Bread

Ah! Summer Blueberries!

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It's impossible to lose weight during the summer. Not when there is so much glorious fruit around and it tastes so good just out-of-hand but SO SO delicious in crisps, pies, muffins, galettes and quickbreads.

Like this blueberry bread. Spiked with orange.

A nice snack all by itself. Sliced for sandwiches smeared with cream cheese. Dessert when topped with ice cream.

Blueberry Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5” loaf pan. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange peel and vanilla powder together into a bowl. Add the coconut oil in chunks and cut it into the dry ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender. If you use an electric mixer, set it at low-medium speed. In a second bowl, beat the egg and orange juice together until well blended (if you use vanilla extract, add it here). Add to the flour mixture and stir to blend ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes one loaf

Lullabye Bread

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A few years ago Ed and I were in Berlin and checked out KaDeWe, the city's famous department store that has the biggest food halls in Europe and maybe in the world. They sell every kind of food you can imagine. Gorgeous cakes and pastries. Bountiful, beautiful fruit. Different kinds of eggs, dairy products, chocolates. 

It was all familiar. Pineapples. Peaches. Sachertorte. Macarons. Freshly butchered chickens, and so on.

We stopped counting the different kinds of sausages after we reached 100. Apparently they sell sausages from every region in Germany. 

But we were there for lookin', not cookin' -- so, in the two hours we walked through this place it was more like a visit to an art gallery. 

But then we came to the bakery and there, in the case, was a beautiful, braided loaf called Hefezopf, which is like a challah, but with raisins and almonds.

It was a vision. All at once my mind filled with memories of a lovely shabbat challah mixed with grandma singing rozhinkes mit mandlen, that hauntingly beautiful, classic Yiddish lullabye.

Oh my. My eyes well up even thinking about it.

This was something I had to try at home and get right.

I did, but it took several tries. At first I used my challah recipe and sweetened it a bit, but that just tasted like sweeter challah. The consistency wasn't right.

After doing some research about Hefezopf I realized it was more like brioche -- dense, buttery, dairy-laden, so I started tinkering with my brioche recipe.

Yes. 

A taste is worth a thousand looks.

Try this. It's called Hefezopf, but like to call it Lullabye Bread.

Lullabye Bread (HEFEZOPF)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped almonds, optional

 

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, butter and sugar cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 105-110 degrees). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and whisk the ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until thick bubbles form. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces and lemon peel from the yeast mixture and pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add one egg and mix the dough with a dough hook for about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, if used, and mix for another 2 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, add more flour as needed. (Kneading can be done in a food processor or by hand.) Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll the pieces to make strands of about 12-inches long. Braid the strands and place them on the baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg with one teaspoon water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the braid. Sprinkle with almonds, if used. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes one bread

Mom's Date-Nut Bread

Tu B'Shevat is one of the lesser known Jewish holidays, but also one of the more delicious ones. From my childhood I remember it as a time when my mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string.

I ate dozens of them.

It was also when she made her fabulous Date-Nut Bread. She served the slices like a sandwich, with cream cheese slathered between the layers. 

I ate dozens of those too.

My cousin reminded me that her mother and mine baked Date-Nut bread in a coffee can. Yes, of course! Because our mothers were married young women during WWII, when metal -- and therefore loaf pans and other assorted baking equipment -- was in short supply. So they kept the cans from ground coffee and other foods such as fruit cocktail and used those instead.

I recently made a batch of date-nut bread using my mom's recipe. I used a loaf pan and was a little disappointed. Not in the pan. In the bread. It seemed dry. Maybe I over baked it. Not sure, but I always loved this recipe, so I tried again but made a few changes.

I used less flour.

I also thought it might be a good idea to include some figs (or, frankly, any other dried fruit) with the dates and I also thought the flavor would perk up a bit with a small amount of fresh orange peel. 

My mother added Madeira or sherry, but because I had a lovely sample of Cherry Heering that I got at Kosherfest, I used that instead. She also mixed in walnuts but because of allergies, I replaced them with toasted almonds.

Of course, the bread was completely different with all these changes.

I loved it.

Especially when sliced and slathered with cream cheese.

 

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread New Version

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, prunes or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange brandy, cherry Heering, Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cream cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8”x4-1/2”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the fruits and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, wine and egg. Pour the boiling water into the fruit-flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Slice and serve plain or with cream cheese.

 

Makes one loaf

 

Winter Squash and Cranberry Muffins Perfect for Sleepovers

It's December already and I am still sorting through summer clothes and several newspaper articles from last March and April that I was going to read when I had more time.

Why am I always so far behind?

I should be posting about Hanukkah. But somehow I am more focused on New Year's weekend. Probably because I made some unbelievably delicious winter squash muffins recently.

That really isn't a non sequitur. I thought of these muffins because every year we celebrate the coming new year with my brother and sister-in-law and my cousins. The cousins sleep over for a few days. We watch a lot of movies. Watch a lot of British mystery tv (Morse, Endeavor, Foyle's War, etc.). We sit around and enjoy each other's company.

We used to drink a lot of wine but have slowed down over the years.

We used to eat much more too.

(You get older, you can't keep going quite the same way, the same amount, the same speed.)

Still, there are meals to consider.

Breakfasts are usually smoked fish, bagels and stuff like that. 

But every once in a while I like to break up the monotony and have at least one different something for breakfast.

This year: those squash muffins I mentioned. I made a few batches recently and I can honestly say that they are the best muffins I ever ate. I've given some out as samples to my usual "tasters." Most of them also said they were the best muffins they ever ate. 

You'll see.

WINTER SQUASH-CRANBERRY MUFFINS

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup mashed cooked squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)
  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger and whisk the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for a minute or so or until well combined. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the orange juice and squash and blend them in thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the squash mixture and stir gently until just blended. Fold in the cranberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

 

How to Braid a 6-strand Challah

Baking challah? I posted my  recipe  last week and later realized that a lot of people don’t know how to braid a challah. A cousin of mine called a while ago to confirm that fact. She had wanted to make a challah but didn’t know how to make the bread look professional.  Btw, her name is  Jenny Rosenstrach  and she is a food writer and blogger, with a terrific book about getting dinner to the table every day ( Time for Dinner ) and book coming in June called  Dinner: a Love Story  and a wonderful, family-oriented blog with the same name:  Dinner: a Love Story .  She wasn’t the first to consider the whole braiding issue (plus how to make a round challah at holiday time).  So I decided to tell you all how to do it.  I myself became a “pro” not to long ago, I should confess. I had been to a bakery on a tour with one of the women’s groups I belong to. The baker zipped through the braiding so fast it reminded me of those old time black and white movies where people are walking but they look as if they’re running. So we asked him to show us again but of course it was a “show” not a real instruction lesson so he went even faster the next time and no one figured it out.  I always made challah with a standard three-strand braid.  Then I found someone who showed how to do it on Youtube. I don’t remember which version it was or I would mention it here. But my grandson Zev and I were watching and trying to braid the challah as we watched. We had to stop the computer after each step so we could write it all down (and of course we got flour crumbs all over the keyboard) but we finally did get it right.   The next time we made a challah together he remembered it all.  I had to get my instruction sheet out and do it step by step.  I finally got it (after several times).  Okay, you can make a regular three-strand braided challah, the way I had done for years and years. The challah is still delicious. That kind of braid is like braiding someone’s hair. Left over middle, right over middle, left over middle, right over middle, etc.  But, making a 6-strand braid is a little more complicated.  Here’s how:  Lay the six strands alongside each other and press the strands together at the top to seal the top edge. Then braid the strands as follows:  1. far right strand all the way over to the left  2. former far left strand all the way over to the right  3. the now far left strand into the middle  4. the second from right strand all the way over to the left  5. the now far right into the middle  6. the second from the left all the way over to the right  7. the now far left into the middle  8. repeat 4 through 7 as many times as necessary to use up the strands  9. press the strands together at the bottom  Good luck! And enjoy.

Baking challah? I posted my recipe last week and later realized that a lot of people don’t know how to braid a challah. A cousin of mine called a while ago to confirm that fact. She had wanted to make a challah but didn’t know how to make the bread look professional.

Btw, her name is Jenny Rosenstrach and she is a food writer and blogger, with a terrific book about getting dinner to the table every day (Time for Dinner) and book coming in June called Dinner: a Love Story and a wonderful, family-oriented blog with the same name: Dinner: a Love Story.

She wasn’t the first to consider the whole braiding issue (plus how to make a round challah at holiday time).

So I decided to tell you all how to do it.

I myself became a “pro” not to long ago, I should confess. I had been to a bakery on a tour with one of the women’s groups I belong to. The baker zipped through the braiding so fast it reminded me of those old time black and white movies where people are walking but they look as if they’re running. So we asked him to show us again but of course it was a “show” not a real instruction lesson so he went even faster the next time and no one figured it out.

I always made challah with a standard three-strand braid.

Then I found someone who showed how to do it on Youtube. I don’t remember which version it was or I would mention it here. But my grandson Zev and I were watching and trying to braid the challah as we watched. We had to stop the computer after each step so we could write it all down (and of course we got flour crumbs all over the keyboard) but we finally did get it right. 

The next time we made a challah together he remembered it all.

I had to get my instruction sheet out and do it step by step.

I finally got it (after several times).

Okay, you can make a regular three-strand braided challah, the way I had done for years and years. The challah is still delicious. That kind of braid is like braiding someone’s hair. Left over middle, right over middle, left over middle, right over middle, etc.

But, making a 6-strand braid is a little more complicated.

Here’s how:

Lay the six strands alongside each other and press the strands together at the top to seal the top edge. Then braid the strands as follows:

1. far right strand all the way over to the left

2. former far left strand all the way over to the right

3. the now far left strand into the middle

4. the second from right strand all the way over to the left

5. the now far right into the middle

6. the second from the left all the way over to the right

7. the now far left into the middle

8. repeat 4 through 7 as many times as necessary to use up the strands

9. press the strands together at the bottom

Good luck! And enjoy.

Eggless Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread

Even the most experienced home cooks make mistakes.  Like the one I made yesterday. I decided to bake a Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread and as soon as I put the pan in the oven I realized I had left the eggs out of the batter.  Wow! That’s a biggie.  I did that once before, many years ago and made the big mistake of retrieving the loaf pan, scooping the batter back into a bowl, mixing in the eggs and then baking the bread as if nothing had happened.  Unfortunately, after the bread baked and cooled down, biting into a slice was like chewing day-old used bubble gum.  This time I just let the bread bake with a “let’s see what happens” kind of attitude.  The results were astonishingly surprising. What a boon for people who can’t eat eggs! This Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread is delicious. Firmer, denser than one made with eggs, but tasty and tender without them.  So, here’s the recipe, including the eggs, but for egg-free diets — just leave the eggs out.   Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread   4 tablespoons butter  3/4 cup sugar  2 large eggs (optional)  1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon peel  2 cups all-purpose flour  2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder  3/4 teaspoon salt  1 cup milk  1 cup blueberries  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice  1-1/2 tablespoons sugar  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup sugar at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. (Add the eggs and beat them in). Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat to blend the ingredients to a smooth, even batter. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine the lemon juice and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. When the bread comes out of the oven, pour the lemon juice mixture on top. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.  Makes one bread

Even the most experienced home cooks make mistakes.

Like the one I made yesterday. I decided to bake a Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread and as soon as I put the pan in the oven I realized I had left the eggs out of the batter.

Wow! That’s a biggie.

I did that once before, many years ago and made the big mistake of retrieving the loaf pan, scooping the batter back into a bowl, mixing in the eggs and then baking the bread as if nothing had happened.

Unfortunately, after the bread baked and cooled down, biting into a slice was like chewing day-old used bubble gum.

This time I just let the bread bake with a “let’s see what happens” kind of attitude.

The results were astonishingly surprising. What a boon for people who can’t eat eggs! This Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread is delicious. Firmer, denser than one made with eggs, but tasty and tender without them.

So, here’s the recipe, including the eggs, but for egg-free diets — just leave the eggs out.

Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread

4 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs (optional)

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon peel

2 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup sugar at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. (Add the eggs and beat them in). Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat to blend the ingredients to a smooth, even batter. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine the lemon juice and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. When the bread comes out of the oven, pour the lemon juice mixture on top. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread