Posts Tagged With: Bake

Year Round Recipes: Rice Pudding

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reminded in subtle (and less-than-subtle) ways that sometimes, life can be unpredictable, unrelenting, and holistically draining. And, as much as we like to think that we’re strong enough to handle life’s challenges alone, it’s become incredibly clear to me that it’s not innately incorrect to need to rely on others and outside forces to weather life’s storms. And, while I still feel that I’m in the middle of one of these maelstroms, I thought I’d share a rather simple recipe that I’ve long held as a satisfying balm for the soul. Oddly in line with my youthful associations with the dish, rice pudding originated in several ancient civilizations in the Middle East and Asia as a medicinal, not culinary recipe. Designed to treat digestive ailments in people of all ages, rice pudding has a long and storied history as a catch-all cure for the stomach, the alleged “seat of the soul” for some ancient religions and philosophies. So, whether your stomach or your soul is in need of some old-world healing, I can’t suggest this recipe for rice pudding any higher. Just be careful: once you make one bowl of this enlightening dish, you might soon find yourself readying another sooner than you think!

Let’s dig in!

Rice Pudding Recipe

 

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup medium or short grain rice (make sure your rice isn’t the traditional long grain variety-only the medium and short grain rice will “melt” down to that smooth and creamy consistency)
  • 2 cups milk (I used soy)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup raisins [Optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the 3/4 cup of rice and reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  3. Mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, the beaten egg, and the optional raisins. Keep cooking for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until combined.
  5. Enjoy warm or cool, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg for even more soul-satisfying flavor!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you next time as we excavate another of the world’s greatest culinary creations!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Dessert, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Rugelach

With a new blizzard, nor’easter, or ice storm being forecast seemingly every other day here in the northeast U.S., I’ve been on a mission to preserve the memory and hope of warmer days, even in the face of such wintry opposition. And, after opening up some of last year’s peach preserves for the jam sandwich cookies we made a couple weeks ago, I’ve been itching to find another recipe that could highlight such a sweet summery flavor, especially while we’re still in the dead of winter. With this goal in mind, I decided to return to the cuisine of Russia and Eastern Europe to find a culinary escape from thoughts of ice and snow (what better place to find examples of winter escapism than a land plagued by severe winters?). While digging up the culinary treasures of this expansive corner of the world, I stumbled across a twisting, crescent-shaped pastry that seemed to answer all of the desires I held for this week’s recipe: it originated in Eastern Europe, it’s typically filled with fruit preserves, and, as an added bonus, has an origin shrouded in mystery!

It's not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of "little twists!"

It’s not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of “little twists!”

This culinary form takes on a different name in each country that makes it, so for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to call this pastry by its traditional Jewish name, “rugelach” (translating literally to “little twists”). With such a widespread distribution in many Eastern European countries, no one seems to know exactly where the rugelach first came from, only that it is a distinctly Jewish invention. As it has no attachment to any Jewish holiday, the rugelach is a perfect year round recipe that can be altered to fit whatever season you’re in! For today, though, we’re going to capitalize on the rugelach’s affinity for fruit preserves and make a peach and pecan variation of this centuries old pastry!

Rugelach Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

 

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Ingredients for Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons fruit preserves (apricot is traditional, but any fruit will really work!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add in sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until fluffy and combined.
  2. Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup of the flour slowly until the flour incorporates with the batter. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of flour and repeat, being careful not to over mix the dough.
  3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 – 20 seconds, just to ensure that the flour has completely mixed into the dough. Divide the kneaded dough into three equal parts, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours, or until the dough is firm.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the chopped nuts, granulated and brown sugars, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. When the dough has chilled, remove one part from the refrigerator, place on a floured surface, and roll out into a circle. Top the circle with 2 Tablespoons of fruit preserves, leaving one inch of room around the edge, and then sprinkle with one third of the nut/sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the circle into 16 equal pieces.
  6. Working from the widest end of each segment, roll each piece of dough to form a small crescent shape (see pictures below for a visual guide). Be careful not to roll the dough too tightly or the filling will spill out of the pastry, which can cause the dough to burn in the oven. Place the rolled rugelach on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  7. Repeat this process for the remaining two pieces of refrigerated dough.
  8. Bake in a 350 F / 175 C oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastries are just lightly brown.
  9. When the rugelach has finished baking, let them cool completely on the baking sheets before enjoying!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again soon for another kitchen excavation!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, Winter Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Russian Black Rye Bread

While I’m not a particularly avid sports fan, I’ve always held a certain fascination for the Olympic games, as they stand as a multicultural link between our modern world and the games’ mythical origins over 2700 years ago. And what I love the most about our modern Olympic ritual is the transportation of the games to a different country for each biannual incarnation. As the spotlight of the games moves across the globe, we are allowed a unique opportunity to stop, examine, and celebrate the culture and history of countries outside of our own. With the games being in Russia this year, I have been relishing the chance to take a moment and discover for myself the cultural heritage of this year’s Olympic hosts. Because of my fascination with culinary history, I have been particularly excited to try out some of Russia’s traditional cuisine, especially since my knowledge of Russian delicacies really begins and ends with caviar and vodka. Today, then, I thought we’d dig right into the heart of Russia’s rich culinary past with a culinary form that embodies the stark duality of historic Russia: suffering and triumph.

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Rye Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Just like any other ancient civilization, Russia’s food history seems to begin with the humble loaf of bread. However, what makes Russia’s bready origins unique is the rye grain native to eastern Europe which has allowed the Russian people to triumph over the adversity of their country’s climate. Producing a denser, darker, more flavorful and healthful loaf than traditional wheat grains, rye bread (also known as “black bread” due its dark brown color) allowed the Russian people to avoid starvation in the harsher periods of their tumultuous history. As the rye bread has followed the Russian people into modernity, it has grown to represent the overcoming of incredible difficulty, and the prosperity that can be found after hardship. So, while our cultural eye is fixed on Russia for the Olympic games, let’s take a moment to break the bread that has allowed the Russian culture to flourish into the modern age!

Russian Black Rye Bread Recipe

7. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 - 5 minutes. Keep adding rye flour if the dough is too sticky to work with

The key to perfect Russian black bread lies in hearty, dark rye flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/ cups warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder [This is a modern addition to the recipe to deepen the color of the bread, and is completely optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Mix the molasses and yeast into the warm water, and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes, or until the top of the liquid becomes foamy. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour and 1 1/2 cups of the rye flour. Stir in the [optional] cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, caraway seed, and fennel seed.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture, melted butter, and apple cider vinegar into the large mixing bowl and stir until the ingredients combine to form a rough dough.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. If your dough is wet and difficult to work with, knead in additional rye flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough is only lightly sticky.
  5. Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth, place in a warm spot, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal pieces. Roll the pieces into loaf shapes, and place each in a 9 x 5 inch, greased loaf pan. Cover the pans with a clean, floured cloth and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. Cook the loaves in a 400 F / 200 C oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches an internal temperature of between 180 – 190 F /82 – 87 C.
  8. Remove the finished loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Slice, toast, and enjoy this piece of Russian history with a healthy topping of butter and caviar, a nice sharp cheese, or your favorite sandwich toppings!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! I hope to see you again on Sunday for another taste of cultural cuisine!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Cooking, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Crêpes

If you’re from the Eastern US, or have been following the weather for this corner of the world, you’ll know that this week was fraught with an uncharacteristically devastating series of snow and ice storms. During this meteorological event, my typical love for the forest that surrounds our neighborhood was turned to dread, as heavy, ice-laden branches and trees exploded to the ground for much of the past week, taking homes, cars, and power with them. So, if you noticed the lack of activity from the blog on Wednesday, that was due to the dark, chilled state of our home as we weathered yet another display of winter’s power.

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

But! Power has returned, the roads are at last safe to traverse, and I’m still in the mood for a little French cuisine (my previous French excavations can be found here and here)! Even though the roads have been cleared for a day or two by this point, I still haven’t made it to the store since last week; so, I thought we’d dig up the crêpe, a 12th century French staple that can be made with only a few, basic ingredients typically found in every kitchen! The original crêpe would have been (and still is) made from buckwheat flour (you can check out an excellent buckwheat crêpe recipe here from Buckwheat for your health), which produces a savory dish that makes the perfect foundation for any meal of the day. However, with my pantry devoid of buckwheat flour, we’ll be looking at the sweeter version of the crêpe, made from basic all-purpose wheat flour to conjure a canvas fit for the most decadently simple dessert or breakfast! I happened to have a slightly dodgy apple still rolling around in the fridge, so I’ll show you how to make a quick and easy spiced apple topping to fill your crêpes with; but, keep in mind that this French classic can be paired with anything you have on hand! Peanut butter, ice cream, fruit preserves, you name it, the crêpe can enhance it! And, what better way to surprise that special someone this Valentine’s day than with a homemade breakfast straight out of romantic 12th century France? Without further ado, let’s dig in!

Crêpe Recipe

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add the flour and salt, and stir thoroughly to remove any large lumps (you want as smooth a batter as possible).
  3. Place a greased frying pan over medium high heat, then pour or ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Rotate the pan to ensure that the batter is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the crêpe has turned light brown. Flip over the crêpe and repeat.
  5. Top with your favorite fillings, roll, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar! To make a quick and easy apple cinnamon filling, keep reading below the pictures!

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A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions for Filling

  1. In a small bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and spices until coated.
  2. Place butter in a small frying pan and melt over medium high heat. Add the coated apples to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the apples become soft.
  3. Top your hot, fresh crêpes with a spoonful of apples and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! If the weather cooperates this week, I’ll see you again this Wednesday!

Stay warm, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Sugar and Spice Pull-Apart Bread

With February and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I was hoping to attempt a dessert this weekend that, for me at least, represents some of the history of the holiday’s founder, Saint Valentine. Unfortunately though, this recipe (which I will hopefully attempt next weekend) required the use of a friend’s typically outdoor deep fryer. And, with several inches of snow allegedly in the forecast (as of this afternoon, the forecast seems woefully incorrect), said deep fryer would have to wait until the skies cleared. So, using what I had on hand, I thought I’d share one of my favorite styles of yeasted dessert in the meantime: pull-apart bread!

Intricately simple, and incredibly delicious!

Intricately simple, and incredibly delicious!

Hailing back to at least the 1940’s, the pull-apart bread is a fun, easy-to-make dessert that can be adapted to any season or taste. Adding a little pumpkin puree to the batter can transform this year round recipe into an autumnal classic, or even throwing a few sliced peaches or strawberries into the mix could suit the lighter, sweeter tastes of summer! However, for beating back the dreary January forecast, I prefer to stick with a classic sugar and spice variation. Typically, my spice of choice would be tried and true cinnamon, but with some mixed spice leftover from our hot cross bun excavation (you can find the recipe for the buns and the mixed spice here: Hot Cross Buns), I couldn’t pass up the chance to experiment with a spicier-than-usual loaf of pull-apart bread!

Sugar and Spice Pull-Apart Bread

 

The groundwork for a tasty loaf of spiced sweetness

The groundwork for a tasty loaf of spiced sweetness

Ingredients for the Bread:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon (one packet) active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs

Ingredients for the Sugar and Spice Topping

  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice

Directions

  1. Place the butter and milk into a small saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the butter melts. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from heat, stir in the water and vanilla extract, and let cool until between 100 – 110 degrees F / 37 – 43 C. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and let proof for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is light and foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups of flour, remaining sugar, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the 2 eggs and set aside.
  4. Pour yeast mixture into the flour and stir until combined. Mix in the whisked eggs until a rough dough is formed. Knead in the last 3/4 cup of flour, turn dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and only slightly sticky (you may need to add some extra flour to cut down on the potential stickiness of the dough).
  5. Place your kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in volume.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  7. When your dough has risen, return it to a floured surface and roll it into a roughly 12 x 20 inch (30 x 50 cm) rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter and coat completely with the sugar and spice mixture.
  8. Slice the dough into 6 equal vertical strips (see pictures below for a visual guide). Stack the strips on top of each other and slice into 6 equal stacks of square pieces. Layer the dough squares in a 9 x 5 greased, floured loaf pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and let rest and expand for 30 – 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Bake your pull-apart loaf in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until deeply golden brown (if you remove the loaf when it’s only light brown, the body of the bread will most likely still be undercooked).
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to continue cooling completely.
  11. Enjoy a warm, spicy piece of pull-apart bread!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this weekend’s recipe!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Dessert, Odds and Ends, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Recipes: Hot Cross Buns

Brr.

Brr.

As yet another severe winter storm whips its way through the eastern United States, bringing nearly a foot of snow and another round of dangerously low wind chills, I couldn’t help but daydream of sunny days, green trees, and warm spring breezes while shoveling the driveway, ankle-deep in crystalline cold. And, as my thoughts meandered towards spring, my appetite seemed to follow. Over the last several days, I’ve had an odd craving for hot cross buns, a classically springtime treat, marked by its symbolic association with the Easter season. But, even though Easter and warm weather are still so far away, I thought I’d still take the time to cross a few buns in hope of warmer days!

Not Crossed Buns

Not Crossed Buns

Composed of spiced dough speckled with fruit (typically raisins, currants, or sultanas), and topped with the eponymous cross, hot cross buns (or just “cross buns,” as they were known in their homeland of 15th century England) have captivated the hearts, minds, and spirits of the western world for at least 600 years. Although little evidence exists to support the claim, some food archaeologists believe the crossed bun actually dates to the religious rituals of the Saxons in 9th century England, where they were used to honor the goddess Eostre, an alleged deity whose impact on western culture is still hotly contested. Whatever their origin, the hot cross bun serves as a delicious staple to warm our way through the rest of this wintry weather, and keep our minds fixed on spring!

Now, as this recipe is of British origin, there are a few features to this process that are (unfortunately) foreign to the average American baker. First, because much of the world uses scales in the kitchen, many of the measurements for this recipe are by weight, not volume (though I’ll convert these measures as accurately as possible). Second, this recipe calls for “mixed spice,” a blend of warm spices not unlike pumpkin pie spice. To make a small batch of mixed spice for yourself, simply combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove

With our British to American conversions out of the way, lets dig into some hot cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Cool Crossed Buns

Cold Crossed Buns

Makes 12 Buns

Ingredients for Buns

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (100 F / 37 C)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 600 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed spice
  • 50 grams (about 1/4 cup) melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
  • [Optional] 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for Crosses

  • 6 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup water

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and warm milk in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast proofs and becomes foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mixed spice, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, melted butter, egg, raisins, and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture becomes a rough dough.
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, springy, and only lightly sticky.
  4. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location to rise for 1 hour.
  5. When the dough has risen, place the dough back onto a floured surface and roll into a log. Divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place into a greased, floured 8 x 8 cake tin, or a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Cover your pan(s) with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 390 F / 200 C.
  7. To make the crosses, combine the flour and water in a small bowl, then place in a ziploc or piping bag. Cut off the corner of your bag and pipe lines across your buns to make the crosses.
  8. Bake the buns for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the tops are well browned. When the buns are between 5 – 10 minutes from being finished, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan to begin making the glaze. Heat the sugar water over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside.
  9. When your hot cross buns have finished baking, remove from the oven and brush each bun with the glaze. Let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Enjoy a spiced, crossed morsel of English history with your own batch of hot cross buns. To truly maximize their flavor, heat the buns in the microwave for about 40 seconds and top with butter for a classic crossed bun experience!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! May your weather be more pleasant than ours!

Stay warm and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Year Round Recipes: Brioche

Since the invention of cooking, an invisible, yet incredibly impactful war has been fought over the nature of the craft. And, whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably already taken a side in this particular culinary skirmish. I speak, of course, of the veritable tug-of-war that exists between the scientific and artistic viewpoints that so many of us take when regarding the preparation of our meals. In the scientific camp (the faction I once fought valiantly to defend), strict classifications, exact measures, and precise cooking times decide the quality of a recipe. For the artistic gourmands, seasoning by taste, not measurement; cooking until “it looks right;” and creative deviation from the cookbook are strong influences in the baking process. Since I’ve recently been relying on older recipes that hail from a time before standardized measurements (e.g. where the directive “add nutmeg, but not too much” is not uncommon), I’ve reluctantly pulled myself away from the scientific mentality and have begun artistically experimenting with my cooking. And, while this has resulted in mixed levels of success, I thought I’d take the time to celebrate the best of both camps with this week’s international bread recipe!

The art of brioche

The art of brioche

Hailing from the Norman civilization in the 15th century, brioche has spent much of its 600 year lifespan torn between science and art. Being a proudly French creation, a land which has long prized the exactness of its world-altering cuisine, brioche was born and raised in the scientific method. As France and brioche evolved, and the appreciation for butter grew, marketplace bakers gradually perfected their flour-to-butter ratios to fit their shoppers’ exact expectations. For the wealthy, flour and butter were measured at a 3:2 ratio, and for the average eater, a 4:1 ratio was implemented (For the curious, that measures out to between 1/2 – 3 pounds of butter per batch of brioche!). However, after the mathematics of brioche were complete, the artistry of the piece began to shine. Because of its leavening and lack of sugar, brioche appears to be a typical variant on bread; however, the high butter content, flakiness, and density pushes brioche towards pastry. Landing in the murky middle ground of the viennoiserie (a scientific classification for leavened baked goods that are nigh-impossible to classify) the creative decision of what to do with a brioche loaf is left up to the consumer. Because of its undefinable propensities, the brioche makes a beautifully rich canvas for the most artistic of eaters. A perfect companion to both to sweet preserves and savory spreads, brioche brings something to the table for everyone to enjoy!

For our recipe today, you’ll find a few modifications for the modern kitchen (mainly, we won’t be using pounds of butter). But, you should note that the process for making brioche still follows the recipes of old, meaning that the process is not complex, but it does take time. Brioche must sit overnight to be workable, so keep this in mind before you bake a loaf or two! Now, with our caveats out of the way, let’s dig in!

Brioche Loaf Recipe

Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf

Flaky, rich, and simply perfect for the scientific artist in all of us!

Flaky, rich, and simply perfect for the scientific artist in all of us!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (about half of one packet)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100 F / 37 C)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon cold water

Directions

  1. In a small container, combine the yeast and warm water and let proof for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins looking foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and two whole eggs. Stir to form a rough dough.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 – 10 minutes.
  4. Flatten the dough and spread one third of the softened butter over the dough. Fold the dough and knead thoroughly for 2-3 minutes to fully incorporate the butter (this step will be messy, but so very worth it!). Let the dough rest for 5 – 7 minutes, and then repeat this process two more times to knead in all of the butter.
  5. Place the completed dough in a greased bowl, and roll the dough to coat it in oil. Cover with plastic wrap to hold in the dough’s moisture, and place in a warm location for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Punch down the risen dough, cover again with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
  7. After chilling overnight, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes to warm the dough slightly. Form the dough into a loaf and place in a greased 9×5 bread pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, and let rise for 1 more hour.
  8. While your brioche is rising, preheat your oven to 400 F / 205 C. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cold water to make an egg wash. Set aside.
  9. After the dough has risen in the pan, brush liberally with the egg wash and bake in your preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the dough takes on a deep golden color.
  10. Once the brioche is finished cooking, remove from the oven and leave in the pan for 10 minutes to cool. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.
  11. Enjoy the buttery perfection that is brioche: an exquisite blend of history, science, and art!

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Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Cooking, Dessert, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Amish Poppy Seed Bread

A Slice of Pennsylvanian Friendship

Besides providing the world with Hershey’s chocolate, central Pennsylvania is probably best known for being the home of the largest Amish population, colloquially known as “Amish Country.” At the heart of the Amish belief system, which dates back to the teachings of Jacob Amman in 1693, there exists a strong focus on family and community. And from this emphasis arose the culinary tradition of “friendship bread” that still continues today. Similar to traditional sourdough bread recipes, friendship bread begins as a bread starter, a mixture of yeast, sugar, flour, and water that is periodically “fed” to increase in size. When a friendship bread starter is big enough, it is typically separated into three portions, one for use in the household, one to store for the next week, and one to pass onto a friend or neighbor who will subsequently multiply their portion to pass to another member of the community.

In the non-Amish world, however, it is, unfortunately, quite difficult to find a community of friends and neighbors who want to continually make a loaf of bread every week. For that reason, the winter recipe we’re digging up today is not a true friendship bread, as it uses baking powder in place of the yeast starter. However, this recipe was passed on to us from an ex-Amish friend of our family, so, in true friendship bread spirit, I thought it only right to pass it along to all of you! What makes this recipe perfect for the Christmas season, is that it makes perfectly gift-able loaves that can be shared just like traditional friendship bread.

Amish Poppy Seed Bread

Poppy seed bread: a slice of central Pennsylvania's culinary history!

Poppy seed bread: a slice of central Pennsylvania’s culinary history!

Ingredients for Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups oil (straight olive oil works well)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the 3 eggs, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla, butter, and almond extracts. Stir in the poppy seeds until evenly distributed.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until blended.
  5. Spray mini bread pans with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter into the pans until 3/4 full. Run a knife through each loaf to release any bubbles.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaves have risen and are golden brown.
  7. While the loaves are baking, mix together the orange juice, sugar, and extracts for the glaze.
  8. Immediately after you remove the finished loaves from the oven, pour glaze over the top of each loaf. Let cool for fifteen minutes, loosen loaves from the pan, and remove each loaf to cool completely.
  9. Enjoy a loaf with a mug of hot cider, or pass one along in the spirit of Amish friendship!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! I truly hope you get a chance to try out this delicious piece of Pennsylvania food history!

Happy holidays, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, History, Pennsylvanian Recipes, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

With Thanksgiving but two days away, and tomorrow marking one of the busiest travel days of the year, it seems as though the most pressing news story is the winter storm that’s currently blanketing the eastern United States. So for those of you in the audience that are gearing up to visit friends and family this holiday season, I wish you truly safe travel! For everyone else who, like me, are either staying home for the holidays, or are the destination for your own traveling friends and family, a warm kitchen and a hearty autumn breakfast recipe might be just what you need to keep the winter weather out of sight and mind!

So, as the freezing rain’s plastic hiss washes autumn from the tree line, I thought it was only fitting to use some of the last fresh fruits of autumn for this week’s breakfast recipe. Cinnamon rolls, while wonderful on their own, can be autumnally augmented with just a few ripe apples, which lend their sweet, homey flavor and aroma to this classic dish. And, if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, this recipe is a fantastic way to greet road- and snow-weary loved ones with a warm taste of autumn!

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

 

Banish winter (at least for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Banish winter (if only for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 cups milk (soy, as always, works wonderfully!)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or white whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I had two Jonagolds on hand, but any baking apple will work!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Ingredients for Glaze (Optional)

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and yeast.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan until it reaches 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C. Stir warm milk into sugar and yeast mixture until dissolved.
  3. Add salt and two cups of flour to the bowl and beat with a stand or hand mixer for two minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs and butter.
  5. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and beat well after each addition. When all flour has been added, knead for five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a medium sized bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Roll dough to coat in oil, cover bowl with a clean dish towel, and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and apples to prepare the filling.
  7. When your dough has risen, roll out the dough on a floured countertop to form a large rectangle that’s approximately 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with about half of the melted butter and coat evenly with the filling mixture. Leave 1 inch of empty space around the edges of the dough.
  8. Tightly roll the rectangle from one of the long sides until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the log which do not have any filling, and then cut the log into even increments.
  9. Place each piece into the cups of a greased muffin tin (Because my pieces were larger, I had to use a large muffin tin, but smaller slices should fit into a regular muffin tin). Let dough rise once more for thirty minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Brush the tops of the apple cinnamon rolls with remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. (Optional) Mix powdered sugar and milk together to form a classic white glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls and enjoy a sweet reminder of the autumn harvest!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for some of this year’s final autumn recipes! Be sure to check back throughout the week for a few more Thanksgiving dinner ideas!

Stay warm, safe, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: S’mores! (Whole Wheat Graham Crackers and Marshmallows)

On the Importance of Excavation

The perfect place to ponder kitchen excavation!

The perfect place to ponder kitchen excavation!

Over the past week I’ve started developing the habit of taking  walks through the surrounding forest as a starting point for self-improvement. While on these walks, in addition to admiring the rising sun and accidentally startling  families of deer, I’ve found copious time to simply think and reflect (something that is alarmingly difficult to do in front of a computer screen). Particularly, I’ve been meditating on why I believe the excavation of skills, techniques, and recipes of the ancients is a worthwhile pursuit, and I thought I’d share my conclusions with you. Before we begin, I must warn you: today’s discussion involves more human than culinary history, so if you’d like to simply jump down to this weekend’s recipes at the bottom of this post, certainly feel free. And, never fear, food history lovers,  I’ll be posting the mucilaginous history of the marshmallow (and perhaps even a bonus recipe!) around this time tomorrow!

At our outset, humans, as far as we can tell, did not spend their free time in the way we typically do today (consuming entertainment for personal pleasure). Instead, our ancestors began their day by foraging (or farming, after the great agricultural switch around 10,000 BCE); and, only when enough food was gathered, would they engage in a host of other, beneficial activities. Storytelling (then writing), playing music, creating artwork and dyes, preparing and cooking food, making medicine, and engaging in active games and sports dominated the leisure time of these peoples. However, as civilizations and technology advanced, a new brand of “empty,” entertainment-fueled free time began creeping into the modern lifestyle. This emptiness, particularly for women, reached a fever pitch in the Victorian Age of England, where the goal of civilization became the expanse of pointless leisure. From the accounts written during this time, rampant boredom and “melancholy” took hold of these prosperous, yet idle individuals, causing great mental illness and unrest (for a devastatingly powerful, semi-autobiographical look into this topic, I cannot recommend Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” highly enough).

It would seem, then, that we are not wired to be idle creatures; but, instead, to feel the most satisfaction in life, we require creative, constructive actions to supplement our work. On my morning travels, I’ve returned to the conclusion that to recapture the purposeful living of the ancients, we need to reclaim some ancient activities and skills in order to make our free time more meaningful and fulfilling. And this is why I’ve chosen to showcase two recipes that most of us have probably never made ourselves (I know I hadn’t!), yet are complexly interwoven into our modern collective culinary consciousness in the form of the gooey and delicious fireside treat: the s’more. So, instead of buying a bag of marshmallows for your next bonfire, try making a batch yourself-it’s surprisingly easy to do!

100% Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

 

Crunchy, whole wheat graham crackers with a hint of spice!

Crunchy, whole wheat graham crackers with a hint of spice!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (all purpose flour works just as well)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • (Optional) Raw sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy (around 3 minutes). Add half of the dry ingredients and a 1/4 cup of water and beat slowly for 30 seconds. Repeat, and then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for several seconds until fully combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and wrap one half in plastic wrap.
  4. Roll the other half of the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until very thin and even (around 1/8″ thick). Repeat with the rest of the dough, and refrigerate both for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C
  6. When the dough has finished chilling, cut into desired shapes and sizes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets (I only had a round cookie cutter on hand, hence my non-traditional looking crackers). Sprinkle with raw sugar.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are a dark golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks before enjoying!

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Homemade Marshmallows

 

Homemade marshmallows, sweet and squishy-no corn syrup required!

Homemade marshmallows, sweet and squishy-no corn syrup required!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons agar-agar powder (or 2 packets/2 Tablespoons of traditional gelatin)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, soak agar-agar or gelatin in cold water and set aside.
  2. Combine granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until fully dissolved (the syrup will no longer be gritty when fully dissolved)
  3. Stir in agar-agar or gelatin and bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl to cool.
  5. When mixture is partially cool, add salt and vanilla extract. Using your electric mixer, beat for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and has doubled in volume.
  6. Pour fluffed mixture into a 9×9 pan that has been coated in powder sugar.
  7. Allow to cool for 2 – 3 hours, or until the marshmallow is no longer sticky to the touch.
  8. Cut into desired sizes and roll in powdered sugar.
  9. Enjoy a reclaimed bite of confectionary history!
Melty, chocolatey, deliciousness: the s'more.

Melty, chocolatey deliciousness: the s’more.

Now, to finish off your s’more, you’ll need to employ a truly ancient form of cooking: the open flame! So, grab some friends, start a fire (responsibly), and roast a few marshmallows that you can proudly claim as your own! And, if you’re unable to have a fire outside, you can always huddle up around the oven to roast some indoor s’mores!
For a truly homemade s’more, we’ll have to dig up the ancient art of chocolateiring, but I think that’s a topic for another time!

As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! Be sure to check back tomorrow for some more food-focused history, as well as a spicy drink recipe that pairs perfectly with homemade marshmallows!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, History, Odds and Ends, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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