Toasted Banana Bread Sammie

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup cold butter cut into chunks

2 cups sugar

2 cups ripe mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 8 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

Stir together the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl, set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, until pale in color and creamy- about 3-4 minutes.  Add the bananas, eggs, vanilla – mix just till combine. the batter will look like it is broken.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until the batter is thoroughly blended. Do not over beat. Add walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake on doubled sheet pans for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs.

Cover with foil the last fifteen minutes of baking if the tops begins to get to brown. This recipe will produce and inherently dark loaf.

Remove the loaves from the oven and allow them to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then turn them out on a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

Chill before cutting and use a serrated knife for the cleanest cuts.

Optional : Dust the top with powdered sugar before slicing and serving  or,  make toasted banana sammies. Makes 2 8 x 4-inch loaves.

Toasted Banana Sammie

Ingredients:

2 ½-inch thick slices of banana bread

2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

1/2 fresh banana, sliced

1 teaspoon honey

Method:

Toast the slices of banana bread to your desired darkness and remove from the toaster.

Cool slightly. Spread whipped cream cheese on one slice, top the cream cheese with banana slices and drizzle the banana slices with honey.

Top with the remaining slice of Banana Bread.

Slice diagonally and serve.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Authentic Fried Israeli Falafel 

Here I am, an Italian-American trying to grasp the depths of an authentic Israeli Falafel recipe. Here is how I did it. I’ve turn to my favorite Falafel expert, and adapted from Joan Nathan’s book The Foods of Israel Today. Amazing book ! Read what Joan has to say about the authenticity of Falafel. 

Joan writes

“Every Israeli has an opinion about falafel, the ultimate Israeli street food, which is most often served stuffed into pita bread. One of my favorite spots is a simple stand in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem, adjacent to Mea Shearim. The neighborhood was established in 1891, when wealthy Jews from Bukharan engaged engineers and city planners to plan a quarter with straight, wide streets and lavish stone houses. 

After the Russian Revolution, with the passing of time and fortunes, the Bukharan Quarter lost much of its wealth, but even so the area retains a certain elegance. There, the falafel is freshly fried before your eyes and the balls are very large and light. 

Shlomo Zadok, an elderly falafel maker and falafel stand owner, brought the recipe with him from his native Yemen.

Zadok explained that at the time of the establishment of the state, falafel — the name of which probably comes from the word pilpel (pepper) — was made in two ways: either as it is in Egypt today, from crushed, soaked fava beans or fava beans combined with chickpeas, spices, and bulgur; or, as Yemenite Jews and the Arabs of Jerusalem did, from chickpeas alone. But favism, an inherited enzymatic deficiency occurring among some Jews — mainly those of Kurdish and Iraqi ancestry, many of whom came to Israel during the mid 1900s — proved potentially lethal, so all falafel makers in Israel ultimately sopped using fava beans, and chickpea falafel became an Israeli dish.

The timing was right for falafel in those early years, with immigrants pouring in. Since there was a shortage of meat, falafel made a cheap, protein-rich meal — and people liked it.

Rachama Ihshady, the daughter of the founder of another favorite Jerusalem falafel joint, Shalom’s Falafel on Bezalel Street, told me that her family recipe, also of Yemenite origin, has not changed since British times. 

Using the basics taught to me by these falafel mavens, I have created my own version, adding fresh parsley and cilantro, two ingredients I like and which originally characterized Arab falafel in Israel. 

Give me mine wrapped in a nice warm pita bread, swathed in tahina sauce an overflowing with pickled turnip and eggplant, chopped peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, amba (pickled mango sauce) — and make it harif, Hebrew for “hot.” The type of hot sauce used, of course, depends on the origin of the falafel maker.”

With all this research I decided to adapt Jones recipe without cilantro to suit more my own liking. Feel free to add it or omit. 

Joan Nathon’s Falafel Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro ( optional) 

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons flour

Soybean or vegetable oil for frying

Chopped tomato for garnish

Diced onion for garnish

Diced green bell pepper for garnish

Tahina sauce

Pita bread ( see my recipe here

Method:

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375ºF in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Notes

Egyptians omit the cilantro and substitute fava beans for the chickpeas

Tahina (also called tahini) is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at Amazon. 
To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at Amazon or ethnic grocer – add mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

Me- I like to add chopped Cucumber, onions, tomatoes and lots of tzatziki and hot sauce ( see my tzatziki sauce recipe here) I know – don’t say it! My toppings are not authentic, but an awesome combination of a Italian-Greek-American twist ! 

Flatbread Made Three ways. Grilled, Baked or on the Stove Top

I love making fresh Flatbread, from Fry Bread, Naan, and Pitas. The list goes on. Just about every country has a type of prized flatbread recipe. 

I can’t decide if I like it made better in my cast iron pan on the stovetop, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or my outdoor grill, which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless of how you make it — the key to making delicious flatbreads is keeping the dough wet, soft, and spongy throughout the mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with a damp and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have beautiful results.

You’ll Need

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid-acting dry yeast

1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray

Here’s How

Place the yeast into the work bowl of your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will resemble wet like a slurry, and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough. Your baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.

Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, combine at low speed until ingredients mix well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.

If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed a 1/4 cup.

Start to time your kneading about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed until the dough springs back to the touch, and is very soft.

Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.

Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and give it a light coating of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume—approximately 2 hours.

After the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and place it onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1-inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into eight pieces.

Form each piece into a smaller round ball, carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, tearing down and tucking under to form a ball. 

Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic-lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little meal, gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round discs 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6-inch disc.

Rest an additional 5- 8 minutes. Then continue to your preferred method of baking.

 

On the Stove:

Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.

Lay flattened discs into a hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up, and the bottom is browning well about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry; they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook two an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate, causing the center to be hallowed enough to fill as pitas.

 

In the Oven: 

Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven, and the gravel to 500 F. Degrees Place two bread discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Observe; they will bake quickly.

When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots, and they are soft inside and out.

 

On the Grill: 

When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.

Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few veils of mist of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.

I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherit a mild smokey flavor. 

Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki and goes well with any Eastern Indian dishes.

Soft HomeMade Pretzels

 

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Ingredients: 

1 cup warm water (105°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
Vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus Maldon or Large grain salt for garnish
8 -10 cups water
1/8 cup baking soda

 

Method: 

With the vegetable oil, lightly grease a large bowl and two baking sheets- set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast and add sugar. Mix to combine. Set aside and allow to sit undisturbed for about 5-10 minutes until bubbles and froth begin to form.

Place the flour, and  1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk to break up any lumps.

Once the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the flour mixture, and fit your mixer with a dough hook. Mix on the lowest setting until the dough  comes together, about 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled mixing bowl, and turn to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with a warm towel allow the dough to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size– about 35-45 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it until it’s smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute.

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter top surface, and cut dough into 12 equal pieces and place onto a lined cookie sheet. Keep covered with a light towel, or plastic wrap.

Working with 1 piece at a time, roll a 12-14 inch-long ropes and set them at your 12 o’clock to rest. Roll them all into ropes then shape.

Fold into an unfinished figure 8 then lifting the open ends twist twice and lay going back to the circle end opening. Shape into a pretzel.

Press the ends down to form a pretzel shape the best you can. Press  center of the twist to adhere to the rest of the pretzel. Gently lift and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, fitting 6 pretzels per baking sheet.

Allow the shaped pretzels to rise again in a warm place until almost doubled in volume. About 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F degrees.

In a large deep sauce pan, bring the 6-8 cups of water to a boil over high heat.When the pretzels are billowy, remove the plastic wrap.

Reduce to a simmer. Stir the baking soda carefully, not to overspill. The water will foam up with baking soda is added.

Place  a few  uncooked pretzels, bottom side down, in the water. Boil for 1 minute, gently flip using a slotted spoon and continue to boil an additional minute.

Remove with the slotted spoon and place on a cookie cooling rack over paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining uncooked pretzels until they have all been boiled.

Paint the pretzels evenly with my recipe for egg wash, and sprinkle with Maldon or Kosher salt. Bake, rotating halfway through until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer immediately to a rack to cool. Serve with  your favorite yummy mustard.

 

Variations:

After baking, dip in melted butter sprinkle on salt and serve.

After baking dip in butter butter and sprinkle on a 50/50 mixture of cinnamon and sugar

Before baking glaze with egg wash and salt before baking for a shiny pretzel

 

 Makes 10-12 Medium Sized Soft Pretzels

Soft, Squeezable Buns- Homemade Hokkaido Milk Bread. 


You know- those comforting, mouth watering snow white, billowey little loaves and rolls that are the foundation of respectable Asian bakeries.

Mmmm- those soft, squeezable buns. Those pull apart, feather like layers that gently pull away like the wind blew them apart. Ahhhh, the ones just melt in your mouth just like cotton candy. 

Making this bread at home is work, but worth it. You must begin by starting with a batch of fermentation. This is also called, “Starter” , “Mother Sponge,” or just “Sponge”. 

For The Starter 

Ingredients:

⅓ cup bread flour

½ cup whole milk, room temperature 

1/2 cup water, room temperature 

Method For the Starter

In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan whisk together the flour, milk and 1/2 cup of water until smooth. 

Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often until thicken- but remaining pourable, about 8-10 minutes.As it cools it will continue to thicken. 

Remove from heat and pour into a small cereal bowl and lightly cover the surface with plastic wrap. Set aside to cool to room temperature. This is enough Starter for two batches. Keep 1/2 in the fridge covered but allowed to breath. Feed a bit of flour every few days, mixing in well with any liquid that has accumulated at the top of the sponge. This will keep your starter alive and growing.  

For the Dough

Ingredients: 

2 ½ cups bread flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons fresh active dry yeast or (1 packet)

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

½ cup warm whole milk, plus extra for brushing on the unbaked loaf about 90’F. No hotter. 

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature, plus extra for greasing proofing bowls and baking loaf pan.

Method To make the Bread :

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt , sugar and yeast. Toss together for a few seconds, just until evenly combined. Add the milk, eggs and 1/2 cup of the starter. Turn the mixer on low speed and knead 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter and knead another 10 to 12 minutes (it will take a few minutes for butter to be incorporated), until the dough is smooth and springy and just a bit tacky.

Lightly butter the inside of a medium sized bowl. Use your hands to lift dough out of mixer bowl, onto a clean dry surface dusted with a bit of flour. Quickly shape into a ball and place in the prepared bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.

Lightly oil you hands as if you were rubbing them with a tiny bit of lotion. Punch the billowing dough down with your closed fist and then scoop it up in your open hand onto a clean dry slightly floured surface. 

Using large knife, cut dough in quarters. Very gently form each quarter into a small ball, leave on the clean dry surface covered with a towel and allow to rise an additional 15- 20 minutes. 
Preheat heat the oven to 350’F degrees. While the oven is coming up to temperature generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Using a lightly flour dusted rolling pin, gently roll the dough balls one at a time into a 8 x 4 inch thick ovals. Careful not to completely remove all the fluffy Co2 gas created by the yeast. 
Fold the top 1/3 of the oval down, then fold the bottom 1/3 of the oval up, making a rough looking square shaped piece of dough.

Starting from the right edge of the rough looking square, roll up from right to left, creating a spiral looking cylinder or log. 
Place the logs in the buttered pan, seam side down and crosswise, nestling into one another. 

Cover again for the last rise. Allow the formed dough to rest 30 to 40 additional minutes or until the dough has risen and is peeking over the edge of the loaf pan making sure the and the dough logs are meeting and connected. 

Brush the tops with milk and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven on a sheet pan until golden brown and puffed, 35 to 40 minutes.

Allow to cool, remove from pan and …. pull apart ! Mmmmmmm. 
Enjoy!