Monday, September 27, 2010

Whole Grain Spice Bars

Last week, I decided to head into Geula, one of Jerusalem's Hassidic neighborhoods. I had never before really appreciated it, as the culture it so different from mine, but these days I just find it fascinating. So off I went, to find some clothes, and just wander around and explore a bit. I did end up finding a dress and a blouse! and picking up some music, for some reason Im obsessed with Hassidic music... it's beautiful... Go figure. Anyway, while I was wandering around, my eye caught a Croc store. After going in without buying anything, I noticed a health food store. Now, there are some stores, like book stores, that I just can not resist going into. Health food stores are under that category because you just never know what you're going to find. And besides, lots of our conventional baking ingredients in Israel fall under the category of health food. Like maple syrup. Dont ask-I suppose it's just not so common here. And you can tell by its hefty price tag. So in to the store I went. I browsed around a bit and then noticed an entire back section of the store where they stocked all of their flours. Let me just say, was I surprised. They stocked every flour that I have ever wanted to lay my hands on but didnt think they had in this country. I came home with oat flour and... BARLEY FLOUR!!! and spelt flour as well. But they had everything! This store in Geula is a well kept secret and let me say, I will be going there ALOT. So naturally, what was one to do with all this flour? Get to whole grain baking, that's what! And so I went home and pulled KAF's Whole Grain Baking off the shelf and got to researching. Flours in hand, I bookmarked many recipes. I should say here that I decided to boil down the remaining apples to applesauce and I used most of it in a recipe that I had my eye on. Only I should tell you that it is very adapted and doesnt really resemble the original recipe. The original recipe is for Cinnamon Apple Bars with a PB Glaze but I didnt have cinnamon chips, I omitted the glaze and my girls told me they couldnt taste the applesauce but loved the spiciness. And so I dub these, Whole Grain Spice Bars. One of my girls called these bites of deliciousness and my roommate kept remarking on its moist texture. I was nervous about these because they were so crumbly. Perhaps they need to be held overnight before cutting. Turns out, my nerves were unwarranted. So there you have it. Bars that wont win any prizes for their humble looks, but delicious (and whole grain!) nonetheless.

Whole Wheat Dried Cherry Bread

This past week we began observing the holiday of Sukkot. The defining characteristics of Sukkot are building a hut like structure, in Hebrew a sukkah, where we eat and sleep and the four species, but that's for another time. In any case, the first day of the holiday I spent by my sister in Neve Daniel. Of course, I looked at that as an opportunity to bake and so I did. I offered to make a bread and a dessert. The tart is for later, but the bread I settled on was a whole wheat loaf from Hamelman's Bread. The original recipe calls for hazelnuts and currants, but I just used dried sour cherries. I think nuts would be a nice complement also, and so next time I would add some with the cherries as well. The bread, which I made by hand, is made with a preferment, and is easy to put together. The cherries were a tad bit stubborn when it came time to knead them in, but I knew that the rising would take care of that and it did. The bread itself had an even crumb and had a delicious crust and nice chew. It was not sweet at all and that is where the brilliance of the cherries come in. The cherries added the perfect sweetness. It was quite lovely. I made only half a recipe, and even that was too much. Once again, my slashing needs work. It wasnt terrible, but just not deep enough. Anyway, this bread is off to Yeastspotting, once again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Macrina Bakery's Challah

This Shabbat the High Holy Days culminated in the observance of Yom Kippur. Not only is it a commandment for Jews to fast on this day of atonement and teshuva, but it is a commandment to eat the day before as well. And so, before the fast comes in, Jewish families everywhere sit down to a proper meal. As we were once again going to be in SFM and eating our meal there, I decided to make a single challah to enjoy. I figured that even if we were going to be fasting on Shabbat itself, I might as well make one anyway and of course try a new recipe in the process. :) This week's recipe comes from the Macrina Bakery and Cake Cookbook and isnt it a stunner? The dough was easy to put together and handled beautifully. I let the dough ferment overnight in the fridge and shaped and baked the next morning. The recipe calls for only 2 1/4 cups flour (plus more as needed to make a firm dough, as per my tastes) and so two eggs indeed makes it a bit rich. With three tablespoons of sweetener, it was sweet but not too sweet and it was nice, soft and doughy in the center, just like I like it. The final bread also has the most beautiful color and varnish that I've seen on a bread in recent memory. Overall this challah was YUMMY. As for the shape? It's deceptively simple. You make a three strand braid, elongate it slightly and knot it. Done. Sending this over to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

KAF's Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

This year, one of my girl's presented me with a serious food challenge. She is the first girl I have met in my time here who has a gluten allergy due to a disease called colitis. I flipped out when I heard that! How on earth do they manage to stay away from all things bread?! I may only allow myself bread on weekends and holidays, but to have to go without bread forever??? To me, it's inconceivable but if it improves someone's health and quality of life.... I also felt bad that while everyone else can eat my baked goods, she can't. And so, I decided that I would make her some gluten-free goodies. Not all the time, but as a special treat, now and again. And so I conducted a ton of research and found out a lot of fascinating things about celiacs and gluten free baking. I became possessed by the research, scouring blogs and various web sites for promising recipes, finding many promising leads. So I went to the health food store in search of xantham gum, the one ingredient without which all of this gluten-free baking couldnt be done. Lo and behold, there in the Israeli health food store my eyes spotted the words (in Hebrew) "ksantam gam" and below it in English, xanthan gum. Bingo! I then proceeded to stock up on some gluten-free flours. The first thing I made her were brownies, as they are simple and chocolate- a good gluten-free choice. They were not only simple but well-received, if a bit fudgy and gooey. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever heard anyone complain about that.... My next challenge was bread. I remembered seeing a blog on the KAF Baker's Banter and went back to theirs. It looked really good and so I set out to make it having all of the ingredients on hand. Let me just say- gluten-free is a whole other ball game! It was refreshing not to worry about over beating the flours but it was also oddly goopy but didnt really stick to much. It was a really cool experiment. I gave A, the girl I'm baking for the loaf with the warning that gluten-free is not my niche and it's not my fault if it's bad. She took a piece off while it was hot and said that it was pretty good for gluten free. Afraid to taste it, I declined but then thought better of it later. I had her bring me a piece and I thought, that was it really good. I wouldn't even say good for gluten-free. I liked it! It was kind of nutty and a bit sweet... I was a fan. I would definitely make it again. The only changes I made were to use a bit of white rice flour instead of all brown, margarine instead of butter, and soy milk instead of regular and I used a hand mixer. This is impossible to make without some sort of electric mixer. Consider yourself warned. This bread is off to Yeastspotting!

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Lots to catch up on the blog and now that Yom Kippur is behind us, (more on that later) I'm going to get started. In the spirit of having to use leftover fruit.... One of my girls generously gifted me with two browning bananas. I thought, that's so sweet... but what the heck am I going to do with them?! And so they sat on my counter for a few days, getting nice and brown, until I found this  recipe in KAF Whole Grain Baking, a book that I had been revisiting and scanning for some gluten-free inspiration (more on that later, too!!) This recipe for simple banana bread is tucked away at the back of the book, why I'm not sure, but it spoke to me anyway. Firstly, it calls for all whole wheat flour, I used regular and not white whole wheat. Also, in addition to some brown sugar, the recipe calls for honey. I must say that this is the EASIEST banana bread I can recall making. It came together in less than five minutes. I added chocolate chips instead of walnuts because the whole wheat was too virtuous. And because E likes it that way. Anyway, my eager tasters pronounced this amazing and delicious. I'm guessing the whole wheat didnt interfere at all :) My only caveat is to bake this baby through! Mine was a bit underdone in the center. You might get thrown off by the dark coloring, but if you're nervous, tent the top of the loaf with foil. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

Another year at SFW means more of our cook's delicious meals which means more leftover fruit at mealtimes. And you know what that means. Into the oven they go. This month, the fruit of choice has been apples. I've been collecting a few apples at a time a couple of days ago finally put them to use. As with the bananas, it's been hard to find new and exciting but girl-friendly ways to use them- how many apple cakes, pies, and crisps can you make? If we were talking crisps, my roommate from last year would say ALOT but.... it was time for something else. And so, the research began. I liked the idea of apple bars and found a few promising recipes in the cookie books on my shelf. The recipe I settled on was the Dutch Apple Pie Bars from the King Arthur Cookie Companion. Of course, I couldnt leave it completely alone. Instead I made some alterations based on my laziness these are time consuming as it is!) and what I had, or didnt have, on hand. How did they fare? First of all, I objectively dont know how you can go wrong with a bite size apple pie. And indeed, I left them in my room, untouched, and returned to a mostly empty pan- see picture below. The compliments I received on them were glowing-- these homey bars were quite a winner. The apples are cut in a dice, and the long bake softens them up into a nice smooth filling. The girls really loved them. Keep an eye on how much sugar you add, a couple of girls commented that they were a tad too sweet. So what did I do differently? Well, I omitted the cream from the filling, the almond extract from the topping, and instead of melting the margarine for the topping, I just cut it in to the flour to make a more crumbly topping. Feel free to do it either way. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Streusel

Happy New Year! Jewish New Year, that is! We got back from a long three day stay in Shaalvim where we spent Rosh HaShana and Shabbat. It was intense and difficult what with wakeup and all, but the davening was beautiful and meaningful, even at 630 in the morning! This Shabbat was also E, my roommate and friend's twenty third birthday. (I'm sure not the best way for her to spend it...) I told her awhile back that she could choose anything she wanted for her birthday and she said banana bread with chocolate chips. To me, that's not a birthday cake... but for her birthday, her wish was my command, so I started collecting bananas and when they had gone bad, I froze them. I knew that there was no way things would be fresh until her birthday so I told her that the cake would have to be earlier. I dont think she was too bummed. So what did I make? Certainly not banana bread! I didn't have chocolate chips on hand and instead improvised something alot better which I think will become a signature. I decided to go with a banana cake baked in a 9x13 pan and topped with chocolate streusel. I have made streusel topped banana cake before, but I think the chocolate streusel was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. I recalled that the Tuesdays with Dorie group had just made a banana cake that was extremely flexible so I started there. I also remembered that Carole Walters had a recipe in her most recent book for chocolate streusel. And so, I put them together and this happy marriage became E's birthday cake, which she loved. It took a while for this to get finished because we kept it secret and it was also dairy, so people who had eaten meat couldnt partake of it. But it was finished the next day and everyone who had thoroughly enjoyed it, leaving but a few crumbs left in the pan. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Oreo Bars

Feeling stressed on Sunday, I knew that the thing that would relieve it all would be a good bake. But what to bake? That question always seems to add another layer of stress. One of the second years encouraged the peanut butter option. Seriously though, I have encountered more peanut butter and peanut butter baked goods last year and in the last month than I have in my life. It seems all these girls like to eat is peanut butter anything. Anyway, with a jar of peanut butter in hand, I set out to do some research. This was a particularly hard call to make seeing as my M.O is generally not to repeat recipes but once you've made PB everything, it's quite difficult to avoid. Still determined to bake, I flipped away through my cookbooks finally setting on a recipe from Paula Deen's Just Desserts. This is a book I picked up many summers ago and have kept on the back shelf until now. This is its first use. The original recipe makes a huge pan of peanut butter bars with a glaze. I, who can't leave well enough alone, decided to switch it up a bit. I omitted the glaze and the oatmeal from the recipe and instead added a full sleeve of chocolate sandwich cookies. My thinking that the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate is a winner led to the thought that who doesnt love a sandwich cookie? Boy, were my instincts good on this one. Not only did these run off the plate, some girls had as many as eight cookies! These were truly loved and I think that this is going to become a signature cookie for me. I will say that the cookies should be chopped on the smaller, less chunky side to ease spreading into the pan. This batter was a bit difficult to spread but is totally doable. The result is a generously sized batch of thin and chewy bites of peanut butter deliciousness. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

As I mentioned in the previous post, when I asked my sister what she wanted me to bring her for Shabbat she  said Orange Almond biscotti. Apparently, she had a craving. Unfortunately, I couldnt get my hands on oranges in time to make them so I asked her for an alternative suggestion. Without missing a beat she said, Chocolate Almond Biscotti. My response? Excellent choice. And so I popped open the Cookie Companion to the chapter devoted solely to these beloved Italian cookies and chose the recipe simply titled, Chocolate Almond Biscotti. Easy to make, biscotti are a twice baked cookie that are perfectly suited to a dip in your morning coffee, or whenever you're in the mood for a crunchy bite. The only suggestion I can offer is to chop the almonds on the smaller side so that they don't tear up the cookies when you're trying to slice them.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

KAF's Challah

Another weekend, another challah. I spent this weekend at my sister's in Neve Daniel. It was so nice to spend a relaxing weekend away from work with her and family. Not to mention how cute my niece is.... Anyways, I asked what I could bake and she requested biscotti, as she had a craving, but more on that later. I also offered to bake challot, for reasons that readers of this blog know about already. (Anyone getting sick of seeing challot on the blog?! Don't answer that...) The recipe I chose this week is from the King Arthur Baker's Companion, my well loved and often used go-to baking book. I hadn't planned on using the recipe from here but stumbled upon it when I was looking for biscotti recipes and I figured, why not? This is the second recipe that I have seen thus far that uses a sponge. Let me say, this is quite untraditional. Normally, everything goes into a bowl at once. The sponge ferments for about forty five minutes, so really it was not a big deal at all. After that, everything goes into the bowl. The dough was a pleasure to knead and rose nicely also. It braided nicely as well and aside for my too tight braiding, the loaves were beautiful. I had never before used an egg white glaze but it works pretty well, although the result is more matte than with an egg yolk finish. As for the challot themselves, I really liked them. Alot. For an egg challah, they were not overly eggy at all and although there was more sugar than Im used to for this amount of flour, it wasnt too sweet either. It also had a nice doughy flavor that I havent had in a while. The texture was terrific, nice and fluffy and oh so delicious. It seems that I'm becoming an egg challah convert..... The recipe indicates that this makes one loaf, which would be quite large. I made one large six stranded loaf and one smaller three stranded loaf. Braid as you please! And check out this week's Yeastspotting!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Out of This World Brownies with Oreos

Inspired by The Brownie Project where one blogger posts about her adventures with brownies (I should have a Challah Project! Hmmmm) I planned to make brownies for the first in Shabbat. Except I wanted to make brownies with chopped cookies in them. However, my roommate, who went shopping for my ingredients, returned cookie-less. And so, it was plain, regular brownies for Shabbat. Delicious ones, according to all the tasters, but not what I had in mind. So when I went shopping with my sister for her baking adventures and I found imitation Oreo cookies, I snagged a couple of packages and brought them home. These brownies would be made! Fast forward to yesterday when I had to get ready for another wedding. (The wedding was awesome, by the way. Casual and relaxed with a great band, great food, great friends and great weather!) Before I got ready for the wedding though, I decided to whip up a small batch of brownies, as I only had two eggs left! I noticed on The Brownie Project that its author, Megan, had tested these brownies and in searching for a brownie recipe for Shabbat noticed them too (but rejected them for some reason). It seemed like a promising choice and indeed this recipe was perfect for what I was looking for. So yesterday I pulled Desserts by the Yard off the shelf and got to baking. These brownies are pretty standard in technique- beat eggs and sugar, and melted chocolate and margarine, fold in flour. I folded in a bunch of chopped cookies and spread them in the pan. I think I underbaked them because when I cut them they were insanely fudgy. I popped them into the fridge and instructed my roommate to serve them at curfew while I was at the wedding. One of the second years told me I outdid myself with these. Indeed, I came home to an empty plate. I suppose that speaks for itself? Make these- they live up to their name.