Thursday, March 04, 2010

Blog It Forward

Welcome to Sloe Gin Fizz if this is you first visit! So glad to have you stop by, especially since today it's my turn to post about what inspires me as part of the blogger chain mashup — Blog It Forward — started by sfgirlbybay. Reading through the entries each day has filled me with inspiration. The chain leads to me by way of the lovely, English Alice of Simply the Nest. Feel free to wander backward and forward through the chain — you're in for some treats!

And now, here's a little drawing of what inspires me personally (click image to see it larger):

blog it forward
Lyrics, novels, poetry, essays, blog posts, tweets. All of it.

Actual adventures in distant lands and whispery daydreams of far away places


I'm still amazed each time a little seed in the dirt grows miraculously into a plant.


Tastes, places, routes, views, ideas, ways.


Ultimately, all of these have the
potential to inspire me,
but I know that if I am not a well-rested girl, inspiration will not come.
I am slowly learning to accept this and to not force it.
Eventually … it will come.

In the mean time…


And now, onward down the chain to the talented crafty tastemaker, Smidge Box.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hot Bread Kitchen Challah

I've been in a baking kind of mood lately. Lots of swirling shapes and rising dough. Today I have for you quite a different take on challah than what I was familiar with and what you might know. It is dense and rich and filled with spice. I read about Jessamyn Waldman in November's Food & Wine. She is the source of this Sephardic recipe and the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, a nonprofit that bakes artisanal breads from around the world and creates opportunities for immigrant woman. The organization's tagline, "Preserving Tradition, Raising Expectations," is incredibly inspiring to me and the work that they do even more so. Read more here.

Follow their lead and bake up a loaf or two of this dense sesame, caraway and anise studded bread. It looks so pretty I could hardly bear to slice into it, but it tastes equally good.

Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah
Adapted from Food & Wine

Makes two nine-inch loaves.

3 Tb sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tb caraway seeds
1 1/2 Tb anise seeds

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

5 cups bread flour

2 1/2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tb honey

1 Tb kosher salt

Cornmeal for dusting
2 large egg yolks

In a skillet, toast the sesame, caraway and anise seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until thoroughly moistened, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour with the olive oil, the honey and the remaining water and mix at low speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture and all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds and mix at medium-low speed until the dough is supple and smooth, 10 minutes. Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen, 1 hour.

Lightly oil 2 small cookie sheets and dust them with cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope and let rest for 5 minutes longer, then roll each rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center and working outwards, form each rope into a coil; tuck the ends under the coils.

Transfer each coil to a baking sheet and cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour, until the loaves have nearly doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds. Bake the loaves side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and let cool completely before slicing.

The loaves can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Monday, March 01, 2010

On a Roll: Cinnamon Rolls

I had some fancy Ceylon cinnamon rattling around in the cupboard just begging to be baked into this recipe. According to Penzey's Spices — a great place to order hard to find spices — there are two main types of cinnamon. The first, Cassia cinnamon, is native to Southeast Asia and has the strong, spicy-sweet flavor that most Americans are familiar with. The second type of cinnamon, Ceylon, or "true" cinnamon, has a much different flavor — less sweet, with a more complex, citrus flavor. They recommend using Ceylon cinnamon for baked goods and it was perfect in these buttery, luscious cinnamon rolls. But feel free to use whatever cinnamon you have on hand — they're sure to be tasty!

Ceylon Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Whipped

1 c. warm milk (heated over medium heat for 4-5 minutes)

1/4 c. lukewarm water (110º F)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 c. butter, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature and beaten

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c. sugar

5 c. bread flour

3 tsp instant active dry yeast (Often marked Rapid Rise)


1/2 c. butter, melted or softened

1 c. firmly-packed brown sugar

4 to 5 Tb ground cinnamon

3/4 to 1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 c. butter, room temperature

1 c. powdered (confectioners) sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients in the order given — except Filling and Frosting ingredients. Using a dough hook, mix everything together until a soft dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (You don’t want to add more flour if it is sticky), and knead until elastic — about 10 minutes. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, butter a 9×13x2 inch baking pan; set aside. Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling in a separate bowl.

After dough has rested, roll and stretch the dough into approximately a 15×22.5-inch rectangle. (This is quite large — you might want to actually measure rather than eyeball it.) Spread the softened butter over the top of the dough with a rubber spatula. (If you use melted butter, use a pastry brush and be sure your surface is pretty level or it will pool unevenly.)

Sprinkle the cinnamon filling over the butter. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the cinnamon filling. Starting with long edge, roll up dough jellyroll style; pinch seams to seal.

With a knife, lightly mark off fifteen sections approximately 1 1/2-inches wide. Using a serrated knife, saw very gently into pieces. Place the slices cut side up in prepared pan — you should have three rows of five. The unbaked cinnamon rolls should not touch each other before rising and baking. Do not pack the unbaked cinnamon rolls together.

To bake immediately: cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size (after rising, rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan).

To bake the next morning: Put them in the refrigerator covered. They will rise slowly overnight. Put them into the oven the next morning and follow below cooking instructions.

To freeze: Wrap in plastic wrap. Take them out the night before baking and leave out of the fridge. Allow them to thaw and rise before baking.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake approximately 20 to 25 or until they are a light golden brown. Spread the warm rolls with Butter Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter with a wooden spoon until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix until creamy. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use and then bring to room temperature before spreading.

I whipped these together Saturday afternoon and left them in the fridge overnight. I had the frosting ready to go, too and then just popped them into the oven Sunday morning. The smell was heavenly and I got to sit back and enjoy my coffee while they baked — the perfect Sunday morning activity!

Stay tuned for more spiral baking adventures this week!