities – at an equivalence of 140g Canadian all-purpose flour per cup – but otherwise have not changed a thing.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Dry – pulsed in food processor to combine before adding wet stuff.

  • 980g all-purpose flour (= 7 cups)
  • 14.17g dry yeast (= 1/2 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 100g sugar (= a bit less than 1/2 cup)

2.  Wet – measure and add through food processor tube while running.

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups warm water

3.  When food processor appears about to die under the burden of all this STUFF, pull it out and knead by hand on the table.

The texture of the dough was incredible when I yanked it out (just shy of killing the motor, which can’t really handle more than 5-6 cups of flour).  Very elastic, absolutely perfect with no added flour on hands, table, anywhere. 

While hand-kneading, I did add in flakes of dried dough left over from the inside of my bucket where the pizza dough rose overnight.  Pizza dough which also incorporated a smallish blob of my previous bread, a yummy rye dough from Monday night. 

Here are the flakes of dry dough:

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So this bread will have a bit of a unique provenance and hopefully a nice flavour of its own, as well.

When the flakes were well-incorporated I kneaded ‘till I got a nice gluten windowpane (see dough-testing pic in this post), then popped it into a bowl.  See how nice and smooth it is?  Not quite the “chewing-gum” texture of super-kneaded bread, but very spankable.

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Yeah, spankable.  Good challah dough often, VERY often, has the texture of a naughty baby’s bottom and spanking is about all I can think of sometimes.  So much so that the kids and I sometimes sit around spanking the dough before I get ready to braid it.

(shh… sometimes, I press the middle down in a line with the side of my hand to make it look even more like a little tushie)

It’s rising now and will rest in the downstairs fridge to continue rising overnight.

Meanwhile – what’s this?

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Yup, Lenchner’s.  It is my Secret Shame.  For our weekly Shabbat Party when the neighbourhood kids come over, I serve Lenchner’s pre-made challahs.  I thaw them overnight in the fridge, bake in the morning – perfect.

Why not homemade?

First of all, they are sweet and yummy and MOST kids like the raisins (most).

Second, I am rarely organized enough to have braidable challahs by Thursday night.  I suppose I could do it a day ahead and simply bake mine first thing Friday morning, but like I said, I am rarely that “together.”

Third, I used to have to run out to a bakery Friday morning to buy a fresh challah for circle time.  Lenchner’s is WAY easier than the early morning bakery run with kids in the car.

Third, they are STANDARD.  I want the challah to be the same from week to week and not have that moment of anxious expectation when we crack open a homemade challah.

Even when it’s a recipe I have made a bazillion times, there are so many variations, both small and significant, to the flavour, texture, doneness.  Well, I’d just rather standardize the thing with Lenchner’s, a challah I know will be yummy and perfect every single time.

Is it sad that I have my own bread blog, that I bake what I consider extraordinary bread, sometimes several times a week, and yet still have to buy premade challahs when I want something convenient that I can really rely on to be tasty?

Or is it merely sad that HAVING A BREAD BLOG is considered a credential?  I mean, sometimes when people ask if I baked something myself, or if we’re just talking about bread and I make an assertion, one of my family or friends will back me up by pointing out that I HAVE A BREAD BLOG.

I should set up an OMNISCIENCE BLOG.  Maybe then my kids would listen to me more often.  “I really do know EVERYTHING… and I have a blog to prove it!”

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