Bebe uskrsne Primorski (Easter Bread babies)

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I am participating in a lot of challenges lately. Not that I mind, though! I have joined the bakers from Bake the World a while ago but so far I hadn’t been able to join in the fun for various reasons. When I discovered what they had in store for March’s challenge, I knew I didn’t want to miss out.

This unusual Croatian bread (unusual for me, at least) is similar to other sweet breads baked around the world for Easter. Eggs, too, play an important part in the symbology.

I looked up many recipes (in various languages) but finally decided on the one by Ana, whose beautiful blog won’t see the last of me. 

I followed her recipe quite faithfully although I halved the recipe, the only minor change I made to the ingredients was to substitute part of the milk with water to get a fluffier dough (it was a dream!). As for the method, I changed it slightly: I melted the butter in the lukewarm milk and then added it to the dry ingredients alternating with the beaten egg. My facilities are a bit limited so I didn’t dry the eggs (also because the ones I had weren’t white so I left them as Nature intended them to be). With the leftover dough I am now making some off-seasonal Stollen as I find the dough to be similar (you’ll have to wait till Christmas to see the photos!).

 Bebe uskrsne Primorski (Anna’s recipe)

 Makes 2 loaves, 12 bread dolls or 1 loaf and 6 bread dolls

2 cups milk, scalded and then cooled to room temperature

2 packages active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 eggs or 6 egg yolks, beaten

½ cup butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Over medium heat, heat milk until small bubbles appear on the surface.  Remove from burner and allow to cool – the milk should still be warm but not hot.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the milk, stir gently to combine and set aside to proof until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, butter, sugar and salt at a medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Begin adding the flour one cup at a time, alternating with roughly half a cup of the milk and yeast mixture.  Repeat this until you have added 4 cups of flour and all of the liquid.  After this point, begin adding ¼ to ½ cup of flour at a time, waiting until all of the flour is fully incorporated into the dough before adding more.  Stop adding flour when the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl (you may or may not use all 6 cups of flour).  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times into a smooth, round ball.  Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and set in a draft-free area of your kitchen until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours.

When the dough has risen, punch the centre and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.  Separate dough into the required pieces, depending if you are making loaves or dolls, or both (each loaf and doll requires 3 balls of dough to braid).  Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Braid the dough, following the pictures above (for the dolls, wrap the eggs in the dough as tightly as possible so that the eggs don’t fall out when finished baking) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg, 2 tablespoons of water) and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes before baking.  Bake until the tops are golden and the bottom is light brown, around 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

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Sweet bread for an indulgent weekend brunch

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This is something I have been wanting to post for a while.

The recipe belongs to Blanca Cotta, a sweet lady from whom I learnt my first chops in the kitchen… via a children’s magazine and who gave me that love for cooking and, most importantly, she taught me that cooking can be a blast, it can be fun and it can truly become a passion and a way of life as it happened to me.

Anyway, Blanca now has her own blog and I have had the immense satisfaction of being able to tell her all of this.

I have made many recipes of hers over the years and her books are the ones that I keep coming back to, the empanadas and the dulce de leche everyone knows in London are made from her recipes (why tweak what is really a perfect recipe?).

The recipe I am posting about now is that of a sweet bread, I have had the recipes for many, many years and one day I just said: “Today’s the day to make it”. It is a sweet bread, not unlike panettone or Stollen only that it doesn’t have any fruits or nuts to enrich it. Instead, it has a wonderful, crunchy, Streusel topping which makes it perfect for brunch or breakfast when you really want to indulge.

Streuselkuchen by Blanca Cotta

Dissolve 50g fresh yeast (remember to halve this quantity if using dry yeast) in ½ cup of warm milk (I use the ones with 250 cc capacity), add 3 tbsp sugar, pinch of salt and leave to rest, covered for 5 minutes. Then add 2 beaten eggs, zest of 1 lemon and 2 ½ cups flour, alternating with 6 tbsp of melted butter. Once the ingredients have been mixed, topple over the worktop (scattered with flour) and knead quite energetically  for at least 15 minutes. Then place the dough in a bowl (previously greased with melted butter), cover it and leave in a warm place to double in size. Then roll out the dough in a suitable tray (you can see in the photo I used a regular oven tray, the only one I had), leaving it 1 cm thick. Leave it again to prove, covered while you make the topping.

For the topping: mix 100g cold butter diced small, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of flour. Avoid using your hands (I use a scraper for this).

Once the dough has risen again, brush it generously with more melted butter and add the topping.

Bake it in a moderate oven (180°C or so) until it has puffed up, become golden and your whole house smells divine!

You can see that, despite what I said above, I tweaked this recipe a little bit. The first time I made it, I did it with the regular Streusel topping I’ve just described but having both read Nigella’s version in Nigella Bites and realising I had some flaked almonds and frozen berries in the freezer, I just couldn’t resist… Enjoy! If you try it, you  will thank me….

Hotel Transylvania

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Or, more accurately garlic bread… chez moi. But not just any old garlic bread. For one, these are Russian rolls with a garlic glaze. For another, if you do them my way, they will also have a garlic heart to top. How about that?

I’ve been wanting to make pampushki (for that’s their real name) ever since I saw them included in the menu of the relatively new  Mari Vanna. Now, I have yet to visit that restaurant and sample their menu but the mere description of what a pampushki was (garlic bread roll) was sufficient to make me want to make them at home.

Last week I got my fortnightly box delivery from Abe & Cole. It has changed the way I eat for the better. You certainly don’t get veggies like that in the supermarket! Anyway, among the goodies I found a big fat garlic head (massive!) so I set to the task.

 

My thoughts on these little guys are the following:

 

I thought the dough was pretty much the standard bread dough (when you make it with milk). Personally, I like to use 50% milk and 50% water as that makes the dough less dense.

 

I also bumped across some versions where they “glazed” the pampushki in what appear to be Coca-Cola. I didn’t have any handy so I skipped that part.

 

Some recipes I found called for a garlic “sauce” or puree. I personally I like it a lot so I did some with some of the garlic puree inside the dough as well as outside. If you are going to make them with the garlic puree inside the dough, omit the salt when making the basic dough (the garlic puree has more than enough in it). If not, don’t forget to add it!

 

Basically, they are bread rolls with some aioli paste brushed on top.

 

ПАМПУШКИ (Pampushki)

 

Adapted and translated from the Russian by yours truly

 

For the pampushki you will need:

Yeast – 1 tsp.
Milk 250ml
Flour – 2 – 2.5 glasses (1 glass is 250ml)
Melted butter or oil – 2 tbsp
Sugar – 1 – 2 tsp.
Salt – 1 tsp.

For the garlic sauce you will need:

Garlic – 6 cloves
salt – 1 tsp

Melted butter – 1 tbsp
Water – 1 tbsp

 

For the starter:

 

Put the yeast, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour in a little bowl. Add a little tepid water. Cover with clingfilm and leave until it bubbles.

 

For the garlic paste:

 

Put 1-2 tbsp salt in the pestle and mortar. Add the garlic cloves and crush them in. Add a little melted butter (or oil) to amalgamate everything to a smooth paste. Set one half of the paste aside.

Add a little water and oil to the other half to make it runnier. Set aside.

 

Heat the milk, butter and sugar. Don’t let it boil. Set aside to cool a little.

 

Once the yeast has fermented, put the flour in a bowl or on a worktop. Make a well in the middle and add the starter and the milk with the melted butter inside. Knead well until you have a soft, elastic dough. Cover and leave until it doubles in size.

 

To make traditional pampushki:

 

Once the rolls have baked and are still warm from the oven, glaze the tops by holding them upside down and dipping them in the garlic paste.

 

To make my version:

 

Once the dough has risen for the first time, punch it down and add the other half of the garlic paste.  Form the rolls and leave to rise for a second time in the tray in which you will bake them. Glaze the tops with some egg yolk mixed with a little water. Bake in a moderate oven until the rolls sound hollow when tapped. Glaze with the garlic paste as above. Depending on how much you like garlic, you might find you need more than 6 garlic cloves for the garlic paste. For me 6 was more than enough.

 

Приятного вам аппетита!

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Unplugged bread

So what happens when your internet connection goes down with a bang? I for one start baking. Making bread is such an excellent therapy and it keeps me from getting anxious because, like it or not, I use the internet for absolutely  everything: communicating with friends, talking, e-mails, doing research, you name it, I need it, with the possible exception of cooking and reading and other minor things of course.

When I found myself internet-less so to speak, I started rummaging my cupboard to see what I had.

This is how I normally come up with recipes: I gather the ingredients I have at hand and I start to play around.

This was the result:


Wholemeal rustic bread


750g strong wholemeal flour

250g strong white flour

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar or 1 tsp honey

1 tbsp. Marmite

tepid water, as needed

25-50g butter

14g instant yeast (2 sachets)


For the sponge:

In a little bowl put the yeast, the honey or sugar, a pinch of flour and just enough water to make a thick paste. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until it starts to foam.

Dough:

When it does, put the flours on the table worktop, make a well in the centre and add the fermented yeast, the soft butter, the Marmite, the salt and gradually add enough tepid water to form a dough. Knead for 15 minutes then leave in a greased bowl to prove,  covered, until it has doubled in size.

Shape the bread, leave to prove again and bake in a moderate oven until it is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.


To make grissini:

Once the dough has doubled in size, take little portions of it, and shape them into thin, long sticks, place them on the tray where you’re planning to bake them and leave them for a little while (they won’t prove but they will puff up nicely).

Bake them in a hot oven until they are golden and crispy.

Domestic Therapy


It certainly is therapeutic to bake your own bread, and so rewarding afterwards! I’ve said it before but there’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread.

I am trying to bake healthy stuff from time to time. This bread certainly is, with wholewheat flour, oats, honey, berries and nuts there is nothing you shouldn’t eat in them!



Raspberry Bread – © Gabriela R.

25g  yeast

500ml lukewarm water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. honey

100g oats

500g wholewheat flour

200g strong flour

100g raspberries

100g coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

100g coarsely chopped hazelnuts (optional)

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in a little water, then add the honey. You should have a thick paste. Cover it with a tea towel or cling film and leave it in a warm place to prove.

In another bowl mix the oats and the flours,  make a hole in the center and add the proved yeast and then the water, little by little. Be careful because you might need less water than you think. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Knead the dough  for about 5 minutes and then add the salt. Knead 10 minutes more.

Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour. When the dough has proved, add the raspberries and the nuts, if using.

Form around 20 buns, place them on baking trays lined with baking paper, cover with tea towels and let them rise again for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Sprinkle the loaves with water and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm with some Danish blue.



This post is for my dear friend, Ela, who gave me the thumbs up when she tried them!


The Impossible Bread

 

 

 

Once upon a time, in a tiny, non-existent kitchen…

 

I mean, I only have a small electric oven, two hobs and a sink. That’s it. Compared to that, Julie Powell’s kitchen was huge.

Let me tell you something: I have recently moved into a new place and let’s be clear: I am absolutely thrilled with it. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Nothing? Well… almost.

It hasn’t got a worktop to do the cooking, you see? Zilch. Zero. Nada. No worktop at all. Desperate situation, right?

I had friends for brunch the other day and despite my kitchen situation I wanted to treat them to homemade bread. I am passionate about it. So much so that I own several books on bread alone. So having nowhere to knead it wasn’t going to stop me. It wasn’t a laugh to make olive bread there. Still, I managed. I mean, I have worked in places where the space was very limited. Like in, two in the kitchen is OK three are too many. But this is a joke.

  

Olive and fennel seed bread – © Gabriela R. 

  

700g strong white bread flour

7g dried yeast (double if using fresh yeast)

½ tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and crushed (optional)

2 tsp olive oil

7 tbsp black olives

250ml tepid water (you might need extra)

  

Whether you use dry or fresh the procedure is the same. Put the yeast in a small bowl with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour to feed it (about 1 tsp. each). Add very little water, just enough to make a thick paste. It doesn’t have to be too liquid. Cover it and leave it in a warm place to prove. When it starts to bubble, sieve the flour into a big bowl and make a hole in the centre. Pour the yeast into it and add the water gradually, while you work the flour with your hands to make a very sticky dough. The more you knead it, the more elastic it will become. There is no absolute rule about how long to knead or how many ‘turns’ to give the dough, it depends on feel. Hard flours require more work, they will stay grainy in texture for longer. It is usually thought that 10 minutes of vigorous hand kneading is sufficient. A soft brown flour will probably take only half the time.

When you have a smooth dough, make a hole in it and add the oil. Then brace yourself for the miracle. It will have turned into pizza dough! Right at the end, add the salt. You should never ever, whatever you do (and even if other recipe books say so), put the yeast and the salt together. They have opposite effects, you see? The salt is added to the bread for flavour but it does retard the proving process. Once you are happy with your dough, leave it next to a warm place in an oiled bowl, covered, to prove until it doubles in size. Meanwhile, place the fennel seeds in a clean pan and lightly toast them. Then crush them in a pestle and mortar. When you are ready to knock the air off it again, add the drained olives and the fennel seeds. Shape the bread and leave to prove again, covered. Bake in a 200C oven. 

The fennel seeds are optional because, frankly, I don’t think they add anything to the taste or texture of the bread. So do as you please. 

Later that day…

 

 

 

Tomato and basil bruschetta – © Gabriela R.

 

What could I do with such lovely, freshly made bread? A tomato and fresh basil bruschetta with Maldon sea salt on fresh, toasted olive bread with a drizzle of olive oil. Heaven! 

 

And now… the nerdy comment:

FERMENTATION

The starches present in the flour are broken into simple sugars, which then act as food for the yeast. The yeast “eats” the sugar and expels carbon dioxide and alcohol in the process. This feeding cycle continues until the yeast runs out of sugar, or until the bread is baked. The alcohol dissipates during the baking process.

I dedicate this post to my friend Amal, in lieu of the bread we didn’t have time to make in Reims.

 

Having lunch the Swedish way

 

 A Swedish lunch

 

 Yes, frozen fries and yes, shop-bought sausages (although flown in from Sweden).

What makes this lunch so special is the knäckebröd (lit. “bread that cracks”) at the back and this really, really fresh mayonnaise (just made by yours truly).

Let me tell you, after having made a bucket load of mayo with 30 yolks (which I separated myself) nothing tastes as gloriously delicious as a plate full of chips (my friend must be telepathic) with a dollop of the mayo you just made. If you don’t believe me, try it.

I know you can separate the yolks using the broken egg shells but I do it the Nigella way: using my hands I pass the yolk back and forth between the palms of my hands until all the egg white has squeezed out and only the yolk remains.

Do it in a small separate bowl, one egg white at a time just in case the yolk breaks. This way you won’t have to ruin the 30-odd egg whites should you want to use them for meringues or any other egg-white- only concoction.

Once made, you can enrich this mayonnaise with either lemon or lime juice to taste  (for my serving I added a generous squeeze of lemon juice).

Because I was making such a huge batch I played it by ear, as I do most of the time. I am giving you a few recipes with proper quantities, though.

I also used Swedish mustard to do this mayonnaise (English mustard is too strong but Dijon mustard is OK).

As for the vinegar, whatever you do, use red wine vinegar NOT white.

The sausages, by the way, are fried falukorv, not unlike German frankfurters.

 What you see, almost at the back of the plate is Swedish knäckebröd.

My Swedish dictionary gives the translation of knäck [knek:] knäcken knäckar  as “to break” so I was right in my assumption that the name meant more “crack” as in “cracking” than crisp bread as it is normally referred to in English.

When you roll it out, really thin, please consider using a pasta machine to do this if you have one; it will save you many a headache. Once it’s baked and has cooled down, just break it into big, irregular pieces and serve as canapés with some smoked salmon, sour cream and dill. 

Another great idea for serving is spreading some ricotta (not much!) and top with smoked salmon and grated lemon zest.

These traditional crispbreads were originally made with a hole in the centre so that they could be hung over the oven to keep dry. Nowadays, they keep well in an airtight container knäckebröd is also sometimes made with rolled oats, in a similar way to Scottish pancakes.

Knäckebröd  (Swedish crisp bread) – adapted from Swedish Food and Cooking by Anna Mosesson

Makes 15

 600ml/1 pint/2 ½ cups milk

50g/2oz fresh yeast (use half the quantity if using dry yeast)

565g/1 1/4 lb/5 cups rye flour plus

225g/8oz/2 cups for dusting

565g/1 1/4 lb/5 cups  strong white bread flour

10ml/2 tsp caraway or cumin seeds

5ml/1 tsp. salt

 

  1. Put the milk in a pan and heat gently until warm to the touch. Remove from the heat. In a bowl, blend the yeast with a little of the warmed milk. Add the remaining milk then add the rye flour, bread flour, caraway or cumin seeds and salt and mix together to form a dough.
  2. Using the rye flour for dusting, turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 2 minutes. Cut the dough into 15 equal pieces then roll out each piece into a thin, flat round. Place on a baking sheets and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Using the rye flour, roll out the pieces of dough again into very thin, flat rounds. Return to the baking sheets. Make a pattern on the surface using a fork or a knife.
  4. Bake the breads in the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning after about 5 minutes, until hard and crispy. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Store the breads in an airtight container.

 

Tip: great used for canapés, just cracked and some smoked salmon and sour cream with dill on top. 

Another tip: The Swedes use a special rolling pin with a knobbly surface to create the distinctive texture of this hard bread. An ordinary rolling pin is a good substitute, with the speckled texture created with the head of a fork or a knife end.

 

Mayonnaise (all the varieties you can possibly imagine) 

Very easy and good mayonnaise adapted from the Mosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

Yields 3 ½ cups

 

 Beat together in blender:

 ½ cup vinegar (you can use part, or all, lemon or lime juice)

1 tsp. honey

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. tamari

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

gradually drizzle in 2 ½ cups mixed olive and sunflower oil (or one, or the other) while blender is still running in a trickle and continuously.

The mayonnaise will become thick as the oil s drizzled in.

As soon as it is thick, stop beating it (or it will thin again. Strange, but  true).

Taste to adjust seasonings.

 

Another mayo – adapted from a recipe in Leith’s Cookery Bible

 

2 egg yolks

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 tsp. dry English mustard

290ml olive oil or 150ml each olive and salad oil

squeeze of lemon juice

1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

 

1)      Place the yolks and the mustard with a pinch of salt in a bowl and beat well.

2)      Add the oil in a thick trickle. The mixture should be quite thick by the time half of the oil is added.

3)      Beat in the lemon juice.

4)      Resume pouring the oil, very slowly, alternating oil with vinegar.

5)      Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

 

If it curdles, whisk another yolk in a separate bowl and add it to the curdled mayonnaise drop by drop.

 

Variations:

 

Dill mayo: add chopped dill, to taste, to the mayo.

Mustard mayo: mix mustard to the mayo.

Parsley and lemon mayo: mayonnaise, chopped parley, lemon juice and/or lemon zest.

Green mayo 1: add ½ cup chopped parsley and/or ½ cup chopped chives.

Sesame mayo: use 2 ¼ cups safflower oil PLUS ¼ cup sesame oil.

Sauce Marie Rose (or as I have always known it, golf sauce): mix ketchup to the mayo.

Chilli mayo: mix Japanese chilli sauce to mayonnaise.

Avocado mayonnaise: mash avocado and mix to mayo use for grilled chicken club sandwiches.

Basil mayonnaise: smash up a small handful of fresh basil and mix it in the mayonnaise. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste.

 

Soy mayonnaise – adapted from Yoshuku by Jane Lawson

2 tsp. white miso

½ tsp. Japanese soy sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed

125g (4 ½ oz ½ cup Japanese mayonnaise)

 

To make the soy mayonnaise :

Mix the miso, soy sauce and garlic until smooth and then whisk into the mayo and set aside.

 

 

Green mayonnaise version 2 – adapted from Leiths Cookery Bible

 

1 bunch watercress

290ml mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

1)      Pick over watercress to remove the stalks and yellowed leaves. Blanch and refresh. Dry thoroughly and chop very finely.

2)      Add to the mayonnaise and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Note: cooked and well-drained spinach can be used instead of watercress. *

 

How to cook spinach without boiling it 

I know boiling spinach is boring and, in addition, it takes all the nutrients away. Plus, when it comes to squeeze it, it doesn’t matter how much you do it, there is still plenty of water coming out.

* Note to the note: you can also put a packet of spinach in the freezer and forget about it. (very low temperatures also cook food as was demonstrated by the liquid nitrogen (see this post) Take it out of the freezer but DO NOT open the package. Simply rub it in your hands until it’s sort of pulverized. Presto! You have cooked, chopped spinach with a fraction of the effort!