Sweet Rolls with Cardamom and Orange Glaze

rolls with CardamomSweet

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

When I began my first year away at college, I had heard about the dreaded “freshman fifteen”. It’s that bizarre anomaly that occurs the first time students go away to college and experience eating in the campus cafeteria where there’s not much that’s healthy, low calorie or pleasant tasting. Legend has it that most freshman will pack on fifteen pounds their first year. And sure enough, it happened to me. My mother claimed that when I came home for my winter break she hardly recognized me.

So do you know what the culprit was…Sweet Rolls. It was the one thing that the cafeteria at Rider University served that was actually edible. I used to eat them in mass quantities. So much so that the cafeteria ladies used to hide trays of them when they saw me coming so there would something left over for the other students. So that folks was how I began my lifelong obsession with the Sweet Roll.

Today I made these Sweet Rolls with Cardamom and Orange Glaze. This is not an overly sweet treat, they’re definitely more a roll than a pastry. I like to add cardamom which gives the roll a spicy-sweet taste and pairs very well with the orange glaze.

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom rising in the pan

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom 

Adapted from the LA Times

  • 2 packages of active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons, softened butter
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (or brown ones, doesn’t matter) re-hydrated
  • 1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts or I used pistachios)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

  1. Place 1/2 cup of warm water (between 105-115 degrees F) in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir it to dissolve it and let it sit to get foamy.
  2. Take your raisins and place them in a bowl covered in warm water and let them sit until you’re ready to use them. This will hydrate them and plump them up. When ready to use, drain and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. In a small pan, heat the 1/2 cup of milk until just simmering, then add the butter and stir until it’s melted. Next, stir in 2 teaspoons of the cardamom, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let this liquid mixture cool to about 110 degrees F.
  4. Pour this mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the yeast mixture to it. Using the paddle attachment, beat in the eggs one at a time.  Now, change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and add 3 cups of flour to this mixture until dough is smooth. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom to incorporate all the flour.  Add more flour in small increments until the dough starts to come together. (I ended up using about 4 1/4 cups). Mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes.  Lightly flour your surface, and with floured hands turn the dough out onto you board. Knead the dough until it becomes elastic.
  5. Take a large bowl (or large covered container) and spray it with cooking spray, or brush it lightly with oil.  Put the dough into the bowl, and turn it to coat it with the spray or oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
  6. *Side Note: once the dough has risen, you can now punch it down and cover the bowl and put in the refrigerator overnight if you wish to make the rolls fresh for the next day. If you do that, the next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit a room temperature for about an hour, punch down dough again, and roll out to make rolls.
  7. Punch down the dough, and roll it into a 20″ x 15″ rectangle. Make sure the dough is rolled out fairly thin, about 1/16″ so you don’t have overly “doughy” rolls.
  8. I melted my 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, in small time increments, just so that the butter became smooth enough to spread with a pastry brush or offset spatula but not so much that it was liquid. Spread the butter over the top of the dough. Whisk together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Sprinkle over the top of the dough. Sprinkle the raisins and nuts over the top also. Using a microplane, zest the orange over the top of the dough.
  9. Now the process may get a little tricky, so hang in there. Starting at the longer side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder. If the dough became a little sticky a lightly brushed a little flour on top of it. I took a ruler and made little slit marks every 1  1/4″ so that I cut my slices all the same width so that they would bake evenly.  Then place the cut rolls into a 9″ x 13″ buttered or sprayed baking dish. Cover with plastic and let rise until they double in size, about one hour. Place in a preheated 350 degree F oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. I rotated my pan after 15 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.
  10. To make the glaze: Sift 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl and add just enough fresh orange juice to bring the sugar to a good drizzling consistency. Mix with a whisk or fork. Drizzle over the buns. You can also sprinkle some more chopped nuts on top if you like.
Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Mama’s Tips: 

If the rolls are browning too quickly on top, cover the top lightly with a piece of foil. You still want the rolls to bake all the way through and not be doughy inside.

If your room where you’re baking is cool, while the dough is rising, I take my bowl that’s covered in plastic wrap and wrap it in a bath bowl to keep the bowl warm to encourage rising.

Many times when I’m using raisins in my baking, I will re-hydrate them to plump them up because I think they taste better. You can rehydrate them in just warm water, simple syrup, orange juice or wine. Either way, I think they come out real tasty!

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Recipe: Intermediate


Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

It’s September, and son #2 is out of the house again living the high-life as a student in Santa Barbara where he’s studying to be an EMT. It’s a hard program, so let’s all pool our positive thoughts together and send them in his direction. Thanks guys! Anyway, he’s been up there about a month, but he’s coming home this Sunday and we’ve decided to have a little brunch in his honor…cause his mama misses him so much!  My parents are coming over, because they too miss him a great deal, and his big brother, son #1 is coming, but he won’t admit how much he misses his younger brother.  Ah, kids!

I’m preparing all his favorites; homemade waffles, fresh fruit and crispy bacon. He has requested that I bake this Chocolate Chip Cornbread which he likes toasted and topped with a big slab of butter. I’ve made cornbread a million different ways, but I particularly like this one for breakfast because it’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. If you can, it’s a treat to serve it right out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

From Bon Appetit

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9″ x 5″ metal loaf pan with cooking spray, or you can use mini loaf pans or muffins tins if you wish.  Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the milk, oil and eggs.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake the cornbread until the top starts to turn a little golden, and when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. For the 9″ x 5″ pan, bake about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. The cornbread is best served warm with a little butter.
Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Mama’s Tips: 

As with all batters, mix this one just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Recipe: Easy


Shallot and Thyme Dinner Rolls

Shallot & Thyme Dinner Rolls

Shallot & Thyme Dinner Rolls

You know, here at Mama’s Gotta Bake we’re not only about the sweet and sugary. Yes, I do dream about large chocolate cakes dripping in buttercream icing, but sometimes I like to cross over to the dark side and bake something using more savory ingredients.

I had a large bag of shallots and some fresh thyme left over from a meal I made a few days ago. I happen to love the combination of these two ingredients and remembered a dinner roll recipe I found in a very British cookbook I have. I’m obsessed with baking tins and pans of all sorts, so being the wild-and-crazy girl that I am, I decided instead of making these rolls in a standard muffin tin, that I would use the dariole molds I had just gotten a week before.  Dariole molds are also called baba molds or timbales. You can find them at most cooking stores or restaurant supply stores.

Anyway, I thought for sure the family would turn up their noses at these rolls, but surprisingly they finished every last one. Who knew!
Shallot & Thyme Dinner Rolls

Shallot & Thyme Dinner Rolls

Shallot & Thyme Dinner Rolls

From “The Perfect Afternoon Tea”

  • 8 ounces shallots, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for cooking shallots
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme minced, plus additional sprigs for garnish
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 4 ounces soft herb and garlic cheese ( I used this)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place oven rack in the center position. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease 10 dariole molds (baba molds). I used these molds because I thought they would make an interesting looking roll, but you could however, just make them in a standard size muffin tin or even in mini muffin tins.
  2. Drop the shallots into a medium sized saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes and then drain. When cooled, slice the shallots into quarters.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until they are caramelized on all sides. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cool and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.
  5. In another bowl, with the mixer on medium-low, beat  together the soft cheese, milk, eggs and melted butter.  Pour into a well in the center of the dry ingredients and blend until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  6. Scrape the shallots and the liquid into the batter (reserving some to top each roll) and stir lightly.
  7. Divide the batter between the molds and fill 3/4 full. Place a shallot and some thyme sprigs on top.
  8. If using the dariole mold, bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are firm to the touch and lightly browned. If using a mini muffin tin, adjust the time accordingly. These are best served warm. To re-warm them, I just popped them in the microwave for about 20 seconds and they were great.

Makes 10 tall muffins

Caramelize your shallots

Caramelize your shallots

Mama’s Tips: 

Like most batters, do not over mix the ingredients. Mix just until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Mama just loves the combination of shallots and thyme.

Mama just loves the combination of shallots and thyme.

Recipe: Easy


Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread

Today’s post is about a tea cake with tons of fresh citrus, sweet butter and eggs. But wait…there’s more!  Act now, and you get the toasted walnuts and shiny orange glaze too. So, do I have your attention, sound good, huh?

Recently for reasons unknown to me, I decided that a 4pm each day, I was going to stop what I was doing and sit down and have a cup of tea. A quiet time to reflect on what I had accomplished in my day so far, and to contemplate what tasks were still on my agenda. It seemed so civilized to me. Certainly one couldn’t have tea without it being accompanied by a proper tea cake. One of my all-time favorites is this Orange Walnut Bread. It’s not overly sweet, and the bits of orange rind give it that fresh citrus-y flavor which compliments the earthy crunch of the toasted walnuts.

I really think that this new ritual of mine will help me to be more productive, or maybe I’m just kidding myself. Maybe it’s just another reason I’ve drummed up to eat more cake .

Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread 

  • 4 ounces of unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • grated rind of 1 large orange or 2 small oranges
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted*
  • Orange Syrup
  • Orange Glaze

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. What I find that works best is to melt a little butter and using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter inside the pan in all the nooks and crannys. Then dust it with flour, shaking out all the excess.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the 3/4 cup sugar gradually, beating until light. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and the grated orange rind. 
  3. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the batter alternately with 1/2 cup orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Gently mix in the walnuts. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Wash out your mixer bowl and dry completely. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, set on the middle rack and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until lightly golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. While cake is baking make the syrup mixture. When cake is done, using a wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cake and spoon the hot syrup over the bread. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Orange Syrup

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar

You’re going to stir together the sugar and juice in a small pan over a medium heat until it develops into a light syrup. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Orange Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 3-4 tablespoons of fresh orange juice 

Place these ingredients in a small bowl and whisk or stir with a fork until you achieve the desired consistency for the glaze.  If you like a thicker glaze add more sugar, if you prefer a thinner glaze, add more orange juice.

Orange Walnut Bread...right out of the oven

Orange Walnut Bread…right out of the oven

Mama’s Tips:

*Toasting Nuts: I always like to toast nuts when I’m adding them to baked goods. Why, you ask?  Toasting nuts releases their natural oils and gives them a deeper flavor. Toasting will make the nuts crispier too, giving your baked goods more texture. I place the nuts in a small frying pan over a medium heat. I constantly stir them with a wooden spoon because you don’t want them to burn. It takes about 6-8 minutes to toast them, you’ll start to notice a fragrant smell coming from them as they begin to toast.

Egg Whites: When beating egg whites, make sure there is no yolk in the whites or they will not become stiff. Also make sure your mixer bowl and utensils are completely clean and free of grease, butter or oil, as this will cause your egg whites not to become stiff also.

Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread

 

Orange Walnut Bread

Orange Walnut Bread

Recipe: Easy


Chocolate Brioche

Chocolate Brioche

I come from a long line of bread eaters. We’re a hearty group and we can make a meal out of bread. Meat, fish and vegetables are nice, but really we’re quite satisfied with just bread. Maybe it’s my Eastern European ancestry that makes me appreciate what one can do with a little bit of yeast and some flour. You see, we’re simple folk. I love a loaf fresh out of the oven, slathered in butter or with a dollop of marmalade. Pita, naan, ciabatta or tortillas, call it what you will, it’s all good to me. I think it’s funny, all these people nowadays cutting bread out of their diet, well that’s just plain crazy to me.

I know some people are intimidated when they see yeast in a recipe. One of my favorite books, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” has taken the trauma out of bread making. If you have the slightest interest in making your own bread, and trust me you should, then I highly recommend this book to you.

One of the best recipes in the book is their chocolate brioche. It’s a rich, eggy bread, golden on the outside with bittersweet chocolate ganache swirled on the inside. It was today’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Chocolate Brioche 

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Brioche Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for greasing the pan
  • 7  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Egg wash, (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
Directions
  1. You can make this dough using a spoon, a large food processor or an electric mixer. I made it in the bowl of my electric mixer.
  2. Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in the bowl.
  3. Using the dough hook, mix in the flour until it’s all incorporated.
  4. When all the flour has been incorporated, cover the bowl, (not airtight) and allow it to rest at room temperature for 2 hours. After the initial rise, chill the dough as it will be easier to work with. This amount of dough will make four -1 pound loaves, so keep the dough refrigerated in a lidded container and use over the next five days.
Chocolate Ganache
  • 1/4 pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling on top
Directions
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave in 15 second increments until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until incorporated.
  2. In another little bowl, stir the cocoa powder and the corn syrup together and mix until smooth. Add to the chocolate mixture.
  3. Lightly butter a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and with a serrated knife, cut off a one-pound piece. I use my digital scale to weigh it. Dust that piece with more flour and shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Using a rolling-pin, roll out the ball into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle, dusting with flour as needed.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup of the ganache over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough and seal the bare edges.
  5. Tuck the loose ends underneath, elongate the dough into an oval and place it into your loaf pan.
  6. Let the dough rest for 1 1/2 hours in a draft-free spot.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with the egg white and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
  8. Bake the brioche for 45 minutes  until the top is golden brown and the sugar is caramelized.
  9. Remove from the pan and cool slightly. Reheat the remaining ganache, then drizzle it over the top of the loaf.

Recipe: Intermediate 


Rye Bread

For me there is nothing more comforting or homier than fresh-baked bread. I love the way it makes the house smell as it’s baking, but more than that, I can’t wait to slather butter on hot, crispy bread right out of the oven.

This rustic rye bread is one of my all-time favorites. A couple thick slices of this bread with hot corned beef, cole slaw and spicy mustard, and it’s better than any deli I’ve been to.

I don’t know why more folks don’t bake their own bread. It’s really very easy, and not all that time consuming. Once you start making your own bread and you taste the difference between homemade and commercial bread, I guarantee you won’t buy store bought bread again. Really.

Rustic Rye Bread

From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

  • 3 cups water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • cornstarch for cornstarch wash
Directions
  1.  Mix the yeast, salt and caraway seeds with the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients just until everything is incorporated. Scrape the bowl down and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in a draft-free spot for 2 hours. After the dough has risen, you can use it immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  2. Dust your hands with flour and cut off 1/4 portion of the dough (about 1 lb.) Dust the piece with flour and shape it into a ball, or you can elongate the ball into an oval shape if you choose. Allow it to rest and rise on a cornmeal covered surface such as a pizza peel if you will be using a pizza stone. I highly recommend using the pizza stone as it gives the bread a lovely, crispy crust. Or you can let it rest on a cornmeal covered baking sheet for 40 minutes.
  3. After the dough has rested for 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the stone in the oven and an empty broiler try on the rack underneath the one you are baking on.
  4. Using a serrated knife, slash 3 diagonal cuts across the top of the loaf. Make the cornstarch wash by combining 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch with a small amount of water in a small microwaveable bowl to form a paste. Add 1/2 cup of water and whisk. Place in the microwave for about 60 seconds. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the loaf lightly with the cornstarch wash and then sprinkle on some caraway seeds.
  5. You can bake the loaf on the cornmeal covered baking sheet, or you can slide the loaf directly onto the heated pizza stone. After putting the bread in the oven, pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler try below and quickly close the door. Bake for 30 minutes until crust is a deep, golden brown. I use a digital thermometer to check that the inside internal temperature of the bread is at least 195 degrees F.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Recipe: Intermediate

Makes 4 – 1 pound rye breads


When You Need A Pita…Bake It Yourself

Once you make these, you will never buy the ones in the bag again!

I am the self-proclaimed “Queen of Sandwiches. Growing up in Philadelphia, which is the home of the “hoagie” and the Philly cheesesteak, I ate sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What made these sandwiches so tasty, was the incredible Italian bread that shops all over the Philadelphia area served. Had the bread not been so amazing, these classic sandwiches may have never become the icons they are today. I know I’ve said this before, but I will say it again…the key to a successful sandwich is good bread. It doesn’t matter how good the ingredients of the sandwich are without top quality bread.

These days, I’m loving pita sandwiches. I like to cut these pocket breads open and spread them with a little aioli, my favorite cheese, tomatoes, avocado, thinly sliced red onion and some sprouts. In the past I had used those pitas you buy at the market in a bag. Sadly they’re extremely dry and tasteless. I have pledged to my family never to buy them again, and why would I when these are so easy to make myself. When they come out of the oven, they’re  light and fluffy with a hint of that olive oil flavor.

If you take your sandwiches as seriously as I do, then I encourage you to give this recipe a try.

Pita Bread

Recipe from The Fresh Loaf

Special equipment: baking stone

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast or one packet of active, dry yeast

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water (100 degrees) by stirring and then stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 10 minutes until bubbly.

2. Then mix the yeast in with the flour, salt and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cups of water and stir together with a wooden spoon, until all ingredients form a ball. (If mixture is too dry, add more water, if too wet add more flour).

3. Using a bowl scraper, take the dough out of the bowl and place on a work surface dusted lightly with flour. You can knead by hand for 10 minutes, or in the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed for 10 minutes using a dough hook. If you do knead the dough in the electric mixer, you will still need to do more hand-kneading once you take it out of the mixer. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and spring back when you poke it with your finger.

4. When you’re done kneading the dough, take a large, clean bowl and lightly rub it with oil, or spray with cooking spray. Form a ball out of the dough and roll it around the bowl to lightly coat it on all sides with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 90 minutes in a warm, draft-free spot. The dough should double in size. 

5. When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release the gases and divide it into 10 pieces. (I placed entire piece of dough on a kitchen scale, and divided the total weight by 10 so that all pieces weighed approximately the same.) Roll each piece into a ball and cover the balls with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

6. While the dough is resting, preheat oven to 400 degrees F, with a baking stone in it . If you don’t have a baking stone, you can turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating it.

7. After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, dust your work surface lightly with flour and place one of the balls of dough there.  Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the ball of dough and use a rolling pin to stretch and flatten the dough. You should roll it out into a 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick round.

8. Open the oven and place 2 pitas on the hot baking surface. I let them bake for about 4 minutes until they were baked through and puffy. You can let them bake longer if you like them crispier. I removed them with tongs, and let them cool on a baking rack.

Store in a plastic bag for several days.


Every Little Mama’s, Gotta Bake A Challah

What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t bake the family challah? Especially a mother who went to pastry school. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, and provide a wide array of services to their families. Many mothers are the breadwinners of their families; some moms drive carpool, oversee homework or fix boo-boo’s. Me, well, I make baked goods for my family.

I find the smell of challah baking in the oven permeates the house, and makes it a home. I was sitting with my mother the other day and she was sharing her memories of what the holidays were like growing up in her house. Her most vivid memories were those of the smells and tastes of the dishes her mother prepared, especially her sponge cake. It’s interesting, but when we reflect on warm times with our families, it seems to be food that brings back those cherished thoughts.

To me, this homemade challah is just a big ‘ol loaf-of-love. You have to put your heart and soul into making it. It takes time, and a whole lot of kneading, but the pay-off is the end result.  Whenever I see these famous chefs interviewed, they always talk about the food that their mother’s or grandmother’s made that brings back warm memories of their childhood’s. Especially Wolfgang Puck. He always refers to his mother’s cooking, and many of the dishes he serves today were inspired by her recipes. I guess that’s what I’m trying do to with my two sons…create warm memories. I hope I do.

Recipe

Braided Challah

Makes 2 large loaves

From the Silver Palate Cookbook

2 cups milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 packages of active dry yeast (14 grams)

3 eggs, room temperature, plus 1 egg for egg wash

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

5 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

poppy seeds or sesame seeds

Directions

1.  Bring milk, 6 tablespoons of butter, and the sugar to a boil together in a medium size saucepan. Remove from the heat, and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool to lukewarm (105 degrees F).

2.  Stir yeast into the milk mixture and let stand for 10 minutes.

3.  Beat the 3 eggs well in a small bowl, and stir them and the salt into the milk and yeast mixture.

4.  Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, stir in 5 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing on speed 2 for about 8 minutes until you achieve a sticky dough. Lightly flour a work surface  and turn the dough out onto it.

5.  Sprinkle additional flour over the dough and begin kneading, adding more flour as necessary until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

6.  Oil the inside of the bowl and add the ball of dough, turning to coat it lightly with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until tripled in bulk about 2 hours.

7.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into halves. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces into “snakes” about 18 inches long. Braid the 3 snakes together into a loaf and tuck the ends underneath the loaf.

8.  Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal, and transfer each loaf onto its own sheet.  Cover each loaf with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

9.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

10. Beat an egg and 1 tablespoon of cold water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash evenly over the loaf. Sprinkle immediately with poppy seeds or sesame seeds to taste.

11. Set baking sheet in middle rack of oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until loaves are golden and sound hollow when the bottoms re thumped.  Cool completely on a rack.

For the sweet challah, I kneaded some golden raisins and dried cherries into the dough, and then brushed it with a mixture of 4 tablespoons melted butter and 1/3 cup honey (melted together in microwave). When I took the bread out of the oven I brushed it again with the mixture.

Sweet challah brushed with honey & butter


Crispy French Baguettes, Bring Out the Butter!

Here at Mama’s Gotta Bake I’ve made sweet rolls with Larry, cooked clams with Carol and today, I baked French Baguette‘s with Michele and Marci (a mother and daughter team). This is precisely why I love cooking and baking so much. For me it’s not a solitary endeavor. The cooking and baking process is not solely about nourishing the body, but also about nourishing the soul. I enjoy sharing this process with family and friends and I think this is where my love of food stems from.

I met Marci at pastry school. Like myself, she has a love of all things baked. It’s not often in my travels that I meet someone willing to discuss the pro’s and con’s of fresh yeast versus rapid rise. But Marci will have that discussion with me.  Her daughter Michele, a college student, has been sparked by her mother’s affinity for baking and wanted to learn how to make a French baguette.  Knowing of my obsession for baking, they asked me if I would come over to their house and give Michele a few tips on the art of bread making. Of course I would!

It turned into a real “dough fest”. Along with making baguettes, we also made brioche and biscotti. I have to say, Michele was an enthusiastic student and did a great job turning out some delicious baked goods. The baguettes were perfect. They came out of the oven with the crispiest crust and a soft interior. We had intended to give them 15 minutes to cool down, but as soon as we took them out of the oven we sliced them up and brought out the butter.

Baguettes cooling on the rack

French Baguette

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes four 1-pound loaves

3 cups lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)

1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unsifted, un-bleached, all-purpose flour

Whole Wheat Flour for pizza peel

In a 5-quart bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast and salt with 3 cups lukewarm water. The water should be 100 degrees F. (A digital thermometer is a great tool to have for this purpose.)

Mixing on slow speed, add all the flour at once, until  the flour is incorporated. You want the mixture to be uniformly moist with no dry patches. With a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl and into a 5-quart, lidded container (not airtight) and let it sit, covered for at least 2 hours in a warm spot.  No kneading is necessary.

After the dough has risen you can use a portion of it immediately however, if you fully refrigerate the wet dough it’s much easier to work with.


Next, prepare a pizza peel by liberally sprinkling it with whole wheat flour so that the dough does not stick to the peel. Sprinkle the surface of the dough lightly with flour. Pull dough up and cut off a 1 pound piece of dough with a serrated knife. I use a digital scale to weigh the dough.  Hold the ball of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Once it’s cohesive, begin to stretch and elongate the dough, dusting with additional flour as necessary. You may want to roll it back and forth with your hands on a floured surface. Form a cylinder 2 inches in diameter. Place the loaf on the prepared pizza peel and let it rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Put an empty broiler tray on the bottom of the oven. After the dough has rested, paint water over the surface of the loaf using a pastry brush. The water will prevent the knife from sticking in the wet dough. Slash the loaf with long diagonal cuts using a serrated knife.

Gently, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the hot baking stone. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes, until deeply browned and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool on a rack before cutting or eating. And then bring out the butter.


A Passionate Life and Breaking Bread with the Family

 

Life does work in mysterious ways. In my twenties, my parents, college teachers and random older people told me to pursue those things in life I was “passionate” about. At that time in my life, that word had no meaning to me, or it was just something I never gave any thought to. It seemed I just didn’t have the luxury to feel passionate about anything. After college, I scrambled just to find any job that would support a roof over my head and some food on my table. When I look back on those years in the job force, they were totally devoid of any passion. It was merely what I had to do to get by.

By my thirties, I was married with a young family to raise, and for the next twenty years they were my focus and priority. Today, my sons are young men and ready to venture out into the world on their own. Though my job as a mother and life advisor is not over, I’m just not needed on a “24-7” basis any more. Interestingly, it’s actually given me time to pursue some things that I feel a great deal of passion for. Now, at this point in my life, I understand that word and the concept.

I never saw it coming, but my passion as it turns out, appears to be baking and cooking. That’s how I would identify those feelings I experience when I embark on a new cooking project. This blog has given me a vehicle and a platform to express my new found passion. I wonder though, how would my life have turned out if I had discovered this “passion” in my youth? Could I have made a career out of it, and where would I be today if I had spent my life pursuing this passion?

Tonight however, I’m enjoying both of my “passions” at once. My family is getting ready to sit down and have dinner TOGETHER!  It’s a rare occurrence these days. My older son, the chef, works so much we rarely see him. My high school son seems to have a million activities and never sits down long enough to eat dinner. But tonight I’ve made a pasta Bolognese, Caesar salad, and this incredible Italian bread called Stecca.

The Stecca has a crisp and crunchy exterior and a soft, airy interior. The recipe makes 4 “bread sticks” (Stecca means stick in Italian), one is dotted with salty, green olives and the other with cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh thyme and sea salt. It’s an absolutely hearty and rustic bread. And yes, I’m very “passionate” about it!

Stecca

From My Bread by Jim Lahey

Ingredients

3 cups bread flour

1/2 teaspoon table salt

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups cool (55 to 65 degrees) water

additional flour for dusting

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Directions

1. You will sift together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a medium sized bowl. Add the water, and using a wooden spoon, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about one minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 to 18 hours until it doubles in size. You will see that the surface of the dough will be dotted with bubbles.

2.  When the first rise is complete, dust a work surface with flour. Scoop the dough out in one piece using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula. Fold the dough over itself several times and form it into a ball. Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

3.  Place a cotton or linen towel (not terrycloth) on your work surface and dust it with wheat bran (is what I used), cornmeal, or flour. Place the dough, seam side down, gently on the towel. Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm spot to rise for  1 1/2 hours.

After the second rise, the dough should look like this

4.  Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, with the rack in the center of the oven. Oil two, 13 x 18 inch baking sheets.

5.  Using a bench scraper or serrated knife, cut the dough into quarters. Gently stretch each piece into a stick shape about the length of the pan. Place two loaves on each pan leaving enough space in between as they will expand as they bake. In two loaves, push cherry tomato halves into the dough, cut side up. Top each tomato half with a thin slice of garlic and a few leaves of fresh thyme. With a pastry brush, gently brush the loaf with olive oil and then sprinkle with the sea salt.  In the other two loaves, gently push olive halves into the dough and then brush with olive oil. Do not salt the olive loaves as the olives are salty enough.

6.  Bake for 15 to 25 minutes (mine took 18 minutes) until the crust is golden brown. I found that after about 5 minutes of baking the tomatoes and olives started to pop out of the bread as it expanded. With the back of a wooden spoon, I pushed them back into the dough. Cool the loaves on the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to metal rack. I did not serve mine immediately and just popped them back in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes and they came out crispy and perfect!

I love the combination of tomatoes and fresh herbs