Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sweet Vanilla Challah

Delicious! The only issue I ran into this time were the grubby hands of my little boy, who changed my oven temperature from 350 F to 500...yes, not good. Luckily I caught it after ten minutes so I quickly lowered the temperature and covered the bread with tinfoil to avoid burning the top any worse. It was pretty doughy in the center though, so it's currently drying out in the oven to make a batch of overnight french toast. But the bit that I did taste was really good. I do love the taste of vanilla!
In a large bowl place 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast (1 packet), 1/2 a cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 cups of flour. Whisk to combine.
Then add 1 3/4 cups HOT water (120 F), I used my candy thermometer to make sure it was hot enough since this was my first experience using water this hot with yeast involved. Then add 4 large eggs, at room temperature. I cracked them into a small bowl and whipped them there before adding to the main bowl.

Then add 1/2 a cup of oil (I used canola), then 1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla. Mix about three minutes. I used my hand mixer with the dough hook attachments, you can also use a stand mixer if you have one.
Then add the remaining 5 cups of flour half a cup at a time. I like to put the flour in a bowl so I don't have to keep track. You may need more flour, if you have added the 7 cups total and it's still sticky then add about 1/4 a cup at a time until you have the right texture for kneading.
Knead 4-5 minutes on a floured surface.
Place in a greased bowl (turning to coat) and  cover with plastic wrap. Let raise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Or until doubled.
Divide in half.
Roll each portion out until about 30 inches long, tapering one end to the other. One end should be 2-3 inches wider then the rest. You can also google some instructions or pictures if you would like. It's called the turban swirl.
You can use either cookie sheets, or spring form pans. Grease or parchment line the pan(s) you use. I decided to put both loaves on my large air bake cookie sheet.
Let raise about 30 minutes (or until almost doubled). Since the dough has eggs it will do most of the rising in the oven. Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 350 F and brush on the vanilla egg glaze: 1 large egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
Bake 40-45 minutes.
This makes great cinnamon toast, french toast, and I personally think it would make great bread pudding!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cinnamon-Walnut Sweet Bread

This is like a much healthier version of monkey bread! Very yummy. It works well for breakfast if you want to send the kids into the kitchen and buy yourself a few extra minutes...
First, you need 4 ounces of dried cherries.
Cover them with boiling water and let stand until they are at room temperature. You won't actually use them for several hours.
In a liquid measuring cup, or large mug: 3/4 a cup warm water, sprinkle over the top 1 tablespoon active dry yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let sit about 10 minutes.
Take a lemon and grate off the peel, then juice it. I have never had success with the "zest" side of the grater, so I usually use the smallest grating..
In a large bowl: 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour, the lemon zest, 1/3 a cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Continue by adding the lemon juice, 1 large egg, and 1 cup of plain yogurt, along with the yeast mixture.
Take 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (room temp, or you can also stick it in the microwave 8-10 seconds to soften it. It you do this watch it carefully so it doesn't melt!!) Cut it into pieces and add several at a time to the mixture, mixing well.
Don't worry if the butter doesn't completely dissolve while you are mixing...
Then add the remaining 4 cups of flour 1/2 a cup at a time. Mix well with each addition. I usually switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon after 2-3 cups have been added.
Knead about 1 minute, until dough is soft and springy. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic.
Let raise 1- 1 1/2 hours. Or until doubled.
When the dough is ready melt 1 stick of unsalted butter and set aside.
In a bowl mix together 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 1/2 cups (6 oz) of finely chopped walnuts.
Pour the water off the cherries and pat dry with a paper towel. I chopped mine.
If you have kids let them peek through the 10 inch tube pan before greasing it well.  (he he)
Gently deflate the dough, then grab enough to make a ball the size of an egg. Dip in butter, then in cinnamon mixture.
Place in the pan.
Continue until you have a nice full layer (about half the dough) then sprinkle all the cherries. Then cover with another layer of balls. Drizzle any leftover butter over the top, as well as sprinkle any remaining walnuts.
Cover with plastic and let raise 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. I ended up only raising mine an  hour because I had a fairly warm kitchen from making dinner.
Preheat oven to 375 F. If you are using a tube pan with a removable bottom place on a cookie sheet and/or cover the bottom with foil. Bake 40-45 minutes for the tube pan. OR you can also use two regular 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 pans. They would bake about 30-35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit about two minutes, but no longer. Then dump out. Serve warm, or at room temp. I warmed them one at a time in the microwave, about 10 seconds on day two.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blue Cornmeal Pancakes

I like these because they are super filling and wholesome. The only downside was having rather heavy pancakes because of using medium grind blue cornmeal (I couldn't find the fine-grind). But they still tasted great, and I since have found some fine grind I will definitely be making these again.

In a large bowl: 1 1/2 cups fine-grind blue cornmeal, and 3/4 a cup unbleached all purpose flour.
Then add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 a teaspoon of salt.
Mix the wet ingredients: 2 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, and 1/4 a cup of corn oil (I used canola). Then add the wet ingredients and do about a 12 second whisk.

Cook just like regular pancakes.

Mmmm. Here are the pancake toppings our family likes:
Butter and Syrup (Various kinds)
Peanut Butter
Strawberry Jam
B grade Maple Syrup
Our own homemade Hickory Bark Syrup

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pita Revisited!

 First of all, I am going to share the link from take two of my pita experience. The directions here were excellent.


This is what I learned:
Refridgerate the dough overnight!!!

Options for storage:
Make just a few at a time, keeping the dough in the fridge. (Be sure to warm up the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature before preparing them for baking)

Make them all, but keep in the freezer. They are easy to defrost.

I admit, I am pretty embarrassed that I published my first attempt, but I hope it makes all you want to master this fun bread!

All these tips will work for the Country Style Whole Wheat Pita!
 I made the mistake of hand shaping my first try. BAD, Caralee, BAD! Use a rolling pin and roll as thin as you can!

I cooked these directly on the pizza stone on the bottom oven rack! It only takes 2-3 minutes each side, oven 500 F. I cooked them two at a time. If you have a larger baking stone you can do more.

 Roll them all out at once, let them sit for 10 minutes, then right before placing them in the oven stretch them out just a little bit so they are super thin. They should be 6-8 inches in diameter.
 So awesome. Oh and make sure you don't let them sit out for to long, otherwise they dry out and you have a giant cracker that just breaks when you try to add fillings to it...yeah, I made this mistake...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Country-Style Whole-Wheat Pita

The first thing I think of when describing these is FUN! I just love different methods of delivery for all sorts of foods.
Now on a slightly different note: I did not exactly have what you would call success with this recipe, they didn't bubble up really at all. I cut them in half, cut out some of the bread and still filled them, and they were delicious!

But I think I can chalk up this failure to having no experience making this type of bread, and I am DETERMINED to figure it out. So I am sharing the recipe for those of you who know all the secrets. And as for me, well I will do "Pita Revisited" when I figure out all those secrets! Hopefully in the next few months. leave a comment if you have tips/advise for me!

Start with 1/2 a cup of warm water (105-115 F), to which you sprinkle over the top 1 packet (or 1 tablespoon) active dry yeast and a pinch of sugar (or drizzle of honey).
In a large bowl: 2 cups of warm water, 3 cups of whole-wheat pastry flour, 1/4 a cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt.
Mix well, then add the yeast mixture, as well as 3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour, 1/2 a cup at a time. Mix well with each addition.
Feel free to change up the amounts of each flour if you want to. I didn't have pastry flour so I used two cups of regular whole wheat, put it in the food processor for several minutes to make it a little more fine, then added 4 cups of the white.
I used the dough hooks on my hand mixer, but you can use a stand mixer if you have one. Or you can mix by hand.
When the dough leaves the side of the bowl scrape it onto a floured work surface and knead about 5 minutes. You want a firm, but soft, dough. It kinda feels like a sweet roll dough.

Then place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic. Let raise 1- 1 1/2 hours. Or until doubled.
 Preheat the oven to 475 F with a baking stone set on the lowest rack.
Gently deflate the dough and divide in half.
Place one of the halves back in the bowl and cover with plastic while you work with the other.
Divide into 8 balls, then let rest while you divide the second half. You want to handle it as little as possible (similar to tortilla dough) so the gluten doesn't fully awaken and make it difficult to flatten each ball.
You can use a rolling pin, or flatten with your hands. Which is what I opted to do. You want them about 1/4 an inch thick. Sit them on a floured dish towel. Don't stack.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place 8 circles at a time.
Place the pan on the baking stone and bake 10-12 minutes. Then do the same with the second 8.
Cool completely. I let mine sit overnight to have them completely cold.
Fill with anything that sounds good!