If you’re reading this, you’ve made it almost to the end of Passover. And with the end of the holiday comes a return to... you guessed it, bread. At this point, I’m guessing, you’re not interested in any more Passover recipes.

You’ve probably finished your cooking. And you’re likely looking forward to your first halla, bagel, cracker or real cake. So why not channel that leavened excitement into making your own bread at home after the holiday ends? While it can seem daunting to newcomers, making bread is pretty simple when you get the hang of it. It takes some time (and advanced planning), but most of that time is just waiting for the dough to rise, so you can use it to read, shop, clean, cook other foods... just about anything.

A simple bread dough is so versatile, and here I offer three different and fun variations: a caramelized-onion topped pie, chicken-filled yeast buns and small and sweet garlic knots.

One of the (many) things I had to get used to as an American immigrant in Israel (among the driving, the yelling and the post office), was using a different type of yeast in my baking. In the US, the most prevalent yeast available is called active dry yeast, and must be proofed, or re-hydrated, in warm water before use. This is because it has been half-killed before packaging and needs to be brought back to life.

Instead, the most commonly available type of yeast here in Israel is instant dry yeast, which has not been killed off before being packaged, and does not – nor should it – be proofed before using. Instead it should be separated from the water from the flour, which acts as a buffer, until everything is mixed together.

The other thing that can sometimes deter would-be bread bakers, is knowing when the dough is kneaded enough or risen enough. Here’s my rule of thumb: after kneading, give the dough a poke with your finger. If it springs back fairly quickly, you’ve kneaded enough. After rising, give the dough another poke with your finger. This time, it should hold the indentation; that’s how you’ll know it’s ready.

If you want to substitute whole wheat flour for the regular, all-purpose flour I’ve used below, I recommend only swapping out half of it, otherwise, without adjusting the rest of the recipe, you will end up with a dry final product.

Since you’re baking everything fresh, with no preservatives, your homemade bread will stale much quicker than a store bought loaf. Fresh out of the oven is of course the best time to eat it, but same day is ideal and anything after the second day isn’t recommended. To refresh day-old bread, stick it in the oven at 135 C for about five minutes.

Onion yeast tart

1/2 cup water
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (185g) flour (and more as needed)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/3 cup olive or canola oil
1 kilogram onions
2 tablespoons mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk together the water, egg, olive oil and salt in a bowl. Add the flour, then on top, sprinkle the yeast. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients until they begin to come together into a dough.

Knead the dough with your hands (or the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer) for about five minutes, adding more flour as necessary until no longer sticky. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes (or in the fridge overnight).

As the dough rises, peel and halve the onions and then slice them into thin half moons. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and add the onions, stirring to coat.

Cook, stirring every 5 to 7 minutes, until dark and caramelized, 45 minutes to an hour. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn the heat slightly lower.

Once the dough has risen, knead it gently just to deflate, then press it out on a large baking sheet to an approximately 30x40 cm. rectangle. Brush the mustard over the dough, leaving a 2 cm. border bare all around, then spread the onions evenly on top, and sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake at 190 C for 25 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm.

Spicy chicken-filled buns

Makes 10-12 buns


Dough:
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 3/4 cups (220g) flour (and more as needed)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

Filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/3 kg. ground chicken (or beef)
 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground chili pepper
1 egg coarse sea salt (optional)

Mix together the water, sugar, salt, eggs and oil. Add the flour on top then sprinkle the yeast on top of that. With a wooden spoon mix the ingredients until the dough begins to come together.

Knead it with your hands (or the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer) for 8 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary so it is not sticky.

Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a towel or cloth for 1 1/2 hours (or in the fridge overnight).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet, and add the diced onion. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are golden brown. Add the diced garlic, and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add in the ground chicken or beef, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula, until cooked through.

Add the soy sauce, salt, pepper, paprika and chili. Remove from the heat.

Punch down the dough and shape it into about a 25-cm. log. Cut 2.5 cm.

pieces of the dough off and roll them as thin as you can into circles, making the edges thinner than the center. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the chicken filling (or more, depending on the final circle size) in the center and pinch closed.

Place, seam side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Continue with remaining pieces of dough and filling.

Cover the shaped buns with a cloth or towel and let rise another 30 minutes.

Beat the egg and brush it over the buns, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Bake on 175 C for 20 to 25 minutes, until evenly browned.

Garlic knots

Makes about 20

Dough:
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups (220g) flour
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

Topping:
1/4 cup butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together the water, olive oil, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the flour, then on top of it, sprinkle the yeast. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything until it comes together, then knead with your hands – or a dough mixer attachment – for five to 10 minutes (adding more flour if necessary) until smooth. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 90 minutes to two hours (or overnight in the fridge) until it has doubled in size.

Cut the dough in half, and on a lightly floured surface flatten it into a rectangle about 15 cm. long and one cm. thick.

Use a sharp knife to slice the rectangle into strips about one cm. thick, and tie into a knot. Place the knots on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, leaving space between them to rise (I ended up using two sheets). Repeat with second half of the dough.

Brush the knots with olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then let rise for 60-90 minutes until about doubled in size.

Bake at 200 C for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned.

While they’re baking, place the butter or oil and garlic in a small pot over medium heat, and cook for just a few minutes to take the edge off the raw garlic.

Remove from the heat, add the salt and parsley if using. (Butter will help the garlic adhere easier to the little knots, but olive oil is just as tasty).

Let the knots cool five minutes out of the oven, the brush with the garlic mixture and let cool another 15 minutes.

Best served immediately, and ideally the same day as baking.

Visit Amy’s blog at www.bakingandmistaking.com for more baking ideas and inspiration.

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