Chocolate Currant (Faux) Sourdough, Made with Poolish

sourdough

I’ve been obsessed with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s “How to Make Bread” ever since I first browsed it while I was dining solo at Michelin-starred Aniar in Galway, Ireland. I’ve made a few recipes from it now, and I will say that as an experienced cook/baker, breadmaking is a very humbling experience.

In general, the fewer the ingredients, the less forgiving a recipe is – and how much more spartan could a recipe get when you’re making a sourdough bread composed entirely of yeast harvested from the air and milled flour? Not that this chocolate currant bread is nearly anywhere as minimal as a medieval loaf might be, but I still find the idea of a sourdough bread, steeped in history and reminiscent of a simpler time past, incredibly romantic.

But also incredibly frustrating to make. I’ve spared you the dense, gummy, overly-sour failures of sourdough breads I’ve made, and this chocolate currant bread is actually a slight adaptation of the sourdough recipe that Emmanuel has in his book. At the moment, I’ve given up on harvesting and maintaining my own sourdough culture, and have been using poolish in place of a sourdough starter.

What is a poolish, you might ask? A poolish is a pre-ferment made ahead of time before you bake your loaf. Some amount of yeast, (usually) equal amounts of flour and water are mixed to form a doughy paste that’s left to rest for anywhere between 8 and 16 hours in advance of your loaf. This poolish imparts a complexity in flavor absent in bread made from “straight dough” (which is made by mixing everything up in a single episode) by allowing the yeast more time to create delicious byproducts of fermentation like organic acids and esters.

For this chocolate currant sourdough bread, I simply replaced the recommended sourdough starter (at 100% hydration, which means equal parts flour and water) with a poolish following this formula to determine the amount of yeast needed relative to the flour in the poolish (source: Weekend Bakery):

Poolish up to 8 hours in advance – 0.23% – 0.33%
Poolish up to 12 hours in advance – 0.1% – 0.2%
Poolish up to 16 hours in advance – 0.03% – 0.08%

Use the lower percentage for a warmer kitchen, and the higher percentage for a cooler kitchen (e.g. if you were baking in the winter).

Example: if you wanted to make a poolish up to 8 hours in advance in the winter, this is what you should do to substitute for a 170g of sourdough starter at 100% hydration: Mix 85g of water, 85g of flour, and 0.2805g of yeast (0.33% x 85g) in a bowl, cover the bowl with cling wrap, and let it rest for 8 hours.

You might ask – how am I going to measure 0.2805g of yeast? Well, you can invest in a precision scale that goes up to 0.001g, which I have the good fortune of owning – or you can just grab a pinch of yeast and monitor how it goes. I highly recommend reading the Weekend Bakery’s post for more information on how a poolish should look like.

Anyway, enough of my geeking out (even though there’s way more where that came from!). This is my second attempt at making this chocolate currant sourdough recipe with a poolish preferment, and even though I can see the myriad of ways my technique could be improved, the flavors remain unparalleled. The loaf has an abundance of Zante currants that turn juicy when warm, and you are surprised by the gooey milk chocolate chip that punctuates the loaf every now and then, but not so often you feel like you’re having cake or dessert. The bread is definitely good enough to eat on its own, but who would decline a smear of Nutella?

sourdough2

Chocolate Currant Sourdough (made with poolish)
Adapted from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread
Makes one large loaf (approx 950g)

For the poolish
85g bread flour
85g water
Yeast, per percentages outlined above

For the bread
200g/1 1/2 cups Zante currants
80g/2/3 cup milk/semi-sweet chocolate chips (I chopped a Trader Joe’s milk chocolate Pound Plus bar)
330g/ 2 2/3 bread flour
8g/1 1/2 tsp salt
20g/2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
250g/250ml/1 cup lukewarm water

Equipment needed
long proofing basket (if not, a colander with a linen towel could substitute)
baking sheet lined with parchment paper

  1. Mix all poolish ingredients into a large bowl 8-16 hours ahead of time, before you will make your loaf. This bowl should be large enough to include all the bread ingredients. Cover bowl with cling wrap and let rest at room temperature.
  2. When ready to make the bread, mix currants and chocolate and set aside.
  3. In a (smaller) mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and cocoa powder together – this is the dry mixture.
  4. Add the water to your poolish, and mix until combined. This is the wet mixture.
  5. Add the dry mixture to your wet mixture and mix until it comes together.
  6. Cover the dough with the bowl that had the dry mixture in it and let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Knead the dough by pulling a portion of the dough from the side and pressing it into the center. Repeat this motion all around the perimeter of the dough 8 times and the dough should start to resist.
  8. Let rest for another ten minutes.
  9. Repeat step 7 and 8 twice, then step 7 again. (i.e. Mix, knead, rest, knead, rest, knead, rest, knead.) Cover the dough with the bowl again and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  10. Punch down dough with your first to release the air.
  11. Transfer ball of dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough into two equal portions, rolling each into a ball.
  12. Dust the proofing basket with flour, and lay the two balls side by side so they are touching snugly.
  13. Let the dough rise until about double the size (for me it takes about 8 hours, but may be as few as 3 depending on the ambient temperature in your kitchen).
  14. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475F/240C. Place a roasting pan at the bottom of the pan to preheat. Set aside a cup of water.
  15. When the dough is doubled, flip it out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle flour on it and slash crosses on each ball.
  16. Place the bread into the oven, and pour the reserved cup of water into the roasting pan. Close the oven door, and lower the oven temperature to 425F/220C.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes or until brown. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom when it is ready.
  18. Let cool on a wire rack.

 

Chocolate Barmbrack Bread from The Great British Bakeoff’s Andrew Smyth

bakedbarmbrack

When I had made this bread, I was a week away from my first visit to Ireland. I was so pumped to go that I wanted to make something Irish at home so I could compare it to what the “real thing” would taste like. I picked this chocolate barmbrack bread that Andrew Smyth made in season 7 of the Great British Bakeoff.

It tastes just like fall. I ordinarily do not like dried fruit at all, but the sweet chewiness of the jumbo raisins and candied orange peel pairs very well with the warming pumpkin pie spice flavors. It’s an excellent loaf of bread, but a traditional barmbrack it is not. What I had made here is a yeasted bread with chocolate. A traditional barmbrack is typically a quick bread, does NOT have chocolate in it, and is studded with a lot more tea-soaked dried fruit than what I made here.

middle

The one thing that I didn’t do that I should have done is use bread flour. I just used all-purpose flour because that’s all I had, but as a result I had a flatter loaf. I also didn’t hand-knead this wet and sticky loaf at all, leaving it all up to my Kitchenaid dough hook, and just guesstimated when I thought it might be done.

This loaf required a couple of special ingredients that are not commonly found in American pantries. Mixed spice and candied peel, specifically. Mixed spice is used in British baking, and its American doppelganger is pumpkin pie spice. Both include cinnamon and nutmeg, sometimes cloves, ginger, and allspice. While I found candied ginger readily, I did not find candied lemon or orange peel.

So I made my own.

candiedpeel

I used Alton Brown’s recipe, and it’s a very thoroughly-written one. It’s pretty straightforward to make, and turns what would ordinarily be tossed into the garbage into a sweet and sour crystalline treat. I made two oranges worth of candied peel and I still have a bunch leftover.

sliced

The one thing I did omit from the original recipe was the chocolate glaze; I didn’t want this bread to be *too* dessert-y. I also converted some of the ingredients/measurements into American for all ya Yanks.

Chocolate Barmbrack Bread
Adapted from BBC Food/Andrew Smyth from GBBO
300g/10½oz bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2½ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp salt
8g instant yeast, or active dry yeast if you need it (modifications below)
33g/1¼oz unsalted butter, softened
66g/2½oz granulated sugar
200ml/7fl oz semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
100g/3½oz mixed dried fruit
30g/1oz mixed candied peel
100g/3½oz Belgian milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp sunflower oil or cooking spray, for greasing

Method
1. For the bread, line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust generously with flour.
2.Sift the flour, spice and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on the opposite side to the salt. Add the butter and sugar. Mix using your hand in a claw position until well combined.
3. Gently warm the milk until it is warm to touch, then whisk in the egg.
Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the milk mixture into it. Dust your hands with flour and mix using your hand as before, until the dough comes together. It will form a very wet dough. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes in the bowl (use a dough scraper if you have one), or until the dough starts to tighten (though it will still be sticky). Regularly scrape off any dough stuck to your hands.
4. Flour the work surface and your hands. Spread the dough out in a rough rectangle and add the dried fruit, candied peel and chocolate into the middle of the dough. Knead for a further 2 minutes to incorporate.
5. Place the dough on the prepared tray and shape into an oval. Lightly dust with flour and cover with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 380F.
7. Once the dough is proved, remove the cling film and slash once lengthways across the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, rotating the tray midway through cooking to ensure you get an even crust (the loaf should be a dark-brown colour). If the bottom edges brown too early, wrap a strip of aluminium foil around the loaf.

*If you end up using active dry yeast, mix the yeast and the warm milk and a tablespoon of the allotted sugar and allow to rest for five minutes until you see bubbles on the surface. Proceed with whisking in the egg after, then mix with the rest of the dry ingredients and butter.

NYT’s Favorite Challah

4

I’ve been watching a lot of The Great British Bake Off, and it’s really inspired me to make more traditional bakes, like this six-braid challah you see here. The NYTimes is one of my most trusted sources for recipes, and I decided that my first ever attempt at challah should be based on this Joan Nathan “My Favorite Challah” recipe.

I think this recipe is very beginner-friendly – it doesn’t need any specialty ingredients, you can use all-purpose flour, and you don’t need a machine at all. However, I think there were some additional pointers I had in my brain that were not in the recipe as written that would be helpful for someone entirely new to breadmaking. The recipe also makes two loaves, and I don’t have a family to feed, so I halved the recipe. All my notes and pointers are in the recipe below, so keep scrolling to learn more!

1

I was worried that the braiding would have got my knickers in a knot (hey-yo!) but it was quite straightforward. I had to redo the braid because I realized I wasn’t braiding it tightly enough, but I was quite pleased with the finished product. As the bread baked, it filled my apartment with a wonderful smell and I couldn’t wait for it to be done.

5

Isn’t the loaf a beauty? The defined braids, the mahogany hue from the double egg wash… It almost looks like a carved wooden pillar. It also was quite large, and the finished product weighed 835 g (or 24 oz). It looked delectable on the outside, but would it taste as good as it looked? I waited for another 3-4 hours so it would cool entirely, and the inside did not let me down.

6

The bread was soft and fluffy and moist, but not quite as moist as a brioche or Chinese tangzhong bread might be. It pulls apart easily – nowhere near the tugging a sourdough bread would entail – but still with a bit of cragginess and texture. It was quite a delight to eat on its own.

NYTimes Favorite Challah
Adapted from NYTimes
Makes 1 loaf

3/4 tbsps (or 2 1/4 tsps) of active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
14 tbsps (or 3/4 cup + 2 tbsps) lukewarm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil, more for greasing bowl
2 large eggs plus 1/2 of a large egg
1/2 tablespoon salt
4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tablespoon sugar in 14 tbsps lukewarm water.
  2. Once the yeast mixture looks slightly foamy (about 5 minutes), whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)
  3.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, for about 5 minutes or so. Be sparing with the amount of flour you use to flour the surface. If the dough starts to become tacky again, you’ve gone too far, so stop kneading.
  4. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
  5. Use a cooking spray or a thin spread of oil to grease the surface you’re working on so the dough does not stick. Adding flour to the countertop at this point will add unnecessary flour to your dough and make the finished product stodgy and dense.
  6. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
  7. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with what is now the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Place braided loaf on a greased cookie sheet or lined with parchment paper.
  8. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze the bread or let rise another hour in refrigerator if preferred.
  9. To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. (If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.) Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.
  10. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack for 2-3 hours or until completely cool to the touch.
  11. Store bread in a ziplock bag, or freeze to preserve freshness.

Chocolate Swirl Buns

These chocolate buns look like little caterpillars, don’t they? My bread kneading skills have improved after several failed attempts, and I think I’ve figured out how to achieve a pretty soft and fluffy texture. However, my shaping skills are still not quite there yet. I still have a long way to go before I can create good looking food. At least I can take heart in the fact that they taste good.

As you can see, I experimented with a few different shapes. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing but I figured it’d be edible anyway. The recipe for the bread is one that I’ve used several times now, and it has always worked for me. I think it’s an incredibly versatile one that can be used for both savory and sweet fillings – the last time I used it was for my hot dog buns.

The chocolate filling I actually made for this batch is actually a departure from the recipe I based it off on. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour, and replaced the cocoa powder and butter with unsweetened chocolate. I intended on subbing it with an equal amount of unsweetened chocolate, i.e. 28g of unsweetened chocolate for 18g of cocoa powder + 10g of butter but I totally had a brain fart and added in 80g of unsweetened chocolate instead. The texture was fine, but as I tasted it, I grimaced at how bitter it was and added more sugar to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure how much I added in – so I recommend just following the recipe I posted below.

Chocolate Swirl Buns
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Makes 10 buns

Tang Zhong

25 gm bread flour
125 ml water (feel free to use milk or 50:50 milk/water; I used all milk)

Mix bread flour and water in a saucepan; continually stir over medium-low heat until your whisk/spoon leaves trails in the mixture. Take off heat and let cool.

Bread
350 gm bread flour
55 gm caster sugar
5 gm salt
56 gm egg (1 large egg)
7 gm milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional – I omitted)
125 ml milk
120 gm tangzhong (refer to this recipe for making tangzhong)
5 to 6 gm instant yeast
30 gm butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Happy Home Baking
20g cake flour
50g sugar
1 egg white (reserve egg yolk to be used as egg wash)
80ml milk (warmed)
18g cocoa powder
10g butter

Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tang zhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until you get a dough shape and gluten has developed, then knead in the butter. Mind you, it’d be quite messy at this stage. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. (Tip: you might like to test if the dough is ready. Stretch the dough with two hands. If it forms a thin “membrane” that’s very elastic in texture. Use a finger to poke a hole. If the hole is a circle, not an irregular tear-off. That means you have successfully kneaded the dough to a perfect stage. Yet, don’t over-knead the dough. Otherwise all the tissues inside would be broken apart.) The time of kneading all depends on how hard and fast you knead.

Knead the dough into a ball shape. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes (Note: the time will vary and depends on the weather. The best temperature for proofing is 28C.)

While waiting for dough to rise, make chocolate paste. Mix sugar and cake flour into the egg white until smooth. Place milk in a saucepan and heat till just simmering. Add coca powder into the milk and stir till cocoa powder is incorporated into milk. Add egg white mixture into the cocoa mixture and stir over low fire till mixture thickens. Add in butter and stir till incorporated. Leave chocolate paste to cool. Keep refrigerated before use.

Once dough has doubled in size, transfer to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into ten equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.

Knead each portion into a flat circular shape and place about two tablespoons of chocolate filling inside. Place rolls on a tray lined with baking paper, covered with cling wrap or a wet towel. Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size.

Brush whisked egg on surface of rolls. (I omitted this) Bake in a pre-heated 180C (356F) oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Chinese Bakery Hot Dog Buns


Considering the dearth of posts lately, I don’t fault you if you think I have succumbed to the stresses of school and ceased to bake. I actually have been baking.  I don’t know why I have such a persistent obsession with Chinese breads lately. Perhaps I got burnt out on making American desserts? And bread is just so much harder to actually excel at. I’ve been baking the same recipe over and over again: this Chinese sweet bread recipe from Christine’s Recipes. However, I’ve found the bread exceedingly frustrating to perfect. It employs the tang zhong method, which is a starter roux that helps the bread stays soft. However, not owning a kitchen scale, stand mixer, a non-stick pastry mat OR a bench scraper has been very trying. For one, I can’t get my ingredients down to the precise weight, which is crucial in a proportion-sensitive endeavor like baking bread. Also, hand-kneading an extremely sticky dough is near impossible, since the dough just sticks to my hands stubbornly.

However, I recently acquired both a kitchen scale and a non-stick mat (I used Matfer Exopat) and I was determined to make this attempt the best. I did some research, and apparently Chinese-style breads benefit from more kneading than you think it needs. Besides, I’d probably get too tired before I end up overkneading the dough and breaking down the gluten chains. I spent at least 30 minutes wrestling with the extremely sticky dough, training my forearm and grip strength and eventually got it to reach an elastic, bouncy texture that none of my breads have reached before. And boy, was it rewarding. This bread has the finest crumb of all the breads I’ve ever made, and it’s also quite shreddable.

I did encounter some problems with the finished goods, though. But I’m going to tell you what I did wrong so you can avoid these mistakes.

  • Pat your hot dogs dry before wrapping it in the dough. My hot dogs slid out of the bun after baking. I did like how the hot dog juices had moistened the inside of the bread, imparting a salty dog flavor to it, though.
  • When rolling the bread dough into long tubes to wind around the hot dogs, try to make the tubes thicker in the middle, tapering narrower towards the ends. It will be more aesthetically appealing.

Chinese Bakery Hot Dog Buns
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Makes 8 buns

Ingredients

Tang Zhong

25 gm bread flour
125 ml water (feel free to use milk or 50:50 milk/water; I used all water)

Mix bread flour and water in a saucepan; continually stir over medium-low heat until your whisk/spoon leaves trails in the mixture. Take off heat and let cool.

350 gm bread flour
55 gm caster sugar
5 gm salt
56 gm egg (1 large egg)
7 gm milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional – I omitted)
125 ml milk (I used water instead)
120 gm tangzhong (refer to this recipe for making tanzhong)
5 to 6 gm instant yeast
30 gm butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
8 sausages (I used Sabrett’s skinless beef frankfurters)

Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tang zhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until you get a dough shape and gluten has developed, then knead in the butter. Mind you, it’d be quite messy at this stage. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. (Tip: you might like to test if the dough is ready. Stretch the dough with two hands. If it forms a thin “membrane” that’s very elastic in texture. Use a finger to poke a hole. If the hole is a circle, not an irregular tear-off. That means you have successfully kneaded the dough to a perfect stage. Yet, don’t over-knead the dough. Otherwise all the tissues inside would be broken apart.) The time of kneading all depends on how hard and fast you knead.

Knead the dough into a ball shape. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes (Note: the time will vary and depends on the weather. The best temperature for proofing is 28C.)

Transfer to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into four to six equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.

Knead each part into a long tube, about 41cm in length (it depends on how long your sausage is). Roll to enclose the sausage, with seals facing down. Place rolls on a tray lined with baking paper, covered with cling wrap or a wet towel. Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size.

Brush whisked egg on surface of rolls. (I omitted this) Bake in a pre-heated 180C (356F) oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lime Pull-Apart Bread with Lime-Yogurt Icing

One of my favorite things to do when I have an entire day to myself is taking on a laborious recipe. Like bread-making. Especially this pull-apart bread. It’s got three different components – the yeast dough, the lime-sugar filling and the frosting and definitely requires quite a bit of hands-on work. However, the end-result was so yummy and good-looking that every slice I peeled off felt like a job well-done.

Pull-apart breads are so fun to eat. Every layer beheld a new punch of citrusy, limey sugary goodness combined with the soft fluffiness of the sweet bread. I did have to improvise quite a bit in order to create this loaf. Firstly, I only had unsweetened soy milk on hand, so I substituted that for regular milk. Fortunately, it didn’t impart any distinct soy flavor to the loaf. Secondly, I didn’t have lemons around, so I omitted the lemon zest for the sugar filling and used as much lime zest my three limes would yield. Thirdly, I didn’t have cream cheese for the frosting, and figured that Greek yogurt would work fine – and also a lot less calorific. I also had 1/4 cup of lime juice sitting around that I wanted to incorporate into the loaf somehow, so I brushed it with the melted butter onto the layers of the loaf. It might’ve made my bread a little bit soggier than it would have, but I can’t be sure since I didn’t make it without the lime juice. However, it definitely prevented the bread from drying out in the second rise and while it was baking. Oh yeah, I also didn’t have a rolling pin to roll out the layers – but a wine bottle works fantastic.

If you’ve read enough of this blog, you’ll notice that I don’t post up a lot of in-progress photos. It strikes me as uncanny that so many food bloggers do so. I usually get my hands pretty dirty in the process of baking, and having to wash my hands every so often to snap a couple of pictures would be quite cumbersome. However, this picture of the granulated sugar and lime zest was too pretty to pass up.

Lime Pull-Apart Bread with Lime-Yogurt Icing
Adapted from Un Gamine dans la Cuisine
Makes one 9 x 5 loaf

Sweet yeast dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk (I used soy milk)
2 ounces unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lime paste filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (5-8 limes)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons) (I omitted)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup lime juice (this was my own addition)

Tangy yogurt icing – for the original cream cheese icing, click to the original recipe link)
6 tbsps Greek yogurt
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar (I used granulated sugar, it turned out fine)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm 120 to 130°F. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk and melted butter into the flour and mix with a rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.

Meanwhile, make the lime sugar filling. Mix the sugar, lime zest, and lemon zest. It’ll draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.

Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. *Be sure to flour the dough slightly. This will make it much easier to work with.* (If using lime juice, mix it with melted butter.) Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay. While dough is rising, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. *Mine took about 5 minutes longer. I made a foil tent to keep the crust from getting too brown.* Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt icing. Beat the yogurt and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the lime juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.

Carefully tilt and rotate the pan while tapping on a table to release the loaf. I simply ran a knife along the edges and it came out perfectly. Using a brush, cover the surface of the loaf with the cream cheese icing. Allow the icing to seep into the cracks and holes.

Enjoy this cake while it’s still slightly warm or at room temperature.

Notes: If you’re using the yogurt icing, I recommend applying it just before eating, or use it as a dip to thoroughly coat each piece. The yogurt icing is more liquid that the cream cheese icing, and would make your loaf soggy if left to soak.

Strawberry Toast + Oatnut Bread

It’s summertime, and berries are at their peak. Sweet, succulent and juicy, strawberries are a fantastic way to cool you down and satisfy your sweet tooth. I was grocery shopping, and I was lured by the strong scent of the strawberries. Nothing beats the smell of ripe strawberries; which incidentally, taste nothing like strawberry-flavored candy. Growing up, berries weren’t something I ate with any frequency because they don’t do well in tropical Singapore. I was probably quite surprised when I had my first strawberry, wincing at its tartness and its complete departure from strawberry-flavored things.

I came up with the idea for this meal by cobbling together what I had in my fridge: strawberries that needed to be eaten, a large tub of Greek yogurt, and oatnut bread that I made a couple of days ago. You could use whipped cream cheese or whipped cream on your toast, but Greek yogurt offers the same creaminess and tang with much less fat and a lot more protein. This dish is basically a healthier version of the strawberry shortcake.

This bread was made with white whole wheat flour, oats, and walnuts. It’s a firm and hearty loaf that will stand up to spreads and drippy fillings, so it would be good for a sandwich. The original recipe called said vital wheat gluten was optional, but I didn’t have it. Whole wheat flour can be a little tricky in yeast breads, but don’t be discouraged. It might not taste or feel like the soft, fluffy prepackaged loaves you get in the supermarket, but it also doesn’t have a ton of unpronounceable additives.


Strawberry Toast

Makes a slice

1 slice of bread
2 strawberries, sliced
1 tbsp of Greek yogurt

Toast bread, if desired. Spread Greek yogurt on bread. Layer strawberries. Eat!

Oatnut White Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F), divided
3-4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (whole rolled oats, chopped)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the yeast (about 1/4 oz.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, vital wheat gluten (if using) and honey, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead, adding flour a tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
While the bread is going through its final rise, preheat oven to 375F.
Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
Cool loaf outside of pan on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Notes: I ended up using about 2.5 cups of flour total.