Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April 1st HBin5 Bread Braid

Assignment: 1/2 recipe of Carrot Bread, pgs 157-158
1 loaf Olive Oil Spelt Bread, 96-97
We can make substitutions, but share what and how we substituted with the group in our blogs.


Carrot Bread
5 c AP, 1 1/2 c WWW (white whole wheat for whole wheat)
½ c spelt instead of wheat germ
Dried cherries
6 oz coconut milk
1 c coconut syrup (sugar free) in place of 1 c of the water
Blended the shredded carrots, water and coconut syrup together

After the way I felt about the red beet bread last month, I approached this recipe with concern. But I have made  quick carrot breads before and of course I love carrot cake. So I felt that luck would be with me on this one. And besides…with adding 1 cup of coconut, how could it be bad?

I loved the bread, as did my co-workers and neighbors!  But as my fellow HBin5 members pointed out it was difficult to taste the coconut. I had read their comments before I started this loaf, so I figured I’d be smart and add the coconut milk, and the coconut syrup. Even with that extra boost of coconut, I didn’t really taste the coconut. I think the wheat flour, even www, and the spelt flour just overwhelm the delicate taste of coconut.

But what to do with the dough. Come on baby, talk to me…what do you want to be? What would make you sing as you bake in the oven?

Suddenly I got the answer, cinnamon rolls AND monkey bread! Great. Wonderful. Inspired I said!

So I set out to make them. The cinnamon rolls were really nutmeg rolls. The recipe calls for 2 tsp of cinnamon which I did put in. But when I rolled out the dough for the cinnamon rolls, I decided that nutmeg would be better. I spread on real butter, brown sugar, crushed walnuts, and raisins and dried cherries. Rolled it up and sliced them up and put them in my springform pan.

This is the best nutmeg I've found.  It's very flavorful! 

Next was time for the monkey bread. I just took gobs of dough, rolled them around and put them in the bundt pan. Then I poured more coconut syrup around the dough balls.

Both the cinnamon rolls and monkey bread came out great. I did pour MORE coconut syrup on the monkey bread after I took it out of the bundt pan put the chunks of it in a container to take to work. That finally gave it more of a coconut flavor but still not as much as you would expect. No problem though. All of it was gone, gone, gone very quickly.

Monkey bread from the bundt pan on the left, nutmeg rolls on the right from the springform pan

mini monkey bread on left and cinnamon roll on the right.  I used giant muffin (silicone) pans for these. 

I will make the Olive Oil Spelt Bread on the 15th. It was way too close to Pesach (Passover) to make it for this braid. Since we don’t eat bread, pasta, drink beer or anything else with grains during this time of year it really limits my baking…but it’s only 8 days! So it’s matzah for now.

I’m looking forward to reading what my fellow HBin5 others did! If you would like to see also, just click here!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pesach Mead, the Ezzie way

Disclaimer: This is NOT a technical article nor is it meant to be.

I haven’t made much beer lately, what with working full time, taking a college class in SQL, participating in the HBin5 bread braids, surviving a long snowy winter, etc. And worst of all my SQL class is EVERY Wednesday. This means I am missing my South Central PA Homebrewer's Association meetings which take place on the last Wednesday of every month! Wah, big WAH!

But this weekend I had to get busy with a special libation I call Pesach Mead (Passover Mead). I made this brew 2 years ago, and while it was OK, it wasn’t great. So I decided to work on the recipe a bit and give it another go this year.

My interest in this began when Ira, one of my fellow brewers in our Central PA Homebrewers Club (and Jewish) mentioned that he had found out that Jews in Eastern Europe made a form of mead with hops for Pesach. Well, that’s all it took for me!

On the internet I searched high and low for references and recipes. I really didn’t find much information! But I did find a microbrewery in NY called Ramapo Valley Brewery that made a Passover Mead. Unfortunately I had no idea where to find it here in York, PA and didn’t have time to go to Philadelphia or Baltimore to look further for it.

So I plunged in and found what sounded like a decent mead recipe on page 338 in The Complete Joy of Home Brewing 3rd Edition by Charlie Papazian. I’ve used this book since beginning to make beer about 4 years ago.

In the ensuing 2 years I’ve found some good discussions and a great article that appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice that actually gives a recipe for Pesach Mead! But I’m sticking with Charlie’s recipe although I kicked it up a notch. In the original recipe it calls for a light honey which is what I used 2 years ago. But this time I decided to use a full flavored raw Buckwheat honey. I also only used 1 ½ oz of hops and ½ oz of that was dry hopped the last time. This means that the ½ ounce was simply added to the fermenting beer, not during the boil. (If you have not made beer this will make sense soon I promise.) This time I put all the hops in the boiling brew. Also instead of using leaf hops I used pellet hops. These look like little rabbit pellet food. But the pellets in this case are dried and compressed hops. Thanks to Marty at Mr. Steve’s Homebrewing supplies for the help in picking out the best hops for this!

But let me briefly explain why I wanted mead for Pesach. During the 8 days of Pesach Jews do not eat anything that is leavened. This means no bread, pasta, etc. Grains of any kind are completely off the menu for these 8 days. We do eat matzah but to be completely kosher for Pesach it has to be made within 18 minutes so that the matzah does not rise.

Since grains are off the menu, so is beer. Now, yes, we can certainly go without beer for 8 days. We do it frequently without even thinking. But for me I love to try traditions of our forefathers/foremothers and I was quite intrigued with the idea of making mead to replace beer.

When I make beer and wine I often tease my mother-in-law, Bea, that I am channeling her father. He owned a malt and hops store in Boston for many years. Sadly, no one saved the recipes he gave his customers and made for himself! I’ll bet he had a great mead recipe too! Darn!

So here is what I did today. But before I give the recipe let me explain the one thing that is the most important thing that brewers do. Everything that will be touching the brew must be cleaned and sanitized, I mean everything. So I spend an hour or two cleaning all my equipment, the buckets, the siphon, the stirring spoon, the hydrometer, the steel kettle I use to boil it in, etc. I also clean the counters, the sink, etc, with a mild bleach solution. Then I am finally ready to start.

I have a great big sink in my laundry room which I use for cooling down my wort (the boiled solution of beer or mead). I put in 1 or 2 bags of ice just before finishing up the boil on my wort. But because the boil on the mead is only 15 minutes I went ahead put the ice in the sink and then started on the recipe.

Pesach Mead Recipe

Ingredients for 3 gallons:
7 pounds raw Buckwheat honey
1½ tsp gypsum
1/8 tsp Irish Moss
1 ounce Amarillo hops
1 ounce Hallertau hops
1 tsp bitter orange peel (dried)

1 package Red Star Champaign yeast (approximately 1 tsp)
2 gallons spring water (you can use tap water, but I prefer spring water that has no chlorine taste or smell)

I had to drive to Sonnewald health food store to find this great raw Buckwheat honey! 
It is very dark and so flavorful! 

Add the honey, gypsum, Irish Moss and Amarillo hops, and bitter orange peel  to 1 ½ gallons of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the 1 Hallertau hops and continue boiling for another 10 minutes.

After turning off the stove I immediately put the pot into the ice bath and covered it loosely with foil to keep the wort from being contaminated by anything in the air. I let the wort cool to below 80 degrees.

Once the wort had cooled I siphoned it into a beer brewing bucket, then I added enough spring water to bring the mixture up to 3 gallons. Ken aerated the wort for me by using a long rod with a cross piece at the end of it.  By the way Ken made this device for me.  The rod is attached to a drill. He started the drill slowly and then got faster with it to stir the air back into the wort.

When that was done, I drew off about a cup of the wort and put it to the hydrometer test. I’ll take another measurement when the brew is done fermenting. This will help me determine the alcohol content.

I next “pitched” the yeast, which just means I sprinkled the yeast on top of the wort. No you don’t stir it in like you would into dough. It will slowly soften and begin devouring the sugars in the honey.

I put the lid on the bucket and added the airlock which allows the bubbles to escape and prevents the fermenting brew from bubbling out of the bucket. 

Any wine, mead, or beer takes patience.

Now I wait for about a week for the yeast to eat up all the sugars. Then once it stops eating and forming bubbles, I will bottle it and hopefully it will be ready for Pesach.

I’ll update this post when I am ready to start bottling the mead.

If this post has intrigued you enough to want to learn more about making beer you can locate your local brewery supply store. Also I would suggest watching Alton Brown’s episode on how to make beer. Here is the link to his recipe:

Special Note about the yeast. Red Star does make kosher for Pesach yeast. But you have to buy it in 1 kilo and more bags. Their champagne yeast that I used is kosher, but it doesn’t say it is Kosher for Pesach. I used it anyway. I wouldn’t know what to do with a kilo (2 pounds approximately) of Champagne yeast!

Note the kosher symbol in the lower right hand corner. 

They have a great website at
which gives the history of yeast, how it is formed, and how they manufacture it for brewing and doughs.  Yeast used for doughs is the NOT the same as yeast used in brewing. Even the yeast used for beer is not the same as the yeast used for wine. Don’t ask me to explain…go to their website and look at the information.

Some great links to learn more:
Good discussion on yeast certified Kosher L’Pesach (although from 2007)
another good discussion but again, old.
Great article from the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, dated April, May 2009 contains recipes for Mead, Concord Grape wine and Wine, all for Pesach. Also some standard Pesach recipes for potato knishes, Carrot Candy and Beet Preserves.
Ramapo Valley Brewery in Suffern, NY. RVB is the only kosher certified brewery in the United States, and certified to produce Kosher for Passover beer.

March 15th Bread Braid with HBin5 Part Doce (II)

Assignment: 1/2 recipe of Avocado-Guacamole Bread, pgs 160-161
1/2 recipe Pesto Pine Nut Bread, pgs 98-99,
We can make substitutions, but share what and how we substituted with the group in our blogs.

Pesto Pine Nut Bread
4c AP, 1 c WWW (white whole wheat for whole wheat)
2c Spelt flour
1½ Tbsp kosher salt
Did NOT add ½ c pine nuts (not at the price they are right now!)

For the first version of this dough I used my homemade pesto which had pine nuts in it, and the in the second batch I used a commercially made pesto (Classico Pesto) which contained pine nuts.

As I’ve said in the previous post, I did a full recipe of the dough for the Pesto dough which calls for spelt flour as well as whole wheat and all purpose. After mixing the dough, I then split it apart, in ½ I added the pesto and in the other I added the guacamole which I made by mashing an avocado and adding a cup of chipotle salsa I bought at Sam’s. I was very surprised that the avocado stayed bright green. Yet, the pesto (homemade last summer from basil I grew) turned brown due to oxidation.

With that 1/2 batch of Pesto dough I made pita pockets. It took a bit of practice to get them just right, and the first three ended up way to thin and stretched out. So I only got 3 usable pita pockets out of the first batch.

But I decided to give this dough another try and made a full batch this time. I have a question for you readers…does your dough talk to you? Does it tell you WHAT it WANTS to be? Well, mine do. This one though was acting like a person with multiple personalities! It wanted to be this, it wanted to be that!

So I listened and here’s what I made:

Chicken Pesto rollups:
I deboned the thigh and leg of a roasted chicken, chopped the meat up and added a few ounces of some smoked turkey that a friend had given me. I mixed that up with the last of pesto in the jar (the pesto for this full batch was a commercial pesto). After flattening out a section of dough, I cut it into 4” wide strips, and put about 3 heaping soup spoonfuls of the chicken mixture on the dough. I folded the short ends inward, then carefully pulled the long ends toward the center and pinched them shut. Then I carefully picked it up and turn it over and placed it on the oiled cookie sheet. I repeated this process until I had used up all of the filling. But the last one I formed more like a Stromboli, or pocket sandwich or empanada…whatever you want to call it. Then I set those aside to rise for about 30 minutes.


Personal Pizza:
Next I rolled out about 5 ounces of dough into a personal pan pizza size. Using my Misto, I misted the dough with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), and sprinkled shredded mozzarella cheese. Thinly sliced tomatoes and sliced black olives went on next and I finished with fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt. That went into a 500 degree oven for 25 minutes or so. It made a delicious breakfast for me and brought back wonderful memories of my time in Seattle!

I used to order pizza from Pagliacci’s and it was delicious! During Pesach, many of us Jews do not eat anything that is leavened, so no bread, no pasta, etc.  At the end of Pesach (Passover), I think every Jew was calling Pagliacci's for rapid delivery! We’d practically yank the pizza out of the poor delivery person’s hands when he/she showed up at the door! LOL.

Finally, I decided to wrap mozzarella with dough, making a healthy snack, but the last section of dough spoke to me…it REALLY wanted to be ciabatta! So I rolled out a big rectangle, and placed it on the last oiled cookie sheet. But I wanted a few sandwich buns so made four of those as well! Since I ran out of room on the cookie sheet, I pulled out two of my large muffin size silicone forms and put the last of the dough in them. I set those aside to rise also for about 30 minutes. I flattened all four sandwich rolls down to spread them out more and make them more sandwich roll shape instead of dinner roll shape.

By now it was time to pop the Chicken Pesto rollups in the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. First I brushed them with beaten egg. I’ve had this type of treat at Sam’s and Costco for lunch before and felt that I could do better, and frankly, I did! LOL. The rollups and the Stromboli came out wonderful!

Next it was time to prepare the Ciabatta for the oven. I again spritzed the ciabatta with EVOO, then taking just my fingertips I quickly and forcefully poked indentations in the dough. This time I did not put anything else on top, no salt, no olives, no rosemary. The four rolls I brushed with beaten egg and then using a scissors, I cut into the dough for an area for it to bloom. I often use scissors like this if the dough is not high enough for me to slash with a serrated knife.

The ciabatta and sandwich rolls came out great!

While I like this dough, I think I would be more inclined to make the guacamole and salsa dough on a regular basis. The guac-salsa dough delivers more of the flavor.

But the sandwich rolls I made with the Pesto dough will make a delicious sandwich with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and thin slices of tomatoes…which is one of my favorite summer sandwiches!

Since Pesach is rapidly's time for me to switch gears and work with a libation. 

Watch for my next post on making Pesach Mead, a great substitute for beer during Pesach.

March 15th Bread Braid with HBin5 Part Uno (I)

Assignment: 1/2 recipe of Avocado-Guacamole Bread, pgs 160-161
1/2 recipe Pesto Pine Nut Bread, pgs 98-99,
We can make substitutions, but share what and how we substituted with the group in our blogs.

Avocado-Guacamole Bread
4 c AP, 3 1/4 c WWW (white whole wheat for whole wheat)
Added 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Added 1 ½ c chipotle salsa
3 tbsp sliced pickled jalapenos

I love any kind of Mexican food…as I’ve mentioned before we were sailing along the Pacific Mexican coast for 9 months on our way to Panama a few years ago. We stopped in many ports and coves, enjoyed so much wonderful food, both peasant and haute cuisine types. One of our favorites were empanadas. These wonderful stuffed doughs ran the gamut from savory to sweet, and were always best from the places the locals frequented.

So when I saw the ingredients required in this dough, I couldn’t even think of making a bread with it at first. But, I will say, the very first thing I thought of with this dough was a wrap. I tried making some with the ½ recipe but they were awful. I couldn’t get the dough to roll out well. I’m not sure if it was because I had originally used the Pesto dough or not.

What I did was make a full recipe of the dough for the Pesto dough which calls for spelt flour as well as whole wheat and all purpose. After mixing the dough, I then split it apart, in half, and added the pesto to the first hal.   In the other I added the guacamole which I made by mashing an avocado and adding a cup of chipotle salsa I bought at Sam’s. I was very surprised that the avocado stayed bright green. Yet, the pesto (homemade last summer from basil I grew) turned brown due to oxidation.

Anyway, as I said the wraps were a dismal failure (no pictures). The pesto dough did do well made into pitas. I’ll talk about those in the next segment.

But I didn’t want to give up on the Avacado-Guacamole dough. So I mixed up a full batch of the recipe but added 1½ c chipotle salsa, and 2 c shredded sharp cheddar. Then I couldn’t resist adding 3 tbsp pickled jalapenos to add that extra kick. The dough rose beautifully, and felt much resilient and very workable.

In the morning I mixed the filling:

From a roasted chicken debone and dice 1 breast, 1 leg and thigh, put into a bowl and add the following, then mix it all up:

1 c chipotle salsa
9 oz frozen corn
1 small can green chilis, chopped
One 14.5 oz can black beans
8 oz. queso fresco (Mexican cheese)
Fresh cilantro

I weighed out 5 ounce lumps of dough and formed them into balls. Then let them rest for a few minutes. At first I tried using my turnover shaper that my sister had given me a few years ago. But the rolled out dough stuck to the form. I then switched to just forming the empanadas by hand. After I rolled the dough out into a round about ¼” thick, and brushed it with beaten egg around ½ of the round edge, I put about 3 spoons of filling it in, then folded over and pinched the edges together.

The filling recipe made 12 empanadas before I ran out of filling. With the last of the dough I made 5 rolls that will be perfect for chicken sandwiches or hamburgers. After letting them rise for about 30 minutes, I brushed the tops with a beaten egg, and baked in a 450 degree oven for 30 -35 minutes. While there was a bit of leakage out of a few of the empanadas, they all came out beautiful and delicious smelling.

I let them cool for about 10 minutes, and then cut one in half and put on a plate.

Again harkening back to our time in Mexico, I could only think of serving the empanada with tropical fruits. So I cut up a perfectly ripe papaya and placed about ½ c of it on slices of pineapple. But wait…it wasn’t a perfect meal yet!

Agua de sabors were a big part of our days in that tropical heat in Mexico and Central America. The “water of the day” as it translates was whatever fresh fruit was available…watermelon, papaya, mango, guanabana, banana, passion fruits. Another big favorite is rice milk laced with cinnamon. The first time I was offered rice milk I thought it was made with milk and declined it since I am lactose intolerant when it comes to straight milk. But then I learned that it is made by cooking rice in about 2x the amount of water you would normally use to cook rice, and you can add a vanilla bean to it. After the rice is cooked you blend it until very smooth, strain it and then add more water to taste. Once I learned THAT’s what rice milk is I drank it every chance I got. Here in the states I’ve usually bought rice milk but it’s loaded with sugar! So I’ll be making my own soon now that I’ve found a good and easy recipe for it.

OK, back to how rice milk enhanced this meal, I simply poured rice milk into a glass and sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top. What a wonderful breakfast this was! Even Ken loved the empanada!

Wanetta and Wayne, and another taster, Rosalind also loved the empanadas…in fact all three said they wanted them again, soon!

One final note:
Since I was in the mood for agua de sabors, I decided to use the last of the pineapple, some of the papaya, some rice milk, and blended it with ice and a bit of Splenda. What a refreshing drink! I sometimes throw in some soda water but this time thinned it with just regular water. We drink this type of concoction a lot during the hot days of summer.

See part II to see how I had fun with the pesto dough!