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freerk

When was that again?

I'm always a bit confused about Easter.

I'm never sure when it's going to happen. Last year it was at the end of April. This year it's the 8th! As usual, I visit the Wiki Easter page in an attempt to, for once and for all, understand about full moons, spring equinoxes, Julian and Gregorian calendars and... well, that's usually where I give up.

Just hit me with it when it comes along! I usually start shifting gear when people actually start buying the chocolate eggs, -bunnies, and other Easter paraphernalia that have been patiently sitting on the supermarket shelves ever since the X-mas deco was chucked out.

With Easter shifting so violently all over the April calendar, and all the related holidays shifting with it, it is my most likely season for a good old "showing up at work on a national holiday"-experience.

Most of all I'm a bit confused about Easter itself. I have some distinct associations ingrained in my gray matter and gene pool. 

Friendly Fire

This one is in the genes I'm afraid. A bonfire is a Northern European's traditional way of chasing away the winter demons and welcoming back the light. The sight of a big pile of wood waiting to turn bonfire in the middle of a field somewhere when visiting my family for Easter up North, where the tradition still lives on, never fails to get me all revved up with anticipation. As a kid the bonfires seemed a multitude of impressions bigger and more awesome. The smells and intense heat have remained equally intoxicating.   This year there is a small village in the East trying to beat their own Guinness World Record. They have a live web cam, so you can see the biggest ever bonfire  go up in flames if you want to, and who wouldn't! Nothing like a good friendly fire.

Chicken on a Stick

Another strong  association with Easter is the Palm Sunday Parade. It involved a bread roll shaped like a rooster on top of a decorated cross. It's eye was a currant that came off quite easy. I was the kind of kid looking up all the time to make sure my rooster wasn't going blind up there on his stick.

Much later I realized the full meaning of this (literal) crossover tradition. Eggs, oranges and roosters; all pagan "finally-it-is-spring-again"-symbols mingled in with Christian symbols like (palm)leaves and the cross Christ died on. The rooster became associated with the bread Jesus broke at Last Supper and even with the rooster crowing after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on Good Friday. Eggs doubled as symbols of spring as well as a symbol of new life (Easter Sunday).

Blissfully unaware of all of this, I was most of all concerned with my currant-eyed rooster and oranges surviving the parade. My mother once told me her story. When she was a kid, right after world war II, oranges were the stuff dreams were made off. And then; lo and behold; the first Easter came around that she proudly paraded around her chicken on a stick with two shiny oranges pinned on both ends.

My mother was of course as proud as a peacock. As soon as she came home, she took the oranges off carefully and put them in a box, carefully wrapped, guarding it with her life, to admire and eat later.

When she finally gave into her desire to eat her precious jewels, she found them dried out and wasted in her beautiful box. I consider it one of my more important lessons in life.

All Together Now

And then you realize that Jewish Pesach and Christian Easter share a whole lot of history as well, and were at one time the same thing. Christian Easter allegedly gets its name from the Saxon Goddess Eastre, the spring goddess. The Netherlands is a linguistic border in the Northern regions of Europe. All around us, geographically speaking, there is talk of "Ostern" or "Easter", but the Dutch have stuck with French & Latin influences and celebrate "Pasen", like the Flemish their "Paas", the French their "Paques" and the Italian their "Pasqua".

So what are we celebrating? The return of the light, the resurrection of Christ AND the end of slavery and thus freedom regained. That's a whole lot of celebrating! Let's turn to the Italians to provide us with the necessary festive bread. The message of this bread is simple: Peace! All of the above celebrations will benefit from that beautiful word, even if the tulip named after it at the tulip exhibition certainly isn't going to win any big prizes soon, except for maybe in the category awkward yet true...


Colomba Pasquale

For the peeps who rather watch things than read, here we go!


Ingredients

550 gr / 22.9 oz bread flour

8½ gr / 0.2 oz salt

4 eggs

1 x 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter

2 x 40 gr / 1.4 oz soft butter

120 gr /  4.2 oz whole milk

150 gr /  5.2 oz sugar

75 gr / 2.6 oz candied lemon peel

75 gr / 2.6 oz candied orange peel

50 gr / 1.7 oz of small pearl sugar

Method 

Home made orange/lemon peel

The day before; Wash and peel the skins of two oranges (or lemons). Cut into thin strips. Cover them with water, bring to a quick boil, simmer for 5 minutes and then drain. Put fresh cold water in the pan, and repeat this twice.

Then dissolve 450 gr / 15.9 oz sugar in 435 gr / 15.3 oz of water. Add 1 TBS of lemon juice. Simmer the orange peels in the sugar syrup for about 1 - 1½ hrs until translucent. Drain and dry the peels over night on a cooling rack. The next day put 100 gr / 3.5 oz of sugar in a plastic bag, add the peels and toss around to cover them well. Cut into little cubes and put aside until needed in the dough. If you want to shape your Pasquale in the traditional way, you might want to browse around for sturdy card board that can be cut into the shape of a (rudimentary) dove. The amount of risen dough yielded from this recipe gives you two medium sized loafs when baked in standard bread pans.

 

The starter

Mix 12 gr / 0.4 oz of instant yeast with 100 gr / 5.3 oz of flour and add just enough water to make the dough come together; 2-4 TBS. Cover and let rest at room temp until the stiff dough has turned puffy; about 45 minutes. Alternatively; try submerging your ball of dough in warm (30° C / 86° F) water.

Your starter is ready to go when it floats to the surface! (I finally tried this method, and it really works...)

The dough

Combine flour, salt, sugar and candied lemon peel, mix together. Then add the eggs, a little at a time until incorporated. Add 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter in pieces and mix. When the dough gets dry, add the milk and the starter dough. Mix very well on low-medium speed until you have a firm and elastic dough. Depending on what sort of flour you are using, you might have to add a few extra TBS of flour, or hold back a little of the milk to get the right consistency.

First rise

Transfer the mixed dough to an oiled bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest until increased in volume by ⅓.

Second rise

When the dough has risen by a third, turn it out into the mixer bowl again. Add 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter and the orange peel in portions. Mix until well distributed. Transfer the dough to an oiled container once again, and this time leave it to rise until doubled in volume.

Third rise

Transfer the dough to the mixer one last time to incorporate the last 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter. Mix it in and transfer the dough to your mold or bread pan(s). In Italy the traditional Colomba Pasquale mold is easily found. Outside of Italy that might be a bit of a problem. If you are dead set on shaping it the traditional way, you might have to get your card board and scissors out to put one together yourself. Don't worry about making it neat; the more "rustic" your "bricolage"-mold looks, the more rustic your Colomba will look as well.

Cover and let the dough proof one final time.

Making the topping

200 gr / 7.0 oz sugar

80 gr / 2.8 oz ground almonds

3 egg whites

¼ TSP of almond extract

almond flakes

pearl sugar (optional, but very pretty)

confectioners sugar

When the dough has almost fully proofed (poke it with a wet finger; if the dough springs back immediately, you are not there yet. If the dent fills back slowly, you are on the money and ready to go on) continue making the topping. First, preheat your oven to 200°C/ 390°F.

In a fat free mixer bowl, whip up a meringue using three egg whites. Fold in the sugar and the ground almonds and spread out evenly over the dough when using the traditional mold or bread pans. Sprinkle royally with flaked almonds and pearl sugar.

 

(Alternatively; if you are using a dove mold, you will first have to bake the bread in the mold and then add the topping to it after taking it out of the mold. You can put it back in the oven to make the meringue set and brown the almonds on top).

Put the Colomba on a rack in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes on 200°C/ 390°F. Then lower the temp to 170°C/335°F and bake for 35-45 minutes more until nice and golden on top. Make sure to rotate the loaf halfway the bake to ensure even browning. Keep an eye on the top; if it goes too fast, you can cover it with foil to prevent burning.

When your Colomba is done, let it cool completely before taking it out of the mold.

The first day it tastes great, the second day, it tastes better, so making this Pasquale ahead of the Easter festivities is no problem at all!

Make sure to like us on Facebook, we need your support to make that 6 part documentary on real bread! And if you want to see more bread making videos, make sure to visit the BreadLab hannel on YouTube.

Peace!

Freerk

 

 

 

madisonbaker26's picture
madisonbaker26

I was lucky to snag a spot in one of Madison Sourdough's bread classes recently and I thought I'd share a video that the co-owner/head baker put together.  Unlike a lot of videos I've seen on the internet, his batard shaping technique seems to be a little different and there are also a couple unusual shapes he demonstrates (such as the fendu and the tabatiere).

Enjoy!

http://madisonsourdough.com/news/shaping-techniques/

freerk's picture
freerk

The Humble Rusk

I've never been much of a political animal. But ever since you, Mr. Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam, were called upon by national politics and gave up your position, there has been a growing unease within me.

Sometimes things are as futile as they are; you just happen to be the man in charge for the biggest stretch of time in the city that I live in and love so much. And quite frankly: I miss you here. Even though your successor is doing just fine, I'd rather have you back tomorrow if that would be possible, which it probably isn't.

Strolls

You are in my heart for all the times I have seen you rushing past through the streets and for all your strolls with your wife on a sunny afternoon along the canals. Might I have lived a little further away from your residence, I probably would not have crossed your path as many times as I did, but in the end that doesn't matter.For me you were simply there, like all the rest of us. Visible, down to earth and devoted as much to our city as to your wife. As we say in Dutch; "kom er nog maar es om"

You were called onto the national political stage to find an answer to the populist politics that are quickly gaining ground in The Netherlands. The political game is changing fast in troubled times. Scaring people into believing almost anything has never been easier.

Now you are there, and not here.

The plan was to have you lead the country, you ended up in the opposition instead. The government that was formed has all the characteristics you would expect from a political field that is jolted by something new and unexpected; the populist was put on a special bench where he was thought to do the least harm.

That hasn't turned out to be quite the case. As a matter of fact the opposite was happening; the populist knew his game quite well and found out he could simply shout some populist doo dah, draw the curtains whenever he felt it like it and become invisible.

Whilst Trying

It's been said that populist politics can't be beaten without joining them, and there, my friend, (for even if I have not spoken to you in person I hope you will allow me to call you just that) you stand out from the crowd.

Time and time again, also on the occasions where you were reportedly "slashed" in a public debate, I have never ever seen you make one populist move.

My guess is some milder forms of populism are inherent to politics, and maybe you are just doing quite well at hiding it from me, but even if that is the case, it doesn't really matter.

For every time I see you struggle to find an alternative to this apparent new set of rules in politics, I like you a little more, even if you "lose" the argument whilst trying.

I don't think things are as simple as left and right or black and white. Regardless of the polarizing times we live in, the only right thing to do is what you are doing; refusing to play THAT game, even though I suspect you could be quite good at it, I can't really imagine you ever giving into the temptation. Ah, well, maybe when you were younger.

Something Good

If you ask me (but then again don't!) the populist's game is nearing its end. That seems to be inherent to populist politics: its effects peter out quite fast if not fed regularly by tangible results.

This blog you are (probably not) reading is about bread. So, as much as I like you, I have to come up with something BREAD in this letter to you for it to have any sense whatsoever. I have been forgiven before for making rather odd connections between bread and.... well, almost all other stuff in life :-), I hope I have enough credit left to throw around a lot of words before sharing what I'm here for; a straightforward recipe for something good!

I could be really corny and say; well people, here is your recipe; Do as Mr. Job Cohen, the former mayor of Amsterdam; Don't pay too much attention to squeaking wheels that get all the oil; after a while they get so slippery, they will derail themselves! That wouldn't work though... because they can't eat it!

So instead I will dedicate my latest bake to you; the humble rusk, or "beschuiten" as you and I would call them. It's hardly the sexiest bread in the world, and it doesn't promise you more than it can live up to. We all keep a roll of them in our cupboards though. For when we need them; for comfort, for joy and when it is the only thing our sometimes sick bodies will accept. Straightforward, simple, honest, reliable and here to stay!

The Humble Rusk

The Romans called it "biscotum"; it was the sort of bread that was great when you were conquering the world. ""Baked twice" is what it means. With most moisture baked out of the bread it will keep almost indefinitely! Nowadays that same word still reverberates in the French "biscuit" and the Italian "biscotti".

In the "Golden Age" (that period in the Netherlands between 1600-1700 where at a certain time a tulip bulb would sell for the price of a house...) the merchant ships, leaving all from an area just above Amsterdam, took the "beschuit" on board as their preferred bread. In no time there were 150 bakeries in the area, all dedicated to baking "scheepsbeschuit".

Around the 18th century, the rusk started to look like the airy biscuit it is today. Bakers started using yeast to make the rather tough biscuit lighter. Later on they added eggs as an emulsifier, and sugar. Around this time as well, the "Zwieback" started to gain popularity. The baked biscuit was cut in half, baked again to dry it out, and lightly toasted.

Beschuit met muisjes

The tradition to serve "beschuit" at the birth of a child started in the same region. When the "beschuit" was still a luxury item that was eaten on festive days, the rich would buy them to celebrate child birth in the community. The "beschuit" was (and still is nowadays) sprinkled with pink, white or blue sugarcoated aniseeds, an echo of the ancient tradition to sprinkle the baby with rye kernels for blessing.

The sugarcoated aniseeds are called "mice" in Dutch. The coated aniseeds with their little tails resemble a mouse (symbol of fertility) . The anise  was also said to have a wholesome effect on breast milk production.

The beschuit can be found in literally every cupboard in the Netherlands. Even those who are not too crazy for them will keep a roll on their shelf for when they need them. When ill it is the perfect comfort food, dunked in some sweet pudding. When you feel queezy and nothing else goes down; the beschuit is there to help. It is reliable, it is no nonsense, it is here to stay! Enjoy!

 

A note on Rusk Jelly and Baking Shells

In this recipe I use "rusk jelly". An ingredient not really easy to obtain when you are not living in the Netherlands. Here is where you can buy it if you are eager to give it a try. Rusk Jelly emulsifies by making your dough more alkaline (the opposite of acid). All that is in there is sugar, glucose, vegetable fat, water, emulgator and an alkaline agent. The rusk can be made without the jelly as well by replacing the jelly with the equal amount of corn syrup and egg yolk. Your rusk will be a little less brittle, but still way better than anything you have ever eaten from the supermarket!

The baking shells are essential to get a good shape on your rusk. If you don't have baking shells and want to invest in buying some, here is a place that sells them for a very reasonable price. If you are in the States it might be harder to find them. No worries though, because 9,5 cm baking rings will also work. Provided you have a baking sheet, or even a silpat mat to cover them with, you will do just fine!

Ingredients

for about 24 rusks

210 gr. AP flour

17 gr. fresh yeast

84 gr. water

34 gr. corn syrup

5 gr. sugar

5 gr. milk powder

25 gr. egg yolk

30 gr. rusk jelly (optional)

1½ gr. salt

4½ gr. anise powder

I bake this recipe in two batches. When the time comes to divide the dough I put half of the formed balls in the fridge and start processing the first batch. By the time the first batch goes in the oven, you can take out the slightly chilled dough to prepare them for the second batch.

Equipment

6 round baking shells with a diameter of 9½ cm. Baking rings of that size, covered with a baking sheet will also work!

Method

The Soaker

Mix together ⅔ (140 gr.) of the flour with the water, the yeast, milk powder and ½ (17 gr.) of the corn syrup. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

The Final Dough

Mix in the eggs and the remaining corn syrup with a few tablespoons of the remaining flour. When incorporated add half of the rusk jelly. When that is mixed in add the remaining flour and salt. Finally add the remaining jelly, sugar and anise powder. Mix on low speed for about 20 to 30 minutes until the dough is very well developed. The ideal dough temperature is 25°C.

Preheat the oven to 240°C

The First Bake

Cover and let the dough rise for about 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces of about 30-35 gr. each. Leave them to relax for 10 minutes and then form tight balls and place them on a baking sheet. Cover and leave them to rise for 10 minutes. Flatten and round the pieces to roughly the diameter of your baking shell 2 times during this short rise. Place the well oiled baking shells over the dough and leave them to rise until you can see the dough peep through the little holes on top. Alternatively, place oiled baking rings over the dough and cover with an equally well oiled baking sheet. Bake when almost fully proofed for about 8 minutes on 240°C, turning the tray halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Take the golden biscuits out of the molds and let them cool completely on a rack.

The Second Bake

Preheat the oven to 50°C. Slice the biscuits in half and put them cut side up in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes, until they are completely dry and crisp. Place the biscuits under a hot grill until the tops are nice and golden. This will go very fast, only a few seconds!

Leave the rusks to cool completely before eating.

 

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freerk's picture
freerk

**second update: I have included a picture of the speculaas rolls as properly formed. In my first attempt I tried to make Levine's rolls look like stars more than flowers, but actually, the round shape is much nicer, I think!

**update: there is a minor mistake in the recipe and video, that I have corrected: the 30 gr. of lemon zest in the original recipe is meant to say: candied lemon zest" which has a lot more moisture in it and is a lot less "lemony" When using pure zest; use about 2 lemons of zest (which is still a lot, but the recipe is benefiting from that!) Sorry for the hick up!

Levine's Divine Speculaas Rolls

Craving Speculaas

Why do we crave certain foods or ingredients on particular moments in time? A turkey tastes like a turkey in July, but still we prefer to eat the lot of them towards the end of November. A raspberry, for instance, is best eaten when it is around, of course... I understand my craving when that time comes, but why have we made a turkey seasonal?

Here in Amsterdam, the shops are filled to the hilt with speculaas in all sorts, shapes and sizes the year round. Yet, it is when winter rolls in that the Dutch start to consume it by the bucket full. On occasion I will treat myself to a nice box of speculaas cookies in the middle of summer (from a real bakery rather than from the supermarket of course), but it's not until the "oliebollenkraam" has appeared on the bridge around the corner and in our back yard the "winter tree" (as I call it, 'cause I have no clue what sort of tree it is) starts to bloom, that my speculaas consumption suddenly goes through the roof.

"Tradition" I hear you say; we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, speculaas when winter is upon us and Pan de Jamón for Christmas (if you would be Venezuelan or married to one).

So... we are okay with more "summer" in our food in winter, even if that means the strawberries need to be shipped in from halfway around the globe. But we don't want to be remembered of winter in the middle of summertime, even if all ingredients are readily available. I mean; I eat summery salads in December, but never oliebollen in full blown spring.

We all have that bottle of liquor in the cabinet that tasted so exquisite on that little terrace in Rome, but didn't quite hit the spot on a dreary autumn afternoon back home. I guess it is indeed tradition, or maybe more accurate; a ritual.

Speculaas spices are very much comparable to allspice in the U.K., or Pumpkin Pie Spice in the U.S. It's warm, brown, comforting and forgiving. Eating it is almost a message to our bodies to be prepared for things to come. Smelling it coming into the kitchen, makes you forgive the hailstorm that just spat its icy daggers in your face on the way home.

This recipe is put together by my much admired baking friend Levine. It shot straight to my comfort baking top 3 because of its original flower shape and the great taste combination of almond paste with a royal zing of lemon zest. It makes the end result less sweet than a lot of speculaas/almond paste recipes that are floating around. All of you Dutch readers, please follow the link for the Dutch recipe on Levine's blog, after watching the video of course :-)


Levine's Divine Speculaas Rolls

The dough:

500 gr. bread flour
50 gr. sugar
10 gr. speculaas spices (or a bit more for a stronger taste, formula below)
10 gr. instant yeast
185 gr. lukewarm milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
55 gr. unsalted softened butter
2 big eggs, whisked
8 gr. salt

The filling

300 gr. almond paste
± 2 TBS egg
30 gr. candied lemon zest, or the zest of 2 lemons

Method

Described is the method using a stand mixer, but the dough can of course also be mixed using a bread machine, as well as kneaded by hand. If using a bread machine; follow the recipe from the first rise after the machine kneading.

Put the flour, sugar, speculaas spices, yeast, salt and the clumps of softened butter in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add milk and eggs, mix together, and knead with a dough hook for 10-15 minutes to develop a supple dough. The dough can be a little sticky.

First Rise

Transfer the dough to an oiled container, making sure it is covered all over. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in about one hour.

Meanwhile, mix together the almond paste, egg and lemon zest. Shape into 15 equal balls.

Forming

Turn out the dough on a lightly oiled work surface. Divide the dough in 15 equal pieces and shape them into tight balls. Leave them to rest for 15 minutes.

Flatten the balls of dough in the palm of your hand or with your rolling pin. Put a ball of almond paste in the center and fold in the almond paste, making sure to pinch the seams well.

Put the ball seam down on your working space and roll out again carefully, making sure it keeps its circular shape and the almond paste is spread out evenly. With a dough cutter make eight slits in the dough, leaving the center in tact. Then pair up two petals, twist them so that their sides touch and the almond paste is showing as a swirl. Pinch them together on the bottom.

Divide the rolls on 2 baking sheets, placing them with enough space in between. Carefully flatten the rolls on the baking paper or baking mat. Cover well with oiled cling film and leave to proof until almost doubled in size, in almost an hour.

Baking

Bake the rolls in the middle of a preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden on 180° C. Put them on a rack to cool.

Speculaas Spices; home made

30 g cinnamon
10 g cloves
10 g nutmeg
5 g white pepper
5 g aniseed
5 g coriander seed

Mix all ground spices together and store in a small airtight container.

There are many varieties and tweaks out there, I really like this one. As long as the base is the same, you can tweak your speculaas spices, just the way you like it.

Enjoy! Please feel free to comment and subscribe if you want me to keep you updated. Also I want to ask you to endorse my growing BreadLab initiative on Facebook; every like gets me closer to realizing a 6 episode "breadomentary", chasing the beast bread the world has to offer. Thanks in advance!

Freerk

freerk's picture
freerk

Rudolph's antlers; Pepernoten versus kruidnoten

Each year, here up North,
a man comes forth from Spain.
Train nor plane he uses;
a boat is what he chooses,
as well as a white horse,
and (to make matters worse)
travels together with guys
(I tell you no lies)
who paint their faces…

The Dutch embrace it all
and make their way to the mall
to shop till they drop
and return home with many a gift,
that plenty a spirit will lift.

Does this tradition ring a bell?
Well, maybe if you hear his name
your X-masses will never be the same;

Sinterklaas is what he's called...

Please don't be too appalled
Dear Santa and elves
When you see yourselves
reflected in this feast
that is politically incorrect to say the least.

For Sinterklaas - indeed- is the reason why
A guy who goes "ho ho" stops by
on your shores; his boat is now a sled,
the horse became reindeer with noses red.
All devoid of that annoyed
"black Pete", made obsolete by elves
who can show themselves
without any accidental tourist dropping jaws
'cause they see their Santa Claus
fretting in such an anachronistic setting.

Here in the old world, tradition reigns
and black Pete, alas, remains...
However racist it may seem;
rest assured the theme
at the root of all of this, is equal
and Santa is just a better sequel
to a storm of giving and sharing,
so let that be your bearing!
Give and share, share and give,
and live a full life void of strife!

Rudolph's antlers

There are many traditional baking goods associated with Sinterklaas. Butter fondant, chocolate letters, chocolate fondant frogs and mice (nobody seems to know where they came from) and pepernoten. There are three varieties of them floating around, going from rather chewy and lebkuchen-like, to crunchy and easy to eat. The traditional pepernoot is right in the middle and made with harshorn salt (yes, we use Rudolf's antlers to make cookies). This is the king of all rising agents when it comes to strength.

Since baking with hartshorn salt involves a chemical reaction to cause your kitchen to smell like ammonia for about a minute during the bake, many people are a bit wary to use it. Rest assured that there is no harm done; open your kitchen window to get rid of this volatile gas even faster. No traces of it will be left in the pepernoten. For those interested in trying it; King Arthur sells Hartshorn salt as "baker's ammonia" on their site.

Here's the video recipe.

Traditional Pepernoten (big batch)

1 kg. all purpose flour
500 gr. honey
300 gr. sugar
3 eggs
15 gr. hartshorn salt
1½ ts cinnamon
¾ ts cloves
1 ts white pepper
pinch of:
nutmeg
coriander
ginger
all spice
cardamom
100 gr. confectioners sugar
a little water.

Method

Warm the honey on a low heat together with the sugar, the eggs, hartshorn salt and all the spices, untill the sugar has melted. Mix well. Sift through the flour in parts and mix well until the stiff dough comes together (be careful not to wreck your KitchenAid on this dough!).

Preheat the oven to 190° C and grease two sheet pans. Form 2 cm balls out of the dough, place them on the sheet pan, keeping enough space between them (at least 1 cm). Bake the pepernoten for about 15- 20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until golden brown.

Right after baking let them cool on a rack. Bring some confectioners sugar diluted in a little water to the boil, mix until smooth and brush the pepernoten with it to give them a nice finish.

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freerk's picture
freerk

Comfort

When asked where, or who, or what I would turn to when in need of comfort, I blurted out:

"I bake" All around the table there were people nodding in agreement. Comfort, food, baking. A no-brainer.

My answer caused a growing feeling of unease within myself though. As the rest of us came up with their ideas (books, photo albums from the attic, secret benches at water fronts) I counted the number of times a week I throw something into my oven, and started to get slightly worried. I must be in need of an awful lot of comfort...

Ever since, every time I bake, I ask myself; why am I baking?

Sometimes the answer has indeed something to do with comfort. A missed job that had my name written all over it will spark a very comforting autumnal frangipani.

Last week I found myself baking Dutch crust rolls after I shattered two (!) plates I really liked. At times, it is about a passion for new things and learning. Croissants, ensaimadas, macarons, complicated sourdough breads that take up to 36 hours to make, bring it on!

Most of the time the answer seems way more trivial. All the bread eaten in this house come from our own oven. I bake because there needs to be bread on the table in the morning. Simple as that, or is it...

Sharing as a disease The best part of baking, especially when baking bread, is eating it together. Sharing bread is right up there with the big boys when it comes to what is ingrained in our very genes from the start of humanity.

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the ground."

No sooner were we kicked out of paradise, or bread came into our existence... It is at the heart of what makes us human and has stayed with us till this very day!

I heard a wonderful story of a guy, here in Amsterdam, who has made it his mission to GIVE in life all that he can, without ever asking anything in return. He helps complete strangers to a new bike, finds lost photo albums and brings it back to the rightful owners, things like that.

One of the people, a radio journalist, who was touched by all this - he himself got a new bicycle after complaining on a radio show that it was stolen from him - dug around a little and found out the guy was operating... from a mental institution.

He was diagnosed mentally ill. His own words; "over here they consider sharing a disease".

The disease that is called sharing... Personally I hope it is airborne and viral, very contagious and practically incurable. This world could do with a bit of sharing.

This recipe for Swedish Kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) came to me by way of a baking friend. She got it from a new food channel, who got it from somewhere else, etc. Along the way tweaks were made in the recipe, and what you end up with are some really stunning, very tasty cinnamon rolls that are real easy to make. Maybe something for at the coffee table on Thanksgiving? For me, any old day will do to make them; they have become very popular quite fast in this household.

Swedish Kanelbullar

For the filling:

150 g almonds
150 g sugar
100 g unsalted butter
8 TS cinnamon
4 TBS water

For the dough

500 ml milk
150 g butter
12 g instant yeast
120 g sugar
13 gr. salt
1 TS cardamom
850 gr. bread flour
1 egg
(pearl) sugar for decorating

Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and bread flour. Make sure the milk has cooled enough before adding the yeast. 35° C is okay. Mix on low speed until the dough is nice and stretchy, around 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. Pulse the almonds together with the sugar and the cinnamon in a processor until fine. Add the water and the butter to it and mix until well incorporated.

Rest your dough in an oiled container until almost doubled in size. The warmer it is the quicker it goes. About one hour or so. Next, roll out the dough to a big rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Make sure it doesn't stick, it makes working this dough much easier.

Put the cinnamon paste on half of the dough and fold it onto itself. Roll out again to even it out and cut the dough into strips. Form the rolls by stretching and winding the strip of dough, loosely, around your hand twice, go over the width of the roll and tuck in the end. No matter how you do it, it will always look lovely, so don't get too over zealous in trying to get them to look all the same!

Let the rolls proof until they are nice and plump, about 45 minutes. In a warm kitchen they might be ready within 30 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 200° C. Take out all the racks and prepare to bake on the second lowest rack.

Give the rolls an egg wash with the slightly beaten egg (use only egg yolk for a deeper, richer shine and a more dramatic contrast) and sprinkle with small sugar pearls if you have them. Normal sugar works as well, but won't look as classy. Bake for about 20-25 minutes with convection until they turn a deep golden brown. Let them cool on a rack and.... SHARE!

happy baking!

Freerk

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