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)