Friday, April 27, 2012

Flax Seed and Millet Bread

Sometimes, during the middle of the week, you just need fresh baked bread. And sometimes, you decide that two hours before dinner is supposed to be on the table. (So you can't make that wonderfully amazing 18-hour Hunger Games bread.) So you improvise with all the random grains you have in your cupboard.

Here's what I came up with to go with a Thursday night mushroom and white bean soup... Flax Seed and Millet Bread with white whole wheat!

3/4 c warm but not hot water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp basswood honey
1 egg, beaten and divided
1/4 c neutral oil (I used canola)
1 c bread flour plus a little more
1 c white whole wheat flour plus a little more
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tbsp flax seed
1 heaping tbsp millet

I found some basswood honey at one of our fancy local grocery stores. I love the strong, almost tang of basswood honey, and I think it matches well with whole wheat.. tames it a bit of if you will.

Proof the yeast in the warm water and basswood honey.  Let rest for about 10 minutes and then add the oil.  I beat the egg in a small drinking glass and poured most but not all of it in the mixture, reserving a small amount for the end to wash the bread.

Add a heaping cup of white whole wheat flour and a heaping cup of bread flour.  Sprinkle in the salt, flax seed, and millet.  Mix by hand or in a stand mixer on 2 until the dough holds together as a ball.  Add more flour as needed.  I think I was under a total of 3 cups, but I'm really not totally sure.  I was improvising after all.

I was feeling festive but didn't want to make the loaf too Shabbos-y (yes, I just turned that into an adjective).  So, I gave it a round braid.
As with most round braids, you need to bake them just a touch longer and usually foil them on top so they don't over brown with the inside doughy.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, turning halfway.
Enjoy with a yummy dinner. Here's a link to the soup recipe (which is even pareve!).
What breads have you improvised recently?  Did they turn out?  Were they soft and chewy like this one with just a little crunch of those millet and flax seeds?  I could definitely see this one as a challah for a nice, healthy Shabbat dinner.

Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah

I doubly experimented with this week's challah, and I'm so glad I did!  Last summer, Leigh Ann wrote a guest post on blueberry challah.  She got a pretty good result using frozen blueberries but she ultimately decided it wasn't such an amazing bread... pretty good, but not great.
But thing about this challah is? Once you finally, ecstatically, bite into it…it’s really nothing to write home about. It’s still beautiful, even more beautiful than before it was baked. Certainly, there’s nothing WRONG with it. But it’s kind of bland, with not much real character to differentiate it from other challot - a Mary Sue, if you will. (Yes. I even crack myself up.) And that’s why I’m calling this “Bella Cullen Blueberry Challah.”
Not to be deterred (am I ever?), I figured I'd give it another go when I spotted Dried Wild Blueberries at Trader Joe's this past week.  (They're even O-U!)  I also grabbed a bottle of Agave Syrup, wanting to give it a try.  A few friends have suggested to me using it in cereal or oatmeal, though I've never tried it with anything.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
And then I realized I knew nothing about agave other than it's a really good V-word on Words with Friends.  Well, research is my strong suit, so I started with Chef Google and found a few things...
  • Agave nectar is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. {Source}
  • Agave is commonly used as a Vegan alternative to honey in cooking. {Source}
  • The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. {Source}
  • It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners. {Source}
  • One of the most health-promoting properties of agave nectar is its favorable glycemic profile... The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant "sugar rush" and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. {Source}
I was pretty much sold at that point. But, I'll be upfront with you... I'm not totally sure I taste a difference. The Hazz detects a texture difference, and I think I can. It's a very smooth challah. But I also masked the taste difference by tweaking my recipe a bit. I'll probably try challah next week with a basic recipe and agave instead of honey... I'll keep you all updated!  Without further ado, Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah!

3/4 c warm but not hot water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar/syrup
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 c flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
Dried Wild Blueberries

I proceeded normally with this challah.  Proof the yeast in the hot water with the agave.  After the yeast is frothy, add the two eggs and oil.  Stir in the flour and salt.

Knead with a dough hook on 2 or by hand until the dough holds together as a ball.  My dough was particularly soft and sticky this week.  Since I have no science skills whatsoever, I can't make any more of a guess than the fact that the agave syrup is runnier than honey.  So, perhaps it made the dough runnier?  Does that mean anything to those of you out there who understand glycemic index?  Long story short, I had to add a lot of extra flour.  Probably close to a half cup.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Cover and place in a covered, oiled bowl.  Let rise until doubled bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface.  Add generous handfuls of the dried blueberries and knead gently.  The amount you use is up to you.  I sort of flatten my dough and pour berries over top, then knead.  I try to incorporate throughout but not have too many out the outside of the dough or they singe a little in the oven.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Roll into strands and braid as normally.  Again, add flour if your dough seems sticky.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Let rest for about a half hour.  Egg was with a beaten egg, vanilla, and brown sugar {I take no credit for this idea... Leigh Ann did it in her recipe!}  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.  Check regularly to prevent excess browning!
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
So I'm thrilled. I kind of think this challah tastes like blueberry muffins. It's sweet, it's delicate (the agave?) and it's full of anti-oxidant rich blueberries.   I think that this challah is something to write home about... And I'm not such a dried fruit person (see here).  But this is truly a breakfast challah.  One you want to slather with butter or make into French Toast.  Or serve to your guests at Friday night dinner for a major wow factor.  I'm that pleased.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
After Saturday morning Shabbat services, The Hazz asked me, "Is there any more blueberry challah?" Whoops. I'd eaten the rest. (However, there's another in the freezer just waiting to be devoured!)
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Psst! We redid the photos for our Basic Challah Recipe. Check it out here!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


We got a new oven right before Pesah!  It was really, really, really, really, really exciting.  (Did I mention I was excited about my oven?)  Our old oven was AWFUL.  It turned off regularly whenever programmed between 350 to 375 degrees... not helpful for a challah baker, right?  The temperatures were consistently uneven and the oven just didn't hold it's heat.

But our NEW oven came right before Pesah which meant... nooooo kashering!  What a relief that amongst preparing for a seder for 18 and deciding where to do my Ph.D. (!) I did not have to also kasher an oven.  Our new baby is pretty standard, nothing terribly fancy and really modest price-wise.  But it does have a continuous grate and FIVE (count 'em!) burners which is really handy.
So can I tell you how excited I was post Passover for our first bread baking!  Bagels!!!!

I can't take credit of this recipe.  It came straight off the back of a bag of King Arthur Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour.  Here's a link to the recipe, and here are my adventures in making it! 
The dough is very tough. It almost feels too tough. But I just told myself to trust the recipe. Since I wasn't experimenting, it was my only option. This was one of the first times we actually used instant yeast as written... just mixed it in right at the beginning. I've been proofing my instant yeast for challah (basically just treating it like active dry). Anyone have any thoughts? 
bagels_01 The dough went around on the dough hook pretty well, and held together easily. I did take it off the dough hook perhaps a bit early. I had to knead a bit by hand, but the texture came out pretty smooth. bagels_03 bagels_04 bagels_05 
There are several methods out there for making bagels. Most include rolling out long strands and pinching them together. I've done this before, but my bagels almost ALWAYS come apart in the boiling process. I like King Arthur's method better... roll out "rolls" and let rest for a half hour. 
When the half hour is nearly up, I put the water with sugar and malt powder on to boil (love my power boil on the new stove!). Then I poked holes into each of the bagels (carefully!) and let rest another ten minutes. 
bagels_09 bagels_10
The boiling process is fun, but a bit scary. I also found it very interesting to see the variety of all the different boiling times. Some recipes say 30 seconds per side. Others 2 minutes each side. This recipe said 2 minutes on side one and 1 minute on side two. That's what I did. 
bagels_11 bagels_12 
We topped with cinnamon sugar (yum!), sesame seeds, and onion flakes. The onion flakes got a bit burnt, so I'm not sure if powder might have been a better option. We would definitely do poppy seeds in the future, but we were out this time. Also, sea salt or parmesan cheese are great options! 
It was hard to keep The Hazz from eating the entire plate. 
What did YOU do to celebrate the return of Hametz to your Post-Passover selves? 
bagels_15 bagels_17 bagels_16