Showing posts from October, 2009

Soft & yummy no-knead challah?

The question mark is because we haven’t tasted it yet!  We’re saving these for Shabbos. I’ve made the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day no-knead challah dough before, but that was during the holidays , so I just rolled them out quickly into spirals.  This was my first attempt using the dough for something as formal as braids. My only concern is that I thought I felt a few lumps (hard spots) in the dough as I was rolling and forming the braids.  Hopefully, they will not be noticeable in the finished product.  They sure do look promising, in any event! Because the dough was so soft, the braids expanded quite a bit and even “ripped” a bit during baking.  Frankly, I don’t mind. The loaves, though fully baked (I hope!) were still fairly soft when I took them off the pan – I had to use two hands to make sure they didn’t bend & fall apart in the middle. Hopefully all that softness will translate into excellent, sweet, yummy challah.  If so, it will be a nice change from

HEAD TO HEAD: Battle Margarine – Fleischmann’s vs Earth Balance

Read all about today’s misadventures in creating the World’s Ugliest Chocolate-Chip Cookie, as well as a preliminary review of this not-quite-revolutionary new margarine substitute, on my real blog, here .

Pletzl / Pletzel = Jewish Focaccia

Mmm, mmm, mmm… tonight we had the John Barrymore Onion Pletzel   from page 185 of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day .  No, I didn’t lie, and didn’t end up buying the book, but many of the recipes are available online. I actually had a hankering for focaccia today, and was thinking about a tomato-onion motif, but started thinking more and more about just the onions.  Eventually, a bout of Googling brought me full circle to this recipe.  I do love pletzl, when it’s made right, and this recipe is definitely the way to make it right. For this one, I mixed up the master no-knead dough (I found it here , but there are numerous sources) last night and let it sit for a few hours before fridging it. Here it is, first mixed:   I was surprised it was so dry, but it sure got moist and blobby-looking in the fridge overnight.  But despite its moist appearance, when I took it out and floured it up lightly this afternoon, it actually behaved really well and rolled out without much proble

Breads Cookbook Near-Miss!

Stopped at Chapters/Indigo on the way home from my ASL class tonight (which is why taking the bus never saves us any money!) and spent some time dithering over these two bread books:   Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking   and   Baking Artisan Bread: 10 Expert Formulas for Baking Better Bread at Home     In the end, I decided to buy neither book.    They were $30 each and might make a nice gift item, but I decided they weren't essential at the present time.   There are a lot of similarities:  both present a formula-based approach that uses a few basic dough recipes to create a huge range of breads.    I loved the illustrations in Artisan Bread, which show some important details like the consistency of the dough, though I wished they could have been higher-quality (they're basic black and white).  I also like its approach, which is reassuring and not too slick - it really seems well-suited to the humble h

A rye commentary

As a special treat to go with the sliced meats we were planning for Shabbos lunch, I decided to use the all-rye sourdough I’ve been building all week.  I mean, it was so happy and bubbly and READY, and I couldn’t just stick it in the fridge without baking it up.  How heartless would that have been??? (I started this sourdough from scratch last Saturday night.  Here’s an earlier picture .  And another .) I used the 40% Caraway Rye on Page 194 of  Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (B:ABB) , which I’ve been testing out all week .  I did, however, omit the caraway because I am probably the only Jewish person who doesn’t enjoy “kimmel” in her rye. As when I made the book’s Vermont Sourdough earlier this week, I was astonished that the recipe only calls for 2 Tbsp of the original, mature starter.  However, the Caraway Rye does offer a bit of a cheat in the form of a teaspoon of commercial yeast added to the final mix.  Not sure why it’s necessary, except perhaps f

Perfectly disappointing challah

To celebrate the conclusion of our Week in Bread and also to get myself thoroughly back on the challah wagon after using storebought (gasp!) last Shabbos, I made the Challah straight off of Page 240 Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (B:ABB) , which I’ve been using as inspiration and technical guide all week . The recipe actually appears twice, with the exact same formula and instructions - once in the chapter on straight doughs and once in the chapter on braiding.  Is that considerate, not making the reader flip back to find the recipe, or is it inconsiderate, making the reader pay more for extra pages that duplicate a recipe found elsewhere in the book?  Just weird, I think. Anyway, the recipe uses way more eggs than I usually use, and a lot less sugar, but I followed it more or less literally (discovered I was out of canola oil, didn’t want to sub olive oil, so I used margarine instead – there isn’t much in the recipe, so I figured the taste wouldn’t come thro

Margarine. Ugh.

I know a couple of people who seem to adore margarine.  Maybe not as much as butter, but they are happy as clams to shmeer their bread with it at fleishik meals and eat desserts made primarily with margarine.   All I can say is ugh.   I cannot force myself to think of margarine, particularly the pareve kind (which is all we buy), as anything less than an abomination.  Perhaps the dairy margarines have some redeeming whey flavour, but the pareve ones are just cloying, cloying, like in the Ugly Blueberry Cake I baked before Sukkos.  It was otherwise delicious, an absolutely out-of-this-world cake (if a little on the potchkedik side), but almost inedible - to me - due to its predominantly margarine aftertaste.  I certainly plan to revisit the recipe at some point when I'm looking for a special dairy dessert... but in the meantime, well, feh.   I used to use Butter-flavoured Crisco, and found it not as terrible as margarine.  But a few years back, they switched its

Just loafin’ around…

Well, this isn’t the QUICKEST bread around, but it surely must be some of the most delicious . Yes – it is sourdough success!  Once again! This is the Vermont Sourdough from 153 of Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (B:ABB) (see previous posts for background and other recipes I’m trying this week as I hop back up on the bread wagon big time after weeks of relative breadlessness). So.  How long, exactly, for delicious Vermont-style Sourdough (only Vermont- style because my starter lives here with me, in Toronto!). Let’s see… well, weeks to cultivate the starter to begin with.  We won’t count that! Saturday:  Took “Starter A” out of fridge after Shabbos to wake it up after a relatively long doze.  (I have two batches of my main starter and I’m trying to alternate which one I use so they both stay as fresh and active as possible).  Fed once.  (5 minutes) Sunday:  Fed Starter A twice. (10 minutes) Monday:  Fed Starter A twice. (10 minutes) Tuesday:  Fed

Whoah – sour dough!

Progress report on the rye sourdough.  Remember that this is a THICK paste comprising only dark rye flour and filtered water.  Last night , it filled about 1/4 of the jar.  NOW look at that baby go! Happy, happy. I have a cold, but will try to give it a good deep sniff when I stir it down, split it and feed it … just to make sure nothing evil has taken up residence.  Scared to death of having a sourdough starter ruined by bad bacteria!

Accursed Potato Bread

So I finally got around to making from scratch this amazing, yummy-looking potato bread , but once again (see my previous potato-bread attempt ), things mysteriously went wrong along the way that can probably only be explained by one thing:  a Potato-Bread Curse. First, I realized after I’d made up the dough (“hmm… seems surprisingly loose, even for no-knead bread”) that I’d used a 2/3 cup measure instead of a 1-cup measure.  Doh!  Even after adding a bunch more flour to compensate, the stuff was loose to the point of sticky, sticky, sticky. Also, and this really is mysterious, I was super-distracted with the little kids, plus Elisheva was home sick today, so I basically chose a quantity of potatoes pretty much at random.  I roasted them with garlic, olive oil, a little salt and pepper.  When they were done, I mashed them and added the bread-water to them right away to cool them off. The upshot of which was…“how much potato did you say to put in that bread, anyway?”  I have no cl

Two sourdoughs

Left, sourdough rye “paste” (kind of blobby).  A few bubbles, in the middle, maybe? Right, white-flour liquid sourdough starter.  Really starting to get bubbly, after less than 24 hours: yay!

B:ABB Pain Rustique (Bun Style)

Not to be confused with Rustic Bread, a few pages later in Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (B:ABB) , the bread book that I’m using to get a kick-start into baking again.  I chose it pretty much at random due to its being comprehensive and friendly-looking on the shelf in the library. To begin (well, continued from last night ) … Happy Poolish!   Rested overnight and turned out nice and bubbly.  Amazing, considering there’s just a couple of pinches of yeast (he said to just use a few grains , but I just couldn’t)   Mix the rest of the flour and yeast, rest the dough, fold, rest, fold again, rest again, “scale” (ie divide haphazardly into huge individual servings) and place in oiled, floured pan:   Steam the oven like crazy and bake 35-40 minutes at 460 (wow – that’s a hot oven).  I used a pan of boiling water, a pan of ice cubes, and sprayed the inside of the oven with water every 2 minutes for the first ten minutes of baking. Remove from oven, turn out

DIY Birthday Cake-Mix Cake Decorating

I finally decided that if we don’t just bite the bullet and celebrate both boys’ birthdays today, it will never happen.  Gavriel Zev’s was almost two weeks ago, but we were too busy with Sukkos; there hasn’t been a Sunday that we weren’t busy.  Yerachmiel Meir’s was just last week. The cakes are from a mix – some deep-dark chocolate thing that is impossible to ice over with white icing.  But the white doesn’t look too terrible, as long as you don’t look too closely. The decorations were done with Cake Mate Scribblers, which smear and run much less than the gel-type squeeze icing. The motif here is cheap and cheerful!  The whole endeavour cost a fraction of what a store-bought cake would have… probably for tastier, fresher cakes, to boot.    

P.S. It's amazing...

None of the recipes I've come across so far in the B:ABB book are what you'd call fancy .   And it is incredible how many different breads, like a worlds-apart kind of difference, you can create with just four basic incredients:  flour, water, yeast, salt.   Even just a fine variation on the quantities combined with a minor variation in technique (creating a loose poolish instead of a thick pate fermentee to start the bread, for instance) can make a huuuge difference in how long it takes and what you end up with under your butter.   Yes, it's true; that's all bread is, for me - a very efficient, very delicious... vehicle for butter.

Atonement for Bread-ly Sins

While I was been taking the last few weeks of Yamim Tovim to atone for various  sins of a spiritual nature (not that I am admitting to a single flaw!), I put my feeble and disheartening sourdough experiments on hold to focus on very basic Challahs That Work. So! Yom Tov is over! And I’m free – at last – to go back to experimentation. I started with a library book, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes   (B:ABB) , which seems aimed at pretty high-level bakers, but may also have a lot to offer the mid-level home baker. The author, Jeffrey Hamelman, a dauntingly professional baker with over 30 years’ experience, offers several versions of each recipe (generally called formulas), including a US Imperial version, a Metric version… and also a scaled-down version for the home baker, which includes – with a spirit of resignation, but also without too much of the condescension I have seen elsewhere offers measuring-cup measurements for those of us who cheat and don

Erev Yom Tov, Baking up a storm…

Here’s what I’ve got done so far.  At 2 am, the challahs tend to be wonky and especially these ones which are made from the no-knead brioche dough (too tired to put in a link!). At the back right is Smores bars (will insert links later when I’m not so exhausted!).  Here it is before baking: And right after it came out of the oven, with the marshmallow fluff all puffed up:   Mmm… And then, Blueberry Lemon-Almond Upside-Down Cake, another dessert recommended at the same site, Couldn’t Be Pareve , where a Conservative rabbi and mama blogs her adventures in pareve baking.  Her family refers to this as the Ugly Cake, and you can certainly see why.  Here it is right out of the oven: You’re supposed to cool it for 1 minute, then tip it out onto a large platter (does anyone actually have one of those?  I used a plate). So here it is, all upside-down.  It looks like a blackened, terrifying mess.  But Ted and I snuck bites by shaving a bit off the edge before all the blueberry

Cool Cooking Web Tool

For lazy cooks like me who don't want to be bothered weighing every single ingredient*... this page will convert almost anything from weight to volume and back again.  Naturally, true chefs will turn up their noses at it (measuring flour in cups is sure to be inaccurate - because the volume depends how you scoop, whether you sift, etc - and it drives European cooks crazy when North Americans do it), but, well, in my life, it comes in handy.  Often. * January 2010 update:  …or who didn’t own a decent scale up until now!!!  I’m sure this site will still come in handy, if only for converting imperial to metric.  If you’re Canadian, by the way, you might not realize that people in the U.S. refuse to call their system “imperial” like the rest of us.  They refer to it as STANDARD measurements.  Hmm… metric seems way more standard, if you ask me.

Lots of challah!

So I made two batches this week for Sukkos:  one batch of no-knead Master Dough (big bowl on left; I subbed oil for the butter) and one (small bag on right) of my regular no-fail challah, with 1 cup of spelt flour. The no-knead dough was wet, wet, WET, but behaved well enough once I floured it up.  Meanwhile, my regular dough was SO dry and hard and tight.  Look at the wrinkles in the middle of the coiled challah!     The no-knead challahs were definitely less attractive.  The moisture makes them kind of loose and sticky-looking:   Here are all 5 lined up ready to go in the fridge to rise overnight (fun, fun, trying to find space the night before Yom Tov).   And here they are, all streuseled and baked up!  None of them are my most beautiful challah ever.  Next week, we’re back to braids.   The one at the front right is my regular recipe.  The others are the no-knead.  Not much difference in appearance when all is said and done. Good Yom Tov, one and all!

More delicious kosher morsels!