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If you haven’t already guessed, I  love baking bread, and Easter has a large assortment of traditional breads to choose from. Please make sure to check back next week when the Daring Baker’s have a beautiful German Easter bread recipe for everyone. I had this bread already in mind before I knew about next weeks challenge so I figured the more the merrier and am posting this before Easter so it gives you a chance to make one this weekend.

Like all holiday breads, this one contains eggs. Eggs symbolized new life so it is only fitting for Easter (and Christmas and Rosh Hashanah). This one is baked in a round loaf, to symbolize the sun. The light lemony fragrance of this dough  is so inviting. You can make one large, and very impressive, 10-inch loaf or two smaller ones, which is what I did. They are equally impressive, just smaller. We are a small family so it’s better to keep and small loaf for ourselves and share a loaf with friends. Why don’t you bake some today and share with your friends? Bake On!

 

Alpine Easter Bread

makes one large 10-inch round loaf or two small 6-inch round loavesDSC_1153

1/2 cup (4 oz/150 ml) whole milk
1/2 Cup (4 oz) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 Cup (4 oz/150 ml) warm water (105-115f) or room temp water- it will just take longer to rise
4 Cups(17 ounces), or more, unbleached AP flour
2/3 Cup granulated sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest (lemon)
3 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract, or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp lemon extract

For the Glaze

1 Cup (4 oz / 120 g) powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon melted butter
3 Tablespoons Amaretto (or milk)

In a small saucepan combine the milk and butter and heat until the butter has melted. Let it cool to about 105 F.

In a large bowl  combine the warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast. Whisk to dissolve the yeast and let stand for about 10 minutes, or until it is foamy.

Why is this necessary? Active dry yeast needs to proof in water before use. If you use instant dry yeast it can get added with all of the other ingredients.

Add 2 cups of the flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt ,the milk/butter mixture, eggs and extract (or vanilla seeds). Beat for a few minutes until creamy. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time on low-speed (or by hand!) until a nice soft dough is formed. Add additional flour if needed. Here in Calgary it is quite dry so I tend to require less flour.  It should still be slightly tacky. Knead for 10 minutes.

Place the dough into a greased container, turn to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, at least 2 hours (yes, 2 hours). Alternately you can let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour then place the container in the refrigerator overnight. This will help develop the flavor. The next day let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a smooth round loaf. Place it into a greased 10-inch springform pan or a 4-inch deep 10-inch cake pan or two 6-inch round springform pans.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 350 F.

While the bread is baking prepare the glaze. Simply stir the melted butter, powdered sugar, and liqueur  together until it is smooth with no visible lumps. Set aside.

Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes if using a 10-inch pan, or 35-45 minutes if using a smaller pan. It should be a deep golden brown. Let the bread stand for 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Place on a wire rack over a piece of parchment or wax paper (to catch the drips). Drizzle the warm loaf(s) with all of  the glaze, letting it run down the sides. Stud the outer edge with whole almonds, if desired. Let cool completely. Enjoy!!

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Recipe Source: Baking Bread Old and New traditions by Beth Hensperger

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Water-Proofed? Seriously, what that mean? When I read that Elle, from Feeding My Enthusiasms, decided to choose a recipe from  James Beard’s  “Beard On Bread” my first thought was good on you for going back to the classics. But this is no classic; this is pure inventive thinking. Could Elle be serious about this “method”?  I immediately  went looking for my old  1974 edition and sure enough, on page 142, Water-proofed bread.  “The bread is called “water-proofed” because the dough is submerged in a bath of water for the first rising”.  How is this even possible and what in the world made him think of  even trying this? And it works…  I wish that he would have embellished on this method since it says nothing about it in the book and I couldn’t find anything on the internet about the origins of this. Anyone out there have any clues? If so, please fill me in. I guess all that matters is that the end result is light, airy and delicious.

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Please make sure to head over to Elle’s site for the original recipe since the recipe in the book immediately following water-proofed bread is water-proofed egg twists, which is what I made. Same concept, different shape. The recipe calls for rolling the dough in sugar and chopped nuts while shaping and since  I had  some hazelnut praline on hand I  thought this would be a nice way to use it. You will need a large bowl to fill with water that will be able to hold your dough, and a clean kitchen towel to wrap the dough in. The towel will get quite messy since the dough will want to stick to it so I would recommend a tight weaved cotton towel so no fibers get picked up by the dough.

there are a few interpretive questions I had about the recipe and it’s methods. It calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour but he only mentions 3 cups in the recipe. You will need all 3 1/2 cups. It calls for 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces. The length of kneading was sketchy to me so I just used my standing mixer and kneaded for about 10 minutes. Like I said, the end result was delicious.

This was a really interesting method to making bread and I am toying with the idea of trying it with a different bread recipe just to see if it works with something like rye bread or an olive loaf. In the meantime, Bake On!BBBuddy badge march 14

Water-Proofed Egg Twists

makes 18 buns (they also freeze beautifully after baking)

1 package (2 1/4 tsp)  active dry yeast   
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 Cup warm water (no hotter than 110 f)
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 Cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 Cup warm milk (no hotter than 110F)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans

 

Mix 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the chopped nuts; set aside

Proof the yeast with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in the warm water. Put 2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal. I pulsed it a few times in my mini food processor instead. Add the milk and the yeast mixture, and beat well. Add the eggs, vanilla, and the remaining flour and beat until springy and airy. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. I added everything at once and kneaded, using my standing mixer and dough hook, for 10 minutes.

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Okay, now for the fun part. Get a large bowl and fill it with tepid water (about 90F).  Spread a clean, cotton kitchen towel on the counter and flour it liberally. Place the dough into the center and wrap it up just like a present.

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Tie it loosely (so it can expand), but securely, and submerge it into the bowl of water. DSC_1095

 

It will sink like the Titantic.

Let it sit  for 40 minutes and it will magically float to the top.

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Remove it from the bowl, letting the excess water drip off, and unwrap the dough. Scrape the dough from the towel (it will be pretty messy) onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, kneading in a little flour since it will be quite sticky. Make 18 pieces. I used a scale and weighed them out in 50 gram increments.

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Spread your sugar nut mixture out and roll the dough pieces in it, rolling the dough out into 8 inch logs. Pinch the ends together and then twist into a figure eight.

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Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes. I like to put my pan in the cold oven, on the middle rack,  with a bowl of hot water placed onto the bottom rack. I then in keep it in until I preheat the oven.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before eating.

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Is it really necessary for me to tell you that this bread is delicious? I mean, come on, just look at it! Thin, crispy and hot off the grill. It doesn’t get much better… AND it’s fast. It is often deep-fried in the streets of Morocco, but in this case we are just grilling it stove top in a pan.

The Bread Baking Babes are celebrating their 6th and anniversary and Lien chose this special bread to start the celebration. As a buddy who hopes to be a Babe one day, I was happy to join in the fun.  Mine doesn’t look quite as crispy as Lien’s but I chose to fill mine to make them a bit more substantial so they could be an afternoon snack for my daughter. All I can say is that I can’t wait to make these again, and neither can my 7-year-old.

They dough is simple and straight forward with only 5 minutes of resting time. I needed to pick Scarlet up from school so I put my dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking. I think that this chilling time made the dough much easier to handle. After dividing the dough, now for the tricky part; stretching the dough paper-thin. Except that, in my case,  after making sfogliatelle a few months ago, this part was a breeze. For me, the key is to grease up your hands when stretching the dough. I just used a little vegetable oil but  I have no doubt that some melted butter would be divine.

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Three separate fillings were tried. The first was grated carrots sautéed with ginger, cumin and cilantro. Next up was some crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkling of crunchy pistachios. When there were done I finished it with a drizzle of honey (have I ever mentioned how much I love this combination?). The third filling was thinly sliced strawberries and then a heavy swirl of nutella on top; my daughters favorite. I still was able to make one with nothing, just plain jane. I think I liked it plain the best or at least a solid tie with the carrot filling. Bake On!

RgaïfBBBuddy badge feb 14

500 g (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
5.5 g  ( 1 1/4 tsp) dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
250 ml  (1 cup) water
50 ml  (1/4) olive oil

Mix flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.
Kneading by machine: Add water and start kneading with the dough hook, adding more water as necessary. Knead until the dough is very elastic and doesn’t stick to the sides anymore.
Kneading by hand: Make a well in the centre and add some water, start mixing in the flour where it touches the water. Little by little add more water and keep mixing in the flour. Start kneading, grease your hands with a little oil to prevent sticking. Knead about 20 minutes. Add water if it feels too dry. The dough needs to be very elastic and no dough should stick to your hands.

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Shape: Make 10 dough balls. Coat every ball with a little olive oil. Let them rest for about 5 minutes. Flatten the ball with your hand as much as you can. Lightly coat your hands with some oil. Stretch the dough. Take care to get no (or a little as possible) holes in the dough. You need to stretch the dough until it gets as thin as you can, thinner than paper if possible. It’s best done on a counter top, stretching the dough and sticking it to the surface, so it doesn’t spring back. This is not easy. I found that chilling the  dough for about 30 minutes really helped. Now fold the dough in squares by folding the round sides inwards.

Bake the squares in a medium-hot large pan on both sides. Only use more oil if the Rgaïf stick to the pan.

You can also deep fry them (as the do in southern Morocco)

Serve: You can serve them with syrup, (strawberry) jam, chocolate sauce. But also you can use savory things, like thinly slices meat, cheese etc.

You can also spread some filling in them, before folding and baking them. just keep in mind to make it thin.
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(adapted from: “Vrijdag couscousdag” by R. Ahali)

Please stop by and say “Happy Anniversary” to all of the Babes

Tanna-My kitchen in 1/2 cups

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Wow- what a fun bakers challenge this month!  Baumkuchen (which translated to tree cake) is a cake that is traditionally cooked on a spit, with a thin layer of batter spread on, then cooked, then another thin layer of batter, cooked, and so on, until many layers (as many as 30) are built up. It is then taken off the spit and stood upright. When cut into the slices look like the many rings of a tree. This cake is also extremely popular is Asia during weddings since it looks like a ring. During the 18th & 19th centuries these cakes were very popular in Europe, sometimes with 300 (!) eggs being used for a big occasion.

Since not many people own a spit, for this months Bakers Challenge, Francijn , from “Koken in de Brouwerij gave us  simpler version to try,  which is Schichttorte (layered cake, Schicht means layer). This is a simple version of Baumkuchen, with horizontal layers. The layers in Schichttorte are not dipped, but smeared, and the cake is not baked on a spit, but in a baking mould (tin) (pan) producing a flat multi-layered cake. It is Schichttorte that we will be baking for this month’s challenge.

I have two old pastry books that have information about Baumkuchen but I never thought I would be giving it a go, even in a modified version. My first version was made using Francijn’s recipe. It was moist and delicious, thanks to almond paste and 6 eggs. This cake definitely improves with age. The big problem with this cake? I didn’t brown it enough on top to get the distinct layered look.DSC_3868
And this is 10 layers of batter!. I was so afraid of burning it and drying it out that I lost the effect. I also had the oven rack in the middle of the oven when it should have been on the top, closer to the top burner. Not all was lost though, since it was really tasty. Next time I will try it with the oven on broil and see what happens.

For my next version, I decided to use a recipe from my own pastry book, Traditional Cakes and Pastries by Barbara Maher. This book is out of print, unfortunately. I used a 6 inch square pan for this one, so I halved the recipe (less temptation). A few tablespoons of cocoa powder went into half of that batter and orange zest (& a drop of color) into the other half.

Each layer takes about 4 minutes to cook so this is not a cake to make when you are busy doing other things. It’s also very easy – it just takes time. Bake On!

Baumkuchen

Prepare a  10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan or a 8×10-inch (20×25 cm) cake pan
Makes 12 pieces

Batter:

6 large eggs (room temperature)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) (4-1/4 oz) (120 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) marzipan
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) (7 oz) (200 gm) softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup (180 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 package) (8 grams) vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) all-purpose flour (sifted)

Glaze:
1/3 cup (80 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) apricot jam
2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) dark chocolate couverture chunks
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure coconut oil

oil to grease your pan parchment paper 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan / 8×10 inch (20×25 cm) cake tin

Directions: Preheat your oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8. Line your cake tin with parchment paper, grease both paper and pan.

Separate the eggs.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until nearly stiff, add the sugar and beat until really stiff.  Finely crumble the marzipan and beat it with the softened butter, confectioner’s (icing) sugar and vanilla sugar until soft and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one and beat well between each addition. Add the stiff egg whites and flour and gently fold it into the batter, trying not to lose too much air.

Smear 1/12th to 1/10th  of the batter (about 2 tablespoons) on the bottom of the pan, keep the sides of the pan clean, and bake for (about) 4 minutes in the oven, until it is cooked and brown. Take the pan out of the oven, smear the next portion of batter carefully over the first, and bake for another 4 minutes or until cooked and brown. Repeat until all batter is used. If you need to flatten a bubble insert a tooth pick or similar to deflate the bubble.This is only 2 tablespoons of batter
Let the cake cool down for a few minutes, take it out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely on a wired rack. Trim the edges.  Heat the jam a little, pass it through a sieve, and add the orange liqueur (optional). Cover the cake with the jam and let it cool.
Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a bowl above warm water. Pour it over the cake to cover completely, move the cake to a cool place and wait until the glaze is dry
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Version 2
for a 6 inch square pan

125 g/4.5 oz butter, softened
125 g/4.5 oz granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp. rum
25 g/1 oz ground almonds
65 g/2 1/4 oz AP flour, sifted
65 g/ 2 1/4 oz potato flour, sifted

2 Tablespoons cocoa and zest of 1 orange. One drop orange coloring, if desired.

follow the same mixing method as above except before adding the stiff egg whites, split the batter in half. I used a scale to make this very easy but by eye is fine too. Add the cocoa powder to one half, then the zest and coloring to the other half. Now fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and the other half of the egg whites into the orange mixture. Layer the batter and cook as above.

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Happy New Year everyone. A very belated one but still sincere. I have taken some time off from blogging over the holidays so I can enjoy myself and live in the moment. My little girl and I were lucky enough to once again go to New York for 6 weeks to be with my mom for Christmas. This year was filled with many bonuses. Two of my sisters came home to spend Christmas with us as well ; it’s been 20+ years since any of my sisters spent Christmas morning with us. My sister Stacey brought her husband and 3 kids with her (it’s been 4 years since I have seen my beloved nephews and niece). Then 2 days before Christmas my husband calls to say he is flying in on x-mas eve, courtesy of his good brother! While my oldest sister flew back to Atlanta the day after Christmas, her daughter, who now lives in Toronto, called on the 30th to say she was driving down to spend New Years Eve with us. With her husband (who I had never met) and her new 6 month old baby boy! Seriously, when they talk about spending time with your loved ones during the holidays, this is what they meant. What a treat for us all.  New York Dec 2013

While I baked up some 16 varieties of cookies, 12 panettone, 4 cakes for church coffee hour, 2 birthday cakes, 2 stollen, and a buche de noel (whew!), I did not make time to write about it. It takes me hours to get a post up. I don’t know how people can post everyday. Truly I don’t.  I’m lucky if I do 2 or 3 a month. Or on this case, none. Maybe there is some secret I don’t know about…

Anyway, I have been back in Calgary for a week now  and already have loaded myself up with new cookbooks to look at. One of them is “The New Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This is a revised edition (30 new recipes) of their bestseller Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day and is perfect for anyone who is a.) afraid of baking bread, b.) doesn’t own a stand mixer, or c.) loves bread. Much to my delight, I then saw that Jamie of Life’s a Feast picked a recipe from this very book for the Bread Baking Babes. Being a bread buddy is a delight of mine so I started right away with giving this a go since I had some chopped prunes already in the closet. An overnight soak in brandy helped (doesn’t it always?) deepen their complex flavor.

I still don’t understand how the gluten develops without any kneading, but who am I to question this apparently successful method. The dough is high hydration, almost more cake batter like when you mix it up, which is why it can stay in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, making it possible to have fresh-baked bread within a 2 hours notice. That is, as long as you have some dough in the fridge. The only downside I see to this book is that you have to prepare the dough in advance  at least the day before.  I still love the traditional way of baking though, there is something so organic about kneading, proofing, shaping, waiting some more and then baking. Or feeding your sourdough starter that’s been sitting on the counter and lovingly been attended to for months (or years). That being said, this is pretty darn cool, and easy. I will be trying a few more recipes from this book just to confirm this. Poor me, having to eat fresh bread….

So, on to this very interesting bread. It is bread, as in real bread, not like banana bread, which is cake-like. It is also deep and dark in flavor, thanks to dark cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, but it is not sweet. Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea (I tried both). I made three versions, one with prunes, one with dried cherries and hazelnuts and the last with just toasted hazelnuts. And more chocolate, of course, since bittersweet chocolate is good for you. so get your mixing bowls out and Bake On!

CHOCOLATE BREAD RECIPE (Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread)
Makes two 2-pound loaves. This recipe is easily doubled or halved.

2 ½ cups (565 ml) lukewarm water (100°F or below)
¾ cup (170 ml) vegetable oil
1 Tbs (0.35 oz / 10 g) granulated yeast
1 to 1 ½ Tbs (17 to 25 g) kosher salt – * use less if using fine table salt, more if using coarse salt
1 cup (7 ounces / 200 g) sugar
5 ½ cups (1 pound, 11 ½ ounces / 780 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (3 ounces / 85 g) dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups (6 ounces / 170 g) bittersweet or sweet chocolate chips
Mixing and storing the dough:

Mix the oil, yeast, salt and sugar with the water in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and the chocolate chips without kneading, using a spoon or heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you are not using the machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.DSC_3823-001

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle with cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 5 days. Beyond the 5 days, freeze the dough in 1-pound (about 450 g) portions in airtight containers for up to 4 weeks. When using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using, then allow the usual rest and rise time.DSC_3836-002

 

Chocolate Prune Bread:
Makes one 1 ½ pound loaf

1 ½ pounds (about 680 g – the size of a small cantaloupe) of the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread dough
Softened unsalted butter for greasing the pan
2 ounces (55 g) high-quality bittersweet chocolate – * use 6 ounces (170 g) if you did not add chocolate chips to the original Chocolate Bread Dough
¾ cup chopped pitted prunes
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls water)
¼ cup (50 g) sugar for sprinkling over the top of the bread and preparing the pan

On baking day, generously grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ – inch (22 x 11 ½ cm approx) nonstick loaf pan with butter, sprinkle some sugar evenly over the butter and shake the pan to distribute. Besides making a regular loaf pan I also used 3 medium-sized panettone papers.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 ½ pound piece (for the smaller loaves I used 12 ounce pieces) Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Using a rolling-pin, roll out the dough into a ½ – inch-thick (scant 1 ½ cm) rectangle. As you roll out the dough, use enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the work surface but not so much as to make the dough dry.

Sprinkle the chocolate and chopped prunes over the dough and roll up the dough jelly roll style to enclose them. Fold the dough over itself several times, turning and pressing it down with the heel of your hand after each turn. This will work the chocolate and prunes into the dough; some may poke through.

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With very wet hands (I floured my hands instead), form the dough into a loaf shape and place it into the prepared pan. Allow to rest and rise for 90 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). A baking stone is not required and omitting it shortens the preheat.

Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar (I used Swedish pearl sugar) . Bake the loaf in the center of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until firm. Smaller or larger loaves with require adjustments to baking time.

Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating. Enjoy!

Please check out if and how the other Babes managed their own Chocolate Prune Bread:BBB jan 14

Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights – Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien

Aloo Paratha

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You are going to love this quick flatbread that Karen of Bake My Day chose for the Bread Baking Babes this month.  I always look forward to seeing what those lovely ladies will choose for us buddies to try ,and this one does not disappoint. It’s simple, fast and delicious. The  bread consists of a simple non-yeast  dough with a potato filling. It would be good with pretty much any kind of vegetable though, as long as it’s not too wet.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lb  potatoes for the filling but I took Karen’s advice that this was too much and I used one large baking potato (which was more than enough). After they are filled and rolled out they get pan-fried (I used a combination of oil and butter) until brown and crisp. I will say that my daughter loved them the next day (warm and now soft) in her lunchbox. Since this is Indian bread we had it with some saag paneer. mmm…untitled

Mark Bittman uses a recipe he learned from Indian cook and cookbook writer Julie Sahni, her recipe, modified.

Aloo Parantha
(“how to cook everything by Mark Bittman”)

1.1/2 c whole wheat flour
1.1/2 c ap flour plus more for rolling out the dough
1 /2 tsp salt
1 ts ajwain* dried thyme, or ground cumin (I used ground cumin)
2 tbs neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for brushing the breads (I used canola)
1.1/2 pounds starchy potatoes, peeled and cut in half (one large potato is enough!)
1 jalapeño or other fresh hot chile, seeded and minced or more to taste (I used 2 dried chilies from my garden)
2 tsp ground coriander
freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/2 small lemon
melted butter

*ajwain comes from carom seeds which look like celery but taste like very strong, slightly coarse thyme

Combine the flours with 1 teaspoon salt and the thyme in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add the oil and 3/4 cup water through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough and, using flour as necessary, shape into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest while you make the potato mixture. (At this point, you may wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to a week; bring back to room temperature before proceeding.)

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Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover and a large pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily; cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes, then drain. Gently mash the potatoes along with half the chile, the coriander, a large pinch of salt, some pepper, and the lemon juice; taste and adjust the seasoning (I also added 1 teaspoon of garam masala).

When the dough has rested, set out a bowl of all-purpose flour and a small bowl of oil, with a spoon or brush, on your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Toss it in the bowl of flour and then roll it in your hands to make a ball. Flatten it into a 2-inch disk, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a thin round, about 5 inches in diameter, dusting with flour as necessary.DSC_3605

Mound about 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of one of the rounds of dough. Bring the edges of the round up over the top of the filling and press them together to make a pouch. Press down on the “neck” of the pouch with the palm of one hand to make a slightly rounded disk. Turn the disk in the bowl of flour and roll it out again into a round 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Pat it between your hands to brush off the excess flour. Put the paratha on a plate and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Continue to roll all of the remaining dough into parathas and stack them on the plate with a sheet of plastic wrap between them. You can keep the paratha stacked like this for an hour or two in the refrigerator before cooking them if necessary.

Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, then put on a paratha (or two, if they’ll fit) and cook until it darkens slightly, usually less than a minute. Flip the paratha with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Use the back of a spoon or a brush to coat the top of the paratha with oil. Flip and coat the other side with oil. Continue cooking the paratha until the bottom of the bread has browned, flip, and repeat. Do this a few times until both sides of the paratha are golden brown and very crisp, 2 to 3 minutes total for each paratha. As the paratha finish, remove them from the pan and brush with melted butter if you’re going to serve hot; otherwise wait until you’ve reheated them.

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This is a link to the recipe in the Huffington Post (in which Mark warns us that it may sound like “carbohydrate overkill)

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Can you believe it? I’m hosting this months Baker’s Challenge!! For my turn as hostess extraordinaire, I have chosen the gorgeous Neapolitan pastry, sfogliatelle. You might recognize them as the clam shaped pastry with hundreds of layers. They are filled with a  semolina-ricotta mixture that has added candied orange peel and a touch of cinnamon, served hot out of the oven (though I have eaten my fair share of room temperature ones).Here is a very interesting article on the history of this beloved pastry.

Growing up in Long Island, New York, it is virtually impossible to get away from Italian food.I think the natural progression for many Italian immigrants was to go from Italy, to Ellis Island, to Brooklyn, and then to Long Island.  For me though, my real love of Italian food, (and cooking in general) came later when I lived in Manhattan with my then boyfriend. We lived together for 10 years and the large family feasts at his parents Long Island home were memorable. We would arrive around noon and continue until late in the night with everyone pitching in with the cooking at one point or another. I really learned that the meal was as much about gathering together as it was about eating. Luckily for me, I am still extremely close with him and his family. He now even owns an Italian wine store in Brooklyn to go with the great food.  I now follow this tradition with my husband  by having our friends over as much as possible to enjoy their wit as well as food.
I wanted to choose something that would be a challenge; not only to you but for me as well. And I was right on point. I won’t lie to you, the first two times I made these it was a disaster. The third time was the charm and now they almost seem easy to make. The sfogliatelle ricci can be made over a period of days, if this makes it easier for you. I tend to like to make things in stages myself but you could also make this over the course of a long day. Keep in mind that you must chill the dough at various points before baking.
There are two main Italian versions of sfogliatelle. The first is sfogliatelle ricci (or Napoletane) and this is the crispy multilayered version. The second is sfogliatelle frolle, a tender almost cakey version covered in a soft pie crust like shell.
The American version goes by the name “lobster tail” and is a larger shell filled with a creme diplomat (pastry cream mixed with whipped cream) after it is baked. The dough is the same as Ricci but a dollop of pate a choux pastry is placed in the center of the shell before baking. This puffs up the core of the shell so that you can pipe in the creamy filling afterword. In one word, divine!

I am providing recipes for homemade ricotta cheese (so easy and so delicious), candied orange peel, sfogliatelle ricci and frolle dough. You must make the homemade cheese or the candied peel and at least one version of the sfogliatelle. Please experiment with filling flavors. I think chocolate ricotta with finely chopped pears would be lovely…The filling provided for the American Lobster Tail is a diplomat cream but I personally love marscapone mixed whipped cream. Again, amaze and inspire me. While I believe that the ricci version can only be made using a pasta roller, I hope that many out there prove me wrong!

Have Fun and Bake On!

Recipe Source:
The pastry dough recipe is from Great Italian Desserts by Nick Malgieri. Unfortunately this book is out of print but you can still find used copies online or if your lucky, your local library. The Ricotta Cheese recipe is from Luscious Creamy Desserts by Lori Longbotham. The method for making the lobster tails is from the Cake Boss You Tube video. The Pastry cream recipe is from Martha Stewart (but feel free to use any pastry cream recipe)

Dairy Free Ricotta Cheese: http://low-cholesterol.food.com/recipe/ricotta-cheese-substitute-vegan-gluten-free-447217

http://cassidyscraveablecreations.com/2012/09/ricotta-cheese-dairy-soy-nut-free.html

Equipment needed

Pasta machine to roll out the dough (this is for the Ricce and Lobster Tail)
Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments or hand-held mixer. You can make the dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon. If you choose to make the French Cream for the lobster tail you can whip the heavy cream by hand with a whisk
food processor (optional)
Whisk
rolling-pin
Grater for lemon and orange zest
Large pot to make the cheese
large glass or ceramic bowl
large strainer/colander
cheesecloth (I have used paper coffee liners as well)
medium saucepan for semolina
small bowl for butter/shortening mixture
Saucepan for pastry cream
Bowl for Pastry cream
Pastry Brush
Plastic wrap/cling film
parchment paper
baking sheets
cutting board
1/2 inch round pastry tip
Cooling rack

Fresh Ricotta Cheese (makes 2 cups)DSC_3361
8 Cups (1/2 gallon/64 oz/2 litre/4 pints) Whole Milk (or goats milk)
1 Cup (8 oz/250 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth that has been lightly dampened over a large glass; set aside.

Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what it is supposed to do. DSC_3363

Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. The liquid in the bowl is the liquid whey, a very nutritional and tasty leftover byproduct from making cheese. It is excellent to use instead of water when baking bread, or adding it to soup stock. I love the stuff and never discard it. Here is an excellent article on the wonders of whey!

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Semolina-Ricotta Filling
This type is used for both the Ricci and the Frolle versions

5 minutes to make plus about 2 hours to chill

1 Cup (8 oz/250 ml) milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 Cup fine semolina or cream of wheat (I have tried both and personally like the semolina version)
1 1/2 Cups whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 tsp extract)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup candied orange peel (commercial or home-made)
zest of 1 lemon

Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch, to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel and lemon zest. (Maybe even some mini chocolate chips? Or pistachios??mmmm…I can’t wait to see what you come up with)
Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 2 days)

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Sfogliatelle Ricci
You will need a large/long workspace for this. I used my dining room table for this though I am sure someone will be more creative with limited space!
4 minutes to make the dough
10 minutes to condition the dough in the pasta roller
2 hours chilling
35 minutes to roll the dough
2 hours additional chilling

Dough
3 Cups (12 3/4 oz/ 334 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6.2 oz/ 175 g) warm water (about 100F)

4 oz lard (I used Crisco butter flavored shortening)
4 oz (1 stick/1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the water, or use your standing mixer with the paddle attachment for this.. The dough will be very dry. If you feel absolutely compelled, add an extra teaspoon of water but it is supposed to be very dry. Turn this out onto a clean work surface and knead the dough together, bringing in all the dry bits. At this point get your pasta roller out and ready. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch and pass through your pasta machine at the widest setting. I find it much easier to cut my dough in half and work 1/2 at a time for this step. Fold the dough in half after each pass also change the direction of the dough occasionally. After about 15 passes the dough should be very smooth. Knead the dough back into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours ,or overnight.

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Beat the lard/shortening and butter together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Place into a bowl and set on the workspace in easy reaching distance.

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Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece pass it through the pasta roller set at the widest setting. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip. Once even, Pass the dough through every setting, ending with the highest (mine is 7)
You should end up with a long 4 inch wide strip. Repeat with the other 3 remaining pieces of dough.DSC_3278

*For my own ease of use I made my own rolling pin contraption like you can see on many instructional videos. I turned 2 bowls upside down and placed them on my table where I was planning to work. I then took a rolling pin (w/handles, not french) and taped the handles to the bowls. Every time that a piece of dough is finished and ready I lightly floured the dough and rolled it up onto the rolling pin. When all 4 pieces of dough dough were finished it made it much easier to pull out a section at a time to stretch the dough. If you are clumsy like me you might like to try this too!

Place one piece of a strip on you clean work surface and paint (or smear) it liberally with the lard/butter mixture. I did about a 8 inch section at a time. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it, starting from the middle and going out, until it is about 8 or 9 inches in width. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, overlap the end of one to the beginning of the other; continue to pull, stretch and roll up.

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Spread the lard/butter mixture over the entire finished log and starting in the middle gently run the hands down the length to extend the length another inch or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches.DSC_3288
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may freezefrozen, for up to 3 months, at this time. Defrost it in the refrigerators overnight before using.

Preheat your oven to 400 F
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch slices.
Put the semolina-ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch opening (A disposable pastry bag or even a ziploc bag with the corner cut off is fine).

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Take one slice of dough and place it on your workplace. With the heel of your hand, push out from the center in one direction. Rotate the dough and do this in all four directions. This forms the dough and opens up the layers. New York summer 20135

Pick up the piece and insert your thumbs on the inside with your forefingers on the outside, and gently stretch the center to make it more into the shape of a cone. You don’t want the layers to actually separate.DSC_3321 Holding the cone in one hand, squeeze some of the filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly push the opening closed. You do not have to seal the opening as the filling is too thick to ooze out during baking.

Place onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each completed pastry with the lard/butter mixture. Bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. These are best served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners sugar on the day they are made. To reheat them, just place them in a 350F oven for about 5-10 minutes.

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Sfogliatelle Frolle (Makes 12 pastries)
This is a tender pastries, made with dough similar to pie crust |(and much easier to make). Some of my friends preferred these to the crispy sfogliatelle.

DoughDSC_3449
2 1/3 Cups all purpose flour
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs, beaten

Filling
See sfogliatelle ricci (I used dried apricots in this version)

Egg Wash
1 Large egg yolk
1 large egg
pinch salt

By hand: combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Remove the butter from the fridge and pound in a few times with a rolling pin to make it pliable. Add it the flour and start rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, working from the bottom of the bowl upwards. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get warm from your hands. This only takes a minute or two to complete. Add the eggs and stir into the dough with a fork until it starts to hold together. Empty it out onto your workspace and knead a few times. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm. The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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Prepare the filling and chill it. Whisk to egg yolk, egg and salt together for the egg wash.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 5 inch rectangle . Place a hefty tablespoon amount of filling on the lower half of the dough and pull the top half over this. Use your hands to press down around the filling and seal the edges together (like making ravioli). Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter (or glass) and cut away any excess dough.

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Place the formed frolle on a prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours
Preheat your oven to 375F
Brush the frolle with the egg wash and bake approximately 20 minutes, just until the frolle is baked through. Cool briefly on a rack.

and finally….

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American Lobster Tails

You need to prepare (and roll) a batch of the Sfogliatelle Ricci dough. Refridgerate until firm.

Pastry Cream

DSC_33815 minutes to make and 2 hours to chill

2 Cups (16 oz) whole milk
1/2 cup granulate sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/8 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup corn starch
2 Tablespoons butter
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until it has been incorporated. Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking constantly until the butter melts completely and is thoroughly blended into the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Prepare the pate a choux:

Pate a Choux (this a HALF batch )
3/8 cup (87ml) water (this is half of a 3/4 cup)
3 Tbsp. (42g) unsalted butter
1/8 Tsp. Salt
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 cup (63g.) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (this will happen very quickly).
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the egg. Now, I happen to use my KitchenAide standing mixer for this, but it’s just as easy to do this by hand (I’m just lazy).

Spoon into a disposable pastry bag. You do not a tip for this, you can just cut a 1/2 opening across the bottom when you are ready to fill your lobster tail pastry.

Watch this little video….

Take your prepared sfogliatelle Ricci dough out of the fridge and cut it into 1 inch thick slices. Press down on all four sides just like you were making sfogliatelle ricci (you are, just making a bigger version). Pipe in the pate a choux paste until it is about three quarters fulls. Gently close the opening (there is no need to seal it shut) and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of your Ricci dough is finished (You should get about 11 or 12 pastries). Lighlty brush the outside of the lobster tail with the lard/butter mixture and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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To make the diplomat cream you will need:
1 batch pastry cream
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

I like a 2:1 ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream but you might like a 1:1 ratio. I would whip 1 cup of heavy cream and start by only adding half of it to the pastry cream. Do you like the texture? Maybe you want it a little lighter… Either way, when you decide what you like.DSC_3384
Fold the whipped cream into the cold pastry cream. Transfer it into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and insert it into the wide end of a lobster tail. Squeeze in as much filling as you can get into it (the more the better!). These should be eaten the day they are filled (this won’t be a problem, trust me). Hope you enjoy!!

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