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Bringing Home the Bakin'

bake my cake and eat it, too

Monthly Archives: January 2012

For as long as I can remember, my mom has raved to me about my paternal grandmother’s Mohn (Poppy Seed) Cookies.  I had never tasted her cookies, myself, but I was told by many reliable sources that my cookies were nearly identical. I should probably tell you all, readers of BHTB, that it wasn’t an easy road to perfection… it took hours of looking through cookbooks trying to find the perfect recipe, and spending even more time trying to look for another “perfect recipe,” when the first batch turned out to be inedible.  Luckily I had a lot of time on my hands, because the results (of the second batch) were fantastic! The cookies are thin, crispy, and not too sweet, with a homey, comforting flavor.

Poppy Seed Cookies – Marcy Goldman

¾ c.  vegetable oil
1 1/3 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 c. poppy seeds (*I soaked mine in vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, briskly whisk together the oil and sugar.

Vigorously whisk in the eggs, and then the vanilla, mixing until well blended. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.

Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes.

Working with a third of the dough at a time, on a very well-floured board, roll it out as thin as possible, between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (1.5 and 3.5 mm) thick. Make sure your rolling pin is well dusted with flour — a heavy pin covered with a rolling-pin stocking is ideal. Rolling between 2 sheets of parchment, the bottom sheet lightly floured, makes this easier.

Cut into 2-inch (5-cm) rounds, transfer to the baking sheets, and bake until the tops are lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

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Like many others, I’m sure, I am ringing in the New Year with a slew of resolutions.  One, of many, is to lead a healthier lifestyle.  As an avid baker, it has always been important for me to bake with fresh, high quality ingredients, but this year, in keeping with my resolutions, I want to begin incorporating new, healthier alternatives to the traditional staples. Of the new items that I have been trying, one in particular has gained a permanent spot in my pantry: coconut sugar.  Coconut sugar (also referred to as palm sugar) is a vitamin-rich, unrefined sugar made from the sap of cut coconut flower buds.  With a low glycemic-index, and sugar substitute ratio of 1-1, it is the perfect way to add a few health benefits to your baked goods (and just in time for New Year’s resolutions!).  I highly recommend this product.

Some things are better than dessert; this happens to be one of those things.  The lemon peel is  such a unique twist, and makes a truly delicious challah.

 

Challah and/or Rolls (Bulgarian) – Doris Priver, Fiddler in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 package + 1 tablespoon yeast

1 1/2 cups cold milk

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

6 cups + 2 tablespoons flour (I ended up using more, until the dough came together)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter or margarine

5 eggs, divided

1 tablespoon lemon peel

1 teaspoon water

 

Directions:

Mix yeast, 1/4 cup cold milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; let rise.  Heat 1 1/4 cups milk plus 1 teaspoon salt until lukewarm.  Add margarine/butter and 1/2 cup sugar, melt, and cool.  Add 4 beaten eggs, 1 tablespoon lemon peel, and yeast mix.  Place 6 cups flour in mixing bowl.  Add liquid mix and knead by hand or on #2 speed of electric mixer 2 minutes.  Add more flour (1/2 cup or more) only if necessary and knead dough.  Should not be sticky. Place dough in greased glass bowl.  Cover with plastic. Let rise 1-1 1/2 hours.  Punch down and let rise again until doubled in size.  Divide into four 12-inch loaves (Note: I made two larger loaves, instead).  For twisted challah, cut three long strips and braid.  Place on greased baking sheet.  Fold ends under.  Brush with beaten egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water.  Let rise about 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake 40 minutes or less.  May be placed in refrigerator overnight before second rising.  Yield: 4 small loaves, or 2 larger loaves.

For more information on braiding, I recommend watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7D8PSBsy1M

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When I was a little girl, I used to list “treasure-hunting” as one of my favorite hobbies.  You might  be thinking that I was a very imaginative child, one who pretended she was a pirate searching for gold; if this is what you would think, then you would be wrong. In my youth, treasure hunting was so much more than a make-believe game, in fact, it was not a game at all.  Treasure hunting was going to my grandma’s house, which appeared both beautiful and orderly (but like many things, appearances can be deceiving), and looking for “treasures” amongst 50 years worth of clutter.  What once started as an opportunity for me to collect more “things,” looking through various drawers and boxes to find little knick knacks and odds and ends (or my mom’s senior prom pictures that she refuses to let me bring into the house), turned into an opportunity for me to collect real, hidden treasures — the stories my grandma would tell me about all of the objects I found.  Some of my greatest finds, a beautiful beaded wallet, launched stories about a babysitter my mom and her siblings once had, and a t shirt from france (which I wore until there were holes in about every place imaginable), became the springboard for stories about my grandparents’ travels.

Surprisingly enough, in the three years that I have been writing this blog, I have neglected to share one of my family’s hidden culinary treasures: Mema’s Mandel Bread recipe.  Though it might seem simple to an outsider,  like the “treasures” I used to seek in my grandma’s basement, to me, it truly is one of the most special cookies I have ever tasted.

Mema’s Mandel Bread – Ann Benderoff

Ingredients:

-3 eggs (at room temperature)

-1 scant cup of sugar

-1 cup mazola oil

-3 cups flour (Gold Medal, pre-sifted)

-2 tsp pure vanilla extract

-cinnamon sugar mixture, to sprinkle at the end

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat eggs.

3. Add sugar and mix.

4. Add oil and vanilla and mix.

5. Add flour and mix.

6. Oil hands and mold dough into 2 long logs.

7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned.

8. Slice the logs and put the individual cookies on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and return cookies to the oven to bake again until firm and crisp (watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn).

 

note: This is a basic recipe — many people choose to add chocolate chips, dried fruits, or nuts, but our family likes it plain.

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