Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nigel Slater's Chocolate Beet Cake

Everyone once in a while I'll look at my Boston Organics no-list and decide to update it so I can try something new.  That happened last week with beets.  I ended up getting 4 beets and no idea what to do with them after I remembered I don't particularly like beets, which is why they were on the no-list to begin with.  Sigh.  When my friend, Evelyn, suggested that I make red velvet cake I looked up a couple of recipes but didn't feel like making a cream cheese frosting to go along with it.  Then I found Nigel Slater's genius recipe for an extremely moist Chocolate Beet Cake on Food52.  I was sold.

The directions are a little fussy (boiling the beets whole and then peeling after they're cooked, not stirring the chocolate while it's melting, etc.) but I pretty much followed them to a T except I did add the sugar gradually into the egg whites while they were being beaten instead of folding it in afterwards.  Since folding something into egg whites is already such a precarious operation and beating sugar into egg whites helps to stabilize the whites, I figured it was a win-win situation.  I also decided I didn't want to risk dyeing my food processor bright pink and just grated the cooked beets into a coarse purée using a box grater, which David Lebovitz suggested in his post about this same recipe.  While this recipe isn't the quickest or simplest, I agree with David when he says that it tastes better the second day (or even the third, if it lasts that long), so you can totally make this the day before you need it if you're in a time crunch.

Two words of caution:  make sure you do not overmix the batter and make sure you don't overbake.  Overmixing will cause you to lose the precious air pockets you created when whipping the egg whites.  This is what keeps the cake from being a dense brick.  Also, if you overbake the cake, you'll lose all the delicious moistness from the beets.

Since I didn't have any crème fraîche (who does?!) I topped my cake with Greek yogurt instead.  I imagine sour cream, coconut whipped cream, or a good vanilla ice cream would work just as well.  And since I didn't have any poppy seeds on hand, I sprinkled on some pomegranate arils instead.  I like how the pomegranate echoed the color of the beets used in the cake and also enhanced the tartness of the Greek yogurt.

Nigel Slater's Chocolate Beet Cake (from Food52)
serves 8

8 ounces fresh beets
7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%)
1/4 cup hot espresso
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
5 eggs
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
Crème fraîche or Greek yogurt
Poppy seeds or pomegranate arils, to serve

Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the base with a round of parchment paper. Heat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and grate or process in a blender or food processor until a coarse purée.
Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir.
When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and leave to soften.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat the yolks together.
Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture instead of cooking. Fold in the beets.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar gradually as you continue to whip until all the sugar has been incorporated and the egg whites form stiff peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture and then fold in the flour and cocoa.
Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325°F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a cake tester or toothpick too -- if it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester.
Set the cake aside to cool, loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold. Serve in thick slices, with crème fraîche or Greek yogurt and poppy seeds or pomegranate arils.

This cake is definitely on the less sweet side, and because I used the coarse grater to process the cooked beets, there were several moist chunks of beets laced throughout the cake, which I didn't mind.  Other than that, if no one had told me there were beets in this cake, I probably would never have guessed.  If you want to get rid of all traces of beets in this cake, you'll probably want a finer purée.

Previously:  Elote-Style Cornbread Waffles
Two Years Ago:  Coconut Whipped Cream and Coconut Dulce de Leche

Monday, October 20, 2014

Elote-Style Cornbread Waffles

In case I haven't mentioned how much I love my church, Highrock, recently, here's another reason:  we recently had a fundraiser for the Tokyo Life Church called Highrocktoberfest.  How awesome is that?  In addition to a competition for the best home brew, there was also a chance to win a prize for the best cornbread.  At first I thought about making a sweet cornbread with honey butter, but then I came up with the idea to make cornbread waffles topped with the seasoned mayonnaise and crumbled cheese that usually goes on elote (Mexican grilled corn)!

I used the crunchy cornbread waffle recipe from King Arthur Flour and made the same mayo I had used before for elote, except I added a squirt of sriracha this time to add a bit more color and flavor.  I couldn't find any cotija cheese so I just substituted with feta.  I'm happy to say I won the cornbread competition with this recipe!

Elote-Style Cornbread Waffles (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
makes about 10 waffles

For the waffles:
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the toppings:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice from 1/2 a lime
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Sriracha (optional)
1 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter or oil. In a separate bowl, blend together the dry ingredients, then quickly and gently combine the wet and dry ingredients. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes, to allow the cornmeal to soften.

In the meantime, mix the mayo, minced garlic, and lime juice together.  Add cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, and sriracha (if using) to taste. 

Drop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto a hot waffle iron and bake until the waffle iron stops steaming.  Top with the spicy mayonnaise and crumbled cheese.  Sprinkle on more cayenne pepper and/or chile powder as desired, and serve with lime wedges.

The waffles are best fresh out of the waffle iron because they start to get soft once they get to room temperature.  You can always reheat them in the oven to get them to crisp up again.  Since I was making these for a lot of people, I ended up cutting each waffle into eighths and serving them nacho-style.  If you have the corn-shaped pans for making cornbread sticks, I think it would be really cute to dress those up elote-style as well!

Next:  Nigel Slater's Chocolate Beet Cake
Previously:  Jeni's Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard
Two Years Ago:  Cranberry Royale Sorbet

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jeni's Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard

Most homemade ice cream recipes call for using egg yolks to reduce the iciness and increase the body of the ice cream since most consumer ice cream machines can't produce the same texture of commercially produced ice creams.  Then Jeni Britton Bauer came along with her genius eggless ice cream base that used cornstarch to thicken and cream cheese to provide the protein.  Since I don't usually like tasting eggs in the ice creams I make, I've been using her ice cream base for years with amazing results.

So when Jeni came out with a new book which included a recipe for a frozen custard, I knew I had to try it to see if I would like it as much as her other ice creams.  The answer, my friends, is a wholehearted yes!!!  This is basically the French vanilla ice cream of my dreams.  It's rich with vanilla flavor that's deepened with the addition of salt.  Instead of being an unwanted distraction, the egg yolks truly belong here. I couldn't stop eating this by the spoonful while it sat in the freezer to harden after churning.  While it's great by itself, it goes perfect with pies and waffles and anything else you can think of!  Do yourself a favor and try it on a North Market waffle topped with mango passion caramel sauce.  You can thank me later.  ^_^

Jeni's Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard (from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts)
makes about 1 quart

2 3/4 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk, the egg yolks, and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk the cream cheese, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually add about 2 cups of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, one ladleful at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, just until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve if necessary.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Remove the frozen canister from the freezer, assemble your ice cream machine, and turn it on. Pour the custard base into the canister and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the custard into a storage container. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Next:  Elote-Style Cornbread Waffles
Previously:  Indonesian Avocado Milkshake
Last Year:  Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Two Years Ago:  Magical Pumpkin Spice Latte

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Indonesian Avocado Milkshake

I don't usually see avocados used in sweet applications, but it's pretty popular to treat avocados as the fruit that they are in Asian countries.  For instance, take the Indonesian avocado milkshake, which adds chocolate syrup down the sides of the serving glass for an extra special touch.

I had some leftover coconut milk from making the ginger beer sherbet, so I decided to try using some in the milkshake, and the result was incredible.  The milkshake is already really creamy from the addition of the avocado, but adding coconut milk just brings the creaminess to a whole new level!

Indonesian Avocado Milkshake
makes 1 large shake or 2 smaller shakes

For the chocolate syrup:
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder

For the milkshake:
1 ripe avocado
1 cup milk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup coconut milk for extra creaminess)
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup ice cubes

Whisk together the water, sugar, and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir until the sugar has all dissolved and allow to cool.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit.  Scoop out the flesh and add to a blender along with the coconut milk, milk, sweetened condensed milk, and ice cubes.  Blend until smooth and frothy.

Pour the chocolate syrup around the inside of a glass and then add the avocado milkshake.  Enjoy!

This recipe makes about a cup of chocolate syrup, way more than you need for the milkshake.  You can use the rest for making chocolate milk, drizzling over ice cream, whatever you want!

Next:  Jeni's Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard
Previously: Concord Grape Sorbet
Last Year:  Bahian Style Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)
Two Years Ago:  Crispy Kale Pizza

Monday, October 6, 2014

Concord Grape Sorbet

I mentioned in my last post that my main purpose on my most recent trip to Italy was to eat as much good gelato as I could.  I wasn't joking.  I think the first 9 pictures I shared from the trip were just pictures of all the gelato I was eating.

I started off in Rome with a rice, sesame, and chestnut honey gelato from Il Gelato di Claudio Torce.  I learned later from my cousin that the little cone on top is actually supposed to be used as an edible spoon.  So cute!

Next I wandered into the Trastavere neighborhood for a bit of Fior di Luna's Concord grape sorbetto and fig gelato.  The Concord grape flavor was perfect but overwhelmed the more subtle fig.

Lastly, I stopped by my all time favorite gelateria in Rome, Gelateria del Teatro for their chocolate orange and my favorite flavor, honey rosemary lemon

In Florence, I tried the panna cotta with caramel at Il Triangolo delle Bermuda (where I also had the ribollita).

Right next to the Ponte Vecchio is Gelateria delle Carrozze, where I tried their strawberry and coconut gelato.  Both were very true to flavor.

The next day we stopped by Carabé in between the Accademia and the Duomo for a scoop of pistachio.

After lunch at Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, we went across the street to Perché No? (which means "why not?") for a chocolate sorbet and mint gelato.

The last gelato of the day was an amaretto from Carapina, which ended up being my favorite in Florence because of the texture.  I love that real Italian gelato is kept at a temperature just above freezing so it's always soft and easy to scoop.

Coincidentally, we just happened to be in Florence the same time as the gelato festival!  After having 5 gelatos for dinner the following day, I was officially done with gelato for a while.  (I didn't have my next scoop until several days later after a 2 hour hike between Monterosso and Vernazza in Cinque Terre!)

Out of all these, the flavor that impressed me the most was the Concord grape sorbetto from Fior di Luna.  I remember trying the Concord grape flavor from San Crispino the year before and not being very impressed, but this time it was the complete opposite.  The sorbet totally captured the full burst of flavor you get when biting into a Concord grape without all the hassle of having to spit out the seeds and skin afterward.  Luckily, Concord grape season is upon us, so I was able to get a couple of quarts from the supermarket to try to recreate the sorbet.

I basically followed the recipe from Gourmet, but instead of adding the full amount of sugar, I started with 1/4 cup, which ended up being enough for me.  Depending on how much purée you end up with and how sweet your grapes are, you'll want to adjust the amount of sugar; it should taste just a little too sweet at room temperature since once it's frozen it'll taste less sweet.  To add a little depth to the sorbet I added a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of red wine, which also helps keep the sorbet from getting too icy.

Concord Grape Sorbet (adapted from Gourmet)
makes about 3 cups

2 quarts Concord grapes, destemmed
1/4 cup sugar, plus more, to taste
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon red wine

Purée half of grapes in a blender until smooth, then force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.  (If you have a very powerful blender like a Vitamix, you probably don't want to blend on high since you want the seeds to stay whole.)

Repeat with remaining grapes to yield 3 cups purée. (I ended up with a little more than 2 cups.)  Whisk in sugar, salt, and red wine.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary, just until the mixture is a little too sweet at room temperature.  Chill until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.

Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up, at least 2 hours.

You can also pour the frozen churned sorbet into popsicle molds to make really awesome Concord grape popsicles!

Next:  Indonesian Avocado Milkshake
Previously:  Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)
Last Year:  Apple Cider Donuts
Two Years Ago:  Magical Cold Brew Coffee

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)

I was lucky enough to go back to Italy again for the third time in 15 months thanks to my cousin, Leslie.  Last time we did Rome and Venice; this time we explored Florence, northern Tuscany (pictured above) and Cinque Terre and were joined by my friend, Sarah Ruth.

My main purpose in Florence was to eat as much good gelato as I possibly could.  To that effect, our first stop after checking into our hotel was to go to Triangolo delle Bermuda to try their artisanal gelato.  Once we realized they also served food, I figured it would be better to eat lunch before getting our gelato, so I ordered the ribollita, a soup I'd heard was a Tuscan specialty.

Ribollita translates to "reboiled" and is a result of reheating leftover minestrone-like soup with stale bread to create a thick, hearty potage.  I've read there's actually a three day process where on the second day you layer the leftover soup with the bread and bake it with a layer of thinly sliced red onions on top and then reboil it on the third day.  For simplicity's sake, I skipped the second day and jumped straight to the reboiling.

Since ribollita is originally peasant food, there's a multitude of recipes for it (some even argue that since it was created before the advent of tomatoes in Italy, there shouldn't be any tomatoes in it), but traditionally the main ingredients are always cavolo nero (also called lacinato kale or Tuscan kale), cannellini beans, and stale Tuscan bread.  Since I had recently received collard greens in my Boston Organics delivery, I opted to use that instead of the cavolo nero, which I realize is taking great liberties with the dish, but it still ended up tasting really good, if with a slight Southern twist.   You can also another hearty green (like kale or Savoy cabbage) or a combination of a hearty green and a more delicate green (like Swiss chard or spinach).

I learned that Tuscan bread traditionally doesn't contain any salt because the city-state of Pisa used to control the salt trade in that region, and the Florentines hated the Pisans.  I found a loaf of bread labelled "Tuscan bread" at my local grocery store, but when I looked at the label, I wasn't surprised to see salt listed in the ingredients.  It'll probably be impossible to find a loaf of bread without salt in it outside of Tuscany, so just use a hearty, country-style bread.

Back to the ribollita at Triangolo delle Bermuda:  the owner, Vitullio, stopped by to talk to us and explained that the soup needed to be topped with some Tuscan olive oil.  He grabbed a green bottle and liberally poured some all over my bowl.  I took a bite, and and it was like the heavens had opened and I could hear harp music playing.  I had never, ever tasted olive oil like that.  It was bold and bright and fruity and really elevated the other flavors in the soup.  I asked Vitullio for the brand so I could buy that exact bottle, but I think he misunderstood because he just started telling us about the Toscano IGP designation for olive oils and how important it was to buy olive oils with that label.  Alas, I never did find out which brand of olive oil that was, but I was now on the hunt for official Toscano IGP olive oils.

A few days later, I went on a truffle hunting and wine tasting tour, which if you ever get the chance, you should definitely do!  We spent the first part of the tour following Ciocco (short for cioccolata), the truffle hunting puppy, around a hazelnut grove.  He managed to find 5 black summer truffles, which were used in our "light lunch" back at the farm.  The "light lunch" turned out to be a three course meal with a splendid antipasto plate, a main course of truffle pasta, dessert, and lots and lots of local wine.

Afterwards, we drove to Fattoria di San Michele a Torri, an organic farm and winery in the Chianti region, for the wine tasting.  We started off with one of their olive oils, which although beautifully bottled, was way too grassy and spicy for me.  I realized that not all olive oils made in Tuscany were going to taste the same and decided I was going to have to taste test the olive oil before I bought one.

Luckily, I had a chance to do so in the town of Vinci (Leonardo's birthplace).  I ended up picking up this Santini, which although fruity, was a little milder than I remember that first olive oil being.  All this is to say that not all olive oils are the same, and you should try to find one that you really like to use as a finishing oil.

Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)
serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes
1 lb. cavolo nero, or a combination of kale, Savoy cabbage, collard greens, Swiss chard, and/or spinach, de-ribbed and sliced
16 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
3 cups water
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
8 slices of day old Tuscan bread, crusts removed
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, to finish

Day 1:  In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.  If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.  Add the garlic, thyme, and another pinch of salt and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and their juices and the sliced greens.  Bring to a boil and keep stirring until the greens are wilted and cooked down.  Add the beans and enough water to just cover all the vegetables, about 3 cups.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve the soup at this point with some fresh Tuscan bread.  Refrigerate the remaining soup.

Day 2:  Tear the bread into small pieces and add to the soup.  Bring to a boil again, and then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring to dissolve the bread into the soup.

It should be thick enough that you can stand a wooden spoon in the soup.  Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with a generous amount of your favorite finishing olive oil.

I've also read about Ribollita "Da Delfina" where they make a super thick ribollita and then form patties out of the soup and pan-fry them.  I tried doing that with my ribollita on day 3, but it was still a little too watery to keep its shape when I tried to flip the patties.  Still, it was an interesting experiment, distilling all the flavors of the soup into a solid form with the added dimension of the caramelization that occurs during the frying.

Previously:  Hokkaido Milk Bread Three Ways (Traditional, Braided, and Taro Swirl)
Last Year:  Salted Butter Caramel Apple Pie with Vodka Pie Crust
Two Years Ago:  Caramelized Onion and Swiss Chard Quiche

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hokkaido Milk Bread Three Ways (Traditional, Braided, and Taro Swirl)

If you're not familiar with Hokkaido milk bread, it's that super soft, sweet bread you can get at Asian bakeries.  You know how when you walk into an Asian bakery there's this awesome smell?  It's buttery, milky, and sweet, but more than just the sum of those things.  Well, I just discovered that making this bread will basically recreate that smell in your kitchen.  It's incredible.

This bread is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum from no-knead bread.  It involves a multitude of steps and lots of kneading, but the end result is like eating a fluffy cloud of bread.  I think it's best when fresh, but after a few days, you can toast it for the best toast of your life, or even better, make French toast with it!

Since I had some leftover taro paste from making the Taiwanese taro swirl mooncakes, I decided to wrap some in the dough and make Taro Swirl Milk Bread.  The bread didn't end up rising quite as much as I would like; I think next time I'll keep the dough a bit thicker before I add the taro and roll it up so that there's a higher bread to taro paste ratio.

Hokkaido Milk Bread Three Ways (Traditional, Braided, and Taro Swirl) (adapted from Lady and Pups)
makes 2 loaves

For first proofing:
600 grams bread flour
42 grams egg white
7 grams yeast
168 grams heavy cream
190 grams whole milk
12 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
18 grams of sugar

For second proofing:
7 grams salt
5 grams yeast
90 grams sugar
50 grams egg whites
3 grams milk powder
12 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature

To finish:
40 grams butter
Kosher salt
1 egg

Combine the heavy cream, whole milk, butter, and sugar and warm it in the microwave to 110°F.  In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the bread flour, yeast, egg whites, and warm milk mixture.  Knead until smooth on medium speed.  Cover and proof in the refrigerator for 18-24 hours until doubled.

Once the dough has doubled, punch out the air.  Cut the dough into small "bite-size" pieces and return it to the stand mixer.  Add the salt, yeast, sugar, and egg whites and turn the mixture on medium.  Work the dough until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes), then add the butter.  Keep the mixer on medium and work for another 3 minutes.  Then turn the mixer on medium high and work the dough for another 6-10 minutes.  The dough should pull away from the bowl and make "slapping sounds" against the bowl.

At this point, the dough shouldn't be too sticky but still moist and have developed enough gluten that you could slowly stretch it into a thin, translucent film without breaking it.  Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and let rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, brown the 40 grams of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  The butter will start to foam, then turn brown and smell nutty.  Turn off the heat and set the browned butter aside.

Once the dough is rested, divide each half into 3 equal parts.  Roll each part into an long oval shape, then fold the sides toward the center (like folding a letter) and roll it out again into a long rectangle.  Roll the long rectangle up into a spiral.  Repeat for the other portions and let rest for another 15 minutes.

Variation #1:  The traditional way is to take the 3 portions and roll each into a long oval.  Brush with the browned butter and sprinkle with a little salt, then roll up into a spiral.  Place the 3 spirals seam side down in a loaf pan.

Variation #2:  If you want to make a braided loaf, after brushing on the butter and salt, roll each of the portions lengthwise into a long snake.  Braid the three snakes, tuck the ends underneath, and set into a loaf pan.

Variation #3:  For the taro swirl bread, shape the dough the traditional way, but instead of brushing with butter and salt, spread a thin layer of sweetened taro paste on top of the long oval before rolling up into a spiral.

At this point, you can freeze the shaped dough if you want and just let it come to room temperature before moving on when you're ready to bake the bread.

Preheat the oven to 360°F.  Let the dough proof to 80% full (not doubled, which would be 100%); this will probably take 60-90 minutes.  Make an egg wash by beating the egg with a tablespoon of water.  Once the dough is proofed, brush the top with the egg wash and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and back another 10-20 minutes until golden brown on top.

While the braided loaf turned out pretty well, I was a little disappointed with the final look of the traditional loaf (see the second picture from the top).  I think since I used a flexible silicon loaf pan, the bread expanded outwards instead of just up so it ended up not rising as high as I would've liked it to.  However, I liked the texture of the traditional loaf more because if you look at the cross sections of the two loaves, the traditional one has a much fluffier, almost stringy (in a good way) consistency.  This is due to the way it is shaped, hence, the reason it is more traditional.

I also noticed that the bottom of my first loaf (third picture down) was pretty brown by the time I took it out of the oven, so for my next loaf I baked it on top of one of those AirBake cookie sheets, and it turned out much better.

Next:  Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)
Previously:  Ginger Scallion Lobster Buns
Last Year:  Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Black Raspberry Swirl