Friday, March 23, 2012

Wisconsin Maple Syrup Challah

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Did you know that we live in Wisconsin?  I don't know if I ever mentioned that.  Well, we do, and we love it here.  When I was seven, our entire second grade (also including my mom's second grade class -- she's helping me remember this story) went to a nature center to learn about maple sugaring.  The two highlights of the trip were putting your tongue right under a tapped tree to taste the raw sap and eating pancakes with real maple syrup.  If you didn't make sure your plate was completely clean, the lumberjack who served you up your pancakes (perhaps I'm exaggerating on the lumberjack part) would make you lick your plate clean.  Yum!

Anyway, my mom recently pointed me to an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on how terrible the maple sugaring season has been this year.  We've been enjoying unseasonably warm weather reaching as high as the 80s a few days this week.  Buds are opening on trees, and we're all excited for this early spring.  Unfortunately, is that maple syrup season has suffered tremendously.
When the buds open, the sap turns bitter, ending the maple syrup season. That's happened already in some parts of Wisconsin, though hard maple trees bud later than soft maples. Some sugar bushes - forests filled with maple trees - still may have a chance, but only if nighttime temperatures fall below freezing again, and the buds don't open first. {source: jsonline.com}
The fragility of nature is amazing. It takes a whopping 40 gallons of sap to make only one gallon of maple syrup.  Wow.

maple_syrup01Now that you know why maple syrup (the pure stuff, the good stuff, the only stuff you should ever purchase) is so expensive and so precious, I present to you Wisconsin Maple Syrup Challah!

2/3 c water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1/4 c pure maple syrup plus about 1 tbsp more for egg wash
1 egg plus 1 more for egg wash
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 c bread flour
1 tsp salt

I recently switched to a new brand of yeast that is store in the freezer and instant.  I realized this morning that I've been treating it like active dry yeast and proofing it, but now I'm second guessing whether I should be doing that.  Do I still have to proof it?  Am I wrecking it by proofing it?
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Proof the yeast with the hot water and maple syrup.  Let rest 10 minutes or until foamy.  Add the egg and oil, mixing gently.  Add the flour and salt.  For some reason, my dough was extremely, extremely tough, so I added a little more oil and water, but then needed a bit more flour.  Use your judgment.  Knead by hand or with a dough hook until a ball forms.
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Let rest in a covered, oiled bowl for about 1 1/2 hours.

(In the interest of full disclosure, we did a refrigerator overnight rise this week... and I hated it.  It was a logistical thing, because today I'm writing this post away from home and will likely not be home until this evening right when Shabbat starts.  So I wanted to bake the bread this morning.  But it took FOREVER for the dough to reach a workable temperature when I took it out of the oven.  Any tips on refrigerator rise?)

Braid as normal.  Mix the beaten egg with a healthy dollop of maple syrup (about 1 tbsp) and brush over the dough.  I added sesame seeds to one loaf, but I think cinnamon might be great!  I also think I might try maple chips in this dough to really sweeten it up.
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Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches at least 180 degrees.
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How do you show YOUR home state/town pride in your baking?  Shabbat Shalom!

5 comments:

  1. We love challah, have to try it with the maple sugar. I do not proof the instant yeast. Only active dry one. I have not had any problem. The only time I proof it, when I want to see if an old batch is still working.
    Thanks for your comment on my post at Tori's. Glad to expand my knowledge about other blogs this way. Nice to meet you :)

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  2. I am about to try this and just wondering if it's designed for 1 or 2 loaves since it has so much less flour than your classic recipe (and my standard one as well). Thanks! Shabbat Shalom!

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  3. @madebymameleh... I make my challot small. So I get two out of this recipe (each is about 8-10 inches long). Since we're only a family of 2, this keeps us from gorging! :) For a 6 cup batch, I would use:

    1 1/4 c water
    1 tbsp active dry or instant yeast
    1/3 - 1/2 c pure maple syrup plus about 1 tbsp more for egg wash
    2 or 3 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
    4-5 tbsp vegetable oil
    6 c bread flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt

    (I don't personally find that doubling always ends up with the best result so I tweak things for 6 cup batches... this challah was a little tough to me, so if you have any feedback if you try it, please share!)

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  4. @Amanda, yes, I ended up doing two small ones which was a nice departure from the two huge ones that our family of 3 does not really need :) It was good but I agree, maybe a little tough although I have a feeling it would be FANTASTIC as french toast (though we finished it before this was an option). I gave you a little blog love over on mine (which as you'll see is still a rather new endeavor).

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