Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fig Babka

This babka is a luxurious cake: a pound and a half of fresh figs and honey filling a rich yeast cake dough that includes slivered almonds. The juxtaposition of soft fruit, crunchy seeds and chewy almonds is delicious. The dough is similar to all babka dough: a very rich dough allowed the luxury of a slow rise and then shaped and filled. Having a generous neighbor with a fig-full tree is always a plus!

The cake has two processes, the dough and the filling. After the filling has marinated, separate most of the fruit from the liquid, leaving behind approximately 3/4 of the diced fruit for the filling.  This separated syrup/fruit will be cooked and further reduced forming a hot topping. The gluten in the flour needs to be extremely well worked and organized and therefore I do not recommend making this dough by hand.

I found it most efficient to toggle back and forth between the two processes. If you need a long break the dough can be made and chilled in the fridge for a long rise (8-12 hours).   
For the pictured cake, this was how I arranged my time: 
  • mixed the dough and 
  • allow it rise, while making the filling
  • shape, fill
  • rise 
  • bake and simmer/reduce filling while cake is baking
  • remove from oven and spread over thickened hot topping 
  • cool completely before EATING! (it actually tastes better when cooled for several hours) 
electric mixer /KitchenAid
measuring cups, spoons, silicone spatula or wooden spoon
flexible plastic scraper (one of the most useful tools in a kitchen)
knife, cutting board
kitchen scale
mixing bowls  
9x 13 baking pan (glass or metal)

For the dough;
19 oz (4 3/4c) all purpose flour, additional flour for dusting the baking pan and rolling surface
2 tsp yeast 
4.5 oz (approx 3/4c) granulated sugar 
4 oz (1/2 c) warm water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
5.3 oz coconut oil (or 1 1/3 stick unsalted butter)
1.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon oil or extract (optional)
1.5- 2 oz slivered almonds 
spray oil for greasing the pan or additional margarine/butter if preferred 

For the filling:
1.5 lbs (approximate) ripe fresh figs, diced
6 oz (1/2c) honey
1.5 tsp vanilla 

1. Measure all of the ingredients.

2. In the bowl of the electric mixer add the flour. Make 3 small "wells" (depressions in the flour) along the sides of the bowl and add the yeast, sugar and salt individually in each of the three wells. Cover each well lightly with flour. Pour the water over the area containing the lightly covered yeast.

add the yeast, sugar and salt in three separate depressions

cover the yeast, sugar and salt lightly with the surrounding flour

pour the water over the area with the yeast 

3. Start the mixer. Pour in the eggs, oil, extracts, nuts and mix.

4. Continue mixing at speed 2 or 3 until the dough is very well organized, pulled from the sides and shows strands of stretchy dough. This may take 5-7 minutes.

5. Cover dough with plastic wrap, let rise in a warm place for 5-6 hours or in the fridge, overnight for 8-12 hours.  The resulting dough will be puffy and show air bubbles immediately below the surface. 

6. Prepare the filling by dicing the fruit and mixing with the honey and vanilla. Cover and let stand for several hours. Juices will run out of the fruit and there will be a syrup. 

7. Pour off the syrup and about 1/4 of the fruit before using the remaining mixture as the filling. 

8. After the dough has risen use a flexible scraper to turn and mix. If you are removing from the fridge, allow the dough to come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes. 

9.Grease and flour a baking pan. Dust a flat surface with flour (for rolling out the dough). 

10. Using the flexible scraper, cut the dough in approximately half. Place one piece on the flour-dusted surface and roll out to a thin sheet that is approximately  8x10. If the dough shrinks back, let rest for a couple of minutes and roll again. Dust the rolling pin as needed. 

11. Spread approximately 1/2 of the drained fruit mixture on the third of the dough closest to you. Dust the fruit with a bit of flour and roll. Pinch end of dough roll slightly to close the roll. 

12. Slice crosswise in slices approximately 1.5 inches thick. Using the flexible scraper or a knife to make the slices, slip under the cut piece and slip into the prepared pan, cut side up. Leave a bit of space between rolls. 

Repeat the process with the other half of dough. 
You'll have 14-16 rolls.

13. Allow to rest/rise for 30-45 minutes, the rolls will expand, but may not completely touch each other.
14. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.


15. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden. 

16. While the cake is baking, simmer the reserved syrup and fruit for a few minutes, mashing the fruit to create a pulpy mass. The mixture should be thick, but be careful of burning. This topping will be spread on the hot cake after you remove from the oven. 

17. Cover the entire cake with the fruit puree and cool completely before serving.
Slice or serve as a "pull - apart."
Cover loosely and store at room temperature for 2-3 days. Otherwise, double wrap and freeze for up to 6 weeks. 

Other Bread and Babka recipes you may enjoy: Maple-Apple Walnut Babka    and 
Potato-nik (Potato Pudding Bread) 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Apple Cake

This cake has a long pedigree. I adapted it from Babette Friedman's Apple Cake featured in the New York Times (2008), she, in turn, had adapted it from Daniel Rose. It's delicious, moist and freezes well, which makes it a winner in my book.  Yield: 1 cake

1 tube pan
mixing spoons, cups
silicone scraper 
electric mixer , mixing bowl

The cake has three components: sliced fruit, sugar topping and the batter. Cut up and prep the fruit first. Make the cinnamon-sugar topping and set aside and then prepare the batter. The apples are prepped with a bit of Apple Jack or Apple Brandy.  We have easy access to Laird's Apple Jack, a distilled liquor that has been made in New Jersey since the late 1600's. Laird's and local non-alcoholic cider are traditional agricultural products in our county.

Fruit: Mix the following and set aside
peel, core and slice 3 large apples (I like to mix the apples, always using one Granny Smith and then either Jazz, Braeburn or Jonamac). Reserve 1/2 of one apple and dice the fruit (for the batter)
1/2- 1 tsp  apple-jack or apple liquor.
1 tsp grated or finely diced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Sugar topping: Mix the following and set aside 
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp finely diced fresh ginger

Cake batter:
1-2 Tbsp shortening or spray oil to prepare pan.
1-2 Tbsp flour to dust pan.
8 oz (2 sticks) margarine or Earth Balance baking sticks or unsalted butter
1 1/3 c sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 large eggs
 1/2 tsp apple extract (optional)
1/2 tsp finely diced ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
9 oz (2 full cups) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
diced apples, reserved from sliced fruit

 1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees, grease and flour a tube pan.  I used a disposable pan, as shown in the photo.
2. Mix flour, cinnamon and baking powder and salt in a bowl.
2. In the mixing bowl, cream the shortening , sugar and salt. Mix until well aerated and fluffy.
3. Add eggs , extract and ginger. Blend well.
4. Fold in the flour mixture and diced fruit. Blend using mixer or spatula.
5. Spread into prepared pan, the batter will be very thick.
6. Arrange fruit slices over the top of the cake. You may have enough slices for 2 layers of fruit. Push slightly into the batter.
7. Sprinkle on the sugar topping.
8. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 45-50 minutes. Test the cake for doneness.
9.Cool completely before serving or wrap well and freeze. The cake can stand at room temperature for up to 2 days, store in the refrigerator if you are keeping it longer.
10. Slice and serve. The cake is delicious served as is, but is also superb with a bit of whipped coconut milk (pareve "whipped cream") or  ice cream .

Other fruit cakes you may like to try: Pumpkin-Orange Tea Bread or  
Parsnip - Carrot Spice Cake

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cucumber-Arugula Soup (cold summer soup)

This summer we harvested so many cucumbers and so much arugula I  was constantly looking for things to make with them. It happens that this year all of the produce ingredients were found in our garden which made the soup more fun to make. Don't wait to grow the ingredients, the soup is easy and a little unusual. It was a hit with everyone who tried it this summer.

This soup is uncooked and takes minutes to create. Chill well before serving. The color remains bright and fresh.

All ingredients are raw: prepped and quickly processed. Use a cuisinart, vitamix or blender.  The raw garlic adds spiciness and heat.

4 1/2 cups (or a bit more) peeled, seeded and coarsley chopped cucumber 
1/4- 1/3 cup arugula 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
1 clove garlic  
1/4 cup vinegar (wine vinegar if you have it)
1 Tbsp fresh lime (or lemon) juice 
 up to 1/4 tsp ground chili
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

Process all of the ingredients until smooth. Pour into a jar and chill 4 hours to overnight. 
Serve garnished with a couple of slices of fresh peach or mango 

This recipe makes 4-5 servings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rosemary - Olive no-knead bread

This bread dough is more like a thick sticky cake batter than it is a bread dough. It is looser than most "no-knead" bread doughs and cannot be organized by stretching and folding (it's too soft). The dough was mixed in a Kitchen Aid, has a long cool rise, is stirred down and then rises in the greased and floured baking pan.  This bread was baked in an uncovered 5.5qt LeCrueset round dutch oven.

This bread is very straight forward to make, although baking it enough so that it is baked-through is a bit tricky. Use the thermometer and make sure the internal temperature is at least 185 degrees. 

The use of high gluten flour (14% gluten) creates a dough that is very springy and bubbly. This is the dough that is used in making bagels. 

electric mixer
measuring spoons, cups
kitchen scale (4 oz = 1 scant cup of flour)
dutch oven (oven proof, preferably an enamel cast iron pot) 
flexible plastic scraper (in a pinch you can use a large silicone spatula)
a cast iron frying pan or aluminum pan 
baking stone if you have one 
food thermometer for checking temperature of cooked bread 

20 oz unbleached bread flour 
4 oz high gluten flour ( sources: King Arthur Sir Lancelot , General Mills All Trumps flour) - you're looking for a flour with about 14% gluten
4 oz white whole wheat (or regular whole wheat if you like the more earthy taste)
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil and additional flour or 3-4 Tbsp cornmeal(to grease and dust the baking pot
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt (you can use and additional 1/4tsp salt if you like bread on the saltier side)
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (one package)
20 oz warm water 
1- 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (minced)
3/4 c minced olives (I like Kalamata best, but choose any salty- olive you like) 
4-6 ice cubes (to create steam in your oven)

1. In a large mixing bowl, or bowl of the Kitchen Aid, combine the bread flour and high gluten flour. Pour the yeast along one side of the bowl, cover with a bit of flour. Pour the salt on the other side of the bowl and cover with a bit of flour so that the yeast and salt are not directly touching. 

2. Add the water and start mixing at slow speed. Make sure that all of the flour is hydrated and mixing, stop the mixer and use a silicone spatula to bring up the flour on the bottom of the bowl if necessary. Continue to mix for 3-4 minutes. 

3. Slowly add the whole wheat flour. Continue mixing, add the rosemary and olives. 
The mixture will look thick, sticky and glutenous. 

4. Spray the top of the dough with oil-spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge and allow to rest for 12-16 hours. The dough will rise and have large bubbles just under the surface. 

5. Prepare the baking pot by liberally greasing the pot and dusting with flour or cornmeal. 
6. Stir down the bread dough by turning a few times with a flexible scraper and "pour" the dough into the prepared pot. 

7. Set up the oven by placing the cast iron pan or brownie size baking pan on the floor of the oven and a baking stone (if you have one) on a rack, which has been set in the upper third of the oven. 

Place the dough a draft free area and let rise for between 1 and 1.5 hours. The dough will rise and look bubbly. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees when the dough begins to bubble (after 30-40 minutes of the rest period).

8. Before slipping the pot of dough into the oven, spray lightly with water (use a plant mister or food mister). 
9. Open the oven , drop 4-6 ice cubes into the hot pan on the oven floor and slip the pot of dough onto the baking stone or oven rack. Be careful of the steam that will rise from the hot pan and rapidly melting ice cubes.  Bake 15 minutes.

10. Without opening the oven, lower the thermostat to 400 degrees and bake for 40- 45 minutes. Check the bread. It will look crusty and golden brown.  Because the dough is dense and this is a large bread, I also check the internal temperature, which should read 185-190 degrees. If the internal temperature is too low, slide the bread back into the oven and bake for 5 more minutes.  You can continue to bake and check temperature in 5 minute intervals, the internal temperature is the fail-safe way to check that the bread is baked through.  This bread, unlike many others, should be thoroughly baked through or the crumb will be gummy.

11. Cool the bread for 15- 20 minutes before attempting to remove from the pot.  Slide the flexible scraper around the sides of the pot, you may hear the air vacuum "break."  Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack or slated board. Cool completely before serving (the inside will be gummy if it's served warm from the oven) or wrap and freeze for serving at another time. 

To re-crisp the bread, warm in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. 
The left over bread makes wonderful croutons. 

Other savory breads on this blog include: Onion Rolls (pocket style) , Rye-Onion Rolls  and Onion Flat Bread

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ancient Grain Challah

Necessity is the mother of invention. This week I wanted to use up a started bag of King Arthur Ancient Grain flour blend  and also needed challah for Shabbat.  The blend is gluten free, but the following recipe is certainly not : the bread has white whole wheat, bread and all purpose flour blended together with the ancient grain blend.  The resulting dough is less stretchy than more traditional challah dough. After the first rise I  deflated the dough by hand and noticed that it felt a bit "grainy."  The color of the dough is "beige" rather than yellow or white. The texture is not quite traditional challah, not quiet artisan bread. The crust is a bit thicker and a bit crusty. The loaf slices wonderfully, the bread makes very satisfying sandwich slices.

Choreography/ Notes:
A longer, slow slow first rise improves the texture of the dough.  I mixed the dough, drizzled oil into the bowl and turned the dough so that the entire dough ball was covered with a slick of oil. The dough was then covered with plastic wrap and left in the refrigerator for 8 hours. It rose nicely, albeit a bit slower than challah usually does. As I mentioned, the dough is not as stretchy as traditional challah, but allowing the dough to come to room temperature helped improve the workability of the dough.

kitchen scale
measuring cups, measuring spoons
electric mixer (optional, but helpful)
baking pans : 3 medium loaf pans or two large loaf pans or parchment lined baking sheet

4.5 tsp instant yeast (2 packages)
2.5 tsp kosher salt
15 to 16 oz warm water  (2 scant cups)
4 large eggs
8 oz ancient grain blend - I used King Arthur Ancient Grains blend, but would appreciate feed back if    anyone uses another mixture.
8 oz white whole wheat flour
10 oz bread flour
10 oz unbleached all purpose flour
4oz (1/2c) honey
4 oz (1/2c) olive or vegetable oil plus approximately 2 Tbsp to grease the bowl
1/4c soy or almond milk
1/4c brown sugar mixed with a Tbsp or two of hot water
1/4c old fashioned oats
spray oil to grease the pans
small amount of cornmeal or flour for dusting the bread pans

1. Weigh and measure the ingredients. Warm the water. For details on yeast and measuring you can click this link. 
2. Combine the oil and water and eggs. Measure and combine the bread and all purpose flour
3. Pour the ancient grain blend and white whole wheat flour into a large mixing bowl.
4. Add the salt at one edge and cover with a bit of the flour and add the yeast on the opposite side of the bowl.
5. Pour the water over the yeast and start the mixer on low speed.  If you are mixing the dough by hand, use a wooden spoon to start mixing the yeast/water into the flour.
6. Pour the oil/water/egg mixture into the bowl and continue to mix.
7. Add 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture and blend in at low speed or continue to mix with a large spoon. Continue to blend in the remaining flour and mix for 3-5 minutes until well blended and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
8. If you are mixing by hand you may need to turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in the final 10 oz of flour.  The dough will be firm, a  bit sticky and not particularly stretchy.
9. Pour 2 Tbsp of oil along the edges of the mixing bowl and turn the dough around so that the dough ball has a thin layer of oil all over it.
10. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours.
11. Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 30-60 minutes before working with the dough.
12. Deflate gently, turn several times and divide/shape. The dough will make 3 medium loaves, 2 large loaves or approximately 18 (2 oz) rolls. Click on this link to see several examples of bread shapes.  Prepare the pans by spraying with spray oil and sprinkling with cornmeal or flour
13. Mix the brown sugar, water and oatmeal to make a thick paste. Smear on the top of the bread. Let rise in a draft free spot (a slightly warm oven or a proofing box is perfect) for about 45 minutes.
15. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Load the bread into the hot oven, lower the heat to 360 degrees and bake for 30-45 minutes. Check the bread after 30 minutes, the crust will be be dark and golden. Internal temperature, if you're inclined to use a thermometer, should be approximately 190- 195 degrees.  I like to very gently push on the top of the crust a bit to make sure the loaf "feels" done.
16. Cool in the pan for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before wrapping and storing. The bread should be double wrapped in plastic if you are freezing.  It will stay loosely covered at room temperature for 2 days.

Other interesting BreadandBabka challah recipes you might like to try include:
Pumpkin Apple Challah  , Challah Bread Pudding , or Challah with Za'atar and Apricots .

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quick to make "Creamsicle" (orange-vanilla) Sorbet

It's warm outside and if you're lucky enough have freezer space to keep the mixing bowl of an ice cream maker frozen, then you can enjoy this sorbet within an hour.  Some of the richer ice creams and complicated sorbet bases require mixing, heating and cooling. Some, but not this one!

The base of this sorbet is a can of room-temperature coconut milk (light or regular, but NOT canned coconut cream). Add sugar, orange juice, a bit of flavor-boosting and your more than halfway there. Use either fresh or NON-reconstituted juice or a combination of both. Reconstituted OJ just doesn't work as well as a flavoring component in this recipe; small flecks of fruit make it visually interesting and more delicious. I prefer LorAnn oil bakery emulsion as the flavor enhancer, but don't let that stop you, extracts will work.

This sorbet scoops well with or without the optional addition of a tablespoon of vodka.

a mixing bowl or 4 cup measuring cup for mixing
mixing spoon, measuring spoon, measuring cup
ice cream maker of your choice

1 can (about 13 oz) coconut milk at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Approximately 1-1/4 cup orange juice - preferable at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bakery emulsion from LorAnn Oils
2 tsp orange extract or orange bakery emulsion from LorAnn Oils
1 Tbsp vodka (optional)

1. Combine the sugar and coconut milk. Mix well, the sugar must disperse into the liquid.
2. Add the orange juice to equal 3 cups of liquid. Mix well, make sure there is no sugar settling at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
3. Mix in the flavorings.
4. Chill in a freezer for 30-45 minutes.
5. Pour into a chilled mixing bowl of your ice cream maker and process according to directions.
6. OPTIONAL: when the mixture is just about ready (thick, slushy) add the vodka and continue to mix.
7. The sorbet will be the consistency of soft-serve, I like to freeze it for an additional hour or two before serving. Let the sorbet stand at room temperature for a few minutes for easy-scooping.


If frozen desserts are your thing, try BreadandBabka's Blueberry-Lemonade Sorbet

Monday, June 1, 2015

Oregano Pesto with Walnuts and Orange

Oregano Pesto with Walnuts and Orange 

It's springtime and a few days of very warm sunny weather has sped the growth of oregano in the garden. Oregano is a great plant for edible gardening: it's a beautiful ground cover, will flower if left untrimmed and best of all is reliably perennial to zone 6 and often survives winter in zone 5 if you protect with mulch. Once established it thrives on neglect and doesn't require regular watering. The key to a constant supply of fresh leaves is to keep it trimmed and avoid flowering. 

OK, so you don't want to grow your oregano, but you do want to try this pesto. Buy a package of fresh oregano, you'll need a loosely packed cup of leaves.  It's easy to remove the leaves from the stem by sliding your finger along the stem moving from the bottom of the stem toward the end with the new growth. The leaves will easily separate from the stem. 

Pesto is a versatile condiment associated with Italy, but also has roots in Southern France (pistou). The origin of the preparation dates back to ancient Roman times, where a mortar and pestle (hence: pesto) were used to hand grind herbs, cheese and nuts. Although it's now typical to use "Genovese" type basil as the herb base in pesto, any herb can be used.  I never prepare pesto with cheese, you can always add grated Parmesan if you'd prefer.  

Serve Pesto along with pasta or spread thinly on slices of crusty bread. You can dilute the mixture with a bit of oil and cream to make a creamy sauce.  I like to  make an oh-so-easy baked chicken by spreading pesto on chicken and baking. Spread pesto on a piece of salmon fillet, spray oil on foil, wrap the fish and bake or cook on the BBQ.  You can also create a vegan sauce by mixing pesto with a bit of oil and lemon or orange juice. Pesto is wonderful served over rice.  Try cooking barley, saute an onion and mix the barley with the onion and a few tablespoons of pesto.  You can always use it to make the garlic-pesto-yogurt sauce that accompany chard patties.  You'll soon realize that the possibilities are endless. 

Preparing pesto is quick and easy. It takes longer to organize the ingredients than to whir them in a food processor. I don't grind the mixture by hand, but it might be interesting to try your hand using a mortar and pestle. 

Prepare the ingredients before blending: separate the oregano leaves from the stems, roughly chop walnuts, zest a small orange, squeeze the juice, peel the garlic cloves .  All ingredients are processed at once in a food processor until they form a smooth paste. 

1 cup loosely packed oregano leaves 
zest from one small orange 
1 oz orange juice 
3/4 c roughly chopped walnuts 
2-4 cloves garlic (this will depend on how much you do or don't love garlic)
2 oz olive oil - you can increase the olive oil by 1/2 oz increments if you want a thinner mixture
large pinch Kosher salt  

Add the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and whir until it forms a smooth paste. 

 Scrape into a covered container. Store in the refrigerator, use within 2-3 weeks. 
Yield approximately 1 cup.