Monday, June 27, 2011

Beer Bread

After the disaster that was A's original birthday cake, I had almost an entire bottle of beer leftover. My first instinct? Beer bread. But not the quick bread kind. I wanted an honest to goodness loaf of yeasted bread made with beer. A quick scan through my shelf of bread books yielded a perfect and perfectly simple recipe for Beer Bread in the Bread Bible. I made this dough in the mixer, using sugar instead of malt powder or syrup. The dough after kneading was so silky and a pleasure to work with. I let it rise at room temperature and then shaped and allowed it to proof overnight in the fridge, although Rose says this is not necessary because of the deep flavor the beer gives. Anyway, the next day, I took the well risen loaf out of the fridge, scored and baked. Later that night, I ripped into it and the first bite was sweet, with an unidentifiable flavor contributed by the beer. It was, frankly, delicious with a soft and moist crumb. My roommate, a friend and I finished the whole loaf within minutes. Should it last longer than that, it would actually make great sandwiches. Even if you don't happen to have leftover beer on hand, I would strongly recommend you buy a bottle strictly for this purpose. This Beer Bread is headed for this week's Yeastspotting!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nectarine Lattice Pie

I realize it's been a while since I last posted.. but there are good reasons for that, I assure you. One is I finally moved to my new apartment!!!!! Yes, I am sitting on my new bed, enjoying GOOD wireless internet (poo poo poo) in my new neighborhood. :) And secondly, my dad's here for the week, so between unpacking and spending time with him, (and sorting out ANNOYING army stuff) this Nectarine Lattice Pie, which I made a couple of weeks back when I went to visit L and J, got pushed to the back burner. This recipe was adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking. The original recipe is for a Nectarine Blackberry Pie but since blackberries cost an arm and a leg and it is peak season for nectarines, that's exactly what they got. (For those of you who think the concept of nectarine pie is bizarre, just think about peach pie, minus the fuzz.) I really enjoy making pies and this was no exception, especially since this one gave me a chance to improve my lattice making skills.  A scoop of ice cream on a hot Shabbat afternoon wouldn't be amiss here whether you choose to serve the pie hot or cold.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Double Fudge Mint Brownies

I'm not sure how I neglected to take a final photograph of these brownies, but it seems I did. Oh well. This past weekend I went to my friends (crazy!) in Alon Shvut and I baked dessert. L told me that she likes chocolate and mint while her husband likes fruit and pies. So for her, I made these Double Fudge Mint Brownies and for him, a nectarine pie (more on that later). For the brownies I used the brownies from KAF Whole Grain Baking and added in chopped Mint Thins to give them a mint profile. The mint thins melted nicely into the final brownie so you would never know they were there just by looking. They turned out nice and fudgy and delicious, with no indication that they are whole grain. Be sure to let them set overnight for the bran in the whole wheat to sufficiently soften. Following is a half recipe, as I made it. Double for a full 9x13 inch pan.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gingerbread Cake with White Chocolate Lemon Mousse Frosting

My dear roommate A turned 23 last week and in honor, I wanted to make her a birthday cake. Not wanting there to be any surprises, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted and while she didn't have any definitive requests she was opposed to having a chocolate cake. The entire year A had been begging me to bake spice cookies so in tribute to that love of hers, I decided to bake a gingerbread cake. A quick browse through Sky High Cakes and I had found the cake I was going to bake. A Gingerbread Beer Cake. I went out to buy all the ingredients and set out to making it. I don't know what went wrong, but the cake turned out soft and sticky with no structure and it sunk. Big time. Into the trash it went. Plan B. I opened up my copy of Country Living's Great Cakes and landed on Grandma Stonifer's Spice Cake. Bingo. The recipe is one for a two layer birthday cake but of course as my oven has room for only one pan at a time, one layer baked up perfectly while the other sank. It was going to have to be a one layer birthday cake. I wrapped it up and set it aside for the next day. As I was on my way to catch a bus, an idea for frosting hit me like a ton of bricks. Lemon infused white chocolate ganache frosting! Excitedly, I went out to get the white chocolate and lemon and got to work right when I got back. Now, I'm not going to lie, I prepared the white chocolate ganache in Sherry Yard's book but I don't remember how much cream I added to it to get it to a spreadable consistency when I whipped it. I peeled off strips of zest from the lemon and steeped it in the cream, for a subtle but present flavor. When the frosting became spreadable, I covered the cake with it. I used my leftover gingerbread crumbs to coat the sides and some of the top, which was a big hit, pulling the lemon and ginger flavors together. A LOVED the frosting (she got so mad when she saw I got rid of the unused frosting) but thought the cake could use a bit more moisture, so next time I would add some oil in place of some of the shortening. All in all, this cake was a winner and I was very proud of it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Carrot Bread

The final Shabbat that we had with the girls was spent in the dorms and as I was baking for it minimally, I decided to bake some rolls for myself. I'd long been wanting to make carrot bread and on one of my trips to the shuk, I remembered to pick up a couple to make the recipe from Secrets of a Jewish Baker, fast becoming one of my favorite bread books. (Yes, there is a bit of competition for that spot. I have more bread books than anything else!!) The bread calls for a sponge and some grated or ground carrots. The carrots lent a lovely orange color to the bread, but I wonder if the ground carrots would have made the color more intense and lent more of a sweetness to the bread itself. I opted to make half a recipe, which resulted in six large, perfect sandwich rolls. They turned out crusty on the outside but nice and soft in the middle. The flavor is much like a water roll and the texture is quite sturdy, so these would be perfect for burgers or sandwiches. I enjoyed mine with lots of eggplant salads on Shabbat. I omitted the milk powder from the recipe to keep them parve, but I imagine the addition of milk would make the texture a bit softer. I also made a note to increase the salt for next time, something I seem to be doing in all of Greenstein's breads. These rolls are being Yeastspotted! Check out Susan's weekly round up on Friday.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rustic Apricot Galette

It's apricot season here in Israel and every time I walk through the shuk, I stare longingly at the containers of them lining each fruit stand. Sadly, they are still too expensive to justify buying. And so, I continue walking through, apricot-less. To my total surprise and excitement, our terrific cook B ordered PLENTY of apricots for our final Shabbat at SFW! Going through them and washing them to serve, there were of course some fruits that were blemished and too soft to be deemed edible. I happily set those aside to bake with. I headed back to my room, apricots (mishmish, in Hebrew) in tow to begin the research process. After flipping through a number of books (all of my pie books came up empty!) I was hit with inspiration and ran to pick up Regan Daly's In the Sweet Kitchen. There in the section for Pies and Tarts was a recipe for a Rustic Apricot Galette.  Ahhh, perfection. Rustic, simple and beautiful (I can hardly look at the pictures, the fruit is stunningly bright!), just the thing to highlight this perfect fruit. A couple of summers ago I made the plum variation but my pie skills were seriously lacking then and well, it wasn't entirely successful. This was the chance to redeem myself and it was quite nice to see how well my pie making skills have developed. This open faced pie came together so quickly. I chilled it in the fridge the night before and baked it the next morning although I wouldnt repeat that because although the chilling step is IMPERATIVE a lot of liquid somehow seeped out of the galette making a bit of a mess. Lesson learned. Anyway, the heat of the oven did wonders for this and the apricots tasted tart  and sweet and delicious, like the best apricot preserves in a simple filling. If there are apricots to be found near you, make this in celebration of the season's bounty.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Regan Daly's Really REALLY Fudgy Brownies

The very last girl left a couple of hours ago and now the dorms are eerily quiet and empty. It's at once both peaceful and sad but I suppose life must go on and now I'm faced with the intimidation that is packing up an entire room! Instead, I'm blogging :) The girls' last hurrah was this past Sunday evening and I was asked to bake brownies to contribute to the dessert table. Seeing as this would be the last time they would enjoy my baked goods, I happily obliged. It was settled that I'd make three pans of brownies so I thought that I would flavor two of the three pans but in the end I just left them all plain and it was good I did. As for the recipe itself, I decided to give a new recipe a try that being the Really REALLY Fudgy Brownie from Regan Daly's In The Sweet Kitchen. A quick glance through the recipe told me that it was very, very similar to the Baked recipe and so I knew this was a guaranteed success. So I got to work. The pictures below indicate a triple batch and yes, I was actually covered with chocolate by the end but it was all worth it. These brownies turned out perfectly crackly, fudgy and well, heavenly. The perfect way to end a great year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Buttermilk Cluster

I spent Shavuot in school with the girls and so wanted to bake some bread to enjoy for it. Because we traditionally eat dairy on Shavuot, I took the opportunity to make the bread dairy. (Dairy bread, by Jewish law is forbidden to make, lest one accidentally eat it at a meat meal. The only way it is permissible is if the shape is distinct enough to serve as a reminder that it is different than the norm.) For ages, I've seen the picture of the Buttermilk Cluster on the Fresh Loaf website and so I wanted to make something along those lines. I opened up Secrets of a Jewish Baker and settled on the Buttermilk Bread. I made half a recipe in my mixer and baked it as rolls in a cake pan. I used oil instead of margarine or shortening. This dough would make a great sandwich loaf because it is nice and soft. I was anticipating a sweeter roll with a stronger taste of buttermilk although I'm not sure why because there is barely any sweetener in it, this making it perfect for savory applications. Next time, I would definitely up the salt as I found myself sprinkling the rolls with salt before I took each bite. Because I love sesame seeds, I took the liberty of glazing the rolls with egg white and sprinkling half of them with sesame seeds. These rolls are being Yeastspotted!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lemon Chiffon Pie in Gingersnap Crust

I've been baking a lot lately, but things have been crazy and I am just now finding the time to post. The girls' banquet or sob fest was last night and most of them are leaving in the next couple of days so my time is freeing up for a bit before I move. Crazy! Two weekends ago, when I went to A for Shabbat, I brought over this Lemon Chiffon Pie. Something mousse-like was requested and I immediately went for lemon. I figured a chiffon pie would be perfect and indeed, made with a homemade gingersnap crust, it was. In my humble opinion, gingersnap and lemon are perfectly complementary and everyone else agreed. Light and refreshing, it's the perfect summertime dessert. However, there are a couple of technical things I'd do differently. The recipe for the chiffon pie comes from the book Pie by Ken Haedrich. He calls for one envelope of gelatin and not knowing what the Israeli equivalent was, I used 2 teaspoons. I think it was too much as the end product was a but too... jiggly for my liking. I loved the texture of it when it was still mousse-like, not all the way set. I think the next time I make this, and there will be a next time (even if I only make the filling as a dessert) I'd cut the gelatin back to the vicinity of a teaspoon, a teaspoon and a quarter. Otherwise, I have no complaints. All my eaters were happy. My roommate ate the leftovers of this pie all the way to the last crumb.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chocolate Refrigerator Cake

I had a beautiful Shabbat this past weekend, spent with friends in one of my favorite places, the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem. For both of my meals, I was put on dessert duty. I'm always happy to make desserts but lately I've been realizing that it's easier to make difficult life decisions than decide what to make for dessert. It's actually pretty sad :) I spent part of my in-day on Tuesday researching desserts (yes, baking constitutes research for me!) that would be great for a hot day and as I was flipping through all my books I was hit with inspiration. Chocolate Refrigerator Cake! Or Cookies and Cream Cake. Whichever you think will elicit a better reaction from your eaters.This cake comes from the fifties but is no less of a success now than it was then. Made with chocolate wafer cookies layered with whipped cream and then stacked in rows in a pan, the cake is chilled overnight where the cookies soften into a wonderful cake-like consistency. You can use store-bought chocolate wafers or make your own, as I chose to do here. I used the recipe from the Cookie Companion but you can also use the cocoa wafer recipe found here. Once the cookies are made, this is a breeze to put together. The response to this dessert was overwhelmingly positive. At both meals where I served this, people LOVED it! With cookies and cream involved, it's not too difficult to understand why, but still my roommate placed this in her favorites of all time category and she's been eating my baking for two years now! Needless to say, if you're looking for a fun dessert to make this summer, this should be it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Strawberry Linzer Bars

The hunt for nut based cookies keeps going. This here is a bar cookie that plays off the classic Linzertorte. I used one bag of ground hazelnuts/filberts to make a dough that is layered with strawberry jelly and topped with some reserved crumbled dough. I know raspberry is the more traditional option, but they were out in the supermarket. The girls found these bars interesting and happily ate them, but I was in love with the scent of the hazelnuts, toasting as they baked. (Whenever I buy raw hazelnuts for snacking, I ALWAYS toast them before eating. There is just nothing like it.) Everything comes together super fast with a handy-dandy mixer. Be aware that the crust won't deeply brown and also grease your pan WELL so you have no breakage where the jelly sticks to the pan. Only three bags of nuts to go!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Apple Rhubarb Pandowdy

The picture you see here may look like a pie, but really, it's something a bit simpler to put together with a much cooler name. It's a pandowdy. A pandowdy essentially is a bottomcrust-less pie, so instead of going through the work of making and rolling out two pie crusts, you only have the inconvenience (if you can call making pies incovenient! Shame on you!) of making one. Naturally, I still had some rhubarb leftover and some apples that were neglected from dinner so I threw this together one night. The recipe comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts and it really couldn't be easier, especially if you have ready made pie crusts (only the homemade kind!) in the freezer. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is really welcome here, so if you have that, this will make a wonderful Shabbat dessert. Or whenever you just feel like having a nice plate of comforting pandowdy. Or two. With ice cream. I won't tell.