Za’atar Honey Butter Rolls

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There are countless ways I use za’atar while snacking or cooking, and if you love it as much as I do then you would totally understand why I want use it in almost everything including these soft honey bread rolls.

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I’ve baked these bread rolls a couple of times especially at dinner gatherings because not only are they easy to make but also every person who tastes them says that they’re light, fluffy, and airy. I just love a good home made bread recipe that always gives consistent and reliable results. So after mastering the basic recipe I decided to add za’atar in the dough (that always seems to be a great idea to me). The result is incredibly delicious – the combination of the sweet honey and earthy thyme flavor makes it so hard to eat just one roll!

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Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

240ml (1 cup) whole milk, 110°F
21g (2¼ tsp) instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
85g (¼ cup) honey
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
60g (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ teaspoon salt
450g (3½ cups) bread flour
45g (½ cup) za’atar

30g (2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature very soft
15g (1 Tablespoon) honey
Extra za’atar for sprinkling

1. Pour warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar on top of the milk. Give it a light stir with a spoon and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will be frothy.

2. Turn on the stand mixer running on low speed, gradually add the honey, egg, egg yolk, melted butter, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Beat for 1 min and add remaining ½ cup of flour. Beat for another minute on low speed. The dough should be thick, slightly sticky and pulling away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If the dough is too sticky add more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.

3. Form dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes, then place into a large bowl greased with olive oil and coat all sides of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a slightly warm oven to rise until doubled, about 2 hours. For this, I turn on the oven to 200°F (93°C) for a minute only then turn it off. I also place a bowl for boiling water to increase the level of humidity and keep the oven lights on (helps create a warm environment),

4. Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Cut each half into 8 evenly sized pieces for a total of 16 pieces (the balls have to be equal in size to bake uniformly). Shape into balls and arrange in a greased 9×13 baking pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size and puffy, about 1 hour.

5. 30min before baking, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake the rolls for 20min until the tops are golden brown and the edges of each roll look cooked. While the rolls bake, mix the topping ingredients. Remove the rolls from the oven when they are done and brush a generous amount of honey butter onto each warm roll and sprinkle with za’atar.

6. Cover leftovers and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Warm up in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 10 minutes.

Make ahead tip/overnight: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4.

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Brioche with Mahleb Date Paste and Walnuts

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There’s something about making brioche from scratch that brings comfort and pleasure: the rich smell of butter and yeast, the pillowy soft dough beneath your hands, the quiet hours of the kitchen, the dark golden loaf rising in the oven. The whole process calms me and makes me forget about stressful weekdays and the constant buzz of people in this chaotic yet charming city.

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The flavors I used here are inspired by K’aak bi M’aamoul, these little round semolina cookies filled with dates, nuts, and orange blossom water. They remind me of home – Beirut – and my family’s traditional recipes. What I love about this combination is  the thick pockets of mahleb date paste layered with crunchy walnuts and the soft aerated brioche dough.

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A freshly baked warm slice of buttery brioche brings a smile to my face but if you end up with leftovers the next day, go ahead and make french toast. The bread is naturally sweetened with dates so there’s no need to douse it with honey or maple syrup.

Brioche dough recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook
Makes two 9″x4″ (23 cm x 10 cm) loaves

Ingredients:

Date Paste
250g pitted medjool dated
30g butter
3 Tbs water
1 tsp orange blossom water
¼ tsp ground mahleb

Make the Date Paste:
1. Place the dates and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, and stir until the dates get really soft.
2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Blend until a smooth thick paste is formed. Cover and set aside.

Roasted Walnuts
1 cup, chopped roasted walnuts (reserve a handful to sprinkle on top of the loaves)

Brioche
372g bread flour
8g instant yeast
45g granulated sugar
5g fine sea salt
186g eggs, room temperature
63 g whole milk, room temperature
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/8th inch dice
1 small beaten egg with a dash of water  (for the egg wash)

Make the Dough:
1. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray.
2. For the brioche, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.
3. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients except for the butter and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
4. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating after each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Mix for a total of roughly 20 minutes on low speed. (it is ready when the dough is elastic and holds together in one piece)
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the left side over to the right, the right over to the left, then the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top so you have a “package” with the seam at the top. Place the dough seam-side down in the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it ferment for 1 hour.
6. Repeat the folding process, place it back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours).

7. Grease a 9×4 inch (22 x 13 cm) loaf pan. Line the tin with parchment paper, making sure to let it slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
8. Remove the brioche from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time while keeping the other half in the refrigerator.
9. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a rectangular shape, about 10 x 15 inch (25 x 40 cm).
10. Spread half of the date filling onto the brioche using an offset spatula, reaching all the way to the edges but leaving half an inch (1.3 cm) of dough bare on one of the long sides. Sprinkle with half of the chopped walnuts.
11. Brush the bare part with water. Starting from the other long side, roll up the dough tightly and evenly. Refrigerate the dough for 15-20 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
12. Using a large knife, make a cut in the dough log. Place the right half of dough over the left, then repeat until you have a “braid” of dough. Gently press the ends of the dough together them together, then place in the prepared loaf pan.
13. Place a piece of oiled plastic wrap lightly on the surface of the brioche and let it proof in a warm place for 2 hours. (Note: I turn the oven for a minute and place boiling water in a cup to add some steam – make sure the oven is not too hot!). Take the brioche dough out of the oven.
14. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly brush the brioche with egg wash, sprinkle with more walnuts, and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
15. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing. (Repeat the process for the second brioche dough).

Zopf (Swiss Bread)

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There is something very therapeutic about baking bread, all the mixing and kneading gets me in a good mood. I was intimidated at first from the idea of making bread from scratch because most of us are used to the store bought ones. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I even took pictures of every step to facilitate the process of explaining this recipe.

Zopf is a rich and flavorful bread that is excellent with butter, jam, or cheese. Its name literally means “braid” in German. It is also ideal for sandwiches because it doesn’t contain sugar and it’s very soft and light.

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The first thing you need to do is sift the flour onto a working surface, make a well in the center, and add the yeast, soured cream, milk, egg, butter, and salt.

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Little by little, work the dough into a ball and start kneading.

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When I’m too lazy I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough for 20 minutes (Remember the more you knead the dough, the more the gluten will develop, and the softer the bread!)

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Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

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Divide the dough into three equal parts, then shape into thick ropes.

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Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

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Using the same plastic wrap that was used earlier, grease it with olive oil and cover the dough (to prevent the dough from drying)

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Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

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I’m going to talk about the ingredients that are used in this recipe and explain their role in making the perfect Swiss Bread:

  • Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread making and there are two types you can choose from: fresh yeast (a firm, moist block stored in the refrigerator), or dry yeast (small granules– sold in packets). Once the yeast comes into contact with flour, the billions of microorganisms begin to nourish themselves from the sugar of the starch molecules. So they multiply and produce carbon dioxide which gives a fluffy texture to the bread. That’s why raising the dough is one of the most delicate phases in the preparation of bread, and it should be placed in a controlled warm environment (you can use your oven).
  • Olive Oil prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust
  • Salt is crucial to the flavor of bread. It shouldn’t come in contact with the yeast during the initial phase of mixing because it compromises the rising. You can make a small well for the salt in the outside portion of the mound of flour and add it at the last minute.
  • Herbs, Oats, or Dried Fruits give a great aroma and taste. You can add them to the dough before it is left to rise or after the first rising

Did you ever try baking your own bread? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

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Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for rising. Baking time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients: (adapted from Classic Breads)
Juice of Half a Lemon
2/3 cups (150 ml, 5 oz) cream, lukewarm
5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (30g) fresh yeast or 3 1/3 tsp (10g) dry yeast
2/3 cups (150ml, 5 oz) milk, lukewarm
1 large egg, room temperature
7 + 3/4 Tbsp (110g) softened butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp (12g) salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. (The mixture will thicken)
2. In the meantime, sift the flour onto the work surface, make a well in the center, and add the crumbled yeast.
3. Steadily pour the milk and the soured cream mixture into the center of the well and mix with your fingertips to dissolve the yeast.
4. Add the egg, the softened butter, and the salt (pour the salt outside of the well- explanation above).
5. Mix and then knead for 20 minutes (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook)
6. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the oven. The dough will double in size.
7. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, without kneading it, shape into a ball and then divide it into three parts of equal weight.
8. Shape into thick ropes.
9. Lightly flour the work surface and lay the ropes out in front of you lengthwise.
10. Join them at one end and then braid. Finish by pressing together the three ends.
11. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap greased with oil and let rise for 50 minutes.
12. Brush with the beaten egg. You can enrich the bread by patting on oat flakes, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
13. Bake in an oven preheated to 355F (180C) for 40 minutes.