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Rye Onion Swirl Loaf: An awesome bread I forgot to blog!

DSC02240This is from last week… Tuesday? 

I wanted to have a plain meal, with tinned comfort-food tomato soup and awesome bread.  And I had a dream, not a literal dream, but an in-my-head-so-close-I-can-almost-taste-it dream of a savoury RYE bread full of ONIONS.  No poppy seeds, not a pletzl.  FULL of onions, like almost to bursting.  And not just an ordinary loaf – a ROUND loaf.

Luckily, I had everything I needed just sitting around.  I modified this Sourdough Rye Bread recipe, using some sourdough but the full amount of yeast for the yeast version, and cutting the rising time by about ten hours. 

While the dough was rising, I caramelized two regular supermarket yellow onions, using my no-fail, idiot-proof caramelization technique:  cast-iron skillet, little bit of oil, salt the onions, let them sweat until translucent, then just keep dumping water in and simmering on medium-low until the water was gone.  Repeat a few times, boiling water off each time, until onions look and smell delicious.

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When the dough was as risen as I had time for (I got a late start – oops!  To my credit, I was at work all morning, not passed out in a casino.), I rolled it out flat on the table, without measuring or anything fiddly like that, and sprinkled the onions over top.  Probably should have cooled them first, but no visible harm done!

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Rolled it up and SQUASHED it into the prepared Pyrex Bake A Round.  Despite the instructions to use only solid fat to grease the Bake A Round, I used PAM Spray, because it’s easier.  No pictures of how I stuffed this long floppy roll into a rigid glass tube, but it wasn’t funny, for a few seconds there.  I used wax paper and kind of finessed it a bit… then removed the wax paper, which I swear is the work of the devil.  (I can’t believe my mother used to bake cookies on it; does that mean we grew up eating wax???)

(note to self:  next time, make the rectangle skinnier and TALLER than pictured here, so it will roll up nice and fat to fill up the Bake A Round right away)

Anyway, I let it rise as long as I could, but it really only filled up the top part of the tube when I stuck it in the oven to bake.  One of the drawbacks of the Bake A Round is that I can’t get my thermometer into the middle of the loaf, just into one end or the other.  So far, these “end readings” haven’t let me down at all, though.

Here’s the loaf, just coming out of the oven.  Mmm…!  DSC02236

And just like last time, with a little prodding from a silicone splatula, it popped out of the tube beautifully! DSC02237

Let it cool a bit and… SLICE!DSC02239

Apart from the tendency of all swirl loaves to fall apart a bit along the swirl, this was absolutely, 100%, the bread I had dreamed about.

     

Of course, this would work in any loaf pan, and I kind of feel bad because I have two beautiful new cast iron ones – Lodge, even! – that my sister bought me for my birthday.  I did use them for challah once and they were PERFECT… held heat, distributed it, released perfectly.  And they are lovely to look at as well. 

I have many amazing breads in mind for you, little loaf pans, never you fear…

(Omg, did you know they have cast-iron cookbooks???  Oy, vey… and I need a new new hobby like a hole in the head!)

Anyway, life has been nutty here lately and I forgot to blog this but I saved the pictures and discovered them again tonight, so here you go.  Hope I’ve inspired you to go off and… in the spirit of Black History month, perhaps*, “have a dream” of your own.

* No trivialization of Black History month intended or implied, though frankly, I believe black people should be part of WORLD history and that’s how I’m teaching it to my children rather than having a special day or week or month.  Okay, I’m also teaching my children that there is no such thing as “black” people – we are all tinted in most of the shades of the rainbow except the more blue-purply shades, because Hashem likes every colour.  But I also realize that if you wanted to read my bizarre and half-baked opinions, you’d be over on my real blog instead of sitting here, drooling over my bread!!!

Note to Self: YEAST!

3 pm on a winter Friday afternoon is NOT the best time to realize the challah that has been lovingly rising since late the previous night actually contains NO YEAST.

I was lying down with GZ when I realized… I started visualizing me getting out all the ingredients the night before: salt, sugar, flour, water, oil, eggs… nope, definitely no yeast.  Eeeeeek!!!

I basically threw GZ down on the bed, raced to the computer to Google “forgot yeast bread help” or something like that.  Yay – a solution!

I took the FULL AMOUNT of yeast called for in the recipe, added a bit of sugar and enough water to make a thin paste.  (note to self: use a bowl next time, not a teeny tiny container, because it WILL bubble up)

5 minutes later, it was bubbly – ready to go!  I smeared the paste everywhere and kneaded it in as well as I could (the site I found suggested not overkneading the dough, but how the heck do you do that without the finished bread being full of yeasty-pasty blobs???). 

I left the now-yeasted bread to rise for all the time I had, which was literally about 40 minutes.  Formed super-fast 3-braid challahs and one pull-apart (Elisheva: “just throw them in the pan!”) and let them rise for all the time I had, which was literally about 15 minutes.  Then bake, and bake, and bake some more.

DSC02204I was prepared for disaster, but actually, they did rise quite a bit in the oven.  Not much on the table, which meant they were not the most beautiful loves… but at least they were loaves.  And in fact, at the Shabbos table, in the actual eating, they weren’t THAT much worse than my regular challah.

So… lessons learned, notes to self.  I have made challah without sugar, salt, oil, and now, yeast.  Just when you’re starting to feel cocky… well… at least I managed to save the day!

The LAZIEST Challah Ever

Question!  What do you do late Thursday night when you are ravaged by a painful – ahem – something-or-other, not a single mixing bowl or counter is clean, you and your lovely spouse are both exhausted… but your mother is expecting Delicious Challah for Twenty in less than 18 hours???

(to his credit, the lovely spouse did offer to BUY challah the next day… and to my credit, I didn’t throttle him)

Answer:  a large heavy-duty no-name zippered freezer bag!  The zipper isn’t essential, but the heavy-duty probably IS.

This formula is based on the Blender Challah recipe I discovered a while back, but I lovingly stuck it into my ever-evolving Breadsheet (TM) so that I can scale it up or down – it even tells me, based on the quantities I’ve selected, how many loaves it will make, in this case, approximately “3 x 680g challahs, 0 x 450g challahs, and 6 x 60g rolls.”

(my default challah now is the 680g size, or, since I use a 4-braid, the 4x170g challah)

So here’s how I did it – and you can, too!

Lazy No-Bowl, No-Utensil, No-Knead, No-Fuss Blender Challah 
You will need:  blender or food processor with steel blade, bench scraper, large or extra-large heavy-duty freezer bag, preferably zippered, as it has to be able to take some kneading and sloshing.  Also, you’ll need lots of TIME – the trade-off in bread baking, I’ve found, is that fast bread is labour-intensive, but slow-bread can be lazeee… so this is NOT a last-minute recipe.  You will have to start it by Thursday evening if you want challah for Shabbos.

NOTE:  cup measures are given only so you’ll know about how much it takes – they are approximate, and not meant for baking!

1.  Place in the bag:

802    g flour   = 6    approx cups

2.  Place in the blender / food processor:  (No, a food processor is NOT a utensil… but thanks for asking!)

401    g flour    = 3    approx cups, for blender   
711    g water    = 3    approx cups, for blender   

3.  Turn on blender and mix until smooth.  Add:

189    g sugar or honey, for blender           
156    g oil, for blender           
7.5    tsp salt, for blender (yes, this says tsp; for some reason I haven’t converted this to grams yet)
20    g yeast, for blender  (I think this is just over 2 Tbsp; reduce or increase as desired)
150    g = 3 large eggs, for blender

4.  Pour blender mixture carefully over flour into freezer bag.  Seal bag and squish flour and flour-water mixture well until flour is completely damp.  Set aside 10 minutes.

5.  After 10  minutes, squish the bag again, moving the mixture around really well to ensure that the liquid and flour are evenly distributed.

6.  I probably shouldn’t tell you to leave this sitting out overnight, because it has eggs in it.  Allow to rise at your own discretion; it can be fridged after it has risen substantially, but with mine, I left it about 10 hours and it was delicious.

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Here it is sitting out in the bag on Thursday night.  It has just barely crossed the line between batter and dough.  I love that line!

7.  After the dough has risen, lightly flour a clean surface (you’ve had 10 hours to clear a surface, hopefully!) and dump the dough from the bag onto the flour.  It won’t want to come out at first, but will hopefully surprise you with how cleanly it eventually pulls away.

8.  Time for the Stretch n’ Fold!  Grab your bench scraper – and no, it doesn’t count as a utensil; it’s just an extension of your own hand.  If you haven’t done this step before, refer to my visual step-by-step instructions.  Stretch the dough out and fold it once in each direction.  Then, plop it back in the bag.  This step strengthens the dough without adding (much) flour, so you’ll get luscious, moist challah.  Leave the dough to nap for 45-60 minutes.

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Here it is AFTER the first S n’ F.  A well-behaved, or rather, slightly-better-behaved folded lump of still very moist dough.

9.  One more Stretch n’ Fold!  Stretch it out and fold once in each direction and plop back in the bag for one more 45-60 minute nap.  Even WITH this stretching and folding, it will be very wet dough, but it should be well-enough behaved by now, if you’ve done these two S n’ F steps, that you’ll be able to shape the loaves after this final rest.

10.  When forming challahs, oil each piece of dough lightly as you pull it off and/or weigh it out.  Form challahs as you normally would, but because this dough is so light, you’ll want to work quickly and use a light touch.

Hmm… ten steps???  Sure doesn’t sound like super-easy, lazy Friday, wracked-with-pain recipe for challah success.  Just trust me.  Most of the steps are simple, plus, if your family only knew the sacrifices you were making for them, they’d fall at your feet and beg your forgiveness.

Mmm… kichelicious!

Hi!  This is an old post, but I’m still making kichel.  In fact, it’s one of the few baked desserts that have seamlessly managed the transition to life in Israel.  Here’s a newer update on The Secret to Kichelicious Kichel.

Drat.  As with almost every other erev-Shabbos baked delicacy I try out, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture when they came out of the oven; by now, of course, 26 hours later, they are ALL GONE.

I made BOW TIES!!!  Also known as kichel, also known as egg kichel and also, obscurely, as “eyer kichel.”  Around here, people sometimes call imagethem “nothings,” perhaps to differentiate them from the type of pasta (which I’ve also made) which is also called bowties.  The ones generally called “nothings” are sometimes baked in a square shape with no sugar on top, but there are exceptions.

They were super-easy, too, thanks to Joan Nathan’s recipe from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (I found the recipe, improbably, at the Calgary Public Library blog (I thought we were the only Jews in Calgary when I lived there!), but it doesn’t tell you what to do with the flour; for that, I had to use Google Books (search for Kichel or just look at Page 100).

Rolling out the super-sticky dough; you do it onto the sugar, so nothing sticks.

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You can see how soft & sticky this dough is from my finger-tracks in the residue left in the bowl (above).

Finally, sprinkle the dough with sugar (you’re supposed to roll it in a little bit with the rolling pin), and slice into little rectangles. I think they’re supposed to be 2” x 3/4”, but I just eyeballed them into what size I thought they were supposed to be, and after a lifetime of kichel-eating, I was right.

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The last step was twisting and loading them onto two baking pans, but I was in a hurry and stuffed them all onto a single pan, which they barely fit.  Next time, I’d use two, because they kind of stuck together and weren’t able to dry out completely (I did flip them halway through baking, which helped).

My mother was the one who got me started on the kichel-baking kick this week, nostalgically trying to recreate my Bubby’s “eier-kichel” recipe (in German/Yiddish, “eier” means egg).  She used the recipe with that name from Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, a new book I’ve heard nothing about.  But the author, Gil Marks, refers to them as “Ashkenazic Egg Cookies,” which sounds like nothing joyous to write home about, and indeed, my mother’s turned out exactly like cookies – they had the right flavour, but none of the POOF of a proper kichel.

My Bubby made hers big and round like a giant cookie, or like a UFO, and when she baked them, they would puff up incredibly, magically… sugar-blackened (often slightly scorchy-tasting) little bellies popping off the pan with a secret cave of airy egginess in the middle.  It wasn’t light or heavenly; none of her baking was that.  But they had a satisfying familiarity that I would love to recreate.

A few of the obvious differences between Marks’s and Nathan’s recipes -

Marks’s egg cookies:

  • call for baking powder, which sounds like heresy to me (my mother said, “I didn’t have double-acting, maybe that’s why they didn’t puff up?” but I assured her that the regular stuff she uses IS double-acting, and told her that baking powder sounds like something they wouldn’t have used in the alte heim. (old country)
  • beat the eggs and sugar FIRST before adding the flour
  • calls for cinnamon “if desired”
  • calls for regular old all-purpose flour
  • adds the flour with just a cursory “stir”
  • are rolled out and baked right away after mixing.

Nathan’s bow tie cookies:

  • are very simple – eggs, oil, salt, a bit of sugar, flour
  • oh – but she does call for a tiny bit of vanilla; very tiny, I think 1/2 tsp for 2 1/2 cups of flour.
  • calls for high-gluten flour; Canadian all-purpose would probably do, but I used bread flour, just for fun (actually, I thought it would be neat to brag that I’d made the challah with all-purpose flour and the dessert with bread flour, but then realized that was too geeky a thing to brag about)
  • beat the eggs, oil, flour, everything together for a LONG time
  • are supposed to be mixed with a paddle mixer, which I can understand because the mixture is so sticky it was creeping up the beaters on my cheap mixer and would have jammed the motor if I hadn’t transferred the mixture to the food processor, where I finished it in a laborious 45 seconds that almost burnt out my motor.

Oooh, I just discovered ONE last kichel that nobody ate.  This isn’t the most spectacular specimen, but it will give you some idea!  The rest really did look like something you could pick up at a bakery.

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From searching on Google, it seems like a lot of people associate kichel with Pesach.  Believe me, that’s a horse of a totally ‘nuther colour.  We don’t eat gebrocks at Pesach and don’t like matzah meal fakery at any other time of the year, so no… that’s not what I’m looking for at all.

What I’d do differently next time:  bake them at leisure, let the dough sit the whole hour (I only gave it half an hour because Shabbos was coming!), use two separate pans so they have a bit of room to spread out and dry out more.  Also, I want to try baking them in my Bubby’s circular “UFO” shape.

But I’m super-impressed, because, for some reason, this is something I had never even thought you COULD bake at home.

Next up:  Cheesemaking!!!  If the kit I ordered arrives this week (note that the rennet in that kit is kosher but I don’t know about the starters, so I ordered kosher “mesophilic starter” from the site as well; I just don’t want everybody clicking over and assuming EVERYTHING there is kosher). 

Anyway, I won’t blog that here; cheese, containing no flour at all, seems to fit better on my regular blog.  But if I find a way to combine homemade cheese with flour… boy, then I’ll have something to blog about here.

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