Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pletzlach, and Re-creating Memories


The pletzlach are baking right now.  The smell transports me to my childhood.  If I close my eyes, I can imagine that I am a teenager again.  I'm standing in the living room of our tract house in the Valley, the bedroom suburb just north of Los Angeles.   The smell is wafting from our tiny kitchen.  Mom's treat is almost ready!

The "onion and something's baking" smell is filling my living room and kitchen today.  Tears well up in my eyes--I'm smelling memories of my mom's kitchen.  It's a happy cry!

What are pletzlach, you ask?  Joan Nathan, in her book, "Jewish Cooking in America," says:
"Pletzel, which rhymes with pretzel, is the foccacia of the Jewish food world.  Also called pletzlach (like in our house), onion zemmel, onion pampalik, or onion board, it looks and tastes very much like the flat bread laden with onions and poppy seeds I recently ate in the marketplace of Izmir.  After all, pizza began as pita, sprinkled with olive oil and za'atar (a combination of spices), a meal for a poor person. "

A friend of mine told me about this book on Thanksgiving.  She said that the stories about the history of the foods and the old ads were lots of fun.  I learned that it wasn't only the suffrage movement that changed women in the early 20th century.  The manufacturing of foods like ketchup and frozen foods freed women up from making many foods from scratch.  Foods like Crisco enabled some women to make foods not possible for them earlier.

The recipe, "Pletzlach with Onions," tugged at my heart strings.  After seeing it, I found similar but different recipes from the New York Times online, and on various websites.  Joan Nathan's recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from the 1947 Community Cook Book from Woonsocket Rhode Island--one of her favorite cookbooks. 

Our HBin5 group did "historical recipes" last month.  This month, we are doing "family traditions" recipes.  I guess that this recipe fits both categories!

My recipe is an adaption of Joan Nathan's, as I am trying to figure out my mom's method (Mom didn't have recipes, she cooked by feel):

Pletzlach with Onions
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 TBSP vegetable oil (Mom wouldn't have used shortening here!)
1 cup plus 2 TBSP warm water
1 package instant yeast
4 cups all purpose flour (approx.  Mom used Gold Medal or Pillsbury)

1 large egg, beaten

1-2 onions, finely chopped (optional, saute' in vegetable oil ahead of time)
1 TBSP poppy seeds
kosher salt

1.  I lightly sauteed the onions in vegetable oil ahead of time.  I don't remember if Mom did this or not, but I remember the onions had a sheen to them.  Since the onions will be baked on the rolls, I don't want to brown the oinons.  I did this the day before.  The book says 4 cups of onions, and that was too much.

My dough really cleaned the bowl!

2.  In the mixing bowl of your mixer,  add the salt, sugar, oil, yeast, and warm water.  Gradually add enough flour, mixing, until you have a dough that holds together.  Usingn anything other than King Arthur flourn is a radical departure for me, but I'm trying to get Mom's bread texture).  Change to the dough hook, and knead together about 10 minutes (3 minutes on a Kitchenaid--special mixing action), or until dough is smooth. 

Before rising

After a 2 hour rise

Place dough in a greased bowl and allow to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

3.  Divide the dough into 10 parts, about 4 ounces each.  Roll or pat out into a circle 1/8 inch thick, about 4 inches in diameter.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Press down in the center, leaving an inch border.  Sprinkle with the onions, poppy seeds, and kosher salt and allow to rise a half hour.

4.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden.  We enjoyed them almost right out of the oven, with butter melting all over!

The texture was just as I remembered it to be.  The New York Times recipe contains eggs, but I just might stay with this one.  I think I might cut back on the dough, and try a bit of oil on top.

I've been really enjoying these with butter over the past few days.  They are great with soup!

Have you ever enjoyed pletzlach?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Rolls--knotted, roll, and bird rolls

This recipe for Pumpkin Knotted Rolls was chosen by Phyl of the Artisan Bread Bakers Group.  I did make a change to the recipe--I used water instead of milk.

"Dough gone wild!"  I left the house to do something, and came back about an hour after I should have.  This dough really rose:

Different shapes, different toppings:

Instead of just round or knotted rolls, I thought I'd try several shapes.  This sheet has  knotted rolls and bird rolls.  The bird rolls are simply knotted rolls that don't have the ends turned under.  I added currants for the eyes and pumpkin seeds for the beaks.

The next pan contains round rolls, shaped like a mini boule, and single braid rolls:

More bird rolls, so I can practice.  Each roll is 3 ounces of dough.

The finished products:

I put cinnamon and sugar on top of the egg wash for the birds on the left.  The rest had sesame seeds and/or pumpkin seeds.  We will have quite a taste testing!

We had a roll that was topped with sesame and pumpkin seeds for dinner.  It had a nice texture and crumb:

The rolls were slightly sweet, but still very good with our creamy mushroom-dill soup.
We can't wait to try the sweet bird rolls!

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you will leave a comment.  What are your favorite fall rolls?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Raisin Challah

I did 2 batches of raisin challah dough. I made turban breads, and turned some of the twists into pastry:

First, I made a long "snake" with a "head" at the end.  Holding the snake in my left hand, I wrapped the snake around the head to make a turban.
I bought this Wilton extra large spatula to help me move my breads easier, but found my hands worked better.

Before rising, and on the Silpat:

After rising

Another method of making the turban.  First, make a braid.

Then, wrap the braid into a round loaf.

 Doesn't that braided loaf bake up beautifully?

With the rest of the raisin challah dough, I made "breakfast pastry."  I put almond icing on top, and almonds.  Really yummy, we ate one.  Some have been given as gifts, and I still have some in case we need a gift.  Good thing they are in the outside freezer, or they would be tough to resist.

Well, I've been really busy with the baking, but slow to blog.  Thanks for everyone's help and encouragement!


Sourdough Breads

I did some experimenting with several sourdough breads.  Before starting this group, I was afraid of starters.  My fears have subsided considerably.  Starters can help bring out the flavor of the grain even better.  The taste is more complex, and the taste of any yeast fades into the background.

"Clay's Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Bread"

I started off with a King Arthur Recipe for a multigrain bread.  You can find the recipe on their website.

I have a lot of gluten free flours from our group's trials with gluten free baking.  I thought this would be great for using up some of the flours:

 The dough was mixed in my mixer. 
Those black spots are the poppy seeds.   I realize now that I forgot to take a picture of the finished loaf.  This made a nice 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf.  I mixed up my own flour mix, so I don't know how their Harvest Grain mixture worked.  I used poppy seed and sunflower seeds for that. 

Soudough Rye Breads

Although I love our AB5 Deli Rye Bread, I wanted to give a NY Deli type starter rye bread a try. I have been looking a several recipes and finally gave one a try.

The picture shown had a cross-hatch design, so I tried that with my razor.

We just loved this bread!  It was hearty.  The taste seemed to improve over the next few days.  My hubby kept asking for more bread to go with his soup or dinner.  Although the loaves were large for 2 people, ours went quickly.  The other one was given to a friend, who said she would enjoy with a group.

100% Rye Sourdough
A health-oriented customer asked me to make him a rye bread with rye starter.  It didn't contain any yeast, just rye flour.  This sounded like an interesting bread, without much extra work. 

The starter took 3 days to form fully.    It didn't need feeding.

It was dissappointing, however, to see how loose the dough was:

Therefore, instead of making free form loaves, I made breads in loaf pans.

Truly rustic!!!  The customer liked them, although he said that it was a bit gummy in the center.  I can't figure that out, because the bread measured 200 degrees when I took them out.  Maybe I'll use some yeast next time, so they won't be so dense.

Thanks for all the help of the wonderful HBin5 group, especially Michelle.  I have truly grown as a baker, and I thank all of you for your support!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Onion-Rye Dinner Rolls

I'd been saving the recipe for onion-rye dinner rolls from the package of Hodgson Mill rye flour for a long time. I ran into it the other day, and decided it would be great for soup.  Yesterday was a rainy day, so I whipped up a batch.  Easy to do in my mixer (which I didn't own before I joined this baking group!).

Some substitutions were made, as I wanted it to be vegan:
Water used instead of milk
Margarine instead of butter

Here's a picture of the dough, right after it's mixed.

And after it rose (ok, I was out of the house awhile, and it rose longer)

Here's how the rolls look after I shaped them. They are formed by shaping the dough into a long log and cutting pieces off.  I added the step of rolling them a bit.

The rolls, cooling.  Egg wash was brushed on them before baking. They were baked on convection setting, so both sheets could be done at the same time.

These rolls were wonderful with soup last night!

Finally, I just can't end this post without sharing pix of one of the cute dogs at our local farmer's market.  They really brighten my day!  My computer's down so I hope to post more later:

This yorkie, Jazzie, will steal your heart!  She loves riding around in the basket of her owner's motorized scooter.  A vendor made her a collar with some bling!

Thanks for stopping by.  I look forward to your comments and seeing what you have been baking.

Very Rustic Rye Bread

One of my customers is of German descent and loves crusty rye bread.  Recently, he requested a 100% rye bread from rye starter.  He showed me the book, "Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition" by Paul Pitchford.  The chapter on breads describes the many benefits of rye.  The contributing author, Jacques de Langre, states that rye has the capability of reducing and totally eliminating vessel and plaque calcification in the blood vessels.

Well, the recipe didn't look too difficult.  Just 2 stages of starter--starter and then leaven.  But that's where it's deceptively simple and tricky!  The recipe can go wrong at not rise at any step.

The first stage is mixing freshly ground rye flour with water and letting it sit for 3 days in a warm place.  I was able to get freshly milled rye flour from a vendor at our Farmers Market.

The starter was placed in the microwave or oven.  The flour never did mix completely, and that made me a bit nervous.  Therefore, I stirred it every now and then.  On the third day, I did notice some bubbles.  There was a slightly sour smell, which was good.

That starter is then mixed with more flour and water before leaving it out overnight.  The next morning, there was a loose batter with bubbles.  The batter is then mixed with more flour, water, and sea salt and left to sit for a few hours.  I was hoping that it would thicken up, even though I added more flour:

The intructions say to put the dough into four 6" x 3" pans.  There was much too much batter for that, so I made more loaves and tried a larger size.  The pans were to rise in a moist environment, so they were placed in my warming oven on moist setting.

After a few hours, the loaves were baked.  They did rise, and actually stuck to the plastic wrap I put on top.  That's why there's a crust on the side.  Next time, I'll leave the plastic wrap off or spray the plastic wrap better.

I don't know how the breads were yet, the instructions said to wait a few days before eating them.  The wait helps the flavor develop.  I am hopeful, though....

Have you tried making a bread like this?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Apples & Honey Whole Grain Challah

Our HBin5 assignment was to make 1/2 batch (2 pounds of dough) of the Apples and Honey Whole Grain Challah. 

Carefully, I wrote out the ounces of a full batch everything on one side of the ingredients in the recipe, and ounces for half batch on the other side. 

I began making the dough, using white whole wheat flour instead of regular whole wheat.  I even made sure to use 1 1/2 eggs (an egg and a white)!  All was going well until I added the water.  After I added 3 cups of water, I realized my goof--enough water for a full batch was used.  Not the first time this has happened, so I started adding enough of everything else to make a full batch. 

I'm glad I had enough apples in the house.  You can see the chunks of apple in the dough.

Still, it was kind of hard to mix by hand, so I put it all into my mixer.   It looked kinda thin in the mixer, and I kept adding flour...  I don't know if the dough is any different when making the dough properly, but there's no way this dough could be braided.  It's not quite a dough, thicker than a batter.

I put it all in my square dough bucket (that's the one I use for assignments and experimenting) and went out for about 1 1/2 hours.  When I got back, this is what I saw:

 It was like seeing something from one of the old "Blob" science fiction movies. 

Quickly, I cleaned up it; part went into another dough bucket.  Both buckets went into the refrigerator. 

It was comical--the dough still kept growing over the square dough bucket.  More dough was transferred:

Even after tossing the dough that got onto the counter, there was still a lot of dough left. 

 The next morning, the dough firmed up a bit.  However, it wasn't firm enough to braid.  I stuck with my original idea to use a loaf pan.

I used 1 1/2 pounds of dough in my 8 1/2" loaf pan, letting it rise 1 1/2 hours.  Then an egg wash was applied.  I used raw sugar on top instead of sesame seeds.  The loaf seemed to need more sugar.
That gave the loaf a nice golden color.

I ended up having enough dough to make four 1 1/2 pound loaves.  I was supposed to make only 2 pounds of dough, if I hadn't made the water mistake.  It's ok.  This was like a good, soft sandwich loaf with apple chunks.  We only had a small piece after a few days. 

I baked one loaf at a friend's house yesterday.  This morning, she called and said it was really good.  She said it's a nice sandwich bread, but you get a surprise of apples when you bite into it.

Would be great with peanut butter, I bet.  Oh, that sounds like a good idea!

I hope your loaves came out nice.  Even though this one wasn't braided, it came out tasty.  Plus, I have 2 loaves in the freezer for gifts.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Brown Rice and Prune Bread

Many thanks to Guff of Old Pops Blog and Elwood at Flour Today Bread Tomorrow who gave me the courage to try this recipe.  Prunes? Dried Plums???  In a bread?

I took a tip from Guff, and floured the prunes before chopping them in my mini chopper.  Still, some of the prunes became a paste.
The dough, after being mixed, looked like this:

After rising in the pan
 Pumpkin seeds were added to one loaf.  They were leftover from a previous recipe....

And the taste?  I thought the bread started off when I first bit into it.  Just before I began to swallow, I detected a bitter aftertaste.

My husband enjoys this bread, especially with cheese.

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, September 2, 2011

All Purpose Flour Test--King Arthur and General Mills Unbleached

As many of you know, I love King Arthur Flours.  I guess I just resonate with this brand, my dough recipes respond to it.

However, if I could use a less expensive unbleached flour, it could save me money.  Is there really a difference between King Arthur flour and less expensive Gold Medal unbleached flour?  I decided to put them to the test.  I made two batches of the AB5 challah dough:

I think the texture and color of the dough was slightly different after rising.  The King Arthur dough definitely rose higher in my warm sunroom!

Here's a closeup for the doughs, after rising.

The champ is King Arthur!!! 

I found some comments and other flour tests online.  Here is a comment from one test:
“Also I had tried GM AP a few years back. A friend brought it to me when I was teaching her my technique for cinnamon rolls. I almost curled up my nose. LOL. I went ahead and tried it again though, thinking well, it might be better. Wrong. KA is my favorite and what I tell my breadclasses to use.
One photograph is worth a thousand words. Well, here is a composite of 2 images. The baguette on the left was made with King Arthur flour. The baguette on the right was made with Gold Medal flour. My preference is for the baguette on the left made with King Arthur flour. It had a better chew to it. What's a baguette if it doesn't have some chew? I also liked the slightly better flavor - as opposed to very little flavor with the Gold Medal baguette. Then there is the gas bubble formation. Again I liked the larger holes in the KA baguette. Toast? Glad you asked. Again, the KA baguette was the winner.
Both baguettes were made with the same amount of dough."

I posted the last picture on the King Arthur flour Facebook page.  They were very appreciative, and said it's a "great go-to photo."

By the way, I tried both General Mills' "Better for Bread" and Unbleached Flour.  I actually preferred the Unbleached Flour to their "Better for Bread" flour.

The King triumphs over the General!!  :)

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Toasted Millet and Fruit Bread

I made a couple of slight changes to this recipe.  White whole wheat was used.  The optional nuts weren't added to the dough; they were rolled into the dough.

I used the letterfold technique, and it gave me nice long loaves.  I made a half batch of the recipe, enough for 2 pounds of dough.  In the center of one, I put almonds.  Walnuts were put in the center of the other loaf, which was going to be a thank you gift for a friend.

I put the corresponding nut on top of each loaf, so I could tell them apart:

My baking stone was used.  It's been in my warming tray for storage too long!  I baked it a bit differently, though, to save my tempermental oven.  The bread steams and forms a crust the first half of baking only.  Therefore, the loaves were baked at the higher temperature.  Halfway through, I changed to 325 degrees convection.  The convection baking moved the hot air around, while giving my oven a break.  The results were wonderful!:

I decided, however, to freeze our loaf for a week.  It was great after being frozen and reheated.  The loaf had a nice texture, but it wasn't crunchy from the millet.  Maybe the freezing softened the millet.  It was a really good bread.  By the time I realized that I hadn't taken a picture of the loaf's inside, this is all that was left:

Our friend loved her bread!  She said she ate half the loaf the first day, it was so wonderful.  She emailed my hubby that "your wife is awesome!"  Wow, what a wonderful complement!

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you will leave a comment.  I look forward to what you will bake!