Friday, August 29, 2008

Sugar Cookies

My oldest niece, Kayla, has been begging to bake with me for four days straight. After many promises that today I would bake with her, I finally did. So yesterday we finally assembled all the ingredients necessary to whip up a batch of sugar cookies. They are the simplest cookies to make and they allow for kids to participate alot, first with the ingredients, and then with rolling and decorating. She was satisfied. And so was I. I usually opt for Alton Brown's but I decided to put one of my latest purchases to use, that being Martha Stewart's Cookies. The dough came together easily and the resulting dough after being chilled was, in no other words, beautiful; silkily smooth and gloriously easy to handle. The only thing is that the dough must stay cool while it is being rolled. Due to lack of time, we only rolled out a small portion of the dough and put the rest in the freezer for future cookie baking urges. The end cookie is crisp and snappy with classic sugar cookie flavor. Just the way we like it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pizza Dough

I think the most brilliant thing in the world is to make dough, such as pizza dough, have some for dinner and then freeze the rest for later dinners. This revelation actually came as a request from my sister who's not much of a baker and knew I would totally be up for it. The recipe I used for the pizza dough comes from George Greenstein's Secrets From a Jewish Baker. That dough was so successful that I went home after that trip and proceeded to make my own batch, individually freezing portions of dough in greased plastic baggies. Dinner had never been more simple and convenient. So today, inspired, I whipped up a huge batch of pizza dough for one of my other sisters who's not so keen on baking (and her in-laws) and that was dinner, topped with sauce, cheese and various veggies. Needless to say it was a huge success. The only thing that I did differently was to make it by machine which I never do! I kind of regretted it afterwards as I always do my doughs by hand and I missed the tactile experience. This is now my go to recipe for pizza dough and it has yet to fail me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Acme's Rosemary Slabs

I am finally in New York! I must say that although I've only been back a couple of days, I've been thoroughly enjoying my time with my parents, sisters, and especially nieces. Hopefully I'll be able to start some serious baking sometime soon, probably next week when I get back from watching my nieces for the week. Since I've missed posting though, I bring to you a bread that I made the same day as the sweet rolls but have held off on telling you about. This recipe is from Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking and though it is labeled beginner, I am very proud of it and how it turned out. I neglected to take pictures of the crumb, as my friends and I were gobbling it so fast to eat with our vegetable soup. But I have never seen such beautiful and lovingly created holes in any bread I have yet baked. I was very proud. I'm also very surprised how well the technique of folding actually works. Just a few business letter-like folds to strengthen the dough's gluten does wonders for its consistency. I had read about it before but had never until now used it myself. The flavor was great as well, considering I used dried rosemary, but it did the job fairly well. My flatbreads don't quite look like the picture in the book, as my very unprofessional oven does nothing for crust formation, but they were brilliant, nonetheless. At least that's what my friends had to say. This recipe made two flatbreads; my friends and I enjoyed one and I stashed the other in the freezer for later use. It freezes well, and reheats like a dream, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Off

I'm finally off to the airport! See you in New York!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Before I say anything about these blondies, I must first shout it from the blogtop, I'M DONE!! That's right everyone. My first year at university that has stretched through an eighty something day strike, complete with not two, but three semesters, is over! Finals and all. I'm so thrilled to say that I actually survived all that the Israeli university system had to throw at me, for the most part anyway. I mean seriously, I love Israel and everything, but who strikes and for that long?? Anyway, I'm not bitter. I'm now anxiously awaiting my trip to New York on Thursday where hopefully a couple of freshly shipped Amazon boxes, and of course my family, await. Priorities, girl! Back to this post. To further clear out my sugar supply and the last of the eggs waiting patiently in my fridge, I whipped up these whole wheat blondies from the Whole Grain Baking book by King Arthur Flour. You already know how I feel about the folks at King Arthur- they simply rock. The blondies are made from all whole wheat flour, but you would never know. They are as rich and soft and smooth as if they were made with white flour. At least I can tell my friends these bars are somewhat good for them. Not dense at all. These are also super easy to make, requiring only a bowl and a whisk. I didn't have any butter-rum extract, but should I find in the States I'll make again and report back. I also didn't have nuts so I added chocolate chips instead. A fine substitute, may I say. Also, I think a lot of the richness and depth of flavor is a result of my use of dark brown sugar. In Israel, there's no such thing as light brown sugar, but it rarely, if ever, makes a difference. To avoid the constant temptation of these bars, I set them down in the dorm kitchen for others to have. Randomly, I kept seeing people around on campus who had tasted them and either complimented them profusely or were threatening to kill me for causing their weight gain- in a totally good way of course. I love feeling that I've made someone so happy just by feeding something baked with love. That is why I love to bake. Anyway, I have a feeling these will be my go to blondie recipe but I think going to try to tinker with the add-ins and see what possibilities await.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Muffin Mondays: Strawberry Muffins

For this week's Muffin Monday, I bring to you my recipe for Strawberry Muffins that I developed only just yesterday for this occasion! I'm always surprised at the success of a recipe that I've invented but these rank up there as one of my favorite muffins. Inspired by the yogurt and jelly in my fridge (everything needs to go before I fly to New York on Thursday!!) I whipped these babies up. They are not overwhelmingly strawberry-y but you certainly taste it and smell it as well. You can always add more jam and add fresh strawberries as you please; unfortunately, it's not the season for strawberries in Israel, so that wasn't an option. Of course it is whole grain, using spelt, oat, and whole wheat flours, and relatively low in fat, as per my dietary considerations. These baked up beautifully brown and big and soft, with their caps climbing over the top of the pan. But with only a light spray of Pam, they came out so easily! No nudging this time and no broken muffins. They were kind of perfect in every way, if I may say so. Note to self: Keepers!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Challah Rolls

Growing up, my mother would make Challah only sporadically. One holiday, when I was around sixteen, my mother made whole wheat honey challot (plural of challah). It was after that that I decided that I wanted to learn how to make challot. And learn I did. It's been over five years since then and my challot have come a long way. I used to bring my very first challot to the Friday night Shabbat meal and my father used to swing the heavy loaves like baseball bats. But after faithfully making challot every week (something I still do), tweaking my technique, I now can say that I make light and fluffy challot. Now I live in Israel, but when I'm at home (as I will be this Thursday!) I ALWAYS make the challot. I'm adamant that no bakery challot enter my house when I'm there. The commandment of baking challah is a special one that women have taken upon themselves and so it is something that I feel deeply connected to. From the kneading (ONLY by hand, never machine!) to the separating of the portion, there is something deeply spiritual about it, and I'm always so happy to make it, especially for others. It is this love for challot that has led me to buy any available book on the subject and collect numberous recipes. It never stops. But it has led me to discover Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread, my favorite baking book in my entire collection. I pick up this book for reference or just to read, over and over again. Run, not walk, to get this book. Even if you're not Jewish or interested in this bread, the recipes are wonderful. I personally am a water challah type gal, meaning no eggs but I always like to try out new recipes. This recipe is "My Challah", an egg challah rather than a water one. I used sugar, because my sister insists honey is too expensive here, and while the results were good, I think honey would have added that special something. I'll try it that way next time. The eggs give the finished bread a beautiful yellow crumb and gloriously golden brown and smooth crust. I chose to make rolls because my sister had no use for full loaves. Don't worry, this won't be the last time Challah appears on my blog.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cafe Au Lait Bars

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion was one of my very first baking books that I owned. If you don't yet have it, you should definitely look into taking care of that. It has an extensive collection of all sorts of cookies and bars. Whenever I need to make something for any occasion or I just feel like baking (which happens every day, mind you) it's the first book I reach for. They are my most trusted baking pals and I'm so glad to have them. So it comes as no surprise that I turned to them after thinking that the Chocolate Mousse Cake might not have been enough for S's bridal shower. In deciding to supplement it with something else I chose to cater specifically to S's tastes- AKA her love of coffee. I stumbled on this recipe for Cafe Au Lait bars. It just sounds dreamy and sophisticated, doesn't it? I will not lie, these bars were entirely overshadowed by the mousse cake, but they did meet my standards and S's as well. According to her, they were Am-m-a-a-a-zing. Exactly like that. I myself enjoyed their soft, pillowy texture, created, I'm sure, by the vigorous beating of the eggs until thick and then whizzed once again when the sugar had been added. I was nervous to add the full amount of espresso and I'm glad I held back; it was neither too coffee-y, nor too mild. It was just right! My only disappointment was the way they looked. The recipe called to set aside enough white batter to spread on top and swirl. I don't know what happened, but the batters just didn't swirl well at all, and so the presentation didn't have that swirled effect either; the look is that of a two layered bar. Oh well. A small price to pay and the flavor more than compensated for this and so did the chocolate chips sprinkled on top. Mocha anyone?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chocolate(s) Mousse Cake

Some months ago, my friend S got engaged and her wedding is fast approaching. Crazy! So, her friends, myself included, got together to throw her a bridal shower. And you know what that means: dessert. Aware of my baking reputation, the hosts of the shower specifically requested that I make dessert. That was a request that I just could not turn down. What baker can? After a lot of thought and research as usual, I decided to make a multi-layered mousse cake that I've kept reserved in my must try files for a special occasion such as this. This recipe is so caloric and rich that it can only be pulled out for that rare but special event. This multi-step cake involved assembling a base, two layers of mousse- dark and white chocolates- and a chocolate topping. The "crust" is rice crispies, some nutella and milk chocolate topped with dark chocolate cream and white chocolate cream. It's pretty simple, it mostly requires time to allow all the components to freeze sufficiently. I divided the work over two days. Can you say divinely decadent? I think I can. Needless to say, this cake stole the show. So much so that I have no final shot to show for it. Oh well, you'll have to see for yourselves. Here's how it was done:

The melted milk chocolate and Nutella.

Rice crispies!

The chocolate-nutella mixture and rice crispies combine and pressed into the springform pan. Sorry for the fuzzy photo!

Let the ganache making begin: chocolate and cream waiting to be melted.


Coming together...

Done! And looking smooth...

Here it is spread in the pan after being whipped with more cream and on its way to the freezer.

Here we go again! White chocolate and cream.

All silky smooth.
White chocolate cream whipped. This stuff is beyond heavenly. A great stand alone dessert with strawberries. But that's another post.

Here's the cream spread over the dark chocolate mousse and headed for its run in the freezer.

Here's the cake covered with another dark chocolate ganache. I know, it never ends.
The spring form pan graciously cooperated and the removal was clean. Oh, did I mention that I, being the spaz I am, ruined the final top layer because while carrying it to its final destination, I had put a plate of Cafe Au Lait Bars on top and it cause the foil covering to stick to the chocolate. I just don't think sometimes! Nobody seemed to mind but me. Hehe.
Altogether, it was a grand success. May you all enjoy many good and happy times, food and fun with the ones you love. Happy baking! Or should I say, moussing?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Muffin Mondays: Very Mapley Muffins

It's that time of the week again.... Muffin Mondays! This time I bring you, Very Mapley Muffins, a recipe that I recreated from a recipe in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. But after I was through tinkering with it, the recipe only slightly resembled the original. And that's the way I like it. Unfortunately, this recipe was developed and made before my photo frenzy began, so there are no pictures of these. That should be incentive enough to go and try them for yourself! As I said before, these muffins are intensely mapley, due to the inclusion of both maple syrup and maple sugar, the sugar being a wonderful discovery for me. The 4 tablespoons go a long way here. Despite the low fat content, they remain soft and moist. These will keep at room temperature for up to three days; they'll get the fuzzies after that. For best keeping, stash them in the freezer and take them out as you want to enjoy them. And enjoy them you will.

Sweet Rolls

Every summer Jews around the world observe the destruction of the Holy Temples by fasting on the ninth of Av, a month on the Jewish Calendar. That day fell out yesterday. This is the first time that I'm not observing this fast in upstate New York with my family, but rather in Israel. Consequently, the beloved sweet roll that we usually buy to break our fasts on from a small Jewish bakery upstate was going to be missing. But I wasn't about to allow that! I stumbled on a recipe for Yeasted Sweet Buns with a topping from Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking. Bingo! This had to be it. And so, for a couple of weeks, I set my sights on baking this for the break fast. (I also made Acme's Herb Slabs from Artisan Baking Across America, but that's for a different post!) Trust me, standing in a boiling hot kitchen, kneading dough, and pulling buns in and out of a hot oven probably wasn't the best way to spend a day on which I had no energy. But it was so worth it. They tasted almost exactly like I remembered, soft and pillowy, sweet and just plain yummy. My friends, with whom I broke the fast, oohed and ahhed and gave it rave reviews. They deserved them, too, if I do say so myself. The only changes I would make would be to slightly reduce the vanilla, cut back the yeast from two tablespoons to one, or even less, and change the streusel topping. I have another one in my files that tastes more similar to what I remember. I also didn't have the full amount of bread flour so I used all purpose for the rest with no ill effects. All I can say, is a new tradition has begun!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Plum Galette.. Sort of

When I feel as if I've had enough traveling in my week I'll usually decide to stay in the dormitory for Shabbat with some friends and have our meals together. Sometimes, I'll invite myself out to friends who live in apartments right outside campus, but on quieter weekends such as this one, my friends and I will usually jointly make meals, each of us contributing something. Cooking and baking and preparing for Shabbat with lots of laughter in our tiny kitchen is always the hightlight of our otherwise dull Fridays. I of course chose to make dessert. (I also made a delicious sweet noodle kugel- those of you interested in the recipe can email me or leave a comment.) But of course choosing to make dessert always bites me in the butt because it takes me hours to decide what to make, that being after I've changed my mind a thousand times. I finally decided on a plum galette as plums are in season now, plentiful and sweet. I must admit, I'm slightly embarrassed because my galette looks nothing like one. The dough wouldnt roll out anymore and so I couldn't fold it up so much so it's not so attractive. I thought to make it in a pie pan to support it, and good I did because the juices bubbled and thickened like crazy. It would have made a mess in my oven that I would have to struggle to clean. Anyway, I wouldn't have told you about it unless I thought it was super delicious though. And super delicious it was. The recipe I used was from The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daly. The crust was great and the fruit and sugar melted and caramelized and developed this amazing bubbly goodness, which yes, I ate from the pan by the spoonful. Shh, don't tell! The recipe itself is simple, but a keeper, I just have to work on my execution. I'm much better at making regular pies, I promise!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Muffin Mondays!

About two months ago, I was hospitalized for an infection in my gall bladder due to gall stones. I know, a twenty one year old hospitalized for something that is supposed to occur to older people (I say that with much respect!). The humor of the situation wasn't lost on me. In my hospital room, I was the youngest of three. By decades. The doctors kept asking me what a young girl like me was doing in the hospital. Well now. On top of that, although this is my third year living in Israel, I'm a citizen for only less than a year. To be hospitalized after being here such a brief time... well I'm making good use of my insurance card. I kept telling myself that G-d likes to keep things interesting. But don't worry. Every time I thought about the fact that I was in the hospital for three days, pajamas, IV and all, I started cracking up.. at myself. Anyway, all this to say that when I was finally discharged, the hospital dietician gave me strict instructions on what to eat- basically I had to avoid a high fat diet like the plague. As it was, my diet didn't include half the things on the list that I needed to avoid. With the exception of bittersweet chocolate. I don't know how I made it so long without it. So in my quest to comply with said diet and incorporate whole grains (because it's my new obsession) so that I continue baking (because I just can't live without that) I decided to make a batch of muffins a week to keep on hand for a quick breakfast and adapt them to suit my dietary needs. And then I started this blog and I decided, why not integrate that idea and let y'all know about my muffin exploits? And so, Muffin Mondays was born! And, today happens to be Monday. My very first entry is a recipe I adapted and renamed, bear with me, Almond Scented Blackberry Spelt Muffins, quite a mouthful I know, although they can easily be adapted to your palate.
Despite the lack of fat, these muffins are surprisingly moist and tender with a nice burst of blackberry and sweet spelt flavor. Feel free to add more almond extract for stronger flavor. I added just enough for the batter to be lightly scented resulting in muffin that was only delicately almondy.

Hi- Rise Corn Bread

A new week, a new loaf. This recipe comes from Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking. Although this is only the first recipe I've made from this book, I can't praise her enough. I own her other book, A Blessing of Bread, which is probably my favorite that I own, but more on that in a later post. Artisan Baking takes a look at different bakers and bakeries across America and offers some of their recipes. The photography is stunning, the loaves of bread inviting, and the information given in this book is top notch. This is actually the first book that I can say I learned something new about the bread baking process. Which is why I'm ashamed to say that I haven't baked from it until now. I came back the dormitory on Sunday instead of Saturday night knowing that I would be leaving again Monday. So making a two day bread wasn't exactly an option. This beginner level corn bread has been on my mind (along with a lot of other recipes waiting to see the light of day) and since it didn't involve too much time, I decided it would be perfect.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread

My most recent venture into the kitchen in support of my final examination taking friends was to create something chocolately-- I can't think of anyone who doesn't appreciate something intensely dark, rich, and, for lack of a better word, chocolatey, at any given time of day. The recipe I had in mind was one that I've been thinking about for a long time now. It comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible and I'm glad I had the opportunity to give it a try. The technique used was quite unique: it requires you to first make a chocolate paste and add it to the dry ingredients along with the butter (I used margarine) as opposed to creaming the sugar with the margarine. The resulting batter was nothing short of silky. I added the recommended chocolate chips and into the oven it went. It rose nicely and developed a crack in the middle but I would have liked for it to rise a bit more. Oh well, it wasn't a yeast bread, so I can't complain. In any case, the flavor made up for it, as did the texture. It was so moist! This would do well as an indulgent breakfast and could even pass as dessert with a nice fruit sauce and dollop of whipped cream...maybe even a dusting of cocoa powder for looks. All I can say is that this one got rave reviews... Although I'm beginning to think that anything I bake for my friends will meet with rave reviews... I'll take it!