Saturday, December 26, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Mandelbread (Biscotti)

I recently agreed to teach a gluten-free Jewish baking class. We're going to bake a few traditional Jewish-type cookies, all gluten free and in the case of this "Mandel bread,"  dairy-free and nut-free as well. Yes, I realize mandel means almond, and we should call this cookie a biscotti, but then it wouldn't be a Jewish baked treat for the purposes of this class.

"Teaching" a baking class, to me, is more of a "bake along with other who love to or want to love to bake." I supply the recipe and some of the tips I've learned along the way, but honestly, we all learn and teach together.  When my children were young gluten-free baked goods were meant for individuals who had Celiac disease; however, nowadays people avoid gluten for a variety of reasons. Gluten free baking is also very popular for Passover, but please be aware that the flour mixture used for this recipe contains garbanzo and fava bean flour which is not acceptable for Passover cooking in many Ashkenazi homes.

I think of most Mandelbrot recipes as blank slates upon which you can build a personal flavor/additions combination. This particular recipe calls for chocolate chips, but you could substitute or add toasted pepita (pumpkin seeds) , soaked dried raisins or cranberries, omit the chocolate and add a mixture of rosemary and toasted walnuts. Start with the basic gluten-free dough and let your imagination run wild. 

When working out the recipe I purposely wanted to keep this easy and accessible to a casual baker and therefore rather than create a flour mixture of several exotic gluten-free flours I've worked out a recipe that calls for two easily purchased flours: Bob's Red Mill GF all purpose baking flour and oatmeal flour. The fat source can be either entirely canola oil or a mixture of canola and coconut oil. The canola-coconut oil mixture produces a finished cookie that is slightly less crumbly.
Xanthan Gum, an additive that increases viscosity and stabilizing emulsions is integrated into the flour mixture. In the case of baked goods it mimics gluten and is necessary to bind the gluten-free flours. You can purchase it in the gluten free section of a well-stocked food market or from a number of on-line sources including Bob's Red Mill , King Arthur Flour , or LorAnn Oils.

If you are less interested in gluten-free and are interested in baking delicious mandel bread/ biscotti with wheat flour, I have very good recipes for Maple-Walnut Mandelbread   and Lemon Blueberry Biscotti on this blog.

In any event this type of cookie is very easy to make, requiring no special equipment other than a large mixing bowl, sturdy mixing spoon and measuring implements. Use baking parchment to line either a cookie sheet or quarter size baking sheet and a sharp paring knife or flexible bench scraper to slice the under-baked loaves into cookie slices that will be baked a 2nd time to create a traditional twice-baked crisp cookie slice.

8 oz (1 c) oil (either canola or half canola/half melted coconut oil)
6.5 oz (1c) granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange extract or orange oil
3 large eggs
12 oz (3c) Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking flour + 2 tsp to mix with the Xanthan Gum
   and baking powder
3.6 (1c) oat flour (NOT oat meal)
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz (1c) mini chocolate chips 
1.Measure the ingredients. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees. Set top rack to top third of the oven.
2. Combine the oil and sugar, mix well. Add the eggs and salt. Mix again.


3. Combine the flours and cinnamon. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp flour, baking powder and Xanthan Gum. Stir and mix into the dry ingredients.
4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. The mixture will begin to thicken and will form a thick slightly oily soft dough. Mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Using a sheet of parchment paper, fold the short edge so that there is a 1-2 inch folded edge and lay on the baking sheet.

6. Scoop approximately 1/3 of the dough, pat into a log, approximately 1.5 inch wide, 12-14 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. Smooth the top to create a rectangle shaped log. Create a fold with the parchment paper on the other side of the cookie dough. Repeat to make two more logs of dough.

7.Slip the dough into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. The loaves will be slightly browned but under-baked.

 8. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and working quickly, slice the loaves into cookie slices of approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. You do not need to turn the slices on their sides, but do try to slide the slices around so that there is a small amount of space around each slice.
9. Slip the cookie slices back into the oven, lower the oven to 330 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Shut the oven and cool the cookies in the oven. When you remove them they will not be completely crisp (although delicious). Loosely wrap or store in a container, they will be hard and crisp when left to rest for 8 or 10 hours.

10. These cookies stay well for several days at room temperature. If  not consumed within 2-3 days, store in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!!

If nuts are not a problem for you, another delicious gluten-free cookie on the blog is Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sweet- Potatonik

Potatonik made with shredded sweet potatoes and shallots

 Potatonik , a cross between a kugel and yeast bread, is ordinarily made with white potatoes and onion. This recipe is inspired by George Greenstein's recipe that can be found on this blog: Potatonik ,as well as in Greenstein's baking book, Secrets of a Jewish Baker , a great book whose biggest draw-back is the lack of useful pictures.

 Potatonik employs both yeast and baking powder as the leaving agents. The resulting texture is chewy and soft. Greenstein's "secret" in this recipe is the use of a "sponge" (pre-ferment starter). His instructions direct a 30 minute pre-ferment, but I've left the sponge to rise for up to 6 hours with no compromise in the final product. Mixing, baking and cooling the dough will take less than 2 hours (one hour of which is passive baking time).

  • make the pre-ferment, cover and let rest in a draft free place
  • prepare 2 medium loaf pans by greasing well and sprinkling with either flour, breadcrumbs or cornmeal 
  • pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • shred or grate the sweet potato and shallot (a food processor makes this step very easy)
  • make the dough, mix in the shredded vegetables 
  • pour into the prepared pans and bake immediately 
  • bake at 365 degrees
  • remove from oven, let rest 10-15 minutes and remove from pan. The loaf is delicious served warm or at room temperature
  •  mixing bowls, spoons, silcone spatula and/or flexible scraper 
  • box grater or food processor (shredding blade)
  • 2 medium loaf pans 
  • cooling rack

 Ingredients : 
Sponge: 1 c  (8 oz) warm water
              1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast 
              1 1/2 c (6.5 oz) bread flour 
Dough: 3/4 lb (12 oz) shredded sweet potato
             1/3 lb (5-6 oz) shredded shallots
             1/2 c (3-4 oz) bread crumbs 
             1/2 c (2.5 oz) bread flour 
              1/2 tsp baking powder (mixed into the bread flour)
             1.5 tsp kosher salt 
             1/4 tsp ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
             1/2 c vegetable oil + 2-3 Tbsp more to grease 2 loaf pans
             2 extra large eggs 
             several Tbsps of flour or bread crumbs or corn meal to dust greased pans

1. Weigh/measure ingredients to make the sponge. Mix well with a large spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a draft-free spot to rise. 


2. Weigh/measure ingredients for the dough.  Mix the baking powder, pepper, salt and breadcrumbs into the flour . Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

 3. Stir down the sponge (pre-ferment). Mix in the sweet potatoes and shallots. Use a flexible scraper to aid in the mixing. The vegetables should be completely incorporated.

4. Stir in the flour mixture and oil into the pre-ferment/ vegetable mixture. Mix and turn well. The dough will be sticky and on the loose side. 


 5. Push 1/2 of the dough into a prepared pan, and the remainder into the second pan. 
6. Place in the center rack of the oven. Lower the heat to 365 degrees and bake for approximtely 1 hour. The top should be golden.  If your oven is uneven, turn the pans 45 degrees after 40 minutes. To overcome hot/cool spots in my oven I keep a ceramic baking tile in my oven. The pans can rest directly on the tile.

 7. Cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn out of pan and allow to stand for a few minutes. Slice and serve immediately or at room temperature. 

The baked potatonik can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days; otherwise, double wrap and freeze. 

If you like savory-onion baked goods..............try other savory recipes on the blog: Matzah-Onion Kugel  or Rye-Onion Rolls.

Happy Baking! 


Friday, October 16, 2015

Roast Chicken with Za'atar and Mandarin Oranges

This recipe combines the savory flavor of za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be purchased in Middle Eastern and Israeli food shops. Spice mixes vary, but will often include sumac, oregano, hyssop, sesame seeds and salt. Za'atar is a ubiquitous ingredient in Palestinian and more recently Israeli cooking.  Za'atar is often used in combination with olive oil or leben (Middle Eastern yogurt) as a dip for pita and lafah (a flat bread related to pita, without the hollow center). I have a challah recipe, Challah with Za'atar and Apricots  that combines the savory, slightly salty taste of za'atar with the sweet/sour taste of dry apricots.

Za'atar also works well combined with vegetables, chicken and lamb.

I like working with complicated yeast dough, but when it comes to main dishes, the fewer ingredients the better and the simpler the cooking method the more I like it. This recipe is a simple roasted chicken that is marinaded overnight in a citrus-za'atar mixture and roasted in the oven. The sauce that is created by the cooked chicken and marinade is reduced and returned to the roasting pan. The remaining sauce is a bit sharp and sour. Although it would be more typical to serve this with rice or bulgar, I like to pair it with the sweet/peppery taste of Yerushalmi kugel. This recipe makes 3-4 servings.

Active prep time is 10-15 minutes and active cooking about an hour. The use of a zip lock plastic bag to marinate the chicken minimizes clean up.

If you cannot find za'atar locally, it is available on-line. One source is Pereg gourmet foods in Flushing NY .

A simple recipe can be found at Bon Appetite. Sumac is also available at Pereg's on-line shop:
Combine 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, 1 Tbsp. sumac, 1 Tbsp. ground cumin, and 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds. Stir in 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

1 gallon plastic zip lock bag (optional) for marinating the chicken
shallow baking pan
grease separator (for separating the cooking liquid from fat and small sauce pan

1/2 c lemon juice (fresh is great, but bottled juice works)
1/3 c vegetable oil (olive or canola)
1 large red onion , sliced 
3-4 slightly crushed garlic cloves
2 Tbsp za'atar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2-3 lbs chicken thighs (4-5 pieces) - skin on

1 can mandarin oranges in light syrup (drain the syrup before adding the fruit)

1. Combine the marinade ingredients , add the chicken and marinate at least 2 hours  in the refrigerator (overnight is fine).
2. Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Pour the entire contents - chicken and marinade- into a shallow roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes. The marinade will prevent the skin from becoming crispy.
3. Pour off the liquid, separate the fat and pour the remaining sauce into a small saucepan and reduce by at least one half (this will take about 10 minutes).
4. Add the drained fruit to the cooked chicken dish.
5. Pour the reduced sauce back over the chicken.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature with rice or Yerushalmi kugel.

Another favorite chicken recipe posted at BreadandBabka: Grandma's Chicken Fricassee with mini meatballs and matzah balls.

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)