Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Making Home Made Orange-Date Rolls

Orange date rolls hot out of the oven

Orange date rolls hot out of the oven

Last week I got some dates in my LOVE Delivery box. I don’t really like dates plain very much, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. Then, over the weekend, I started thumbing through the bread recipes in How to Cook Everything and came across a recipe for orange date rolls — a variation on sweet rolls and cinnamon rolls.

I’ve never made them from scratch before, but the recipe didn’t seem too difficult. The dough came together easily — a mix of flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk and yeast. I let it rise for about 2 hours before rolling it out into a square. I then brushed on butter, and covered it with a half a cup of brown sugar, 6 or 6 chopped up dates and the the chopped up zest of a large orange. I rolled up the rectangle, then cut it into slices about an inch and a half wide.

These looked a little small right after they were rolled

These looked a little small right after they were rolled

I was worried that they were a bit small and loose, and the recipe said to put the rolls in individual muffin tins — and I don’t have a muffin tin — so I just put them in a cake pan and hoped they would rise.

Thankfully they did rise -- this is just before I put them in the oven

Thankfully they did rise -- this is just before I put them in the oven

Thankfully, after an hour they did, and I made a glaze with orange juice and sugar to pour over the rolls before I put them in the oven. After baking for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, they smelled incredible and puffed up even more. They were slightly shiny from the glaze, and when I started pulling them apart, they came out easily and were soft and fluffy and sweet, but not overly so.

The finished product -- they turned out perfectly!

The finished product -- they turned out perfectly!

I’m not normally a big fan of cinnamon rolls and the only time I ever tried Pillsbury orange rolls I didn’t like them very much, but these were incredible. I guess I’d just never had something like this fresh out of the oven. The orange and date flavors weren’t overpowering, and they blended together well. They also looked quite good. They weren’t the same at all after they had cooled. Though I ate one for breakfast the next morning, it wasn’t anywhere near as soft or tasty as it was straight from the oven.

I don’t typically make a lot of sweets, but there were totally worth it — and even though they take 3 to 4 hours to make, I would definitely try to make them for a breakfast/brunch (though I think I’d let the dough do its first rise in the fridge overnight so it would take a bit less time).

The Secret to Getting Nooks and Crannies in English Muffins

The nooks and crannies in my fork-split whole wheat english muffin

The nooks and crannies in my fork-split whole wheat english muffin

The first two times I made english muffins, I thought they were delicious but I missed the nooks and crannies that you get with fork-split muffins that toast up nice and crispy and catch lots of butter and jam.

I also missed the little crunch of cornmeal that most store-bought english muffins had, so I decided to modify the recipe a bit to get what I wanted. So instead of dusting with flour before the muffins rise between two baking sheets, I dusted with corn meal. That was easy enough.

And for the nooks and cranies, I decided to try fork splitting. After much Googling, it seemed that the way to do it was to just poke the english muffin all around with a fork as soon as it came off the stove. I tested it out — it wasn’t too hard since the muffins don’t get too hot and can be handled by hand right off the stove. It worked perfectly. They’re now easy to separate by hand, and they have a great texture from pulling them apart.

The fork split might not look quite as nice as leaving them whole, but it's worth it

The fork split might not look quite as nice as leaving them whole, but it's worth it

They didn’t look quite as pretty with the sides mangled from the fork, but I could have probably been gentler. I just wasn’t sure what sort of pressure I needed to make sure they split easily.

So that’s it! The secret of how to make nooks and crannies revealed!

Also, to make whole wheat english muffins, just use the same recipe for regular english muffins and use 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of regular bread flour. Maybe next time I’ll try honey wheat ones…

Making Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Whole wheat Irish soda bread hot out of the oven

Whole wheat Irish soda bread hot out of the oven

I’ve been intrigued by all the Irish soda bread recipes I’ve seen in my cookbooks. Each book seems to have one, and they always look relatively quick and simple — especially because the bread is made with baking soda and baking powder as the leavening agent, not yeast, so it doesn’t need time to rise. The only thing holding me back from making the bread was that I either needed yogurt, buttermilk, or milk heated with vinegar to make it, and I don’t often have those ingredients — or at least enough of those ingredients — around.

This week, though, I had some plain yogurt in the fridge, and I wanted to try a quick bread recipe. I decided to use the recipe in How to Cook Everything since most of the other recipes just listed how to make the bread with buttermilk.

I preheated the oven, mixed up the dough in the cuisinart, let it sit for a few minutes while the oven finished preheating, shaped the bread into a loaf, created a cross-hatch pattern with a razor, and put it in the oven. 45 minutes later, it was done. I couldn’t believe that I had made this loaf of bread in about an hour start to finish.

I used half whole wheat flour and half regular flour, and it turned out tasting hearty and healthy. The loaf was pretty dense and heavy, and the bread tasted especially good toasted with butter or cheese. It sliced really well, and I was able to slice it quite thin, and it was good for sandwiches, too.

If you’re intimidated by how long bread usually takes, or if you’re just looking for something quick, this is a great recipe to try.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

1.5 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups wheat flour (replace with all-purpose flour if you want a white loaf)
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
butter or oil for greasing the baking sheet

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the yogurt or buttermilk to make a soft dough (it shouldn’t be too sticky). After kneading/processing, it should be smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes before shaping it into a round loaf. Slash the top with a razor blade (I chose to do a cross-hatch pattern). Put on a greased baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

When done, the bread is supposed to sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Polenta Torta and More from The New Vegetarian Epicure

Polenta torta with roasted tomato sauce

Polenta torta with roasted tomato sauce

I don’t have many cookbooks, but the few I have are reliably wonderful. One of my favorites that I really should cook from more is The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. First, I love how the book is arranged — seasonally by meals. That means that I can find something that uses what’s fresh, and I can also plan out a whole menu without flipping between too many pages of the book. The recipes are also sophisticated and delicious, and though they’re often a bit more complex than ones in my other cookbooks, they’re definitely worth it — especially when we have company over.

Friday night our friends Annie and Devin were coming over, so I started searching through my cookbooks for inspiration. I knew I wanted to make focaccia bread again because I’d told them about making it and how delicious it was, so I figured I’d do something at least somewhat Italian. I thought about pasta or risotto, but then, searching through The New Vegetarian Epicure, I stumbled across “A Simple Autumn Dinner Party,” which involved focaccia (perfect!), Torta di Polenta with Three Cheeses, Roasted Tomato Sauce, and Parfaits of Fruit and Mascarpone. It also included a lima bean soup that sounded tasty, but it’s still pretty warm here in LA, so I decided to steal from a different menu in the book and make a roasted beet and asparagus salad.

There was a lot of preparation involved in this meal, from peeling and dicing about 18 tomatoes, chopping 4 onions and roasting and peeling 16 beets, to making sure everything was timed properly to be ready for dinner time. The good thing about this dinner, though, was that it was really easy to get everything out when it was hot and ready — and I didn’t have to spend much time in the kitchen while the company was over — because the salad and tomato sauce could be done ahead of time, the polenta torta got to stay in the fridge until I was ready to heat it up, and the dessert could be done after the meal.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rushing around the kitchen before they arrived, but it was nice not to have much to tend to other than serving the dishes when we had company. Somehow I mastered my time management and everything worked out really well.

I started with the beet salad and got the red and golden beets roasting right away because they were going to need to marinate in the dressing for a few hours. While they were roasting, I scalded and peeled the tomatoes for the sauce, chopped up the onions and got the asparagus ready. The asparagus and tomato sauce went in the oven at the same time — the sauce was going to take two and a half hours, so it needed to get going, no matter what the temperature was going to be.

I made the dough for the bread and set it aside to rise, then started the vinaigrette for the beet salad, which included olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a shallot, roasted garlic and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Then I peeled all the beets — a ridiculously messy job that makes me worry that my hands will remained stained red for the evening (though they won’t) — and chopped them up. I let the salad ingredients marinate in separate bowls, and I checked on the sauce and gave it a stir.

I had to let the bread rise a little longer than called for — maybe 30 or 40 minutes more — because the oven wasn’t going to be free of the the sauce for a while, but bread can be pretty forgiving when it’s rising, and it didn’t seem to have any negative effect at all. I kneaded it a second time, rolled it out to let it proof, then started working on the polenta.

I chopped and lightly sauteed a leek, half a red onion and some garlic, and brought 4 cups of vegetable stock to a simmer. I whisked in one cup of yellow corn meal — just the regular kind you get in a box at the store — and had to stir it continuously for 10-15 minutes, which got quite tiring. I’d never made polenta before, and it was a bit surprising. I didn’t realize you needed to little corn meal for so much liquid, and I didn’t realize how thick it would get so quickly.

After the 15 minutes of stirring, I added the onion and leek, and also added some goat cheese, gouda and parmesan, then poured the mixture into a cake pan and put it into the fridge to set up.

Once the roasted tomato sauce was done, I took it out of the oven and put the focaccia in — I put rosemary and sea salt on the top again — and then I was just about done.

The bread came out of the oven just a few minutes after Annie and Devin arrived, and when we were ready to sit down, I put the salads together — I couldn’t put them together earlier because the beets would have turned everything red. I put the polenta torta onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 15 minutes along with the tomato sauce in a covered bowl so everything could heat up.

The focaccia was a little lighter in color than last time, but tasted just as delicious. We finished off even more of it, and I think it was a bit lighter on the inside because of the extra rising time. All that olive oil and salt, and the fluffy warm bread… it’s just incredible.

The salad was delicious and full of flavor, and pretty with its red-yell0w-green combo. The golden beets were hard to find and pretty pricey — there were only three bunches of baby golden beets at the fancy new Pavilions, which were about the size of radishes — but they did add a really nice touch.

The polenta looked and tasted great with the tomato sauce and an extra sprinkling of parmesan and basil. It was light and fluffy and had a delicate cheesy flavor. It was very easy to serve cut up into wedges.

Annie helped me mix up the mascarpone with some cream, sugar and lemon zest while I hulled the sweet strawberries and added a bit of sugar and lemon juice. It was a tasty way to end the meal and wonderfully simple to make.

We also had a bottle of Gabbiano Chianti Classico, which we enjoyed. I went to the new Pavilions at Santa Monica and Robertson, and their sommelier suggested it. She also suggested an Ecco Pinot Grigio that we didn’t drink. That’s quite a fancy grocery store — and all the employees were really helpful.

This was definitely one of my better dinners so far. I’m excited to try other polenta variations — it’s so simple to make and very delicious!

Making Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Whole wheat pita bread fresh out of the oven

Whole wheat pita bread fresh out of the oven

This week, I decided to make pita bread from a recipe in Paul Gayler’s Burgers cookbook. I used to buy it a lot, but haven’t had it in a while, and I had some halloumi and other ingredients that seemed like they would work well in a pita sandwich. I decided to make them with half white and half whole wheat flour to make them a bit healthier.

Pitas rolled out and ready to go into the oven

Pitas rolled out and ready to go into the oven

The dough was very simple — just flour, water, salt and yeast. The recipe made 8-12 pitas — I decided to make 12. After letting the dough rise, dividing it into 12 pieces and letting those pieces proof, I took a rolling pin to them to make the pita rounds. Then I put them on a hot baking sheet into the oven, which was set at the highest setting.

The first batch of pitas

The first batch of pitas

The first batch puffed up a bit, but the second batch was the best — enormous pillows of puffy bread. The third batch was the least puffy — I’m not sure why.

They tasted pretty good — pretty much the same as store-bought wheat pitas. They probably would have tasted better if I did them with all white flour and didn’t roll them quite as thin. They weren’t as soft as I would have liked, and they were a bit dry. I’ll probably make some baked garlic pita chips in a few days with whatever I have left.

And just for laughs, check out this little illustration I did back when I was living in London about how in the UK pita is pitta.

Potato-Stuffed Indian Flatbread with Parsley Tzatziki

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

Last week’s bread-making adventure was inspired by the abundance of potatoes I had. I got some in my first LOVE Delivery veggie box, and then I got more in the second, so I figured I needed to do something with them. Looking through How to Cook Everything, I came across this recipe for potato-stuffed Indian flatbread, which came directly from a famous Indian chef with just a minor change in spices. I was intrigued, so I gave it a try.

I boiled 4 potatoes. I created the very simple white and wheat dough that didn’t have any yeast in it, though was flavored with some cumin. Then I mashed up the potatoes with lemon, cayenne, salt and pepper. I created 12 little balls of dough, rolled them flat, then put about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the center, folded the edges up, flatted them out and rolled them even flatter.

On some the potato started peaking out the sides, mostly because I mashed them with a fork so there were still some rather jagged pieces, but in all, them came together easily.

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

I then cooked them in a pan, 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat, similar to how I did the English muffins. Some of them puffed up a lot while others didn’t really puff, though in the end they all tasted about the same. The first few, just like pancakes (and the English muffins, for that matter), got a little bit dark, but still tasted fine.

Since potatoes and bread are both pretty dry, I decided to make a sauce/dip to serve these with, so I made a modified tzatziki. I used Greek yogurt, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, chopped cucumber, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper. It was simple and delicious, and worked well on the potato-stuffed bread.

Making Montreal Bagels… In Southern California

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

I’ve been talking about making bagels for a long time. I’d read about making bagels in a Slate article about making staple foods from scratch (the article was also my inspiration for making crackers), and it was what initially inspired me to start making bread and baking more in general. In the piece was a link to a recipe for Montreal bagels in the New York Times.

Now, Montreal bagels are something special. They’re thinner and denser than bagels you get elsewhere. They only come in two flavors: sesame and poppy seed. They’re also slightly sweet because they have honey in them. And you can’t get them anywhere but Montreal.

I’ve brought Montreal bagels to relatives in Toronto on a road trip. I used to bring them back to camp in northern New York. My grandmother even flies with a few bags of them when she comes to visit us in California. For Montrealers, no other bagels can compare to the ones they can get at home.

I was worried that the recipe wouldn’t taste accurate. That something would be fundamentally different out here in Southern California that prohibits us baking these tasty breakfast treats. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Even without a wood-burning oven or Montreal water (they say the New York water is what makes the bagels and pizzas there so good… why not the same for their neighbors a few hundred miles north?), the bagels were delicious.

Best of all, these didn’t take that long to make — with a measly 20-minute first rise and a 15-minute second rise. All in all, from the start of making the dough to making the rings, to boiling and baking, the process took less than 2 hours. It would be even faster if my Cuisinart were bigger, I were faster at making the rings, or I could boil more than 3 at a time.

I found that my oven cooked the bagels a bit unevenly, with the ones toward the sides of the pan getting a bit darker, but in all, they turned out really well. All 18 of them. I was worried at first because they looked so tiny when I first made the rings, but they really expanded when I boiled them.

Caroline took a bite and said “This is the best bagel I’ve ever eaten.” For me, it was like taking a nibble out of my childhood. We ate the bagels with some cream cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and capers. Caroline also put honey on hers (not the same part as the cream cheese).

I only wish I knew I could make these sooner… like when my family moved here 17 years ago.

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers