Entries tagged with “Bread”.
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Tue 24 Nov 2009
I’m not sure why I decided cinnamon rolls would be my Everest during the three weeks between graduating from college and starting my first real job, but I did. It was one of several projects I took on when faced with twenty empty days (the others being unpacking, sleeping in, and adopting a kitten previously rejected by Satan as being “too evil”). I wanted to find a recipe for really excellent cinnamon rolls. It had to deliver reliable, wonderful rolls every time, the kind of baked treasure that stops people in their tracks, wide-eyed and momentarily overwhelmed, before they exclaim WOW.
The first three recipes were unremarkable. They were too tough, too sweet, too boring. Something was fatally wrong with each one, and I began to get discouraged. I came upon a fourth recipe. Despite my skepticism, I dove in, pausing to figure out what it meant to scald the milk. The dough was smooth and satiny. It filled my tiny kitchen with a sweet, yeasty penumbra that sent little jolts of hopeful electricity into my dwindling expectations. I briefly lamented my lack of a rolling pin as I coaxed the dough into a large rectangle with a wine bottle covered in plastic wrap. It scarcely mattered that I couldn’t get it very even. The dough welcomed its thick mat of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with aplomb. I rolled it into a drippy, burgeoning tube, slicing it into a dozen syrupy disks that made their way into a cake pan.
After the second rise, I was astounded to see that the rolls had truly doubled in size. What had once come close to loosely filling the pan was now threatening to rise up and leave altogether. Surely, this was a sign of good things to come.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly twee, I will admit that I cried when I took my first bite of one of the rolls. Piping hot, silky, and feather-soft, it was like biting into a cloud in the version of heaven where everything is made of pastry (don’t tell me I’m the only one who has had that awesome dream, right?). After regaining my composure, I loaded up a plate with a few more rolls and settled down on my futon to watch an old favorite, Green Card. It occurred to me, as Andie McDowell and Gerard Depardieu acted out the lighter side of immigration fraud to the sounds of Enya, that I had something truly wonderful in my possession. It remains among my very favorite recipes, both to make and to share.
I have made these rolls in good times and bad. I have made them for coworkers, for friends, for family, and for strangers. I have made them with the full arsenal of a commercial kitchen and, most humbly, with a wooden spoon and a large pot. Because they are a sure-fire crowd pleaser and require absolutely minimal equipment, I highly recommend taking the recipe with you when you travel. You will be the houseguest who always gets invited back.
(Keep reading Cinnamon Rolls…)
Sat 22 Aug 2009
Posted by Bria under Baking
I can’t go another day without sharing my go-to challah recipe with you. It’s actually my mom’s recipe, which just goes to show that you don’t have to be born Jewish to inherit a perfect recipe for a most emblematically Jewish food. On occasion, I turn to the recipe in Joan Nathan’s splendid Jewish Cooking In America, her amazing oeuvre that reads the way I think a Jewish cookbook should – rich headnotes and historical asides paired with flawlessly-voiced procedures. Though I love Joan’s recipe, I confess that I find it a bit rich for regular use. I wax rhapsodically through phases of regular Shabbat observance in the form of Friday night dinners with candles and challah. For those weekly episodes, my mom’s recipe triumphs. Light and simple, the dough can be thrown together on Thursday evening and baked on Friday, either in the morning or just before dinner. To wit, I started a batch at 11pm a few weeks ago so that I could bake the loaves before work the following day in order to send them to friends in other cities (long story). A bit of mixing, a bit of kneading, a brief rest (while I cleaned the kitchen and brushed my teeth), and they were ready to shape before bed. Overnight, the refrigerator’s cool embrace slowly coaxed the yeast to plod along its flavor-making path gently and smoothly, just the way yeast prefers. Laboring while I slept, the bread readied itself for a morning bake. Perfect.
In the morning, the smell emanating from the kitchen was warm and sweet. It crept down the hall and into our bedroom, rousing my sleepy husband who wandered into the kitchen asking “are there pancakes?” as he rubbed his bleary eyes. Thankfully, he wasn’t disappointed to find that I was making challah instead, and that one of the three loaves was for him.
One request: please learn to say it correctly. HAH-lah. The first sound is a soft, guttural ‘h’ and not a hard ‘ch’ as in chalk.
I should note that this dough is infinitely adaptable to whatever shape you like. In elementary school, my mom would shape the loaves to look like teddy bears, which we would adorn with chocolate chip eyes and noses before presenting them to my teachers as Christmas gifts. I will give you a few minutes to join me in giggling at the irony of using challah dough to make Christmas bears for my teachers in Utah, the only place where Jews are considered gentiles. It’s the little things that make me smile. Shabbat shalom, my friends.
(Keep reading Challah…)
Wed 1 Jul 2009
Welcome to the very first Salty Spoon contest! Tell me your favorite kind of bread and earn a chance to win an instant-read thermometer, the kind I (incessantly) recommend. The contest will remain open for one week, until midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, July 8. There are two ways to send me your entry, and you may use either or both once a day until the contest is over:
1. Comment on this post
2. Send me (@SaltySpoon) a tweet on Twitter
Good luck – I look forward to hearing about your favorites.
I’ve heard that real estate agents recommend baking a cake or a batch of cookies just before an open house. The hope is that the sweet smell emanating from the oven will beckon to prospective buyers. When we shopped for our place, we saw something like 40 houses in four days, so I can’t tell you with any certainty whether any of them smelled like cookies. There was one place in Marina del Rey that smelled like old soup, and several new condos that offered the seductive chemical high of new carpet fumes, but there are none that sing out in my mind as That Place That Smelled Like A Big Fat Cake.
I would have remembered roasting garlic. My allegiance to baked goods notwithstanding, if I were to select one aroma to illustrate the olfactory concept of Home, it would be the smell of garlic roasting in a hot oven. As it roasts, garlic softens, both in texture and intensity. It abandons the militant aggression it so favors when raw and matures into something warmer, friendlier, with a softer smile. If raw garlic is an outspoken 19-year-old, defiantly braless and passionately committed to a new cause biweekly, then roasted garlic is the 45-year-old that kid grows up to be, who reads edgy historical fiction, drinks more green tea than coffee, and always listens patiently.
When I cook with garlic, I breathe a contented sigh every time I reenter the kitchen. The scent surrounds me, offering a time-worn flannel shirt for the nose. It reaches in and puts me at ease; even the overhead Ikea tracklights seem fuller and more golden. A simple batch of aigo bouido – a garlic soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – simmering on the stove sets guests’ faces aglow as they enter for dinner. Graceful billows of garlicky steam tempt them to the table. And a loaf of bread made with a rosemary garlic paste beams as it bakes, filling the whole house with herbed wizardry. Almost enough to sell the place.
(Keep reading Roasted Garlic Rosemary Bread…)
Wed 24 Jun 2009
Posted by Bria under Baking
I have a confession: I cheated on my favorite sandwich bread recipe. For several months, I regularly made the Multi-grain Extraordinaire recipe from Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Whether toasted or incorporated into a sandwich, it sings. The finished product and I were so happy together. But I had my differences with the recipe.
It’s not complicated or faulty, quite the contrary. Once the ingredients are ready, it falls squarely in the mix-it/shape-it/bake-it gang of sandwich breads (as does the following recipe). The problem, for me, lies in getting the multiple grains ready for their extraordinaire status. At least 8 hours prior to mixing the dough, the grains (cornmeal, oatmeal, wheat bran) must be soaked in a bit of water to form the aptly-named soaker. Unfortunately, this sometimes exceeds the limits of my advance planning skills. I usually make sandwich bread for the week on the weekend, which requires putting together a soaker on Friday or Saturday night. After several weeks of making it to Sunday afternoon without a proper soaker, I went in search of a new sandwich bread recipe.
The fine folks at King Arthur Flour provided me with a new prospect. I know we met on the rebound, I know. So I’m taking it one loaf at a time. It’s been over a month since the Multi-grain Extraordinaire has heard from me. We were pretty close, but there’s no need for a formal pronouncement about the change in our relationship. I hope we can just become casual friends who catch up once in a while.
If we do end up having to Have a Talk, I’ll tell it the truth: it’s not you, it’s me.
(Keep reading Wheat and Oat Sandwich Bread…)
Thu 14 May 2009
Posted by Bria under Baking
At the risk of sounding hopelessly smug, I’m going to tell you that we haven’t bought a loaf of bread in nearly a year. People sometimes ask me if we have a bread maker, and it takes all the control I can muster not to shout YES AND HER NAME IS BRIA. You do not need a machine to make what you can easily accomplish with a big bowl and your own two hands. Besides, bread machines take up precious counter space, cost a lot more than a bowl, and (depending on the model) can make absurdly-shaped loaves.
I am going to cut to the chase here and demand that you make this bread before a week has passed. This is fantastic stuff, and it is a perfect gateway bread that will build your confidence and earn you the admiration of friends and enemies alike. It will also airbrush your skin and help you make friends while losing lots of weight. Oprah eats this bread daily. I myself lost 30 pounds of belly fat by making this bread.
Or maybe it’s just delicious. These are beautiful, artisan loaves – no two will look alike, and they will grow and change in the oven to surprise you upon their completion. I lovingly call it Lazy Bread, as you don’t knead it or do much more than arrange it a few times and send it on its merry, baking way. The total duration of time involved is around 4 hours, but the hands-on time is really minimal. Get a batch of dough going and go about your day while it naps. The yeast will do its thing without you; just help it find a nice shape and get it into the oven. The bread will do the rest.
Enjoy as toast, with soup, or alongside a hearty pasta. Better yet, dip it in a fragrant olive oil as you sip wine and try to remember what life was like before you started making bread for yourself. If the picture is hazy, let it fade into your subconscious as a quaint remembrance of Life Before Good Bread.
(Keep reading Artisan Bread for Beginners…)