Archive for the 'Yeasted Breads' Category

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah


Stop the presses! I have very important news. Way more important than the Super Bowl, even if San Francisco just broke your heart. Actually, if San Francisco just broke your heart, as it did mine, then this news might cheer you up a little. I think I just found God.

What’s that you say? On a baking blog?

Yes. God, in the form of Smitten Kitchen’s Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah. I am a diehard challah fan, and this recipe just stepped it up a notch. Many notches, in fact. I made a double batch of the bread dough; I kept one loaf, just the plain challah bread recipe and braided it like a normal challah. It’s delicious and fluffy and beautiful:


For months I have been hearing about the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Everyone says it’s amazing, and while I didn’t doubt the caliber of the recipes, photographs, and book itself, I did doubt the necessity of my owning it. I check Deb’s blog religiously, have made numerous amazing recipes from it, and spent way too many hours oggling her mouthwatering creations. I knew the book would be great, but I thought, “I can just check the recipes online! I don’t need to spend money on another book that will just clutter my shelves…” Boy, was I wrong. My girlfriend got the cookbook from the public library and if it weren’t a library book, I’d have dog-eared nearly all the pages to remember to make all the recipes as soon as possible! Every pastry, salad, vegetable main dish, and dessert look insanely good. I love when cookbooks have pictures for each recipe – otherwise, how can I really trust the recipe will make what it says? In any case, I now know that I need to own the book. Especially after I baked this challah.

I made the second loaf according to the Smitten Kitchen directions and loaded it up with fig jam and orange rind and damn. It has everything you want in a challah loaf, plus sweet gooey citrus deliciousness oozing out everywhere. Dessert, breakfast pastry, bread, all in one. And imagine using this to make french toast! To die for. Proof that I really need to go out and buy this book:


If you’re wishing the 49ers had won, well, here’s a little bit of gold to hold you over till next year.



French Bread; Two Variations

Nothing lures you into the kitchen like fresh baked bread. The roasting garlic, onions, and olives in these two loaves only increased the olfactory pleasure. When it was warm and fluffy, straight out of the oven, it was delicious. I was especially a fan of the olive bread, but I think this basic French Bread recipe would also be great on it’s own, without any mix-ins added. Make it how you want, get creative!

Basic* French Bread Ingredients:

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. cornmeal
3 Tblsp. water

*This recipe makes delicious bread. You could certainly make it and eat it as it is described here. You can also add whatever other ingredients you want, for instance, one loaf I made had chopped raw onions and garlic  mixed into it, and the other loaf had chopped olives (a mixed variety of green and black) folded into the dough.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or a wooden spoon. Then, using a wooden spoon or your hands, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. If you want to add any extra “flavor” ingredients to your dough, this is the time to do it. If you want two different flavors of your bread, then divide your dough in half, and knead the mix-in ingredients into the dough. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch dough down, and divide in half (unless you already did this). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.

Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush on some of the water. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.

With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with water. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done (you can tell if the bread is done by lifting it off the pan and tapping the bottom – it should sound hollow). If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

Two Kinds of Focaccia


We got this lovely recipe for fluffy focaccia bread from Sarah Raven’s cookbook In Season which is absolutely gorgeous and mouthwatering in every way. Preceeding every recipe is a short personal story, and the book is filled with her own recipes as well as those from friends and family. There are brightly colored photographs of her foods, as well as pictures of Sarah working on her farm and harvesting the fresh produce seen in all her dishes. I also love the way the book is organized; it is seasonal, and for me, in an age and place (California) where nearly all produce can be grown fairly locally in all times of year, this way of reference is very refreshing. It certainly makes me think about what ingredients I’m using and when. For instance, if you want to work with a specific fruit or vegetable, you have to think carefully about what season it is ‘traditionally’ grown in and then you can find a host of recipes to work with. Sarah Raven lists this focaccia recipe as a Sungold Tomato Focaccia (her favorite type of cherry tomato), and it is under the “July/August” section in her book, where she writes that “Good tomatoes are the defining taste of summer, when their round, juicy softness comes into its own. The more of that justpicked, slightly acrid – almost poisonous – smell that they have the better. They are, after all, related to deadly nightshade…”

This recipe is very easy; however, like most yeasted breads, it just requires that you have the time and patience to let it rise. This one has multiple rising times, so it takes awhile. But it is certainly worth the wait, for the finished bread (and baking aroma) is amazing! We used a bit less oil than the recipe called for, and so I’ve written it how we made it below. We also doubled the recipe, and made one loaf savory and one a bit sweeter, which was a nice contrast! The toppings we used for each loaf is also written below, but the bread ingredient amounts are listed for only one loaf of bread.

IMG_9565 Continue reading ‘Two Kinds of Focaccia’

Olive Oil Flax Seed Vegan Challah Bread


It seemed almost silly to try to make vegan Challah bread. The whole point of the bread is that it’s egg bread, right? I’m always craving it though, that fluffy pull-apart braided deliciousness that I grew up eating and loving. I made it once before, substituting bananas for the eggs, and it had the perfect texture down pat. However, while you couldn’t actually taste the bananas very clearly, their sweetness carried over through baking and made the bread much sweeter than traditional Challah. It would have been perfect Challah to make into French Toast.

This time, I wanted a more savory Challah flavor, so I found a new recipe that used Flax Seeds instead of eggs, and I subbed olive oil in place of the usual canola oil; This way, it was much less of a dessert bread! The ground flax left beautiful brown flecks all over, and the olive oil made lovely little golden specks throughout the bread. This recipe was very simple, with few ingredients and the only trick was that I needed to have the time at home to do it. You can find the original recipe here on the “Holy Cow!” blog.

The fresh-baked aroma was enticing, and we gobbled this loaf up in mere minutes, as soon as I took the bread out of the oven! My brother claims he ate over half of it by himself in 3 minutes, but as a witness and participant, I know that he definitely had some help. It was good with melted vegan butter spread on it, and would have been great with some avocado slices (but we ate the bread too fast to remember that we had avocado in the house…).

I’m planning on making this recipe again and again, and I’m really into variations; For instance, I could have added a bit of crushed roasted garlic into the dough and it would definitely have tasted great! Next time, I’m looking forward to making this recipe with canola oil instead of olive, and rolling the dough out, sprinkling cinnamon and sugar over it, and then rolling it up and baking it in a loaf pan, to get fluffy cinnamon bread (like the kind that Semifreddi’s makes). Doesn’t that sound delicious?

2 1/4 tsp. or 1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

Mix the yeast and the warm water in a mixing bowl and leave alone for five minutes to ensure the yeast is alive. If it froths and bubbles, it is!

Add to the bowl:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tblsp. ground flax seed meal + 6 Tblsp. water, whisked together to form a jelly
3 Tblsp. olive oil
3 Tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt

Mix on medium-low speed until blended. Add:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Knead on medium low speed in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes or about 10 minutes by hand. The dough should be elastic and smooth.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turn it once to coat the top with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 2 1/2 hours in a warm place (I used a slightly preheated oven, which then I turned off and just let the bowl with dough sit in there).
Punch down the dough, knead a bit, and then place back into your bowl in a warm place, covered with your plastic wrap, until the dough has doubled (mine took about 30 minutes).

IMG_9344 Divide the dough into three balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 12 inches in length. Dust with flour.
Braid the strands, and pinch together the ends and tuck them under the bread.

IMG_9353 Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet.
Brush the top of the loaf with some olive oil which will give it a lovely glaze after baking.
Cover the loaf with oiled plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise. In about an hour, it would have nearly doubled in size.
Brush the loaf again with olive oil, sprinkle some sesame seeds over it, then place it in a preheated 375-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Cool the loaf on a rack before cutting in…Or just dig in and tear madly, and then stuff your face, like we did.

It even had that perfect, stretchy, pull-apart consistency:


Russian Poppy Seed Roulette


Last weekend, Sasha and I made this delicious Russian poppy seed-filled bread. We have been planning to do this for months, since Purim, when we each made Hamantaschen and had tons of poppy seed filling left over. Luckily, that sickly-sweet paste lasts forever so it was fine to save in the refrigerator and use again. This is a treat that Sasha remembers from her childhood, and it was really really good! The bread is just a tad bit sweet, and the poppy seed filling is spiked with cinnamon, cloves, and lemon, which lends a sophisticated flavor to the sticky sweet poppy seed filling.

Ingredients for Dough:
3/4 cup rice milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tblsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (approx.)
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp salt
2 flax-eggs (combine 1 Tblsp. of ground flax seed with 3 Tblsp. warm water for each “egg”–mix well until you have a gummy consistency)

Ingredients for Poppy Seed Filling:
1 cup store-bought poppy seed filling
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tblsp. chopped lemon rind
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces

1/4 cup rice milk

Step one: In small microwaveable bowl or saucepan, warm milk. In separate bowl, dissolve 1 tsp (5 mL) of the sugar in 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the warm milk. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand for a few minutes until frothy.

Meanwhile, stir Earth Balance and remaining sugar into remaining milk; heat until Earth Balance is melted. Let cool to lukewarm.

In large bowl, whisk 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) of the flour, lemon zest and salt. Make a well in in the center, and add flax-eggs, milk mixture and yeast mixture. With wooden spoon, stir to form soft, slightly sticky dough that comes away from side of bowl.

Step two: Turn out onto floured surface; knead for 2 minutes or until smooth, adding enough of the remaining flour as necessary. Place in a greased ceramic bowl, turning to grease dough all over. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Step 3: While your dough is rising, combine your poppy seed filling with the cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice, chopped lemon rind, and chopped pecans to taste.

Step 4: When your dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Turn out onto floured surface. Roll out into a 14- x 12-inch rectangle.

img_81882Step 5: Leaving 1/2-inch border uncovered around all edges, spread flattened dough with filling. Starting at long side, roll up, pinching seam to seal.

Place roll diagonally and seam side down on greased baking sheet. Cut slits in the top using scissors to make a pretty design. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place for 1 hour.

Topping: Brush rice milk over dough. Bake in center of 350°F oven until golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 30 minutes.

Step 6: Transfer baking sheet to rack; drape dry towel over loaf (for softer crust) and let cool for 20 minutes. Uncover and remove sheet; let loaf cool on rack completely before slicing.

img_81922We decided that this bread could be eaten for dessert, breakfast, with tea, or just as a snack. The recipe is versatile, and could also be made with a chocolate filling, or even with a cinnamon-butter filling and it would be a cinnamon roll!


Cinnamon Rolls


Sari and I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for brunch with our parents, but yeasted pastry breads often take so long to rise it can be frustrating to make them for breakfast. But I’ve discovered that you can do most of the rising the night before, stick the rolls in the fridge overnight, and voilà! You stick them in the oven first thing in the morning, and out come piping hot cinnamon rolls! The cinnamon-sugar filling will still be gooey and the bread tender and fluffy. And slathered with cream cheese icing, what could be better?


I’ve used a similar recipe before, for my Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, and the original recipe that I was inspired by can be found here.

1 package Active Dry Yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk), heated to lukewarm
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 Cup Earth Balance, melted
1 Tblsp. white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 cup Earth Balance, softened
4 ounces Tofutti cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and the warm milk alternative, and let it sit for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Mix in the banana with the yeast, as well as the melted Earth Balance, and sugar. Add half of the flour mixture to your mixing bowl and stir to combine. Slowly mix in the rest of the flour until a nice dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it for 10 minutes, adding more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands. You should end up with a fairly soft dough that is just slightly sticky. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. While that is resting, combine the filling ingredients to make a sugar cream – but leave chopped walnuts out of this mixture at this point.

Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Spread filling on liberally, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Roll up the rectangle tightly, from the long side, pinch the seam to seal, dabbing it with a bit of water if needed. Cut the roll into 12 even slices. Place the slices in a greased pan. Give them a little bit of space, as they will rise (but it’s okay if they touch during baking, then you will get soft fluffy pull-apart outsides). Cover with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge to rise overnight.

In the morning, pull the cinnamon rolls from the fridge and place them on top of the stove while you preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake them for 20-25 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown (I like them on the less browned side).

While the cinnamon rolls are baking, you can mix together your cream cheese frosting. Cream together all the ingredients and make sure it’s light and fluffy. Spread thick on top of your warm rolls, and eat immediately!


I admit, I was skeptical of the possibility of vegan challah. I didn’t believe that you could make egg-bread without eggs, and still have the same perfect tearing texture and crispy golden crust. But it is possible! This recipe used bananas to replace the eggs, and while the baked bread had a subtle banana flavor it was not overpowering like I imagined it might be. The banana flavor made it seem like it would be great bread to make french toast with, since it was already a bit sweet. I have plans to make another version, with flax seeds instead of the banana, and hopefully that will have a great consistency too. In any case, this bread was delicious, especially right out of the oven!





Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls



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March 2023

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