Category Archives: Bread

Battle Babka

Almond Joy Babka with a latte 2Who among us hasn’t wished for more hours in the day? Well consider me your little “time fairy.” I’m going to give you 24 extra hours! In case you’ve forgotten, 2016 is a leap year. February 29, is leap day. With all that extra time on your hands, let me suggest that you make babka.

For the uninitiated, babka is a brioche dough (yeast dough enriched with butter), spread with a sweet filling, rolled up and then baked in a loaf pan. Many consider chocolate to be the ultimate babka. In fact, if you were even to suggest a cinnamon babka to these chocolate lovers, they’d likely gasp and and utter, “another babka“? They theorize that a cinnamon babka is a “lesser babka”.

My daughter was visiting this weekend and she wanted to help me with my next post. As we considered what to blog about, my suggestion of blood orange curd filled donuts, eclairs or tart were met with a less than enthusiastic ” oh, that’s interesting.” When  I showed her the photo of Chocolate Krantz cake (aka Babka) in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem, she got quite excited. She is enthusiastically in the chocolate camp, while my husband has both feet firmly planted in the cinnamon camp. Luckily, this recipe makes two babkas. And so Battle Babka was on.battle babkaThe dough for babka can not be rushed. It requires an overnight rest in the fridge. Then, divide it in half and roll out the first half into an 11 x 15 inch rectangle.rolling doughFor the chocolate babka, we were inspired by an Almond Joy chocolate bar. After spreading on the chocolate paste, we added chopped toasted almonds and unsweetened coconut. spreading chocolate fillingsprinkling almondssprinkling coconutHere’s where babka baking becomes fun. Roll up the dough into a tight roulade.rolling 2rolling 4Place roll on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes, to firm up the dough. rolled and ready for chillingOnce the dough has firmed up, it’s time to cut it in half, length-wise. A serrated knife makes easy work of this.slicing in halfLook at those gorgeous striations. gorgeous striationsTo assemble, the two halves need to be twisted back together again .twisting 1twisting 2twisting 3We repeated the process all over again, to make the cinnamon babka. Brush dough with butter this time, instead of chocolate.brushing butter on cinnamon babkaA thick layer of brown sugar and cinnamon go down next.sprinkling sugar cinnamonToasted pecans and dried cherries complete this version.pecans ans cherriesThe babkas are placed in loaf pans and allowed to rise for about 90 minutes. Because of all the butter in the dough, they only grow by about 15%.ready to riseOnce baked, they get doused with a brushing of simple syrup. This keeps the babkas super moist.brushing with simple syrupAfter a tortuous cooling period, (with my husband calling from upstairs, every 10 minutes, “Is it time yet?“, we sliced into them and tasted. One vote for chocolate from my daughter, one vote for cinnamon, from my husband. The deciding vote was up to me. I declare that Cinnamon babka is most decidedly not a lesser babka. The tart dried cherries, combined with the crunchy pecans won me over. But don’t let me influence you. Decide for yourself. battle babka 2We discovered that babka tastes even better the second day. Sort of like stew, it needs time for all the flavours to develop. We loved it with a latte for breakfast.Cinnamon Babka with latte 2 625 sqIt was still stellar late that afternoon with a glass of milk.Cinnamon Babka with milkNot surprisingly, it disappeared quite quickly.take a slice 1take a slice 2hey, where did all the babka go

Click here to print recipe for Almond Joy Babka.

Click here to print recipe for Cinnamon Pecan Dried Cherry Babka.

 

Popovers

a bunch of popovers 2Just saying the word “Popover” makes me happy. These are so much fun to make. I turned on my oven light and watched them rise up and pop right over the rim of the pan. It’s like magic! (Do not ever open the oven door while they are baking!)gorgeous popoversI somehow managed to keep my popover virginity for the first 50 years of my life. I had my first  one a few years ago at my cottage.  My sister Bonnie came to visit and brought her popover pans with her. (Doesn’t everyone travel with popover pans?) I promptly ate two, right out of the oven, slathered with butter. Why had I waited so long?

I have been meaning to make them myself and blog about them, to share the popover love, but life got in the way, and I got sidetracked. A family holiday to Aruba, over the winter break, brought me right back on track again. We had dinner one night at the Aruba outpost of BLT Steak.

Our entire dinner was delicious, but it was the popovers that will keep me coming back again and again. I was thrilled to see that they arrived at the table with soft butter and a copy of the recipe!2 popoversPopover batter consists of nothing more than milk, eggs, flour and salt. I also added some cheese, because cheese makes everything better.what you'll need Making perfect popovers is not really all that magical or mysterious if you understand about the science behind them. The website, bite-sizedbiology does a brilliant job explaining this.   Popovers are like little balloons. An elastic network of egg, milk, and flour proteins (particularly gluten) forms as the popover batter is mixed. This rubbery network then “inflates” as air trapped inside the batter expands during baking. 

Beat your eggs well.whisking eggsWhisk in some warm (120°F) whole milk.adding warm milk Gradually add the flour and salt, stirring well after each addition. It is not critical to get it totally smooth. A few little lumps are ok.

Place your muffin or popover tins in the oven, on the lowest rack, while it is preheating to 400°F. A hot pan will assist in giving your popovers a head start in rising. While popovers can certainly be made in a muffin tin, they will not be nearly as tall and dramatic as ones made in a popover pan. The main difference between muffin and popover pans is the shape of the cups. Popover pans have tall narrow-straight sided cups, while muffin tins are squatter and narrower at the base. The taller straighter sides of the popover pan gives the batter more vertical room to expand and build a bigger steam pocket.filling hot pansEach popover got a generous topping of Gruyere cheese before heading into the oven. adding gruyereServe as soon as they come out of the oven, with butter, if that makes you happy. The top and sides are a deep mahogany colour. Pop off the crunchy cheesy top to reveal a hollow custardy cavity inside.2 popovers cropped close

Click here to print recipe for Popovers.

popover with butter 625 sqI’m thinking I need a mini popover pan now. Tiny ones would be so perfect to serve with cocktails!

Apple, Honey and Almond Tartine for Rosh Hashanah

half with almonds 2Apples and honey go together on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), like cookies and milk, every other day of the year! We dip apples in honey to symbolizes our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. While this explanation makes sense, I have often wondered why specifically apples and honey?  Why not figs dipped into date syrup?

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey.  Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

And so apples and honey it is again, this year on my holiday table. I usually place a big platter of apples on the table with a little knife and cutting board and a bowl of honey for dipping to start the meal. What results is a table littered with hacked up apples, band-aid wrappers (someone inevitablly cuts themself) apple cores and lots of gooey drippings everywhere.

Leave it to Martha to come up with a tidy, delicious and very beautiful solution to this sticky mess. It truly is a good thing. slice close up 625 sqMy take on Martha’s idea starts with my ultimate braided challah, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch thick planks. The slices of bread are lightly spread with honey and then covered with thinly sliced apples. A scattering of toasted sliced  almonds and a final drizzle of honey makes a very special start to your holiday meal. braidingbrushing with eggwith toppingThese open faced sandwiches really should be assembled just before serving. This is not usually a problem since there are always those guests who hang out in the kitchen, asking if they can help. Set up an assembly line and assign apple slicing, honey spreading and almond scattering. Your tartines will be ready in no time at all.

Wishing you all a sweet and healthy New Year.

Click here to print recipe for Rosh Hashanah Apple and Honey Tartine sliced 2

Rosh Hashanah Round Challah

a slice with honey 2FHaving baked over 1000 loaves of challah in my life, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I know a thing or two about this Friday night Shabbat dinner staple. 51 weeks of the year, I make a simple 3 strand braided challah covered with a crumble topping. (If you want to be really humbled, check out Rivka Malka Perlman’s you tube video, where she braids 6 strands! That is punching way above my weight!)  However, one week each year, for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) , I make a round challah. The round challah of this holiday symbolizes continuity and the endless cycle of life.

My challah recipe has not changed in over 8 years. The dough recipe comes from my friend Margo and the topping, crafted from sugar, flour and butter (or margarine), comes from my sister’s cousin’s friend, Elaine. As far as I know, Margo and Elaine do not know each other, but I am sure if they met, they would become great friends as the marriage of their recipes is a beautiful and delicious thing to behold.

The dough uses 2:1 ratio of white to whole wheat flour. I love the nuttiness that whole wheat adds to the finished bread. l make the dough on Wednesday or Thursday, cover it and put it in the fridge until Friday morning. The slow rise in the fridge really helps to develop the flavours of the bread. And, as a bonus, there is less to do on Friday! We always add raisins to our challah, you raisin haters can leave them out. mise en placemixing doughI remove the dough from the mixer and push the raisins in by hand. They are more evenly distributed this way.poking in raisinsThe dough will double in about 90 minutes on the counter at room temperature, or you can cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.proofing doughIf you are making a round challah, a kitchen scale will make your life much easier. if you have ever been on Weight Watchers, then you have a scale lurking in the back of a cabinet somewhere. use a scaledivide by 9assembleready for second rising

egg washsprinkling toppingA slice of this, drizzled with some honey is a very sweet start to the New Year. L’Shana Tova.round with apples 2 625 sq

Click here to print the recipe for Rosh Hashanah Round Challah.

Check back later this week for a clever, beautiful and very delicious new idea on how to serve apples and honey!

 

 

 

Grilled Flatbread with Dukkah

round 1 625 sq
Aside from baking challah every week, it’s been way too long since I’ve had any fun with yeast. I have really missed that culinary alchemy that happens when you combine flour, water, salt and yeast. I decided to take it outside and grill some flatbread.

This is a gorgeous dough that comes together in the food processor in about 2 minutes flat.  Made with bread flour and just a touch of nutty whole wheat flour, this dough is super hydrated with water and olive oil. A wet dough is how you achieve, what bread freaks call, an “open crumb structure”. That just means that the inside of the grilled flatbread has those airy bubbles, that make it so chewy and delicious to eat.
making dough 1making dough 2making dough 3making dough 4
I will admit it takes a leap of faith to put this thin super stretchy dough onto the BBQ and not be riddled with anxiety that it will fall right through the grill. But, miraculously, it doesn’t. In about 4 minutes the flatbread is charred to perfection. I like to brush it with a really fruity olive oil as soon as it comes off the grill and then sprinkle it with Dukkah.
brushing on olive oil

sprinkling dukkah
Dukkah is a Middle Eastern nut and spice mix. The first time I had it was at Mahane Yehuda Market  (The Shuk) in Jerusalem. Vendors there sell small paper cones filled with dukkah, along with strips of grilled pita bread.  You dip the bread into the vendor’s bowl of olive oil, dunk it into the cone of dukkah and then joyfully crunch and munch your way to a very happy place.

The name dukkah originates from the Egyptian word “dakka,” which means “to crush,” which is what you do to many of the ingredients that go into the mix. There really is no classic recipe for dukkah. Just follow the basic ratio of 1 cup nuts: 1/2 cup sesame seeds: 4 tablespoons spices: 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

I settled on a combo of hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, cumin and coriander seeds and salt. Go wild and create your own custom Dukkah mix. Peanuts or macadamia nuts would be fantastic. Fennel or caraway seeds would add a really unique flavour. dukkah ingredientsWhen I am having family or good friends over, it is great fun to watch them greedily dip the warm chewy charred bread into fruity olive oil and then into the bowl of dukkah. Double dipping almost always ensues as this mix has all the hallmarks of an outstanding snack; crunchy, spicy and just a little bit salty.

And hey, if you decide not to make your own flatbread and just buy some pita bread to serve with the dukkah, I won’t judge. One of my very best friends called me after reading my post about Lemon Poppy Seed Baby Bundts to tell me that she was going to buy a few of of those adorable mini bunt pans and fill them with Duncan Hines Lemon Poppy Seed Cake mix!

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Flatbread with Dukkah.