Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sweet Potato Rolls

The winds have changed and summer is finally here. We've had some beautifully cool days along with some disgustingly hot days but overall, I couldnt be happier to welcome summer. Kids heading off to day camp, the smell of pine trees that remind me of my childhood days upstate, fresh laundry hanging out on the line, soon to come in clean and sunkissed.... nothing better. I've been spending time in Jerusalem, hanging out with friends, baking a bit, and overall just lazing about enjoying my vacation. And while all that is just idyllic, it can't be overlooked that the summer months are accompanied by some pretty sad days on the Jewish calendar, yesterday being one of them. The seventeenth of Tammuz marks the first day of the siege around Jerusalem. It begins the three week period of mourning which culminates in the ninth of Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the Temples. We observe both days by fasting. Yesterday's fast was long but I got through it by baking and to break it, I went in to Jerusalem to break it over good food and the good company of friends. So what did I bake? These rolls and a potato pizza which Ill blog about later. My friend A, the host of the meal, asked me to make something that could be incorporated into the meal. I suggested breads as that's part of my specialty, and everyone knows I dont cook particularly well, so she suggested sweet potatoes rolls. Now that was no big deal as I adore sweet potatoes, have been eating them non stop these few weeks and always have a few around. This recipe is adapted from this one and I must say that not only were they fun to make, what with all the shaping and all, but they came out beautifully. The texture was soft without being squishy, had a beautiful orange color with some bits of sweet potato hanging out and nice, roll flavor. They really are multi-purpose and accompanied our meal quite nicely. This a great roll recipe to keep in your repertoire. The feedback from these? Uh-ma-zing.

Sweet Potato Rolls
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup soy milk
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, or more as needed

Have your sweet potatoes mashed and ready to go.
Place the milk, yeast, salt, egg, oil and sweet potato in a bowl,and whisk to blend.
Add most of the flour,
and stir to form a shaggy dough.
Gather the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface.
Kneaded until it is smooth and not sticky, about five to six minutes.
Place in a large bowl, grease the top and turn to coat. Set aside to rise for about an hour and a half.
The dough will not have doubled but will be noticeably puffy.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Portion the dough, I opted for ten rolls.
Roll the dough into logs and allow to rest for easier rolling.
Roll the dough into strands and shape each individual into a kaiser shape. Takes lots of practice, but you'll get it right.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to proof for about 35 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375.
Once proofed, glaze the rolls with a beaten egg. Top with sesame seeds, if desired.
Bake for 17-19 minutes until nice and golden brown.
These rolls have been Yeastspotted!

Monday, June 28, 2010


I finally made bagels! Real boiled bagels! Let me back up. School's out, work's out and I have a house to myself. Add up all those factors and you get, play time! In my terms, that means bake time. I havent made all that much because I dont really eat carbs except on the weekends now and Im only one person. But I have some upcoming projects, fear not! Im growing a sourdough starter so stay tuned for those breads and a couple of other things for tomorrow. Anyway, back to it. I dont know what inspired the bagel choice, maybe it was the fact that I ACTUALLY HAVE A STOVE TOP and could successfully boil bagels, or maybe it was the fact that the Brooklyn girl inside me has not had a bagel in ages. In any case, I was excited to do them right. For that, I turned to my copy of BBA and went for his bagel recipe. When I say it wasnt hard, it really wasnt hard. I made the sponge early afternoon, whipped up the dough in no time, let it rise, shaped them and refrigerated overnight. I didnt run into any glitches over there, I think I kneaded sufficiently and the bagels looked lovely out of the fridge. The only thing I should have done was grease the parchment paper because I had a bit of hard time releasing them. But no major harm done there. I boiled them in baking soda solution, topped with sesame seeds and baked. Voila! Bagels! I made half the recipe which gave me six bagels, so five went into the freezer until Shabbat and one went to my friend S, whom I was visiting that day. She was quite excited for that bagel. She declared them chewy and delicious. When I had them on Shabbat they were out of the freezer so they were certainly not as fresh and even textured as they could have been. But they were really good spread with some tahini and tomato, that's how I enjoyed it. I think I would increase the salt a bit in the recipe next time as well. just a note about shaping- I used both the rope and seal method and the poke a hole in the middle method and they both turn out pretty nice looking bagels. Sorry for the lack of photographs. I took pictures the whole way through, but my memory card has had a breakdown and no longer works for me. The camera phone it is! This bread has been Yeastspotted!

from the Bread Baker's Apprentice- makes six bagels

1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

1 tsp yeast
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
1 3/8 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp brown sugar

Baking soda
sesame seeds or whatever you'd like to top them with

For the sponge: Combine the sponge ingredients in a bowl and allow to rise for around two hours or until the sponge is on the verge of collapse.
When the sponge is ready, add the tsp of yeast and stir until combined. Add salt, sugar and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mix until a shaggy dough has formed and begin kneading until a dough ball is formed. Slowly incorporate all of the remaining flour until a tacky, smooth, stiff dough has formed. Adjust the water if the dough is too dry. Immediately portion the dough into six pieces and allow to rest for twenty minutes. Shape the bagels and place on a greased sheet of parchment on a baking tray. Allow to rest for twenty minutes. Cover with greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Boil a pot full of water and and about a tbsp of baking soda to it. Drop each bagel into the water and cook for about one minute on each side. While each bagel is in the water, sprinkle cornmeal onto the sheet where it was to prevent sticking. Once the bagel is on the sheet, sprinkle with the toppings of your choice while they are still wet. Bake for five minutes. Reduce the temperature to 450, rotate the pan and bake an additional five minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely and enjoy. Freeze for long term storage.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Aren't those the most picture perfect looking cookies you've ever seen? They look like they came from a bakery with those trademark crackles and the controlled spread. Well guess what? I made them. And guess what else? I made them with oil. And they're good. Really good. In my quest to find cookie recipes with oil to use up the oil I had in the pantry, I found this recipe. A few tweaks later, and I had these cookies which, believe it or not, rival any butter or margarine cookie out there. Dont believe me? Try them yourselves. I made these cookies at least three times in the last week, each time to raving reviews. It's also nice to feel slightly less guilt when munching on cookies. Not only that, but the use of oil in this recipe makes it literally a snap to put together. All it takes is a bowl and a whisk. Minimal dishes, definitely a plus. I brought these to my brother and sister in law for Shabbat and they and their little kids reached for cookie after cookie after cookie. The changes that I made to this recipe were as follows: I increased the salt, reduced the amount of oil, added a tbsp of corn syrup to preserve their chewiness out of the oven, and I chopped chocolate bars into chunks instead of using chips, to get that nice melty quality that you cant get with chips. I think Im going to try to fool around with this recipe to come up with a chocolate cookie and an oatmeal cookie. Ill let you know how that goes.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies, My Way
yields 48 cookies

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a bowl, place the eggs and sugars. Whisk vigorously until combined. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and blend. Add all of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks. You can chill the dough overnight at this point, if desired. Scoop the cookie dough on to the prepared sheets. Bake for just eight minutes, or until the cookies appear light colored and cracked. Immediately remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on their sheets. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a sealed container for longer storage. I doubt theyll last that long.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread

So I'm finally moved out of SFW and into my sister's house for the summer. As a result of the moving, I'm battered and bruised from packing and shlepping suitcases and boxes of books and toiletries everywhere. Finally, Thursday afternoon, I was done. Once again, to avoid waste, I did my best to put my remaining ingredients and things I found left in the girls' rooms to use, this time in two breads. The first was a semolina sandwich loaf which I've made and blogged before and this Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread from Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. Truth be told this was the bread of choice because of the walnuts and craisins I found left behind. It just made sense. This bread is one of his easier ones to make and resulted in the most beautiful dough, so easy to knead and handle. The dough called for milk but I used water and butter but I used oil as I knew it was destined to accompany some meaty Shabbat meal. I also used only as many craisins as I had which I'm happy about because the loaf was perfectly balanced and also allowed for easy incorporating. The dough also called for 1 1/2 tbsp of orange extract which gave the dough a strong alcoholic smell that I was nervous would come through in the final product. The double decker braiding was kind of fun but I wish I had just stuck with a regular six braid-- it's more impressive in my opinion. So how did it turn out? Well, firstly, the finished loaf had the most beautiful looking, varnished like crust I've ever seen. The flavor was really good and tasted wonderfully of orange, not extracty at all. As for the texture, it was a bit dry as I used the water instead of milk and it spent some time in the freezer. Perhaps it could have been baked a few minutes less as well. Overall though, I was really happy with it and given the chance I would make it again. Check out this week's Yeastspotting, your one stop for all your bread kneads. Haha. What a dork I am.

Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread
from the Bread Baker's Apprentice

3 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons (.39 ounce) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons orange or lemon extract
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or any kind of milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, melted or oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups craisins, or less

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 egg, for egg wash

Place the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Whisk to distribute evenly.
Add the eggs, melted butter, milk and extract.
Stir to make a shaggy dough. Add some of the water as needed to make a manageable mass.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead until a smooth, tacky but not sticky dough forms.
Top the dough with the walnuts and craisins,
and knead them into the dough by folding it over on itself. Be patient. The more you use, the less they'll want to incorporate. But they will eventually.
Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into three large pieces, and three smaller pieces.
Roll the larger pieces into three long ropes, and the smaller ones into shorter ropes.
Form a small braid from the small strands and a larger one from the longer strands.
Top the larger braid with the smaller one.
Allow to rise until puffy. When the proof is about half over, preheat the oven to 325.
Brush the loaf with the beaten egg.
Bake for about twenty minutes. Rotate the loaf and continue to bake for an additional fifteen to twenty minutes or until the loaf registers 185-190 degrees on a thermometer. Cool completely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vanilla Pound Cake

I was commissioned to make dessert for last week's end of year banquet. I met with the committee and they decided that they just wanted lots of cookies. So I made five types- sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter, spice and oatmeal craisin. Thinking that this wouldnt be enough (and it turns out that with the additional fruit, popcorn and candy, it was more than enough), I decided to make some cake, too. I settled on the Vanilla Pound Cake from The Cake Bible because it was simple, used things I already had in my pantry and was bound to be delicious. This is a cake that uses Rose's classic technique of creaming the dry ingredients with the fat and some liquid before adding the remaining liquid. As all of her batters are using this technique, the batter was silky and beautiful. I used vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract and not only did it wonderfully perfume the cake but it also added some nice specks to the batter. The resulting cake is soft and delicate and I believe, pound cake nirvana. I made a double batch of this recipe but I was too quick to unmold one of them and it fell apart. Since serving one was no help, I just cut it all up into slices and let the girls at it when we came back from the Kotel after the party. It was thoroughly enjoyed. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour as that is what I had on hand.

Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from The Cake Bible

3 tbsp milk
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups cake flour- I used 150 grams of all purpose
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
13 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, softened

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the milk, eggs and vanilla in a bowl.
Whisk to combine.
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl,
and whisk to combine and aerate.
Add the butter or margarine and some of the egg mixture.
Beat until all the dry ingredients are moistened, taking care to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Add the remaining egg mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.Here is the completed batter. It's impossible to see the flecks of vanilla, but trust me, they're there.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Tent with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning.
Let the cake cool on a rack for ten minutes before unmolding.
Slice and serve. Whipped cream and berries would be terrific with this. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pane Siciliano

More students are gone! The hallways are eerily quiet and I'm supposed to be packing. I've made a dent, but there's still plenty more to go. Not while my roommate sleeps, though. So I'm catching up on the blog. I should tell you that I'm very closely watching my weight and so I only allow myself bread for Shabbat. This considered, I thought it might be nice to bake my own fresh bread for Shabbat and have that as my treat instead of the commercially baked white rolls that normally grace the table here. Since I still have semolina flour that Im slowly getting rid of, I figured that Pane Siciliano would be a good bread to make. I used the recipe from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. This was a three day affair for me. I made the pate fermentee Wednesday morning and then mixed the dough Wednesday night. I fermented the dough in the refrigerator overnight and then shaped the breads on Thursday. I held them overnight once again and baked them fresh Friday morning. Overall, this was an uncomplicated bread to make- nothing is too complicated, although I must admit that I shaped these incorrectly. They are supposed to be S's but mine are backward. I guess I have some dyslexic tendencies. I wish that I had had sesame seeds on hand to enhance the flavor of these and give them some texture but I suppose that'll do next time. Also, the anemic crust is due to my lack of steaming, something nearly impossible in my toaster oven. The crumb was a golden yellow and unsurprisingly even but the flavor was really delicious. It was enjoyed with tuna fish and cucumbers. Honestly though, it was quite good on its own. Reheat as needed for optimum freshness. I'm sending this over to Yeastspotting. Check it out!

Pane Siciliano
closely adapted from the Bread Baker's Apprentice

Pate Fermentee:
10 ounces all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
6-7 ounces water

All of pate fermentee
8 ounces all purpose flour
8 ounces semolina flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp canola oil
10-12 ounces water
sesame seeds

For the pate fermentee:
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add the water,
and mix until a shaggy dough is formed.
Knead until smooth and tacky.
Let rise until doubled in size. Deflate the dough and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. An hour before youre ready to bake, remove the scrap dough from the fridge to dechill. Tear into pieces.
Place the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.
Whisk to combine.
Add the oil, water and torn pate fermentee.
Mix to make a shaggy dough.
Knead until a nice, smooth dough forms.
Grease the top of the dough and allow to rise until nicely risen. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Here's my chilled dough.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces.
Roll each piece into a log,
and coil each end, simultaneously rolling them towards the midpoint of the rope to form an S. Or a seahorse.
Place all the breads on a baking sheet.
Proof overnight. The next day turn your oven to 450 and preheat a baking stone. Glaze the breads with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
Bake for fifteen minutes and then rotate the baking sheet. Bake another fifteen minutes or until a thermometer registers 200 degrees. Carefully remove from the oven and cool completely before serving.