Tag Archives: Yeast

Getting Right to the Point

Last week, my friend Peggy and I were talking about blogging—the reasons we do it, the challenges it poses, sometimes (often in my case), in the form of keeping up.

Naturally, what follows will be an excuse. A reason why not, I suppose.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

And, so: I’m trying to keep up, really, I am. Thankfully these days, the cooking and baking isn’t the problem. It’s the posting—I mean, how many posts that start with and apology and a statement of how busy it’s been will you read before you stop following me?

That question, by the way, is not strictly rhetorical.

Seriously, how many will more free passes do I get? I’ve got a few good recipes still in need of introductions.

And, I’m done. I’m going to take to heart something that Peggy said; instead of qualifying our actions, we should simply do. The best results come from action rather than explanation. What’s important here is the process.

So, with Peggy’s admonitions in mind, I’ll leave you with this recipe for bread, and a promise to post more soon. And, likewise, in the spirit of doing, did I mention that I’m taking three days off of work to take a bread making class? Well, I am, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I think that my baking has officially transcended the label of “hobby”.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan by way of Katy Elliot and Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Before you get started: I didn’t line my baking pans with parchment, thinking that buttering would be enough. Had I not stretched my dough thin to get two smaller loaves, that would have been fine. But, I did, so some of the filling leaked out, causing the bread to stick. Next time I make this, I plan on lining my pans with greased parchment paper and suggest that you do to the same.

For The Bread:
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 ¼ cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of grated nutmeg
4 cups all-purpose flour

For The Swirl:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons grounded cinnamon
2 TBS water

Make sure that the milk is at room temperature, and add it to the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkling the yeast over it. Add the flour, butter, sugar, egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Using a dough hook, mix on the lowest speed until all of the ingredients have combined. Once that has happened, add the raisins into the mixture. Increase the speed to medium low, mixing the dough until it is uniformly smooth and it pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This will take about 3 more minutes.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled blow, and cover it with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and then allow it to rise again until it has doubled in size, approximately 40 minutes to an hour.

Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and divide it into two even pieces. Wrap them and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes or firm enough to be rolled easily.

While the dough is resting, butter two 9-x-5-inch loaf pans and make the filling by whisking together the cinnamon, sugar, and water so that it forms a paste. Set aside until you are ready to roll the dough..

Put once piece of the the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, and roll the dough into a rectangle that is slightly shorter than the length of your baking pan. Sprinkle half of your filling on top of the dough. With the short end of the dough rectangle facing you, fold in both long sides of the dough, about an inch. This will form a wall to hold in your filling. Once this step is completed, roll the filled dough toward you, gently pressing as you go, to form a tight log. Then roll it back and forth to seal the seam. Place the loaf in your pan, seam side down.

Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Cover the pans loosely with the wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edge of the pan, about 30-45 minutes.

As the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the loafs have risen, bake them for 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. You want the tops to be golden brown, so if they are browning too fast, tent the tops with aluminum foil.

Cool to room temperature before serving.

Makes two loaves



Filed under Bread, Brunch, Uncategorized

The Post with the Confession

If ever there was a case for seasonal eating, this concord grape focaccia is it.

And, now, the confession alluded to in the title of this post:

I’m all about seasonal eating—I’m one of those people you hear waxing rhapsodic about things like the first peaches of the summer, makes multiple trips to the greenmarket to get as many sour cherries as possible, and who hunts down ramps (it counts if it’s in a restaurant, right?). I’ve been known to send alerts about the first appearance of cider donuts in the Union Square Greenmarket to a dear friend of mine who is obsessed (and, yes, I’m counting that as seasonal).

Except when I’m not.

This is all a long way of getting at this: last year, I totally dropped the ball.

Although I saw this recipe for concord grape focaccia on Smitten Kitchen in early September and put it to the top of my top “to cook” pile, I let it languish, assuming that I had more time. And, that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations at any rate.

Right. About that—it was even better than I had expected.

And, it’s grape season now. Which means, your Saturday plans should involve a trip to your local market. You could make this focaccia with grapes other than the concord variety, but really, why would you? The concord grapes work perfectly. Their intense sweetness makes them the perfect foil for saltiness of the bread. They’ve got just enough acid to compliment the bread base. Before you know it, you’ll have finished an entire focaccia loaf. And, thinking about hiding the second one from your brunch guests.

Do yourself a favor: buy an extra pint of concord grapes while you can. You’re going to want to freeze them, so you can make this long after the season has ended.

And, you might want to infuse some in vodka, too. Watch this space for some instructions.

Concord Grape Focaccia
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved Concord grapes (you can use red grapes here, too)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Deremera sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

In the bowl of on electric mixer, combine water, milk, granulated sugar, and yeast and allow the mixture to sit until it is foamy. This should take approximately ten minutes.

Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix well, using a paddle attachment, on low. Once the mixture has been combined, replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low for another 8 minutes.

Once the dough is well combined, scrape the dough into into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. The brush the top with additional oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a cool place, letting it rise until it doubles in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

One the dough has risen, press the dough down with a floured hand. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two balls. Brush a large parchment lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough balls on to the baking sheet and brush the tops with more oil. Set it aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel. After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into a 8 to 9-inch circle-ish shape. The dough should be dimpled from your fingers. Cover again it again with the towel and let it rise for another 1 1/4 hours in a cool place.

While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the remaining olive oil, brush the dop of the dough. Top it with the grapes, rosemary, coarse sugar and coarse sea salt, spreading it all into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and puffed around edges. Cool before serving.

Makes two 8-9″ focaccia loaves

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On Gracious Hosting

I think that I might have gotten a little carried away.

No small feat for me.

It started with a simple bread product.

It usually does.

This time the culprit was English Muffins. It was simply a case of wanting to see if I could—I won’t keep you in suspense—The answer is sort of, and the equivocation is mostly the result of my inability to take the extra minute to measure things properly, which is, well, sort of problematic when it comes to baking. Now you know.

Where was I?

Right, the challenge of English Muffins.

Add to this an end of summer trip to the Union Square farmers market where there were stalls and stalls of fresh, ripe tomatoes.

Naturally, I did what any reasonable person would do: At my most recent brunch I set up a BLT bar. With a toaster set up in my living room.

My sister, to her credit, thought that I was a little misguided in this one. She tried to reason with me—I might damage the finish on my occasional tables. To digress for a minute, I do, indeed, have occasional tables. Lucite ones. This sounds tacky. Of course, I love them all the more for it.

She pointed out there might be crumbs. I nodded. Then, I did it anyway. And, insisted that my brunch guests all learn how to split an English Muffin properly. When one revealed he had never heard of the fork split, I made him take another to practice. Someone else started to use the peach butter next to the basked of English Muffins. I thought about stopping him to point out that I had all of the accouterments to make a BLT. I did stop myself—forced to admit that the peach butter, which I made from farmer’s market peaches, was also a valid option.

I’m a really, really gracious host. And, definitely a relaxed one.

In my defense, I had a very specific vision of what this component of the brunch should—hot and toasty bread, filled with all sorts of nooks, topped with late August farm fresh tomatoes and bacon. I find with the right ingredients, my guests will forgive just about anything. It helps that these English Muffins are particularly toothsome.

Of course, by this logic, if I’m able to tackle croissants with the same success, I should be able to yell at my guests when they sit down to eat. I’m sure you’re hoping to be invited to that meal.

English Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Michael Ruhlman

2 TBS butter
1 TBS sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
cornmeal for dusting

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the milk, stir it and remove it from the heat. Stir in the yeast and the egg. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the milk/butter mixture and stir until it has been incorporated well into the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 1/2 hours, or refrigerate overnight, removing from the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking.

When you are ready to cook the English Muffins, heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium heat. At the same time, heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the dissolved baking powder into the batter. Dust the griddle or skillet with corn meal. Scoop-pour about 1/4-cup portions onto the griddle. Cook for about seven minutes. Flip them and continue cooking till done, 7 to 10 more minutes. If you are worried about the inside being undercooked, or simply want to keep the muffins warm while the second batch cooks, place the muffins into the oven at a very low heat.

When you are ready to eat the English Muffins, split them with a fork and toast them.

Serve with—ahem—bacon, lettuce and tomato. Or, peach butter, or regular butter, or whatever your heart desires. I won’t judge.

Fork split and serve.

Makes 8-10 English Muffins

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Nostalgia, in the Form of Bread

Sure, it makes sense that curry makes me nostalgic for London, but bread? I know, it’s a tougher sell.

Invariably, though, the smell of baking bread reminds me of being in London for grad school. First, there was the smell of the baking rolls at Subway that assaulted me every time I went to the internet cafe upstairs. Quite often during my first days back in the country since it took far longer than necessary to have my own internet access set up.

Then, there’s this bread.

It was a staple in the bakery section of Waitrose, and after trying it once, there wasn’t a week I didn’t have some in my house. It was just that good. Sliced with vegetables between, it became a satisfying meal, although more often than not, I didn’t even bother with that much effort. Instead, I ate the bread as my entire meal.

When I returned to New York, it was one of the foods that I missed the most. But, while I thought about attempting to cook it, I was always a little intimidated. Mostly, I wasn’t quite sure where to start.

That is, until I saw this recipe on Serious Eats. A little tinkering later and, once again, there’s no reason for me to prepare actual meals. The jury’s out on whether this is a good thing.

Tomato Oregano Bread

Adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsps yeast
1 TBS sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/2 ounces) bread flour, divided
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBS tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces

extra flour and cornmeal for dusting.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, water, yeast, sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes, allowing the yeast to start foaming. Add one cup of the bread flour. Mix well and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining flour, oregano, tomato paste, and salt. Knead with the dough hook until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and starts becoming elastic. Periodically scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and is no longer sticky.

Add the sundried tomatoes and knead to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly before you form it into your preferred shape. Put it on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. While your dough is in its final rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

When the dough has risen, slash it as desired, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is nicely browned.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

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Bread and Bread Alone

Okay, so I’m a little late to the party on this one.

I know, I know: Jim Lahey’s recipe has been kicking around the internet for ages.

In my defense, this is only the third post on this nascent project. But no matter.

What matters is this: you must make this bread now.

no knead bread

After you’ve seen how truly effortless—and, more importantly, how truly delicious—it is, store bought bread is simply no longer an option. It’s made me a believer. A proselytizer, even. No small feat, given my fear of working with yeast.

The beauty of this bread is that time does almost all of the work for you, taking a scant few ingredients and making them into something remarkable. And, bakery quality.

no knead bread no knead bread

Aside from time, the other essential is a heavy lidded pot. The lid helps trap in the steam giving the crust its thick crust. I have a cast iron pot that holds heat and does the trick perfectly, but I’d imagine that a glass pot would work just as well.

Some things to note before you begin:

  • I’ve found that the longer you let this bread rise, the better it gets. A 12-hour rise is good, but 18-hours is better. If you’re a planner, set aside your dough the night before and finish it off in the morning. It may be the best breakfast you’ll have.

  • The recipe calls for 3-cups of all purpose flour, but if you want to make it a little healthier, you can use some whole wheat, too. I think that you could safely use up to 1 cup of whole wheat and 2 cups of all purpose. Anything else might make your bread a little too leaden

  • I haven’t yet tried, but I think that this bread would also work with some additional ingredients. I’m thinking sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, raisins and the like. I’m not sure how it would affect the rise, but it seems worth investigating.

Now, get baking!

no knead bread

No Knead Bread
from Jim Lahey via The New York Times

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups lukewarm water
Cornmeal, wheat bran or additional flour as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt.

Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended. Your dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm room to rest, 12 to 18 hours.

When your dough has rested at least 12 hours and its surface is dotted with bubbles, you’re ready for the next step.

Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave it resting for about 15 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, shape it into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When your dough is ready to cook, it will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees at least a half hour before your dough is ready to bake, and put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats.

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake your pan to even out the dough. It will continue to even out as it cooks.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.

At the 30 minute mark, remove the lid of the pot and continue to bake. Your bread should cook for another 15-30 minutes, until the crust is browned.*

Makes one 1.5 pound loaf of bread

*15 minutes additional baking time works in my cast iron pot. Of course, your oven and your pots may hold heat differently.

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