Sunday, 12 December 2010

Her results - Challah Bread

Bread is pretty time intensive stuff. I feel like I've been making this bread for days. That's a slight over-dramatization, but not by much... Let me walk you through the process.

Saturday evening I made the dough. I mixed everything by hand because I still haven't bought a new mixer. Thankfully, few muscles were required to mix everything up.

After I'd mixed everything, I pulled it out of the bowl and began kneading it. I'm jealous of my grandma's wooden work surface and I'll have to get one of those someday. In the meantime, the counter did alright. My dough was very sticky and I had to use at least 1/4 cup if not 1/2 cup extra flour, plus some extra oil. It was a sticky mess for a while, but things worked out in the end.

I tossed my kneaded dough into a bowl and left it an hour. It rose nicely.

I covered the bowl with cling wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. When I opened the door this morning, it had a hilarious bubble in the middle.

Who knows whether or not starting things on Saturday and finishing them on Sunday had an adverse effect. Regardless, the show went on. I punched down the dough and turned it onto the counter and left it to rise slightly.

For the careless braider, such as myself, the next step was very simple and fun. First the big braid...

Then the little braid on top...

Then I brushed the whole unbaked loaf with the reserved egg yolk and sprinkled it with poppy seeds.

Into the oven it went! And out it came, a pretty loaf if I do say so myself.

I had a piece while the loaf while it was still slightly warm, and later a second slice toasted and buttered with jam. It's a nice, soft white bread with a thin crust. Pretty tasty! I'd categorize this week's baking more as a good experience than as a ridiculously delicious treat, but I'm definitely happy that I tried it out.

I fly to England in two days, and I'm not sure whether or not I'll do any blogging during the weeks that I'm there. If not, Happy Holidays!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Recipe 37 - Challah Bread (Egg Twist)

I graduated from the University of Chicago. Every winter the Alumni Association mails a holiday card that is one of the first pieces of holiday correspondence I receive. The card used to feature a wintery picture of campus and a do-good quote, but for the past two years the cards have shown a recipe contributed by someone on campus. Weird, but I'll take it.

About a week ago I received this year's card, which featured this cheesecake recipe. I thought we could make it this weekend but then I saw that you have to let it rest for at least a day before eating it. That won't do! It's our custom to make a recipe and try a bite before saying goodbye. But the card pointed me to a website with more recipes and the best thing I could find to make was Challah Bread (Egg Twist). The recipe was contributed by one of my favorite math professors, Robert Fefferman. I loved this guy! During the first semester of my second year of college, I took his class and sat through a quarter of too-difficult Analysis in Rn just so I could experience his teaching. (The next quarter I dropped down into an easier section taught by someone else!) Every day Professor Fefferman would walk into the room and elegantly sweep off his long coat and launch into an animated lecture. I remember him as a smiling, nice man and a very effective teacher. It's not his fault that I don't remember Analysis, but perhaps he will teach me something new with this recipe...

Happy Holidays from the Physical Sciences Division
Challah Bread (Egg Twist)
from Bob and Joan Fefferman

Robert Fefferman is dean of the Physical Sciences Division and Max Mason distinguished service professor of mathematics. He writes, "We hope that everyone enjoys this; it has been our signature holiday treat for the family for 28 years!"

Preparation time: Several hours from start to finish, including inactive time waiting for the dough to rise and bake.


1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
About 3 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp salad oil (I use olive oil)
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top of bread


In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, heat oil and 3/4 cup water until very warm (we heat to 125 degrees). With a mixer set at low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes.

Reserve 1 egg yolk.

Add one egg white, 2 eggs, and 1 cup flour to the mixture; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in 1 1/4 cup of the flour. On a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in about 1/4 cup more of the flour.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; turn onto a floured surface; cover; let rest 15 minutes. Cut 2/3 of the dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each into a 13-inch rope. On a greased, large cookie sheet, place ropes side by side and braid together; pinch ends to seal. Cut remaining dough into 3 pieces. Roll each into a 14-inch rope; braid as above.

Place small braid along center top of large braid; tuck ends under to seal and keep braid in place. Cover with a towel; let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a cup, beat remaining egg yolk; brush onto top of loaf. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake 30 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool loaf on a rack. Makes 1 loaf, about 16 servings.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Her results- Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

He was right, I was super happy to see this recipe on the docket. I love spices! These turned out to be really yummy cookies.

I had a little trouble finding cardamom. My nearby grocery neither carried whole nor ground cardamom, so I had to go to Whole Foods. The good news is that they had it in their bulk food aisle, so I only had to buy what I needed. I think that scooping what I need into a tiny little bag is cheaper, fresher, and more fun, too.

The resultant dough was quite sticky and thinner than typical cookie dough. But it was thick enough that I was able to roll my dough balls in a mixture of granulated sugar, opal sanding sugar and demerara sugar. That gave the finished product a nice, sweet crunch.

I had a feeling that they'd spread out a lot, so I placed the little balls very far apart on my 16 x 13" baking sheet - just six to a sheet at first. That turned out to be smart, because they really spread. I put nine on my final sheet, which was probably the best spacing.

I baked my first batch for six minutes and I felt like they were underdone, so I baked the rest of the batches for seven minutes. Unfortunately, seven minutes in the oven made the cookies crisper than I'd suggest. To cover for myself, I opted to leave the word "chewy" out of the title when advertising these to friends. Ha! If you make these, err on the side of under-baking.

These are great holiday cookies.

On Saturday, my co-workers and I are going to a Gourmet Cooking baking class at Sur La Table. The menu consists of:
Scandinavian Rosettes - Biscotti Quadrati al Miele e alle Noci (Honey Nut Squares) - Chocolate Peppermint Bar Cookies - Trios - Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies

I'm excited! Maybe I'll learn a thing or two about how to move fast. I have no idea how one bakes five types of cookies in two hours.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

His results- Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

These were super easy to whip up. They took a fair while longer to bake than the recipe suggested but, praise the lord, I managed to pull them out just at the right moment and didn't over bake them (the fate of the last few lots of cookies I made).

I had two people at work ask for the recipe and one say it's their new favourite of the things I've brought in. Lofty praise! Next time I make them I'll probably add in a bit more candied ginger. I loved biting into a chunk of it. Yummy!

I'm pretty excited to see what She chooses for the last recipe of 2010. We'll be sharing a real kitchen over christmas and new year!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Recipe 36 - Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

I can only imagine how happy She will be when she sees this recipe title. It sounds wonderful to me and it's packed full of flavours she loves.

It's taken from Maggie Hoffman on Serious Eats. The recipe and whatnot can be found here. I'll translate the ingredients to metric below!

  • 240g flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 160ml vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 60ml molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 75g chopped candied ginger
  • 50g coarse sugar, for rolling (optional)

Her results - Coconut Cream Pie

Not to get too new agey and introspective, but I am really thankful that every experience teaches me something new. Regardless of whether something is a good experience or a terrible experience, everything I do keeps me growing and exploring things that I'd never even considered. 2010 has been particularly poignant year for me at work and the kitchen. Never a dull moment!

So coconut cream pie... I've eaten a few slices in my day, but I had never actually baked one. I had never baked a cream pie, period. I think I've mentioned before that in my hometown in Kentucky, the ability to bake good pies is something that can make a person virtuous in the eyes of the masses. Something I remember fairly clearly from college is reading and discussing Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Here's what Wikipedia says about his concept of virtue:

"In Aristotle's sense, it is excellence at being human, a skill which helps a person survive, thrive, form meaningful relationships and find happiness. Learning virtue is usually difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice over time until it becomes a habit."

I don't remember it being explained that way college, but it applies particularly well to the virtue of pie baking, especially in the American South and Midwest!

I baked my pie in my grandmother's kitchen, using her equipment including this very effective egg separator:

The custard filling was easy to make, but I didn't get mine quite thick enough. The recipe said to let it get as thick as cream and then leave it a minute longer. I left mine even longer than that, but it apparently wasn't long enough. It was delicious but runny. Oh well, better luck next time!

Once again we used Delia's recipe for crust, but this time I used standard American cup and spoon measurements instead of a digital scale. It rolled out great and transferred to the dish beautifully, and I was psyched! But alas, it was tough after being baked. Darn it! I have no idea what went wrong.

As you can see, I pricked the bottom of my crust with a fork but I failed to do it to the sides, which resulted in some puffiness. Lesson learned.

I poured the filling into the shell, whipped up the meringue in the Kitchen Aid mixer (enviably easy compared to hand-whisking!) and spread the meringue and coconut atop the pie:

And after the oven...

The ladies in the picture are my Grandma Sue and my Aunt Becki. They're the most famous bakers in my family, and I have learned a lot from both of them. I don't know two people who bake more. Comically, my Aunt Martha is the celebrity coconut cream pie baker in my family, and I didn't get a shot of her.

So here's my finished product:

The filling was runny, the crust was tough, and I'll be honest, I threw a teeny tantrum. I wanted it to be wonderful! But my family looked on the bright side and gave it rave reviews despite its shortcomings. Sometimes it's good when people lie to you. :)

Friday, 3 December 2010

His results - Coconut Cream Pie

I have to say I impressed myself a little this week. This turned out incredibly well. It looked amazing and tasted better. Yum, yum, yum!

It was a really good choice of recipe. I hope I come up with something as good for next time!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...