Friday, March 16, 2018

Nazook, Nazukeh, Gata, just call it Delicious! BBB Bakes...

It's my turn to host this month and I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we have!  I can't remember how I found the recipe, I think the pastry was recommended to me by a friend and then I googled different variations.  And there are many out there.  This is made in Armenia, Assyria, (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria) and other countries and is known as Nazook, Nazukeh, Gata, and I'm sure other names as well.  It is popular all year and a favorite of tourists, as well as being traditionally baked for Easter in some areas and eaten through Ascension, some 40 days later.  I found the recipe online but later found it comes from an Assyrian cookbook, so that is the source I have linked.
The second time I made these I used spelt flour for the filling, but found that the filling bubbled out much more than using all purpose flour, which surprised me because the starch is the same in spelt.  But next time, and there will be more times, I will either use more spelt for the hydration issue, or stick to all purpose.  I haven't tried adding rose water, which is often used and I think would be delicious.  The cardamom alone makes the house smell sublime.
They are absolutely wonderful eaten warm, either reheated or with a cup of hot tea or coffee.  We would love for you to bake along with us!  Just bake your version of this bread by March 30th and send me a note with your results and a picture or link to your post at eleyana(AT)aol(DOT)com with Buddy Bread in the subject line and I will include you in our buddy round up at the beginning of next month and send you a Buddy badge graphic to keep and/or add to your post.  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture is fine!
You can probably halve this recipe but I suspect you would regret it once you tasted them...  They do freeze!

from Mom's Authentic Assyrian Recipes
makes 48 pastries

2¼ tsp (7g) active dry yeast (I used 2 tsp instant yeast)
1 cup (227g) sour cream
3¼ cups (390g) sifted flour
½ tsp (3 g) salt (My celtic sea salt weighs 2g for ½ tsp)
1 cup (226g) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tbsp (12g) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5g) lemon juice

1 cup (226g) butter, melted (+ 3tbsp melted, optional)
2 cups (240g) sifted flour
1 cup (198g) sugar
1 cup (113g) walnuts, finely chopped
1 tsp (5g) vanilla
1 tsp (2g) cardamom

2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp (5g) yogurt


Dough: If using active dry yeast, add to the sour cream and stir in.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  If using instant yeast, add to flour.  Combine flour, salt and butter and blend with your fingers until crumbly.  Optionally, you can grate the cold butter on a wide cheese grater, which makes it very easy to incorporate into the flour. Add egg, oil, lemon juice, and sour cream and mix until incorporated.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes, or until no longer sticky.  Add more flour if necessary.  (I did end up adding another 60g flour the first time when baking by weight, but not the second time when I did half spelt and half all purpose by volume).  Form into a ball, and to follow tradition, mark with a +, symbolizing a cross. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours, or overnight.

Filling: Mix flour, sugar, walnuts, and cardamom. Add vanilla to melted butter and pour slowly into flour mixture while stirring.  Stir until the mixture is smooth.  (Mine ended up a beautiful streusel consistency, at first a paste and then nice and crumbly as it cooled.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Assembly: Melt the 3 extra tablespoons of butter and set aside.  Take dough from refrigerator and divide into 8 equal portions. (I did this and the filling by weight.)  Roll each dough ball into a 10 x 6” rectangle.  

Brush with melted butter.  (I found that the filling adhered to the dough just fine without the added butter and since there is a full pound in the recipe, decided it was fine to leave this step out.  Was going to try with but I forgot the second time.  Oops!)  Spread 1/8th of the filling over each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch border.  

Cover with a piece of parchment paper.  Press down lightly with your hands, so that the filling adheres to the dough.

Fold the edges in ½-inch over the filling.

Roll into a cylinder.

Gently flatten with the palms of your hands.  (Do this because they puff quite a lot in the oven.)

Cut each roll into 6 pieces and arrange on 2 parchment lined cookie sheets.

Brush liberally with the egg glaze.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Excellent with coffee or hot tea.  (My oven runs hot and even baking at a lower temp, mine were done in 25 minutes.)

 Not too sweet, just sweet enough!

They do also come in a large cake for sharing, I tried that out too.

I don't think it is supposed to have quite as much filling as I put in, but it looks amazing, and a slice about ½" wide is quite sufficient. 

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Approximate nutrition per pastry:

Friday, February 16, 2018

And the Crown goes to... The BBB - Happy 10th Anniversary!

Our challenge this month, Royal Crown Tortano bread, celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Bread Baking Babes.  They began as a group of twelve women from around the world who came together to bake bread every month, inspired by the Daring Bakers, but a smaller, more intimate group.  This happens to be their very first challenge bread!  For me, this is the second anniversary of my officially joining as a member of the BBB, but I have been baking as a buddy often since January 2010, just a month before their own second anniversary.  Over the years, the roster has changed a bit, but always there is a love of baking and sharing.  There is something wonderful about being challenged to make things you wouldn't have thought of or necessarily chosen yourself, or possibly ever have heard of without such a diverse group of bakers.

This was an interesting, if soupy bread dough!  Last month I despaired of my bread soup dough, this month it was the desired result.  It takes a lot of kneading to get the gluten lined up in this wet dough, about 20 minutes for me.  I also used part spelt and a small portion of freshly ground sprouted kamut, which has wonderful flavor and color.  The dough expands during the fermentation and folding, but stays fairly flat while proofing.  It just kind of spread for me, but did pop in the oven a bit.  I had hoped for more, but that's why it calls for bread flour, the stronger gluten is helpful for a vertical rise in a dough this wet.  I did add a little more flour, which I should not have done.  Resist the temptation!  The dough will come together on a fast knead, then flow back down once the mixer is stopped.  It's fun to watch.  It actually reminds me very much of the Rewena Paraoa bread I made as a buddy back in 2011.  Very slack dough, potato, longer times, lots of flavor, shiny, moist crumb with big holes.  I mean, look at the shine on that crumb!  Absolutely delicious with a smear of butter.  This recipe is slightly different and has more salt, which I prefer, I remember thinking the rewena could have used more.  But altogether very similar.

We would love to have you celebrate with us and try out this delicious bread!  While it is a very wet dough, there is not a lot of hands on time and it is surprisingly forgiving.  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Planning for this bread, it's a two day recipe:

The Night Before Baking: Make the starter and optionally, the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

Royal Crown Tortano
Makes one large round ring loaf
recipe from Artisan Baking

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:

Pre-Ferment Ingredients
1 g (¼ tsp) instant yeast
240g (1 cup) water 105 - 115 degrees F
100g (2/3 cup) unbleached bread flour
85g (1 small) potato

Stir the yeast into the water and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the starter is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough.

Preparing the Potato: For the sake of efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter and boil it in water until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Potato water is an excellent dough enhancer.  Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only ¼ cup puree for the dough.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Final Dough Ingredients
575g (3¾ cups) unbleached bread flour (I used 100g light spelt, 50g sifted, freshly ground sprouted kamut, and 425g all purpose flour)
420g (1¾ cups plus 3 Tbsp) Use the potato water if desired, lukewarm
All of the pre-ferment
11g (2 tsp) honey
60g (¼ cup packed) Potato puree
15g (scant 1 Tbsp) salt

Using a stand mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer.  Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook.  Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 - 20 minutes, or until it becomes very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splattering back around the bowl.  This dough is almost slack enough to pour.

Fermenting and Turning the Dough:

With floured hands, shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour.  Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours.  During the first part of this time, using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time.  Do not allow this dough to over-ferment or ferment to the point of collapse, or the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should reach about 12 inches in diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1½ hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven's second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC)  (I saw immediately that my stone was not large enough for my round, so I placed a baking sheet on top of it, hoping it would act like a baking steel.)

Baking the Bread:

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper.  (Or both!)  Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not over-proofed. (I think mine was a few minutes over-proofed, the kitchen got warm because I had been baking other things.)  Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake.  (I did add steam the first 5 minutes.)  Let the bread cool on a rack.

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tartine Polenta Bread - A Real Challenge Bread with the BBB

I think this is one of the first BBB challenge breads that has proven especially difficult for me!  I do remember getting a brand new food processor to make Sprouted Yeast Bread work as a buddy, but that was a matter of proper equipment.  I think there may have been one or two other recipes I made twice from not being satisfied with the original results.  This really is a recipe you have to make by feel and not necessarily follow what's written exactly.  Especially when using alternate ingredients, like millet polenta instead of corn, and a portion of sprouted einkorn flour with notoriously delicate gluten.  My first attempt ended up as an over-hydrated dough akin to the infamous croc loaf.  It was practically dough porridge!  Nearly impossible to build any structure, though I did try with many extra folds.  The hydration was high in the original dough, the addition of the soupy millet polenta really did make dough soup.  The bread did cook up with great flavor, but like a porridge loaf, with a super moist crumb.  It toasted wonderfully.  I must say, toasted, popped pepitas were a tasty revelation.  My second attempt used the same ratios, but different flours, and a much more dry polenta that I rinsed and drained after a few minutes.  (Millet absorbs water much faster and to a higher degree than corn.)  That gave me a very nice dough that held its shape well.  Unfortunately, it was still slightly under-developed, and definitely under-proofed.  The "proof" of which was the bubble under the top crust, an indicator of poor structure development and/or under-proofing.  Plus I was now out of rosemary and pepitas.  Sent hubby to store to get more flour, rosemary, and pepitas if he could find them.  Begged rosemary plant to grow faster at home.  Decided to reduce hydration in the original dough somewhat to account for added hydration from the polenta.  Also decided to really develop structure in original dough as well with stronger flour.  Considered increasing the levain, but was afraid it would affect the hydration too much.  Really have to be careful on the proof time.  I hear proofing sourdough to 70% rather than doubling, gives better results and helps avoid over-risen dough.

Third try, I held back 50g of the original water and hydrated all the flours, (autolyse), while the levain worked, maybe two hours. Then I really developed the gluten of the dough + levain before adding in the polenta, rosemary and pepitas.  I did not stretch and fold this time, I used the mixer and kneaded for 7-10 minutes until it was much more elastic.  Still sticky, more so than before kneading, but significantly smoothed out.   I used 100g cracked millet and 225g water, boiled it for a minute, let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinsed it. I ended up with 211g of soaked polenta, which means I got rid of around 115g water by rinsing. I ended up using 16g of the reserved water to hydrate the salt with the polenta. It's a sticky dough, but with lots of structure.  And it looks right this time.  I know that's not very quantitative, but when the dough feels and looks right, it just does.  Aaaaannnnnnd, we have another fail.  This is driving me crazy, I know it should be taking much longer to proof but it is failing the poke test!  I think the dough is just too slack to use that test.  I should have listened to my instincts.

I have successfully made porridge bread, I have successfully made polenta bread, (look at how firm that millet polenta turned out!), I have made dozens of sourdough loaves.  I made three this week with the same starter as the challenge bread!  See, my starter is perfectly happy, these are 100% sourdough risen:

I just don't know what the deal is with me and this challenge bread!  The starch from the polenta should have helped speed up the little yeastie beasties.  But this recipe delighted in vexing me.  I still have one to put in the oven.  It has taken over seven hours to proof.  I am scared to bake it now.  I'll add a picture later if it turns out.  I made it in a standard loaf pan so I could be darned sure it had risen properly and not just spread out.  It's a half batch which makes a small 8x4" loaf.

It's out now and I am much happier with it.  It is small, but sounds light and hollow when tapped, not dense.  And it had a little bit of oven spring to it.  Nice, light little loaf and smells wonderful!  I will not cut it until it is cool so picture will come later.  This loaf was baked as I would a sourdough sandwich loaf, 15 minutes steam, 10 minutes no steam, 15 minutes out of pan, directly on rack to finish browning.  The crumb is shiny and moist, but completely done and light.
Take that, you loaf, you!  I can now sleep.

Well this is a true challenge bread, recommended for advanced bakers or particularly daring beginning bakers.  We'd be super impressed if you would give it a try and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Tartine Polenta Bread
makes one round loaf

dessert spoonful of bubbling wheat starter from the fridge
75 g whole wheat flour
75 g water at body temperature

Polenta mixture:
70 g raw dried pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
61 g grains for polenta (medium grind) (I used coarse grind millet)
150 g boiling water
pinch salt
21 g sunflower oil (oops, forgot every single time)
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

100 g floating leavener (stir the rest into the jar in the fridge)
375 g bread flour
125 g whole wheat flour, sifted (reserve the bran - approximately 4 g) (I threw it out)
4 g wheat germ (I used oat bran on the bottom instead)
150-200 g water, at body temperature (add more if needed)
(optional: ½ tsp instant yeast, if you’re uncertain about your leavener) (Wish I had done this.)

Adding the salt :
all of the dough mixture
10 g salt
25 g water at body temperature (Nope, nope, nope.)

Have ready before baking: rice flour, brot-form (or bowl), reserved bran from sifting whole wheat flour
For baking: parchment paper, cast iron frying pan, large stainless steel mixing bowl or pot that will fit over the pan.

Leavener and refreshing the starter: On the evening before baking the bread, put the ingredients for the leavener into a medium bowl. Mix the leavener ingredients until all the flour is incorporated. Leave 100 g in the bowl. Mix the extra into the jar in the fridge. Cover the bowl containing the 100 g with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on overnight - until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse.

For the polenta mixture:
Spread pumpkin seeds evenly in one layer into a dry cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the seeds begin to pop, this takes about 5-10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Before toasting...
After toasting - they really pop and plump up!
Listen to them crackle as they cool!

Put the cornmeal grains into a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until they are turning gold and smell toasty (not more than 5 minutes). Add the water and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat, stir and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Turn the heat down to very low, cover the pot and allow the grains to simmer for about 15 minutes. Avoid the temptation to lift the lid. When the water has absorbed, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Way too soupy the first time, and too starchy to drain.
Chose a coarse grind for the remaining times.

Rinsed and drained after 5 minutes - perfect.

 Add oil, rosemary and pumpkin seeds.

For the dough: When a small spoonful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. (If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float.) Put all the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl along with the now bubbling leavener.  (I pre-hydrated my flours with the water while the levain was working.)  Mix as well as you can with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter to rest for about 40 minutes. Do not skip the resting period. Working with the nature of the dough, the resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.

Adding the salt: Pour the 25 g water over-top of the mass of dough. Sprinkle on the salt, making sure that it goes onto the water. (Alternatively, you could stir the salt into the water in a little bowl and pour in the salty water.)

(I skipped this procedure and the water it used, and added the salt with the polenta.)

Kneading: Use one of your hands to squish the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy. But persevere. Knead with a dough hook in a stand mixer, until relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold (part 1): About 30 minutes after adding the salt, run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it's a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You'll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
Repeat the above step twice.

Adding the polenta mixture: Add the polenta mixture to the dough. Run your dough-working hand under water and use it to squish the polenta, pepitas and rosemary into the dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add flour and knead it in. It should end up being a slightly wet dough, but one you can just shape. The stretching and folding after this step will give more body to the dough.

Stretch and fold (part 2): Repeat the stretching and folding step 1 or 2 more times (even 4 times when the dough needs more). A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be shaped.

Prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or colander/sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel. If you do not have rice flour, you can use wheat flour. However, it makes it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket.... (This is so true!  I never knew to use rice flour and it made a huge difference.  No sticking this time. I misted my brotform with water to help the rice flour stick evenly.)
Shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Place it seam side up in the well floured brot-form. Take care to make as tight a gluten cloak as you can, without tearing the dough.  Evenly spread the reserved bran on and around the seam. Loosely wrap the basket and bread with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in a warm spot for 2 or 3 hours (until it has about doubled).

Looks promising...

NOT ready.
Baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, put the cast-iron frying pan and its lid into the oven and preheat all to 220ºC (425ºF). (Totally did not work for me.)

Such a crying shame, it was under proofed.
Dense, heavy crumb, and hole under top crust = not proofed correctly.

About fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper. Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove. Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the lid on. Put everything into the oven and immediately turn it down to 200ºC (400ºF). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the crust is a nice dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. (You will likely need to pull out the oven rack part way in order to remove the lid without banging the loaf within.)

Cooling: When the bread is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 200ºC (400ºF) for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will refresh the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

*leavener The leavener is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see the host kitchen's take on Jane Mason's Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)
If you're afraid (or don't have time) to take five days to make a natural starter and still want to bake this by using commercial yeast, Elizabeth recommends creating a poolish - say 50gm water, 50gm flour and a few grains (not more than 1/8 tsp) yeast stirred together, covered, and left overnight. And then proceed as written. I confess I haven't tried it but don't see why it won't work. If you're really worried, you could probably add few more grains of yeast into the dough itself as well) (This is what Karen of Bake My Day did and her loaves turned out gorgeously phenomenal.)

(based on the recipe for 'Polenta Bread' in "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson)

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Creamy Avocado and Chicken Soup

This is the soup that taught my kids to love avocados.  At least when warm.  They love avocado in soup, maybe not cold and cubed yet.  I remember not being able to eat sliced avocado as a kid, and I did give it a good try.  It was a textural thing.  So glad I grew out of that, I love them now.  And this simple soup is a great way to use up avocados that are pushing the limits of ripeness.  Plus you can whip it up fairly quick with rotisserie or leftover chicken.  The oven fried tortilla strips are not to be missed either, so tasty!  I use our locally available spelt tortillas and they are delicious, but any brand will work.  This is one of a number of recipes that come from a Soup magazine that I loved so much I ordered another copy in desperation after losing it somewhere in the house.  Now I happily have two copies.  I have already shared my version of a chili from it, as well as a delicious Thai chicken soup, another of our favorites.
We love the smokiness of the cumin paired with the creamy avocado in this soup.  And I love that it uses an in-pan roux method instead of having you make a separate béchamel.  It's the method I always use for soups if I can make it work.  Why dirty two pans if you don't have to?  At any rate, we highly recommend this easy, weeknight soup for your dinner roster!

Creamy Avocado Chicken Soup
serves 4

2 ripe avocados, seeded, peel, and diced
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp butter
¾ cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper (1 medium)
2 tbsp flour
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth (or 1 can)
2 cups shredded, roasted chicken
1 recipe Spicy Tortilla Strips

In a bowl, mash the avocados and lime juice until smooth and creamy, using a fork or potato masher.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add bell pepper and cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in the flour, cumin, garlic, and salt.  Slowly stir in the milk and broth.  Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbling.  Then cook for another minute.  Stir in the reserved avocado mixture and the chicken.  Heat through and serve, topping each portion with Spicy Tortilla strips.

Spicy Tortilla Strips:

2 small flour or 6" corn tortillas
chili powder

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Cut the tortillas into narrow strips, ½-¾" wide.  Place in a gallon ziploc bag.  Drizzle with a little olive or sunflower oil, season to taste with a bit of salt and a light sprinkle of chili powder.  Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 7-10 minutes or until crisp.  Flour tortillas will be done sooner than corn tortillas.  Serve over soup.

(You can alternately coat the strips with cooking spray and season them on the baking sheet.  I just prefer the bag method for even coverage.)

Approximate nutrition for a full bowl of soup with flour tortilla strips:

(We usually have one bowl left over for our family of four, so the amount eaten for us is typically less than what is calculated for a full ¼ recipe.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Festive Champagne Babas with the BBB

It's almost the end of 2017, and what better way to ring in the New Year or celebrate the Holidays, than with champagne?  Or whatever bubbly you prefer of course!  Join the BBB in making Champagne Babas:  These delightful yeast cakes are a spin off the traditional Rum Baba.  So of course you may choose another liquor or dessert wine or even flavor with a light colored fruit juice (like pineapple juice) for an alcohol free option.  These can be made as one large Baba, (think panettone mold size), or as 12 individual sized Babas.  In my case I made six due to the pans I had available, but truly, you have to split one of that size with someone else, so if you don't want to share, try for the twelve!  I did have a cast iron popover pan that would probably have been the perfect size, but it only baked six and I had never used it before, so I opted for the more familiar mini bundt pan to use when baking mine.  I also suspect that a popover pan might be slightly narrower at the bottom than a Baba mold.  But as you can see, the cakes will nicely fill whatever mold you may have so long as they aren't filled more than halfway, as the dough rises quite a bit!

Bread flour is recommended for this dough because it is very batter like and needs to be worked well to activate the gluten properly.  That said, I used King Arthur all purpose and they turned out lovely.  I believe that American all purpose flours generally have a higher protein content than European all purpose, so they may be closer to bread flour in practical use.  So I would say a strong flour, or a well worked all purpose flour will do.  And as we said, you may choose champagne or another sparkling wine, spirit, or juice for the syrup.  It does not call for that much, only around half a cup volume, 120g, split between 12 Babas equates to ~two teaspoons alcohol per Baba.  And if you simmer the syrup, the alcohol content is reduced.  (Alcohol is reduced to 85% if simply added to boiling syrup and removed from heat, and reduced to 40% if simmered 15 minutes, though that will thicken the syrup and water would need to be added.)  I used half Prosecco and half Limoncello and the flavor was amazing!  Don't be afraid of the amount of syrup you are adding to the cakes, they soak it up without getting soggy, and since the dough is not a sweet dough, the final level of sweetness is appropriate for a cake.

This is an easy, yet impressive recipe, I highly recommend trying it out! My kids thought these were fabulous.  We'd love for you to bake some Babas and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen (notitievanlien (at) gmail (dot) com) by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Champagne Babas
makes one large Baba, 6 mini, or 12 individual Babas
100g water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
100g bread flour

180g bread flour
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp instant dry yeast
1½ tsp vanilla sugar
3 large eggs
90g melted butter, slightly cooled

soaking syrup:
150g sugar
150g water
120g champagne (or Asti Spumante or fruit juice)

200g apricot jam (or use a sugar glaze)

Mix all the sponge ingredients together in a large bowl (the same bowl you will be using to knead the dough).  Sprinkle the 180g bread flour for the dough over the sponge so that it is fully covered and leave it to rest for about an hour.

After an hour add the salt, ¼ tsp dry yeast, vanilla sugar and eggs.  (This time is flexible, I got distracted and it was close to 105 minutes for me!)  Start to mix the dough.  Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer.  When the dough comes together after a few minutes, add the cooled, melted butter and keep working it.  This dough is somewhat batter-like, but be sure to get some gluten developed to ensure a good rise.

For one large Baba:

Place dough in the mold.  You can use a loaf tin or a tall, round baking form like a paper Panettone mold (13.4cm x 9.5cm), filled about half way up.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until 2-3 cm below the rim of the mold. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Bake for about 45-55 minutes until golden brown on top.  If the bread browns too soon, cover the top with a sheet of foil.  To check the bread for doneness with a thermometer, it should read about 93ºC (~200ºF) in the center.

Take out of the oven and remove from tin.  Place on a deep dish and poke the bread with a long wooden skewer all over from top to bottom. Brush the syrup all over it, getting as much as possible inside the bread.  This will take some time. Collect the syrup from the plate and keep pouring and brushing it, until it has all been absorbed in the bread.  If the bread is not completely soaked, you can make some extra syrup to brush on when serving.

For 6 or 12 small babas:

Grease a tray with 6 medium to 12 small cavities (containing about 75ml for small or 150ml for medium) and divide the dough among them. The dough should not be filling more than half of the mold.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until almost to the rim.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Place in the oven and bake for about 15-18 minutes.  The babas should be nicely golden on top. Check  the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC (~200ºF) when done.

Take the babas out of the oven and remove from their molds.  Place them in a wide shallow dish in one layer.  Pour the champagne syrup over the babas.  Continue turning the babas one by one on all sides, including top and bottom, until the syrup is completely absorbed. You can also brush over the tops with a pastry brush.  I did poke my medium sized babas with a small metal skewer.

Topping and serving:

Heat the apricot jam in a small pan and bring to a light boil, adding a little water if it is too thick. Brush or pour over the top of the baba(s).  You can also opt for a simple sugar glaze. This topping will help keep the moisture in.  If you eat the babas on the baking day, you can skip the topping.  (But it tastes fabulous, so I recommend it!)

To serve as for a traditional rum baba, and for an extra festive feel, garnish with whipped cream and fresh fruit or jam.  The baba is best eaten on the day that it’s baked but may be kept in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for a few days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

I added a little extra jam in the center of my baba since there was a well in the mini bundt.

Enjoy these rich and scrumptious dessert breads with friends!

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Approximate nutrition for one half mini bundt or one single Baba:


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