Never waste – Green Onion Sesame Rolls

One of my roommates loves to go grocery shopping, which is great for us because we always have a stocked fridge. However, sometimes she buys things that we don’t end up using until it’s too late (i.e. the food has started rotting). Last month, she bought a large pack of green onions, but no one cooked anything with them. I always feel bad throwing out food. Growing up with parents who were farmers in China has taught me not to waste food. Since my parents know firsthand how difficult it is to grow food, they don’t like to waste food, even the smallest amount. So when I saw this recipe for green onion rolls, I knew it was the perfect way to use up our sad, wilting green onions.

         

This recipe is pretty straightforward. Just make a basic bread dough, chop up lots of green onions, and roll out the dough. Then, generously sprinkle the dough with green onions, roll the dough into a log, slice the log up and bake. After slicing up the log, you’ll get these beautiful looks rolls, chockful of green onions. Sprinkling black and white sesame seeds on top gives the rolls as nice pop of color too.

These green onion rolls baked and browned absolutely beautifully! And they smelled so delicious from the oven! However, I was a little disappointed in the flavor. They tasted good, but I felt something was missing. In my critical opinion, they were a tad too bland. Perhaps I should have added a bit more salt or some spice? Regardless, these green onion rolls were tasty, proven by the fact that my roommates gobbled them up so quickly.

In spite of the slight blandness, these rolls were a great addition to our dinner that evening. I’d suggest making these for a potluck or a dinner party – you’ll definitely impress the guests. And it’s a great way to get rid of lots of green onions all at once!

Green Onion Sesame Rolls
Adapted from Priscilla Liang’s Easy Fluffy No-Knead Bread

For the Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
1 egg
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

For the Filling:
Several stalks of green onion
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with water)
Black and white sesame seeds to garnish

1. Dissolve the sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture, egg, and butter to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Punch the dough with your fist. Roll the dough into a rectangle of approximately 1/3 inch thick.
7. Spread the olive oil and sesame oil onto the dough.  Sprinkle the salt and green onion evenly over the dough.
8. Roll and cut the dough into 16 pieces.
9. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and place 8 rolls into each pan.
10. Cover the pans with a damp cloth and let the rolls rise in a warm place for approximately 30 minutes.
11. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with black and white sesame seeds.
12. Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a roll comes out clean.
13. Serve with dinner or enjoy as a snack!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Fancy it up with Figs – Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

Being a female in the science and engineering world usually means you’re surrounded by men the majority of the time. Luckily, in my field, the ratio of men to women is about 60:40. And in my class specifically, the ratio is much closer to 50/50. But even though there’s a large number of girls I can talk to, we often don’t see each other much since we no longer take the same classes and are in different lab groups. Fortunately, we all like to get together once in a while to have a girls’ night! So last month, my housemates and I hosted girls’ night at our house, complete with grilled pizzas, dessert (ice cream and dessert pizza), nail painting, and a movie!

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Grilling is definitely the easiest way to cook a pizza. All you have to do is put the dough onto the grill for a few minutes on each side and then top the second side with your desired toppings. You’ll have pizza ready in less than 10 minutes! The dough gets these great grill marks and is both puffy and crispy. Who says girls can’t grill?

Pizza topped with caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella

We grilled several pizzas with different toppings: 1) a butternut squash, kale, and goat cheese pizza; 2) a corn, barbecue sauce, and mozzarella pizza; and 3) a caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella pizza. But the best one, by far, was the pizza topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, fresh figs, and basil and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze. The pizza was devoured so quickly that I barely had a chance to snap up pictures and take a bite.

This fig pizza was so delicious!!! The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onions combined with the creaminess and tanginess of the goat cheese and the acidic balsamic glaze was a perfect balance of flavors. Also, the pieces of basil added a nice freshness to the pizza and I’m sure this pizza would pair well with a nice red wine. With these toppings, you can elevate plain old pizza into a refined, fancy dish. Perfect for dinner parties, nice brunches, or girls’ nights!

Side note: If you can get your hands on fresh figs right now, definitely make this pizza! I’m very fortunate to have an aunt who lives nearby with a very productive fig tree and this season, she’s been picking tons of gigantic figs. I’m in fig heaven right now!

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze
Created from my imagination and similar to these recipes (Bon Appetit and Food.com)

Dough for 1 pizza (here’s the recipe I usually use)
Fresh figs (I used Black Mission Figs, but I’m sure you can use whatever kind you like)
1 Onion
Goat Cheese
Honey
Balsamic Vinegar and sugar (for balsamic glaze)
Basil

(I can’t really give you quantities of the ingredients since it all depends on how much you like each ingredient. Since I absolutely love figs, I put about 1 lb of figs on the pizza. Adjust the amounts to your liking.)

1. Make pizza dough and roll out flat (about 1/3 – 1/2 in thick).
2. Saute sliced or diced onions until translucent and slightly browned.
3. Slice figs and break goat cheese into chunks.
4. Dissolve a few tablespoons of sugar into 1/4 – 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Heat over low to medium heat until vinegar reduces and becomes thick. Stir occasionally.
5. Place pizza dough on to grill for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned and dough has grill marks.
6. Flip the dough over to grill the other side. Brush the top with olive oil and quickly top with figs, onions, and goat cheese.
7. Carefully remove the dough from the grill after checking the bottom has cooked.
8. Sprinkle top of pizza with shredded basil leaves and drizzle with honey and balsamic glaze.
9. Slice pizza and enjoy! (Be warned, this pizza will be devoured within a blink of an eye, so make sure to get a piece!)

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Apple Picking in Sebastopol – Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Growing up in the southwestern part of the US, I missed out on a lot of produce picking since the desert isn’t as fertile as New England or California, except for those Hatch green chiles. So when my housemates suggested going apple picking a few weekends ago, I jumped at the opportunity to finally experience the manual labor of harvesting fruit.

In college, I went berry picking once with one of my friends at a farm outside of Austin. Although we had an awesome time, we were more focused on just looking at the berries (and having a photoshoot :P) rather than picking them. So we ended up picking only a handful of them. This time though, my housemates and I were serious about the harvest. We traveled to an apple farm in Sebastopol, a town about an hour away from the Bay Area. The farm actually has more acres of Asian pears than apples, but they only let people pick apples. That day, golden delicious and jonagold apples were in season. We were led to several rows of trees weighed down with ripe apples and we went straight to picking. Since the apples were so ripe, they were pretty easy to take off the trees. Some of them were so ripe that they just fell of the trees as we picked off other apples. After only about half an hour, we had several boxes filled with apples and headed back to weigh out our bounty. We ended up picking about 35 pounds of apples that day!

The farm also had many blackberry brambles and let us pick some blackberries. If you haven’t picked blackberries before, let me warn you, it’s rather difficult. Choosing ripe blackberries is a difficult task in itself since most of them are either not ripe enough or too ripe (i.e. they get squished when you pick them). On top of that, the blackberries rest in thorny brambles and to get the best ones, you end up getting scraped and scratched by the thorns. I gave up pretty early, but my housemates soldiered on and ended up picking about 3 pounds of berries.

With its apples and asian pears, the farm makes and sells asian pear apple juice, which is very delicious and refreshing. In order to pick apples, we had to sign up for a membership, which basically meant buying 12 bottles of juice. In addition to the juice, the farm also makes several different jams using asian pears, blackberries, and other fruits. We bought a jar of plum amaretto jam and a jar of asian pear, lavender, blackberry ginger jam (that’s a mouthful).

With 35 pounds of apples, I went right to work at baking up something delicious using apples. It didn’t take much effort to find apple recipes. Apparently, everyone is in the mood for apples now – Baked by Rachel is even posting an apple recipe each day. That’s how I found this recipe for cinnamon apple pull apart bread.

Pull-apart breads seem to be trendy these days. I’ve seen pins of all varieties all over Pinterest, from sweet ones (such as lemon and cinnamon sugar) to savory ones (i.e. cheddar, beer and mustard). This type of bread is a bit more complicated than others I’ve made before since you have to cut the dough into strips several times and then try to pack those strips into a loaf pan. And with the cinnamon filling, it turns out to be pretty messy. It was also a little difficult keeping all of the apples together on top of the dough and in between the strips.

I’d like to say my bread baked up beautifully, but that was not the case. I let it rise for an hour, but perhaps this wasn’t enough time. When I baked the bread, the top browned, but inside seemed pretty undercooked. I baked it for nearly twice as long as the recipe says, but I think the bread was still a bit doughy. Perhaps it was because I used some leftover sweet dough that I froze and didn’t let it thaw enough before I used it?

Although I was pretty unsatisfied with the final product, my housemates enjoyed the bread. I had baked the bread late at night and left it out to cool, but when I woke up the next morning, 3/4 of the bread was gone! Later that day, they told me how delicious it was and asked for the recipe. So I guess the bread didn’t turn out that bad or my housemates like eating doughy bread. 😛

Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from this recipe

For the dough:
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pkg or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups apples (I just sliced one large apple)

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture and remaining wet dough ingredients to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sti at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
7. Prepare the filling by combining the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and butter.
8. Thinly slice the apples and roll out dough, on a lightly floured surface, into a 12 x 20″ rectangle (I just eyeballed this).
9. Spread the dough with the cinnamon filling and lay the apple slices on top.
10. Cut the dough into 6 sections, roughly 3 x 12″. Carefully lay sections on top of each other, this will be messy and dough will stretch.
11. Cut dough the into 6 stacks. Turn stacks on their sides and tightly pack into prepared loaf pan.
12. Allow to rise for additional 30-60 minutes or until roughly doubled in size.
13. Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes. (I ended up baking for nearly 90 minutes.) After 30 minutes, cover with foil and continue baking.
14. When bread is golden brown, remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Sticking with the Classics – Homemade Yeast Doughnuts

For some reason, I’m very intrigued by doughnuts, especially the specialty doughnuts that Doughnut Plant or Dynamo Donuts sell. It’s a bit weird since I don’t really like eating doughnuts. My dad was part of a doughnut club at his work and would have to buy bagels and doughnuts once every two months for it. I remember I always preferred the bagels over the doughnuts, which were too sweet and oily. However, I do have to admit that soft, fluffy glazed doughnuts (i.e. those from Krispy Kreme) are delicious.

My interest in doughnuts has led to an itching desire to make homemade doughnuts. But the act of deep-frying always scared me off. I recently decided to suck up my fear and finally make doughnuts for a welcome brunch my housemates and I hosted a few weeks ago. I figured it was the perfect event to try since everyone loves doughnuts and I wouldn’t be stuck with leftovers. I was so excited about making doughnuts that I bought a doughnut cutter!

Making doughnuts is pretty easy and all the recipes are basically the same. The dough is super simple and you just need to cut out doughnut shapes, then fry them, and glaze/decorate them. However, let me warn you, cutting out the doughnuts is extremely tedious. Since I was making food for at least 40 people, I made a large batch of dough. Little did I know just how many doughnuts it would yield. I probably spent 1-1.5 hours just cutting out circles of dough and then cutting out the doughnut holes. I ended up cutting out way more than 40 doughnuts. Luckily, unfried doughnuts can be frozen.

The only difficulty with doughnuts is that they are best when served hot and freshly fried. Now, that is perfectly fine when you’re only making a dozen. But when you’re making at least three dozen, it’s a bit harder serving them fresh. Thankfully, my housemates were wonderful in helping me. One of them did all the frying while another one made all the glazes. And a third housemate helped me glaze and decorate the doughnuts. It was pretty hectic but we managed to get the doughnuts out hot and fresh.

Despite all the craziness, the hard work was all worth it. When I brought the doughnuts out, everyone was so impressed and praised how beautiful they were. Here’s a life tip: putting sprinkles on doughnuts is definitely one of the best things you can do.

I would have liked to make some doughnuts with crazy flavors, but since I was cooking for about 40 people, I decided it’d be better to play it safe and make classic yeast doughnuts with the standard glazes: plain, chocolate, and maple. Even though I prefer the more exotic, non-traditional dishes and flavors, I have to admit that the classics can be pretty awesome too. And these doughnuts definitely confirmed that. It’s like what people say, when you’ve found a good thing, you don’t mess with it. (Or at least leave it to the pros to do that).

*Another photography tangent: How about these non-instagram photos (well, except for one… I couldn’t resist :P)?! My friend recently bought a Nikon DSLR and snapped up a few photos of the doughnuts for me. They look amazing! So clean and crisp. The quality really makes me want to invest in a DSLR (I’d buy a Canon)!

Homemade Yeast Doughnuts
Adapted from The Doughmesstic

1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/3 stick melted butter (not hot, just melted)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Oil for frying

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to rest around 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Mix the milk, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture and stir.
4. Combine the flour and salt. Add the flour in 1 cup increments to the liquid mixture and mix until dough comes together. (You may use more or less flour than specified in the recipe.)
5. Knead the dough until smooth and place dough in a greased bowl.
6. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
7. Roll out dough to 1/3 in. thick and cut out doughnuts with a doughnut cutter or two biscuit or cookie cutters.
8. Place doughnuts on cookie sheets with parchment paper and let rise for at least 15 min.
9. Heat oil to 350-360F and carefully drop doughnuts in one at a time. Let each side cook until golden brown. Cooking time will vary based on the heat of your oil, but 15 seconds per side worked for me.  Remove doughnuts from the oil and pat with paper towels.
10. While they are still hot, dip the doughnuts in the glaze and decorate with sprinkles!
11. Serve immediately! Your guests will thank you. 🙂

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Surprising Swirls – Povitica

I love recipes that look difficult to make, but are actually really easy… like this braided lemon bread. And I love recipes that have a surprise inside, like this purple ombre cake. And I absolutely love recipes that are straightforward – it’s ok if they require more than one bowl or make a mess, as long as they are easy to follow and understand. So, when I saw this beautiful, creative bread called Povitica and saw how simple it was and how awesome it looked inside, I pinned the recipe and vowed to make it someday.

Just a regular loaf or bread… or is it?

I just love surprising people… which is a bit ironic, since I kinda hate being surprised (or rather, spooked since I’ll jump a mile into the air and scream whenever someone sneaks up on me). I especially love surprising people with food, either by making something shockingly beautiful or making something with ingredients and flavor combinations that they would never have expected to go well together (like lime glazed avocado pop-tarts or blueberry basil goat cheese hand pies… I’ll be posting these soon!)

What I love most about this bread is how unassuming it looks. Judging from its exterior, one would guess it’s just a regular old loaf of bread. But once you cut off a slice, it’s like BAM! You’re hit with crazy twists and swirls of walnut filling all throughout the bread. Povitica is basically the funkier cousin of swirl bread.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s super straightforward. Povitica is basically a sweet bread dough slathered on with a walnut filling, rolled up and twisted, and then baked in a loaf pan. At first glance, the swirls of filling throughout the bread look fairly complicated, but making them is pretty easy, especially with the help of the step-by-step photos on the Daring Baker’s website. I followed the quarter batch recipe, which makes one loaf. My bread ended up not being twisted that much, probably because I didn’t have enough filling for the swirls to distinctly show, especially near the top. Be warned though, this bread was a little messy, particularly when I rolled up the dough into a log, a lot of the filling spilled out. But hey, that’s the fun part of it. One reason why I like making breads so much is that I get to play with the dough and get my hands dirty. Besides, it doesn’t really matter if your kitchen gets messy because you’re going to have to clean it up in the end anyways. 😛

Povitica
Adapted from Daring Bakers (Quarter Batch – makes one loaf) 

For the dough:
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2  cups all-purpose flour, measure first then sift, divided

For the filling:
1 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

To make the dough:
1. Proof the yeast by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water and sprinkling yeast on top. Let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave until scalding.
3. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt.
4. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1 cup of flour.
5. Mix using a wooden spoon and slowly add the remaining flour until the dough starts to come together. (You might not use all of the flour.)
6. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick. Add more flour if needed.
7. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled.

To make the filling:
8. In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
9. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. (I just heated these in the microwave until hot.)
10. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
11. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
12. Let filling stand at room temperature until it’s ready to be spread on the dough.

To assemble the bread:
13. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle as thin as you can.
14. Spread the filling on top of the dough.
15. Gently roll the dough up into a long log/jelly roll. (The filling will probably get pushed out as you roll it up. Don’t worry about it.)
16. Lift the dough and place the middle in a “U” shape into a greased loaf pan.  Tuck the ends into the empty space of the “U” and brush the top with egg wash.
17. Let rest for 15 minutes.
18. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, then bake at 300 for 45 minutes. Check the bread after 30 minutes to see how browned the top is. If it is too brown, you can place aluminum foil on top.
19. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.
20. Slice off a piece and admire how beautiful your bread is! 🙂

This post has been Yeastpotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Summer Blues


Summer is quickly coming to an end… at least it is for me, since classes start tomorrow! Eeks! How did time fly by so fast?

This summer, I traveled and ate my way through Boston, New York City, and San Diego.

Boston Done Right: Paul Revere, Cannoli, MIT, and the Charles River

Sights of the City: Times Square, Taxis on 80th St, View from Empire State Building, Downtown Manhattan

NYC Eats: Shake Shack, Chelsea Market, Momofuku, Doughnut Plant

Peaceful La Jolla

I also finally crossed off a few items on my baking to do list (but still haven’t tried making my own kimchi! need to do that soon!).

Purple Ombre Cake – Check!

Kolaches – Check!

And I spent valuable time and made amazing memories with my friends and family. Even though I was working everyday, this was actually one of my most fun summers.

To express my summer blues (and match my blue floral dress), I did a variation of blue ombre nails. I was inspired by this nail design from Miss Renaissance. I had slightly darker shades of blue than she did, but they worked well.


Although I’ll miss the laid-back, relaxing vibe of summer with the sunny days (well, only after the fog has burned off) and the rather peaceful feel of campus that comes with the absence of undergrads, I’m looking forward to what this new school year brings. Fall semester is always a fresh start for me – it feels more like New Year’s to me than January 1st. With a new season comes new friends, experiences, and memories. So, even though I’m a little sad to see my summer end, I’m excited to see what fall brings. Plus, I’ve been dying to make some pumpkin and apple desserts!

Celebrating in Style – Peach Tomato Mozzarella Crostini

My friend, Edwin, recently hosted a fancy dinner party for his birthday and asked me to make a summery, classy appetizer. So, when I saw this recipe for peach tomato mozzarella crostini from Joy the Baker, I knew I had the perfect dish.

It’s a very simple, but delicious appetizer. All you have to do is slice up some peaches, tomatoes, and mozzarella, toast some baguette slices, and then top the bread with the peaches, cheese, and tomato. And finish with a leaf of basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. This appetizer is very crisp and refreshing, which is perfect for summer. The peach adds a nice sweetness and twist to the traditional caprese mix. Be sure to use fresh peaches and tomatoes as well as fresh mozzarella. The freshness and quality of the ingredients definitely makes a difference.

Now, my friend Edwin is a very stylish, sophisticated guy. So it was no surprise that he planned an elaborate multi-course meal to celebrate his birthday. On the menu were peach tomato mozzarella crostini and broiled shrimp cocktail for appetizers, a quince and manchego endive salad, grilled asparagus with deviled quail eggs as a side dish,
and seared garlic peppered tuna with a wasabi honey lime sauce for the main course.
Broiled Shrimp Cocktail
Quince, Manchego and Endive Salad
Seared Garlic Peppered Tuna with Wasabi Honey Lime Sauce

The broiled shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce was a nice twist on traditional shrimp cocktail while the salad was a delicious combination of sweet from the quince paste and apples and salty from the manchego cheese. Although it did not live up to Edwin’s high expectations, the tuna was seared well, cooked but still raw in the middle, and tasted amazing with the wasabi sauce.

Quince Paste with Manchego Cheese

White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Sponge Cake

We finished the meal off with slices of manchego cheese topped with quince paste (again an amazing mixture of sweet and salty) and Edwin’s birthday cake. Rachel, the designated cake baker, baked him a white chocolate raspberry mousse sponge cake that was light and airy, the perfect summery dessert.

That night, we ate a sophisticated and delicious meal that rivaled any of those fancy restaurants in the city. And the best part of it was that we had made it all ourselves in celebration of a dear friend. Now that’s a dinner that money can’t buy.

This post was Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Homesick for Texas – Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches

Despite not having grown up in Texas, I still consider myself to be somewhat Texan and associate with Texas all the time. I suppose living in Texas for four years brainwashed me. 😛 The funny thing is that when I first arrived in Texas, I wasn’t its biggest fan. I felt like I had been transported to another planet (ok, maybe that was a little exaggerated, but Texas does feel like a foreign country sometimes).

Living in Texas also introduced me to new foods, from real southern BBQ (before moving to Texas, I thought BBQ was hamburgers and hot dogs) to Tex-Mex. One of my favorite foods I discovered in Texas was the kolache – a breakfast pastry similar to to the danish, but made with bread dough instead of danish/croissant dough. Even though it was originally brought over by Czech immigrants, Texans have made the kolache their own by putting their own twist on the fillings and even the pronunciation. Texans say “kol-ah-chee” while the Czech pronunciation is “kolach” (with a silent “e”).

For some reason, kolaches are rather difficult to find outside of Texas. I’m sure they’re available in the Mid-West, but in California, no one has heard of them. So, feeling homesick for both the delicious pastry and Texas, I decided to make my own kolaches. I looked up a few recipes and found these from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Kolaches consist of a basic sweet dough that are shaped into rounds or squares and filled with whatever fruit topping you like. Some people even stuff them with sausage. Common fruit fillings include apricot and blueberry. However, since I only had peaches in the house, I made peach kolaches instead. I also had an expiring block of cream cheese, so I made cream cheese kolaches as well.

This recipe was really easy to follow and straightforward. The only little problem (if you can call it that) was that I made the kolaches a tad too big. I thought I had shaped them into fairly small balls of dough, but boy was I wrong. They ended up rising quite a bit in the oven and became gigantic kolaches. Another difficulty I encountered was filling the wells. I suppose I just tried to put in too much filling because for every kolache, the filling spilled out of the well and down the sides. So make sure you put parchment paper underneath, which makes cleaning up extremely easy.

One of my fondest memories of eating kolaches was right before finals. Each semester, the Women in Engineering program hosted a pre-finals feast, consisting of Texas’ finest foods: breakfast tacos, chips and queso, and of course, kolaches. The fluffiness of the bread and the sweet filling of the kolache comforted me as I grew nervous about my imminent exams. After only four years, I’ve fallen in love with many traditions and cultural idiosyncrasies of Texas, with kolaches being near the top. Making these kolaches brought back good memories and brought a bit of Texas to California.

Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches
Adapted from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride

For dough:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

For cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon

For peach filling:
2 peaches
peach jam (I used apricot jam)

For posypka:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water, then sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
3. Add 1 cup of flour and yeast to the egg mixture and mix.
4. Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
5. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface.
6. Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour. (I left in the refrigerator overnight and let the dough warm up the next day before using it.)
7. After dough has risen, punch it down. Pull off egg-sized pieces (maybe even smaller!), roll into balls, and then flatten to about three inches in diameter.
8. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
9. While waiting for the dough to rise, make the fillings and posypka. To make the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. To make the peach filling, cut up the two peaches into small pieces and mix with peach/apricot jam. (I microwaved the jam to make it more liquidy.) To make the posypka, crumble the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together with your hands.
10. After second rising, gently make an indention in the center of the dough with two or three fingers. Fill each well with peach filling or cream cheese filling (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle with posypka.
11. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes and serve warm. Kolaches are best eaten warm and fresh from the oven, but they also taste good the day after.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Be Sophisticated with Cheese – Baked Brie en Croute with Raspberry Jam

In my last post, I talked about one of my friend’s birthday dinners. Now, if there was one dish that I would remake from that dinner, it’d have to be the baked brie with raspberry jam. It was a very sophisticated, but extremely easy dish. We just spread raspberry jam on top of a wedge of brie, wrapped it up in a piece of puff pastry, baked it for about 15 minutes, and then topped it with toasted walnuts. Apparently the fancy name for this dish is baked brie en croute.

The most satisfying part was making the first cut into the brie. As I cut through the puff pastry, the melted cheese oozed out along with some raspberry jam. The brie was so creamy and went so well with the sweet, yet tart flavor of the jam. Add that to the buttery, rich puff pastry and you’ve got a heavenly appetizer.

If you want to impress people at a fancy dinner party, definitely make this dish. It only takes 20-30 minutes total, but it’s so elegant that people will think you spent much longer making it.

Baked Brie en Croute with Raspberry Jam
Created from my imagination (but basically the same as this recipe from Simply Recipes)

1 sheet puff pastry, rolled out
1 wedge of Brie cheese
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)
Raspberry jam (if you don’t like raspberry jam, you could swap this with any jam or jelly you like – fig jam would be a delicious alternative!)
Walnuts for toasting
Water crackers, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Place parchment paper onto a cookie sheet and then lay out puff pastry.
3. Place brie in center and slather with raspberry jam.
4. Wrap puff pastry over brie.
5. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
6. While brie is baking, toast walnuts in the oven until slightly browned.
7. Take brie out of the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes (or as long as you can resist!)
8. Top the brie with the toasted walnuts and serve with water crackers or slices of baguette.

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Forgetting the Focaccia – Olive Rosemary Focaccia

My friends and I recently moved into a new house and in the whole process, we somehow inherited a big jar of green olives. I think olives are one of those foods that everyone has a different attitude towards. Some absolutely love them, some are indifferent, and some completely abhor them. Like my friend Rachel. One day, she asked her boyfriend to pick up a loaf of bread. She told him any kind of bread would be fine. However, when he showed up with a loaf of olive bread, she exclaimed, “Not olive bread!”

Now, I don’t mind olives, but I definitely do not like them enough to eat a big jar of them. I’ll eat a few on a slice of pizza or eat the olive that comes with my martini, but they’re a little too salty for me to eat regularly. So when I saw that big jar of olives, I knew I had to find a recipe that used olives. Remembering that story of olive bread, I looked up recipes for olive bread and found a few for olive rosemary focaccia.

Focaccia is actually a very simple and straightforward bread, similar to pizza dough (according to wikipedia). You just make a basic dough, add in whatever herbs (or food) you want, roll the dough out, spread olive oil over it,  and press your fingertips into the dough. Super easy, right?

Even though it was super simple, being the klutz that I am, I encountered a minor problem. While baking the bread, I was distracted and left the focaccia in the oven for a bit too long. Too long as in, burnt the bread and had the smoke alarm go off! Luckily I made two loaves and baked the other one perfectly.

I made this focaccia for a friend’s birthday dinner being hosted at my new house (which was why I had been so distracted while baking the focaccia). Another one of my friends had planned the whole menu, which included baked brie topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry, mushroom pasta, tuna stuffed bell peppers, and sauteed brussel sprouts with almonds. In addition to the focaccia, I contributed a quick, but fancy appetizer of figs drizzled with honey and topped with toasted walnuts.

Don’t those figs look so fancy?

Despite burning a loaf of focaccia (I had baked the first one and served it, but left the second one in the oven while I joined my friends for dinner – a very bad idea) and having the smoke alarm go off in the middle of dinner, my friend’s birthday dinner was a great success! The food was delicious and the company was great. We all make mistakes sometimes, some more than others (like me for example). But usually it all works out in the end. Besides, how else would you learn if you didn’t make mistakes?

The only real unfortunate thing about this bread was that it didn’t use nearly enough olives since I barely made a dent in my big jar sitting in the fridge. So, if anyone has any fun recipes that use a ton of olives, please let me know!

Olive Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Epicurious

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives, pitted, halved (I used green olives and sliced them)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

1. Dissolve sugar in warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Add the yeast to 3 1/2 cups flour and salt and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Add in the chopped olives and some of the rosemary.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes.
4. Form the dough into ball and place the dough into an oiled large bowl. Pour a little olive oil on top of the dough and evenly coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Punch down the dough, knead it into a ball and return it to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking sheet. Roll the dough out into a rectangle with your fingertips or a rolling pin. Let the dough rest 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over the dough and sprinkle the rest of the chopped rosemary on top. Let the dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.
8. Press your fingertips all over dough. (This was the funnest part! It made me feel like a kid again playing with playdough). Bake the bread  at 475F until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.