olive oil matzo bread

Disclaimer: These photos are lacking in the zeal of my past posts’ photos. Why, you ask? Because, unabashedly, my mother took her lovely camera (that I borrow for my photo-taking, for I am too lowly and poor to afford such an expensive item) on vacation with her, to Saint Maarten (or Saint Martin, if you’re on the French side as opposed to the Dutch… in case you wanted to know). The nerve. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the experience of reading about this bread, and maybe the tasteless photos will assist in improving your use of the imagination. Always look on the bright side of life!

I was going to bore you with another “Sifted Words” post on an article I recently read in The New York Times’ “The Minimalist” by Mark Bittman, but when I really dove into his article/recipe on Olive Oil Matzo and realized it takes only THIRTY minutes from start to finish, I decided to instead make the darn bread instead of wasting my time writing about it, which would probably take longer. And if I keep talking about why I made this bread in the first place, I may waste more of your time than you would actually making this bread. So here we go.
ingredientespouring olive oil mixture into food processor
dough on countermatzo balls... tee hee

It’s quite ironic, actually, that I discovered and decided to bake this particular bread. Bittman mentions in his article that the origin of matzo (or, “unleavened”) bread is from way back in the day when the Jews were forced to flee from Egypt after Passover. In their haste they had no time to let their bread rise: thus, matzo bread. He digresses, however, that their bread was not so good. This recipe is worlds away from the original unleavened bread — salty and crispy, with the slightest olive oily taste. It’s also known as “carta musica,” or sheet music, for its incredible thinness.

rolling out matzo bread

olive oil flatbread, pre-oven

But the reason it is so ironic that I happened upon this recipe is because, in a few short days, the husband and I are embarking on our own journey across the land. Of course, there’s no fleeing involved for us, and we’re not traveling across continents (really just from Illinois to Iowa), but still, it’s a metaphor. At least in the sense that, amid packing and preparing to move, I’ve not much time to bake bread, let alone eat it. So a quick and tasty recipe like this is perfect for times when bread is necessary, but time is short. Very short.

olive oil matzo

The process is as simple as the list of ingredients, which I’m sure you already have in the house (don’t you just love it when that happens?). The only difference I encountered with my experience versus Bittman’s was the length of time the bread needed to bake in the oven. While he suggests a mere three minutes, mine took about 6-8 minutes for both sides. As sensitive as this bread is to bake, I’m sure it’s different for every oven, so baby the bread as much as possible by watching it constantly until the edges are just about to burn. Then that’s it. You’re done. Now, time to flee.

A side note: It may be some time before I am able to post another yummy recipe for all of you to enjoy, and for this I am eternally sorry. You can blame Iowa for purchasing our souls and beckoning us to move to its greener pastures on such short notice. And, once you are done blaming Iowa, I’m sure enough time will have gone by that you can check back here again and voila! A new post will appear before you.

Debrief: This flatbread is deliciously crispy and multidimensional in taste all on its own, but a little hummus and capers don’t hurt, adding a little oomph to your unleavened snack.

Olive Oil Flatbread
Courtesy of The Minimalist (of The New York Times)

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Combine flour and salt in food processor. Combine olive oil and water in small bowl, whisking them together into a “vinaigrette”-like substance. While running the food processor, add olive oil and water mixture to the flour mixture slowly. Run the food processor until all ingredients combine into a firm dough ball. Remove dough from food processor and knead slightly into a ball. Cut ball in half, then in smaller pieces, until you have 12 small pieces of dough. Roll each piece into a ball.
Flatten each piece on a well-floured surface into a 3-4 inch patty. Roll out with rolling pin into a 6-8 inch circle. Make sure it is very, very thin (you should be able to see your fingers on the other side when looking through the dough with light behind it). Place thin circles on ungreased cookie sheets and sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Bake circles for 2 minutes on one side and one minute on the other (for me, this was give or take 3-4 minutes on each side; just keep a very close watch on the dough until it is thisclose to burning, then remove from the oven). Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Extra punches: As I’ve mentioned twice before, and will do so again — WATCH THE BREAD. Seriously. Sit on the floor (pillow is optional), look through the glass and watch the bread bubble and brown, because there are crucial seconds between that necessary browning and irreversible burning.

4

scone, post-oven

Top o’ the morning — er, evening! — to you!

Maybe the above statement is more Irish than British (or Scottish, the apparent host country of the scone), but nevertheless, I feel quite Western European after having noshed on a scone with a spot of tea. “Hmmm, tea, you say?” “Why, yes, it’s a lovely way to relax in the afternoon after a long day of linguistics in the library.” “You don’t say! May I try one, good madam?” “By jove, you may.” “Bloody hell, these are scrumptious! How ever do you make them?” Well, I’ll tell you, bloke.
lemonspoppyseed closeup
butterheavy cream
First, I must explain how I got on the scone track in the first place — my 12 (sometimes going on 30)-year-old brother, Matthew, had a school project in which he needed to demonstrate how to make something. He approached me with the idea of helping him make scones. I obliged, and so, together we concocted this recipe of the perfect flaky lemon poppyseed scone — plus, he now has a project, I now have a blog post. Jolly good! (OK, I promise I’m done sounding like Harry Potter.)
folding the doughrolling out the dough
rolling out the dough, part deuxcutting the dough, part deux
Scones (properly pronounced “skawn,” as in gone, according to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible) are surprisingly simple to make. It’s really all about getting the dough — sticky and buttery and as heavy as an anvil — into a one-inch thick slab the size of a piece of paper, with straight edges to ensure the classic triangle shape. Apart from this turning and rolling and turning and rolling, etc., the rest of the process is easier than I expected. There’s no yeast, and therefore no need to wait for the dough to rise, and all it takes is 15 to 20 minutes in the oven before they’re done.

cutting scones

scones pre-oven

The flakes of butter mixed in with dark, spherical poppyseeds and curly pieces of sun-yellow lemon zest make these substantial “tea cakes” a beautiful, as well as delicious, mid-afternoon treat (or breakfast). And, if you make them with someone you love, the process is just as good as the result.

lemon poppyseed scones

Debrief: The original recipe calls for currants instead of the lemon poppyseed version we made, which I might try next time. Really, you could put anything you want in scones — apples and cinnamon, blueberries and lemons, dried cranberries or chocolate chips — the list goes on.

Flaky Scones
courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes 12 or 16 4-in-by-1 1/2-inch-high scones

Ingredients:
1 cup (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 liquid cups heavy cream
2 tbsp grated lemon zest*
3 tbsp poppyseeds*

*or, per the original recipe, omit poppyseeds and lemon zest and add 1 cup currants

Chill the butter. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes.
Mix the dough. In a large bowl or electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and with your fingertips, press the cubes into large flakes (Or use the electric mixer, mixing until the butter is the size of small walnuts). Stir in the cream just until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to come together in large clumps (at this point, my electric mixer went into overload and could barely stir the dough, so I had to use my hands to incorporate the ingredients). Stir in the lemon zest and poppyseeds (or whatever ingredient(s) you choose). Knead the dough in the bowl just until it holds together, and turn it out onto a lightly floured board.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven rack at the middle level and set a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
Shape the dough. Lightly flour the top of the dough (or use a floured pastry sleeve), and roll it out into a long rectangle 1 inch thick and about 8 inches by 12 inches; use a bench scraper to keep the edges even by smacking it up against the sides of the dough. Fold the dough in thirds, lightly flour the board again, and rotate the dough so that the closed side faces to the left. Roll it out again and repeat the “turn” 3 more times, refrigerating the dough, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes as necessary only if it begins to soften and stick.
Roll out the dough once more. Trim the edges so that it will rise evenly. (To use the scraps, press them together and roll out, giving them 2 turns, then roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick square and cut into 2 triangles.) Cut the dough in half lengthwise so you have 2 pieces, each about 4 inches by 12 inches. Cut each piece of dough into triangles with about a 3-inch-wide base and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. (The dough will rise but not expand sideways.) If the dough is soft, cover it well with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.
Bake the scones. Bake the scones one sheet at a time; cover the second sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you bake the first one, then bake the second pan directly from the refrigerator. Place the pan on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet and bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tops are a golden brown and firm enough so that they barely give when pressed lightly with a finger (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a scone will read about 200 degrees F). Check the scones after 10 minutes of baking, and if they are not browning evenly, rotate the baking sheet from front to back. Do not overbake, as they continue baking slightly on removal from the oven and are best when slightly moist and soft inside.
Cool the scones. Place two linen or cotton towels on two large racks and, using a pancake turner, lift the scones from the baking sheets and set them on top. Fold the towels over loosely and allow the scones to cool until warm or at room temperature. (Since linen or cotton “breathes,” the scones will have enough protection to keep from becoming dry and hard on the surface but will not become soggy.)

3

beer bread, front view

It’s a beautiful thing when healthy, tasty and quick-and-easy all come together to form a bread. Elliott happened upon this beer bread recipe while visiting the Planet Green Web site and, seeing as he loves all things organic, and beer, and organic beer, I was immediately informed of his find and was asked — nay, implored — to make this loaf on his behalf.
green and grayorganic beer... booyah
spoonssea salt

It didn’t take much convincing — after all, the recipe calls for what? SIX ingredients? Most of which (with the exception of organic beer) were sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be used? Well, if you insist, dear husband, I think I can manage to lift these arms of mine and make you some bread in 30 minutes flat.

Truth is, it was harder to find the organic flour than it was to make this recipe. We found the beer (Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager) at our favorite local wine store (Wine Knows… so clever), but when it came to finding organic wheat flour and organic bread flour, it was a lost cause. We were dumbfounded and, quite frankly, disappointed by our misfortune. It’s been a tough go of this “food revolution” we’re on ’round these parts, but I guess you just have to move on. So I substituted the organic flours for the ones I already had stored on my counter.

lager, close up

hey, batter batter batter

testing for doneness

At first, I was mildly skeptical of the idea that the beer alone would do the job of causing the bread to rise, but apparently the yeast is inherently in the beer itself, which allows the dough to rise in the oven (and thus makes it a “quick bread”). I’ve seen it with my own eyes, too, because the batter was flat prior to going in the oven and, when the bread was done, it was fluffier and rounded on the top. Who knew?

organic beer bread

I’m not sure how I feel about the consistency of the bread. As it is considered a quick bread, it’s quite dense and moist, almost like a banana bread. To some, this may be a turnoff, but I think it makes the bread more robust and refined. And, if you’re still wary, maybe knowing that the recipe only calls for 1 1/2 cups of beer, leaving the rest to disappear down your gullet at 10 a.m. on a Sunday (What? We didn’t do that…), may change your mind. Bottoms up, my friends.

Debrief: The downside to this recipe is the lack of a specific answer when it comes to how long the bread will take to bake. I put mine in for 15 minutes, then another 7, then another 5 before it passed the “doneness test” for quick breads (clean toothpick, etc.). Still, I think I was a little overzealous in taking the bread out of the oven, because the loaf was a tad sticky. This may just be a condition of its moistness. The upside to this recipe, however, was the Samuel Smith beer (a recommendation from the recipe’s site) — definitely a keeper.

Organic Beer Bread

Courtesy of Planet Green (Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic bread flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups organic beer

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
2. Combine dry ingredients.
3. Add beer.
4. Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.
5. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let cool in the pan placed on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Extra punches:
I’ve learned from multiple sources that it’s best to use the lightest beer possible for this recipe as it adds to the yeasty, beer-y taste, whereas darker beers tend to leave the bread bitter. So save the Guinness for drinking and use a lighter lager for the bread.

1

Technorati Claim Code: AGU6B8KGBW6J

IMG_3744

If ever there was a tasty bread baked for instant gratification, this is it. I was having one of those “Good Lord I reeeeeeeally don’t even want to lift a finger today” kind of days, but my internal deadline was nagging at me about how “it’s been almost two weeks and your next post is due, and I don’t care that you were on vacation in the Bahamas because what kind of an excuse is that, anyway?” This is true, being away from the kitchen because I was too busy sipping Bahama Mamas from a coconut monkey head while lying on a boat deck trying desperately to change my skin color to anything darker than the vampiric translucence it was is not much of an excuse for a belated bread post, but nevertheless, I haven’t had much time.
flour en vogueoops! a spill
closeup of yellow cornmeal... yumhuevos y leche


I found this bread in Joy under the “Corn Breads” section, and I was feeling mildly southern that day (I don’t know, maybe it was my subconscious wishing to be back in warmer climates) so my hankering + laziness led me to this spoon bread recipe. Heck, I didn’t even know what a spoon bread was, and I’m still not completely sure (the closest I got to an explanation was “corn souffle“), but it sounded like something warm and slightly gooey and cornmeal-y, and if it requires nothing more than a spoon and a mouth, I’m in.

my wedding colors! no, i'm serious

mixing the batter

Truth is, it wasn’t much more than a slightly softer version of regular corn bread, but the golden brown, crusty edges in combination with the melt-in-your-mouth buttery center was like eating one of those baked mac n’ cheeses where you crack off the burnt cheese on the end of the casserole dish and douse it in warm, melty cheese noodles and… egads, it’s good. And very, very easy to make, too. Perfect for a day when you’d rather be back on a tropical island drinking cocktails at noon, but instead you’ve got bread to bake.

IMG_3741

closeup of crusty soft-center spoon bread

Debrief: I’m very aware that this is barely passes for a traditional bread, but if it has the word “bread” in it, I say it mildly counts. Next time I make this, I may disperse the batter in ramekins and bake it for less time so it more truthfully becomes a “corn souffle.”

Crusty Soft-Center Spoon Bread
courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Makes 4 servings (which is a mighty-fine heapin’ helping, I’d say. I served mine to 8 with no complaints.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp double-acting baking powder
Add:
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
Stir in until well blended:
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
Melt in a high-rimmed 8 x 8-inch baking dish:
2 tbsp butter
Pour in the batter. Pour over the top:
1/2 cup milk
Bake 45 minutes or more, until good and crusty. (My overzealous oven completed its task in 38 minutes.)

2

quick bran date bread

It is Thanksgiving. I won’t exhaust you with all the details of for what I am thankful, but I am indeed thankful for a lot of things this year. Including my husband, for whom I am most thankful, in part for his excellent photography (he painstakingly took and edited almost all these pictures for me).

Another thing I am thankful for is quick breads. I know it may be cheating in the spectrum of bread baking, as most quick breads require nothing more than a mixture to be placed in a tin and baked. It is just that — quick. And though part of me misses the process of letting dough rise, kneading it, letting it rise again, shaping it, letting it rise again… sigh… sometimes it’s just nicer to not have to do all that work.

datesbrown sugar
flourpecans, chopped
I’m also thankful that we randomly had a plethora of dates in our house, inspiring me to bake a bread featuring dates as the star player. It didn’t sound too appetizing at first, what with bran and mushy dates and nutmeats (?) — and to be honest, never looked too much better while preparing the bread — but once it emerged from the oven, the kitchen was enveloped with an aroma of warm, hearty, sweet date-y goodness. And the taste was even better.

baking powder and batter

into the pans

And so I was thankful for the fact that I used the random dates well, that the bread was simple to make and required few ingredients (though some odd, including dates and bran and… once again, nutmeats?) and that I was able to share it with my family, of which I am also thankful. And I am thankful that I also get to share this recipe with you, and though you may initially shy away from it and its apparent unattractiveness, I dare you to pick up some dates and give it a try.

quick bran date bread, details

But, like I said, I won’t bore you with everything for which I am thankful. But thanks for reading this.

Debrief
: Not much to change. This was one of the simplest breads I’ve ever made. Just mix the ingredients, stick in the oven, and voila. Yum.

Quick Bran Date Bread
courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare:
2 cups chopped dates
Pour over them:
2 cups boiling water
In a separate bowl, beat until light:
2 eggs
Add slowly, beating constantly:
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 cup molasses (I used brown sugar)
When these ingredients are creamy, add:
1 cup whole-grain flour (I used whole wheat… is there much of a difference?)
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Add half the date mixture and:
1 cup whole-grain flour (or whole wheat)
2 cups bran
1 tsp vanilla
Add the remaining date mixture and:
1 cup or less chopped nutmeats (I used chopped pecans and came to find this was close enough)
Place the dough in lightly greased loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour.

2

chocolate chocolate chip bread, sliced

I have a confession to make.

Though I truly, deeply love to bake bread and delight in all its complexities, idiosyncrasies, successes and catastrophes, I must admit it is not my first love. You see, I have an indelible sweet tooth. This is no ordinary sweet tooth — oh, no. I am perplexed when I pick up a Glamour or Self Magazine and read their articles titled, “Eat What You Want And STILL Lose Weight!”, only to find that their suggestions span only as far as, “When vexed with a desire for chocolate, have one Dark Chocolate Hershey’s Kiss to diminish the craving.” This advice, however, does not subdue my monstrous sweet tooth. Once I ingest the drop of chocolate, my sweet tooth rears its ugly head and, in full force, demands several more larger portions in order to be satisfied. So when I decided to take on bread baking — a venue that often avoids recipes with heaps of sugar — it was an attempt to find a hobby that perhaps would force my sweet tooth into submission forevermore.

Then I found this recipe. With loaves like these, I will never have the courage to beat down my sweet tooth monster.

loaf pan with cooking sprayunsweetened cocoa
buttahchocolate chips


I needed to make this recipe for two reasons: one, I’ve been dying to make a dessert bread and, two, I had one of those won’t-take-no-for-an-answer kind of chocolate cravings the other day. And so, with the help of my lovely new book, The Bread Bible, I created chocolate chocolate chip bread. Yes, that’s chocolate times deux.

chocolate additionfluffy dough
chocolate bread battercoating the bread with syrup

This loaf is not really a “bread” in the sense of kneading, etc. but it is still a quickbread, and thank God, because this bread is far too delicious to have any sort of patience to eat it. Extremely moist and fluffy, with a Kahlua syrup soaking in from all sides, adds to the density and makes the bread more “grown up.” It was very, very easy to make (I randomly decided while baking the first loaf to bake a second loaf, and by the time the first one finished the second was ready for the oven), and very rich. If you don’t like chocolate, you won’t like this bread, though the bread itself is less fudge-y than you’d expect. Using a stand mixer was useful in this project, especially because the addition of ingredients and the rounds of mixing were important to aerate and “fluffify” the dough. I’m making up words.

Debrief: Next time, I may leave out the addition of the Kahlua syrup in at least one of the loaves (though the Kahlua addition is divine), just to see if the chocolate flavor, unadulterated, becomes enhanced.

finished product

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread
courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes: an 8-by-4-by-3-inch-high loaf

Ingredients:
3 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed)
3 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract (do NOT use imitation vanilla extract, or a pox on both your houses!)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (lazy as I am, I used all-purpose flour and did not sift, and survived to live another day)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, preferably turbinado (a.k.a. raw sugar — I used regular sugar)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate chopped medium-fine (optional) (I used chocolate mini chips)

Equipment:
a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer;
an 8-by-4-inch (4-cup) loaf pan, or, if using the chocolate chips, an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (5-cup) loaf pan, bottom greased and line with parchment, then sprayed with Baker’s Joy or greased and floured (if using a nonstick pan and Baker’s Joy, there’s no need to line the pan) (I greased the bottom of a nonstick pan and did nothing else and was fine)

1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the middle level.
2. Make the soft cocoa paste. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then gently whisk in the vanilla and eggs. It will be fluid.
3. Mix the batter. In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid, with the paddle attachment) for 30 seconds to blend. Add half the chocolate paste and the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium if using a stand mixer (#4 KitchenAid), or high if using a hand-held mixer, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the remaining chocolate paste in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the bowl. With a rubber spatula, fold in the optional chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate.
4. Fill the pan. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. (The batter will be almost 1/2 inch from the top of the 4-cup pan.)
5. Bake the bread. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200 degrees F. Tent loosely with buttered foil after 25 minutes to prevent overbrowning. (The bread shouldn’t start to shrink from the sides of the pan until after removal from the oven.)
6. Cool the bread. Set the bread on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a small metal spatula and invert it onto an oiled wire rack. Reinvert so that it is top side up and cool completely.
Variation: For an extra-moist cake and a subtle background coffee accent, brush the bread with coffee syrup. To make the syrup, in a small pan, stir together 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and remove from the heat. When the syrup is cool, add 1 tbsp Kahlua. As soon as the bread is removed from the oven, brush half the syrup onto the top. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a lightly oiled rack and brush the bottom and sides with the remaining syrup. Reinvert it to finish cooling top side up.

Extra punches (from The Bread Bible): To get an attractive split down the middle of the crust, wait until the natural split is about to develop, about 20 minutes into the baking, and, with a lightly oiled sharp knife, make a shallow slash 6 inches long down the middle of the bread. This must be done quickly so that the oven door does not remain open very long, or the bread could fall. When the top crust splits, it will open along this slash.

3