Shrimp Ceviche/Gazpacho

Since this pandemic began many of us have been spending more time than usual on social media and have been ordering more stuff on line.  I must admit, I am guilty.  I came across an ad for The Fresh Chili Company on line and the recipe for this shrimp ceviche.  The recipe sounded great.   The ingredients in their chili sauce are red chile purée, water, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion and citric acid.  No chemicals or other ingredients that I can’t identify or pronounce.  So I placed an order for two jars, a mild red and a medium red. The turn around time was good and they kept me posted regarding my order.

Years ago my daughter gave me a book called 100 Words for Foodies.  It defines ceviche as raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice with olive oil and spices and served as an appetizer.  Gazpacho is defined as a chilled soup usually made with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and herbs.  So I’m not sure this recipe would be considered a true ceviche (although that’s what the Fresh Chili Company called it) because the shrimp is cooked when you add it to the other ingredients.  I guess it’s kind of a hybrid.  A little bit ceviche and a little bit gazpacho and maybe needs a name all it’s own.  I’ll have to think about that.  But, doesn’t matter what you call it, it was easy to make and very tasty.  Perfect for hot summer days when you don’t want to turn the stove or oven on and you want to eat something cool and refreshing.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of jumbo shrimp

1/4 cup Abuela’s traditional red chili sauce (I used medium)

2 stalks of celery sliced thin

1 English cucumber chopped

1/2 onion chopped

2 avocados chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1/2 cup cilantro chopped

juice from one orange

juice from two limes

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup V-8 or tomato juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

I used raw shrimp and peeled and cooked it, but there is no reason you couldn’t use shrimp that is already cooked.  And it also doesn’t need to be jumbo shrimp because you are going to chop the shrimp.  So, if you are using raw shrimp, your first job is to cook it and then chill it.

Chop all of the vegetables and the cilantro.

Juice your citrus.

Combine the chili sauce, citrus juices, tomato sauce, and tomato juice or V-8.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dice your shrimp.  You can save a few whole shrimp for garnish if you’d like.

Add the shrimp and the vegetables and herbs to the tomato liquid, stir well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Serve up your ceviche/gazpacho with a wedge of lime and a couple of whole shrimp for garnish.  We enjoyed every bite.

NOTE:  I was missing one key ingredient.  Avocados.  I almost always have avocados and last night I had none.  It was excellent without them butI think it would have been even better with them because avocados have such rich, buttery goodness.

Also, depending on your heat tolerance, you might want to add some jalapeño to the mix.  The medium chili sauce has a little kick but was perfect for me.  This recipe served three of us with enough left over for a couple more bowls.  It was actually quite filling.

As with all recipes, combine what you have on hand in your pantry and fridge with a little imagination.

 

Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite food magazines, and I have subscribed to several over the years, is Cuisine At Home.  I found this cinnamon roll recipe in the June 2007 issue and have been making them ever since.  They are best warm, right out of the oven, and most people love them slathered with cream cheese icing, except my dad.  The icing knife barely glazed the top of his roll but, he did love the rolls.  These have become our traditional Thanksgiving Day breakfast.  I make them the day before we’ll be eating them, cover them with press and seal, and refrigerate them overnight.  In the morning I let them come to room temperature while the oven is preheating, bake and enjoy!  My Cincinnati brother and sister-in-law and their family come by us the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year.  They’ve occasionally gotten to sample leftover rolls so, when I knew they’d be here last weekend, I decided to let them enjoy fresh cinnamon rolls instead of 2 day olds.  With all the bread making that has apparently been going on lately, if you have yeast, you need to try these.  You’ll be really glad you did.

Dough Ingredients:

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast

1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)

3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

3 T sugar

2 T unsalted butter (room temperature)

5 cups of flour (divided)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer proof the yeast in warm water for 5 minutes or until foamy.

While the yeast is proofing warm milk to 100 degrees in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the warmed milk, buttermilk, sugar, butter, salt, and 3 1/2 cups of flour to the proofed yeast.  With the paddle attachment of your mixer mix on low speed until combined.  Then increase the speed to high and beat for two minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour.  Mix on low speed until incorporated , then increase the speed to medium.  Mix for 5-7 minutes or until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If necessary add a tablespoon or two of additional flour.  Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, butter two 9” round pans and prepare the filling.

Filling Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup ground cinnamon

Soften the butter for the filling in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds.  You don’t want it to melt completely.  Use a hand mixer to blend in the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.  Do not chill.

Once the dough has risen, hook your fingers under the edges to release the dough from the bowl onto a well floured surface.  Gently press out air bubbles and sprinkle flour on the top.  Divide the dough in half and roll one portion into a rectangle about 10×16”.

Spread half of the filling onto the dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border.

Roll the dough, jelly roll style, into a log.  Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Transfer logs to a baking sheet and freeze for about 10 minutes to make them easier to slice.  Slice each log into 6 rolls and arrange them in the prepared pans.

At this point I cover both pans or rolls with press and seal and refrigerate them overnight.  Or, you can cover with a towel and let them rise for one hour.

While the rolls are refrigerated or rising, make the cream cheese icing.

Icing Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

zest of one orange

Beat all ingredients together with a hand mixer.

I put the icing in a container and let people us as much or as little as they want.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Once the rolls have risen, uncover and bake for 25-30 minutes.  If you refrigerated the rolls allow them to come to room temperature before baking.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove.  Ice.  And enjoy.

NOTE:  I use dental floss (not the mint kind) to slice the logs into rolls.  It makes for quick, easy cuts without flattening the rolls.

Pork Meatballs Asian Style

Since this pandemic has had us sheltering at home, most of us are doing a lot more cooking than usual.  And, if you’re like me, you keep trying to come up with new dishes to break the monotony.  Unless, of course, monotony is what you actually prefer.  I do know people who could easily survive on pizza or burgers or Mac and cheese as a steady diet. Yesterday I had a pound of ground pork thawed and was trying to think of something different to make for dinner.  I was talking to my daughter and she shared this recipe which they had recently made.  Based on what was available in my fridge and pantry I modified the recipe a bit, and I’m sharing my own take.  This was a quick and easy dish to prepare and packed a lot of flavor.  We devoured all but 4-5 meatballs!

Meatball Ingredients:

1 pound of ground pork

2-3 green onions finely sliced

1 inch of fresh ginger grated

1-2 cloves of garlic grated

3/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs

Add all of the ingredients to the pork.

Before you start mixing the meatball ingredients, cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix well and shape into 12-14 meatballs.  Place the meatballs on one end of the baking sheet.

Cut vegetables of your choosing into bite size pieces.  A generous 2 to 3 cups.  I used broccoli florets, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and pea pods.

Toss the vegetables in a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil or olive oil and put them on the other end of the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  While the oven is preheating prepare your sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

1 T toasted sesame oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup orange juice

3 T hoisin sauce

3 T honey

2 T rice vinegar

1 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less based on personal preference)

Measure out all of your ingredients in a medium size heavy saucepan.

Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat and keep it at a slow boil for 8-10 minutes until it is reduced by about a third.   Remove from the heat.

While your sauce is cooking, put the meatballs and vegetables in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.  At this point, ladle about a third to half of the sauce over the meatballs and return them to the oven for another 3-4 minutes.

Serve the meatballs, vegetables and sauce over rice.  I used brown rice with quinoa, but use your favorite rice.  I garnished ours with thin sliced radishes, green onion, and cilantro.

NOTE:  The original recipe called for ground chicken or turkey but I really liked the ground pork.  I think that beef might be too heavy for this dish but, as with all recipes, it’s all about personal preference.

You can use vegetables of your choosing; zucchini or summer squash, onion, green beans.  I did not have low sodium soy sauce so I did not add any additional salt and none was necessary.

Use garnishes of your choice including sesame seeds or a little fresh basil.  It all makes a beautiful plate of food.  Enjoy.

Challah

Challah is a special bread in Jewish cuisine.  It’s usually braided and is typically eaten on Jewish holidays and the sabbath.  I am told that the three strands of the braid symbolize truth, peace, and justice.  And the poppy seeds are said to symbolize the manna that fell from heaven.  Challah is very similar to a Finnish bread called Pulla which is what I grew up eating.  In fact, in one of my very favorite bread books, the breads are listed together along with the exchanges.  For pulla milk vs. water, sugar vs. honey, and the addition of cardamom seed.  Since this pandemic started, and as we have sheltered at home, I’ve been doing a lot more baking than usual.  There are only two of us sheltering in this house and I’m working on my fifth five pound bag of flour.  My daughter and son-in-law, also sheltering at home, have been doing as much bread baking as me, maybe more.  I recently had a copy of my fav bread book sent to them.

My grandmother made the best pulla.  She would make several loaves at a time and whenever anyone came to visit she would put the coffee on and slice some pulla.  It was a staple at her house.  When we were kids we called her bread biscuite…some kind of bad  Finnglish.  Actually, maybe not Finnish at all, but it’s what we called it.  My mother-in-law, Goldie, made the best challah.  All of her baked goods were amazing.  My husband remembers his mother making challah every Friday, covering the braids with a towel while they proofed, and saying a prayer over them.  Whenever we would visit her there was always challah.  I would never profess to baking like my grandmother or my mother-in-law but I sure love making the effort.

Ingredients:

2 tsp dry yeast

3/4 cup plus 2 T of warm water

3 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 T honey

2 eggs beaten

4 T butter melted

poppy seeds (optional)

In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast into the water and allow about 5 minutes for it to dissolve.  Mix the flour and salt in a larger mixing bowl making a well in the center.  Once the yeast has dissolved pour it into the well and draw just enough flour into the water and yeast to form a soft paste.

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and allow it to sponge for about 20 minutes until it’s frothy and risen.

Add the honey, beaten eggs, and melted butter to the flour well. Mix in the flour to form a soft dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic and shiny.  About 10 minutes.

From shaggy to smooth and shiny.

Put the dough into a lightly buttered bowl turning the dough once to coat the top.  Cover with your towel and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size, one and a half to two hours.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.  Divide the dough into three equal balls and, with your hands, roll each piece to form a rope about 16 inches long.  I weigh my dough sections out in an attempt to make them more equal in size.  Otherwise I end up with a fat strand and a skinny one.  Braid the strands together tucking in both ends.  Put the braid on a lightly buttered baking sheet or use a sheet of parchment paper.

Cover the braid with a towel and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Whisk together one egg yolk and 1 T of water and brush the egg wash over the braid.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds if you choose.  Preheat your oven to 350.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden and hollow  sounding when tapped underneath.

Cool on a wire rack, slice, and enjoy.  This bread makes excellent toast and French toast.

NOTE:  I think I have a little edge in the bread baking department because I always use my grandmother’s bread bowls.  I think she would be happy about that.

If anyone is interested in the bread book I referenced, the authors are Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno and the title of the book is Ultimate Bread.  Happy bread baking.

 

Lace Oat Cookies with Hazelnuts

A few years ago my daughter gave me a cookbook for Christmas called Nordic Bakery.

I’ve made several recipes from this book including the one pictured on the cover (Blueberry Tart with rye base) as well as some excellent savory dishes like their Vegetable and Blue Cheese Tart which I’ve made several times.  It’s a very interesting collection of recipes.  For some time I’ve been wanting to try these Lace cookies.  I had visions of shaping them into a bowl and adding a small scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and berries.  Or rolling them into logs.  Neither of those things happened.  Maybe next time.  While they are definitely delicious, I found these a little extra challenging.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter melted

2 T heavy cream

Drizzle of honey

1/2 cup caster sugar

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 T AP flour

1/4 cup raisins chopped

2 oz dark, bittersweet chocolate chopped

1/2 cup hazelnuts chopped

Reading the ingredients you may ask, “what is caster sugar?”  It is superfine sugar.  I didn’t have any, so I made my own using my coffee grinder.

Preheat your oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Make sure your chocolate, nuts, and raisins are all chopped.

Put the melted butter, cream and honey in a small bowl and mix well.

In a larger bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together.  Pour the butter mixture into the bowl and stir well.

Drop one tablespoon of the batter per cookie onto the prepared baking sheet.  The cookies will spread.  I did four cookies per sheet.  Seems silly, I know.  But trust me.  Four cookies per sheet.  Also, flatten them out a bit with a fork before baking.

Bake until golden brown, between 5-10 minutes.  Check on them after 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.  This will allow them to set up properly as they cool.

The book suggested creating shapes before the cookies have cooled by laying them over a cup (or small bowl) or draping them over a rolling pin and letting them set up.  I think my inability to shape my cookies was a lack of patience.  I slid the cookies off of the baking sheet and allowed them to cool on a wire rack making it difficult to even get them off the rack intact.  Next time I will be more patient.  The book also suggests storing them in an airtight container with greaseproof paper between each cookie.  Mine remain “stored” on the wire cooling rack and they get munched on as we walk by.

NOTE:  This recipe makes about a dozen cookies.  It also calls for 1 oz of white chocolate and 1 oz of dark chocolate.  I had no white chocolate so I used all dark chocolate.  The next time I make these I will be patient and shape them.  And when I do I will come back here and post more pictures.

Jane’s Shortbread Chocolate Chunk Cookies

More pandemic baking.  I got this recipe from my friend Jane, hence the blog title.  Everyone in my family who has eaten these cookies loves them.  They are a little bit sweet, a little bit salty.  Not too soft, not too crunchy.  I like them better with no chocolate, but I did all chocolate when I baked these.  They’re very easy to make and the dough can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to bake.  If you like warm cookies best, just bake a few at a time.  Every house has at least one Cookie Monster and these will be big hit.

Ingredients:

18 T cold, salted butter (2 1/4 sticks)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups AP flour

6 oz semi-sweet or bitter-sweet dark chocolate chopped

1 large egg beaten

Demerara sugar for rolling

Salt flakes for topping

Cut the cold butter into 1/2” pieces.  Put the cubed butter, granulated and brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Using the paddle attachment beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on low speed slowly add the flour followed by the chocolate chunks.   Beat just to blend.

I happened to have mini chocolate chips so I used those.  If the only chocolate chips you have are regular size, chop them up a bit.  Or chop a 6 oz block of semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate.  Slicing the cookie dough will be much easier with smaller pieces of chocolate.  Once the dough is mixed divide it in half.  Place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap or wax paper and form the dough into a log about 2” in diameter.  Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Brush each of the rolls with the egg wash and roll in the Demerara sugar for delicious crispy edges.  Demerara sugar is raw, brown granulated sugar.  I used coarse sparkling sugar because it’s what I had.

Slice into 1/2” thick rounds and place about a half inch apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each cookie with a few salt flakes.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack and enjoy!

NOTE:  These are excellent with no chocolate.  At least from my perspective.  I put 4 cookies per zip lock bag and freeze them.  Perfect to pull out when you have a craving for something sweet.  Like I mentioned earlier, the dough can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen.  Make a double batch if you want to do half with chocolate, half without.

Sour Dough Bread

I’ve always enjoyed baking bread and often use the dough hook on my mixer to do the kneading.  But, during this pandemic, I have been doing an awful lot of bread making and kneading by hand.  Punching that dough can be therapeutic plus none of us are able to go to the gym so I’m thinking it also counts as exercise.  As my daughter said, sometimes you just have the need to knead.  Amazingly enough I have never made sour dough bread so this was a first for me.  But you can’t just wake up in the morning and say I’m going to make sour dough bread.  You have to plan ahead and start a starter.  A few days ahead.  But right now we are all on orders to stay at home so I have nothing but time.  My friend Jane gave me her recipes for the sourdough starter and the bread.  This bread recipe is Viola Tibbets’ Sourdough White Bread.  I think the recipe has been around a long, long time.  Step one is make your starter.  You’ll need a good size glass or ceramic bowl.  I have a perfect enameled metal bowl that I was going to use but after I googled it I decided against using a metal bowl.

Starter Ingredients:

1 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

2 T sugar

1 T vinegar

1 tsp salt

2 cups AP flour

2 cups warm water

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.  Add the next four ingredients and add the 2 cups of warm water.

Cover the bowl loosely and allow it to stand in a warm place for two or three days to ferment.  I just laid a piece of wax paper over the top.  It will be bubbly and sour when it’s ready.  Actually kind of gross, slimy, and smelly.

Your sourdough starter can be kept alive by replacing the starter you use with the same measurements of flour and water called for in the recipe.  For instance, my recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of starter so I added 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups of water to the remaining starter.  Your starter can be kept indefinitely but you need to use it at least once a week for it to stay alive, just like the BeeGees song.  You can put the starter in a glass jar and refrigerate.  Just remember to use it or remove some of the starter and feed it once a week.  Now that you have this sour, kind of gross starter ready, you can move on to making your bread.

Bread Ingredients:

1 cup hot tap water

3 T sugar

2 T butter

2 1/4 tsp of dry yeast (or 1 cake of yeast)

1 1/2 cups of starter

4-5 cups of unbleached or AP flour

2 tsp salt

Dissolve your yeast in 2 T of warm water.  Set aside.  Measure your butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and pour hot water over them.  Stir and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.  Once the mixture has cooled add the yeast, starter, two cups of flour and salt.

Using a wooden spoon beat to blend the ingredients.   Stir in the remaining flour to make a firm dough.  The dough will look shaggy.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a nice smooth, elastic dough.

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean dish towel.  I never expect anyone to actually use a dirty dish towel, but recipes I read always suggest a clean towel so I’m just following suit.  Put the dough in a cold oven to rise until the dough has doubled in bulk.  My oven has a proof setting, but Viola’s recipe specifically said a cold oven.

Punch the dough down, cover with that same clean towel, and let it rise for another half hour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  Divide the dough into two parts.  I did two round loaves and put them on a parchment lined sheet pan.  If you prefer you can lightly grease two loaf pans and shape the dough accordingly.

Again the towel.  Cover  the loaves and put them back into the cold oven and allow them to rise until double in bulk, about an hour.

Remove the loaves from the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.  Once the oven reaches 400 return the loaves to the hot oven and bake for 35 minutes.

I say 35 minutes but the original recipe said 50 minutes.  I set my timer for 40  because I always like to check on progress early.  Well, 40 minutes was at least 5 too long.  The tops of my loaves were burnt.  Not to a crisp.  But burnt.

So lesson learned.  The bread tastes great minus that top crust. My friend just baked some for 35 minutes.  And you can see what a difference 5 minutes makes!

I fed my starter and put it in a quart jar in the refrigerator for next time.

I will try this again soon but I will be watching my bake time very carefully.  I made avocado toast this morning and it was perfect!

NOTE:  The longer you keep your sour dough starter around the more your bread will have that distinctive flavor.  This starter was only two days old so the flavor is very “white bread”.  Also, unlike this recipe, many sourdough bread recipes use only the starter and no additional active dry or cake yeast.  The starter itself is what makes the dough rise.  There is plenty of information online to help answer your questions about feeding and maintaining a sourdough starter.

Wacky Cake

During this Coronavirus Pandemic we are all spending more time on the internet.  Food has become a preoccupation and, if we aren’t cooking, we’re on line looking for recipes.   A week or so ago I came across a post with this recipe for Wacky Cake.  This particular version is from a cookbook called “Really Cookin” by Carol Ferguson.  Credit where credit is due.  I messaged this recipe to my friend Georgia and asked if this was the same recipe she uses.  She said yes.  She has been making this cake for years and she always doubles the recipe.  It’s one of their family favorites.  The recipe was created as a result of rationing during World War II when milk and eggs were scarce.  If you research the recipe it’s also called Crazy Cake, World War II Cake, and Depression Cake.  One of the few cake recipes I’ve seen that has you use an ungreased pan and actually has you mix the cake right in the pan.  I did make a double batch  so that I could share one pan with our neighbors.  I mixed it in my mixing bowl and divided the batter between two ungreased pans.  But I get the logic of mixing the batter right in the pan…much less cleanup.

Ingredients Doubled:

3 cups AP flour

2 cups sugar

6 T cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 T white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups warm water (or coffee…I used coffee)

No mixer.  No bowl.  Simple directions.  Get out one 9×13 pan or 2 8×8 pans.  Or don’t double and just use one 8×8 pan if you want less cake to tempt you.  Preheat your oven to 350.  Combine all of your dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a whisk or a fork.

Once the dry ingredients have been mixed, level off the top and make three wells.  Pour your oil in one, your vinegar in one and your vanilla in one.

Now pour your warm water or coffee over everything and mix thoroughly with a fork or whisk.

Put your pans in the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes.

Once the cake is done remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack,

When your cake has cooled completely you can dust with powdered sugar or ice with a ganache or a chocolate  buttercream.  I used a chocolate butter cream.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  I can’t eat chocolate but I’m thinking this might also be good with a peanut butter icing or a vanilla butter cream.  I substituted warm leftover coffee for the water because I’m told that coffee brings out the rich chocolate flavors.

Would really have to search to find a cake recipe easier than this one.  And it will be perfect during our Coronavirus Pandemic if you are short of eggs and/or milk.

 

Oatmeal Bread

More pandemic bread making.  I am using one of the last envelopes of yeast my neighbor was kind enough to share with me.  Yeast and flour are extremely hard to come by right now.  I’ve never before had trouble finding yeast on the grocery store shelves.  Apparently toilet paper isn’t the only thing people are hoarding. A friend messaged me a couple days ago after finding a jar of yeast in her freezer which had a 2013 expiration date on it.  She wanted to know if I thought it was still good.  I sent her a link with instructions for testing the yeast to see if it would still work.  Testing is really very simple.  You put a little yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and it should start bubbling after a few minutes.  If it bubbles, you’re good to go.  Amazingly her yeast was still good.  Freezing or refrigerating dry yeast lengthens its shelf life as long as it is in an airtight container.  Cake yeast should not be frozen.  But truthfully, I haven’t seen cake yeast in years!!

Back to my oatmeal bread.  This recipe is one that I found years ago in the food section of a local newspaper.  It’s a hearty, dense bread.  Easy to make. The brown sugar and whole wheat flour give it a bit of a sweet molasses like flavor.  We toasted some this morning and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 T salt

2 T butter

2 cups boiling water

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

4 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl, pouring the boiling water over the butter and dry ingredients.  Stir and set aside until it cools to lukewarm.

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.  Once the oatmeal mixture has cooled, add the yeast.  If it is too hot it will kill the yeast so make sure you’ve allowed it to cool sufficiently.  Start stirring in the 4 cups of AP flour and the 1/2 cup of wheat flour.  You’ll have a shaggy dough.

Empty the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add a little additional flour if necessary.  After kneading you should have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel.  This bowl belonged to my grandmother who regularly made pulla (a Finnish braided bread with cardamom) and limpu (a Finnish rye bread).  Over the years I watched lots of bread dough rise in that bowl making it extra special to me.

Put the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until it is double in size.  Many new ovens have a proof setting that you can use to speed the rise process a bit.

Punch the dough down and divide into two loaves.  You can shape them into standard loaves and put them in greased pans or shape them in rounds on a parchment covered sheet pan.  Whatever your shape preference.  Cover with a towel and allow the dough to once again double.  While your dough is rising preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the pans and allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack.  Slice and enjoy. There’s nothing like homemade bread.  The ultimate comfort food.

NOTE:  This dough can be made using the dough hook on your KitchenAid.  But I think hand kneading is much more satisfying.  As my daughter says, sometimes you just have the need to knead.  If you keep making bread during this pandemic, it becomes important and necessary to share it with someone.

Babka

During this Coronavirus pandemic many of us have been busy cooking and baking. The stores, at least temporarily, are out of yeast and flour. Fortunately we had a small stockpile. Last week my friend Jane and I were on voluntary quarantine with my daughter in Chicago. We decided baking bread was a good project to pass the time. Our first loaf of bread was an herb loaf that we apparently allowed to rise too long. It fell during baking and, while it tasted okay hot out of the oven, it was too dense and it later became croutons. A second batch of dough didn’t want to rise at all. We tried deep frying dough balls to simulate donut holes on the theory that anything tastes good deep fried. Wrong. Everything does not taste good deep fried. Our “donut holes” were overcooked on the outside and raw in the center. Even liberal dosing with cinnamon sugar didn’t help. Then we decided to make a Babka. Babka is a traditional Polish Jewish bread. In Polish Babka means old lady or grandmother. If I was a grandmother I wouldn’t mind being called Babka. Soft and sweet and smelling of cinnamon and vanilla. Babka is thought to have originated in the early 1800s when extra challah dough would be spread with cinnamon or jelly and rolled up before baking. The recipe we used is a King Arthur Cinnamon Babka recipe with golden raisins and pecans. Last week we made an initial babka run. I failed at reading the instructions correctly and we cut the dough wrong. It still tasted great! Once I got back home I made another loaf of babka. This time I knew how to properly cut the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 cups (361g) AP flour

2 tsp instant yeast

1/4 tsp cinnamo

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

5 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all of your dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, starting with the lesser amount of water. With a wooden spoon mix all of the ingredients together until everything is moistened. If necessary add more of the water until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough is quite puffy.

While your dough is rising make your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tsp cinnamon

1 T AP flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup diced pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins


Just before you’re ready to shape the dough combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir in the water and melted butter. Set aside.

Once the dough has risen place it on a clean, lightly floured surface and shape into a 9” by 18” rectangle that should be about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is fighting you let it rest about 10 minutes, then stretch some more. I used my hands to shape the dough.

Smear the dough with the filling coming to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with the nuts and raisins.

Starting with the short end roll the dough gently into a log sealing the seam and ends.

Using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise, not crosswise.  You should have two pieces of dough, each about 10” long.  Take care to prevent too much filling from spilling out.  With the filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath.  Place the twisted loaf into a lightly greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.  Cover the loaf and let it rise until very puffy and crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Toward the end of the rise time preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now the bread is ready for the oven.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil during the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.  The loaf should be a deep golden brown and the internal temperature should be about 195.

Remove the babka from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula or kitchen knife.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  King Arthur suggests a topping (also known as supreming) consisting of:

2 T AP flour

1 T brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 T cold butter

Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the loaf before rising.  

I used the topping on one loaf but not on the other.  We also omitted the raisins in the first loaf.  As with so many recipes, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  

It seems like it would make excellent French toast but I haven’t tried that.  It is excellent briefly warmed in the microwave or oven.