Classic Challah

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Challah is always delicious, whether it’s fresh from the oven or toasted the next day.  You can dress up the braid with sesame or poppy seeds if you wish.

Original recipe

 

Classic Challah
From King Arthur Flour

Yield: One 16″ loaf

For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) lukewarm water
  • 6 tablespoons (2 5/8 oz) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (3 oz) honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups (17 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast OR active dry yeast

For the glaze:

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

For topping:

  • Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

 

  1. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh your flour.  Otherwise, measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.  (The recipe will work much better if you weigh it.)
  2. If using active dry yeast, combine it with water and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until you have a soft, smooth dough.
  4. Allow the dough to rise in a plastic wrap-covered bowl for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy; it won’t necessarily double in bulk.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
  6. Make a four-strand braid:
    •Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 6″ log. Cover the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.
    •Roll each log into a 15″ rope. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
    •Continue rolling the ropes until they’re about 20″ long; they’ll shrink back to about 18″ as they sit.
    •Lay the strands parallel to one another, and pinch the ends on your left together.
    •Take the rope nearest you, and move it up over the next two adjoining ropes.
    •Next, move the rope back under the rope next to it. Fan the ends of the ropes out again.
    •Repeat the process, but start with the rope farthest away from you. Bring it down and across the next two adjoining ropes, and then back under the rope nearest it.
    •Continue in this fashion, alternating which side you begin with until you’ve braided the whole loaf.
    •Pinch the loose ends together, and tuck them underneath the loaf.  (It’s okay if you get confused and have to re-braid the loaf a few times.  It will work out eventually.)
  7. Gently pick up the braided loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  At this point, you can tent it with greased plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator (keep it covered). Let it warm and rise at room temperature for 60 minutes before baking as directed.
  8. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s very puffy, 90 minutes to 2 hours at cool room temperature. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  9. To make the glaze, whisk together the egg and water. Brush the glaze over the risen loaf.  If desired, sprinkle the loaf heavily with sesame OR poppy seeds.
  10. Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread’s bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it’s a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it’s not as brown as you like, check it again at 30 minutes.
  11. Once you’ve tented the challah, bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf looks and feels set and its interior registers at least 190°F.
  12. Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
  13. Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. While challah does tend to dry out after a day or so, it’s always good toasted, or made into grilled sandwiches or French toast.
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White Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)

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Mantou are unfilled Chinese steamed buns.  White mantou are made with granulated sugar; there are also brown sugar mantou.  In texture, they range from soft and fluffy to chewy and springy.  These fall in the middle of the spectrum.  You can eat them plain or dip them in honey.

 

White Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)
From Teacher Meng’s Chinese-Style Foods Made with Flour (Meng Laoshi de Zhongshi Mianshi)

Yield: 8 buns

  • 260 g cold water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (5 g) instant yeast (active dry yeast probably also works)
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 5 g flavorless oil (such as canola)

 

  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir together water and yeast. It’s okay if the yeast doesn’t dissolve entirely.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and oil. Stir together with a rubber spatula.
  3. Pour in yeast mixture and stir with rubber spatula until all the liquid disappears. It will resemble a shaggy mess.
  4. With hands, knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together into a ball.
  5. Move dough to a work surface (which you do not need to flour) and continue to knead until the surface is soft and smooth. The dough should not stick to your hands or the work surface.
  6. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  7. Roll the dough into a 28” x 6” rectangle. Roll out as many air bubbles as possible, or the mantou will look wrinkly.  If necessary, use a pin to pop the bubbles on the surface.
  8. Fold the rectangle in thirds, like a letter. It will be roughly 9” x 6” when you’re done.
  9. Roll it out again into a 18” x 10” rectangle, pressing all the folds together as you roll so they stick well. (The original long side will still be the long side when you’re done.)
  10. Brush off any excess flour from the dough surface, and then brush evenly with a thin layer of water, which will help the dough stick well when you roll it up.
  11. Use the rolling pin to thin out one of the long edges of the rectangle. This will make it easier to start rolling it up.
  12. Starting from the edge you just thinned out, roll up the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as possible. You want to avoid having the spirals separate as the dough rises.
  13. Gently roll the cylinder back and forth a few times, moving your hands from the center out to the ends, in order to even out the diameter. It will be about 20” long.
  14. With a serrated bread knife (a sharp chef’s knife works too), cut the cylinder into 8 equal pieces.
  15. Place each on a small piece of wax paper, with the seam facing down.
  16. Arrange them in the steamers, cover with the lid, and let rise at room temperature for 20 minutes. They will increase slightly in size.
  17. Put cold water in the bottom pot and stack the steamers on top. If using metal steamers, wrap the lid with a kitchen towel so condensation doesn’t drip on the buns.
  18. Turn the heat to high and bring water to a boil.
  19. Once water is boiling, turn heat to medium-high and steam for 15 minutes.
  20. Remove pot-and-steamer arrangement from stove, crack lid open, and let sit for 3-5 minutes before removing lid entirely.
  21. To store: Cool mantou completely. Place in Ziploc bag and freeze.  To reheat, defrost mantou on the counter, then steam in a rice cooker or steamer for several minutes.  Alternatively, you can wrap the mantou in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Chocolate Chip Orange Brioche Pretzels

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Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate chip brioche pretzels are soft and tender and perfect for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack.

 

Chocolate Chip Orange Brioche Pretzels
From Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 8 4-inch pretzels

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup well-chopped chocolate OR miniature chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

For the topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Coarse or pearl sugar, for finishing (optional)

 

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine milk, sugar, and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Add flour and salt.  Stir together with a wooden spoon.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy pile.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes on medium speed, pushing together the dough with the spoon as necessary.
  5. Add butter, a third at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  6. Knead dough on low speed until it’s silky and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add chocolate and orange zest and continue mixing until it’s spread evenly throughout the dough.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until almost doubled.  If you’d like, you can rest the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before proceeding. Just make sure to bring it back to room temperature and let it rise before moving on.
  9. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a nonstick baking mat and heat oven to 350ºF.

  10. Gently deflate dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces (it’s easiest to use a kitchen scale for this step).

  11. Working with one piece at a time, roll each ball into an 18-inch long rope about ½-inch thick.  This dough is very buttery and you likely won’t need a floured surface.  However, if you notice your dough sticking to your work area, simply dust it with a little flour.

  12. Draw the ends of the rope together to make a circle.  Grab each side of the rope about 2 inches from the ends and twist the ends together – a full twist, so that the right side of the rope ends up back on the right side – to close the circle. Fold the twist down into the circle, pressing the loose ends of the rope on each side of the center (five and seven o’clock) of the rope.

  13. Repeat with the remaining dough.

  14. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water and salt.  Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheets and brush with glaze.

  15. Let them rest for about 15 minutes. They’ll rise slightly during this time.

  16. To finish, brush the pretzels once more with the glaze.

  17. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired and bake for about 12 minutes, until puffed and lightly bronzed.

  18. Cool slightly on a cooling rack before serving.

Buchteln (Jam-Filled Buns)

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Called Buchteln in Austria and Rohrnudeln in Bavaria, these are sweet, soft buns filled with a pocket of jam.  They’re pretty addictive, especially fresh from the oven, and well worth the time it takes to make yeasted dough.

Baking note:

  • I recommend measuring the ingredients by weight.

Original recipe

 

Buchteln (Jam-Filled Buns)
From LilVienna

Yield: 12 buns

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) warm milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (5 g) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (40 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 ½ tablespoons (77g) melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 325 g (about 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • About 5 tablespoons apricot jam with fine texture (no chunks)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter for the pan
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and set it aside for 10 minutes for the yeast to dissolve and activate.
  2. Stir in sugar, egg, melted (lightly cooled) butter, vanilla, and salt with a hand whisk.
  3. Stir in about 1 ½ cups (200 g) of the flour to get a thick batter and stir vigorously with the whisk until no lumps remain.  Use a sturdy (wooden) cooking spoon to gradually stir in the rest of the flour.
  4. When all ingredients come together, fold the edges into the center for a couple of minutes. Keep your dough in the mixing bowl for that. The dough will be sticky, but refrain from adding more flour. It helps if you oil your clean hands before you knead a sticky dough. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  5. Let the dough rise, covered at warm room temperature until doubled in volume (about 3/4 to 1 hour).
  6. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 equal parts.  It is easiest to do this by weight.  Keep pieces you don’t need right away covered.
  7. Fold the edges of each piece into the middle a couple of times so you will get a nice ball with a smooth surface on the bottom side. Flatten each ball with your palm to a circle with a diameter of 3 to 3 ½ inch, keeping the center slightly thicker than the edges. Usually this part works without using any additional flour. If the dough keeps sticking to your countertop, add some.
  8. Put 1 teaspoon of apricot jam (not more) in the center of every circle. Wrap the dough around the filling, pinching and sealing it tightly. Round the buns again, creating a bit of surface tension. If you use too much filling, it’s difficult to seal them. Also avoid getting jam onto your edges, because this way it is almost impossible to seal them.  Put every Buchtel with the sealed side down onto a lightly floured surface until you have finished filling all of them.

    Troubleshooting: If you do get jam near your edges, remove it with a paper towel before you try to seal them. If the jam oozes out while pinching, clean your jammy hands and dough, and try to pinch it again. If this doesn’t work and you are close to throwing the whole Buchtel away, pinch off some dough of another unworked piece, flatten it and generously put this layer of dough atop the problematic area.  Try to seal it tightly and place it, seam side down, in the pan. You can just bake it in a paper lined muffin tin, seam side down.

  9. Melt about 2 ½ tablespoons butter (you might need a little more) in a small bowl. Brush a baking pan (such as an oval 11″ x 7″ ceramic pan or 9″ round glass dish) with melted butter, just until coated.
  10. Arrange Buchteln in the pan and brush each bun with remaining melted butter.  You can do this tightly packed (traditional way) or give them a little, but not too much space. They will still rise during the second proofing and baking. If you feel there are too many of them, you can place the remaining ones in a lined muffin tin.
  11. Let them proof a second time for about 20-30 minutes at warm room temperature until puffy. It is best to cover the whole pan with a lid or cling wrap in this step. If you have a rather shallow pan, don’t cover the Buchteln, since they will stick to the plastic wrap. If you couldn’t cover them and they seem kind of dry before baking, you can brush them another time with melted butter.
  12. Bake them at 375 °F in the preheated oven (center) for about 25 minutes (minimum 20 minutes). When they are golden-brown in color, take them out of the oven.
  13. Let the Buchteln cool for 5-10 minutes and serve them dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

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I thought these rolls were amazing – soft, tender, just a little sweet.  The pumpkin flavor doesn’t come through, but the puree does give the rolls a nice color.  Although I didn’t try it, the original recipe suggests adding a couple pinches of cinnamon or nutmeg if you want to boost the pumpkin taste.

Original recipe

 

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
From Woks of Life

Yield: 16 rolls

  • 1/2 cup (about 120 grams) pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup (158 ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) milk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (115 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) cake flour
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 grams) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon (11 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) salt
  • Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • A large handful of raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • Simple syrup (optional): 2 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water

 

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add ingredients in the following order: pumpkin puree, heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt.  I highly recommend measuring the flour by weight to get the right amount.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale, make sure to tap the measuring cup against a hard surface to ensure there are no air pockets.
  2. Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting, and let it go for 15 minutes, stopping occasionally to push the dough down off the hook.  The dough is very stiff, especially at first.  If you’re in a humid climate and the dough is too sticky, feel free to add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you don’t have a mixer and would like to knead the dough by hand, extend the kneading time by 10 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes of mixing, the dough is ready for proofing.  It should not feel tacky when you touch it.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and place in a warm spot for 1 hour.  The dough will grow to 1.5 times its original size.
  4. In the meantime, grease a square 11″ x 11″ pan or 9″ x 13″ pan on all sides with a stick of cold butter or cooking spray.
  5. After an hour of proofing, put the dough back in the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes on the lowest setting to get rid of any air bubbles.
  6. Next, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface, ideally using a kitchen scale.
  7. Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball and arrange them in a 4×4 grid in the pan.  In an 11″ x 11″ pan, the balls will have about half an inch of space between them on all sides.  In a 9″ x 13″ pan, the balls will be touching along the shorter direction and have about an inch of space between them in the long direction.
  8. Cover and proof for another hour until the buns grow to 1.5 times their original size.
  9. Prepare egg wash.
  10. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Brush the risen dough with egg wash, and sprinkle with the raw pumpkin seeds (if using).
  11. Bake for 16-18 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  12. Prepare simple syrup.
  13. Take the buns out of the oven and immediately brush them with the sugar water to give them a nice shine and sweetness.  Serve warm.
  14. To store, put in covered container and microwave briefly before serving.

Bagels

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If you don’t live near a good bagel shop or if you just enjoy a challenge, these bagels are really fun to make and taste great.

To mix home-made high-gluten flour, we combined 98% King Arthur bread flour with 2% Bob’s Red Mill wheat gluten (which said it was 75-80% gluten) by weight.  Although I rarely weigh out my ingredients, this recipe is a lot simpler if you use a kitchen scale!

Original recipe

 

Bagels
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 bagels

For sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (18 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 1/2 (20 oz) cups warm water

For dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.055 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups (17 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons (0.7 oz) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (0.33 oz) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting baking sheets
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, ground cinnamon, etc.

 

Day 1:

  1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
  4. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.
  5. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt.
  6. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
  7. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
  8. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4.5-oz) pieces and form them into balls.
  9. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
  10. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
  11. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
  12. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  13. Place pan in refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

Day 2:

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 500ºF.  While oven preheats, bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better; it doesn’t have to be very deep), and add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
  2. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute.
  3. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.  (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
  4. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.  You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination thereof.
  5. When all the bagels have been boiled, bake bagels for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180º rotation.  (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180º.)
  6. After the rotation, continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
  7. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust

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The beauty of making pizza at home is that you can customize it to your heart’s content.  This pizza dough is quick and easy to make (probably the most complicated step is rolling it out), and the spices make it particularly fragrant and delicious.

Original recipe

 

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 12-13″ pizza crust

  • 1 (.25-oz) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110ºF if you want to be precise; I just stick my finger in it to check that it feels warm)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning  (I use McCormick’s Perfect Pinch blend, which doesn’t have salt)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.  Lightly grease a pizza pan, if it is not non-stick.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
  3. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in salt, Italian seasoning, and oil.
  5. Stir in flour and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  If the dough feels sticky or tacky, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should feel soft and smooth to the touch.
  6. Let dough rest in bowl for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round.
  8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 12-13″ circle.
  9. Transfer crust to pizza pan and spread with desired toppings.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  11. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.