Fresh From The Oven Challenge #1

This month’s challenge is hosted by Brianna from She has chosen a Rustic Bread from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

The recipe can be found here:


This is a basic introductory recipe with a preferment, & minimal ingredients. A great recipe for the first time bread baker as well as good practice for advanced bread bakers. Everyone needs a good artisan bread recipe & this is a great one for that. We were able to make adjustments to the recipe for allergies, etc. which is great, although I didn’t have to make a single adjustment to this one. So awesome!!! Oh, we were also required to have fun 🙂 No problem with that! The hardest part of this recipe (besides the waiting) is the shaping, well, adding the preferment if you don’t have a stand mixer would be the hardest. The shaping really isn’t that hard, just make it whatever shape you like, you can even use a loaf pan if you need to.


Rustic Bread

Makes 2 large loaves

1 lb. bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
9.5 oz. water (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Final dough:
10 oz. bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
6 oz. whole wheat or rye flour or a mixture of them (around 1 1/2 cups)
12.5 oz. water (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
all of the preferment

Put the yeast in the water & stir. Mix the flour & salt together in a bowl & pour in the yeasted water. Mix until the flour is hydrated, adding more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap & leave the pre-ferment out at room temperature overnight (up to 16 hours… if you need more time before baking put it in the refrigerator).

To make the final dough, combine all of the ingredients except the pre-ferment in a mixing bowl. Chop the pre-ferment up into small pieces & mix or knead it into the final dough until they are thoroughly combined. This is quite difficult to do by hand: Hamelman assumes the baker has a mixer & can mix it for 5 minutes by machine. I mix & knead my dough by hand for about 10 minutes. At the end of that time the new & old dough aren’t perfectly combined– you can still see a few streaks of the lighter colored pre-ferment in it– but they are sufficiently combined that loaves bake evenly. (The dough was quite sticky, but I avoided adding too much flour, its okay if it’s a little sticky)

Place the dough back in a greased bowl & ferment for 2 ½ hours, punching down or folding the dough twice during that time. (I used the folding method. I really wish I would’ve taken a picture of the dough as it was rising, it is such a joyous sight for those who love bread)

Folding the dough consists of taking the dough out of the bowl, spreading it out a little on a clean surface, folding it in thirds like a letter, rotating it 90 degrees & folding it up again, & then returning the dough to the bowl & covering it again. Like punching down, folding degases the dough some, but it also encourages gluten development.

At the end of the fermentation, divide the dough into 2 pieces & preshape each into a ball. Cover with a clean towel & let each rest for 5 to 10 minutes before shaping into the final shape. Once shaped, cover the loaves with a clean towel & set aside for a final rise, approximately 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours.

Halfway though the final rise, begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat it as well.

Right before placing it in the oven, score the loaves. Place them in the oven & use whatever technique you use to create stream in the oven (squirt bottle, skillet full of hot water, etc) to encourage proper crust development. (I used a skillet of water)

After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the loaves 180 degrees so that they’ll bake evenly. Bake until an instant read thermometer reads around 200 degrees, which took approximately 35 minutes for my batard (“football”) shaped loaves.

I really enjoyed this challenge. I had the kitchen to myself & the day off, so I “rolled up my sleeves” & dug right in. If you have never made bread from scratch before, it is such an amazing & relaxing experience. It does take time, most breads take at least 3 hours, if not all day to make. I did forget to read the directions & didn’t start the preferment until that morning, it really is best to start it the night before & give it a full 8 hours, if not longer to ferment. While the preferment was doing its thing, I baked my Bakewell Tarts…er…Pudding for the Daring Bakers. Eight hours later, it was on to making the bread. I used my Kitchen Aid to help out with the heavy kneading in of the preferment and while it was resting I made dinner, more resting, dessert, then the bread went into the oven. The smell of fresh baked bread is such an amazing thing, you never get tired of it. This is a great recipe to get your feet wet with a Rustic Bread. It tastes great too. I had some with homemade “almond-ella”, also with peanut butter & jelly, as well as with spaghetti. All were good.


Daring Bakers for June 2009!


The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict & Annemarie of Ambrosia & Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Recipe origins: Traditional (UK)
Inspirations & References: Allan Davidson, Tamasin Day Lewis, Anton Edelmann, Jane Grigson, Nigella Lawson & Jamie Oliver
Hostess: Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
Co-hostess: Annemarie of Ambrosia & Nectar

From our hosts: “Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream & baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam & an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the 2: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane & jam. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam & noted,

‘This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.’ By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased. This tart, like many of the world’s great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry & mixed the eggs & sugar separately & poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow. Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it & an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting. Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections & in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing & glazed cherry on top for decorative effect. Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee or just eat it sneaky slice by sneaky slice until, to your chagrin, you realise the whole tart has somehow disappeared despite you never having pulled out a plate, fork or napkin with which to eat it.”

I am very glad that I made mini tarts, otherwise I would’ve had the problem of the sneaky bite by sneaky bite & realizing that I had eaten the whole thing! These are mighty tasty. I am going to make this one again, but try to replace the Earth Balance with fruit puree to lighten the fat content a bit.

More from our hosts: “The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting & slightly convoluted one. The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’ (as well as referring to fat babies by the same name, though we don’t think that is what was the inspiration in this case). & so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along & adds clarity to what it really is.”

For the challenge, we had to make a Sweet Shortcrust Pastry, by hand, please. We also needed to make the Frangipane. We had the option of making a homemade jam or curd, which I sort of did. I used a homemade “almond-ella” which I had made for last months challenge, I also had 2 yummy jams in the fridge that I had bought, so I used those. This recipe comes together quickly & easily. I recommend making the shortbread crust first because it needs to rest in the fridge for a bit. While that is resting, you can make your own jam & the frangipane. You can go here: to see the original recipe. Below is my adaptations & changes:


Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Yield: 12 mini tarts
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Flour for dusting
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, sliced almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it warm up for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin & roll the pastry to ¼” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the center & roll away from you), & turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size & thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in & trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. For mini tarts, cut out rounds that fit your muffin tin, or silicone mini tart pan.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam/almond-ella onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top & pop into the oven for 20 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy & brownish. Remove from oven & strew flaked almonds on top & return to the heat for the last 5 minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust & the frangipane will be tanned, poofy & a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven & cool on the counter. Serve warm or room temperature. You may drizzle with a little more almond-ella, if desired. When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy & the crust should be crisp but not tough.

img_3306.jpg    img_3310.jpg

Notes from our hosts:

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It’s a pretty popular cake, so you shouldn’t have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes & linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (¼ cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” & strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference & spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out & cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling wrap

8oz whole wheat pastry flour
1oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4oz Earth Balance, frozen
¼ cup soy yogurt
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
1-2 TBSP cold water

  1. Sift together flour, sugar & salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater (this really does work best). Using your finger tips only, & working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
  2. Lightly beat the soy yogurt with the almond extract (if using) & quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive & slightly sticky dough. I had to use 3 TBSP of water since it was so dry here.
  3. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt & vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, 1 tsp of vanilla paste or 1 tsp of vanilla extract for the almond extract


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

4.5oz Earth Balance, softened (this is 1 stick and about 1 tsp)
4.5oz powdered sugar
1 ½ TBSP Ener-g Egg Replacer

1/3 cup warm water
½ tsp almond extract
4.5oz ground almonds
1oz whole wheat pastry flour

  1. Cream butter & sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg replacer & warm water, add to the butter mixture, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all of the egg replacer is in, pour in the almond extract & mix for about another 30 seconds & scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts & the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) & retain its pallid yellow colour.

For my toppings, I used some leftover hazelnut praline, pine nuts & slivered almonds. For my fillings, I used almond-ella, peach, mango, orange jam, and apricot jam. They were all yummy! Not sure which my fav is, I really liked them all. I think a little peanut butter mixed with the jam & topped with the frangipane would be good too, but I didn’t try it. Enjoy!


Daring Cooks #2


It’s the second installment of The Daring Cooks! Our host this month was Jen from use real butter, what recipe did she choose? Well, she thought it might be a good time for us to try our hand at something that looks daunting, but is actually pretty straightforward.

The Challenge: Chinese dumplings/potstickers (aka gyoza in Japanese)


Jen tells us, “It’s a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, & cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures & is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants – especially dim sum. The recipe I provide is based on my family recipe. There is a lot of wiggle room & I encourage you to explore. If you’ve made them before – great! Now try something different!” The process goes a little like this:1. Choose a filling 2. Choose a dough 3. Choose a cooking method (boil, steam, pan-fry)

We had to make our own wrappers, we were not allowed to use pre-made ones. Not too hard, just takes a little patience & practice. For the filling, she gave us a couple of choices, the most common being pork or shrimp. You can fill dumplings/potstickers with just about anything, even blueberries or alomondella. Jen also tells us, “You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken…) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives – oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to “stick” to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. I think if I were to make vegetarian dumplings, I would sauté the cabbage & mash up the tofu for a better cohesiveness. It’s up to you how you want to fill your dumplings.”

Jen also tells us, “Time: Prep for the filling takes me 30 minutes – longer if peeling & de-veining shrimp. It will depend on your proficiency with a good sharp knife. Rolling & wrapping several dozen dumplings takes me 1 hour by myself. My parents can crank through it in 30 minutes when 1 person is rolling wrappers & the other is wrapping dumplings. Might be fun to get a second person to help! Cooking: I have to cook mine in batches. When steaming, I can cook a dozen at a time in about 10 minutes. Potstickers: 15 minutes per 2 dozen determined by the size of your pan. Boiling – 6 minutes per dozen or so depending on size of pot.”


You can find the original recipe here:

Here is my changes:

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced
½ cup bamboo shoots, minced
¼ cup ginger root, minced
3 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP corn starch

  1. Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl & mix thoroughly.
  2. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or 2).


dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches – or just halve the filling recipe)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup warm water
flour for work surface

  1. In a large bowl mix flour with 1/3 cup of water & stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water 1 teaspoon at a time & mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.
  2. Knead the dough about 20 strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes.
  3. Take the dough & form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 2“ wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 1” pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16“. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper & fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. I found it easier to pleat first, then fill. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out.


dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part red wine vinegar
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)

dash mirin

  1. Stir together to combine.


To pan ‘fry’ (potstickers): Place dumplings in a dry frying pan. Heat on medium-high & ‘fry’ for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add ½ cup water & cover. Cook until the water has boiled away & then uncover & reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat & serve.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil & add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag & freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.


I chose to pan ‘fry’ mine. I actually made a similar recipe last year for Recipes To Rival

& I boiled those. Personally, I like them better pan ‘fried’. I will make these again, I always love some potstickers.


For dipping, I made the suggested dipping sauce, straight hoisin and a mixture of chinese mustard & soy sauce. Hubby’s fav was the suggested dipping sauce. The hoisin was too sweet, but I really liked the mustard mix, nice & spicy.

These do take a good chunk of time, but the more often you make it, the quicker it gets.


Recipes To Rival – May 2009

img_3274.jpgThis month the challenge was all about chickpeas. Our host this month was Lori from She chose Chickpea Fries and/or Falafel. She also reminds us that “beans have such benefits. They help reduce cholesterol, cost relatively little, offer more fiber in your diet & are environmentally friendly. By that I mean, people don’t realize that there is quite a cost in eating beef for instance. They are pretty heavy animals that have to be cargoed around to graze or be moved before & after slaughter. So for this reason it is quite expensive & detrimental to the environment.” She also challenged us to make pita bread to go along with our falafel, since I have made pita bread before, I decided not to do it, just to save time. If we made the fries, she wanted us to come up with a sauce to dip them in, which I forgot about & didn’t used a sauce at all. We also had the choice not to make the sauce or the pitas & make both the falafel & the chickpea fries, I went with that option. Don’t forget to check out everyone else’s wonderful creations:


Here are the recipes:
CHICKPEA FRIES by Mark Bittman, How To Cook Everything; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
neutral oil, like grapeseed, corn, for greasing and frying
1 cup chickpea flour, sifted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP water with 1 tsp ground flax seeds
Finely grated Parmesan cheese for garnish nutritional yeast

1. Grease a baking sheet or pizza pan with a rim & set aside. I used parchment paper. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Gradually add the chickpea flour with a large pinch of salt & pepper, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce to a gentle bubble, stir int he olive oil & cook for just a minute.
2. Scoop the chickpea mixture onto the prepared pan & spread into an even layer. Let cool for a few minutes & then cover loosely with parchment or plastic. Refrigerate until chilled through, about 30 minutes (but up to a day, covered tightly, after it’s completely cool).
3. Put 1/8 to ¼” oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, cut the chickpea flour mixture into 3 x ½” cutter. I just cut by hand, then baked on 375 for 15 minutes. Gently put batches of the fries into the hot oil, rotating them gently for even cooking & browning on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Drain the fries on paper towels & immediately sprinkle with salt, lots of pepper & a good dusting of Parmesan if you like. Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges.
Falafel: Chickpea Patties Recipe by Madelain Farah, Lebanese Cuisine, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001
*  1 pound dried chickpeas
* 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, optional
* Salt and pepper, as needed
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
I baked mine

* 6 to 8 pitas, tops sliced open and lightly toasted
* Shredded lettuce, as needed
* Tomato wedges, as needed
* Sliced red onion, as needed
* Sliced cucumbers, as needed
* Tahini Sauce, recipe follows

1. Make the Falafel: Soak the chickpeas in cold water in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Drain the chickpeas & place them with the onion in the bowl of a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil. Mix well. Process the mixture a second time. Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls & deep-fry or pan-fry in hot oil.
3. Make the Sandwiches: Stuff the pitas with lettuce & nestle the falafel patties inside. Top with the rest of the ingredients & drizzle with the tahini sauce. Serve immediately.

Tahini Sauce: I cut the recipe in half
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice

1. Mash the garlic and salt together. Add the tahini, mixing well. The sauce will thicken. Gradually add the water, blending thoroughly. Then add the lemon juice. Blend well.

Note: This can be a thin or thick sauce, depending upon the use and preference. Simply adjust with lemon juice and water. This can be used with vegetables or in combination with other recipes.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

TIPS from Lori: In regards to falafel, I have made it many times & it has always fallen apart on me. I usually end up putting an egg in it as a binder. This time I am not, come what may, because I know others have had success without egg. I will say if you do not want to go the deep fry route, you can place little mounds in a muffin tin & do it up in the oven at about 375F. But the oil really does something magical to them. Again, your choice. Don’t you just love all the choices this month?

You are not required to do Tahini Sauce, it is just a suggestion. Also the chickpea flour can be found at Indian Markets (called Besan there) & Italian Markets & Health Food Stores.


The fries were good & I usually love falafel, but this was not my favorite recipe. Hubby does not like falafel & this did not convert him. I actually liked the falafel better crumbled over a large salad. M-I-L really liked the fries!  I do love all things chickpeas & both of these were good, just not great.