Friday, January 27, 2012

View of Shabbat - January 27, 2012

Hi Friends,

My computer died and my flickr account may have expired but I can't access it! Oh dear... So here are this week's challot.

Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hunger Games Challah: Peeta's Bread

When I passed the baker's, the smell of fresh bread was so overwhelming I felt dizzy.  The ovens were in the back, and a golden glow spilled out the open kitchen door... There was a clatter in the bakery and I heard the woman screaming again and the sound of a blow, and I vaguely wondered what was going on.  Feet sloshed toward me through the mud and I thought, It's her.  She's coming to drive me away with a stick.  But it wasn't her.  It was the boy.  In his arms, he carried two large loaves of bread that must have fallen into the fire because their crusts were scorched black... 
The boy took one look back to the bakery as if checking that the coast was clear, then his attention back on the pig, he threw a loaf of bread in my direction.  The second quickly followed, and he sloshed back to the bakery, closing the kitchen door tightly behind him... It was a good hearty bread, filled with raisins and nuts.
This is a bread that I've been mulling over in my head for a while and have been trying to figure out the best combination of ingredients.  I actually did two versions of this bread.  The first was sort of a Peeta's bread inspired challah (basically my 1/2 Batch with some mixed grains and other stuff thrown in).  I experimented with using applesauce instead of oil, and I really liked the result.  I'd like to try it again on a regular old challah just to see what the result is.  Stay tuned.

So here are the necessity's for Peeta's bread (in the book and in my humble opinion)...
  • Raisins or another Dried Fruit.  (I hate raisins.  They ruin everything.  I should have this shirt. But Peeta's bread is supposed to have nuts and raisins. Oh dear. Well, I thought I'd compromise and find some sort of other dried fruit. I came across some dried cherries and decided on them instead. It was a pleasing overall result. The toasted almonds and cherries work well together, but perhaps would be even better in a completely white flour challah. The wheat kinda brought them down.)
  • Nuts - I tried both almonds and walnuts
  • Some portion of Whole Wheat - I figured that, while the bakery bread would not necessarily have to have the mealy Tesserae grain that Katniss talks about, it wouldn't be Capital bread either.  So it would have some darkness to it.
So, without further ado, I bring you the first (in a series!) of Hunger Games Challah!

Peeta's Bread - Challah Version

I'm luke-warm on this bread.  It's fine.  But it's nothing special.  And I feel like the Boy with the Bread's bread ought to be something really special.
peeta1_5 peeta1_7
I'm going to share what I did with you anyway.  But, it's not all that special.  Here's what I used...

3/4 c water
.6 oz (1/3 block) fresh yeast or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1/2 c dried fruit (see note above)
1/4 c chopped toasted almonds
1 egg
1/3 c applesauce (I used natural chunky because it's what I had)
1 1/2 c bread flour 
1 c white whole wheat flour (I LOVE this so much more than regular whole wheat)
1/4 c mixed grains (I used whole flax, kamut, and wheat gluten, though I think I'd used millet next time)
1 tsp salt
peeta1_2 peeta1_3 peeta1_4
The result is just kind of lame.  I braided it, because Peeta might have braided it, I told myself. But I think I was stretching here.  It's not challah.  It's bakery bread.  And this was challah trying to be something it couldn't.  So, I moved on and tried again...

Peeta's Bread - No-Knead Version

I've read a little about no-knead overnight breads, and I've tried doing french baguette once before.  I'm not ready to publish the baguette recipe here, because it's still in the works and still largely a conglomeration of a few other recipes but not really my own yet.  But for this loaf, I got creative and tried out my own.  Here's what you'll need...

peeta2_11 1/2 to 2 c water (NOT hot)
1 tsp active or instant dry yeast
1/2 c dried fruit (see below... oh boy)
scant 1/4 c chopped walnuts
2 c bread flour 
1 c white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
TIME (about 18 hours...)
A baking crock or Dutch Oven

About the Dried Fruit:  Okay, I'm going to eat my words.  I used raisins.  I had some lying around from an Iranian Haroset I made during Passover (Still good, right?  They last, right?)  So, I used them.  But not a ton.  I added some chopped dried apples too, because I thought Peeta might have used those too.  Maybe?

What's really neat about no-knead bread is how you just toss it all together.  As I was making this, I commented to The Hazz who has never read The Hunger Games how much I liked to the idea of a long-rising bread.  A bakery would have the time, because they'd just start loaves as others were finishing and being sold.  But in District 12, they wouldn't have stand mixers.  So I opted not to use my lovely Kitchen Aid.  Instead, I just dumped all the ingredients except for the water in a bowl and pulled out my wooden spoon.  Once everything was all incorporated, we started adding water, mixing first with the wooden spoon before just going in with my hands.
peeta2_2 peeta2_3
Once everything is incorporated, leave covered in at room temperature overnight for 12-18 hours (longer is better).  I read a few places about 70 degrees is preferable, but it's winter here, so I'm sure it's not that warm in my house!

Turn the dough out on a lightly flour surface and form into a shape that fits your Dutch oven or baking crock.  We don't have a baking crock (but now I want one!), so I used our LeCreuset Dutch Oven.  However, keep in mind that the standard knobs aren't oven safe to high temperatures (I think it's 325...?).  You can buy a replacer knob.  For the meantime, I took out my knob and flipped the screw so it was sitting on top.  Just make sure it doesn't fall in your oven and get lost!  (Note: I started with my 5 quart LeCreuset in red, but decided to switch to my purple 3 1/2 quart because Mark Bittman recommends a smaller size for an ultimately higher loaf.)
peeta2_5 peeta2_4
Form into a log.  I tried to kind of tuck in my fruit and nuts so they were sitting at the bottom of the container (trying to prevent too much stuck to my pan).  Flip the log or round and lay on an oiled baking sheet on a lightly floured surface. (I messed this step up.  One site recommended oiled, but MANY, MANY others recommended floured bowl, cloth, or countertop.  After beginning to worry about my loaf sticking to my LeCreuset, I changed over to a floured surface.)  Let rest an additional 2 hours covered in a clean cloth.
peeta2_7 peeta2_9
After 1 1/2 hours have passed, place your heavy baking dish (Pyrex, ceramic baker, or cast iron pot) in a cold oven and preheat.  For my cast iron pot, I preheated to 425, but you could preheat higher.  When the last 1/2 hour has passed, remove pot from the oven (carefully!) and plop in the dough in the pan (make sure to check one last time for any sticky parts and flour as needed).

Bake with the lid on for 20-30 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn't rise too much or brown too much.  Remove the lid and bake another 15-25 minutes.  I did 30 minutes with lid and 15 without.  Tip your bread out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
peeta2_10 peeta2_11
The result? OM NOM NOM, you guys.  Wow.  Like, seriously, this might be the best thing I ever made.  It's soooooo rustic.  The crust is delicious and crumbly.  The inside is chewy just like what you would imagine from a bakery.  In fact, The Hazz said, "It's like REAL bakery bread."
Would the Boy with the Bread be proud?  Is this his bread?  I like to pretend this is what it would have been like.  I'm not about to start burning this bread.  It's deliciously awesome just as is.  It takes time, but it's not time consuming.  You just have to wait.  It might actually be less hands on than most of my challot.  But the result is so, so, so worth the wait.
Next up, well there are lots of breads in The Hunger Games.  I think next up in the books are rolls from the Capitol dipped in hot chocolate.  I'm game, are you?

May the odds be EVER in your favor! (and Shabbat Shalom!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Frosty the Snowman

It finally snowed!  We've had 50s all December and up until January.  Not normal.  We should have had at least 10 inches by now and we've had only the past 4-6 that we received overnight!  Woo hoo!
But... the Hazz and I had to get excited for the non-existent snow.  In December, we made our own little challah Frosty.  We started with three little balls of challah, flattened with our palms.  We then cut the hat out of a rolled piece (a square plus a tiny long line).  Coal eyes were chocolate chips and a piece of dried apricot for the carrot nose.

Then we added an egg wash. Using a method that I learned from This Good Life on Polka Dot Challah a while ago. Dip your thumb in any left over egg wash and then dip in the sprinkles or topping. Dab on in specific place you'd like. We used cookie sprinkles for the scarf and poppyseeds for the hat. Then The Hazz sprinkled silver sprinkles over the whole shebang. You know, for snow.

What we sort of forgot was that challah browns in the oven. So, he's Frosty with a tan.  He was delicious!  Tasted like a doughnut!!
snowman3 snowman4

Friday, January 6, 2012

Downloadables - Braiding and Shapes

I've been meaning to do these for a while, but recently a friend of The Hazz's from JTS asked if I had a worksheet with my braidings. And, so, I made them! I hope that you will find these downloadable PDFs helpful. You may print them and make photocopies of them, but please do not alter them in any way or remove my logo :)

{Click on each of the images for a PDF in a new window}
six_strand five_strand
four_strand braided_round
single_strand challah_rolls
Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Guest Post: Root Beer Challah

It's The Hazz's first guest post!  Who is the Hazz, you might ask?  Well, he's my dashing husband, kneading expert, and challah-tasting-critic (although he tends to say "This might be the best challah you've ever made" every week). 

With Amanda out of town for the weekend staffing a Kadima convention, The Hazz decided to experiment with a new recipe: Root Beer Challah! After searching for several recipes for root beer bread online, I decided on the one found on In addition to root beer, it also includes whole wheat flour (a little less than half), shortening* {see footnote} and molasses. Using these added ingredients, I meticulously estimated the proper amount of each to fit the proportions of Amanda's half-batch recipe.

Using my favorite brand of root beer: Sprecher, I mixed exactly (more or less) two thirds of the bottle with the shortening and heated the mixture in the microwave to precisely the approximate temperature Amanda recommends. I added the salt which created a nice sparkling effect when it hit the root beer--those who enjoyed kitchen chemistry experiments as children will appreciate this--followed by the molasses which, true the cliché, is rather slow. Next came the yeast, the oil, the flour, the stand-mixing and the kneading.
rootbeer_1 rootbeer_2
I let the dough rise twice, just because I had heard it would have a nice effect. I made one loaf into a three braid and then attempted several times to make a four braid, failing each time even more than the last (not for any lack of proper instruction from the challah blog, just my own ineptness) before settling for two three braids. I placed the loaves in the oven and baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes precisely.
The result was rather tasty. There was only a modest taste of root beer but distinct nonetheless. The softness also lasted several days which was nice.

If I were to try this recipe again, I might do a few things differently:
  1. In using Amanda's half-batch recipe, I accidently used the amount of oil from the full batch. This wasn't so bad except that I had to use a lot more flour to compensate for the extra moisture which may have diluted the root beer flavor.  {Note from The Mrs: We weren't paid anything and did not receive anything from Sprecher to make this challah.  We just really love our local brewer.}
  2. I used Sprecher root beer since it is both my favorite and a local delicacy. It's one downside is that it uses an additive sweetener which we try to avoid in our cooking/baking. Next time I might use an all natural brand.
  3. Amanda recommends not mixing the salt and yeast directly together as it can kill the yeast. This was not a problem with this batch but I would hold off on the salt until later to be safe.
rootbeer_6 rootbeer_8
NEXT UP: Coffee Milk {the Official State Drink of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations} Challah!

*{Footnote}* The recipe also lists lard as an option but given the difficulty in finding kosher lard, I went the vegetable shortening.