I’m back at college! With a kitchen! It’s so super exciting and I don’t care that I sound like a 16 year-old. I love my kitchen. Sure it’s been almost a month since I moved in and I’m just now posting, but I’ve been too busy cooking and playing in the kitchen. It’s itty bitty; my roommate and I can’t be trying to use it at the same time even if one of us is washing dishes and the other is grabbing something out of the fridge.
I think it is honestly the smallest kitchen ever intentionally designed for 2 people. To give you a sense of scale, to be able to open the fridge, I have to move the chair closest to the fridge out into the middle, which then blocks the oven and all exit routes. My cookie sheet has to go in so that I’m only able to grab the shorter end rather than sideways. But it’s my beautiful kitchen and I love it.
It was the 29th Annual Apple Harvest Festival here in Ithaca this past weekend. I love Apple Fest. Like seriously. But this year was a bit less enjoyable because of the cold and rain but hey, that’s living in Ithaca for you. I got a gorgeous 1/4 peck of apples and when I saw the “Apple Honey Challah” post on Smitten Kitchen this week it was just too perfect. I’ve been dying to make a challah bread for ages and the timing of this loaf couldn’t have been more perfect. I was also excited because it only made one loaf instead of Deb’s other challah recipe which made two… or at least that was the plan.
In my excitement of making this wonderful bread (and in not using actual measuring cups) I accidentally added 1 2/3 cup of water rather than the called for 2/3 cup. I frantically put my 9th grade algebra to use to calculate how much of everything else I needed to add to make it right. Oh my gosh was that an adventure. I ended up using 1350 grams of flour, needless to say (if you understand weights and baking) this means my new bag is looking a little slim.
So instead of one loaf of challah, I had two beautiful round apple honey challah loaves.
It has been done. My year long ambition of making fantastic cinnamon rolls has been achieved. Finally. I shouldn’t have waited this long, but maybe it was a good thing because I got to make them with my dad who has a lot more patience and therefore used an overnight recipe. Maybe it was the slow rise in the fridge, or maybe the anticipation in the morning when I ran downstairs to enjoy this sweet breakfast.
Overnight rises and resting periods on recipes seems to be the new industry secret for creating fantastic baked goods. From cookies to rolls to full on breads and pizza dough, the secret in their perfect texture is apparently the slowed rise and rest in the fridge.
While making these, my dad and I ran into the classic senario of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” We would try to do the same thing at once like read the recipe off his phone screen or start combing ingredients. It was only a mild catastrophe. Our foot difference in height and the whole parent vs. child situation led to some easy decisions over who was there “first.” But we learned to share in the end.
The recipe we used is from Food Network’s Alton Brown. Anyone who knows my dad would immediately see why he chose this recipe – he worships Alton Brown. I once thought I saw him downtown, texted my dad with this information and got a response of “touch him for me.” It turned out to be my old physics teacher with an uncanny resemblance, but that’s not the point. The point is, in high school, the biggest arguments of the night were over if we watched “Good Eats” or “Will & Grace.” This all being said, Mr. Brown knows his stuff. And these cinnamon buns are fantastic. I may have eaten 2 1/2 today.
This is a bit of old news, but I’ve so far made two ultra basic loaves of bread! By ultra basic I mean “flour, salt, yeast, and water” is the entire ingredient list and it is labeled as an “almost no-knead” bread. This is an adapted version of the original Cook’s Illustrated “Almost No-Knead” found at Breadtopia. It’s really simple to make even for those of us living in a tiny dorm room. I’ve been adding white whole-wheat flour and it’s really good!
Just a few notes about this recipe though. Even introduction of flour is important and the dough will seem dry after stirring together the ingredients. It gets REALLY wet after the LONG 18 hour rise. The kneading of this dough is extremely simple and can be done just on a cookie sheet on the floor. I know this from my adventures in dorm baking. Words of caution – use a real bread knife to cut this, it gets messy otherwise. That may seem straight forward, but this is not a bread you can pinch apart to enjoy. I think it tastes better with some jelly or other topping but there were plenty of people at the newspaper office who seemed just fine eating it plain!
Next stop… Monkey Bread
I’m about 4 slices into my second loaf of what is called Sally Lunn bread. The recipe is, again, from Smitten Kitchen (as most of them will be until I bake/cook my way through her site). This is a fairly simple, no-knead bread that has a sweet flavor and dense texture.
Loaf #1: I made the first loaf for my first Wednesday (deadline) night as Assistant Photo Editor for the Ithacan, our newspaper. Some problems arose as this was my very first loaf of bread… ever. I had allotted 15 minutes to put the ingredients together. I think, at my best in a dorm room, I could maybe make it 20 but that’s not going to happen while I do not have my own kitchen. And then I went to let the bread rise, but I stuck the plastic wrap to the bread instead of on the top of the mixing bowl. Oops, that was a giant sticky mess. My rising time (3 hours) for that loaf is just way off. I am using instant yeast in all my breads so I doubled the amount as per comment 299 on the recipe. The dough for this bread is EXTREMELY sticky. Absurdly so. My flimsy scraper just could not do the job of getting the dough to the baking pan relatively easily… so that goes on the shopping list. The oven in the kitchen here seems to run a bit hot so I put the loaf in for 28 minutes and it had a very thick crust and the thermometer came out perfectly clean reading 190-200˚. I took it in to the office after it had barely cooled so by the time we ate pizza it was all good. It got devoured so quickly that I had to make a second loaf today.
Loaf #2: My only severe mistake was pouring cold milk onto the hot, melted butter. It makes the butter get all hard and weird very quickly and is not easy to incorporate in that state. I do not heat them together as the recipe states because I am using instant yeast which does not need to be proofed. I put the plastic wrap in the right place this time!! But I’m thinking that even with doubling the yeast, at least in my room, 1 hour is not enough rising time. It is hard to do the 2 finger indent test with such a sticky dough. So next time I’m going to give it 2 hours of rise and then see if that helps make the final product taller and fill out the pan more. My bread pan is slightly larger than the one that Deb uses but my bread is really short and it kinda sags so, time to try something new! Also, the running hot oven never ceases to fail me on baking times. I tried 27 minutes today and it still worked fine but I am having a bit of trouble with the crust. My breads have a really hard crust that doesn’t jive with the interior texture at all. So for next time, I’m going to try putting the oven at 350˚ and checking it at 28 minutes again.