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 theย 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.

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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.

Totally Smitten w/ Pumpernickel

pumpernickel ingredients
If you haven’t heard, I’ve been making a lot of bread products lately. In class, we’ve learned how to make all sorts of baked delicacies – muffins, biscuits, 4-grain, foccacia and challah breads. We even learned how to make eclairs – those were a hit and a half with the folks at the office. Despite my excitement regarding the outcome of that gorgeous, perfectly braided (well, perfect enough) challah loaf, not to mention my tender hand muscles from kneading for two nights straight, the pages of my baking book kept somehow turning themselves to the recipe for pumpernickel. And then, as if the Oklahoma blogger were reading my mind, she invited another blogger to her ranch where they made the prettiest darn bread I’ve ever seen. You might imagine, this sealed my fate, and prolonged the hankerin’ for a warm, dark, intensely flavored slice of pumpernickel.

more ingredients



I imagined it a number of different ways – warm (smoking, even) with butter melting into it, or perhaps toasted with cream cheese and smoked salmon inside, and the best – just plain, as my afternoon snack at work. Oh, and in the freezer – so I could pull it out whenever I wanted it!


My teachings in school had led me to believe that baking bread would be a day-long (or two day-long) process. This is not necessarily true. It is time consuming, and tedious. And this bread, this bread has a lot of ingredients (17 by my count without the optionals) – each just as important as the other. I was surprised to find that I already had 15 of those ingredients, just waiting to be brought together for the first time. I only needed the rye flour and bran and I was set. If you don’t have all of the ingredients, they are all fairly easy to locate minus the rye flour. Whole Foods carries it, but most regular grocery stores probably don’t. If you aren’t near a WF or other specialty store, like Trader Joes or Fresh Market, you can buy it online.


the yeast works!


Pumpernickel is definitely my favorite samich bread. It’s not the same as rye bread, which I don’t love so much. I’m not certain that I’ve actually eaten true German pumpkernickel bread, and this version is definitely not true German pumpernickel, but rather the Americanized version. Traditional pumpernickel has a looooong baking time (meaning a whole day in a steamed oven – by no means a “green” practice) and use of a Sourdough starter, which is also used in rye breads. The long baking time brings out that coffee/dark chocolate flavor, while the starter contributes to rising.


dough rising


We Americans cheat a little in the making of pumpernickel by baking it less and instead, adding the flavors lost by such faux pas. Hence the addition of molasses (as if adding molasses to anything deems explanation), espresso, cocoa powder. Hell – none of those require explanation, but I had a feeling if I didn’t tell you, you’d unnecessarily burn kilocalories by furrowing your brow, frowning, and quite possibly, turning your nose up at the thought of adding such ingredients to bread. Save yourself the trouble – please – they are necessary! And in absence of the starter, as preferred by die Deutsch, we add wheat flour and yeast to facilitate gluten formation and the rise.


rounded and ready to bake


You’ll also notice the choice of using a loaf pan or rounding your dough. It doesn’t take a professional baker to realize the difference here, people. [Think: if you put your dough in a pan, how does that affect the baking? And conversely, how about letting it bake openly in the comfort of a parchment-lined baking pan?]. Er… the answer is… you get a loaf that is very dense or a round that is a bit ‘airier’. All about your preference – I like the less dense version, personally. But suit yourself.


I bet by now you are doing one of two things: cursing yourself for reading a blog entry about something you could care less about or performing a mental checklist of your pantry to see what you’re gonna have to buy to make the best bread on earth. I hope it’s the latter, but if not – your loss. I have another round in my freezer so I won’t be missing out any time soon.


cut wonkily


Russian Black Bread
from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible
Makes 2 large, in charge, rounds or loaves


printable recipe

ingredients
2 packages of active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 T unsalted butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups rye flour
3 cups bread flour
1 cup oat bran
2 T caraway seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
1 T salt
1 T instant espresso powder
1 T minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 T all purpose flour (optional)
1 t caraway seeds (optional)


Special stuff: stand mixer (can do all by hand if you’ve got muscles and energy!), spice grinder (optional), instant-read thermometer (optional)


instructions
1. In a small bowl, combine yeast & sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. This ensures your yeast is alive ๐Ÿ™‚


2. Heat 2 cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter & chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside, and let cool to warm so it doesn’t kill the yeast.


3. Combine whole-wheat, rye, and bread flours in a large bowl. Set aside.


4. In a bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups mixed flours, bran, seeds (can grind prior to adding if desired), salt, espresso, and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. (I added salt after adding yeast because I am paranoid and my baking teacher always said to add salt last).


5. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be sticky but firm, and you’ll probably have leftover flour.


6. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough (until it looks sexy, as my teacher says). You may still have flour left over, but maybe not.


7. Form into a ball and place in a bowl sprayed with Pam. Turn over to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2-2hours (I preheat oven to 100 and then turn off, leaving door open to let temp drop some before putting dough in). Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, flour, and remaining seeds if you’re topping the bread before baking, and set aside.


8. Deflate dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 equal portion and form into two rounds or loaves. If making loaves, place in a sprayed loaf pan. If rounds (like mine) place seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (one round per sheet). Sprinkle w/ mixture if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again, until doubled, about 45 min to 1 hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking (none needed for loaves); you can see from my pictures that you don’t want to slash too deep or it affects the prettiness. Just a small slash.


9. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until internal temperature of 200-210. I baked mine for about 40-45 minutes. (1/2 way through baking, I switched the positions of each sheet too). Remove from sheet and cool completely on a rack.


10. Let it cool (if you can resist the urge), and then slop whatever your little heart desires on it.


p.s. – I’m aware that, if this is your first foray into the wonderul world of bread-baking that this recipe might be a bit intimidating. I’ve found that making bread definitely takes practice. You can probably tell I need some practice prettying up my bread – rounding and scoring are not my good points – not yet! So, if you’re scurred (Southern for scared), drop me a line in the comment box, and I’ll find you something more basic to start with. Promise ๐Ÿ™‚

Challah If You Like Hot Buns!

gorgeous challah bread


I’m afeard that I may have started a trend. A trend of me showing off our baking successes (and failures, as you remember from the first episode). I’m really sorry – but when you’re in school 3 nights a week it doesn’t leave much time to prepare bloggable recipes from home.


You may think that Chris is upset about this – having been spoiled for a few weeks while school was out by having fresh dinner AND lunch leftovers practically every day. He isn’t. He may even be happier – happier because he wins brownie points by sharing his treasures with coworkers instead of eating home-made meals in front of everyone while they scarf down a Leany Cuisiney or something less healthy like McDonalds. Now, invite him to Chicken Planet for lunch and my food gets tossed back in the fridge for tomorrow. But at least while Baking&Pastry 101 is in session, he can bring some fresh baked goodies for everyone to gnaw on. And who needs lunch when you have bread anyway?

soon to be english muffinsgrilling muffinsyummy english muffins

Last week, week 2 of the quarter, was two long nights full of yeast, proofing, and scoring. Bread that is. Lean bread. We made baguettes two different ways (with and without fermenting overnight), and I got the pleasure of kneading dough for about an hour for a huge football-shaped loaf of 4 grain bread. Felt like even longer. Needless to say, I had some pain in my right palm for a couple of days. But that bread was lookin’ mighty fine. The tastiest treat of all last week was the focaccia bread with rosemary. De-lish. And I almost forgot – English muffins! My friend Emily blogged about english muffins recently. I’m not sure how she made them without coming to our class but hers looked yummy too! English muffins provide instant gratification – you cook them in a skillet rather than bake them, so you don’t have to stare at the oven and count down the minutes until its ready. If I remember correctly, everything last week came out pretty good. I have a freezer full of bread as proof. ๐Ÿ™‚


4 grain breadbaked 4 grainrosemary foccacia


Monday night we finished up our bread-making extravaganza. Instead of lean breads, we kicked it into high gear and made enriched breads. Basically, it means good ol’ fatty bread that have eggs, milk, butter in any combination. We made milk bread, hot cross buns, and challah. Challah is by far my favorite bread. {And no – it is not pronounced challah. The c is silent as any good Jewish person will tell you.} Since we were braiding the bread, we each made our own loaf and did 4 strand braids. I think, one day, I might try to fancy it up a bit and do some more strands. And I’m going to knead with my stand mixer at home – because I can. And because I’m a wimp and I just can’t knead for an hour. The braids look mighty fancy don’t they? And every morsel is a mouthfull of chewy goodness. Take my word for it. If you’re super nice (and live nearby) – you might one day be lucky enough to receive a batch (minus a bite or two…. just to make sure it’s good). OR – maybe I’ll make you some french toast a la Wetzel. Which is essentially – french toast, with challah.


braiding challahready to bakepretty challah


While not the superstar that is challah bread, we did make some other tasty treats. I find it odd that my only memory of hot cross buns is that song. And of that, all I remember is “hot cross buns, hot cross buns” and then something about a penny. But apparently it’s a bread that is made with currants and raisins (sometimes candied citrus) and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Although ours didn’t, they generally have a cross across the top. And when you serve them hot, you get Hot – Cross – Buns. Voila! Have you ever heard of milk bread? Me neither – but we made that too. The buns were made by rolling three balls and putting them in muffin tins. As you can see, we had big balls. Done & done.


dinner rollshot cross buns


For recipes, I’ll post my two favorites: focaccia & challah and will try to post the recipes in the “at home” style. If you’re interested in the other bread recipes, just challah!!



Challah

Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th EditionAdapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition


Ingredients
Water – 8 oz
Yeast, fresh – 0.75 oz
Bread flour – 1 lb, 4 oz
Egg Yolks – 4 oz
Sugar – 1.5 oz
Malt syrup – 0.13 oz
Salt – 0.4 oz (2 tsp)
Vegetable oil – 2 oz


Instructions

Mixing: begin with water and add yeast. Add yolks, oil, and syrup. Add some bread flour, then add sugar, then more bread flour, then salt. Continue mixing and kneading (either by hand or in stand mixer) until dough springs back. (If using stand mixer, mix ~10 minutes on second speed). You may need less or more flour, but do not mix to overdry.


Fermentation: 1 1/2 hours at 80 degrees (an oven that is barely on)


Makeup: Refer to any google site. Here is a good youtube video for braiding a challah loaf with six strands. For class, we did four strands.


Baking: 400 degrees (~30 minutes; but check often with oven light)


Herb Focaccia
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition



Ingredients
Sponge: water, 6 oz; yeast (fresh) 0.12 oz; flour 8 oz
Flour – 1lb, 4oz
Water 14 oz
Yeast – 0.12 oz
Salt – 0.5 oz
Olive oil – 1 oz
Rosemary & sea salt (to liking)


Instructions
Mixing: Sponge method – combine water, then yeast, then flour. Do not knead.


1st ferment: sponge for 8-16 hours at 70 degrees


2nd mixing: mix water, yeast, flour, salt (salt last) and combine with sponge. Knead until dough springs back quickly.


2nd ferment: all dough for 30 minutes at 80 degrees


Makeup: Scale at 3 lb for each half-size sheet pan. oil pans with olive oil. roll and stretch dough into pan to fit. if dough does not give, let it rest for a few minutes. proof again in oven until doubled in thickness. Top each with olive oil. with fingertips, poke holes heavily at regular intervals into dough. spring with fresh chopped rosemary and sea salt.


Baking: 400 degrees for ~30 minutes