Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fig Challah for New Year's Day

There is nothing better than sleeping in after a late night celebration on New Year's Eve; except maybe waking up to this Fig Challah loaf.

My daughter Rachel introduced me to this beautiful bread.  It's not difficult to make but it looks spectacular. She makes homemade fig spread but I just bought a jar of Trader Joe's Fig Spread.  Any fig jam would work.  Rachel imagines chocolate chunks would be great rolled in the ropes; like chocolate croissant.  We'll be trying that version next.  This bread would also be lovely with cranberries, dried cherries, or even a bit of cinnamon sugar rolled in the middle of the ropes.

Let your imagination run wild.
Just bake a loaf.
Add a cup of hot chocolate and you're family has breakfast.  Or take a loaf to a friend.

Fig Challah

2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon of honey
2/3 cup of warm water
1/3 cup of oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of kosher salt or 1 ½ teaspoons of table salt
4 cups of all-purpose flour

Trader Joe’s Fig Spread or homemade
Spears of chocolate
Fruit Curd

Egg wash
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon or water or heavy cream

Mix the yeast and 1 teaspoon of honey into the warm water.  Let bloom on the counter.
In a large bowl, measure the oil and eggs, and pour proofed yeast into the bowl.  Mix in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until blended and then add the flour and salt.
Change to a dough hook and knead the bread for 5-8 minutes.  Dough should just pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl to rise.  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let set in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour. 
Flour a board.  Cut the dough in half and roll half into a large rectangle.  Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
Roll again and spread your desired fruit onto the rectangle, leaving about 1-inch around the edges clean of spread.  Roll up lengthwise like a jelly roll.  Pinch the seams and let it rest again for about 5 minutes.
Now make a “snake-like” rope about 3 feet long.  Do this gently so as not to “tear” the rope and leak the spread out of it.  Cut the rope in half.  Set both ropes aside and repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
You will have 4 pieces of dough.  Stretch them all about equal lengths and make a square, alternating over and under with the four pieces (think a tic-tac-toe board) with the legs extending on all 4 sides of the square.
Snug the middle up and braid the outer “legs” over and under each other to form a braid.  Tuck all right side ropes over the left side and then tuck the left ropes over the right.  Tuck the ends under and set the loaf on a piece of parchment paper.  Repeat with the second loaf.
Pick up the parchment and place the loaves on a sheet tray and brush them with the egg wash if desired.  Cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, put in a warm place and let loaves raise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  At the 45-minute mark, heat the oven to 375º F.

Place the sheet tray in the middle of the pre-heated oven and bake until the interior temperature of the loaves read 195º F. on an instant read thermometer. 
Let the loaves cool on a wire rack and glaze if desired.

·        Water should be about 103º F.  Hotter water will kill the yeast; cooler water will add longer raise times to the dough.
·        Dough should be slightly sticky.  Too much flour will make the loaf tough.
·        Let the dough rest if the ropes spring back and try again in a few minutes.

·        If the loaves start to brown too much before the interior is cooked, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil and continue to bake.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter

There has been some Easter knitting going on here.

Treats are ready for the bunny to deliver. 

I wish you and your family the most wonderful day as my family celebrates the life and sacrifice of our Saviour.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Belinda Bunny (It's almost spring)

 Belinda Bunny's all dressed up in her Easter finery.  Just in time for class.  Looks like Spring is about here.

Instead of an Easter bonnet, Belinda bought a new dress and shoes.
Her panties are pretty cute too.  Even what's underneath is important to the well-dressed bunny.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

No Knead Artisan Bread - 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 white

When I was a little girl, I liked nothing better than walking home from school and smelling the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting from my home.  My mother baked our family's bread weekly and there was always a warm slice slathered with butter and honey waiting for us after school.  My mother baked fluffy white loaves in shiny aluminum loaf pans.  My bread baking tends to lean toward free-form crackly, dark brown crusted artisan style loaves that sound hollow when thumped on the bottom of the loaf.
Artisan loaves are very different than the fluffy white bread of my childhood.  The crumb should be moist and the holes big and custard-y with a slight shine, just like the air pockets in this loaf.  
This slice needs no adornment but I did slather a little butter and some jam on mine (for old times sake)!  In part, those wonderful childhood memories are why I love bread baking so much.  Especially this time of year when it's so cold outside.

When the girls lived at home I baked big loaves, usually on my pizza stone. An unglazed terra cotta ceramic tile that has been washed works fine if you don't have a pizza stone. Today I tried a different method; baking my bread in my Le Creuset cast iron oven.  It was not much different than the bread baked on the stone.  I did however learn something.  I had read that the ceramic knobs on the lids of Dutch ovens would not stand up to the 500 degrees F temperature that I preheat my oven.   The solution is a stainless steel knob sold by Le Creuset that replaces their standard ceramic knob. Six years ago, anticipating baking bread in my Dutch oven, I purchased a stainless steel knob but  never got around to replacing my original knob or baking bread in the Dutch oven. I had read that wrapping aluminum foil around the original knob would protect it from cracking in high heat so I gave the foil wrap a try first.  It didn't work.  You can see my that the ceramic knob cracked so I located and unwrapped the knob I purchased six years ago.
I'll replace the cracked knob as soon as I scrub off the baked-on brown bits that didn't show before baking in the 500 degree oven.  And I thought the casserole was clean!  I'm off to SCRUB!  And then I think I'll reward myself with another slice of bread. 

Let me know how you like this recipe if you should decide to give it a try.

No Knead Whole Wheat/White Artisan Bread

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
3 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons yeast (for high altitudes see * below)
1 rounded tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
4-1/2 cups un-sifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
2 cups whole wheat flour, measured the same as the white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel or parchment paper for a baking vessel
*For high altitudes:  Decrease the yeast to 2 teaspoons.
Mixing and Storing the Dough:
In a stand mixer or a re-sealable lidded (not airtight) plastic food container add warm water (100 degrees), yeast, salt and flour.
Attach dough hook or use wooden spoon and incorporate all ingredients. Do not knead.
Option one:  Allow dough to sit on counter 2 hours, then refrigerate for 5 additional hours and use.  
Option two: refrigerate immediately and use dough the next day.
Store the dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 7 days: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the 7-day storage period. Refrigerate unused dough in a lidded storage container (again, not airtight).  Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them.  The dough can also be frozen in 1 pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.
 On Baking Day:
Prepare the pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal. Cut a piece of parchment paper twice the size of the bottom of the baking vessel.
Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up the dough and cut off a 1- pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. 
Shape the loaf, do not knead.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter–turn as you go.  Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough.  This should take 30 to 60 seconds.  The bottom of the loaf will not be beautiful, but the top should be smooth. 
Rest the loaf on the pizza peel or parchment paper and let it rise for 40 minutes.  You may not see a significant amount of change in the loaf but the loaf will continue to grow in the oven. If using a vessel, the parchment paper facilitates ease in lifting the dough into the vessel after the rise.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray below on another rack. If using a vessel, put it into the oven and heat to 500 degrees F.
Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour (this allows the knife to cut more easily through the dough), and using a serrated bread knife, slash a 1/4-inch deep cross, scallop or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.  The loaf will crack if you don't slash it to let the steam out while baking.
If baking on a stone, fill a measuring cup with a cup of hot water and set it by the oven.  Place the loaf in the oven by sliding it off the pizza peel onto the preheated baking stone.  Quickly, but carefully, pour the hot water into the broiler tray and close the door.  Set timer for 25 to 30 minutes. You are cooking with steam for at least the first 10 to 15 minutes of the baking process.  This will help to form the hard, crackling crust of artisan bread that we’re familiar with.  Remove loaf with pizza peel and let cool on a wire rack before cutting.
If baking in a vessel, pick up the edges of the parchment paper and set it into the vessel with the dough on top of the paper.  Put the lid on the vessel and bake for 40 minutes.  Turn the oven temperature down to 450 degrees F, slide the parchment out from under the loaf so the bottom can crisp up and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes without the lid. Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool before cutting.
An instant read thermometer should read 195 to 200 degrees F when stuck into the middle of the loaf.
Tip:  To achieve a sour dough-like taste, hold over some of the dough from batch to batch and mix it with your new recipe of dough.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

We took a little winter vacation to get away from the snow and this is where we went.  Isn't it lovely?  Dusk is beautiful in Arizona.  The backyard was just warm enough to sit and enjoy the scenery and wildlife.  My Sister-in-law has a gorgeous desert mountain home on a golf course which she so generously lent us for a week.  
I hadn't shown you my Christmas gifts (because the recipients read my blog).  I made socks of course. 
Both pairI knitted turned out lovely...except my husbands didn't fit.  
He has a large instep and the socks fit too tightly there.  Because the yarn was merino and silk and an investment, I wanted him to wear them and that meant they needed to be comfortable.  So...
This happened.
My knitting group cringed.  They asked if it didn't hurt to rip back two lovely socks (size 12) just above the toe where the instep started.  

I want him to wear them and so they need to fit. I now have a custom pattern just for him.
 Here's the finished pair.  Not nicely blocked but finished.
I couldn't resist taking a photo where I re-knit them.
Quite a different scene than the snow and ice where they were born.
No wool socks were needed in this winter weather, but unfortunately we had to go home.

And it snowed again yesterday.  The socks were just what he needed.