I imagine that you have had moments in your life where you vividly remember eating something utterly delicious- and that memory stays with you. Well, for me, one of these moments was when I went to New York with my family at 12 years old and first ate pecan pie. What a heavenly invention pecan pie is. About 10 years ago I had another of these moments, when I ate chocolate babka for the first time- moist, chewy, tender and chocolatey- a cross between a bun, bread, cake and heaven. I had never tasted anything quite so wonderful. Our friend’s friend called Evan had brought over the babka with him from America and I was lucky enough to be around to try it. We were just talking about Evan last week and I became obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate babka recipe and dear reader I think I found it.
I started by looking in my very extensive collection of cookery books. My New York Times Jewish cookbook had a recipe which involved using 16 eggs yolks- what were they thinking! Peter Rheinhart had a recipe but it looked a little dry. Then I came across a post called ‘Better Babka’ on Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/10/better-chocolate-babka/. That’s more like it- sticky, rich, delicious. The original source for this recipe was Jerusalem by Ottolenghi http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/jerusalem-shop. I tried this recipe and was duly impressed. The reason why it’s not dry (a sin where babka is concerned) is that it has large amounts of sugar syrup poured all over it the moment it comes out of the oven.
Now I like chocolate- any friend of mine will testify to this- however, even for me the chocolate flavour was incredibly strong- infact too much and that’s saying something. I thought that the ‘better chocolate babka’ would indeed be better if it became cinnamon babka. So here’s my adaptation of the recipe with a buttery cinnamon sugar running through out.
4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
150 g butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
1. Make the dough
Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in the bottom of a food mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until the dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times.
Coat a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. Alternatively you can let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge for another hour.
2. Make the filling
Cream together the butter with the sugar and cinnamon
3. Assemble the loaves
Butter two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans , and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of baking parchment. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, (10 to 12 inches)
Spread half of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. If you put the log onto a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes it will make it easier to cut- but you can skip this if you want
Gently cut the log in half lenghtwise and lay each piece next to each other, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out. Transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise another 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.
4. Bake your babka
Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 minutes and check if its done using a skewer. If its not quite done you’ll feel a little resistance or see some dough on the skewer. It may need another 5 min and if its looking a little dark., turn the heat down to 170.
While babkas are baking, make the syrup. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. This will take a little time to do- there’s quite a lot of syrup- but you wouldn’t want it to be dry would you!
There is no reason not to start eating it straight away when its still warm- but it’s also great for breakfast lightly toasted.
this has been posted on http://www.wildyeastblog.com/yeastspotting/
Westminster Hall filled with hundreds of fabulous loaves for the World Bread Awards
Some serious judging going on
My Highbury Sourdoughs just out of the oven
Each entrant had to get two of the same loaf to Westminster Cathedral Hall in London by 11am on 17th September. I made my Highbury Sourdoughs with white, spelt and rye flour, using the Tartine method. I had to get up at 5.30 to get them out of the fridge where they had been fermenting over night. I left them to warm up to room temperature for a couple of hours, then baked one in my oven and the other in my neighbour’s oven. I went off to work and my darling daughter took them in on the tube to central London
A picture of my daughter in San Francisco
Last night was the award ceremony and it was all worth it because I won GOLD in the baked at home category!
This summer I decided to get ready for two bread competitions coming up in England in September; The World Bread Awards (not quite sure how on earth anyone from outside the UK could have entered given you had to get your 2 loaves of bread to a church in central London by 11am) and Marriage’s Bread Competition, at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, a far more local affair. So I needed some inspiration – where better to get it than Northern California- home of San Francisco Sourdough, the fabulous Tartine bakery in San Francisco and the wonderful Gayle’s bakery in Capitola, and we happened to be going there on holiday!
We did a house-swap and stayed near the Mission district of San Francisco- just 6 blocks away from the Tartine Bakery- heaven for just nipping out to get something fabulous for breakfast,lunch and dinner. Here is some sourdough bread I bought there : white-wheat blend and baguette. All I can say is it’s hard to describe in words just how good they were. I know that getting a baguette to look that good is really hard- so I decided to try to perfect the white-wheat blend.
We picked our son up from the airport shortly after buying the bread, he was dreadfully jet lagged- but still able to appreciate dinner
We then spent some time with my husband’s family in Santa Cruz, down the coast. Every time we visit them we always make time to go to Gayle’s Bakery- and this trip was no exception:
Their fabulous ‘Schneken’ – a type of ultra decadent cinnamon roll, inspired my earlier blog on this most delicious treat.
When I came back I practiced making Sourdough bread using the Tartine method, repeatedly. Sometimes it came out slightly too flat, (I think the problem here might have been that I let the first stage called autolyse, where you mix the sourdough with the water and flour, go on too long and the yeast became inhibited by the amount of acid being built up, so it didn’t hold its shape) On another occasion it rose beautifully but was not sour enough, and I realised I really need it to be in the fridge overnight to develop the sour flavour. I also started experimenting with refreshing my sourdough starter much more carefully for the final dough (which is called the leaven) For the World Bread awards, I made a spelt rye and white sourdough, based roughly on Chad Robertson’s ‘Wheat-Rye 10%’ from his Tartine book no. 3. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tartine-Book-No-Chad-Robertson/dp/1452114307) I didn’t make it to the final- but am waiting to hear if I got gold silver or bronze. However I did win best Sourdough at Aldeburgh, with my white-wheat blend. It turned out well, with a nice rise, a good chewy crumb full of holes, and very sour.
250g strong white bread flour
250g white flour
1 dessertspoon of leaven
1. Refresh your starter at 12 hour intervals a couple of times, the day before you are going to mix your final dough. Then take a dessertspoon of the starter and mix it with 100g flour and 100g cold water and leave over night to make the leaven
2. Mix together a dessertspoon of the leaven with the water and then add the flours and stir well
3. Leave at room temperature for between 4- 8 hours, covered with a shower cap ( I left mine for 8, slightly more by necessity than choice)
4. Then add half the salt, scattering it fairly evenly over the surface, and stretch and fold twice, scooping it up from the bottom with a spoon, and folding it over, as I have explained in my blog on making sourdough bread using Tartine method. Add the rest of the salt and fold again a couple of times. Leave for half an hour
5. Stretch and fold every half an hour for the next 2 1/2 hours until it is billowy and well aerated. (This may take slightly longer)
6. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round by drawing your hand round the edge to make a kind of oversize walnut whip shape
7. Leave for 10 minutes or so
8. For the final shaping, lightly flour the top and flip it over. Pull the side closest to you towards you and fold it over the dough. Then pull to the left and fold over and do the same to the right. Finally pull the side furthest from you and fold over so you have a dough envelope (see my blog on making sourdough using Tartine method for more detail). Then lightly flour on the top and flip it over and make it into a round shape creating a bit of surface tension over the top. Then flour the top so that it won’t stick to the basket.
9. Flour your banneton basket, or put a towel in a medium sized bowl and flour it generously, and gently plop the dough in smooth side down.
10. Either let the dough rise for another two hours and then put it in the fridge, or put it in the fridge straight away for its overnight stay. ( I had no choice in the matter because at this point we were driving to Suffolk and I held my dear dough on my lap, worrying it would over rise)
11. In the morning, take it out of the fridge 2 – 2 1/2 hours before you want to bake it. (For both competitions, I am such a devotee that I got out of bed around 5.30 to get it out of the fridge and then went back to sleep)
12. Half an hour before baking the bread you need to pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees c with a Le Creuset or in my case a ‘La Cloche’ from Bakerybits, which is easier (http://bakerybits.co.uk/bakery-equipment/baking-stones-and-domes.html)
13. Flour the surface of the dough and put it in the La Cloche and slash quickly with a sharp knife or ‘lame’ with a square shape over the top and bake for half an hour
14. Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for another 10 mins with the lid off, and then bake for a further 10 mins at 200 degrees. That way you’ll get a really rich dark crust
15. Turn the oven off and let it sit there with the door ajar for a further 8 mins, so that the crust remains hard. Then take out and put on a cooling wrack
Voila- you are done!
Your prize winning loaf awaits you- have a go and let me know how you get on.
Happy to answer any questions you may have
Here are my prizes, very generously given to me by Marriage’s flour (http://flour.co.uk) :
posted on http://www.wildyeastblog.com/yeastspotting/
Some close friends are having a birthday party in a few weeks. They are great hosts, there will no doubt be good music and absolutely no doubt there will be good food. They have taken me up on my offer to make bread and they have requested Ciabatta- enough for 30!
So this weekend I thought I’d better practice. I have tried a number of recipes over the years, and the one that I like the best is from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book called ‘Bread, a baker’s book of techniques and recipes’. Below is a my own adaptation of his recipe.
As I understand it Ciabatta is not a bread with an ancient history but was invented about 50 years ago in Italy and it’s name comes from the Italian word for slipper. What I want to see when I make Ciabatta is a soft and very holey inside and a beautiful golden crust – best eaten straight away, dipped in olive oil. To get really big holes the dough needs to have a higher percentage of water than usual and needs careful handling. Its a yeast dough and you make it in two stages- starting the night before with a Poolish. This is a mixture of roughly equal quantities of water and flour with a little bit of yeast, which ferments slowly for at least 12 hours. This mixture is then added to more flour water and yeast as well as salt to make up a loose mixture which will be your final dough.
1 cup white bread flour
1 cup water
1/8 tsp of instant dried yeast (from sachet)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1. Mix together the poolish ingredients in a bowl. Cover with shower cap or cling film and let it sit at room temperature for 12-16 hours. It will be dotted with bubbles by this stage
2.Mix all the other ingredients, except the salt, into the bowl, cover and let it sit for 1/2 hour.
3. Add the salt, dispersing it evenly across the top of the dough and fold by scooping up dough from the bottom of the bowl with a large spoon and folding it over the top. Do this 3 or 4 times and leave, covered for 1/2 hour
4. Fold again 3 or 4 times and let it sit for another hour then repeat the folding
5. Fold again in the same way and leave for another hour. It should then be very billowy and puffy- if not leave it for another hour
6. Put the dough on to a floured surface and cut in half with a wet knife or dough scraper and then lightly flour each half.
7. It will be quite sticky so you’ll need to keep your hands floured. Gently stretch the dough from the top and fold it back on itself. Then stretch and fold the dough from the bottom
8. Place each piece of folded dough onto a floured board and gently stretch it out a bit so it is roughly rectangle shaped
9. Cover each batch of dough with a cloth and leave to rise for about an hour.
10. After 1/2 hour pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees C
11. Now for the tricky part; you need to gently pick up each batch of dough and spread out your fingers underneath it as you do so and place on a floured baking tray. You may find you need to unstick small sections from the floured board- this is fine. I find that if you dimple it a little by pressing down in a few places with your fingers you’ll get a better, flatter shape at the end, because you don’t want a domed shape loaf.
12. Place a small baking dish on the bottom of the oven with a cup of boiling water to create steam
12. Place the doughs into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until its golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it from the bottom
I have posted this on wild yeast http://www.wildyeastblog.com
take a look at the blog
Since my last blog I’ve been to New York for a long weekend. If you’ve never been and you love great food, fantastic art galleries, great bookshops and being in an exciting lively city then you must go. Just before I left, my cousin, knowing how obsessive I am about bread, sent me a link to a recent New York Times article about Chad Robertson and his fabulous bakery Tartine. At the bottom of the article was a link to 5 great breads to eat in New York. Did the New York Times actually know that I was about to go, I ask myself? I can think of nothing more useful to help plan my trip.
I was going to accompany my dear Dad who was speaking at the UN at an event on teaching the Holocaust through the Arts and we were only going to be there for a long weekend. I knew I’d have to plan carefully all the things we wanted to do, so I wasn’t going to have a huge amount of time for bakeries. I had considered going to Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery, which is of course one of the bread shrine’s of the world in my opinion- but I have been there before.
Here’s the link to the article about Chad Robertson’s wonderful bread
BY SUZANNE LENZER
Chad Robertson’s recipe has reached cult status among passionate home bakers.
and here’s the link to find out about 5 great bread’s in New York
As luck would have it, we needed to find a great place for Sunday Brunch in order to meet up with a cousin of my father’s. One of the recommended breads came from Layfayette, which is both a bakery and cafe, so that’s where we went. The first thing I ordered was some slices of their magnificent looking baguettes
My Dad loved it- and then enjoyed a delicious eggs benedict with brioche toast- mmm…
I do recommend Lafayette- a perfect brunch spot
We both really enjoyed the Holocaust Education through the Arts event. He was talking about developing his website on music in the Camps and Ghettos. Here’s the link to the film of the event. His bit is at 1 hour 30mins.
Do take a look at the music in the holocaust website too
Have you ever tried Matzah? Its the type of cracker eaten for 8 days during the festival of Passover- when Jews are not supposed to eat anything leavened. Its generally white and tasteless. Can you imagine – me not baking or eating bread for this long!! In the words of that great Jewish scholar Lemony Snicket:
‘It is altogether proper that matzah is called the bread of affliction, because it has been afflicted more than any other foodstuff on earth. It is born in a searing-hot oven and then completely ignored for fifty-one weeks of the year while people walk around shamelessly eating leavened bread and crackers. Then, Passover rolls around…’ For more wise words from Lemony, see the New American Haggadah http://www.amazon.com/American-Haggadah-Jonathan-Safran-Foer/dp/0316069868
So- what’s to do, but try making my own Matzah. I searched online for recipes and finally found one that sounded good from the New York Times – Matzah made with olive oil. Well, I tried the recipe and I have to report, dear reader, that it was absolutely disgusting- and I threw it all away. So I searched my extensive bread book library and Peter Reinhart came up trumps in his ‘ Wholegrain Bread Book’ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Peter-Reinharts-Wholegrain-Breads-Extraordinary/dp/1580087590. His recipe is made totally with whole grain flour- I thought that may be a bit much- so my recipe below has white flour and rye as well as whole grain.
So, why do we eat Matzah at this time of year? (Passover starts on Monday night) It’s in order to remember the Children of Israel coming out of Egypt and not having enough time to bake bread. In order for Matzah to be kosher its supposed to take no longer than 18minutes from the time the water is mixed with the flour, until it is baked- that way it has no chance to ferment. So I reckon if I’m going to do this- I might as well try and go the whole hog (ok, I shouldn’t have used that word) and try and do the 18 minutes thing. A food processor is very handy because it speeds things up- although I don’t suppose they had food processors in the desert!
1 1/4 cups white bread flour
1/4 cup whole grain flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1. Place the flours and salt in a food processor and wiz to mix
2. Add the water and process until it’s just beginning to come together into one ball (if its not coming together you may need to add a little more water)
3. The dough should feel a little tacky but not sticky- so you may need to need in a little flour if its too sticky
4. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees F
5. Divide the dough in half and then cut one of the halves into 4 pieces
6. Flour your surface lightly and roll each piece with a rolling pin into a circle or rectangle until it begins to shrink back
7. Now roll each one out further until it is about 1/8 inch thick. You’ll need to keep your worksurface lightly floured so that it doesn’t stick
8. Put the rolled out dough on a baking sheet and then prick it all over with a fork
9. Bake in the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes and then check it. It may need about 2 or 3 minutes more. Its ready when its lightly browned on both sides
Try it with butter and jam- it pretty good. Or anything that goes with butter for that matter.
I have posted this on wild yeast’s yeast spotting
When it comes to pizza, I find that everyone has their own particular preference for what they like and what they definitely don’t like. My daughter is horrified by the idea of anyone having pineapple on pizza- and I must say I agree. I really don’t like thick doughy crusts and my husband doesn’t like capers. Some people have a preference for when and how they eat pizza- I think you have to eat it with your fingers- and my father in law thinks that pizza does not constitute real dinner and should only be eaten as a snack.
Now I’ve gone through a litany of what people don’t like, I want to tell you what I think makes for a good pizza. You have to have a thin and crispy dough, with a generous amount of mozzarella, a great tomato sauce and grated parmesan and the moment it comes out of the oven you need to sprinkle it with rocket. There are other great pizza toppings like anchovies, olives, thinly sliced red onion, chorizo and when my husband’s not looking, capers. It needs to be baked in a blisteringly hot oven, with a little semolina to stop it from sticking and giving it an extra crunchy bottom.
The other important part of the pizza making experience is having a pizza stone that you pre-heat, a wooden pizza peel for transferring the pizza on to the piping hot pizza stone and a metal pizza peel for taking it out of the oven. You can get all these items from Bakery Bits on line http://bakerybits.co.uk, John Lewis or the beautiful kitchen shop Divertimenti. However if you don’t have this equipment, don’t worry you can use a baking tray, on which you assemble the pizza and then put the whole thing into the pre-heated oven.
Ingredients for the dough
3 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
a little semolina
First thing this morning I made a no knead bread dough, by mixing the flour yeast and salt together and then stirring in the water and olive oil. I then covered it with a shower cap (see no knead bread recipe in previous blog if you want more detail). I left it on the counter all day and when I came back from work it had developed well.
I folded it several times to get most of the air out and then put it onto a floured counter and cut it in half with a dough scraper (mine comes from bakery bits) and then I cut one of the halves into two pieces
I then rolled out these 2 quarters into circles, making sure I had plenty of flour on the work surface and it wasn’t sticking, and covered it with cling film.
(I put the rest of the dough in a bowl in the fridge and will make it into a small loaf of bread tomorrow)
I pre-heated the oven to 245 degrees F, with the pizza stone in the oven, for half an hour and then got the pizza toppings ready
Pizza topping ingredients
tomato sauce made with an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil
one 220g ball of mozzarella, per pizza, cut into small pieces
half a red onion thinly sliced
sun dried tomatoes chopped
thinly sliced chorizo
and any thing else you like on pizza
Next I sprinkled a little semolina on to the wooden pizza peel
and I carefully placed the dough on the pizza peel, by rolling it round the rolling pin and unrolling it on to the peel
I then put the pizza ingredients on it – laying the mozzarella on to the tomato sauce, followed by the sundried tomatoes, parmesan and the red onion on the top
When the oven had pre-heated I transferred it to the pizza stone and baked it for 10 minutes
I took it out of the oven with my metal pizza peel and put it on to a big bread board
and covered it with rocket.
Within moments it all disappeared!
I then made a second pizza- two was just about enough for 3 people
Do try this recipe and let me know how you get on- it’s really is easy
I’m going to submit this blog to yeast spotting- take a look its a great website: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/