Some of the Best Things in Life are Easy!

March 6, 2009

I think I have run into a slight problem. You see, I love homemade bread, as I have mentioned here many times (maybe too many), and whenever I have some in the house I tend to eat more than I should.

The good thing is that it tends to take so much time out of the day that I can only make it once or twice a month, so those extra calories don’t make it into my system that often.

The problem, is that I have run into a solution to that. That sentence just sounds wrong, but anyways, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

This bread is amazing. Not only is it just as easy as it sounds, but the depth of flavor is incredible. This means that I can have fresh bread any day I want. Isn’t that horrible? 😉

This also means that all of you out there who have been hesitant to try making bread can take that leap and be assured you’ll have great bread without even trying! Don’t be afraid of the length of the recipe. Even though I edited it down a lot it’s still a bit wordy, but the actual process isn’t any more difficult than making cookies 🙂

Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6  1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose flour

Mixing and Storing the Dough:

Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 F. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours.  Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

Mix in the flour but do not knead. Add all of the flour at once by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula; don’t press down into the flour as you scoop or you’ll throw off the measurement by compressing. Mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is uniform. If you’re hand-mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach in with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

Cover with a lid (not airtight). Do not use screw-topped bottles or Mason jars, which could explode from the trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.

On Baking Day:

Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough*, using a serrated knife.

Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds.

Place the shaped ball on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes (it doesn’t need to be covered during the rest period). Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450F.

Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour. Slash the top as desired, about 1/4-inch-deep.

After a 20-minute preheat, you’re ready to bake, even though your oven thermometer won’t yet be up to full temperature. Place the loaf on the sheet in the oven. Quickly but carefully through ice cubes in the oven and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F.

Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled. Enjoy!

You can store the remaining dough in your refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

*The recipe states that you can have four loaves with this bread, but with two of us 1/4 of that dough really wasn’t enough. I think 1/2 is really more appropriate. And the longer you leave the dough, the more the flavor will develop, just make sure you don’t leave it past 10-14 days or it just won’t be as good.

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Fun with More Amano

February 27, 2009

One of the fun things about being a food blogger is the occasional giveaways. Some people out there are very generous.

Blake, of BlakeMakes happens to be one of the people, and earlier this year he had a giveaway of one of my favorite things. Chocolate! It’s hard enough to resist chocolate on it’s own, and even harder to resist it when it’s free!

And this wasn’t just any chocolate, it was Amano chocolate! The same thing I got from the last Blake Make’s giveaway that I participated in, but different. I have now tried four different types of chocolate from these people, and each and every one was unique, and incredible. I really can’t describe how great this chocolate is, but it’s obvious they take a lot of care to make it right.

For example, Jambra, the chocolate I received in this giveaway … well, I don’t want to sound like one of their spokes people, but they work hard to pick the best ingredients so their chocolate is unique and well worth every penny.

It took a while to pick the right recipe for this chocolate and decided to go with the chocolate chip brioche recipe in new cookbook I got for christmas. I have never made brioche before, and while this had a touch too much butter, and not nearly enough chocolate it was really great.

Chocolate Chip Brioche
Source: The Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 oz instant yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups butter, softened
2 oz chocolate
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk, to glaze

Place the yeast, milk, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir gently. Set aside 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a large bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. Beating slowly, gradually add the eggs to form a soft dough.

Turn out onto your work surface and knead until soft and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the butter a little at a time. Continue until all the butter has been added, then knead for 5 more minutes.

Add the chocolate and knead until well combined with the dough.

Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume, about 90 minutes. Gently remove the risen dough from the bowl and on a floured work surface, flipping the dough over with your fingers.

Place on a tray and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Grease 16 small brioche molds with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Weigh off sixteen 1-ounce pieces of dough for the base of the brioches and sixteen 1/3 ounce pieces for the tops.

Shape the larger pieces of dough into tight balls and place in the bottoms of the molds. Shape the smaller pieces of dough into tear-drop shapes. Using your finger, make a hole in the larger balls and poke the teardrop into the holes.

Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze with the egg mixture. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place to double in volume, about 30 minutes. Brush with the glaze again.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

I’ve posted the recipe as written, however we ran into a few issues, so these are my notes:

It was a little too buttery, so you might want to use a little less, however, lots of butter makes it flaky, so don’t take out too much if you do adjust it.

I also don’t believe the recipe was nearly chocolaty enough, nor were they sweet enough. I would suggest adding more chocolate (I think we added twice as much as was called for and it still wasn’t enough) adding some cocoa powder, and maybe adjusting the sugar level.

We also had a problem with the time. 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough, and more time made them too dark. The second batch we baked covered with foil for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10, and we tested the inside temperature to make sure that it was 200F, to assure that they were completely baked.

Don’t let any of this prevent you from trying them, though. They were really fun to make and well worth the time. I really wish we had used a tried and true recipe, to do this incredible chocolate some justice, but it was a fun challenge and awesome chocolate.


A Challah to Remember

January 20, 2009

One of the fun things of being a girl is dreaming of the man that might show up in your life one day. Though reality is not even remotely close, you can have an interesting journey through your imagination with that dark, daring stranger that will sweep you off your feet, take you from your dull life to strange and interesting new worlds or…as in the “story” I apparently wrote when I was very, very young…rescue the princess from the evil ogre holding her hostage. 🙂

Every girls dream is different is some way, and the man we are each ultimately the happiest with is completely different from the man that would make our best friends happy. But along that very long and often trecheours road to happiness I think all women at one point will take a fantasy detour to dream about being with a man with a sexy accent. Irish, Italian, Austrialian (*insert sexy purring noise*). I honestly don’t know what it is, but the idea of someone so different and foreign can certainly make me melt like chocolate on a hot stove.

The wonderful man currently in my life is not really the sexy-foreign-accent type, though definitely sexy in his own way. He was, however, raised Jewish, and that makes for some fun conversations. Strange, made up sounding words like meshuggener and schmatte will sneak their way into every day conversations. People who kvetch and schlimazels are individuals to suddenly watch out for. And enough with the chicken soup already! 😉

One of the really yummy extras that came with my man (does anyone else think that almost makes him sound like one of those infomercial gadgets with all the cheesy extras? oops!) Anyways, one of the yummy extras that came with this man is Challah bread. Or “Chally.”

This was my first attempt at Chally, and while it wasn’t quite right, like every recipe from The Fresh Loaf, it was beautiful and delicious.

Challah Bread
Slightly adapted from: The Fresh Loaf

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups room-temperature water
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 tbl. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Beat the eggs with about a tablespoon of the water. Put aside approximately 1/4 a cup for the egg wash and mix the remaining egg with the rest of the water.

Mix the 2 1/2 cups bread flour with the yeast and add in approximately half of the water/egg mixture. It should make a very pasty mixture. Allow to set for 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 

Mix in the remaining egg/water mixture, olive oil, sugar and salt, then gradually work in the remaining flour. Place in a well greased bowl, cover and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

Remove from bowl, degas, and then cover and let it rise again. Preheat the oven at 400F.

Degas the dough again a let rest 15 minutes. Cut into three equal ropes sections and roll out gently to about 14 inches. Braid carefully, tucking the ends under and brush with egg wash. Let rise about 1 hour.

Brush again with egg wash. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, turn loaf in the oven and turn the temperature to 350F and finish baking for approximately 30 more minutes or until golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F. Allow to cool completely. Enjoy 🙂

I am a little crazy, and like the three different recipes I tried to find the perfect recipe for potato bread, I have at least two more I will try to find to perfect the Challah, but this one really is awesome and well worth trying.


Giving Thanks With Bread

December 2, 2008

Sometimes it’s really hard to remember what this life actually offers that you can be thankful for. There are so many bad things in this world these days that it’s getting harder and harder to listen to the news without getting depressed. Hell, it’s getting harder to simply look at the grocery receipt without getting depressed but there are still good things out there. I personally have been lucky this year and have a few new things in my life to really be happy about but if there is nothing else, (ignoring the receipt of course) food is definitely something we can all celebrate this Thanksgiving. That is what this holiday revolves around, isn’t it?

As bread in particular has always managed to make me happy I thought this would be the perfect thing to share with everyone this Thanksgiving. It is definitely my favorite of all of the three recipes and was a hit for our big dinner.

Now, I know that I have already done not just one, but two different recipes for potato bread this year, but not only is potato bread my favorite, it also happens to be the type bread my family tends to crave for this holiday. I haven’t tried this particular recipe myself before now but I have heard many good things about it, and just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

Tender Potato Bread
Slightly adapted from: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
A Daring Bakers Recipe

8-16 ounces of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
4 cups water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. We used a potato ricer but if you don’t have something like that it works best to mash the potatoes in the water, just make sure you measure out the water as directed below first!

Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80F) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups bread flour and whisk. Add to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the bread flour and mix until all the flour has been incorporated. Continue adding more of the remaining flour as needed until you can handle it.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, then divide each of those into thirds. Roll each segment into a rope, about 1/2 thick. Place three of the ropes on a sheet of parchment paper and braid lightly, being careful not to stretch. Pinch and tuck each end under, then repeat with the other loaf. Cover and let rise another 35-45 minutes or so, until doubled.

Lightly dust the top of each braid with a little flour and immediately transfer the loaves to a baking sheet and carefully place in the oven. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F and bake for approximately 40 more minutes or until golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F.

Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

As this was Thanksgiving, I thought a easily rip-able braid would be more appropriate than a slice-able loaf, but you can serve this anyway you want. As always, just have fun with it!


Let’s Do the Twist

September 18, 2008

There are certain snacks that always seem to make people happy. Most of them are as happy-inducing because they have much sugar on top (hey, if a spoonful of sugar can make medicine better, why shouldn’t a cupful make everything else better? *g*)

This, however, is actually one of those snacks that is actually reasonably healthy…assuming you don’t over-do the salt and you’re not one of those weird anti-carb people…..but if you were anti carb you probably wouldn’t be reading this 🙂

These pretzles are not even remotely as good as those you can get in the city. But I don’t think it’s possible to make anything that good at home. But as soothing as it is to make any type of bread, and as fun as snacks like this tend to be, it’s another one of those I just couldn’t resist.

Soft Pretzels
Source: The Fresh Loaf

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. Start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it’ll form a nice ball that you can knead by hand.

Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until it begins to get smooth and satiny. Return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Degas the dough gently then cut into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.

Let them relax again and then roll and stretch a third time until they are long and thin (about 15 inches long and about as big around as your index finger). They’ll nearly double in width while baking, so you should roll them out very thin.

To shape the pretzels, place a rope of dough on the work surface in front of you. Take each end in a hand, loop the dough away from you, and bring the ends back toward you, crossing them about an inch above the rope. Apply a little bit of pressure to make the loops stick together, but not too much because you don’t want then to flatten out.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk each of the pretzels into the boiling water for 5 seconds, then place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt or other toppings.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and eat immediately. Enjoy.


Taste & Create XI: Sugar and Spice…

June 22, 2008

For a while now, a friend of mine has been unwittingly torturing me with his many tales of waffles for breakfast. I have been a good girl, and have resisted so far (it’s more about resisting the syrup that must go on those waffles than the waffles themselves) but when I saw that one of the recipes my partner, Magpie from je le vous dirais had on her blog was for a Dutch Baby, I knew I had to finally break down.

Now, I have never had a Dutch Baby before, but from what I have heard it is much like pancakes, so I went for it, and I am glad I did cause even if I messed something up, it was well worth it.

Dutch Baby
Source: je le vous dirais

1/2 tablespoon butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the over to 400F. Please empty glass pie plate in oven to preheat.

Mix the eggs, milk, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

Take the pie plate out of the oven and add the butter. Pour the batter on top and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and/or sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cut into wedges and devour immediately with topping of choice. Enjoy.

This recipe called for way too much better, so I adjusted the numbers for the recipe here. If you try it yourself and it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to grease the pan, just add a touch more.

This recipe was very tasty, and well worth breaking down….let’s just hope that now i have syrup in the house again I will be able to continue resisting it’s call 🙂


The Finer Things in Life

June 18, 2008

One of the things about being an adult, is that time seems to move so much faster than it did when we were kids. When we’re young, we spend our days imagining the future. Our biggest concern is avoiding the bully at school. We count the days until summer, then spend every moment we possibly can outside, enjoying the sun, and air, the sand at the beach, the trees we can climb…and those we can’t. All the little things that make our lives beautiful. We can’t wait until we grow up and can enjoy everything that’s held back by the adults in our lives.

Then once we become adults, other concerns crowd our minds. We think about bills, our health and that of our loved ones, and taxes. We spend our days, locked in an office, many of us without even a window. We have to force ourselves to eat well, rather than just what we manage to fit in. We crowd every hour of the day we can with the things we feel we have to get done, counting the minutes until we can go to bed. Even our weekends tend to be crowded with errands. And if you’re like me, you even feel guilty for taking a vacation or a single day off.

Thankfully, though we have mostly lost touch with the carefree children we once were, we can still force our selves to spend time on some of the finer things life has to offer. Like the sounds and smells of a summer storm, the taste of good chocolate or wine. Or both.

And of course, the feeling of a good dough in your hands, the smell of it baking and the taste of that first piece. I know not many of you enjoy making bread, and it has unfortunately become one of the things far too many people try to avoid these days, but I realized the other day that it had been way too long since I have made myself any bread, and it was a situation I personally had to remedy.

Crispy Loaf
Slightly adapted from: The Joy Kitchen

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites

Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, the yeast, shortening, sugar and water in a bowl, then mix in the salt.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, the fold into the dough. Gradually mix in the remaining flour until the dough is soft but no longer sticky.

Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, grease the top of the dough and cover with saran wrap. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch down the dough, knead it briefly then let rise again until doubled. Repeat once more, then shape into a loaf. Allow to rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Transfer the loaf to a parchment covered baking sheet, then place in the oven and immediately throw in some ice to steam.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, turning once half way through. Loaf should register about 200F on a thermometer inserted in. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Enjoy

This loaf was better tasting than anything I could buy, and well worth the time for that smell alone.

I hope you’ll try this, or something else that you’ve been putting off for lack of time. It’s well worth it to do one little thing like this, to make time for yourself and indulge a little.