Apple Kuchen

For this month’s Bread Baking Babes assignment, Gretchen Noelle (Provecho Peru) chose this Apple Kuchen, a German apple …. cake? Yes, “kuchen” is German for cake, but this yeasted pastry is more like a cross between a cake, a bread, and a scone, topped with apple pie filling. It is a snap to make and keeps fabulously well. In fact, now, four days after baking, I think it is even better — more moist and richer-tasting — than on day one.

You will find the Apple Kuchen recipe on Gretchen Noelle’s blog. I followed it pretty much whole, except for a couple of things. I  – being me — used instant yeast (5.2 grams) instead of active dry. Like Gretchen Noelle, I made up my own definition of apple pie spice: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon each allspice, ginger and nutmeg; and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. And I forwent the cream cheese topper because I just felt like going topless.

This is a recipe I would encourage tweaking, especially the filling. The other kuchen-conquering Babes have ideas and advice: Elizabeth (blog from OUR kitchen), Elle (Feeding My Enthusiasms), Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups), and Lien (Notitie van Lien). Details about baking with us as a Buddy are at the end of Gretchen Noelle’s post. Happy holidays from the Babes!

Buddies Baking for Julia

When the Bread Baking Babes baked French Bread in honor of Julia Child this month, we invited the Buddies to bake along with us. I pronounce our collective efforts a resounding success! Katie has the roundup of the Babes’ breads, and I have the honor of presenting the Buddies’ bakes. Thanks to everyone for joining in the celebration of this legendary woman!

Click to see the breads…

Oh, Julia!

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Julia Child would have been 100 years old today. “Hooray!” I am delighted to join the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies in celebrating the life and accomplishment of this remarkable woman — a true Babe — with Julia’s Pain Français (French bread).

Oh, Julia, thank you, thank you, thank you for this! Thank you for your dedication and your passion, your curiosity and your ingenuity, without which you would not have brought French bread into the purview of the home baker for the first time.

Published in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two in 1970, Pain Français was a landmark achievement. In her engaging memoir My Life in France, Julia wrote that it was “one of the most difficult, elaborate, frustrating, and satisfying challenges I have ever undertaken.” After she and her husband Paul baked loaf upon trial loaf with less-than-successful results (“they tasted all right, but they weren’t anything like real French bread”), Julia ultimately sought the guidance of renowned French boulangerie expert, Professor Raymond Calvel. He taught her about proper dough consistency (“soft and sticky”), about giving it a long cool fermentation to allow complex flavors to develop, and about good shaping and slashing technique. “By the end of the day, our loaves were turning out just right, and I was feeling euphoric. It was as though the sun in all his glory had suddenly broken through the shades of gloom!” 

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The Babes Take It Easy

The bread Sara (I Like to Cook) chose for the Bread Baking Babes this month set off a collective cheer among us: Easy Little Bread. Mix, pan, rise, bake: an hour and a half, tops. What, it’s that easy, and quick too? Yay!

Sara adapted the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, and it’s just as it says: easy, fast, and, oh yes, it’s tasty too! With only a quick stir — more of a batter than a dough, really — and one 30-minute rise, it behaves and tastes much like a “quick bread,” except that it’s not sweet (well, just a hint of sweetness). A delicious foil for just about anything you’d like to spread, drizzle, dab, or slather.

I followed the recipe faithfully, except I used instant yeast (4.6 grams, or 1.5 teaspoons), and a 4-cup pan (4 x 8 inches) instead of the recommended 8-cup one. It just didn’t seem like enough batter/dough to fill a larger pan. It barely rose at all during the 30-minute rising period, but the oven spring was rather lively. I did turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end of the bake — with a very watchful eye, of course — to brown it up a bit.

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Overbaking in Babeland

This was supposed to be the month I redeemed myself. After being an utter Slacker Babe for the past three months, I wanted to get back into the good graces of the (ever-gracious and never-guilt-tripping) Bread Baking Babes with these Oatmeal Twists. I’m sorry to say I have failed.

They look nice, but in case you were wondering if the bread-is-very-difficult-to-overbake principle also applies to rolls: it doesn’t. Or perhaps it does, and I have acheived the near-impossible. In any case, Elle (FeedingMy Enthusiasms) selected a wonderful recipe for us, her adaptation of Farine’s Morning Cuddles. Thanks to about 15 superfluous minutes in the oven, mine were nothing like a cuddle at all. Try morning whack upside the head.

I promise you, the flavor of these twists is just lovely. So I encourage you to be a Bread Baking Buddy by 1) reading the recipe more carefully than I did, and 2) sending the photo of your cuddly-soft twists to Elle by June 29.

Biscotti Picanti

We might have a new favorite snack around here. Upon reading the recipe Lien chose for the Bread Baking Babes’ fourth anniversary (!), I predicted deliciousness, because it features quite a few of my favorite ingredients: semolina, anise seeds, olive oil. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these wildly aromatic, savory (but sweet, without a speck of sugar, thanks to the anise), flaky, crumbly Biscotti Picanti (Spicy Sicilian Rusks) from Anissa Helou’s terrific book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean.

Biscotti means “twice baked,” indicating the two baking phases involved here. The recipe calls for loaves of dough to be sliced prior to proofing, then baked initially on high heat before separating the slices and allowing them to dry thoroughly in a cooler oven. Because I added a little too much olive oil (140 grams instead of 130 – 135), and probably for other mysterious reasons, my dough was much too soft to slice before baking. So I baked the three loaves at 500F for 15 minutes, then sliced them with a serrated knife (at which point, my number one taste tester sampled one and declared “I. Love. Them.”) and spread the slices out on the baking sheet to dry at 175F.

I’m not apologizing for the extra olive oil; I’ll use the same amount when I make them again, because I. Love.Them. And already my mind is awhirl with ideas for variations on this delightful snack: What other seeds and spices could we include? What about toppings? And I’m dreaming of a sourdough version, of course.

I do believe the Babes (for links, see my right sidebar) are unanimous this month in pronouncing these biscotti a winner. Please bake with us! The recipe is here on Lien’s blog. To be included in the Buddy roundup, send a photo plus a link to your blog post or photo-sharing site to Lien by February 28.