Category Archives: baking

Challah Bread

Happy Holidays! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to the new year. What better way than to try out a new recipe like this one from William Sonoma on challah bread. I always think of the college students at the Claremont Colleges that sell this bread every Friday to raise funds for Darfur. So goooood.

If I knew how easy it was to make this bread, I would have made it sooner! This bread is great by itself or with mashed avocado on top with coffee. I just love the smell and taste of fresh baked bread.

Check out the full recipe on the hyperlink and I also included some notes below on what I learned/Googled along the way.

IMG_2017 (1)

  • Recipe makes 2 loaves.
  • No stand mixer is needed. I mixed everything with a wooden spoon. The recipe is written for both methods. Using a stand mixer will probably result in a smoother looking braid but I like the rustic look.
  • Active dry yeast dissolves in warm water and doesn’t need to foam although the recipe indicates it should.
  • Use fresh ingredients. To make this, I used ingredients that I bought the same day (eggs, flour, butter).
  • For butter to come to room temperature quicker, slice it and lay it out on a cutting board or plate.
  • The hardest part of making this is waiting for the bread to rise the first time (takes about 2 hours). Place the loaves in a warm room covered with a damp paper towel, cheesecloth, or plastic wrap and wait patiently (I kept peeking).
  • No rolling pin or pastry brush is needed. I used my hands to roll out the dough ropes to make the braid and used a spoon to apply the egg wash before going into the oven.
  • The recipe calls for a 4-threaded braid. I opted for a traditional 3-thread braid as a newbie, I wasn’t taking chances and over complicating things.
  • Experiment with add-ins like raisins or ground cinnamon. Next time, I’ll add poppy seeds on top. Enjoy!

no knead rosemary bread

You know when you attempt something new and each time, something’s just off? That was the case for this recipe. This original recipe was first featured in the New York Times and people were so excited to try it out as it took minimal effort for homemade bread that often tastes better than the store bought kind and beautiful (has an artisan look).

rosemary bread

I’m too prideful to post my failures (props to bloggers who share theirs) but this simple recipe perplexed me… until I bought an instant read thermometer. See the notes below to get the full story. I am proud to present my very own no knead rosemary bread!  After several failed attempts, I finally got it right!. I look forward to baking more of these (including some other variations) and I have to say, I like the bit the herb flavor that fresh rosemary gives in this simple bread recipe. Hope you’ll try it. Sounds complicated, but it’s very doable.

no knead rosemary bread (adapted from Steamy Kitchen – awesome step-by-step pics)
Makes one boule
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 1/4 tsp table salt)
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/4 tsp dry active yeast (packets found in baking aisle)
1 1/3 cup warm water

1. In a medium bowl, mix together salt, flour, rosemary and yeast. Pour in the warm water into flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until all the flour is incorporated and it looks shaggy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it on the kitchen counter next to the refrigerator or in a warm spot.
2. Allow the dough to rest overnight or for 8 to 12 hours.
3. Take a clean mixing bowl and pour 1 tsp of oil. Rub the oil to cover the entire bottom and sides of the bowl. Lightly wet your hands to scoop out the dough mixture (should have a bubbly look before you scoop it out and smell like yeast) and place it in the bowl. Cover with a towel and stick it in your oven for 1 hour with just the oven light on.
4. After one hour, take it out. Dough should have doubled in size. If not, put it back in for another 30 minutes or until it’s doubled in size (with oven light on).
5. Turn oven on to 450F and set a timer for 10 minutes. Place an empty stock pot (about 3 quarts or bigger) into the oven to preheat it.
6. After 10 minutes, remove pot from oven and carefully place dough into the pot. Bake for 30 minutes covered with a piece of foil covering the top or a lid (as long as it doesn’t have a plastic knob).
7. After 30 minutes, remove foil or lid and bake for another 30 minutes.
8. Insert an instant thermometer to reach 210F* on the top or side for the bread to be ready.
9. Remove pot from oven and carefully remove bread to allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so. I placed mine on a wooden cutting board and placed 2 wooden spoons under each side to allow the it space to cool on its bottom side (makeshift cooling rack – easy tip I learned watching David Chang).

*Note: I really struggled with this recipe initially because my oven wasn’t actually reaching 450F. It was off by about 15 degrees. In baking, that’s huge! I highly recommend purchasing an instant read thermometer if you want to get this right (the 1st or at least the 2nd time after making adjustments). I bought mine at Smart & Final for $4. Don’t worry about buying a fancy electronic one… not necessary unless you really want to.  

Btw, here are some peaches that are growing from my mom’s tree. How cute are they? Hope that the birds don’t get to them before we do this season… the few I tried last summer were so sweet and juicy!

peaches

I want to leave you with one last image. This is Duncan, my sister’s rabbit. He was staying with   my parents (instead of his dad/owner) for a few weeks. What a cutie… hard to resist that face. I tease him (more like my sister) and call him Dunkin’ Donuts (photo credit to my sister). Yes, that blue bin is a litter box which he mostly uses to do his business.

duncan

meyer lemon pound cake

I was browsing the aisles of Trader Joe’s and came across a bag of Meyer lemons. I’ve never cooked or baked with them before and had heard that they’re the sweeter, less sour than plain ‘ole lemons. This also led me to discover a blog dedicated to beautiful and simple Japanese food. The beautiful photograph and inspiration to experiment with this unfamiliar ingredient resulted in this lovely pound cake. I usually stick to tried and true bread recipes like banana bread but this one really took me by surprise. It’s less fattening for one, but also less sweet which works for the Asian dessert palate (you know, you’ve tried the cakes w/lightly whipped frosting).

I made it once for my coworkers (one raved it was the best thing I’ve ever brought in) and once for my parents (my picky mom raved about it too!). It has just enough of the lemony flavor w/o cloying sweetness or greasiness of gobs of butter. SCORE! I later read online that Meyer lemons are in season in the winter but I’m sure to pick make this cake any time I come across these beauties. I almost wish I had a meyer lemon tree so I would have easy access rather than relying on TJ’s or supermarkets to carry them.

mmm cake photo

Meyer Lemon Pound Cake (adapted from this blog; makes 1 loaf)
For the cake
½ TB butter for greasing
1 TB AP flour for dusting
1 ½ cups of AP flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
zest of 2 meyer lemons
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened/room temperature
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup plain fat free yogurt (I used Greek yogurt, tasted fine)
¾ cup low fat buttermilk (see note below about substituting w/milk)

For the glaze
½ cup powdered sugar
juice of ½ meyer lemon
zest of 1 meyer lemon

  1. Place a rack at the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter the loaf pan and dust AP flour to avoid from sticking).
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place sugar and Meyer lemon zest in a separate bowl, combine by mixing (you can pulse in a food processor but I just did it manually).
  4. Cream the butter and lemon-sugar mixture until light and fluffy. Then, add egg and vanilla extract.
  5. Combine the yogurt and buttermilk in a small bowl.
  6. Add half the flour mixture to the bowl w/butter-sugar and combine. Add yogurt mixture, combine, and add the remaining flour to the bowl. Mix everything until incorporated.
  7. Pour batter into the loaf pan and ensure a smooth top. Bake for 50 minutes or until the center comes out clean when a toothpick is inserted (original recipe calls for 60 minutes but mine was done around 52 minutes; ovens vary, so check after 50 mins).
  8. Let the pound cake rest for 10 mins in the loaf pan before removing it. Allow it to cool completely on a cutting board or wire rack. Prepare the glaze while you’re waiting.
  9. Mix powdered sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Drizzle over cooled cake and let set before serving. Store leftovers (if there’s any) in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes: Online, I learned you can substitute ¾ cup of buttermilk for 3/4 TB of white vinegar and 3/4 cup of milk. Let it sit for 5 mins in a bowl before adding to the yogurt in the recipe). Tasted fine to me!