Brioche with Mahleb Date Paste and Walnuts

date_brioche-4

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.

date_brioche-1

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.

date_brioche-7
date_brioche-9

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).

Advertisements

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

5
Traditional biscotti never appealed to me. I always found them to be plain, way too crunchy, and sometimes tasteless. It wasn’t until recently that I completely changed my mind when I had an anise biscotti at a local neighborhood bakery. Their version of the cookie is crunchy from the outside yet chewy from the inside with a perfect balance of sugar and liquorice flavor. It was biscotti love.

2
I sort of became obsessed with these anise flavored cookies, and was dreaming about them everytime I grab a cup of almond milk latte from that bakery. Then it hit me – I should be able to bake delicious biscottis from scratch that are not dry and rock hard! So I looked up a few recipes, played around with the ingredients, varied the baking time, and basically ended up with these incredible double chocolate almond biscotti:

3

4
Not bad, huh?

Here’s the thing about biscotti that you must know before attempting to try this. The dough is baked twice to ensure a crispy yet chewy texture: once in a long log form and then in sliced form. Also, most original recipes only call for eggs as an adhesive ingredient, but recipes using butter (such as this one) yield softer and delicate cookies due to the added fat. So it all comes down to your preference!

6
I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and I seriously did NOT expect them to be THAT delicious! That’s the best part of baking 🙂

1

Makes about 14 biscotti

Ingredients:
57 g (¼ cup) butter, room temperature
150 g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
190 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
45 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
115 g (4 ounces- about 1 cup) slivered or chopped raw almonds
80 g (¼ cup) bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F° (180 C°).
2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Mix in the vanilla extract.
5. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt over the mixing bowl. Mix with a spatula until it’s all incorporated– do not overmix. The dough will be slightly sticky.
6. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.
7. Shape the dough into a log 12-inches (30 cm) long by 3-inches (7 cm) on a parchment lined baking sheet.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough cracks on top and begins to brown.
9. Take out of the oven and cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes.
10. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into ½-inch slices (1 cm). Place the slices cut side down onto the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes on each side for a soft texture. For a crunchier texture, bake for 8-10 minutes.

Zopf (Swiss Bread)

Zopf Bread - Brownie Box
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.

1

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.

2

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

3 4
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!)

5

Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

6

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

7

Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

9

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

13

Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

16

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!

17

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.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart Brownie Box 2

When it comes to small family gatherings, I’m always asked to bring dessert with me. So what I usually do is head over to Foodgawker or Pinterest and look up some inspirational images or go through my list of “recipes I want to try”. The Apple Tart is definitely on my “to-try” list. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for months!

Apple Tart Brownie Box 5 Apple Tart Brownie Box 1

I noticed that there are so many variations of the apple tart filling: some add heavy cream, lemon zest or juice, rum, ground almonds, caramelized apples etc ! I ended up adapting my own recipe from what I’ve read online, and I am so happy with the result. I only added apricot preserve between the dough and the apples. The crust turned out very thin and flaky, and the apples buttery soft with a tinge of sweetness. It looks so impressive, I couldn’t believe that I did it all by myself! I’ve already baked 3 tarts in two weeks! When my family saw the tart they screamed out “You made that?!” (They think that it took hours preparation, and I didn’t deny it). Seriously, this beautiful tart will make you look like a pro in no time. (who said you’re not a pro anyway?)

First, start making the dough which is essentially pate brisée (French for shortcrust pastry – It doesn’t rise when baked and it has a buttery flaky texture).

Chopped Butter
food processor
It is made from equal parts of cold butter and flour blended into pea sized bits, then held together with a small amount of ice cold water to form a crumbly dough. Transfer the mixture onto a working surface, then shape into a disc and place it in the fridge for an hour at least or overnight.
crumbs
dough plastic wrap
Next, peel, core (I used a melon baller), halve apples, and thinly slice them while keeping them together to retain the halved apple shapes. Then take out your dough, roll it out on a heavily floured surface to avoid sticking to the work surface. I rolled it out on a baking paper because it made the process of transferring the dough to the tart pan much easier. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can fold in the sides of the dough galette style, and bake on a baking sheet.

unbaked3 unbaked sprinkled1
Next, brush the dough with apricot preserve and place the sliced apples on the dough in concentric circles. Finish off by sprinkling sugar, cinnamon, and few cubes of butter. Bake until deep golden brown in color and serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream!
Apple Tart Brownie Box 10 Apple Tart Brownie Box 3

Here it goes: A simple flaky thin crusted apple tart filled with buttery soft apples.

Ingredients:
Dough:
1+1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar (optional, to make the dough sweeter)
115 grams (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 teaspoon salt (to make the dough less sticky)
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tart:
11 small apples, peeled, cored, and halved
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50 grams butter (about 4 tablespoons butter)
3 tablespoons apricot preserve

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:
1. Add flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 10 times until pea­-size crumbles form- meaning, turn the food processor on and off in short cycles. It’s very important to use cubes of COLD butter, to avoid melting it into the dough. Do NOT break down the butter too much, you won’t get a flaky dough if the tiny bits of butter are not visible.

3. Slowly add 4 tablespoons ice­-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3—4 pulses. Do not pulse the dough to form a mass — keep it loose and crumbly, it will come together eventually

4. Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk using your hands; Plastic wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

5. Peel, core, halve, and thinly slice apples — keeping the slices together.

6. Unwrap dough and transfer to a generously floured work surface. Press down the dough with a rolling pin and move it from the center out. Roll into a 25 cm (10 inch) thin circle and then transfer to a 22 cm (9 inch) tart pan, and trim edges. Work quickly to keep the dough cold and to avoid stickiness. If the dough softens, chill it in the freezer for a few minutes. — I used a glass tart pan, you can also use a non-stick tart pan with a removable bottom. The dough rolls out up to 30 cm or 12 inch.

7. Brush apricot preserve onto the bottom of the pastry.

8. Heat oven to 190ºC or 375ºF.

9. Transfer halved sliced apples to the tart pan and press gently as you are placing them next to each other. Start out at the outer edge of the pan working your way to the center.

10. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

11. Sprinkle the tart with the sugar-cinnamon mixture, and add small cubes of butter (Use as much or as little as you like).

12. Bake until golden brown, around 50-60 minutes. (It took me 50 minutes)

And you’re done!