Thursday, March 31, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
None of the Baking Sisters can say we grew up with memories of coming home from school on cold Friday afternoons and helping our mom knead challah dough, or smelling its sweet, yeasty odor wafting through the house. Of course, coming home and expecting our mom to be baking anything would be misguided to say the least, because she a) works very hard and b) has no aptitude for baking. The stronger memories I have are of scrambling through the bread bins at Fairway, searching for that elusive Zomick's braided egg challah just hours before Shabbat began and being shoved this way and that by a horde of equally frantic and aggressive Jewesses. Fresh challah, when we were lucky enough to have it, had always been Rachel's thing, and while I had fond recollections of making challah at camp, it wasn't really something I had ever considered doing at home. Still, my roommate Wendy had expressed a desire to try making it, and one Friday when I had off from work, we got to it.
The first task was to pick a recipe. Although it is delicious, I didn't want to make Rachel's recipe because it felt too proprietary, like I was stepping on her toes, so I just looked around the Internet for one that looked good. Smitten Kitchen is always a good bet, as is Joan Nathan (it's an adapted recipe), plus Deb included lots of tips for a novice bread-baker like me, and relatively easy instructions on how to achieve the famous six-strand challah braid.
The recipe was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Even my well-documented issues with yeast seemed to disappear for the morning! I had no trouble kneading by hand. There was rather a lot of flour but oh well, that's a risk one runs when making bread. There were also some irregular rising times because of various doctors' appointments et al but it didn't seem to harm the dough. Very unfussy. The hardest part was definitely making the braid - be sure you keep very good track of all the strands or else you might have to undo the whole thing and start again! I kneaded chocolate chips into half the dough, because everyone likes chocolate chips.
I was so pleased with how they came out! The chocolate chip one came apart a little bit at the end, but they looked really professional otherwise. And oh my God were they tasty. The crust was crusty, the inside was sweet and moist and springy - perfect. For some reason, the chocolate chip one came out less cooked than the plain one, but that didn't bother anyone in my house, since both challahs were gone by Saturday morning!
Best Challah (Egg Bread)
From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Joan Nathan
The secrets to good challah are simple: Use two coats of egg wash to get that laquer-like crust and don’t overbake it. Joan Nathan, who this recipe is adapted from, adds that three risings always makes for the tastiest loaves, even better if one of them is slowed down in the fridge.
Time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours’ rising
Yield: 2 loaves
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling.
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.
Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Hooray, tomorrow night is Purim! This is the happiest of Jewish holidays, so happy that we're supposed to be happy for the entire Hebrew month that it's in (Adar, in case you were wondering). Purim celebrates the saving of the Jews, as usual - those silly Jews are like damsels in distress, they always need saving! Anyway, an evil man named Haman tried to kill us, a beautiful Jewess named Esther used her sexual wiles to save us, we went on a celebratory genocidal rampage, and everyone was very happy! Now we wear masks and costumes to commemorate how Esther had to hide her identity as a Jew from her husband the king, we put on plays telling the story, we drink a lot to increase our happiness, and we eat these most delicious of cookies, the hamantaschen!
My roommates are not Jewish but we had a great time making what my roommate Abi refers to as "Jewish shortbread with jam." That's really the most succinct way I can think of to describe it (although we also made ones with chocolate and Nutella). Oftentimes hamantaschen are dry and flavorless, but these ones have just the right consistency. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to achieve that consistency. When I doubled the recipe, I got my measurements confused and I put in one stick plus 1/3 of a cup instead of 2 sticks plus one third of a cup. And then I was really surprised as to why the dough was so crumbly even when I put in less flour than the recipe said. Oh well, it all turned out in the end, even though I'm a dum dum. As you can see from the picture, hamantaschen are like children - some of them come out of the oven weird and misshapen-looking, but you love them all equally, cause they all taste the same. Okay, that simile doesn't work as well as I had hoped. But have fun making your hamantaschen, and be sure to sing this song, which I taught to my roommates:
When you go to the store to buy a cookie
Most of the cookies are round
But a cookie in the shape of a triangle
Can almost never be found
Except for hamantaschen, they have three sides
Strawberries are baked inside
Every time that we hear Haman's name
We play this little game
And we go stomp, stomp, stomp, rat-a-tat-tat
I'm gonna eat your hat hat hat
Stomp, stomp, stomp, rat-a-tat-tat
I'm gonna eat your hat hat hat
Joan Nathan's Hamantaschen
2/3 cup pareve margarine or butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2-3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1. Cream the shortening with sugar. Add egg and continue creaming until smooth.
2. Add the vanilla. Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt until a ball of dough is formed (a food processor is excellent for this).
3. Chill for 2-3 hours, or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Taking 1/4 of the dough, roll out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut circles of dough with a drinking glass or round cookie-cutter. With your finger put water around the rim of the circle. Fill with the filling of your choice and fold into three-cornered cookies. (Press two sides together, and then fold the third side over and press the ends together.)
6. Bake on a well-greased cookie sheet 10-16 minutes, until the tops are golden.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Hi all! I hope you had a wonderful Pi Day - I sure did. As per our annual tradition, Emily and I made Emily's foolproof pie, which was delicious as always, although I'd recommend adding some salt to the crust next time. Nevertheless, that pie is foolproof for sure.
Tomorrow, as I'm sure you alcoholics out there know, is St. Patrick's Day. I spent last St. Patrick's Day in London, where they rather pointedly did not give a rat's ass, so it's nice to be back here in America (or more specifically, in college, where any excuse to drink becomes a major holiday). Wasn't it nice that we had this interfaith cooperation so that St. Patrick's Day and the Jewish drinking holiday, Purim, could be in the same glorious alcohol-poisoning-filled weekend? I thought so too.
Is there any point to this rambling? Why yes, dear reader, there is. But first, some additional rambling. When I was fifteen, a young Machoner at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, my age cohort went on a lot of trips, including to Canada. On our way up to the border we stopped in Vermont at the Ben and Jerry's factory. We took a tour of the factory and each bunk ate a Vermonster, which is 20 scoops of ice cream and all the toppings. On the tour we were permitted to sample some of the flavors the company was going to debut soon. One was some raspberry sorbet thing, which was fine but nothing special. But the other one was amazing, and has been my favorite Ben and Jerry's flavor ever since - Dublin Mudslide. Bailey's ice cream with chocolate chocolate chip cookie chunks and a coffee fudge ripple, is there anything more delightful? So for this St. Patrick's Day, I was inspired to try and recreate Dublin Mudslide ice cream.
For some reason there was no readily available guide on how to do this. I am such a pioneer. The first thing that I was worried about was the coffee fudge ripple. What does it meeeeeean? David Lebovitz to the rescue! Well, sort of. While searching for Bailey's ice cream recipes I came across his recipe for Irish Coffee ice cream. Bam. Problem mostly solved. I wasn't a huge fan of the first David Lebovitz coffee recipe -too strong - but since this one only involved steeping the beans and had no additional coffee added, it was a lot more palatable to me.
Next up, cookies! I made the tried-and-true Dorie Greenspan chocolate chip cookies, only with the cocoa powder substitution for some of the flour. I halved the recipe and only ended up using half of those again, which I crumbled and added to the churning mixture about five minutes from the end, but they're such delicious cookies that you won't mind having a few left over to eat plain.
Finally, the mysterious fudge ripple. Thank goodness for David Lebovitz, whose Perfect Scoop had a simple and delicious recipe. I didn't chill it for as long as I should have - in fact, I barely chilled it at all - but it still came out so professional-looking and, of course, tasty (though a bit more crystalline than I had hoped).
I wanted to buy a pint of Dublin Mudslide and do a taste test along with my homemade version, but I couldn't find any in my local grocery stores/minimarts. Can you believe it? What a travesty. But Dublin Mudslide had initially been released as a limited time only flavor - that would have REALLY been a travesty! So we have to be grateful for what we've got. In any case, this didn't really taste much like Dublin Mudslide, mostly because of the coffee flavor in the base. I couldn't taste the Bailey's at all, which is also the case for the original, so no big deal there. My favorite part was the chocolate chocolate chip cookie chunks. Regardless of its differences with the original, I think that this is an ice cream worth making in its own right. After all, it's less money and effort to just go to the store and buy a pint of Dublin Mudslide if that's really what you're after, but trust me, this confection won't let you down.
You can find the ice cream recipe here, the chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe here (take out 3/4 cups of flour and replace with 3/4 cups cocoa powder) and the fudge ripple recipe here. Happy St. Patrick's Day, see you on Friday for some Purim treats!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The other week I saw the movie Kings of Pastry. It's about a French contest to see who can be (duh) the best pastry chef in the land, or a MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France). They didn't focus much on the actual pastry/baking, but I can't blame them, since the sugar sculpting was so spectacular, not to mention emotionally compelling. If you thought that the people who did sugar sculpting on the Food Network Challenge were impressive (and I did), wait until you see these guys! They make the Food Network Challenge people look like total amateurs. It's also full of humor, like when Jacquy, the incredibly affable and charming protagonist of the film, makes an elaborate 12-layer cake and brings a piece home to his daughter, who comments that the cake is very good, very simple. Will they finish in time? Will their sculptures, and with it, their dreams of being a MOF, come crashing down when they move it to a display table? Will the tough former MOF judges cry? Will the entire audience gain 15 pounds just from watching the movie? Go see it for yourself and find out!
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I have to say, by the time Wednesday night rolled around and I needed to make these raspberry crumble bars from Kosher By Design: Short on Time, I was not interested in baking anymore. (It was my tenth batch of baked goods in four days.) However, AJWS bake sale week prevails, so bake I did. Due to my mood, I was not efficient in the kitchen, so these ended up taking a very long time. The dough was too dry, so I added more milk, but then it was too wet and I couldn't get it to spread thinly enough to cover the pan, so I had to make another half batch of dough. I love jam, though, so I was hoping that the final product would be worth the trouble.
It was! Although these were not the most beautiful things I've ever made, they were delicious. And they sold out-- making them a success all around. See the recipe below, and click here to support the bake sale week efforts!
UPDATE: Bake Sale week was a success! Over the course of the week, my fellow classmates bought (or donated) $170 worth of baked goods. Thanks to everyone for your support!
Raspberry Crumble Bars
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
1 large egg
3 tablespoons light cream or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (11-14 oz) jar good quality preserves
¾ cup flour
½ light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup margarine or butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper.
Mix all of the wet ingredients and the sugar. Blend. Add the dry ingredients and mix. The dough will be slightly crumbly.
Put the dough at the bottom of the baking pan. (It will be a thin layer.) Spread the jam evenly over the dough.
Mix the crumble toping together and sprinkle evenly over the jam.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crumble turns medium brown. Allow bars to cool completely, and then cut and serve.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Sometimes, your friends hate the things you love, and vice versa, to the extent where you wonder how you could even be friends with them. This is the case with my friend Emily. She has been mentioned on this blog before as a certifiable health nut, a lover of broccoli, exercise and extra-virgin olive oil. She is also a hater of baked goods! Can you believe it!? We lived together for three years and she ate everything I made, and now that we are living separately she comes out with the truth. For shame.
Thank God she likes ice cream, or it would really be curtains for us. She also loves coffee, so for her birthday I wanted to make her the beautiful espresso cake in Baked Explorations. Then she was all blah blah blah I hate baked goods, so I decided not to waste me time. But she had been requesting that I make some coffee ice cream. And suddenly, the idea for her birthday treat came to me!
This post is actually a double-header. It's the Mississippi Mud Pie recipe (B) from Baked Explorations, made with the coffee ice cream from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. I won't say much about the ice cream, since Rebecca already blogged about it and I have basically the same impressions. The coffee flavor is VERY strong - too strong for a non-coffee drinker like me. In fact, I decided to put it in the pie because I didn't think I would end up finishing it otherwise, and it's a shame to waste ice cream, even ice cream you don't really care for. The pie, on the other hand, was awesome. On balance, I think the coffee ended up going well with the sweeter, ever-so-slightly-alcoholic chocolate flavors, with neither one overpowering the other, and the nuts were just tasty extras, giving it additional taste and texture. I was not already in possession of bourbon, not being an elderly Southern gentleman, so I bought the cutest little bottle of bourbon there ever was. The whole thing was probably four tablespoons. So adorable. This was a big hit at Emily's birthday celebration and I would totally make it again, but to be honest I'd probably use my coffee ice cream of choice, which is Starbucks brand. Yummmm.
You can find the recipe here. Plus, they have the same bowls as me so there's an additional layer of authenticity.
Friday, March 4, 2011
The baking for the bake sale continues. I have to say, I have really given Sarah a run for her money these week, and I also have to say, I don't know how she bakes so much because I am totally exhausted. Whew.
Anyway. One of the things that was exciting about this week was I got my first two commissions-- I bake something, and the recipients make a donation to AJWS. Awesome! One of the students here had a birthday on Sunday, so two of her (and my) friends offered to pay me to make a dessert for her. The choice? Red velvet.
As you might know from reading this blog, the baking sisters have a complicated relationship with red velvet. I often find that it is very complicated to make, extremely messy, and not always worth it in terms of taste. In fact, the most successful red velvet cake I've ever made has been from a Dunkin Hines mix. However, I was game for the adventure, and they turned out pretty well.
Yes, red velvet is very messy. This is not the recipe to make in your black tie clothing. However, this version, from the new Kosher by Design was pretty good. It was moist and light. So if you're up for the challenge, I recommend.
And in other news, so far the bake sale fundraising has been very successful. Want to help out? Click here to learn more and donate!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (1 ounce) bottle red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 cupcake tines with paper liners.
Mix flour, cocoa and salt.
Beat the butter until it is fluffy. Then add the sugar and beat until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix after each one. Add the sour cream, milk, vanilla and food coloring.
In a separate bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda. Add it to the batter and mix until just blended. Then add the flour mixture.
Divide into baking cups and bake for 20-22 minutes.
Once the cupcakes are cool, mix the frosting ingredients until well blended. Spread over cupcakes.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The scene: a classic 1950's kitchen. LINDA is puttering around happily, dusting the tops of the cabinets, when BOB rushes in, flustered.
BOB: Linda! It's an emergency! Mr. Willard is coming for dinner!
LINDA: Mr. Willard? Your boss?
BOB: He'll be here in FIFTEEN MINUTES!
LINDA: Oh no!
BOB: This is our big chance to impress him. If the house doesn't smell like fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods, I might not get that promotion I've been working for!
LINDA: Well, that just won't do! But what could I possibly make in just fifteen minutes?...(to the camera) WAIT! I know! (She runs over to the freezer and pulls out biscuits wrapped in cellophane; as she speaks, she unwraps them, puts them on a baking sheet and sticks them in the oven) It's a good thing I made these delicious buttermilk biscuits in advance! Why, when all I have to do is work the cold butter into the dry ingredients with my hands and then stir in the buttermilk with a fork, these didn't take more than 10 minutes to make anyhow! They're delicious - flaky, buttery, everything a biscuit should be! And since I can leave them in the freezer and then take them out without defrosting them, they're ready to be baked...any time! (She takes the biscuits out of the oven and into the dining room, where the family and MR. WILLARD sit around a beautifully set table.)
MR. WILLARD: This looks like a delicious spread! And I just love these fresh-baked biscuits! Mmm mmm!
SANDY: Yeah, Mom, they sure are swell!
MR. WILLARD: Jeepers indeed, little Bobby. You know, Bob, you have such a nice family and such a nice home...I think you deserve that promotion!
BOB: Thanks, Mr. Willard!
LINDA: Dorie Greenspan's buttermilk biscuits are my little secret. Them and the dismembered body parts hidden under the floorboards! (She winks cheekily at the camera. End scene)
What do you guys think, do I have a career in advertising or what? You can find the recipe here!