Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sherry Raisin Bread

You've heard it here before: in this house we're all about The Toast.  I can't even remember the last time I made (or ate) a sandwich; our bread, baked in a loaf pan, is invariably consumed after a trip through the toaster.

My favorite bread-baker, Dan Lepard, recently published a recipe for Sherry Raisin Bread, Here's how Lepard explains the role of the sherry: "using it instead of milk or water, sherry adds a gentle flavour that lends richness without being immediately detectable."  Doesn't that sound good?

Lepard said how good it was toasted, and I knew I had to make the bread.  My baking buddy Kayte, who blogs at Grandma's Kitchen Table, was up for a virtual bread bake, so we baked "together" via electronic communication.  She made her dough into rolls for the week's sandwiches, but you know that I stuck with the loaf, because: Toast.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  you can find the recipe here.

-  I followed the recipe's ingredients, except I skimped a bit on the measure of raisins and almonds.  There were still plenty of each in the dough.

-  The sherry is not the only distinctive ingredient.  The recipe also calls for adding marmalade to the dough.  I used Branches Three Citrus Marmalade from Katz Farm.  Milk, a substantial proportion of rye flour, and bread flour complete the flavor profile

-  Dan Lepard baked this bread as a hearth loaf, but I split my dough into three smallish loaf pans, to better optimize the bread for Toast.

- My dough took longer to rise than the recipe's times.  This is unusual for me with Dan Lepard's recipes, which are usually spot-on in my kitchen.  I gave the extra rising time until it rose close to the appropriate amounts.  Even so, the crumb of the finished bread was pretty dense.

the verdict:

Even though the bread didn't rise to lofty heights, oh, my, it was exceptional in flavor.  We loved it toasted with butter, and it was pretty darned good just sliced and eaten plain.

To see how this recipe tuned out as buns, check Kayte's post. (hint: they look amazing!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Challah of My Dreams

I've baked challah before and posted it on this blog.  I told you then about the mythic challah of my adolescence.  Here's the condensed version: when I arrived for my weekly babysitting job there was always a fresh-baked loaf of Sabbath challah, baked by the mother of the family.  As much time as I spent with that family, helping with nearly every aspect of their lives, bread-baking is one task that I never assisted or even watched.  And it never crossed my mind that I would ever (ever) bake bread myself.  I have several recipes from that family, but not their challah recipe.

It took me more than 30 years from those babysitting days, but eventually I did start to bake bread.  And thanks to the Bread Baker's Apprentice, I baked that first challah (about 3 years ago).  That challah was good bread, to be sure, but it wasn't the bread I've dreamed of ever since I left that family to go to college.

As luck would have it (thank you, luck!) one of the friends I've made since beginning this baking-and-blogging thing is a marvelous baker from Vermont named Rebecca, who blogs at Grongar Blog (cool, right?)  Rebecca shared her challah recipe with me, and I couldn't wait to try it.  And then, once I made it, I couldn't wait to bake it again!

It's that good.

Rebecca has posted her challah recipe today, in celebration of the Jewish New Year, and I'm joining the celebration by posting my challah loaves too.  For the recipe, click over to Rebecca's post.  She made the traditional-for-Rosh-Hashanah round shape, which symbolizes the cyclical nature of time, circling back on itself.

I made my loaves a little while ago, as long braids: first I made a regular three-strand braid:

Then I tried a six-strand braid, using a Youtube tutorial (below).  Once I got in the swing of things, the braid went fairly smoothly.  It definitely wasn't perfect, but it was tons of fun and I love the way the bread turned out:

To make the six-strand braid I used this tutorial.  Easy Peasy!!

This bread tastes exactly like the challah of my youth; you cannot imagine how happy that makes me!  Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your recipe with me, and now, with all of us.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quick and Tasty Hamburger Rolls

We consume far more loaf bread - nearly always for morning toast - than we do any other kind of bread.  I'm always happy when I have an excuse to bake a hearth loaf or, better yet, rolls.  I love forming little balls of dough and shaping them into mini boules, or knots, or cloverleafs.  And then there's the cute factor when they're baked and nestled into a basket, or lined up on a tray.

Last week my friend Kayte was baking a new recipe for hamburger rolls.  We were about to host a dinner party, and I baked along in my kitchen, making mine into dinner rolls.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on Kayte's blog post.

- The recipe is called "French bread" which made me think we'd have mini baguettes with a chewy crumb, but when I saw the ingredients I realized it was more an enriched white bread - with egg in the dough.

-  I had no active dry yeast in the house but I did have some lovely fresh yeast, so that's what I used.  

- There's a lot of yeast in the recipe - 1 tablespoon active dry - so the dough rose really really quickly.  On the first rise I actually punched it down and let it rise again, to give the dough time to build some flavor.

- I used around 2 oz of dough for each roll.  They could have been even a bit smaller for dinner rolls.

- The egg white wash gives a nice shiny, golden brown finish to the crust.

the verdict:

This recipe produced a nice, soft roll that was a perfect accompaniment to dinner.  I liked the rolls even better when I split and toasted one, and spread it with butter.  

I'd also like to try these as hamburger rolls, maybe comparing side by side with my favorite recipe (Beautiful Burger Buns from King Arthur Flour) to see which one comes out on top!