Friday, December 31, 2010

Poppy Seed Challah for the New Year

I remember one new years eve I got up at about five in the morning. I was maybe 12 years old. I quietly took out all the ingredients to make Challah. I gingerly kneaded the dough, and then as if it were a new born baby I wrapped the dough in a towel and let it rest. By that point my parents had woken up and we all went for a walk. The thick morning mist lingered around us as we took in the last day of the year, before everyone woke up.

When we entered our house the warmth of the heater quickly welcomed us in. I braided the bread as if it were my only job, and then gently put it in the oven for it to bake. It was the first yeasted bread I had done on my own. I put so much time into it, only focusing on the task at hand. I think that's something we forget how to do. In such a fast paced world it's hard sometimes to focus; but what I find and experience when I focus on one thing at a time is delightful; and when I'm baking something a whole lot more delicious. Putting Challah it the circular shape is done for the New Year, and the long braided look is done all year long.
I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and that it would bring a fresh start for you! Some things to think about this New Years: 3 things you accomplished this year! 3 things you would like to accomplish next year!

                                
Time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours’ rising

Yield: 2 loaves(I ended up with two large loaves and one mini loaf)
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling.
Directions:
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Marshmallows

These had been on my list for so long, but I never had the time or so I thought. It turns out that homemade marshmallows are rather easy to make. I will never eat store bought marshmallows again, I'm spoiled now. These are fluffy, soft and the perfect sweetness. I packaged these up and handed them out to neighbors for Christmas gifts. I want to try a more exotic flavor next time.

Marshmallows via Alton Brown

1/4 c (40 g) confectioners' sugar
1/4 c (30 g) cornstarch
Nonstick spray
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 c (237 ml) ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 c (298 g) granulated sugar
1 c (237 ml) light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla



 
Combine the confectioner's sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with nonstick spray, and pour in the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Tip the pan to coat all sides, then reserve the excess in a small bowl.

Place the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer and add 1/2 c of the water. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Refrain from stirring the pot; simply swirl it to distribute the granules. Uncover after the sugar has dissolved, and put a candy thermometer into the pot. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.



 

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin, being careful not to hit the beater or the bowl. Once all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.
When ready, pour into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula to spread. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover and reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit, uncovered, for at least 4 hours and up to overnight to set.
Turn the marshmallows onto a cutting board and cut into desired shapes, using a greased knife or pizza wheel. Dust all cut sides with the remaining sugar mixture, and store in a covered container until ready to use.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cinful Cookies

Yes you read it right, these are Cinful Cookies. I gave them that name because the cookies are full of cinnamon chips, cinnamon, and pecans. The cookies are full of Cinnamon and they are delicious. These are going to be the new non-chocolate, chocolate chip cookies in our house.

 Cinful Cookies
(4 ½oz) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (4oz) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1 ½oz) light brown sugar
1 egg
1 ¼ cups (6 ½oz) all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1teaspoon cinnamon                                                                                                                                  
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup pecan nuts, toasted and roughly chopped                                                        

1 cup cinnamon chips


 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF; line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper. Place the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and beat well. Fold through the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans and cinnamon chips – dough will be very stiff. With a ice cream scoop put dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches (5cm) apart – cookies won’t spread much.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to wire racks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sweetened condensed milk cake




I feel like I'm in the trenches. School has been insane, I haven't gone to bed before 2:30am and haven't woken up later then 7am. I'm running off of Starbucks and just pure motivation. I live in the library at school and my head feels like it's about to explode. It didn't help that I got two hideous colds in a row putting me on the nebulizer machine. With all of this going on I haven't enjoyed the holidays or gotten to bake much at all. I found though tonight I had a little break, my finals are next week and I have all my study guides done and papers done so I figured I would bake something. I was organizing the pantry and I found that we had cans and cans of sweetened condensed milk, and that's because every time I go to the store I buy some. I'm not sure why because I never use it. As I was browsing through one of my favorite blogs I found this recipe. I was so excited, I would get to use the milk and it was simple, and that's what I need right now is simplicity. The cake is sweet and perfect with tea.
Sweetened condensed milk cake
adapted from Technicolor Kitchen
1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
1 C all purpose flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
4 Tb. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350ºF; generously butter a (9in) ring cake pan or bundt pan.
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before unmolding.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.