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Conchas (Mexican Sweet Bread)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings On April 8, 2020 0 Comments

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Conchas is Spanish for “seashells”. Conchas are one of the most popular type of sweet bread  (pan dulce) found in Mexican bakeries. They are light, fluffy and not too sweet. Enjoy this recipe!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Rise or Proof time: 90 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 12 conchas

Ingredients for the Bread Dough:
1 cup warm water
1 envelope (2-1/2 teaspoons) yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm water (to be added gradually)
3 cups flour plus 1/2 cup extra flour for kneading dough

Directions:
1. In a metal or plastic bowl, combine the warm water & yeast; swirl around bowl to combine.

2. Cover yeast mixture with aluminum foil, set on a warm surface (wood or plastic); let sit for 5 minutes.

3. After 5 minutes, in a stand mixer fitted with a bowl or a regular mixing bowl with handheld mixer, combine the yeast mixture with the vegetable oil, sugar and salt.

4. Mix on medium speed until mixture is uniform.

5. Gradually add 2/3 cup warm water to yeast mixture until well-blended.

6. Add the flour, a little at a time, until a dough forms.

7. Transfer the dough onto a lightly-floured surface; knead until dough is uniform and elastic.

8. Place kneaded dough on a lightly-floured wooden board; cover with a bowl turned upside down. DO NOT PLACE DOUGH ON COLD STONE, MARBLE OR GRANITE SURFACES, AS IT WILL NOT RISE.

9. Let dough rise 1 hour (60 minutes).

10. After 1 hour, divide the risen dough into 12 balls.

11. On two 18 X 12-inch baking sheets lined with parchment paper,  place dough balls 3 inches apart (6 dough balls per baking sheet).

12. Place baking sheets with dough balls in a cold oven and let rise for 30 minutes (this will keep the dough away from any draft).

13. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.

Ingredients for the Vanilla & Chocolate Toppings:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 powdered sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4- inch thick squares
6 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:
1. In a stand mixer fitted with a bowl or a regular 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar & baking powder.

2. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut into the butter squares until they are the size of peas.

3. Add the vanilla & mix with pastry cutter.

4. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms.

5. Divide the dough in two; place one-half of dough in a separate bowl.

For the vanilla topping:

1. Gather dough in hands & divide it into 6 equal pieces.

2. Shape the pieces into balls; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.

For the chocolate topping: place the other half of dough into a mixing bowl.

1. Add cocoa powder and mix it into the dough until it is uniform.

2. Gather dough in hands & divide it into 6 equal pieces.

3. Shape the pieces into balls; set aside.

Rolling out the Vanilla & Chocolate Dough Toppings:
1. Lightly flatten each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap.

2. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough ball to a 5-inch circle & set aside.

3. Repeat rolling out dough with remaining dough balls; set aside.

Assembling Toppings on the Conchas & Baking:
1. Place the 12 rolled-out vanilla and chocolate topping dough over the conchas in baking sheets.

2. Using a paring knife, cut grooves into the dough to resemble a shell.

3. Bake the conches for 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is light golden brown.
Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nancy’s Challah Bread

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings On October 3, 2019 0 Comments

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Sabbath is a day of religious observance by the Jewish people, from Friday evening to Saturday. Traditionally, the celebration begins with the breaking and eating of Challah bread, together with wine and the prayer ritual.

Here is my recipe for Challah bread. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 envelope active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large eggyolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil (preferably safflower or sunflower)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
4-4-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. Combine yeast and sugar in a small bowl; add water and swirl – DO NOT MIX WITH A UTENSIL.

2. Cover the yeast mixture with aluminum foil; let rise for 10 to 12 minutes or until it is puffed and foamy.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture, 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, oil, sugar and salt; mix on medium speed with a hand mixer (if using a stand mixer, then mix on medium speed, as well).

4. If using a free-standing bowl, using a wooden spoon, add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough amalgamates.

5. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead it – it will absorb remaining flour. The dough should become smooth and elastic.

6. When dough is smooth and elastic, transfer it to an oiled bowl.

7. Cover the dough in bowl with aluminum foil – set aside to rise on a warm surface (wooden board or oven rack with oven turned off) for 1 hour.

8. After one hour, transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and divide it into 3 equal parts.

9. Working on floured surface, lightly roll & elongate each dough piece until it is about 18 inches long.

10. Transfer the 3 dough cords, one at a time, to a greased and floured 18 X 12-inch baking sheet – make sure the dough cords are centered in baking sheet.

11. Make a braid with the 3 dough cords; set aside to rise in baking sheet, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

12. After 30 minutes, preheat oven to 450°F.

Shape the Challah and Bake:

1. In a small bowl, make egg wash: mix together 1 egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water.

2. Brush the egg wash all over top of braided dough.

3. Place the baking sheet with braided dough on a rack positioned in center of oven.

4. Immediately lower oven temperature to 400°F and bake for 15 minutes.

5. After 15 minutes, lower oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

6. When Challah bread looks golden brown and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, it is done.

7. Transfer the baking sheet with Challah bread to a counter to cool until it is warm.

8. Serve the Challah warm or cold.

9. TO STORE CHALLAH: Cut the bread in sections large or small enough to fit in gallon-size freezer bags. Store in refrigerator up to 8 days. Alternatively, store the Challah bread in double freezer bags up to 2 months.
Text & Photograph ©2019 Nancy DeLucia Real

Italian Breadsticks (Grissini)

In Appetizers / Starters, Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings On April 22, 2017 0 Comments

I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed Italian breadsticks, aka grissini. Some grissini are soft, while others are drier. But no matter where you’ve had grissini, the homemade ones are best. Here’s our favorite family recipe!

Active prep time: 8 minutes (dough mixing) and 25 minutes (shaping breadsticks)
Inactive prep time: 15 minutes (yeast rising) and 40 minutes (dough rising)
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes

Ingredients:
7/8 cup warm water (110°F)
1 teaspoon Rapid Rise® Yeast
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour

Prepare the Dough:
1. In a small sauce pot, heat the water.

2. While water is heating, place the yeast in a 2-cup metal or wood bowl (do not use glass or porcelain, as these cold elements will halt the rising process of the yeast).

3. When water is barely warm, pour it slowly into the bowl with yeast; gently swirl the bowl around.

4. Cover the yeast-water mixture with aluminum foil; set it aside on a wood surface or trivet; let it rise for 15 minutes. Do not set the yeast on marble, granite or tile surface, as the cold surface will halt the rising process.

5. After 15 minutes, transfer the water-yeast mixture to a 2-quart metal, wood or plastic mixing bowl (no porcelain or glass).

6. Gently stir in the olive oil, salt, black pepper and fennel seeds.

7. Gradually (a little at a time) and with a wooden spoon, add the flour until a sticky dough has formed.

8. Transfer the sticky dough onto a lightly-floured wood surface.

9. Gently knead the dough until it is uniform and soft.

10. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl; cover with aluminum foil.

11. Set bowl with dough aside on a wood surface (do not set it on marble, granite or tile surface) away from draft.

12. Let dough rise for 40 minutes.

Shape the Breadsticks or Grissini:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

2. Lightly flour a flat work surface.

3. Transfer dough onto floured work surface.

4. Shape the dough by gently stretching and patting it outwards until it forms a 12 X 8-inch rectangle.

5. Using a pizza cutting wheel or a sharp knife, cut 3/4-inch wide strips (crosswise) to measure 8 inches in length.

6. Without using too much flour (the dough should grasp your fingers and not slide away), gently roll the dough into a 14 to 16-inch long piece.

7. Fold the dough in half, forming a loop at one end – place the shaped breadstick dough on a parchment-lined 18 X 12-inch baking sheet.

8. Repeat the rolling process for remaining dough strips and transfer them onto the baking sheet spaced 3/4-inch apart.
image-grissiniinbakesheet

9. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper – continue shaping and placing looped dough pieces on baking sheet.

Bake the Breadsticks:
1. Place one baking sheet on top oven rack and the other on the bottom oven rack.

2. Bake the breadsticks for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, invert the top baking sheet with the bottom baking sheet; bake for an additional 20 minutes.

4. After 20 minutes, if breadsticks still look white on top, turn them over.

5. Bake the breadsticks for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Serve the breadsticks warm or cold with cheese, olives and a variety of appetizers, together with your favorite wine.

TO REFRIGERATE BREADSTICKS: Place breadsticks in a food storage bag, sealed, or in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
TO FREEZE BREADSTICKS: Place breadsticks in double freezer food storage bags for up to 2 months.
At serving time, transfer breadsticks to a serving platter or basket and let thaw at room temperature for 1 hour.
Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Day of the Dead Bread (Mexico)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On October 16, 2016 0 Comments

Every year in central and southern Mexico, the Day of the Dead is traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2. Although this holiday coincides with the Roman Catholic Church’s All Souls Day and All Saints Day, indigenous cultures have fused the Church’s celebration with the ancient custom of honoring their departed ones.

Memorial altars are erected with photographs of the dead and what used to be their favorite foods. Local bakeries sell Pan de Muertos or Day of the Dead Bread. This sweet bread is made with eggs, anise seeds, flour, sugar and yeast. The loaf is usually round, adorned with dough that is shaped to resemble bones. Although the ingredients are basic, the flavors and texture of this bread literally melt in your mouth!

Ingredients for Bread:
3/4 cup milk (low fat or whole milk)
1/4 cup water
1 package active-dry yeast (Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast®
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour.

Ingredients for Glaze:
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare the Yeast:
1. In a small saucepot, combine the milk and water; heat until mixture is lukewarm.

2. Place the yeast and lukewarm liquid in a metal bowl or a small, separate metal saucepot; cover and set aside (on a wood or plastic surface) for 13 minutes.

Mix the Dough:
1. After 13 minutes, the yeast mixture will look puffy – transfer it to a 2-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a bowl.

2. Stir in the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and anise seeds. Beat on low until mixture is barely uniform.

3. With electric beaters on low, stir in 1 cup flour at a time, until a sticky dough has formed.

4. At this point, clean off the beaters. Using a wooden spoon, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour until the dough amalgamates and becomes a little firmer (not hard).

5. Flour your hands and the dough (lightly).

6. Transfer dough onto a lightly-floured board. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic.

Set Dough to Rise:
1. Oil a clean, 1-1/2 to 2-cup mixing bowl with vegetable oil.

2. Transfer dough to the oiled bowl; cover with aluminum foil and set dough to rise on a wood surface or in a cold oven with door closed. Let dough rise for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and punch it down.

4. Remove a 5-inch piece of dough from the dough ball.

5. Shape the largest dough ball into a flat round form and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet measuring 16 inches by 11 inches.

6. Take the smaller dough ball and pull off 4 to 5 walnut-sized pieces. Roll each piece out to about 4 to 5 inches.

7. Place one rolled dough piece going from the top center and down the sides of dough round on parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Add the remaining rolled dough pieces in a similar way and evenly spaced all around the dough round.

9. Shape a round knob on top center of the dough round. The rolled dough pieces will look like long bones on the bread.

10. Set dough to rise for 30 minutes on a wood surface or cold oven with door closed.

Bake the Bread:
1. After 30 minutes, transfer the baking sheet with dough to a wood surface; set aside while preheating oven.

2. Preheat oven to 375°F.

3. When oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with risen dough on a rack positioned in center of oven.

4. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350°F; bake the bread for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until it looks golden brown. To test doneness: insert a pointed knife in center of bread. If knife comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes and test once more.

6. Transfer baking sheet with bread to a counter to cool.

Make the Glaze:
1. When bread is completely cool, place 1/4 cup sugar and the orange juice in a small saucepot and heat until the sugar melts.

2. Let the orange juice-sugar glaze cool completely.

3. Using a basting brush, glaze the bread. Sprinkle the bread with remaining sugar.

image-jaguarforest4bags

Enjoy Day of the Dead Bread with the best Mexican coffee on the market -Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee, sold at Erewhon supermarkets in Los Angeles, Venice and Calbasas, California; and also at Vicente Foods, Los Angeles; Rainbow Acres, Culver City and Marina del Rey, California.

Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee can also be found online: http://jaguarforest.com

Text and Day of the Dead Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real
Jaguar Forest® Coffee Photograph ©2016 Jaguar Forest® Coffee Company

Fruit & Greek Yogurt Blintzes

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Fun Foods On December 4, 2015 0 Comments

Blintzes are also known as blin or blintchik (Russian names for crêpes). They are thin pancakes that can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients.

For this recipe, I made mini-blintzes, topped them with fresh Greek yogurt and added a fresh fruit compote. Enjoy these blintzes at breakfast or brunch. They’re fun to eat with Mimosa or coffee.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes for the blintzes
Prep time: 10 minutes for the fruit compote
Makes: 12 three-inch blintzes

Ingredients For the Fruit Compote:
3/4 cup chopped, fresh peach, nectarine or strawberries (you can combine 2 or more fruits together)
1/2 cup chopped, fresh pineapple
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon cornstarch or unbleached, white flour

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart saucepot.

2. Bring ingredients to a boil; boil and stir with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes, or until fruit mixture thickens.

3. If a creamier texture is desired, mash the fruit with a potato masher.

4. When fruit is tender and liquid has thickened, transfer the mixture to a glass or porcelain bowl to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the blintzes.

Ingredients for the Blintzes:
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (whole, low fat or 1% milk fat)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup unbleached, organic, all-purpose white flour
1-1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup Greek yogurt (whole, low fat or nonfat)
1/3 cup honey, for drizzling
3 springs of fresh mint

Directions to Prepare the Blintzes:
1. In a 1-quart mixing bowl, combine the egg, milk, 1 tablespoon of the oil, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. Using a whisk, blend the ingredients together until a smooth batter has formed.

3. Add the remaining tablespoon oil to a 12-inch, nonstick skillet set on high heat.

4. As soon as the oil is hot (it should not smoke), reduce heat to low.

5. Using a ladle, gently pour the batter onto the center of the skillet to form a 3-inch blintz (pancake).

6. Continue forming the blintzes, spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. You will not use all the batter for the first batch.

7. After cooking for 1 minute or until the batter starts bubbling, using a spatula, gently turn the blintzes over.

8. Cook the other side of the blintzes for another 30 seconds or a little longer, taking care not to burn the underside.

9. Transfer the blintzes to a serving platter; set aside while preparing the remaining blintzes.

To Serve the Blintzes:
1. Transfer the yogurt to a small bowl and give it a stir.

2. Top each blintz with yogurt, some fruit and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real