There are many foods that I can live without, but bread isn’t one of them. I enjoy it in all of the many forms and flavors that it takes. I love flat breads and fry bread. Herbed breads and sweet breads. And breads with crusts that make me thankful I have great teeth. Olive Rosemary Foccacia raises the volume on soups, salads and pastas. The pillowy chewiness of the center with the slightly salty crust and zing of fresh herbs makes this bread almost a meal in itself.
This easy-to-make recipe comes via Valerie Bertinelli and like just about every recipe of hers that I have tried, the directions are simple and it works out on the first try. As much as I like bread, even I can’t eat a whole pan of this delectable Olive Rosemary Focaccia in one sitting. Although it’s perfect for a family. So I ended up freezing half and saving some for another dinner. I definitely encourage you to eat this bread warm from the oven. Since mine was made a few hours earlier than we ended up eating dinner, I simply warmed it for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven when I was ready to serve. The same goes for bread that you froze and defrosted.
So the next time you want to turn turn up the volume on a bowl of soup, salad or pasta, try this Olive and Rosemary Foccacia.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling (I have made this with just rosemary and with a mix of fresh herbs – rosemary, oregano and thyme. Works well either way.)
1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced (Red onion works too)
One 5.3-ounce jar pitted green olives, drained (A mix of black and green or one or the other works. Use what you have. I used Kalamatos and Cerignola this time.)
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (Optional but really nice)
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and grease with a thin layer of olive oil. (You can also make this directly on the pan if you don’t have parchment.)
Place sugar and 1 1/2 cups slightly warm tap water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt and one tablespoon rosemary in a large bowl. Add to the mixer along with the oil. Knead the dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth, supple ball that is not sticky to the touch, about 5 minutes. Turn the dough out on the prepared sheet tray, drizzle with more olive oil and cover with a bowl or clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Using well-oiled fingertips, gently press the dough out onto the sheet tray, making dimpled indentations all over the dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again for another 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Sprinkle the dough with the onions, olives and rosemary and drizzle generously with oil. Bake the focaccia until it is puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving. Don’t be stingy with the EVOO. The focaccia drinks it up and it’s just delicious!
I’ve decided to take another look at some of my recipes and this week it is Lisa’s Challah Revisited. It isn’t always about blogging something new, but instead, it’s reminding people just how good a recipe is. Shabbat may come every week, but it still is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar after Yom Kippur. It is an island in time where we don’t answer the phones or watch TV. No matter how busy and hectic the week was, we always sit down as a family, to a table set with our best glasses and dishes and a lovely meal. We light the Sabbath candles, sing songs and b’rachot (blessings) and take the time to really be present for one another.
When my son was little he would help me clean up and prepare the table. Like all children, he would sometimes balk. So I told him the story about how two angels would come to our house each week – a good angel and a bad angel. If the bad angel saw us fighting and the house not ready to welcome Shabbat, he would tell the good angel that he had won control and that our family would have a bad Shabbat and following week. But if our house was in order, the table set and we were into the spirit of Shabbat, including giving tzedekah for those less fortunate then she would turn to the bad angel and say that she had won control. Our house and family would be blessed with a peaceful Shabbat and a good week. Not surprisingly, the good angel won more times than not. These are precious memories and traditions that we built and ones that our son now continues with his family.
So why am I revisiting my challah recipe if I had made it for decades? Well for a long time now I was only making my Vegan Challah. We would celebrate Shabbat with my niece’s family and since her son is deathly allergic to eggs I developed a challah recipe that everyone could enjoy. I never wanted my great-nephew and godson to miss out on anything because of his allergies. If you are vegan or have a food allergy, this is a great recipe. However, as good as that recipe is, it simply is not the same as traditional egg challah. Now that my niece has moved away and we have our first grandchild, I wanted to ensure that she would grow up with the absolute best traditional challah. Lisa’s Challah Revisited delivers. It is everything an eggy, tender, sweet challah should be.
So Why the Need for a New Recipe?
I returned to my original challah recipe that I had developed over two decades. The only problem was that it no longer worked for me. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, but after several less than stellar attempts, I decided to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. Thus Lisa’s Challah Revisited. My husband and I now make this every week. We recently returned from visiting our beautiful granddaughter in San Francisco and we passed on this improved version to our son, who is the challah maker in his family.
Making Challah When You Work
Clearly it is easier to bake bread when you are at home all day. But there still are ways to enjoy homemade challah even if you work outside the home. You can start it the night before and then refrigerate the dough to slow down the rising process, completing the last rising and baking after you return home. I used to prepare my dough before I left for work and then brought a sealed plastic bucket of dough with me to the office where I could punch it down as needed until I was able to leave for the day. Bread can be pretty forgiving and an extra rising will just make for a finer crumb. Of course the first time I did this my supervisor came into my office and asked if I had been drinking beer! The yeasty smell had permeated the office. After that, though, my co-workers used to like to come into my office to check out the dough and even to punch it down on occasion. So if you don’t work from home, you can still bake your own challah. Nothing gets me in the mood for Shabbat quite like the smell and taste of fresh baked challah. If you can’t do it every week (and the bread can be frozen as well so you can make a big batch) at least make it for a special Shabbat or holiday.
I believe that welcoming and observing Shabbat is the most beautiful tradition we Jews have. And in this crazy world we live in it is actually a necessity for keeping our sanity and bringing families and loved ones together. But the truth is, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this bread.
A word about tradition. When it comes to food, I am all about tradition. I understand that with the plethora of food blogs and bloggers out there, everyone is looking for the new “it” recipe to fill space and gain new followers. Over time, I have even tried many of these recipes and rarely do I find that they are an improvement. New is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to food. So you can take your stuffed challah and challah using all kinds of different grains and strange ingredients. For my money and my family, Lisa’s Challah is the one that will stand the test of time. The only tweaks that I will allow are whether to use raisins or not (my husband loves them; my son – not so much) and to add sesame or poppy seeds to the glaze or to leave it plain. Okay, I did once make my vegan challah using chocolate chips instead of raisins as a special treat for the children.
The Pupil Surpasses the Teacher
And while this recipe and method is mine, I will happily admit that the student has surpassed the teacher. My husband retired a few years ago and has taken an interest in doing some cooking. And after 35 years of preparing three meals a day, I’m very happy for him to occasionally cook a meal for us. He started helping me to bake bread when the arthritis in my hands got bad and now he has become the challah maker every week. Our son also is making his family’s challah and I couldn’t be prouder. And while I am always on hand to give advice and check the dough, I have to give credit where it is due. My husband is way better at braiding than I ever was and he creates a beautiful and consistent challah week after week.
Lisa’s Challah Revisited
I am including this recipe exactly as my husband has written it down. Since he was a complete novice at bread baking, he needed to have the recipe make sense for him. If he could learn to make THE best challah, you can too. We enjoy this bread every shabbat and all week long. Left-overs make great toast with butter and cinnamon or honey or french toast. You can also make next week’s dessert using left-over challah for the best bread pudding. This recipe makes one large loaf. It can be doubled or divided into two small loaves. If you do the latter, you will have to reduce your baking time by about 12 to 15 minutes,
Yield: 1 large loaf
2.25 teaspoons active dried yeast
1/3 cup warm water (It should feel warm to your finger, but not burning)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ cup warm water
2 X-tra large eggs, at room temperature
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup canola oil
1/8 cup honey
3+ cups flour – either all-purpose, unbleached flour or bread flour (I prefer to use bread flour, but all-purpose will work too)
1/3 cup raisins, tossed with ¼ tsp. all-purpose unbleached flour (Optional)
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten for the glaze
Place yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/3 cup warm (to the touch) water in a large bowl and mix well. Allow the yeast to proof for 8 to 10 minutes.
Once the yeast is bubbly, add the remaining 1/2 cup warm water, eggs, salt, oil, honey and 1 cup of flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture for 100 strokes.
Add 1 more cup of flour and the raisins and stir through.
Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and one more cup of flour and mix using a wooden spoon or a dough scraper until there are no more visible shreds of dough. If the dough still looks wet, add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour and stir or knead to incorporate. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 12 minutes. (This allows the gluten to begin to form and prevents you from adding more flour than is needed, which would make for a heavier bread.)
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoonful only as needed to keep the dough from sticking (usually about 1/4 cup). You want to use as little as possible to produce a supple, unsticky dough. You know you have kneaded enough when you poke two holes in the dough with your fingers and it springs back quickly.
Form the dough into a tight ball and place back in the bowl which has been coated with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Roll the dough in the oil to coat and then cover the bowl. I use a towel, but plastic wrap also works.
Place the dough in a draft-free spot like the microwave and allow it to rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The dough will have doubled and you know it is ready when you poke two fingers into the dough and the holes remain.
Punch down the dough, removing any air bubbles. Turn out onto a clean surface and pat the dough into a rectangle. Using your dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise in half again until you have 4 mostly equal strands. Try not to stretch the strands too much.
Lay the strands lengthwise next to, but not touching one another. Place the top ends of the strands together.
Braiding the Challah
There are many videos and instructions out there on how to braid challah using 3, 4, 5 and 6 strands. Find one that works for you and go with it. My husband followed this video and so far it has consistently produced a beautiful 4-strand braid.
We now have four strands of dough. The left-most is in position 1, the next one is in position 2, the next is in position 3, and the right-most is in position 4. When we say “pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3” we mean that you should pick up the left-most strand (at position 1), move it to the right – jumping over two strands – and then put it down. The strands you jumped over are now in positions 1 and 2, your strand is now in position 3, and the right-most strand is in position 4.
Without pulling (just lift) pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3. Then pick up strand 4 and move it to position 2. Finally, pick up strand 3 and move it to position 2. Keep repeating this pattern until you come to the bottom.
If it starts to narrow too much, simply fold the dough underneath.
Press the bottom strands together. Press the top strands together. Carefully move the braid (using the dough scraper to help) onto a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicon mat. Spray lightly with cooking spray, cover with a tented piece of waxed paper and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
While the bread is rising, heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the remaining egg.
When the dough has risen, paint it several times with the egg mixture. If you are adding sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them across the painted dough. Then carefully paint them one more time to be sure they adhere as much as possible. Discard any remaining egg. Place the dough in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway if your oven is uneven like mine. Bake until the bread is a beautiful brown and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the bread to a cooling rack.
Tonight we’re having Greek Red Lentil Soup for dinner and I wanted some kind of bread to go with it. Socca Niçoise chickpea bread is the perfect accompaniment. Between the lentils and the chickpeas I certainly don’t need to worry about protein or flavor. This would be the perfect “meatless Monday” meal! And while I have no issues with gluten and happen to love almost all breads and pastas, this recipe is not only vegan, but it is gluten-free. The Socca was especially delicious drizzled with EVOO and with either tapenade or roasted smushed garlic spread on top. I’m just sayin’.
I will never be able to eat Socca without thinking of Julia Child. She did one of her TV episodes on the South of France and highlighted Socca. At the end of the show, in that inimitable Julia Child voice and with her joie de vivre, she looked at the audience and said “Socca to me!” [For those too young to recall the TV show Laugh-In, “Sock it to me” was a recurring phrase.]
What is Socca, really?
Socca Niçoise chickpea bread is a traditional Southern French treat. There are a dozen different ways you can make it. You’ll most often find socca cooked street-side on fiery grills, where the resulting flatbread is coarsely chopped and served in a cone with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. While every home cook in the South of France may have their own technique for preparing the batter, the ingredients are almost always the same: chickpea flour water, and olive oil. The Socca sold on the street are more crepe-like than this recipe but it still is delicious and worth making.
Chickpea flour is made from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and is also commonly known as garbanzo flour, gram flour, and besan. However, besan or gram flour is a flour of chana dal or split brown chickpeas. Chickpea flour or garbanzo flour is ground up white chickpeas. I happened to have besan on hand the first time I made this so that is what I used. I then bought chickpea/garbanzo flour and made it again. I also used 4.5 ounces of flour the second time instead of going with 1 cup. It turned out that one cup actually weighed out to 5.33 ounces. So which was better?
Both were good, but if I had to choose, I preferred the one made with actual chickpea flour and when I measured by weight rather than cups. The resulting socca had more flavor and was more reminiscent of what you would buy from a street vendor in Nice. I also drizzled olive oil on the top after 5 minutes in the oven and then returned it to the oven for another 3 minutes. When it came out of the broiler, I then drizzled more EVOO and sprinkled on my za’atar. The edges and bottom were brown and crispy and the middle was just barely flexible. I could get addicted to this especially since it is sooooooooooo easy to make. The second time I ate it with my delicious split pea soup. So, so satisfying.
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan and drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary
1+ teaspoon za’atar (optional)
Prepare the chickpea batter. Whisk the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, rosemary and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.
Preheat the oven with the pan. Arrange an oven rack 6 inches below the broiler element and heat to 450°F with a 10-inch cast iron skillet inside. About 5 minutes before the batter is done resting, turn the oven to broil. (Don’t try this with any other kind of pan. And if you don’t have a cast iron skillet – get one. They are the best for so many things but especially when you want to really sear or brown food.)
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add about 1+ teaspoon of oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan when the pan is swirled. Pour the batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the entire surface of the pan.
Broil the socca for 5 to 8 minutes. Broil the socca for 5 minutes. The top will begin to look a bit cracked. Drizzle generously with EVOO and return the pan to the oven for about 3 more minutes. The socca should be fairly flexible in the middle but crispy on the edges.
Slice and serve. Use a flat spatula to work your way under the socca and ease it from the pan onto a cutting board. It should come right out leaving your pan practically clean. Drizzle with more EVOO and sprinkle with za’atar. Slice it into wedges or squares.
Storage: Socca is best if eaten immediately after baking while still warm, but can be refrigerated and re-toasted for up to 1 week.
Chickpea flour: You can find chickpea flour in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and other natural foods-type stores. Bob’s Red Mill also sells it in packages. Look for it under the name “garbanzo bean flour” if you’re having trouble finding it.
I am a true advocate for eating bread. There is nothing that beats the aroma or taste of bread that has just come from the oven. The entire house just smells delicious and warm and safe. As soon as the temperature outside begins to cool down, I turn my thoughts to cooking big pots of soup, stews and fragrant bean dishes. I love to make these things and to eat them. And best of all, they only improve with rewarming so that I always make enough for left-overs during the week ahead. This relatively simple but hearty fare really only needs some good bread to soak up the pot liquor and to fill my home with the most wonderful smells.
I own several books on artisan bread baking but a book that I often return to is a slim volume called Betty Crocker’s Breads. I have owned this cookbook for decades and it is completely unpretentious with zero snob appeal. It also is entirely accessible and when the simple instructions are followed, the result is always a perfect loaf of bread. This is a perfect book for the novice or anyone who wants to bake without intimidation. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print with only ridiculously priced copies available online. However, if you manage to come across a copy in a used bookstore – grab it!
Try this bread for a family Sunday supper or surprise your guests for Thanksgiving. No one has to know how easy it is to make.
Yield: Two 8-inch round loaves
4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast (2 packets if using packets)
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F. or simply water that feels quite warm but not hot to your fingertips)
1 envelope onion soup mix (about 1.5 ounces)
1/4 cup additional fried onions (the kind from a can) (Optional)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) solid shortening
About 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
About 4-6 Tablespoons of melted butter
Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a large standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Add soup mix and stir to dissolve. Add the sugar, molasses, salt, egg, shortening, fried onions (if used) and 3 cups of the flour. Beat for about 1 minute on the lowest speed, scraping down where necessary in order to mix.
Add 3 cups more of flour. Increase the speed to 2 (or the next lowest speed up) and continue beating with the dough hook, scraping down the dough as necessary, for about 7 to 8 minutes more. I did not require any additional flour, but if your dough seems too sticky, add up to another 1/2 cup, a Tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks. The dough should be gathering up on the dough hook and will be smooth and supple (elastic) to the touch. [You can, of course, make this by hand, in which case you will have to knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes.] Turn the dough into a greased bowl and roll it around to cover all of the surfaces. Cover the dough and allow it to rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free spot. (I use my oven, turned off, of course.) This takes just about an hour. The dough is ready if an indentation made with two fingers remains.
Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a rectangles that is 24 x 5 inches. Tightly roll up each rectangle (I do them one at a time.) from the long side. You want to end up with a long, even log.
Grease two 8-inch cake or pie pans. Beginning at the outside edge of the inside of the pan with the seam facing down, coil the rope of dough ending in the center of the pan. Brush each coil with melted butter. Allow to rise uncovered on a draft-free counter for 50 minutes or until doubled. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. while the dough rises to ensure a nicely heated oven.
At the end of the rising, bake the turbans for about 40 minutes or until they are well-browned and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the breads from the pans to a cooling rack and brush with additional melted butter if desired.
The weather wasn’t that great this past weekend so the idea of spending some time reading Ron Chernow’s book on Ulysses S. Grant and baking bread while my husband put up some shelving seemed like a good idea. I wanted to make sandwich bread and none of the recipes I looked at got me excited so I decided to experiment. I wanted a bread that was flavorful, had some bite to it and would make wonderful toast; I came up with this cracked wheat bread with fried onions. While you could make fried onions, I bought mine from nuts.com. They also are available at most grocery stores.
This is a heavy dough and since I have arthritis in my hands, I find that I no longer can do all of the mixing and kneading by hand that I once did so I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Feel free to go at it by hand if you want a good workout. I am not vegan and do not keep Kosher, so I used butter and dairy milk in the recipe. However, if you wish to keep this vegan, I see no reason why you couldn’t use unsweetened non-dairy milk (my personal preference is for soy but any other creamy non-dairy milk should work) and a non-dairy buttery spread.
The cracked wheat bread made incredible toast slathered with fresh butter, but it would be equally great with smushed avocado on top. However you decide to eat this bread, you can’t go wrong. It is the perfect slice – crunchy, moist, great crumb and full of flavor.
Cracked Wheat Onion Bread
Yield: Two 9 x 5-inch loaves
1 cup coarse cracked or bulghur wheat
2 cups of water
1/3 to 1/2 cup of fried onions
1 cup of milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses
1.5 Tablespoons Kosher salt
2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups of whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
3+ cups of bread flour
1 Tablespoon neutral oil, butter or ghee for the bowl plus more for the bread pans
In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the bulghur wheat and 2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot tightly and cook for 12-14 minutes. The time might vary according to the cracked wheat you use. It is done when the water is absorbed and the wheat is fluffy.
Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, milk and molasses and stir through well. Allow to cool until the mixture is just warm.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, 1/3 cup of warm water and one teaspoon of sugar. Mix lightly and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast has eaten the sugar and the mixture is foamy.
Add the bulghur wheat mixture and stir through with a heavy wooden spoon. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Now add 2 cups of the bread flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will likely still be quite wet. Start adding more bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture starts to resemble dough. As the dough gets heavier, you can mix in the flour on the lowest speed of the standing mixer, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Start kneading the dough once it is no longer too sticky and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl as an intact dough. I use the second lowest speed on my mixer for this. Add flour as needed about 1/4 cup at a time so that the dough will pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. I cannot give you an exact amount of flour to use since humidity and different brands of flour will lead to different amounts. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky. I kneaded it for 11 minutes with the standing mixer set on Speed 2. I added flour in small amounts so that as the dough kneaded it came away cleanly from the bowl. After 11 minutes, I turned the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneaded by hand for about 2 minutes. The dough should feel warm, supple and “alive.” Roll into a large ball or disk.
Coat a large bowl (I use the one from the mixer to cut down on dishes!) with about 1.5 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel that was rinsed in warm water and rung out or use plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled – about 1 to 1.5 hours. This dough proved to be very fast-rising in my apartment which I usually keep on the cool side.
Coat 2 bread pans generously with oil, ghee or butter. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a shape to fit the pan. Some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll the piece up from the short end, pinching the dough along the seam at the bottom. (I don’t personally find that makes my crumb any better than when I simply shape it with my hands into a fat oblong. I then pull the two ends under and pinch the bottom seam.) Place the dough into the prepared pans seam-side down and cover lightly. Allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pans. This only took about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Allow the oven to continue heating unopened while the dough has its second rise. When the dough has risen, place both pans in the oven side by side with a couple of inches between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the breads are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon or your knuckles. Turn the breads out onto a rack. While the breads are still hot, brush them with some butter, ghee or oil. Allow to cool completely. The bread will last for a week or it can be wrapped well and frozen. This bread is a real winner.
I had planned on surprising my husband with my Ricotta Rum Pound Cake when I realized that my ricotta cheese, which had been shoved to the back of the fridge, had gone bad… I hate when that happens! It was too late to go to the store to buy more and it also was raining heavily. I could have scrapped the whole idea of baking but I was all psyched to make something so decided to experiment with what I already had in my pantry. I tried to think of what I had that was a similar texture and consistency as whole milk ricotta and remembered that I was bullish on pureed pumpkin. At first I was going to try making the same recipe just substituting the pumpkin for ricotta but then decided that the pumpkin deserved its own special bread. I tinkered around and came up with this delicious pumpkin bread with a twist.
Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread
Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf
1.25 cups cake flour
1/4 cup of toasted wheat germ
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons unsulphured dark molasses
3 large eggs
15 ounce can pureed pumpkin
2 rounded Tablespoons orange marmalade
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 strips of cooked bacon (any kind) cut into small pieces (Optional but recommended)
3/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You can toast the walnuts in the oven or in a dry frying pan on the stove top. Either way, be sure to watch them carefully. You really just want to barely toast them – just enough to bring up the flavor.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the pumpkin, molasses and marmalade and mix well on low speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing through on low speed so you don’t make a mess or over mix. Add the walnuts and bacon pieces and just mix through on low speed or fold in by hand.
Spray a loaf pan with baking spray with flour or grease the pan well and line the bottom with waxed paper, which you then also grease. Pour the mixture into the pan and gently shake the pan to even things out. Place the pan in the center of your oven and bake for about 75 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. The outer edges make get quite brown which is not a problem. If it bothers you, carefully wrap some foil around the edges after 45 minutes to an hour to keep it from getting too browned. (I didn’t bother doing this.)
Remove the pan from the oven rack and allow it to cool enough to handle – about 20 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto the rack and allow it to cool until just slightly warm before cutting.
NOTE: The bread is delicious as is, but it can also be spread with cream cheese or butter. The bacon adds a subtle flavor and makes for a wonderful texture. You could leave it out if you really are averse but it really made this special in my opinion. Wrap any left-overs well and it will keep for up to a week, getting a bit moister and with the spices becoming more intense each day. While delicious at room temperature, it tastes even better when eaten slightly warmed. My husband likes to have some for dessert with a little vanilla ice cream….
When my son was growing up, I used to take great joy in treating him (and my husband) to home-baked goods. But even as someone who loves to bake, sometimes I just wanted something simple and fast that I could put together no matter how late is was or how tired I was. This gingerbread recipe comes from my trusty James Beard on Breadbook. It is simple, delicious, makes the house smell the way houses should smell when you walk into them and did I say it was simple?? I’m sure that you can “tart” it up as everyone seems to feel a need to do today, but trust me when I say that it needs NOTHING except maybe some additional fresh, sweet butter. Serve it with dinner instead of a roll or as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk or with a cup of tea or coffee for breakfast. But serve it! And good news for those with egg allergies – there are no eggs in this recipe.
Yield: One 9 x 9-inch pan
1 cup light or dark, unsulphured molasses (I use dark)
1/2 cup boiling water
5 Tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups, all-purpose, unbleached flour
Place the molasses and softened butter in a medium mixing bowl. (A trick for measuring out the molasses is to lightly spray a glass measuring cup with a spray like PAM and then add the molasses. The molasses will pour right out. This works with honey as well.)
Add the boiling water and stir until well mixed and the butter has melted.
Add the baking soda and stir lightly.
Sift in the flour, ginger and salt only enough to moisten and mix the ingredients. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth. Do not over mix!
Turn into an ungreased 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (ovens vary) or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Then inhale. This can be eaten immediately. Leftovers are also good but nothing beats it fresh from the oven.
If you have been following my blog then you know that I broke my foot over Thanksgiving, so between that and the polar vortex we have been under, getting out has not been a priority. That doesn’t mean, however, that I am willing to compromise on food. I had made some eggplant Parmesan for dinner and knew that we would be having soup or pasta in the next couple of nights. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any good bread in the house to go with these dinners and as my readers also know, I LOVE good bread. None of this no carbs nonsense for me. I would much rather go without meat than bread. Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox now.
I decided on focaccia which is really quite simple to make. While I don’t have a brick oven, I do have bricks in my oven as well as a pizza steel. The bricks I picked up from a construction site… They stay in my oven all the time and have also come in handy when I need to press something down like my tofu. No buildings were harmed in the process.
I started with a recipe from The Italian Bakerby Carol Field. I have made a few things from this cookbook and so far they have required some adjustments. I also like to improvise a bit so since this recipe makes three focaccia, I chose a different topping for each: sun-dried tomato, olives and just sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Once you learn the basics, you can fool around. Sometimes the results are amazing and sometimes not, but rarely is something such a failure as to be inedible. So loosen up and have fun. Try this with my White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo. And as an extra bonus, these focacce also make great sandwich bread, split like you are dividing a cake for layer cake. Try it with homemade pesto, herbed turkey breast and arugula or radicchio.
Focaccia alla Genovese
Yield: Three 9-inch round focacce or two 10.5 inch x 15-inch rectangular focacce
2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet, although this is a very inefficient and expensive way to buy yeast)
1/4 cup warm tap water
2.25 cups plus 1 Tablespoon tap water, room temperature
2 Tablespoons EVOO plus more for the pans
About 5.5 cups of flour ( I used a mixture of 3 cups all-purpose and 2.5 cups of bread flour)
1 Tablespoon fine sea salt
Fresh or dried herbs (optional)
While this can be made in a machine, it is so easy to make by hand so I am only including instructions for that method. If you want to make it by machine, buy the book!
Stir the yeast into the 1/4 cup of water in a large mixing bowl. (My house tends to be on the chilly side because I like it that way, so I always run hot water to rinse my bowl before adding yeast.) Allow to stand for about 10 minutes. You won’t see a whole lot happening but the yeast is blooming.
Stir in remaining water and EVOO. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and stir until smooth. (If you like, you can add about 2 to 3 Tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs like rosemary or sage or 1.5 Tablespoons dried at this point.) Stir in 3 more cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface, adding flour as necessary for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is velvety and soft but not sticky.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling the dough to cover it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours. Since my house is pretty cool, I warm my oven to 170 degrees F. while I am preparing the dough, then turn it off. I place my dough in the slightly warm oven to rise. You don’t have to do this, but if your house is on the cool side it may take a little longer for the first rise. If you are okay with this, it is not a problem for the dough.
Punch down the risen dough and divide into 3 equal parts for the round focaccia. (You could weigh these out if you want to be exact or you could eyeball it like I do. I like to live on the edge!) Shape each third into a thick disk and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. I spray a bit of PAM on each disk so the dough doesn’t dry out. You could also cover them lightly with plastic wrap. After about 10 minutes, the gluten should have relaxed enough that you can easily roll out each to a 9-inch circle. Place each round into a well-oiled 9-inch pie or cake plate. Cover the dough with a dish towel and allow them to rise for 30 minutes. I just leave them on my counter for this part.
After the dough has risen a bit, use your fingers to aggressively “dimple” the dough, leaving indentations that are about 1/2 inch deep. Just poke the dough. Cover the pans with a damp towel. I just wring my towel(s) out in warm water until there is no dripping. Allow the dough to rest for 2 hours. By this time the dough should be just about to the top of the pans. After 1 hour, heat your oven to 400 degrees F. This is especially important if you are using a pizza stone or steel or bricks. You want the oven as hot as possible since a home oven cannot achieve the temperatures of a brick oven.
Drizzle EVOO all across the top, making sure that all of the dimples have oil in them. Now it’s up to you. You can simple sprinkle sea salt or Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper on top or you can add some fresh herbs. You can add some chopped olives or sun-dried tomatoes pressed into the dimples. Drizzle a bit more EVOO and add salt to the tomatoes if using.
Place your pans in the oven. If you are using stones, place them directly on the stones or steel. During the first 10 minutes, spray water above the pans and quickly close the oven door to trap the steam. If you don’t have a spray bottle, take throw a couple of Tablespoons of water onto the bottom of the oven being careful to not hit the glass on the door or the light bulb in the oven – either of which could crack. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pans and place the breads on a rack. As you can see from my photo, I have raised the rack using inverted custard cups to allow as much airflow underneath as possible. You don’t want soggy focacce.
Enjoy the focacce warm from the oven or at room temperature.DO NOT refrigerate them. You can freeze focacce successfully and warm them in an oven when ready to eat.
It’s not my name – okay?! This recipe also comes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. This is perfect baking weather – not too hot or too cold and not damp. We plowed through the Anadama bread that I made last week. It was wonderful for sandwiches but was particularly scrumptious, toasted and spread with unsalted butter and drizzled with honey. I will definitely be making that again, but I wanted to try something different that I could still use for sandwiches and looked no further than this multi-grain loaf.
Years ago I had bought old-fashioned rolled steel bread pans and that’s what I used for this bread. It makes a wonderful crust and this time served to very briefly make me forget that it was 2016. It’s going to take an awful lot of bread baking to help me survive the next 4 years…
3 Tablespoons coarse cornmeal or polenta (you could substitute millet, quinoa or amaranth)
3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
2 Tablespoons wheat bran
1/4 cup water, at room temperature
For the Dough
3 cups bread flour plus up to one cup more to add when kneading
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon instant dried yeast
3 Tablespoons cooked brown rice (I cooked up some brown rice, served some with dinner and froze 3 Tablespoon packets for future baking)
1.5 Tablespoons honey (or substitute Agave or other vegan sweetener, if so desired)
1/4 cup buttermilk (you can use any kind of “milk” and if you add 1 teaspoon of distilled vinegar to it and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes, you will have a buttermilk substitute)
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
About 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds for topping (optional)
Just before going to sleep the night before you bake the bread, prepare the soaker. Combine all of the soaker ingredients in a small bowl. The water will barely hydrate the grain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to initiate the enzyme action.
The next day, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment. Add the soaker, rice, honey, buttermilk and water. Stir until the ingredients start to form a ball. If using a mixer, do this on a low speed. If there is some flour remaining, add a few drops of water.
Either knead with the dough hook for 8 to 10 minutes, adding flour in small amounts until the dough is pliable but not sticky or knead by hand on a floured counter. I used my mixer but then still had to knead by hand, adding about 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional flour to get the dough the right consistency. The dough should be smooth and slightly shiny when it is ready. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it all around in the oil. Cover the bowl and allow it to ferment for 90 minutes or until doubled. Mine took exactly 90 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle that is about 6 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches long. Fold it into thirds and pinch together the seams and fold under the ends. Place this packet into your oiled 9 x 5 inch bread pan. Brush with tap water, sprinkle on your poppy seeds, if using, and then spray lightly with oil (or a spray like PAM). Lightly cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for up to 90 minutes or until the dough crests fully above the lip of the pan, doming about 1 inch above at the center. Don’t get hung up on the timing. Mine took just one hour to get there. Start heating your oven to 350 degrees F. after 30 minutes so it will be nice and hot by the time the dough was ready.
I baked mine for a total of 58 minutes, but every oven is different. I baked it for 25 minutes and then turned it. After 50 minutes, it looked like it wasn’t quite brown enough for me so I turned it again and gave it 8 more minutes. When I rapped on the top of the bread and it sounded hollow, I knew it was done. Turn it out immediately onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing. When it is totally cool, you can wrap it tightly in foil. The bread should also freeze well should you be making a bigger batch.
After a simply gorgeous November day yesterday that seemed more like June, today is rainy and blah. I have no place I have to be having voted early and needing a distraction from tonight’s last game of the World Series. Go Cubs! So I decided to bake some bread, especially since I make sandwiches for my husband most days and because I am an unrepentant bread lover. I could fairly easily give up meat if I had to, but I would be desolate if I had to give up bread.
One year for my birthday, my husband bought me the award-winning book, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. It’s a beautiful book and wonderful to read but somehow I hadn’t gotten around to making anything from it. I decided it was time to remedy that. I was looking for a good sandwich/toast bread and settled on that old New England favorite – Anadama Bread, which has a corn meal and molasses base. I’d read other recipes for it but none that used both a “soaker” and a “sponge.” I was immediately intrigued and knew that this is what I would be trying. By making a soaker, the corn meal has an opportunity to develop a depth of flavor that it would otherwise lack. There was nothing terribly complicated in either the ingredients or the method so don’t be put off by the length of the directions. I ended up with 2 lovely, brown, fragrant loaves that we will be enjoying over the next week.
Yield: Two 1.5 pound loaves
For the Soaker
1 cup stone ground yellow corn meal or polenta
1 cup tap water at room temperature
For the Dough
Approx. 4.5 cups of unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (90 to 100 degrees F, although I just do it by touch…)
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 Tablespoons molasses (it suggested Brer Rabbit Golden Molasses, rather than a full-flavored molasses)
2 Tablespoons solid shortening at room temperature
Canola Oil for the bowl
Cornmeal for dusting
The day before making the bread (I did this before going to sleep), make the soaker by mixing the cornmeal with the water in a small bowl. Cover the bowl or container and allow it to sit at room temperature overnight.
The next day, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, soaker and cup of water in a mixing bowl and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow this to ferment for one hour or until the sponge is poofy.
Once the sponge is ready, add the remaining 2.5 cups of flour, the salt, molasses and shortening and stir this well until the mixture begins to form a ball. This can be done in a standing mixer on a low speed with the paddle attachment. The result should be a slightly sticky mass.
Sprinkle some additional flour on the counter and turn the dough out and begin kneading it, sprinkling in more flour as needed to make a tacky but not sticky dough that is supple and pliable. This should take about 10 minutes of kneading. You can also make this using the dough hook of a standing mixer. The kneading would take 6 to 8 minutes, checking if more flour is needed.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment (rise) at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces, which should each weigh about 24 ounces assuming you are into weighing things – which I am not. Shape the dough into loaves and place them into 9 by 5-inch bread pans that have been lightly oiled or sprayed with something like PAM. Lightly spray or brush the tops with the oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Allow to rise at room temperature for between 60 to 90 minutes or until the loaves crest fully above the tops of the pans. (Mine were ready in 58 minutes)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack in the middle position. Place the pans on a sheet pan and remove the plastic wrap. Mist or brush the tops with water and dust with cornmeal.
Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the loaves are a nice golden brown. The loaves should make a hollow sound when rapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. I like well-done loaves so might keep them in a few minutes longer.
When the loaves are brown all over, immediately remove them from the pans and cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing. I made sure that I had some softened butter on hand!