Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TWD: Valentine's Day Share-a-Heart

February's second cookie choice from Dorie's Cookies is the chocolate Valentine's Day Share-a-Heart.  Because I elected to make this one after Valentine's Day proper, I decided not to use a heart shape.  The instructions suggest that you make two very large chocolate hearts to share with a loved one, and make smaller cookies from the scraps.

I made scalloped-edge cookies, and, in a fit of brilliance, I just baked the scraps as is.  (No photos of those, since they were all taste-testers.)

Batch number one was decorated, pre-baking, with Swedish pearl sugar.  Cookies from batch number two had a dollop of vanilla icing, sprinkled with red sugar crystals.

If you like crispy cookies, these are the ones for you.  Just an observation:  the frosted cookies did soften slightly, probably because of the moisture from the icing.  Both versions are delicious.

Be sure and stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see how the other bakers did.

Dorie's Cookies, Valentine's Day Share-a-Heart, pages 274-276.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Our kitchen of the month was Lien of Notitie van Lien.  She challenged the Babes to make Jachnun, a Yemenite Jewish bread that has an overnight bake.  If you check out the various Babe sites, you will notice quite a variety of results.  It always surprises me that one recipe, prepared by different bakers, can turn out in such dissimilar ways.

Mine was no exception.  After some online research, I decided to bake my jachnun in a slow cooker overnight.  I used the same recipe (approximately), using all-purpose flour and honey.  I made the dough in the morning, so it could have a decent rest time, then prepared the rolls in the evening for the overnight bake.

The dough was extremely soft and sticky, so I don't know if that was correct.  I used my famous 'strudel' table to stretch out each one.  (It was rather like making strudel dough, and this table allows me access from every side.)  When they were rolled, I placed them in the slow cooker with layers of parchment paper, and set the timer for 12 hours.

The jachnun were definitely cooked, almost to the point of being inedible.  Next time, I would bake them for only 10 hours.  I served them with the traditional hard boiled eggs, but added sliced fresh strawberries rather than the grated tomatoes with zhug (a spicy condiment).

In the end, the jachnun were really very simple to prepare.  If you've made strudel dough before, it will be easy.  The tricky part is in the baking, but it is certainly worth trying at least once.



  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 25 grams date syrup (or honey)
  • 20 grams honey
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • 12 grams salt
  • 300 grams water (plus or minus)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, margarine, or oil


  1. Mix the flour, date syrup, honey, baking powder, salt, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead for a few minutes. You can also mix and knead by hand. Let the dough relax for 10 minutes, and then knead again for about 5 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rest for an hour.
  2. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees F and place a rack at the lowest position. Line the bottom of a 9 inch by 13 inch cake pan or casserole with with some stale bread and then with parchment paper.
  3. Divide the dough in to 6 pieces and shape them into balls. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. To stretch the rolls, oil or butter your work surface and place a piece of dough on it. Oil the top of the dough with you hands and begin stretching out the dough. Pull, stretch, and oil the dough until you have it as thin as possible. If you have tears, don't worry too much. When the dough is very thin, fold it in thirds, like a letter. Oil/butter the top, and roll the dough into a log. See this video. Continue with the rest of the pieces.
  5. Place each rolled piece of dough on the parchment in a single layer, and top with more parchment paper. Top with a double layer of foil, sealing the top of the pan tightly. Place a sheet pan on top of the foil. Place in the oven overnight, and bake for 12 hours. The Jachnun should be a deep golden brown. 
  6. Serve hot with grated tomato, hard boiled eggs, and zhug (recipe below).
Yield: Makes 6

To make the zhug, process 1 teaspoon chili flakes, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 4 garlic cloves, pinch of ground cardamom, pinch of cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a handful (about 30 grams) of cilantro in the food processor with enough olive oil to make the mixture into a sauce. This can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

Participating Babes:

Cathy from Bread Experience
Kelly from A Messy Kitchen
Karen from Bake My Day
 If you want to bake along as a buddy, send your story and photos to Lien at notitievanlien(at)gmail(dot)com) subject: BBBread February by the 28th of the month.  The roundup will be posted in early March.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

TWD: Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans

Once again, I am back baking with the Tuesdays with Dorie group.  This go-round we are baking from Dorie's Cookies, a beautifully photographed book with delicious recipes.  I've already made several kinds of cookies with good results, and several blogging friends suggested I join in.

For the first February choice, I chose the Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans.  I love shortbread and have made one of the other shortbread recipes in the book.  On hand, I had rose water and an herbal tea containing hibiscus flowers.

While I liked the cookies, I honestly couldn't taste any of the flavors.  I did ice them, although the icing was flavorless as well.  The cookies are pretty, but could use either stronger or different flavoring.  For a basic shortbread cookie, though, they pass the test.

If you're curious what the other bakers thought, go to the TWD website and check the links.

Dorie's Cookies, Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans, pages 191-193.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bread Baking Day #86: The Final Act (Kugelhopf)

As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end."   So it is with Bread Baking Day. 

Founder and inspiration, Zorra, announced in early January that this would be the final BBD.  In its honor, we were challenged to bake a yeasted Kugelhopf/Gugelhupf.

Years ago, when baking with the Tuesdays with Dorie group, one of the recipes was a Kugelhopf.  Although I could have made it a second time, I decided to find a new recipe.  I chose this one from David Lebovitz, and it was definitely an excellent choice.  In addition, it allowed me to use some of the orange flower water that I had purchased for a previous bread recipe, Fouace Nantaise.

I tweaked the recipe in little ways.  I used golden raisins, soaked in dark rum, and a combination of lemon and clementine zest. 

For the soaking glaze, I used the orange flower water -- a healthy tablespoon-full.  Since I still don't have a kugelhopf pan, I used my bundt pan.  On a sadder note, the last of my favorite yeast went into this bread.  I've had it for many years and never doubted its potency.  The large package was stored in the freezer, and I decanted out a small jar for the fridge, refilling it when necessary.  I'm hoping its successor will be just as reliable.

Stop by Zorra's website in the next few days to see all the beautiful kugelhopfs.  Thanks, Zorra, for all the wonderful bread baking challenges.  I will definitely miss the fun.

I'll definitely miss this bread as well.  I shared some with friends, but it's too delicious to last very long!

(from David Lebovitz)
8 servings
Ideally, you want to use a high-sided Kugelhof mold or bundt pan that has a 6 to 8 cup (1,5-2l) capacity. I made it in a larger-sized bundt pan (10-inch/25cm) and it works fine, but the cake will be lower than a traditional Kugelhopf and will take less time to bake. I don't use instant yeast (nor did I use fresh cake yeast for this cake), but if you want to use one of those, check the manufacturer's website for instructions on substituting them for the active dry yeast.
1/2 cup (125ml) whole or lowfat milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope, 7g)) active dry yeast
2/3 cup (90g) flour
1/2 cup (80g) raisins
1 tablespoon dark rum or kirsch
10 tablespoons (5 ounces, 140g), unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus additional soft butter for preparing the pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (140g) flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup (30-40g) sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched, for preparing the cake pan
One 6- to 8-cup kugelhopf pan, or a 10 cup/25cm bundt pan (see headnote)
1. Make a sponge by warming the milk over low heat in a small saucepan until it’s tepid. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, and sprinkle in the yeast. Stir in 2/3 cup (90g) flour. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise until bubbly, about 20 minutes.
2. Butter the inside of a kugelhopf mold or bundt pan very well then scatter sliced almonds over the inside of the mold, pressing them in a bit and turning the mold so there is a relatively even coating of almonds. Gently tilt out any excess almonds.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the raisins and the rum, and set aside.
4. Add the cubed butter to the sponge and attach the bowl to the mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the salt, citrus zest, and vanilla until incorporated.
5. Beat in the egg and the yolk until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl
6. On low speed, mix in the 1 cup (140g) of flour. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 3 minutes.
7. Beat in the raisins and any liquor in the bowl.
8. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough begins to puff, about 30 minutes.
9. Make a hole in the center of the dough with your hands and stretch the dough out so the hole will be is large enough to go around the center of the kugelhopf mold or pan. Lift and transfer the dough into the cake pan. Make sure it's of even thickness all the way around. (A damp hand works well for that.) Cover the mold with a kitchen towel or buttered plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If using a kugelhopf mold, it should reach to the top, or almost to the top, of the mold. If using a larger bundt pan, it will likely take the maximum amount of time to rise.
10. Fifteen minutes before the dough is fully risen, preheat the oven to 375ºF (180ºC). Bake the kugelhopf until it’s deep golden brown across the top, about 40-45 minutes. (In a large bundt pan, the cooking time will be closer to 25 minutes.) When done, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes.
11. While the cake is baking, make a glaze by bringing 1/3 cup of water (80ml) and 1/3 cup (65g) of sugar to a boil. Remove from heat once the sugar is dissolved and add 1 ½ teaspoons of orange flower water or 2 tablespoons of rum or kirsch. Poke the kugelhopf 35 times with a skewer and liberally brush half of the syrup over the cake, repeatedly, letting it absorb. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack set over a baking sheet (to catch any dripping syrup), and brush the rest of the syrup, repeatedly, over the top and sides (and the inside hole) of the cake. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
Storage: The kugelhopf is better served the same day, or the day after it's made. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped.

Friday, January 20, 2017

BBB: Fouace Nantaise

Here in southern California, we're finally having a winter, the first in many years.  This means cool temperatures, blustery winds, and -- wait for it -- rain!  Six years with little to no precipitation is challenging, although too much at one time is not good either.  Just today, there was sufficient rain to cause flooding up in Santa Barbara.

While the cooler weather and rain are welcome, they pose a challenge for finding a warm place to proof my dough.  There is no warm spot in this house.  The water heater is in the uninsulated garage, so that's no help.  When I get desperate, I fire up the huge gas oven for a minute or so, but that's just a short-term solution.

I could turn on the heater/furnace to take the edge off, but did I mention that my 100-pound German Shepherd is afraid of it?  It seems to make some kind of thumpy noise that terrifies her.  Each day is a dilemma:  do I turn on the heat, which forces the dog to go outside, or do I bundle up with multiple coats, scarves, and gloves so the dog can remain inside?  Now, personally, I don't care if the dog is outside, but she plays this really annoying 'game' of scratching at the door, as if she wants to come back inside.  But, no.  As I reach for the handle, she runs away.  This happens multiple times until I give in and turn off the furnace.  And bundle up. 

So, for the January bread, Fouace Nantaise, finding a warm spot for proofing and rising the dough required some effort.  As I recall, I ended up turning on the gas stove for a brief moment so the dough could have a fighting chance.  It worked, by the way.

If you, dear reader, decide to make this bread (and I hope you do, because it is delicious), you will discover that it has one unique ingredient -- orange flower water.  I actually had some in my pantry from years (I say, years) ago.  While I don't think it spoils, in the interest of safety and currency, I decided to replace it.  What was there to lose?  If I couldn't find any, I knew I had antique orange flower water at hand.  But, I was in luck.  The local BevMo had a small bottle in stock.  I now have two bottles.  I clearly need to search for other recipes that use that fragrant ingredient.

Back to the bread.  Our Kitchen of the Month is Elizabeth, and she chose Fouace Nantaise, based on a recipe by Jamie Schler.   It's a lovely, orange-scented bread with a touch of orange-flavored liqueur, easy to make, and quick to disappear.  My only complaint would be that there wasn't enough of it.  (But I do have the orange flower water, so nothing is stopping me from baking it again.)  If I remember correctly (I made the bread in late December), I prepared the dough, saw that it was a really slow riser, got impatient, and tossed it in the refrigerator overnight.   The next day, I put the dough in the warm oven, and when it had doubled, formed the seven balls.  I wondered whether it required a pan with sides to retain the shape, but continued on anyway.  It baked up fine and was a really tasty bread, especially toasted and slathered with butter.  Salted butter.  That's all I have on hand.

I should admit that my primary deviation from the recipe, and most bread recipes for that matter, is that I mix all the dry ingredients together, including the yeast, then add the wet ingredients and mix.  I find all the separate steps of melting, cooling, testing, etc. a bit on the futzy side.  (Sort of like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones rolls his eyes, pulls out the revolver, and shoots.  End result is the same.)

So, after this lengthy discourse, my recommendation is to make the bread.  Check Elizabeth's blog for the recipe and her story, which is always entertaining.  Send her your results by the 29th to be included in the Buddy roundup.

By the way, would anyone like a sweet-natured German Shepherd who's afraid of noises that go bump?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bread Baking Day #85: Bread or buns with dried fruit

It seems forever that I baked for Bread Baking Day.  I missed #84 because I was still in transition from moving and hadn't yet found my baking equipment or my spices and key ingredients.

Luckily, Simone, of Aus der Lameng, gave everyone two months to complete the challenge, which was baking a bread containing dried fruit.  In that time, I was able to find everything I needed and managed to bake two (!) types of bread.

The first bread was a loaf filled with currants and dried cranberries. 

It turned out beautifully and made excellent toast.  It was also very simple because I used my bread machine to mix and knead the dough.  It is definitely a bread that will become a staple.  You can find the recipe here:   Golden Egg Bread with Dried Fruit

The second recipe makes a dozen braided rolls, also filled with currants and dried cranberries. 

These require a bit more work, to roll out the dough and make braids, but they are also delicious and very spectacular-looking.  One advantage is that the dough can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Once again, I will direct you to the recipe link:  Milk and Honey Braided Buns with Dried Fruit and Pearl Sugar.

This was a very enjoyable challenge.  I always look forward to each one, thanks to Zorra (the original Bread Baking Day hostess) and the Hostess of the Month.   In the next few days, stop by Simone's blog to see all the wonderful breads with dried fruit that she will share.

Now, it's back to unpacking.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Babes see Red

Best laid plans, as they say.

Last week, mid-work project, my laptop died.  I immediately rushed it over to my computer repair lady, who, after 24 hours, declared it unusable.  The next morning I went to a local store, purchased a new laptop, delivered it to my repair lady, then waited (impatiently) until all files could be transferred and I could resume work and life.

Meanwhile, with enforced free time, I thought of all the things I could do, like bake bread and sew. 

But, no. 

Everything I needed was -- wait for it -- on the computer. 

Such is life nowadays that every important file or access point is on the computer, and when it dies, life is interrupted.

For this month's bread, I knew I needed beets, which I actually had, so I went ahead and put them in the oven to roast and soften.  While doing that, a friend and I disappeared into the garage to move boxes and search for those still-elusive items.  Two-plus hours later, I remembered the beets, definitely roasted and soft.  After cooling, they went into the fridge.

I made a distress call to the group, and, thankfully, I once again had access (via my phone) to the recipe.  Tuesday was the big day, both for bread baking and computer access (yay).

Did I pay attention to the vitals of the beets?  No.  I peeled them, dropped them into the blender, added the milk, and pureed away.  (I should mention that my blender is vintage 1971, so it's beginning to be cranky on some of its settings.)

Using the alternate recipe, I made the dough and set it out to rise.  (Another mention here:  the dog is afraid of the furnace, so the inside house temperature is around 65 degrees.  Not conducive to proofing bread in this lifetime.)  While the bread was trying to rise, I ran over to the computer repair lady's house to pick up the computer (huzzah!).  It only took another 24 hours to find all the appropriate software, load it, and return to some semblance of normalcy. Sadly, all my browser bookmarks disappeared, so the task of remembering and recreating them will fill my weeks to come.

By now, the bread dough was risen.  I shaped three braided loaves, and when they were ready, popped them into the oven.  It is a finely-tuned dance -- waiting for the oven to come to temperature (20 min.) without over-proofing the dough.

The end result was near-perfect.  A lovely pinkish-red bread and a non-beet flavor.  One loaf went home with my friend, and one will go to work with me today.  Always good to share.

This bread is definitely Buddy-worthy, so check for details on Cathy's website, Bread Experience