Archive for the ‘bread’ Category

Speculoos Spiced Apple Butter and Apple Butter Swirl Challah

August 19, 2013


In Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking Across America, there is a recipe from Macrina Bakery for apple cinnamon monkey bread that is really a loaf of sweet dough rolled up with apple butter and cinnamon sugar (another version of this recipe appears in the Macrina Bakery cookbook, and you can also see For The Love of Bread’s version).

I thought this would be a great idea for challah, with the cinnamon sugar left out to make it more bread and less dessert (although cinnamon sugar could only make it taste better . . . ). (Update: I made this recipe again, adding raisins and cinnamon sugar–excellent!)

Then I had the idea to spice the apple butter like those oh-so-popular speculoos cookies (also known as Biscoff).


I’m keeping a sourdough starter going, so I looked around for a sourdough challah recipe. After trying one sourdough challah recipe and not being completely satisfied, I decided to try a sweet dough recipe that uses sourdough starter and a little yeast.

Of course, you can use whatever challah dough you like. If you use a dough sweetened with honey, you will have apple honey challah, which is perfect for the upcoming holidays. I didn’t add raisins this time, but I will add them next time I make this recipe.

My daughter, who has been resisting sourdough bread, said this was the best challah I ever made. The challah tastes like babka (it would really be like babka if I added cinnamon sugar and raisins). The veins of apple butter give intense apple taste without making the challah soggy as sometimes happens with apple challah when the  apple exude moisture. I served extra apple butter on the side as a spread for the challah.

By the way, if you think apple butter sounds dull, imagine this: an apple farm in September, the crisp Autumn breeze wafting the enticing scent of ripe apples, freshly made apple cider and warm doughnuts. You end up going home with way more apples than you can eat. Then, to make use of that insane amount of apples, you make this apple butter recipe and your home is filled with the aroma of spice and apples. It is the fragrance of Fall in a jelly jar.


Sourdough Success

July 31, 2013


Sourdough bread has always been my nemesis. I never could quite get it right. But, it pays to persevere. I finally succeeded in making a strong sourdough starter and have used it so far to make whole wheat bread and the above potato rosemary bread.

The impetus for my sourdough experiment was Michael Pollan’s Cooked. In this book, Pollan discusses the dietary importance of fermented foods (and you can read some of his thoughts on this in this NPR interview). Pollan makes some very compelling arguments for eating sourdough bread, and conveniently includes a recipe for sourdough starter and whole wheat sourdough bread at the back of the book.

Basically, to make the sourdough starter, you mix equal weights of flour and water (50 g. white flour, 50 g. whole wheat flour and 100 g. water) and then set the resulting batter aside to ferment. If all goes well, the batter will get foamy as wild yeast take over. You can help this process along by giving the batter a good stir a few times a day.

It can take as much as a week for the wild yeast to take over, but my batter starting foaming nicely after 24 hours. At this point, you need to replenish the food supply of the starter and build its strength. You discard 80 percent of the sourdough starter and add 100 g. flour and 100 g. water to the remaining amount (about 40 g. starter). Give the mixture a good stir a few times a day. Repeat the process of discarding 80 percent and adding in 100 g. flour and 100 g. water after 12-24 hours. The recipe stated to wait 24 hours between feedings, but my stater was foaming up so quickly, that I felt it would be better to have twice daily feedings. After about a week of this procedure, I had a very lively sourdough starter with a nice, but not overpowering sourness.

I used the sourdough starter to make the whole wheat sourdough in Pollan’s book and also to make a recipe which I found in a book by Dan Lepard for potato rosemary bread. The bread recipe in Lepard’s book originally came from Erez Komarovsky, who has a bakery chain in Israel. Instead of calling for a regular sourdough, Komarovsky’s recipe calls for Biga Acida, a three (or four) day preferment which uses orange juice and a bit of honey along with the flour and water.

A bit background on the people behind the bread recipe. Dan Lepard’s book, Baking with Passion, was about the recipes from the iconic Baker & Spice in London. Founded by Gail Stephens in 1995, it was the prototype for Ottolenghi in its modern Israeli food sensibility.  Stephens (also known now as Yael Mejia), was born in London, but raised in Israel. After returning to London and spending years in the food distribution business, Stephens decided to open a bakery. She hired Dan Lepard as baker/consultant and Sammi Tamini as chef. Yotam Ottolenghi eventually became head pastry chef at Baker& Spice. Later, of course, Ottolenghi and Tamimi partnered in creating Ottolenghi.

Now Ottolenghi and Lepard are famous with published books to their name and regular newspaper columns in the Guardian (Ottolenghi’s column; Dan’s). Gail or rather Yael Mejia now is the force behind a Baker & Spice in Dubai.

Erez Komarovsky, the baker behind the original bread recipe, is credited with revolutionizing the bakery business in Israel in the nineties with his chain of artisan bread bakeries. It is unclear how Stephens got the recipe from him, but he was very influential in the Israeli baking scene at the time Baker & Spice was created, and the Israeli baking scene is the inspiration behind both Baker & Spice and Ottolenghi (see this interesting article on the topic of Israel comes to London).

Now, you may be wondering: all very interesting, but how did the bread taste? The bread was fantastic, with a crisp/chewy crust and a just-sour enough flavor to the interior. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the crumb, but it quite nice looking: light texture, with some large holes. The potato and garlic flavor didn’t come through very strongly, although you could smell the potato and garlic when the bread came out of the oven. Definitely worth repeating.


Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Caramelized Onion Toast

May 7, 2013


This is a delicious light lunch: hearty whole grain toast, topped with caramelized onions, wilted spinach, roasted red pepper strips and some crumbled feta cheese.  Once again, this recipe comes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.


Latest Best Corn Muffins Ever

November 21, 2012

Give me 22 minutes, and I’ll give you a dozen of the best corn muffins you have ever tasted. Sweet and moist, with a maple-ey note that makes you think of corn pancakes drenched in syrup. This recipe originally appeared in Good Housekeeping at the request of a reader who had tasted them at Heathcote Tavern in Scarsdale, New York.


Parshat Noach: Mabul Cupcakes

October 16, 2012

I got the idea to make marble cupcakes for Parshat Noach from Leora. Marble sounds like mabul, which means flood. Cute . . . right?

I took a banana cake recipe from Leora, too, and marbelized it with chocolate batter. If you want a plain chocolate vanilla version, try my vanilla chocolate swirl cupcakes for your mabul dessert.


The Moistest, Corniest Cornbread (Dairy Free, Gluten Free)

July 20, 2012

I made this cornbread as part of a meal inspired by Ramona Quimby, Age 8. In that book, Ramona (also known as Ramona the Pest) has to make dinner with her sister as punishment for complaining about their mother’s cooking. Ramona is specifically instructed to make cornbread because she complained her mom didn’t make it.

Ramona improvises very creatively, substituting banana yogurt for the buttermilk and cream of wheat for part of the cornmeal. The cornbread comes out okay anyway, if a little pale and flat.

My son wanted to replicate the meal, so we did (but kosherizing it, of course). The whole menu? Chili chicken with peas, carrot sticks, rice, cornbread and canned pears with apricot jam (for dessert).

This cornbread is especially moist, partly because the recipe calls for adding boiling water to part of the cornmeal, partly because I added triple the oil the recipe called for by (happy) accident.


Gloria Bernstein’s Nine Days Jalapeno Corn Bread Kugel

July 20, 2012

All the way back in 1997, I spotted this recipe for cheesy cornbread in the New York Daily News. It was submitted by reader Gloria Bernstein, who says that she likes to make it during the Nine Days. Actually, she says that she like to break her fast after Tisha B’Av with it, along with a bowl of tomato soup and a salad. I don’t know that I would want to eat tomato soup and spicy cornbread after a fast, but soup, salad and cornbread sounds like an easy delicious meal. I like to serve the cornbread with tomato salad, made with large beefsteak tomatoes.

What makes this cornbread special is the use of fresh corn, a confetti of minced red pepper and jalapeno, and some sour cream and cheddar cheese. It is rich, moist, cheesy–more of a casserole or main dish kugel than a bread.


Wordless Wednesday: Caramel Topped Challah Cake

June 6, 2012

Imagine French toast (or challah kugel or bread pudding), but as a cake, with caramel sauce . . . .


Maida’s Famous Bran Muffins and a Variation

February 15, 2012

At the risk of gross oversimplification, there are basically two ways to make bran muffins: (1) with unprocessed wheat bran, and (2) with bran cereal.

You would think that cereal would be the more expensive option, but an 18 ounce box of All Bran Cereal costs about the same as a 14 ounce box of Hodgson Mills Unprocessed Bran. Some cereals have additives, like artificial sweeteners, but the above cereal is just bran, sugar, malt and salt. Comparing the nutritional information on the boxes, I figured out that 93 grams of cereal (about 1 1/2 cups) is the same as 75 grams of unprocessed bran (about 1 1/4 cups). So pricewise and nutritionwise, there isn’t too much difference.

The bran cereal is pre-cooked, which is a disadvantage is certain applications, but I think an advantage with something that is so briefly baked (muffins bake for 15-20 minutes). In fact, in doing a side by side comparison of bran muffins baked with cereal and unprocessed bran, I toasted the unprocessed bran before adding it to the batter to add some deeper color and flavor.

One more advantage in using cereal rather than unprocessed bran: you can readily eat up the leftover cereal for breakfast (well, over the course of many breakfasts), while the rest of the box of bran might linger in the freezer for a while.

Is there a taste advantage of one versus the other? I’m not sure. I made two batches of muffins and compared them side by side and the flavor was fairly similar.

So, the choice is yours. The below recipe  (adapted from Maida Heatter’s famous recipe) lets you choose either raw bran flakes or cereal. And, by the way, if you think bran muffins are dry and tasteless, you must try this moist, deeply flavorful muffin.


Cinnamon Toast and Banana Cinnamon Toast

January 30, 2012

Cinnamon toast: either you grew up with it and have definite ideas about it, or you probably never heard of it. My mom made it in the toaster oven. Buttered slices of bread topped with cinnamon sugar, toasted until the butter and cinnamon sugar fused together into a crisp topping. A favorite variation was banana cinnamon toast, which involved a layer of sliced bananas between the butter and cinnamon sugar (now I sometimes use peanut butter instead of butter between the bananas and bread).

A healthier way of making this is to use whole wheat bread and to spray the bread with cooking spray before sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar and popping it in the toaster oven until the sugar melts into a crispy glaze on the toasted bread. No, it isn’t as decadent as with butter, but it is still yummily reminiscent of cinnamon buns/danish/babka, while having all the simple virtues of a plain slice of toast.

This is a wonderfully soothing thing to eat, especially if you are feeling a bit out of sorts.