From Scratch, With Love

Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Loving the Gas Stove

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Last weekend I had such a meal planned.  My newlywed friend and her newlywed husband were coming over for dinner.  I don’t know a lot of people in New Jersey, given that I live in a town full of families but not many adults under 30, so this is not a regular occurrence.  I was going to make shish kabobs, vegetarian curry, homemade naan, and pumpkin bread for dessert.  I was pumped.  I started cooking at 10 am.  I made six pounds of curry and stuck it in the fridge, planning to have the leftovers for lunch all week.  I started the lamb marinating in lemon juice, lots of garlic, shallots, and herbs.  It was cold in my apartment, so I prepared the naan early to give it a nice, long, slow rise.

Then it started snowing.

WTF?  It was October 29th.  Sure, there had been rumors of snow, but I didn’t take it seriously.  I was pissed.  My dinner plans cancelled.  I told John we were having the dinner party anyway, just the two of us.

Around 4pm the power went out.  You may have heard.  Thank god my stove is gas and not electric.

It’s okay.  We had a blast.

John made us some drinks.  Yes, that is a headlamp.

I made us some lamb and pumpkin tortellini.

I cooked some naan on the stove.  I know, not quite a clay oven but hey, the result was excellent.

It was like camping, really.  We even had a guitarist.

So when you’re looking at apartments or houses, make sure you remember that freak snowstorms can happen, a gas stove is a necessity, and maybe look into a fireplace too while you’re at it.


Written by poperatzii

November 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

Posted in Andrea Original, Bread

To the Versatility of Dough

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Here’s to dough, with which you can do a lot. **clink**

A couple weekends ago, when John was at that ridiculous race and I was home alone, happily making four-hour lasagna, I also had the urge to make some dough.  It was 10 pm.  I knew that I would not stay up until 1 am making bread.  I also wasn’t really craving the eating of bread yet, I just wanted to start some dough.  Luckily, you can slow down the rising process of dough by sticking it in the fridge, and it actually improves the results.  So I made some dough (actually, the same dough I used to make those cinnamon raisin baguettes that were so good).  The next morning, I finished the dough.  Part of it went into lovely cinnamon rolls, and the rest were made into dinner rolls.  I was very happy with both results.  Let’s talk about cinnamon rolls today.

As you may guess from my posts, I usually cook for two.  I don’t like to waste.  Many of the things I make a best eaten the day they are made.  As a result, I have gotten very good at division.  Luckily for you, if you have the same issue I have with making small batches of things, this means you don’t have to be very good at division.  You are welcome.  For this dough, I made a half batch of dough (I’m tired of having bread in my freezer forever).  I used a quarter of the dough for the world’s smallest batch of cinnamon rolls.  I got 8 rolls out of the rest of the dough, which went towards snacks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for John, and finally a lovely tomato, basil, mozzarella, prosciutto dinner.  The rolls last about three days, but you can freeze them and defrost them at room temperature overnight, or in the oven.  But this post is about cinnamon rolls.  Which I made up on the spot.  I actually had trouble sleeping the night before, thinking about the cinnamon rolls.  Sad, I know.

Tips for the dough: it’s a soft, slightly sweet dough, so you don’t want too much gluten to form.  That is, don’t overmix or overknead it.  The kneadings in between risings should be just enough to get the carbon dioxide out of the dough.

Andrea’s (Partially) Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls (AKA the World’s Tiniest Batch of Cinnamon Rolls)

For the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1/4 tablespoon active dry yeast with 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 cup of warm milk.  Let sit until frothy, about 5 minutes.  Add 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour.  Stir vigorously and let sit for another 5 minutes.

Gradually stir in more whole wheat flour to form the dough into a thick “batter-like” consistency.

Gently fold in about 3/4 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Once the oil is blended in, gradually fold in all-purpose white flour until a dough forms that is solid enough to handle. Turn the dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead it gently until it holds together and ceases to be lumpy.  Remember, do not knead too much.  Wash the bowl and lightly grease it with canola oil.  Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning once to coat evenly with oil.

At this point, if it’s night time, or you don’t want the dough for a while, cover it and put it in the fridge.  It will actually be improved by the slow rise.  You’ll want to check it in about an hour because the dough will not chill immediately, and as a result it will still rise.  I recommend giving it a knead right before bed, or it might grow too much overnight.  If you are not giving it a refrigerator rise, cover it with a slightly damn paper towel, and allow to rise in a warm place, until doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough onto your floured work surface and gently knead it until the CO2 that has developed is squished out.  Return it to the bowl.  Repeat.  The dough should rise in the bowl a total of three times.  The second and third risings will not take as long as the first (unless it is in the fridge, of course).

Meanwhile, prepare a muffin tin to receive the cinnamon rolls.  Using butter, crisco, lard, vegetable oil, or nonstick cooking spray, grease about 8 of the 12 tins, or you can try using paper cupcake liners.

After the third rising, do not knead.  Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, divide the dough into fourths.  One of these fourths will become your cinnamon rolls.  The others you can do what you want with (mini baguettes, rolls… you can even try deep-frying them for doughnuts, which I wanted to try but I’m not sure how it would work out).  Roll out the dough for the cinnamon rolls into a rectangle, probably about 4 inches by 8 inches.  Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon and brown sugar, to your liking.  Add some raisins, walnuts, and/or dried cranberries.  Slice about two tablespoons of butter into thin slices, like for toast, and distribute evenly over the dough.  Starting at one of the shorter ends, roll the dough up tightly, like a sleeping bag.  Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, slice the rolled-up dough evenly into 8 rolls.  Place each roll in its own muffin tin.  Let rise once more until the dough is no longer springy to the touch.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes and serve with fresh fruit.  Oh, and freshly made coffee.  You can ice them if you want, but I didn’t.

Oh, while you wait you should probably get the over dough formed in whatever you want them to be and let them rise while the cinnamon rolls are in the oven.  I will try to give you more detailed dough options in the future.

Written by poperatzii

August 22, 2010 at 11:38 am

Cinnamon Raisin Baguettes

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I grew up eating my dad’s homemade bread.  He didn’t buy bread, he just made it.  By hand.  No bread machine.  No loaf pans.  His staple bread was a partially whole-wheat baguette, which was delicious fresh from the oven with butter, or the next morning with butter and jelly.  It was also great with manchego cheese or sharp cheddar.

As we got older, he started making more varieties of breads and rolls.  One type of roll that he makes with frequency now is a whole-wheat dinner roll, which is basically a slightly sweet bread made with partially whole-wheat flour.  A few years ago he gave me a very detailed recipe for the bread, including directions on how to knead and how to form the rolls (information I will happily pass along, if asked for).  I’ve made it several times and have experimented by adding raisins to the dough with much success.

I decided to take it a step further and form the dough into baguettes.  Then I decided to take that one step further and make cinnamon-raisin baguettes that would be perfect as french toast bread or as a snack.  It was delicious.

Cinnamon Raisin Baguettes

(Note: You can start this dough in the morning, stick it in the fridge, give it a knead after the first rise, and the second rise will be slow enough that you can leave the house, do errands, and return to finish off the bread when you’re ready for it.  The cold temperature slows the yeast and a slow rise can actually improve the dough.)

In a large bowl, combine

2 cups warm milk (warmer than room temperature, cooler than body temperature)
1 egg plus one egg yolk
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour

Stir the mixture vigorously until yeast dissolves and let stand for a few minutes until bubbles start to form on the surface.  This is how you know the yeast has been activated.

Stir in enough whole wheat flour that a thick batter forms – about 1 more cup.

Gently fold in (do not stir)

About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup canola oil or butter

Once the oil is blended in, start gradually folding in white all-purpose or bread flour until a dough forms (perhaps 1 1/2 or 2 more cups).  The dough should be a little sticky but you should be able to handle it.

Spread some white flour on a suitable kneading surface and gently knead the dough until smooth.  Do not over-knead – you want this bread to be airy, not tough.  Wash the bowl, dry it, and grease it with some canola oil.  Return the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat with oil.

After about an hour, the dough will have doubled in size.  Gently knead the CO2 out of the dough and return it to the bowl.

Allow the dough to double its size again (it will take less time) and knead again.  The dough should rise a total of 3 times in the bowl.

During the third rise, mix 1/4 cup of rum with 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add 2/3 cup of raisins to the mixture and allow to simmer for about 2 minutes until the raisins absorb some of the liquid.  Drain in a sieve over the sink and allow to cool and dry on a paper towel.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a cup.

After the third rise, without kneading, dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using a sharp knife, cut into quarters.  Take one of the quarters, with the pointy corner facing you, and brush it with some of the butter.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of cinnamon and a tablespoon of white granulated sugar over the buttered surface and distribute 1/4 of the raisins over the surface, gently pressing them into the surface so they don’t roll around. (Sorry for the lack of pictures during this step.  My hands got pretty messy.)

Starting with the pointy end closest to you, roll the dough sleeping-bag-style tightly into a baguette, about a foot long.  Try to roll it evenly (the first few times you do it, it will most likely end up looking lumpy.  Don’t fret! It’ll still be delicious!).  Place it seam-side down on a baguette pan or a cookie sheet.  Repeat with the other quarters.  Make sure the baguettes are at least 2 inches away from each other on the cookie sheets.  With a sharp knife, score the loaves by making a very shallow cut on the top of the loaves at a 45 degree angle, which will help them rise evenly in the oven.  Cover with a double layer of damp paper towels so that they don’t dry out and allow to rise at room temperature for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Once the loaves have risen (they should be less firm to the touch), stick them into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely before storing.

Storage: If you don’t think you’ll finish the loaves within a day or two, put them into large ziplock bags in the freezer (I usually cut them in half first).  You can defrost them overnight at room temperature or for 5-10 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven.  If you defrost it in the oven, the outer crust will be nice and crispy, but the inside will still be soft.

Update: It made great french toast!

Written by poperatzii

May 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm