Olive Oil Bread

I wanted to make some homemade bread over the weekend and of course I opened up Essentials of Italian Cooking to the bread section. This basic white bread caught my eye mainly because I had all of the ingredients home. It takes a LONG time to make though. Not so much a long amount of active prep, but lots of rising time, about 6 hours 30 mins. A lot, right? But I did it and it was worth the effort. It has a deliciously crusty exterior and a crumby interior. For dinner last night, I made chicken salad sandwiches using this bread along with leftover chicken from the crock-pot recipe from the other night and lettuce from my garden. Yum. 

Ingredients:

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water, divided

1/4 tsp sugar

5 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

baking stone

baker’s peel or cookie sheet

cornmeal

pastry brush or spoon

Directions:

1- Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and the sugar. Let stand for about 10 minutes.To this add 2 cups flour and 3/4 cups lukewarm water. Mix with a wooden spoon.

2- Pour the contents onto a lightly floured surface and knead for exactly 10 minutes. Incorporate more flour if the dough is sticky. By the end of the 10 minutes, you want the dough to be smooth and elastic.

3- Place the dough into a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let it rise for 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

4- Pour the remaining 3 cups flour onto the counter. Place the risen ball of dough onto the flour. Punch the dough down and open it into a bowl shape with your hands. Pour the remaining 1 cup lukewarm water over it and add the salt and the olive oil. Work quickly to incorporate all the ingredients. Knead for another 10 minutes.

5- Return the ball of dough to the lightly floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for another 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

6- When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard until it is stretched out lengthwise. Reached for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, push it away with the heel of your palm, fold it, push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. It will have a tapered, roll-like shape. Pick up the dough, holding it by one of the tapered ends, and slap it down on the counter several times, stretching it out in a lengthwise direction. Repeat the folding process you just did. Work the dough in this manner for 8 minutes.

7- Divide the dough in half and shape each into a loaf (thick in the middle and tapered at the ends). Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the baking sheet or peel. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes. At this point pre-heat the over to 450 degrees. Make sure the baking stone is in the oven. You can bake the bread on the cookie sheet, but results will be more desirable with the stone.

8- After the 3 minutes have elapsed, take a knife and make a single lengthwise cut, about an inch deep, into the bread. Brush the tops with water then slide the loaves from the peel or the cookie sheet on the preheated stone. Bake for 12 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for another 45 minutes.Transfer loaves to a cooling rack and let the bread cool completely before cutting and serving.

7- Wrap remaining bread in saran wrap and store on the counter.

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Cinnamon Rolls

Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to enjoy these since I’m getting over a stomach virus that put me in the ER for the day on Monday, but at least I can enjoy the smell! I decided to make these because a)I had everything home and I didn’t feel well enough to go to the store and b) it’s horribly cold outside.

Most cinnamon rolls take about 5 hours to make, but I’ve cut the time down to about 2 hours with this recipe. I omitted the scalded milk and added some other time saving steps. They turn out just as wonderful as the 5 hour kind and even better than store bought:)

Ingredients:

2 cups of warm water
1/2 cup sugar + another 1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Canola or Vegetable oil
5-7 cups cups of flour

Directions:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and salt. Mix. Add the oil, 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Stir in 3  more cups of flour. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading it, adding in more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, as needed until dough is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest in a lightly oiled bowl for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1 tbs butter in the microwave. In another bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tbs cinnamon (less if you don’t like the cinnamon flavor as much). Put both the butter and cinnamon/sugar mixture aside.

After 20 minutes, roll the dough into a rectangle that’s about 24 to 30 inches long by about 16 inches wide. Spread melted butter on top with a pastry brush and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the wide end, roll into a log. Cut the cinnamon rolls into equal sized slices (approximately one inch wide each or slightly more) and place close together (touching even) into two greased  pans. Cover with saran wrap and put in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes (See picture)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown).
Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then turn out of the pans.

And for icing, you can either make a cream cheese icing or a regular white buttercream icing. Since cream cheese icing is the standard, here’s a simple recipe:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the vanilla extract and cream another 30 seconds. (Always add flavorings directly the fat in your mixture). Add the powdered sugar and mix slowly at first and gradually picking up speed, until creamy. Put on cinnamon rolls only after they are very cool.

Challah

Now I’m not Jewish, but when I see the freshly baked challah start to come into the market around Hanukkah, I can’t help but get in the kitchen and make one myself. Challah is so deliciously sweet and it makes the kitchen smell wonderful (even more wonderful when there is beef stew simmering in the dutch oven!) Challah is a bit like a brioche in that it’s a sweet bread made with eggs and fat (in this case, oil).

All the recipes I found made 2 loaves, but we can’t eat all of that, so I halved the recipe (the one loaf version is the one I present below). Also, instead of the usual 6 braid challah, I made a very pretty 3 braid round challah. What will make the bread even BETTER is if you have a pizza stone, which is what I baked mine on. It radiates the heat of the oven evenly and creates a bottom to the bread that is so wonderfully and perfectly crispy and a top that is beautifully and evenly browned. I’ll add some notes into the recipe for using the stone.

You’ll need a good chunk of time to make this because there are 3 risings. During one of the risings, I went for a run, but don’t leave to go to mall or anything without sticking the dough in the refrigerator, which is actually a nice thing to do because it really creates a deep, nice flavor. You can leave the bread in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you opt to do this for ONE of the risings, bring the bread back to room temp before working with it.

This recipe is adapted from Joan Nathan. She always says that three risings make for the best breads. And 2 egg washes make for that nice, shiny, slightly crispy crust.

Challah:

2.25 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
2 eggs for dough, plus 1 egg for brushing bread
1/2 tablespoon salt
about 4 cups all-purpose flour (you may use a cup of whole wheat)
1/4 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained (I did not use raisins, but they’re a nice addition)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup, plus 12 tbs lukewarm water.

2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. At this point, gradually add flour one cup at a time. When the dough starts to hold together, it is ready for kneading. I like to knead by hand, but you can use the dough hook on your stand mixer too.

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.  After 30 mins, punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour. When you punch dough down, don’t literally punch the dough, just flatten it lightly with your palm.

4. After 30 mins, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. You will make a 3 braid challah. Make 3 equal size balls, roll out to equal length, about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Pinch the tops together. Braid as you would a normal braid. If you’re making a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together.

5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaf. Keep remaining beaten egg in the refrigerator for later use. Let rise covered for another hour. If using a stone, start preheating at 375 degrees for the final 30 mins of rising time.

6. After 1 hour, brush dough with remaining beaten egg. Take stone out of the oven, if using, and move dough to the stone. Or use a cookie sheet. Put the dough on the middle rack.

7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 minutes, or until golden. If using a thermometer, it should read 190 degrees. Cool on a rack.

And, don’t forget, when the bread gets a little stale, it makes the most amazing French toast!