Tsibele Kuchen (Onion Rolls)

My Nana Pearl baked her onion rolls, which she called tsibele kuchen, just about every Friday to have with a roast chicken dinner.  She never measured or weighed, she just knew by handling and observing exactly how much of everything to use and how long each step would take.  When you can still remember how those looked and tasted more than 50 years later, you know they were something special, and the desire to replicate them becomes an imperative.

Over the past several weeks of my bread-baking frenzy, I’ve become addicted not just to the superiority of home-baked breads and rolls, but also to the tactile and olfactory experience of baking.  During this process, some of Nana Pearl’s instincts have been awakened in me, but still I weigh and measure to ensure uniformity of size and baking outcome.  Today I applied the taste memory of her tsibele kuchen to my experience of baking brioche buns and challah.  I also wanted these rolls to be onion-filled, not simply onion topped as hers were, and am feeling a little pleased about how these rolls turned out:

PEARL’S 21st CENTURY ONION ROLLS 

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lukewarm water

14 gram SAF instant yeast or one package other quick-rising yeast

4-1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour or other bread flour

2 large eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 medium sweet onion finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 egg white whisked with 1 tbsp water

poppy seeds

PREPARATION:

In large bowl of stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water and immediately add 4 cups flour, the 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1/4 cup of the oil, the sugar and salt.  Use paddle attachment to combine thoroughly, and then switch to dough hook and run on medium-low speed for 10 minutes, adding additional 1/4 cup of flour once a sticky dough begins to form.  Lightly grease another large (5 quart) bowl and turn the dough out into it.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours until doubled.

Meanwhile, lightly sauté the onions in remaining canola oil until just softened and remove to a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375º and place a shallow pan filled halfway with water on bottom rack.*

Divide into 6-8 equal pieces (I made 7) and roll each into a ball.  (Dough will weigh about 1 kilo (1,000 grams).  Flatten each ball into a disk about 5″ and place about 1 tbsp of the onions in center of each, leaving a little bit of the onion mixture to sprinkle on top.  As you’re working, the dough will continue to puff up a bit.  Flatten out the edges a little more and pull the edges over the onion fill to completely encase, cradling in your hands to form a spherical bun.

Place the buns on a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, press down gently to flatten a bit, brush all over the with egg wash, and sprinkle each with a bit of the remaining onions and some poppy seeds.  Let rest about 15 minutes, then bake on center rack of oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a rack at least an hour.

*NOTE: the pan of water creates steam in the oven which helps the rolls rise again and gives the crust a light texture.  If you prefer not to do this, they will bake somewhat flatter and denser.

 

 

 

 

Caraway Rye the Way I Remember It

When I grew up in Boston’s Jewish enclaves of Dorchester and Mattapan, there was a bakery thriving about every 1/4 mile down the stretch of Blue Hill Avenue, the main thoroughfare that was also populated with dress shops, candy stores, delicatessens, butcher shops, and corner drug stores.

Although my mother was an accomplished baker, she restricted her repertoire to pastries – often made with raised dough – and so our semiweekly purchases at the bakery were entirely breads, bagels and rolls.  Her personal favorite and mine was the caraway rye, heavily seeded, and sometimes baked in a loaf pan which afforded us uniform slices for our corned beef or salami sandwiches, sometimes boule-shaped (a shape we simply called ’round’)  for slices we’d slather with sweet butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.

I’d often eat a slice of the hearty, chewy bread just by itself, going first for all the middle parts, leaving that crisp, crusty framework for the end.  And if the slice I got had that little paper sticker on it from the Bakers’ Union, all the better to have one last little thing to chew on.  I was a kid, that’s what we did.

Those bakeries, like most of the little shops of my youth, live only in memory now.    “When Pigs Fly” Bakery makes a toothsome rye in their extensive array of breads, sold at local supemarkets and in their few retail shops, but I find theirs a bit on the dry side, and shaped with slices too long and narrow to fashion a good sandwich.

After combing the internet for months and practicing the technique of no-knead Dutch oven bread, I think I’ve discovered a bread that unlocks the past for me.  This is a very slow-rising bread that should be started the day before you want to bake it – a full 18 hours to allow the flavor and texture to develop.  I started this dough at 1:30 yesterday afternoon and was ready to bake by 8am this morning, after preheating the oven for 30 minutes:

CARAWAY RYE THE WAY I REMEMBER IT

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makes 1 2-lb loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Rye Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Rye Flour

3  cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek) or kefir, OR 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tbsp + 2 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

2 tsp kosher salt

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water

2 tsp sugar

3/8 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other similar instant yeast

1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine the flours, the yogurt or kefir or buttermilk, 2 tbsp of caraway seeds, the vital wheat gluten and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl.  Combine lukewarm water sugar and yeast in small bowl and let sit about 5 minutes until foam begins to form.

Stir yeast mixture into flour mixture until well combined, and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Leave it alone for the next 18 hours.

When ready to bake, place a 5-6 quart Dutch oven on center rack of oven and preheat to 450º.  Meanwhile, transfer dough to a floured work surface and shape into a boule by turning and tucking ends under.  Place that on a large sheet of parchment, wash out your large mixing bowl, and move the shaped dough in its parchment sling into the bowl.  Brush lightly all over with your egg wash and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp caraway seeds.  Cover with plastic and let rest 15 minutes while oven heats up.

Make three shallow slashes across the top of the loaf.  Remove hot Dutch oven to a heat-safe surface, carefully place the dough in its sling inside, cover and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake another 16 minutes until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 200-205º in the center.  Remove to a rack to cool at least an hour before slicing.