Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dark Fudge Bundt Cake

I love, love Shabbat! It's time of the week that G-d commands us to refrain from work of any sort and just appreciate the day and our families. That means, for Orthodox Jews, no telephone, no computer, no television. It is truly a blessing! For me, it also means lovingly preparing for the meals, setting the table and doing what else needs to be done. It's also the time that I get to bake and not be scolded by my dad for making a mess. Besides for challot, which you by now know is my favorite thing ever to bake, I love to make dessert. When it's just four us, my parents and my sister and me, I can't really justify making a large dessert. All it takes is one guest and I start breaking out measuring cups and poring over the cookbooks. That's what I started doing when I heard that my sister's best friend S, who is practically family, was coming over. In her honor, I decided to make something chocolately. I decided on Dark Fudge Bundt Cake, a recipe from Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking, the baking book I bought for myself, my mother and three of my sisters. A book so enticing I was suckered into buying it that many times over. The cake is a one bowl-er so it's easy to put together but it features a simple element that I had never seen before that makes such a difference. Namely, melting chocolate chips over the bottom of the hot cake and then chilling it so it develops a hard crust. When turned over and sliced, it makes for the nicest chocolatey surprise! Brilliant! While it isn't as fudgy as I had hoped it was still delicious and a certain keeper! This is the type of dessert I would make again to bring for dessert to a meal that friends and I would have in Israel. Casual but delicious.

Dark Fudge Bundt Cake
from Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine (melted)
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups warm coffee
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Generously grease a bundt cake. And I do mean generously. You wouldn't want the cake to go and get stuck or anything.... not too pleasant.

Place the margarine in a microwave safe bowl and zap

until melted.
Add both of the sugars,
and whisk until smooth.

Add the eggs and vanilla,

whisk to combine thoroughly.

Add all of the dry ingredients,

and whisk until mostly smooth.

Add the warm coffee and blend well to make a smooth batter.

Pour the batter into your greased bundt pan.

Bake until a cake tester inserted comes out clean, around 60-72 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle the top of the hot cake with the chocolate chips.

Allow the chocolate to melt slightly and then begin to spread it with a spoon until nicely smoothed over. Place the cake in the refrigerator to set up. Remove from the refrigerator when you're ready to serve.

Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Enjoy!

Russian Challah

It's that time again... This week's Challah recipe is Maggie Glezer's Russian Challah (from A Blessing of Bread!). This dough was a breeze to put together; the dough is soft and easily kneaded. For my convenience, I made a double batch (yielding three nice sized breads) Thursday night, allowed it to rise overnight in the refrigerator and finished it Friday morning. I took the dough out and let it sit to take the chill off for about 15-20 minutes. This dough was so much fun to braid because it rolled out so smoothly, without any issues, and they just turned out perfectly. They also turned out picture perfect after baking- the braids didn't spread! I kept staring at them on the Shabbat table. I should say that this is the last braided loaf until after the holidays as it is customary to make rounded breads for Rosh HaShana and to keep that going through Sukkot. The resulting challah had a nice yellow crumb, chewy texture but was not sweet at all. I know I was warned... but although everyone else enjoyed it, it wasn't my favorite. I think I'm just an all or nothing type of girl- either make it an egg challah and thus sweet, or make it water with no eggs at all! It can't be both. Anyway, I'll probably be featuring a honey challah sometime this week after the holiday, so stay tuned. It'll make up for me not being able to make challah this Thursday- Friday because of surgery. :(

Friday, September 26, 2008

Muffin Thursdays ;)

I know.. I've neglected Muffin Mondays. Trust me, I can't get it off my conscience. That's why I got so excited that I actually made muffins yesterday! But I was just thinking.. maybe so that I don't get in trouble with myself again, I'll change Muffin Mondays to once a month... at least until I get back to Israel and my muffin making schedule stabilizes. Phew. Feel much better! Anyway, these muffins were my way of using the remaining pumpkin puree and of giving my mother some thing guilt-free (sort of) during her busy school day. I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Companion. On a whim, I just started swapping things out. I cut back the sugar and added some maple syrup, resulting in a lightly sweet but not overly sweet muffin and replaced some white flour with whole wheat. The pumpkin adds tremendous moisture so I omitted the oil. I also added craisins to add to the fall theme, although I decided I don't like the texture of craisins and raisins baked for too long. I'd omit them next time. But feel free to make whatever changes you want. This recipe yields about 24 nice sized muffins. I stashed about half in the freezer to be used as needed.

Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
few grates fresh nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 very large eggs (I used jumbo size)
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or low fat milk
1 cup craisins, optional

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 24 muffin tins if you have. Alternatively, grease a twelve cup muffin tin and reuse this one.

In a bowl, stir the flours, spices, leaveners and salt.

Whisk to combine.
In another bowl, place the pumpkin.
Add the brown sugar and maple syrup,
and whisk to combine really well.
Add the eggs one at a time,
stirring well until smooth after each addition.

Add the milk to the bowl,

and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture,

combine well.
Add the craisins and, without overmixing, stir well.

Portion the batter into your muffin pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I can't remember how long it took- maybe around twenty minutes. After two minutes, remove the muffins from their tins and place them on a wire rack to cool completey. Don't try storing them until they are completely cool; if you do, you will end up with soggy muffins. And the last thing you want is soggy muffins. Trust me. I know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pan de Calabaza- Sephardic Pumpkin Bread

What a day. Today I went to the doctor from some pre-operation testing. That's right; the moment that I've been dreading since my hospitalization in Israel is fast approaching. Surgery(gag) is scheduled for next Friday. Unfortunately though, I've been also suffering from this crazy headache that won't leave me alone. I can't properly treat it though because of the impending surgery. Great. That didn't stop me from baking. On the contrary, it made me feel better, at least psychologically, which baking always does for me. And of course, when I need to relax, it's gotta be bread. I don't know.. something about the kneading that just relaxes me and releases stress. I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel this way. Anyway, the bread I bring to you today is Pan de Calabaza, or Sephardic Pumpkin Bread from, that's right, Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread. This is the type of recipe that intrigues me but think that I'll never get around to making. Well, at the end of the summer, before I returned to the city from upstate New York, my mom and I stopped at Wal Mart and saw these adorable little pumpkins on sale. My mother picked one up for herself, intending to make an orange soup. I picked one up with all sorts of baking ideas floating through my head. Funnily enough, I hadn't gotten around to doing anything with it until yesterday. Which isn't too bad, really, because it's kinda perfect to welcome fall. On a whim, I decided to roast it, which was the easiest thing ever, and mash it myself instead of using the highly processed, canned variety. I assembled the dough quite easily today despite my throbbing head. I didn't have cardamom or ginger so instead substituted freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. The nutmeg turned out to be the dominant flavor, not a bad thing, but next time I'd reduce the nutmeg by a grate or two and add more cinnamon. Needless to say, the small amount of pumpkin did not add much but some lovely yellow color and moisture. It gave the finished bread soft and tender texture. Perfect with jelly for tomorrow's breakfast. The rising times were a little long but I took the opportunity to rest during those periods. Also, I should have made one large loaf instead of two loaves, because they turned out to be smaller and not exactly sandwich size. Oh well, you live and learn. This bread is still highly munchable. Anyway, head on over to Yeastpotting... you know what awaits you there!

Pan de Calabaza
adapted from Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread

1/2 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2-3/4 ground cinnamon, or to your taste
few grates fresh nutmeg (this stuff is strong!)
about 3 3/4 cups bread flour
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, plus one for glazing

Place the yeast, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl.
Add 2/3 of a cup of flour..

...and stir to combine.
Add the water,
and blend. Allow this slurry to ferment until puffy, around ten to twenty minutes. Honestly, I had no patience to wait, so I just continued with the directions. No harm done.

Add the oil, egg, pumpkin, sugar, and salt.

Blend well.
Add the remaining flour all at once.
Once the dough has formed a rather shaggy mess, turn it out onto your work surface.
Knead until smooth. This shouldn't take too long. The dough should be firm and easily kneadable. Adjust the consistency as needed.
Place the dough into a grease bowl; turn to coat.

Allow to rise until doubled.

Shape as desired. Using poor judgement, I opted for two loaves. They are resting in non stick loaf pans.
Allow to rise until double. Brush well with beaten egg.

Bake until golden brown and your kitchen smells divine. Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

King Arthur Flour's Sourdough Bread

With all this time on my hands, I decided to create a sourdough starter. I've never been afraid to cultivate one, because to my mind it's as simple as some flour and water. I created my starter based on the formula from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I haven't yet turned it into the barm required for Reinhart's recipes but I've been feeding it regularly as a normal starter. I've been away from it for a week, as I was by in Monsey with the little kiddies but upon my return I was anxious to try it out. I first refreshed it with a cup of water and flour by weight. I left it to ferment at room temperature to find the next morning that it had creeped out of its container onto the counter. I couldn't be more overjoyed. It's alive! That's all I could think. I looked all over for a recipe I really wanted to try but since all my books are six thousand miles away, I was slightly limited. So I turned to the recent blog entry on the King Arthur Flour blog devoted to sourdough and decided to make their recipe. The entry can be seen here. The dough assembly went smoothly. I opted to knead the dough in my KitchenAid mixer, which was a good idea because I've been finding that sourdough sticks to everything! I needed to add a few extra tablespoons of water to get the dough to absorb all of the flour but it finally did. The rising was a slower than usual process, something I didn't realize about sourdough either. But it pulled through. Yes, I'll admit, I did have my doubts that my starter could raise a bread all by itself, but I doubt no more. Shaping was a little hasty because it was so sticky and I didn't want to deflate any bubbles. I've learned that lesson. I tried to slash the dough properly but my technique is so poor! I need to get me a good, smooth, clean razor ASAP. I baked the loaves with steam, even though that wasn't called for. I was hoping to get a nice dark crust but once again my loaves turned out an anemic shade of brown. I am badly, BADLY needing a pizza stone. I don't think I can handle another pale loaf. On the bright side, the bread's crumb was nicer than I had thought it would be. I thought it would be completely even but it has a few relatively larger holes, which pleased me. As for the flavor, to me it wasn't tangy or sour which I had looked forward to, although the aftertaste of sourdough is detectable. All in all it was a great experience and the bread is delicious. A good sandwich bread. I can not wait to keep using this baby!

My fed sourdough starter...

...with some water...

...and flour.

Here is the built starter all mixed,

nicely risen and bubbly and headed off to the refrigerator for the night.

Salt and sugar in the mixing bowl.

Some more flour,
and the chilled starter mixture.

Here's the dough full kneaded and ready to rise.

The dough all risen. Took forever, but it finally doubled itself.

"Divided" into two portions.

The two "shaped" loaves on parchment and ready to proof.

Nice and puffy..

...but dreadfully scored.

And anemically browned. I tried.

A nice creamy interior with pretty decent crumb structure. Mmmmm!