Saturday, May 9, 2015

Quick Savory Biscuits (non-dairy)

These are, if not the easiest, then among the easiest biscuits to bake. 
Chopped scallions and coconut oil create a delicious moist biscuit - you won't miss the butter. 

The dough is hand-mixed, using either a pastry blender or an inexpensive flexible dough scraper, which can be purchased through King Arthur Flour.  The trick for making flaky light biscuits is to avoid working the dough too much. Mix as lightly and as little as possible in order to NOT build up long gluten strands.  The entire process, start to finish can be done in under an hour assuming 2 baking sheets, which will allow you to bake batches of biscuits one after another. 

There is no baking powder or salt in the recipe because self-rising flour has salt and baking powder incorporated in it. This dough uses two leavening agents, baking powder in the self-rising flour and instant yeast, a leavening technique you'll also find in Chinese Steamed Buns  The "shortening" is solid coconut oil, although you can always use butter if a dairy biscuit works for you. 

several pieces of scallion, trim root end and cut off top of green parts if they are not firm. 
2.5 tsp (1 package) instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water 
21 oz (5 full cups) unbleached self rising flour. I like to use King Arthur brand 
1 cup coconut oil (do not melt, use as solid shortening) 
5 Tbsp granulated sugar 
2 c coconut (or soy) milk at room temperature

1. Finely chop the scallion. Measure off 1/4- 1/3 c and set aside.
2. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand, it will begin to bubble.
3. Mix the sugar and scallion pieces into the flour.
4 "Cut" the coconut oil into the four, using a hand pastry blender or flexible dough scraper.
   Work the dough until the coconut oil is broken into very small pieces no larger than the size of peas.
5. Combine the dissolved yeast and "milk," stir to disperse the yeast and pour into the flour/coconut mixture
6. Turn the flour gently, incorporating the liquid until just mixed. Do not overwork the dough.
7. Cover the dough and set aside. The dough must rest between 15 and 30 minutes. You may need to adjust the dough by adding a tablespoon or two of additional flour. Be careful not to add too much flour! While the dough rests it will continue to absorb additional liquid.
8. Preheat the dough to 415 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
9. Wet your hands. Loosely scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and lightly shape into a ball. Flatten slightly and place on the parchment paper. Repeat. Leave about 2 inches between the dough pieces on the baking sheet, the dough balls will increase by about one-third in the oven.
10. Slip the baking sheet into the oven. Lower the heat to 400 degrees.
      Bake in the upper third of the hot oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until lightly golden. Yield: between 2 and 2.5 dozen depending on how large the dollop of dough.

I could say cool before serving, but they really are just as delicious when hot from the oven. Instead I'll just say, enjoy!

Other baking powder biscuits on the blog: "Buttermilk" Biscuits and Veggie "Bacon" Biscuit Sandwich

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cheese Filled Babka (Apricot- Cheese or Chocolate- Cheese)

Babka comes in so many variations it would be a hard to list them all. I usually bake non-dairy babka, and this recipe started out as my seeking a non-dairy babka-like dough that could be braided or have a braid-like effect. After several iterations, inspiration from a King Arthur flour lemon braid and feedback from friends, the recipe evolved into a delicious not-too-sweet apricot-cheese filled babka. I guess I've figured out what recipe I'll bake for Shavuot lunch this year.

This project takes about 4.5 hours from start to finish. There is an extended 90 minute first proofing and a shorter 30 minute second proof period. Otherwise, you'll be involved in prep and baking.

I sometimes pay attention to having ingredients at specific temperatures and found that in this recipe it really does matter. If you have no time to bring your eggs to room temperature, submerge them in warm tap water for 3-4 minutes. The cheeses will blend easily if brought to room temperature as well; you can do this by leaving the cheese on the counter while you gather your dough ingredients. By the time the dough is mixed and proofed the cheese will have warmed up sufficiently.

Take your time rolling out the dough. This dough rolls out well; however, if you over work it, like all gluten rich dough, it will begin to pull back. Take your time if this happens. Walk away from the dough for five minutes or so and then resume rolling out. Roll the dough out on a well flour-dusted sheet of parchment, which will allow you to shape and move the unbaked dough onto a baking sheet with almost no disturbance to the filling and desired shape.  You will have 2 long loaves supported by parchment paper on a 9x13 sheet pan.

The shine on the baked babka is created by brushing the hot baked babka with syrup. This is a step where I'll cut corners and use ready-made vanilla syrup.

a large mixing bowl
mixing spoon
flexible dough scraper
measuring spoons, cups, kitchen scale
rolling pin

Sponge (starter dough) 
6oz (3/4c) warm water
1 Tbsp instant yeast
2.5 (full half cup) bread flour

6 oz (3/4 c) slightly warmed almond milk
.7 oz (1/4c) ground nuts (NOT nut flour)
2 large eggs, beaten
4 oz (1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp) sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Buttery Sweet Dough flavor (from LorAnn Oils) or vanilla extract
22 oz (5 full cups) all purpose flour
additional flour for dusting the work surface

Apricot -Cheese filling:
16 oz farmer cheese *
16 oz cream cheese (full fat or low fat)
12 oz good quality apricot preserves
4 oz diced dried apricots or other dried stone fruit (peaches, mango) or a combination
3 Tbsp flour

Or Chocolate-Cheese filling:
14 oz Israeli Chocolate Spread (if you cannot find it, Nutella will work) *warm in the microwave for       20 seconds - this makes it easier to blend into the cheese
15 oz farmer cheese
16 oz cream cheese (full fat or low fat)
2 oz sliced almonds

Syrup Glaze:
1/3 cup simple syrup (1/3 cup water , 1/3 cup water) or a ready-made lemon or vanilla syrup

*Farmer cheese is an unripened cheese similar to a drained  drier cottage cheese. In this recipe it cannot be replaced by ricotta cheese.  If you cannot find farmer cheese (or farmers' cheese) in stores, there are instructions at: Nourished Kitchen.

1. Make the sponge by mixing the flour, yeast and water. Mix well.

Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm draft-free place for 20-30 minutes. The mixture will be very bubbly and smell yeasty.

2. Add the dough ingredients to the bowl with the bubbling sponge, adding the liquid ingredients first and the ground nuts and flour, in two additions, last. Use a flexible scraper, mixing, scraping and turning the ingredients until a dough forms. A soft dough will form as you mix the dry ingredients. Make sure everything is well blended.
3. Continue to mix and turn until the dough easily holds its shape. Add a bit of oil to the bowl, turn once or twice and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest and proof in a draft-free place for about 90 minutes. The resulting dough will be almost doubled and feel puffy.

4. About 15 minutes before the dough finishes its proofing period make the cheese filling by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl.  The cream cheese and farmer cheese will be easy to mix if you've allowed them to reach room temperature. If they are still cold, use a mixer and mix well. Fold in the fruit and preserves. Add the flour and mix in well. 

Prepare the baking sheet by lining it with a piece of parchment paper. If you are using a jelly-roll pan, press along the edge and fold to cover the entire surface. 

Preheat oven to 390 degrees. 

5. Gently deflate the dough and divide into two equal parts. Use a kitchen scale if you have one.


6. Use a piece of parchment to line the work surface and dust liberally with flour. Shape one piece of dough into a rectangle and proceed to roll into a rectangle that is approximately 16 x 12.

7. Using the dough scraper as a straight edge, mark a line along the length of the rectangle one quarter in from both edges. Do not pierce the dough. Then, cut vertically along the edge every inch or inch and a half, piercing the dough to create short strips emanating from the center of the dough.

 8. Spread 1/2 of the filling along the middle section of the dough. Spread so that the filling is relatively smooth.

9. Fold the edge on each end over the filling.

10. Alternating sides, fold one strip over the center and press onto the dough on the opposite side. Alternate sides as you work, pressing the edge onto the dough. Work along the entire length of the dough.
11. Gather the edges of the parchment and using the paper to support the shaped loaf, move the entire loaf onto the baking sheet.

12. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Let the loaves rest for 15-20 minutes.
13. Slide the baking sheet into the oven. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for approximately
      40 minutes, until golden brown.

14. Remove from the oven and brush the hot loaves with syrup.  Cool completely before slicing.

Looking for a another recipe with cheese?  Try Veggie "Bacon" Cheese Biscuits
And don't forget the ultimate Chocolate Babka  ! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shaved Fennel- Orange Salad

I avoided using fennel bulbs for a long time, mostly because it smells like licorice (think: GoodnPlenty Candy) and I really really don't like licorice. It turns out that the odor is stronger than the taste, and fennel adds a great crunchy element into a green salad.

The salad ingredients here are more proportion than a recipe. Fennel blends beautifully with citrus and this salad has citrus fruit (oranges) as well as a citrusy-lemon-olive oil-cumin dressing. The dressing is a simplified Syrian-Jewish cumin salad dressing.

The prep does take a few minutes, so I have started to prep and chill the salad components several hours before serving. Several weeks ago I prepped the ingredients prior to Shabbat and dropped the unassembled salad components to the home of friends where we were invited to Shabbat lunch. The "kit" worked very well when mixed 24 hours later.

Equal amounts of thinly shaved fennel bulb, mixed baby greens and peeled, sectioned oranges.
A few very thin slices red onion (optional)

Freshly squeezed lemon juice and a very fruity olive oil (proportion of approximately 3:2)
Ground cumin, to taste (start off with 1/4 tsp and go from there) .

1 Use a mandolin, if you have one, to thinly slice the fennel and red onion. Bag the vegetables separately in zip lock bags and chill if you are not using immediately
2. I use boxed mixed baby greens
3. I've tried several different types of oranges including clementines, mandarin and blood oranges. The blood oranges are by far the most interesting for their taste and color. Peel, section and half each section. Store in a zip lock bag until you mix the salad ingredients.
4. Dress at the last minute, this salad doesn't improve by marinating the vegetables and fruit.

Prepare the salad ingredients
Mix the dressing ingredients, shake well (taste to correct)
Dress the salad and toss
Serve chilled

For another easy to make delicious salad, try my version of Waldorf Salad

Monday, March 9, 2015

Orange Flan (Flan de Naranja: Kosher for Passover, Dairy free, Gluten free)

Flan de Naranja or Orange Flan is a non dairy version of Spanish flan, a sweetened baked custard developed in the Iberian Peninsula during medieval times. This version is credited to the Jewish community of the times- orange juice was used to replace the milk, creating a non-dairy custard that could be eaten at meat meals. Flan de Naranja remains a well loved Passover dessert.

After searching out information on Sephardic adaptations of flan I found several recipes. This one is is Claudia Roden's  from The Food of Spain (2011).

The ingredients are deceivingly simple: 
2 1/2 c fresh orange juice
1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
10 large egg yolks
Orange zest for garnish

1. Combine the juice and sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and cool the mixture.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Bring several cups of water to a boil.
3. Beat the eggs and yolks with a fork in a large mixing bowl.
4. Gradually add the juice, continuing to beat the mixture. Make sure eggs are well blended into the juice.
5. Strain the mixture into another bowl (I use a 1 quart measuring cup). Pour into either eight small ramekin dishes, a flan mold or a deep glass pie pan.
6. Place the flan filled cups or mold into a large pan (a roasting pan works well).
7. Pull the top oven rack 1/3 out of the oven Place the roasting pan on the shelf and fill the surrounding pan with boiling water until it reaches about 1/2 way up the flan-filled containers.
8. Bake until solidified: for ramekins approximately 30-40 minutes, for the large molds, 75-90 minutes. The top will be set and the sides will pull away a bit from the sides of the mold.
9. Cool and then cover with plastic wrap. Chill 8 hours or overnight before serving.

To serve: invert the mold or serve in the container. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and garnish with thin slices of zest.
The flan may be made up to 2 days prior to serving.
Note: the flan will form a custard that is not quite as firm as "leche" flan (milk flan).

Other delicious Passover desserts on this blog include:
 Fudgey Chocolate Chocolate -Chip Cookies 
Chewy Quinoa Bar Cookies  and
Chocolate-Coconut Gluten Free Cupcakes

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sour Dough Oatmeal Loaf

If you are looking to bake a sourdough bread you've undoubtedly read in many places that time, temperature, humidity and the natural yeast/bacteria in your kitchen are the important factors. You'll also note that proofing time is much longer than bread made with commercial yeast.  Don't be in a rush means that the bread takes a long time to proof; however, that does not mean you have to stop everything to bake this bread. I work full time and have other interests and have figured out strategies to fit the bread baking process into my schedule. So you don't need to be housebound to turn out a great sour dough loaf, you just need a bit of ingenuity about making the process work for you.

This recipe will assume you have a ripe sourdough starter: directions from BreadandBabka are just a click away. Otherwise, you can find starter instructions on the blog Sourdough Surprises , on the King Arthur Blog or any number of other baking blogs. A starter takes a week or 10 days to get going.

The recipe will also assume you have the patience of an angel and can walk away from the proofing dough and allow the wild yeast to work its magic. The more patience you have, the more fabulous the bread will be (which is a rule of thumb for many sourdough creations).

There are differences in the taste that will result from a warmer proofing environment (72- 75 degrees) and a cooler proofing period (68-70 degrees). If you want the dough to be sour, plan on a cool, slow rise. A warmer rise will still yield a great texture, just less "tang" to the dough.


  • Sourdough bread relies on having a ripe, recently fed starter. After that the bread may take up to 15- 17 hours to complete.  In order to fit making this bread on my schedule I mixed the mature starter with oatmeal and flour, went to my office and let it proof in a temperature controlled setting for about 11 hours. It may have been fine to let it proof for another hour or two. My kitchen is not well insulated and in the winter it's chilly (60- 65 degrees). I have a proofing box that can be set at a consistent temperature, but you can follow my friend Shelley's advice and use a warm utility room or use an oven that has been warmed (and shut off). 
  • Once the initial long proofing period was finished (sometimes you'll hear people call this a rising period), I mixed sugar, salt, oil, orange extract and a bit more flour into the dough. Sugar and salt are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb water . They therefore, to some degree, compete for the water that the yeast and gluten require. Oil (and shortenings) also modify the dough environment and can interfere with yeast activity. Wild yeast is more sensitive to this interference than commercial yeast, so I held back these ingredients until the dough was proofed and well on it's way. You can learn a bit more about these interactions and chemistry  from the Sugar Association . 
  • The final amount of flour and water will be dictated by the texture of your starter. The amounts indicated are a guide. If you think the dough is too thin, you can add another ounce or two of flour. The same holds true for the final amount of water. 
  • After a shorter 2nd resting period I pulled and stretched the dough in the mixing bowl. This is similar to a stretch and fold on a bread board, but since the dough was sticky and wet and I didn't want to add that much more flour, I stretched it, using a flexible dough scraper while in the bowl and then let it rest for a short time.
  • Once those proofing periods were finished the process resembled the typical bread baking process. I divided the dough (it was gorgeous and stretchy), placed the halves into prepared pans and let them rise in place.  Since I couldn't roll out the dough and the dough was very sticky, I kept my hands very wet and patted the dough down to fill the prepared pans. 
  • The dough rested and rose in the loaf pans.  I then sprinkled them with old fashioned oats and spritzed with water. The loaves were baked in a steamy oven at 425 degrees. 
  • After removing from the oven, I allowed them to partially cool in the pans before turning them out onto a cooling rack.  Once they cooled we sliced and taste tested: the ratio of crumb to crust was wonderful, the crumb had beautiful irregular holes, it tasted was slightly tangy and the consistency was chewy.  
stand or hand mixer  with a large mixing bowl
kitchen scale 
measuring spoons, cups
flexible dough scraper, silicone spatula 
2 large loaf pans (or 8" round cake pans) 

For the initial dough:
8.2 oz (1 full cup) ripe sour dough starter 
14 oz water (you may need another ounce)- the water should be slightly warm, about 80-90 degrees 
6 oz (1 1/2 cup) whole wheat flour - I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat 
3.2 oz (1 cup) old fashioned oats 
12 oz (3 cups) all purpose flour 

For the final dough:
all of the initial dough
2 oz (1/2 cup loosely packed) brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 oz (a full 1/3 cup) vegetable oil 
1 tsp orange extract 
and if needed an additional:  1-2 oz flour or 1-2 oz water to achieve the consistency for a wet but substantial dough 

For preparing the pans:
spray oil
2-3 Tbsp flour for dusting the inside of the pans 

approximately 1 oz (1/3 cup) old fashioned oats 

1. Combine everything marked "initial dough" and mix at low speed until well blended and pulling away from       the side of the bowl. It will be substantial and very sticky. It will look a bit lumpy because of the oatmeal,             which will soften and partially disperse into the finished dough. This may take 4-5 minutes. 

2 . Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof for 10-12 hours in a draft-free place that is 65-75 degrees. 
     My kitchen is chilly, so  I used a proofing box set at 72 degrees.  
3. It will not quite double, but will be bubbly and puffy. 

4. Add the sugar, salt, oil and extract to the proofed initial dough. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes.     Correct the water or flour so that you have a sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the           bowl. You'll notice that the dough forms long stretchy strands. 


5. Cover and let rest again for about an hour.  Prepare the pans by spraying with oil and dusting with flour. 

6. After an hour, using the flexible bowl scraper, scoop the dough from the sides, bring the scraper 1/2 way         around the bowl and fold into the center. Repeat this process 3-4 times, you'll feel the dough starting to             become even more stretchy, although it will still be thick and sticky. 

7. At this point you can place the dough in the pans or allow to rest another 20-30 minutes.  
8. Using the flexible scraper, divide the dough in half and place into the prepared pans. 
9. Wet your hands and press the dough to fit the pans. 


10. Sprinkle the dough with oats. Place in a draft free place and let proof for anywhere between 
      45 and 90 minutes. The bread will increase about 1/3 - 1/2 in volume. 

11. While the dough is proofing in the pans, place a pan of hot water at the bottom of the oven. 
      I use a cast iron frying pan,which holds heat. Place the rack at the top third of the oven.  
      Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees 
      My oven has cold spots and I've found that using a pizza stone in the oven and baking directly
      on the stone helps to create a more even baking environment. 
      Once the oven reaches temperature, let it continue to run for 10 minutes or so to make sure 
      that the entire oven is really hot enough. 

12. Spray the loaves with water and slip into the oven. Be careful about steam in the hot oven when you open the oven door. 
13. Lower the heat to 425 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. If you like to measure
     internal temperature, the bread should be between 195-200 degrees. 
14. Cool for 15-30 minutes in the pan. Turn out onto a cooling rack and completely cool before 

With patience and coaxing you'll find you've baked an amazing sourdough loaf! 

If you like baking with starters, you may also like to try  Korn Bread  .