When in Singapore…

Sadly, I wasn’t the one who got to go to Singapore – this time. Chris headed out there last Friday as he says, to “take care of bizniss”. And although he spent 2 of the 5 days going to and fro, the other 3 were primarily loaded with plenty of Apple-related activity.

He did get to eat to eat plenty of good food, like black pepper crab and all sorts of handmade noodle dishes, and he shopped for durian in the local markets. He admitted that it smelled like shit, and even though it’s fruit, technically, it supposedly has a weird custard-like consistency. Meh. I’ll stick with Asian pears as my “exotic fruits”.

Anywho, he arrived back safe and sound late this week, bloated, jet-lagged, and with a bag of boxed noodle dishes so I can make my own Singapore noodle entrees at home. YUM. I’m definitely glad he’s back, but while he was gone I must say I accomplished quite a bit.

For starters, I mopped. Okay, our detergent-filled robot mopped, but that still meant I had to move rugs around AND put them back. Why, you ask? We’re having a party this weekend. That’s right, Iron Chef San Francisco is about to be in full effect. YES!

I listened to Bjork. And Cake. And I watched a few episodes of What Not to Wear. I even drank a bottle of Pinot while watching Something Borrowed on Saturday night, with Indian takeout in my belly. It was downright awesome. Sometimes a quiet weekend evening is the most perfect thing on earth (especially with lackluster romantic comedies at play).

I went to the San Rafael farmers’ market in search of pink lemons, only to find the three remaining fruits hard and shriveled; the weather was nice, though, and Judy bought dining room chairs – finally! Earlier that weekend, we noshed on plenty of goodies at the¬†SF Street Food Festival, including steamed pork buns, arepas, and something I’ve been craving for weeks – no lie – chocolate babka from Wise Sons Deli.

And then!, inspired by the layers upon layers of said chocolate, and in between Mexican dinner and ice cream with the other Heather – a perfect weeknight catch-up, I finished off my lonely week by making my own babka at home. I even took it in to work the next day for fear I’d eat it all when no one was watching. Or even if everyone was watching, because when something’s this good, who cares, really. There’s no need for class when chocolate’s involved, is there?

 

Chocolate Babka
from Good to the Grain; makes 1 cake

time commitment: ~ 4 hours (a little over an hour active time – most of time is letting dough rise) + overnight chilling in the fridge

oh! a couple of things. this recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, which means that a lot of interesting flours are used. I’m sure you can find them online, but I bought my Kamut and millet flours from a bulk market (Rainbow Grocery in SF). Whole Foods probably carries them too. if all else fails, I’m sure you could substitute other flours or even just use all purpose, although the texture and taste will obviously be a little different….

also! i’m serious when I say to put the rolls in randomly (you’ll see). the dough falls into place upon baking and when it comes out, it looks like a perfect gorgeous cake. this bread is amazing like that.

printable version

ingredients
sponge
1 pack active dry yeast
1 c 2% milk
1 T honey
1 c Kamut flour
1/4 c millet flour

dough
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 T kosher salt
3 eggs
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp

filling
1 c pecan halves
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

instructions
make the sponge. pour yeast into bowl of stand mixer. heat milk in microwave so that it’s warm to the touch; pour over the yeast and stir together. add honey, Kamut flour and millet flour, then stir again. add all-purpose flour to the top of the dough, then the salt; do not stir.

let the sponge sit for 30 minutes, until flour cracks. meanwhile sit eggs out to come to room temperature. after 30 minutes, crack eggs and add to the sponge. affix the hook attachment and mix on low until flour is incorporated, scraping down sides.

if dough is sticking to the sides, add 1 extra T of all-purpose flour at a time and stir until dough is forming a cohesive mass and pulling away from the bowl (may take up to 1/2 c). turn mixer to medium and mix for 5 minutes; strop and scrape dough from hook and bowl. mix for another 5 minutes. at this point, the dough should be an elastic mass. add butter 1 T at a time and mix on medium until each is incorporated. afterwards the dough will be shiny and soft.

spray or butter a large bowl, scrape dough into the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 2 hours. punch dough down, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

rub a bundt pan with butter or spray and add a bit of sugar to dust. toast pecans in a skillet over medium for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. meanwhile, dust top of dough with flour and place, flour side down, onto a floured work surface. dust top with flour and roll into a rectangle 10 x 16 inches. rub butter onto dough or drop into small chunks. combine sugars and salt into a small bowl and spread over dough. once pecans are toasted, slightly break them up and sprinkle over sugar mixture, then add the chocolate.

starting at the wide end of the dough, roll into a tight log, and slice into 13-15 pieces. place pieces randomly into the bundt pan (some upright, some spiral side down, etc), filling in large spaces, until all pieces are added. dump any extra sugar/pecans/chocolate over the top; cover and let dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

preheat oven to 350 F. once dough has risen, bake for 40 minutes. remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes, then place a rack over the top and flip upside down, releasing the bread. if not eating right away, store in airtight container.

We Go Together

Some things are meant to go together. It’s easy like that.

It’s like a game when someone says one word, and then you say the first word that comes to mind upon hearing that word – you know, the natural or most logical answer. Like if I said “dog” you’d perhaps say “bark” or “cat”. Or if I said “cotton”, you might say “candy” or “ball”. You get the jist, no?

Movies?

Popcorn. You can’t go to a movie without seeing a ton of folk noshing on butter-laden bags of it, right? It just makes sense. For us though, movies = hot tamales snuck in from Walgreens. Popcorn is a splurge

Peanut butter?

Jelly or bananas. I used to think only jelly went with peanut butter, but I eventually saw the light, and I’d take a PB&B sandwich any day. And PB&J is a lovely standby, so long as there’s no seeds in my J. Credit would also be given to the word cookie, because peanut butter cookies are dynamite.

Red wine?

Any red meat. This is a total no-brainer. Please don’t drink Chardonnay with your steak. Thank you. I’ll also accept any red varietal for credit here, if you must know.

Milk?

Cookies. I mean, duh. Except if you’re lactose-intolerant, then I’d suggest almond milk instead. Extra-tasty, indeed.

Scallions?

Cilantro. And sesame seeds, and bread. Oh, and yeast. Holy moly. If there was ever something you should make in double quantity, it’s this bread. You’d be sorely regretful otherwise – I ain’t playin’.

But for serious – these ingredients are like a mixture of everything lovely. A crunch here, a chew there, you’d have a hard time eating just one roll, which is why you’d be smart to double every last one of these ingredients. Why, you could even freeze the rolls before baking, and bake off one by one alongside dinner, if you prefer. Extra credit goes to those who do so, in my book.

Cilantro-Scallion Bread
From Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 12 rolls

time commitment: ~2 hours (half active, half letting dough rise and rolls bake)

printable version

ingredients
2 t active dry yeast
2 t Kosher salt, divided
2 t sugar, divided
1 3/4 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
4 T unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 1/4 c coarsely chopped scallions
1/2 c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c sesame seeds
1 T black sesame seeds
3 T olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing

instructions
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour 1/2 c warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar over; let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes. (if yeast doesn’t bubble, it might be dead, so start over with new yeast.)

Place flour, butter, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat in egg, yolk, and yeast mixture, scraping down sides. (you can also do this without a stand mixer – just combine ingredients together with an electric mixer or spoon.)

Knead on medium speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes (or do this by hand until soft and springy). Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (If you’re preparing this for baking the following day, you can put it in the fridge at this point; the dough will still rise very slowly, and you’ll want to remove the dough and let it get to room temperature before moving to the next step.)

Meanwhile, coursely chop scallions and cilantro. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in all sesame seeds and 3 T oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into a 18×9″ rectangle. Spoon scallion mixture evenly onto center and spread mixture to corners of dough. Working from one short edge, roll dough rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 12 dough swirls (~3/4″ each), trimming off the two ends. Transfer dough swirls to prepared baking sheet; brush with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.