Jul 31, 2012

Zucchini Olive Oil Bread

I made this zucchini bread at the request of my oldest grandson, for whom I'd pretty much bake anything he wants.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Olive Oil Bread #zucchinibread #chocolatechips #quickbread

I don't usually care for quick breads. I make "real" bread. You know, the kind that takes a starter, a preferment, stretching and folding, steaming up the oven, thumping the bottom to make sure it sounds hollow......

Then someone who happens to be 8 said, "grandma, I tried Zachary's zucchini bread today at camp and it was awesome! Will you make some for me?"

"Yes, sweetheart, of course I will." I'm pretty sure he has no idea that zucchini is a vegetable. 

grated zucchini for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Olive Oil Bread #zucchinibread #chocolatechips #quickbread

Zucchini Olive Oil Bread

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who also happens to have numerous recipes on her site for people who are trying to deal with their bountiful zucchini plants. 

Jul 29, 2012

BBA Challenge - Ciabatta, Cinnamon Buns & Sticky Buns, and Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

My next installment on the breads of Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Ciabatta, Poolish Version

This bread is made from a very slack, wet dough and is quite airy.  This recipe takes two days to make, day one for a "poolish," and day two for the final dough. It involves the stretch-and-fold method to develop the dough.

While this bread was wonderful, I had already baked with greater success Peter's recipe from his later book Artisan Breads Every Day. In that book, he continued to improve his techniques. So... this bread is good, but the later recipe is better.

Google BBA Challenge #7 to see other bakers' experiences.

Cinnamon Buns and Sticky Buns

This dough is wonderful. You can use it for both cinnamon buns and sticky buns. The cinnamon buns are baked and then topped with a fondant glaze. The sticky buns are baked in a mixture that creates a caramel glaze with nuts and raisins that top the buns once you turn the whole pan upside down. These were very easy to make and take only a few hours (mostly just waiting for the dough to rise). I divided my dough in half to make both.

My recommendation... go with the sticky buns. The caramel glaze worked beautifully. I was not as happy with the glaze for the cinnamon buns. Still, both are great, and I would definitely make them both again. Google BBA Challenge #8 to see other bakers' experiences.

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread 

.... without the walnuts

This bread is so good. This will be my "go to" cinnamon raisin bread recipe. I left out the walnuts, added the optional cinnamon swirl, and cut the amount of cinnamon sugar in the swirl by one half the recommended amount in the recipe. Make this bread.

 Google BBA Challenge #9 to see other bakers' experiences.

Jul 26, 2012

Poilane-Style Miche

My cousin went to Paris and made a pilgrimage to the Poilane shop, the boulangerie founded by Lionel Poilane. I'm still jealous. Fortunately for me, she returned with this....

This is a bag of flour from that famous bakery and it had been sitting in her freezer for a while when she brought it to me. It was about that time that I began baking the recipes from the book I've been baking my way through for about a year.

Serendipity.... Convergence....

This is the bread featured on the cover of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Supposedly this bread is mythical. The flour is whole grain that is sifted to remove some of the bran. This is a very large loaf of bread. Even though I had the "high extraction" flour, it was not enough, so I sifted some stone ground whole wheat flour through a fine mesh sieve to add to the recipe. I'm pretty sure I would not have the patience to do this for the flour for an entire loaf. I mean, the recipe calls for about 2 pounds of flour. An easier option is to use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 bread flour to simulate the flour in the recipe.

This bread takes two days to make. On the first day you mix up the "firm starter," which takes no time at all.

On the second day you make the final dough and bake the bread.

Jul 23, 2012

Watermelon Rum Cocktail

Watermelon Rum Cocktail

Here's a refreshing cocktail that has "summer" written all over it. Watermelons are everywhere, and they are super inexpensive this time of year.

Watermelon Rum Cocktail

Serves 2

3 ounces of silver rum
3 ounces of pureed watermelon
1 ounce of Triple Sec or another citrus liqueur
1 T limeade concentrate
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
12 dashes orange bitters

Chill two margarita or wine glasses and add a small amount of crushed ice.
Combine all ingredients with the exception of the cava and stir with ice for about a minute.
Strain the ingredients into the two glasses.
Slowly pour the cava into the top of each cocktail (to float on top).

Adapted from The Daily Meal courtesy of The Smith in NYC

Jul 21, 2012

Demerara Sugar Honey Challah

This month, the Twelve Loaves (formerly Breaking Bread) fraternity is making challah. To participate, you can make any challah recipe you like, as long as you bake it in July 2012.

I decided to try the recipe from Cake Duchess, the host of this party, with one variation. Instead of Sugar in the Raw, I used demerara sugar. The sugars aren't that different from each other, plus my pantry will not hold one more unique ingredient. As an added bonus, I get to give my bread a different name.  Here is an explanation of the different types of sugars.

OK. Hope you came back after clicking all of those links. Onto the bread....

Recipe adapted from Cake Duchess, courtesy of Food Wanderings.

Jul 20, 2012

BBA Challenge - Brioche, Casatiello, & Challah

Installment number two of my year baking my way through Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Poor Man's Brioche 

I had tried another recipe for brioche before and wasn't all that happy with it. Brioche is a very rich bread. It includes eggs, a bit of sugar, and a ton of butter. It's not flaky like croissants, and it's not sweet. To me, the first recipe I tried just seemed greasy. I ended up making a very nice bread pudding with it, but it annoys me that I would have to take such an elaborate recipe and then create bread pudding. Seems like "bread pudding" and "French toast" are the catch-all excuses for what to do with bad bread.

Fortunately, Peter Reinhart provides three versions of his brioche recipe. Rich Man's Brioche, with a pound of butter to make three 1-pound loaves, Middle-Class Brioche, with 1/2 pound of butter to make two 1-pound loaves, or Poor Man's Brioche, with 1/4 pound of butter to make two 1-pound loaves.

I made the Poor Man's Brioche. It was perfect for me. And I think my loaves are quite pretty. Perhaps I'll try Peter's "richer" recipes someday.

I definitely would make this bread again.

 Google BBA Challenge #4 to see other bakers' experiences.


 See that little crack in the bread? My notes say that this bread stuck to the pan ("next time use parchment").  This bread is sort of a brioche with cheese and salami. At least this bread makes a commitment to the savory side. And it's delicious. I'd definitely make again.

 Google BBA Challenge #5 to see other bakers' experiences.


This bread is excellent. I had already made Peter Reinhart's Challah from Artisan Breads Everyday. That recipe (which is very good) called for a very large amount of egg yolks (in fact, that's why I finally attempted macarons). This recipe called for two eggs and two egg yolks. And the leftover egg whites could be used as a bread wash before sprinkling the loaf with seeds.

I will definitely make this challah again. It's very good.

Stay tuned for the rest of the BBA Challenge.... See my previous post for links to information about the BBA Challenge.

For this bread,  Google BBA Challenge #6 to see other bakers' experiences.

Jul 19, 2012

BBA Challenge

About a year ago, I came across the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook page and posted a photo of a loaf of bread I made from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. Phyl Devine of Cabbages and King Cakes suggested that I might want to check out the BBA Challenge Facebook page. And so began my obsession.....

In 2009, before I became a bread head (I started in 2010), Nicole of Pinch My Salt created a bread baking blogger group for baking one's way through Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I had already purchased this book and had made a few of the recipes and was pretty much a disciple, so while I'd missed the blogger boat, I joined the Facebook page and started baking and posting photos. Yes, I was tardy to the party, but this group is very welcoming.

I will not be posting the recipes (buy the book!) but I will be posting my photos and comments about the recipes.

I have learned so much. This book is definitely a course in how to bake bread. I can honestly say that I am now an intermediate bread baker. I hope to some day achieve expert level.

And the bread baking community is incredible.

So.... I'll be posting the breads in order, three at a time. If you are interested, buy the book and start baking. Each time I baked a new recipe, I Googled "BBA Challenge" and the name of the bread, and was able to take advantage of the experiences of everyone who'd attempted the recipe.

If you want to jump in, definitely take advantage of this community. Don't get discouraged when I say that I don't like a specific recipe. It's all a matter of taste. Baking your way through this book is like taking a course in bread baking.

These bread recipes are written in alphabetical order, with the exception of the last two. Peter created 41 recipes, and as a bonus, included two more recipes from Tim Decker of Bennett Valley Bread. 

So here are the first three breads:

BBA Challenge #1 Anadama Bread
 Evidently, this is a bread that is native to New England. It contains flour, cornmeal, and molasses. It contains commercial yeast, and takes two days to make.

On the first day, you make a corn meal soaker, and on the second day, you bake the bread.

Results: the bread was fine, but the molasses flavor was a little strong for my taste.

Would I make it again? No.

 Google BBA Challenge #1 to see other bakers' experiences.

BBA Challenge #2 Artos: Greek Celebration Bread

 There are three recipe variations in this category and participants in the challenge could choose one variation. I chose the first one, Greek Celebration Bread. It contains a barm (sourdough starter) or poolish, and is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, citrus zest, and almond. Bakers also have the option of adding dough embellishments/curlicues to make it authentic. As you can see, I chose to go with a boule.

This bread is good, had amazing oven spring, and makes nice French toast, and I would consider making it again. It was also pretty easy to make.

 Google BBA Challenge #2 to see other bakers' experiences.

BBA Challenge #3 Bagels
 This the first recipe in the book that I would definitely make again. The flavor is incredible. You will need either malt powder or syrup, which you can get from King Arthur Flour. This recipe starts with a sponge of yeast, flour and water. Once it gets foamy, you add the rest of the ingredients and create the dough. One of the coolest parts of this recipe is the "float test." Once you shape the bagel and let them rise for 20 minutes, you see if they will float in water. Once they float, you refrigerate the shaped bagels overnight.

The next day, you first boil the bagels for two minutes, and then bake them. I felt quite accomplished.

 Google BBA Challenge #3 to see other bakers' experiences.

Jul 13, 2012

Gin Gimlet

Happy Friday.

The Gin Gimlet was originally created as a medicinal drink. Gin was considered a diuretic, and the lime was to prevent scurvy.

Evidently, the inventor was Sir T.O. Gimlette, a British naval physician from the 1800s. At least that is what my 1999 copy of the Williams Sonoma Bar Guide from Time Life Books says.

The recipe in the book calls for 2 1/2 oz of gin and 1 T. of Rose's Lime. That's a lot of gin and not much real lime.

I much prefer real lime sweetened with a bit of limeade concentrate. You can keep the limeade concentrate in your freezer and just spoon out what you need when you need it. It's amazing stuff.

Jul 10, 2012

Biscoff Cheesecake

Someone at work loves cheesecake. Someone at work just discovered Biscoff Spread. Someone at work just had a birthday.

Convergence (con-ver-gence) (kən-vûr'jəns): The process of coming together at one point. 

Tools you will need to bake this ab-fab cheesecake (this thing was killed off by a lot less people than there are servings. I'm just saying):

  • 9" springform pan, cheesecake pan, or cake pan. I prefer a cheesecake pan. Magic Line and Fat Daddio make them and they are much less expensive than springform pans and there are less moving parts to break. You can get them from Amazon or Sur la Table. If you only have a cake pan, you'll be fine. There will be instructions in the recipe for de-panning the cheesecake. 
  • A larger pan in which the cheesecake pan will fit. I like to use an enameled broiler pan (the one that came with your oven that you never use) or an 18" x 13" cake pan. 
  • An electric mixer (hand or stand).
  • Parchment paper.
As for the Biscoff Spread.... This stuff is amazing. It's sort of a gingery, cinnamony, spicey, I-can't-quite-pin-it-down flavored cookie spread made from Biscoff cookies. Trader Joe's makes something like it called Speculoos Cookie Butter... but there is no comparison. I found the Biscoff brand at Cost Plus World Market. I've also heard Gelson's carries it.  World Market seems to have by far the best price. They also carry the cookies. Onto the recipe....

Jul 8, 2012


This all started with the purchase of a propane barbecue.

I have been working for several years to convince my husband that we should buy a gas barbecue. We have a charcoal Weber, but I wanted something that would maintain a steady heat in the winter (yes, I'm in Southern California, blah blah blah). When he finally bought in, we took a trip to the barbecue store.

We found something that seemed good, and the guy at the store said that assembly would take about four screws..... Yeah right.

The pergola casts shadows. But you get the picture.

So I bribed my son with guacamole.

This is my guacamole recipe. You can adjust the quantities to taste. All I can say is, my son built the barbecue, and loved the guac.

Please, please, please I would LOVE to hear about your recipe.


4 ripe Haas avocados
1/4 lime, juiced
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped and seeded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/2 Roma tomato, finely diced
1 T cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced. If you don't have fresh garlic, garlic powder works.
1T Sriracha Hot Chile Sauce (this is my secret ingredient)
Shake of ascorbic acid.... (I get this ingredient from King Arthur Flour...you don't need this unless you are trying to make the guacamole last until the next day. This prevents the guacamole from turning brown.)

Halve the avocados, remove the seeds, and scrape the pulp into a bowl.
Mash the avocado with a fork.
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
Cover with plastic wrap pressed against the guacamole and let the flavors meld together for about an hour.  Store any leftovers with plastic wrap pressed against the guacamole to prevent browning.

Jul 4, 2012

Hokkaido Milk Bread using the Tangzhong Method

This Hokkaido Milk Bread using the Tangzhong Method is the softest fluffiest bread you will ever produce. It's very different than most of the artisan style breads that I usually make. 

Hokkaido Milk Bread using the Tangzhong Method

This Hokkaido Milk Bread is reminiscent of Hawaiian bread, and it seems to stay fresh and soft for a long time. The oven spring is amazing.