Archive for April, 2014


I’m drooling while writing this.  I actually had to take these and put them in the freezer or else the entire lot would be in my stomach right now. Maybe it’s because I haven’t made croissants in a few months, or that I have a deep weakness for all things buttery, or that I love pretzels, but I do know is that these are quite tasty (and dangerous).  Bread Baking Babe Heather, of Girlichef  fame, chose pretzel croissants for this months bread experience. The recipe follows the basic method for making laminated dough but in the final step you dip the unbaked, risen croissant into a bath of cold water and baking soda, giving it that dark exterior so loved in a good pretzel. I made a half batch of dough and small croissants since I know my weaknesses. Both husband and daughter happily ate one at breakfast today with an extra going into the lunchbag for her teacher.DSC_1253


A few things to take note of before starting croissants. Flavorful croissants happen over the course of a few days. Three is best for me. Read the recipe and methods entirely before starting. Back in  January of 2007, the Daring Kitchen had us make croissants. You won’t find that post here since mine were a complete failure.  Things that I stink at baking only make me keep trying.That being said, I then went and tried and retried with various recipes until one day I realized “I’ve got it”. Did I go through a lot of butter” ? Damn straight I did. Are they scary to make? not anymore. In fact, I make them at least every 3-4 months. What I learned along the way is patience. Always let the dough rest in the fridge for a day before incorporating the butter block. This develops flavor. I also add some sourdough starter as well. Again, flavor.  Let your dough rest a good hour in the fridge between turns. When you are rolling the dough and it isn’t rolling out easily, put it back in the fridge for another 10 minutes, then try again. It really does help. After the final turn, I like to put it back in the fridge overnight before shaping and baking. When proofing, I put the pan in the cold oven on the middle rack, placing a pan of hot water on the bottom rack. This creates a nice moist, warm environment for them to rise in. Thirty minutes before baking, pull the tray and pan of water out, then turn your oven to heat up to 425F. Give it the full thirty minutes to pre-heat.

For the butter block, I find it easiest to start with room temperature butter. Then  mix in the flour thoroughly.  Why add flour? Most butter (unless it’s expensive European butter) has too much water content so the flour absorbs some of this.  I then line a square pan with plastic wrap and place my butter in, using another piece of plastic wrap to push and squish it into a flat even layer. The pan then gets back in the fridge until cold and then I just pop out the plastic wrapped cold butter block. Easy.

I like Heathers method of incorporating the block into the dough. It worked great and delivered many crispy layers of goodness. The shattering shell of a deep, dark shell with a moist, feathery interior. Hungry yet? Bake On!


adapted from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker

for the dough:DSC_1250-001
1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm milk (~110° F)
7 g (1/4 ounce / 2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar (golden or dark)
410 g (3-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour + more for work surface
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temp
1/2 cup (120 ml) cold pilsner-style beer ( I didn’t have any beer so I added some water)

I also added 25g of 100% starter

for the butter block:
340 g (12 ounces / 24 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

to finish:
60 grams (1/4 cup) baked baking soda (see notes)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
coarse salt
flax or sesame seeds , optional

Stir the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar into the lukewarm milk and allow to sit until foamy, 5 minutes or so. Whisk the flour, remaining brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture, breaking it up into tiny flour-coated pieces the size of breadcrumbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and the beer using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to form a shaggy mass.
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead eight to ten times, until all of the flour is just incorporated. You don’t want to over work it, because you don’t want the butter to melt too much. The dough will not be a smooth mass; you will see some flecks of butter. It should be soft and tacky, but not sticky. Adjust as needed with flour or water. Lightly oil a large bowl and set the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours (24 will give you the best flavor).
making the butter block
Beat the butter and flour together in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment until it forms a smooth mass (or by hand, using a lot of elbow grease). This should take about a minute. You want the butter to be pliable without beating air into it or melting it.

Spread the butter between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap (or parchment or wax paper), and use a rolling pin to shape into a rectangle that is about 8″x9″. Use a straight edge to form corners, but work quickly as you want the butter to stay cool. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to roll out the dough.April 28 2014

Scatter a little bit of flour on your work surface, then turn the dough out onto it. Roll it out into a rectangle that is 10″x15″ and about 1/4″ thick. Using your hands, gently pull and stretch the dough to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush excess flour off of the dough. Set the dough with a long edge facing you.
Mentally divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Place the butter block over the right 2/3 of the dough, leaving a 1″ border on the outer edges. Fold the empty left portion of the dough over the middle third. Now, lift and fold the right section of dough over that. You should have 3 layers of dough that encase 2 layers of butter. Pinch the outsides and the seams together and lightly press the layers together using a rolling pin. This completes the first turn. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the fridge and set it on your lightly floured work surface. Roll dough out into a 10″x20″ rectangle, pulling and stretching to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush off any excess flour. Set the dough with a long edge facing you. Fold both of the short ends in to the center, leaving a 1/4″ gap where they meet (think of a book jacket). Fold one side of the dough over the other. Lightly press the layers together using a rolling pin, and square and sharpen the edges and corners. This completes the second turn. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hourApril 28 20141

3rd (and final) turn:
Lightly dust your work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll dough out into a 10″ by 15″ rectangle. Do another trifold, as done in the first turn (mentally divide into thirds, then fold one third over the center, followed by the last third). Square the edges and sharpen the sides; wipe off excess flour. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but up to another 24 hours.
At this point, you can wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, slide it into a freezer baggie, and freeze for up to 1 week. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding to final shaping.DSC_1234

final shaping:
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Lightly dust your work surface and top of your dough with flour. Roll out into a 15″x18″ rectangle that is ~1/4″ thick. Pull and stretch to form straight edges and sharp corners. Patch any holes where butter may have popped through by dusting them with flour. Brush any excess flour off the dough.
Heathers method: Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, creating two 15″x9″ sheets of dough. Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut each piece of dough into three equal strips, the short way. Then cut each strip in half diagonally, so that you left with 6 triangles. Repeat with other piece of dough.DSC_1243

Me: For shaping I  have cardboard template that I made last year and just keep in my drawer until needed. It is 3 inches wide at the base and 5 inches long. I find it so easy to make consistently even shaped croissants.
If  you like, cut a 1/2″ notch in the center of each triangle base, then beginning at that end, roll the triangles up, tugging on the tip to elongate it slightly, then gently pressing it into the dough. Place on the prepared baking sheets with the tip tucked under, and curve the ends to form crescent shapes (the notch helps with the curving process). If you prefer a “straight” croissant, the notch isn’t necessary. Either way, it won’t hurt anything.
Cover the croissants with damp, clean kitchen towels and allow to rise at cool room temperature until they have almost doubled in size and feel spongy, ~2 hours.
At this point, slide the croissants into the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you prepare the dipping solution. Preheat oven to 425° F, positioning one rack in the upper third of the oven, and one in the lower third.
prepare the dipping solution:BBBuddy Badge April 2014
Add the baked baking soda in 8 cups of cold water and stir until completely dissolved. One by one, dip the croissant dough into the dipping solution, allow the excess to drip off, then set back on the lined trays. Brush the tops with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse salt and sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if using
Slide into preheated oven immediately and bake for 15-18 minutes (rotating pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through), until they are deeply browned, crispy, and flaky. They should feel light and airy if you pick them up.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving (or let them sit on the sheet tray for 5-10 minutes. I found that they soaked the butter on the pan back into them if I did this). They are best enjoyed the day they are made, ideally warm from the oven. Store any extras in a paper bag for a day. You can reheat them by placing them in a 350° F oven for ~5 minutes.
to make Baked Baking Soda:
Baked baking soda is an alternative to working with lye that still lends pretzels their dark, burnished crust. To make the baked baking soda, spread 1/4 cup (~70 grams) of baking soda out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or foil (or in a pie pan). It will decrease in weight, but shouldn’t decrease in volume. Slide it into an oven that has been preheated to 250° F/120° C and bake for 1 hour. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. If you see lots of pretzels in your future, make a large batch to store since it keeps indefinitelyDSC_1257

Please make sure to visit the real babes to get a visual feast

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The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world. Please make sure to visit her blog and see the amazing German (Osterbrot) and Italian (Anello dDi Pasqua Maria Pia) Easter breads  that she made. I so wanted to bake the Osterbrot but I just didn’t have enough time so it goes on the bucket list…


Since moving to Canada  10 yrs ago I have been so blessed with not only a luscious husband and amazing daughter, but with extraordinary friends. Both my husband and I have no family out West so to be able to fill our house on holidays with good friends is such a treat for us and helps fill that empty hole in our hearts not being with our moms and family. Over the years our house has become a sort of commune, with one friend or another eating (or sleeping over ) a few nights a week. We always welcome them with open arms and love sharing good times with them. My husbands best friend, who has been living with us a few days a week for the past year while conducting business here in Calgary, now has one of his old friends moving here from back East. And I mean very Greek. He drove out west a month ago not knowing DSC_1218anybody. Since we both know how that is, he has been over for dinner at least 5 times already, with everyone  being extremely welcoming (or trying to be). So with that in mind, I baked Tsouréki , a very traditional Greek Easter bread to help make him feel more at home.

Holiday breads, especially Easter breads, are enriched breads. This means that they contain eggs, and usually also butter and milk, making them more indulgent than “lean” bread. Eggs represent rebirth, or new life. Many holiday breads are braided as well, like this one. If you have never tried baking a braided bread, I can’t express enough how much fun they are to make. You can make anywhere from 3 to 12 strand loaves. Start with 3 strands and move your way up as you get more comfortable. I personally like the look of a 6 strand braid but that is just me. Please look at the  end of my post on challah bread for multiple links on braiding techniques to help you.


This bread is scented with makhlépi, (also known as mahleb, mahlepi and other spelling variations) is a spice derived from the seed kernels of the Prunus mahaleb, a type of cherry tree (also referred to as a Rock cherry or St. Lucie cherry), and primarily used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Eurasian cuisines. They are small kernals with a bitter almond kind of flavor. I was very excited when I saw this ingredient since I had some on hand from when I made Assyrian Spinach Pies last year. The kernals are steeped in water, discarded and then the liquid is used to flavor the dough. Now, I realize this might not be easy to find in some areas, so just substitute plain water in its place if you cannot find it.

At one end of the bread a red-dyed egg is inserted into the dough before baking. This represents the blood of Christ. the best way to get a dark red egg is by using commercial red dye as opposed to the little tablets that come in Easter egg dying kits. Bake On!


Makes 2 small loaves


1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeastDSC_1199
1 cup (8 oz) warm milk
4-5  cups flour
3/4  cups sugar
2 tsp. makhlépi , also known as Malhab (optional)
1/4 cup water
4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs, 1 lightly beaten and set aside for the egg wash
2 teaspoons. grated orange zest
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 hard-cooked eggs, dyed red

pearl sugar or black cumin seeds to decorate, if desired


Dissolve yeast in milk in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the sugar, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour. Steep makhlépi, if using, in 1/4 cup simmering water for about 5 minutes. Strain, discard makhlépi, and set aside liquid to cool.

scented liquid into yeast mixture; if you aren’t using the makhlépi then just use plain water instead. Add the butter and 3 of the eggs and mix thoroughly. Sift 4 cups of the flour, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar into mixture. Add orange and lemon zest, and mix thoroughly. Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Knead (adding more flour if necessary) until smooth, about 10 minutes, then form into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Alternatively, knead using a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, for 10 minutes. Place in a clean, lightly grease bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.

Turn the dough back onto the floured surface. Divide into 6 parts, rolling into ropes about 15″ long. For each loaf, tightly braid 3 ropes, then press 1 dyed egg  near the end of each braid. Set bread aside to rise again for 1 hour on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350˚  thirty minutes before baking.

Brush bread with reserved beaten egg, sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired, and bake until golden, 40–50 minutes .Let cool completely.













This recipe was adapted from here

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Alpine Easter Bread


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!!


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

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