Once you’ve eaten your first handmade tortilla, you’ll realize what you’ve been missing. The results are tender and slightly sweet and earthy. And once you realize how easy they are to make with the right equipment, you’ll never want store bought again. Although you can use a rolling pin, I think a tortilla press is essential to make the process go quickly. I keep a bag of masa harina in my kitchen so I always have the ingredients on hand. As a snack, I enjoy these tortillas warm and slathered with salted butter.
Although you can use a rolling pin, I think a tortilla press is essential to make the process go quickly.
1 cup masa harina (Available in most well-stocked markets. I use Maseca brand)
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup hot tap water
In a small bowl, mix the masa harina and the salt together. Pour in the water and stir to until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rest for 15 minutes so the masa fully absorbs the water.
While the dough rests, cut 10 pieces of parchment paper approximately 7.5” x 7.5”. (I re-use my parchment for more than one batch.) Roll the dough into 9 equally sized balls. If you are using a scale, each ball should weigh 1⅛ ounces.
Place a piece of parchment on the bottom of the tortilla press. Place a dough ball in the middle and cover with a second piece of parchment. Close the press about ¾ of the way and then open the press (your tortilla should look slightly fat), flip the entire tortilla with parchment over and close the press completely. (I’ve found flipping the tortilla before closing the press completely results in an evenly flat tortilla). Peel the top parchment from the tortilla. Stack the tortilla and bottom parchment to the side. Continue pressing and stacking tortillas.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Do NOT add oil to the pan. Carefully peel each tortilla from the bottom parchment by flipping the tortilla over into your hand and peeling off the parchment from the top. Gently place the tortilla into skillet. Depending on the size of your pan, you may be able to cook 2-4 tortilla at the same time. My 12” skillet holds three perfectly without touching.
Cook for about 2 minutes per side until the edges begin to curl up and a few brown spots are visible on the bottom. (I find cooking tortillas is a lot like cooking pancakes – the first few don’t have the perfect texture/coloring, but things get better as you go along). The tortillas will be a little dryer than standard tortillas, but they will soften as they rest.
Stack cooked tortillas on a plate and cover with the clean towel you used in step 2. This will keep the tortillas warm and the steam will help the tortillas to soften. Serve tortillas immediately. If you refrigerate them, they can be gently warmed in a damp paper towel in the microwave.
Over 20 years ago, a young woman traveled to Sedona and stayed, on recommendation, at Don Hoel’s cabins. They were a cluster of small cabins near Oak Creek, looking a bit tired, but still cozy and homey, each with a kitchen, fireplace and a separate bedroom.
12 years later, she returned to Sedona and the first lodging she considered was Don Hoel’s. She was disappointed to learn she couldn’t reserve a cabin – the owner was selling and the cabins were closed. She stayed just down the road at Junipine, at a place that was neither cozy nor homey. During that trip, she drove past Don Hoel’s and saw the large “For Sale” sign across the closed gates. Even then, she daydreamed about buying it. The place was big – over 20 acres, with 20 cabins and a market. Her thoughts on the matter stayed in the daydream world.
The woman is back again. The place is now renamed, owned by a young couple for the past 5 years . They’ve polished the place up, adding the much needed character, and turned it into a little gem. The woman, who is not so young anymore, is envious. Again, she thinks “I could do that” and this time she doesn’t consider it just a daydream.
My sister was inconsolable upon hearing I was forgoing the annual labor-intensive holiday gibassier this year to try my hand at almost-as-labor-intensive Christmas marzipan stollen. If that fruit-studded yeast bread didn’t pass muster, I’d receive coal in my stocking for sure. Fortunate for me, it was a holiday triumph:
Stollen #1 – Christmas morning; devoured an entire loaf with my sister while sipping bittersweet hot cocoa
Stollen #2 – Boxing day; another loaf bites the dust with cappuccinos
Stollen #3 – Sent home with sis; consumed in 3 days
Stollen #4 – The last one; left on my doorstep for her to pick up later today
Yeah, it was a hit. Although, I’ve promised to bake gibassier for Easter.
– 120 grams all-purpose flour
– 80 grams water
– A small pinch rapid-rise yeast
– 350 grams all-purpose flour
– 55 grams whole milk
– 3 packages rapid-rise yeast (minus the small pinch)
– 50 grams sugar
– 53 grams egg (about one large egg)
– 8 grams salt
– ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and cardamom
– ¼ teaspoon of allspice and nutmeg
– Grated lemon zest from ½ lemon
– Grated orange zest from ½ orange
– 275 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
– All of the sponge
– All of the soaker
– 75 grams candied orange peel (homemade or high quality)
– 75 grams candied lemon peel (homemade or high quality)
– 198 grams (7 oz.) of marzipan, divided lengthwise into four pieces
The night before: Combine the soaker ingredients in a bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
The night before: Combine the sponge ingredients in another bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 hours.
Heat the milk to 105-110 degrees, add the yeast, stir and let set for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker, peel and marzipan. Mix in slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes.
Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough comes together around the hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Add the soaker and peels and mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The fruit/peel to dough ratio will be high.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes in a warm location.
Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into four even pieces, pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
Shape the loaves into blunt end batards (country loaf shape). With a wooden spoon handle placed lengthwise and just off center, press down firmly making a long trough. Roll the marzipan into a rope about ½ in shorter than the batard and place in the trough. Tuck the sides of the dough up around the marzipan and fold the smaller section of dough over the longer and seal well (it should look like a hoagie roll when finished). Pick off any fruit on the outside to avoid it burning. Place batards on parchment-lined insulated baking sheets (two per sheet). Cover and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm humid location.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. You will need steam during the initial phase of baking, so place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape and carefully remove the water. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. You will need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning.
While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter and dredge them in granulated sugar. When cool, sift powdered sugar over the loaves. Leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry and the sugar crust up a bit.
To store, wrap tightly in foil at room temperature. Stollen should be allowed to rest for at least 4 days so plan accordingly.
To serve, unwrap, re-heat stollen in the oven, dust with additional powdered sugar if needed, slice and enjoy.
Today, a friend’s granddaughter was born. This morning, someone drove his baby boy to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. This afternoon, a friend’s faithful companion died. Today, someone celebrated being alive. I knew I’d spend the day entrenched in my kitchen bomb shelter, under the pretext of baking, but truly hiding from life’s bittersweet highs and lows. I reserved this weekend to unclutter my brain – sorting and classifying – following a week of heady realizations. However, by 10:00 a.m., I opted to linger with my messy meditations and concentrate instead on distraction through less-weighty things. So, rather than tackle life’s complexities, I delight in the simple phenomenon of dry yeast: inert-looking sand that vigorously bounds to life with the coaxing of a sprinkling of sugar and warm milk, transforming flour and water into bread. Yeast bread can’t be rushed; its requirement for patient tending diverts my brain’s workings for a while.
This specialty from Alsace can be served for breakfast or tea, and is not very sweet.
½ cup raisins
¼ cup kirsch or brandy
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon
1 pkg. dry yeast
½ cup butter, softened + more for pan
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup almond flour
20 to 30 whole almonds
¼ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped**
Heat raisins in kirsch for 1 minute in microwave. Set aside.
Heat milk for 1 minute until milk is between 107 and 110 degrees. Stir in 1 T. of sugar and yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes.
In stand mixer, cream butter and remaining sugar. Add eggs, remaining milk, almond extract, and salt and mix well. Incorporate yeast mixture. Combine flour and almond flour and incorporate. Switch to a dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes.
Cover dough with a dishcloth and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. Place almonds at the bottom of the pan in a decorative pattern. I use a bit of butter to help them stay in place. Drain raisins and combine with orange peel. Work the raisins and peel into dough.
Spoon dough evenly into pan. Smooth dough, cover with dishcloth, and let rise again in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until dough is about an inch below the rim.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Bake in oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Invert, remove pan and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
I can barely squeeze my thighs into my jeans. If you are a frequent reader, you may have deduced that my love affair with carbs runs deep – and it’s showing. I’ve never passed up a gooey chocolate chip cookie or slice of toast saturated in salted butter. Every few weeks, cinnamon-sugar pancakes are my dinner entrée, especially after a difficult day at work –oh so comforting. This romance is starting to take its toll and it cannot go on – or at least at the current frequency.
Never having much luck going cold-turkey, I’ve resolved to ease into carb austerity with a culinary “Nicoderm patch” of breakfast muffins that at least lean towards the healthier side. (“Not very healthy,” you may think, but considering my baseline is a carrot apple muffin with cream cheese frosting, these are an improvement).
Cereal Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Bran cereal (I use Trader Joe’s high fiber cereal, but All-bran should work also)
Large egg, beaten
Brown sugar, packed
Ripe banana, mashed
Flax seeds, toasted (optional)
Pepitas or chopped nuts (optional)
Fruit (I used frozen cranberries, but any fresh or frozen berry, soft fruit or shredded apple would work)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin tins or use paper liners. In a large bowl, combine milk, egg and oil. Add cereal and let sit 15 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add brown sugar and banana to cereal mixture and combine. Add flour to cereal-banana mixture and stir together just until combined (don’t over mix). Fold in seeds or nuts (if using) and fruit.
Scoop batter into muffin tins and bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until muffins are golden brown. Paper liners may stick if you don’t allow the muffins to cool completely.