Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sliced Apple Challah

This year, I made a quick experiment for a new apple challah method.
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I peeled a medium-sized Gala Apple and then sliced it thin with a mandoline.  Then I prepared a sugar-cinnamon mixture (2 parts sugar, 1 part cinnamon) and dipped each slice in the mixture.
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I did two methods to place the apple slices in between the coil of the challah.  The best result was to try to keep the coil loose, otherwise, it will pop the slices up and out as the challah rises in the oven.
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The result was tasty, sweet, and slightly crispy at the top of the slices!  Yum!
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Shana Tova from our bayit to yours!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Challah

One of the first "fancy" challot that I ever made was a Parmesan Roasted Garlic Challah.  It was really, REALLY garlicky... and delicious.  This challah is a variation off of that very recipe.  I love savory challot, especially when they involve herbs from my garden, like Rosemary Olive Oil Challah, Pesto Challah, and Pizza Challah (the Hazz's favorite).

This challah takes a bit more time because you have to roast the garlic in advance before preparing the dough, but trust me.  It's worth it.
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3/4 c water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting
3 to 3 1/2 c bread flour
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 head of garlic
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
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First, you'll roast your clove of garlic.  I run the clove under water and pull off any skin with dirt on it.  Then slice off the top of the head, drizzle with a little olive oil, and wrap in foil.  Bake in 425 oven for 20-25 minutes.  When your garlic is roasted and cooled to handle, squeeze out the garlic with a tongs or by hand and mash with a fork.
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When your garlic is ready, start with very warm (but not hot) water in mixing bowl. Add yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar, mixing lightly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or so, until yeast is foamy. Add 2 eggs, 2 tbs olive oil, and garlic in the bowl and mix with wood spoon.

Add flour, salt, and finely chopped rosemary and beat with dough hook on standmixer or by hand. If the dough is not holding together as a ball, add a bit more oil or water. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour. The dough is ready when it sticks together as a ball and is not sticky to the touch when you poke your finger in (5-10 minutes of beating). Turn the ball out onto a floured work surface and punch a few times until very smooth.

Place in oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap or a towel.

Allow to rise at least one hour, preferably more (usually about an hour and a half), until dough has doubled in size. Punch down the ball in the bowl. Braid in your preferred method. Allow to rise 20-30 minutes. Top with an egg wash and a little more olive oil and a few sprigs of rosemary if you like.
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Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, rotating 180 degrees after the first 15 minutes. You can use a bread thermometer (180-200 degrees) or poke at the seams. Foil if browning too quickly on top.

I just love how aromatic and savory this challah is. Yes, I'm usually a sweet challah gal, but I love variety now and again! The olive oil also makes the dough light and fluffy.
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Shavua Tov from our bayit to yours!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Vanilla Challah

As I posted a few weeks ago, our life has been pretty sweet lately.  Exhausting, yes.  But pretty sweet.  We've been enjoying our little girl tremendously.

So where have I been?  Well, I've been around.  If you're not interested in personal details, you can skip to the recipe... But here they are: This past fall was incredibly challenging, because I began a PhD program that involved a 90 minute commute and my mother, of blessed memory, was in hospice for nearly two months after a six year battle with pancreatic cancer.  And I was in first trimester of pregnancy.  And then, this winter and spring, we ate a lot of plain challah, Nutella challah, and fresh herbed challah.  Whatever tasted good, and whatever was easy in a busy, busy time.

So, needless to say, things are a lot brighter and a lot sweeter now after a tough fall.  They're no less busy... in fact, they're kind of completely insane.  This recipe was prepared with a baby in an Ergo (save the oven opening... be safe folks), so please bear with me if anything doesn't make sense!  We're not working with too much sleep here!  In honor of this new sweetness in life, here's a sweeter challah that I tried out this past Shabbat!
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3/4 c water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
1/4 c neutral oil like vegetable or canola
3 to 3 1/2 c bread flour
3 tbsp + 1/4 tsp sugar plus additional 1/2 tsp for egg wash
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla plus additional 1 tsp for egg wash

Place very warm (but not hot) water in mixing bowl. Add yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar, mixing lightly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or so, until yeast is foamy. Add 2 eggs, 1 tbsp vanilla, 3 tbsp sugar and vegetable oil and mix with wood spoon.
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Add flour and salt and beat with dough hook on standmixer or by hand.  If the dough is not holding together as a ball, add a bit more oil or water. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour (for some reason, I needed more flour this week... perhaps it was the humidity, perhaps the additional vanilla). The dough is ready when it sticks together as a ball and is not sticky to the touch when you poke your finger in (5-10 minutes of beating). Turn the ball out onto a floured work surface and punch a few times until very smooth.

Place in oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap or a towel.

Allow to rise at least one hour, preferably more (usually about an hour and a half), until dough has doubled in size. I only do one rise as a ball, but you can do more. I'm not convinced it does much to the texture but some people swear by it.
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Punch down the ball in the bowl and remove. Punch out all air bubbles. Braid in your preferred method. Allow to rise 20-30 minutes. Top with an egg wash of 1 egg plus 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  (Credit where credit is due, I drew on this recipe for the wash proportions.)

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, rotating 180 degrees after the first 15 minutes. You can use a bread thermometer (180-200 degrees) or poke at the seams.  Foil if browning too quickly on top.
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This challah is sweet and fragrant, with an almost boozy aroma to it.  It makes me want to try brandy challah or rum challah.  While I'm not sure I'd want this as my every-week-challah, I enjoyed the mildly sweet treat.
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How are you making your challot a sweet treat?  Shavua Tov from our bayit to yours!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where We've Been...

We've been baking up a little something else lately...
She's very helpful in the kitchen.  Stay tuned, we'll be back.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mounds Bar Challah | Chocolate + Coconut

Ever since skeptically trying out Piña Colada Challah, I've had a lot of fun experimenting with coconut flavors in my challot. It's funny... maybe it's a grown up thing, but as an adult I'm way more excited about coconut than as a kid. (Don't get me wrong; I'm hard-core against those AWFUL little canned Kosher-for-Passover macaroons. YUCK!) I don't cringe in anguish if I get the coconut creme in a box of chocolates. I love cooking with coconut milk in savory dishes. So, we figured... why not coconut in a sweet challah with chocolate.... which turned into a Mounds Bar Challah.
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So what do you think... should we try Almond Joy next? Perhaps with a bit of almond flour in the mix?

This is a great challah to try, because you can use your own challah recipe or try out something new as far as the dough goes. Here's what you'll need...

A challah recipe of your choice -- for these proportions, I used one half of our half batch recipe... about 1 1/2 cups of flour. You'll want to adjust proportions accordingly.

For the 1 1/2 c flour dough, you'll need...
1/4 c plus about 2 Tbs sweetened flaked coconut (from the baking aisle)
1/4 to 1/2 c chocolate chips... I used the LAST of my Parve Trader Joe's chocolate chips, so sad they're OU-D now.

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After your dough is risen and ready to be braided, plop the chocolate chips and 1/4 c coconut on your dough and knead by hand. Have extra flour on hand in case its sticky (it will be).
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Using a sharp knife, divide your dough into the number of strands you'd like to use. Braid as normal.
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After the egg wash, top your challah with shredded coconut. When baking, you'll probably want to foil the top of the loaf near the end (last five minutes) to prevent over-browning.
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We're calling this challah a sweet success!
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Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Purim from The Challah Blog!

On the Shabbat before Purim, we always get into the spirit a little early and make fun challot.  Here are some of our ideas from past years.
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Hamantaschen Challot are an easy and fun way to surprise your guests. Baked upside down, they look like slightly triangular-shaped rolls. But flipped over -- a great surprise!

Okay, so we sometimes make Sprinkle Challah even when it's not Purim, because it's a lot of fun, and kids love it.

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By now, you've probably realized how much I love mix-in challot. M&M Challah is just fun, colorful, and easy!

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Same'ah from our bayit to yours!  What's YOUR Purim costume this year?  We're having a Star Wars theme at our synagogue.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Whole Wheat and Oat Challah

I'm constantly searching for the perfect whole wheat challah.  I've tried upping the egg yolk quantity, mixing in warm milk, and tried and true recipes of the greats.  I've experimented with spelt, kamut, and adding in flax seeds and millet.  I keep trying, and I'm never full satisfied with the result.  Here's another experiment, and this one... we were REALLY happy with.
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3/4 c water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
2 tbsp honey
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
1/4 c neutral oil like vegetable or canola
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c bread flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c old fashioned oats

Approach this challah as you would normally bake an egg bread.  Proof the yeast in warm but not hot water with the honey.  After 10 minutes have passed (or the yeast is foamy and smells strongly), add 2 eggs and the oil.

Add the flours, cinnamon, salt, and oats.  Mix in a stand-mixer or by hand until a ball forms.
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Let rest for about an hour and a half until dough has doubled in size.  Braid as normal.  Let rest an additional 30 minutes.
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Preheat oven to 350.  Use final egg to egg wash the challah and top with honey and a few oats.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.

This challah has inspired me to try more oat recipes or perhaps even oat flour.  The result here is quite soft, aromatic, and hearty.  Have YOU worked with oats in bread before?
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Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah from Smitten Kitchen

This is just a review.  I didn't make this challah.  In fact, for the first time in my adult life, I followed the recipe faithfully.  Usually when a recipe says "use one clove of garlic," I'll use three.  Or "use 1/4 tsp of cinnamon," I'll use 3/4.  But I have wanted to try this recipe for a while, and it seemed like the perfect option for last week's Shabbat which coincided with Tu Bishvat. 
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Why figs for Tu Bishvat?  From about.com...
1) Unusual among fruit trees, the fig can produce fruit over a long season, from Shavuot to Sukkot (late May to early October).

a) You cannot pick all the figs at once, but only gradually, over a long season. Similarly, you cannot learn the whole Torah at once, but only gradually, little by little, over an entire lifetime. (Midrash Numbers Rabba 12,9; 21,15)

b) Whenever you go to the fig tree, you are likely to find ripe fruit to eat. Similarly, whenever you go to the Torah, you will find nourishment for the spirit. (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 54a, b)

2) Most fruits have inedible parts: dates have pits, grapes have seeds, pomegranates have skins. But every part of the fig can be eaten. Similarly, no part of the Torah is without value; all parts of it provide sustenance. (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, Joshua 2)
So, why NOT figs for Tu Bishvat?
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Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite food blogs.  So when I saw the Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah this past fall, I immediately knew that I had to try it.  The recipe is pretty straightforward.  The dough has a much higher quantity of honey that what I normally put in my own challah, however the sweetness balances the aromatic olive oil and the sea salt.
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To be honest, I nearly messed up the fig puree by adding too much orange juice. I ended up pouring out all the liquids and starting over. Oh well. I ended up slightly short on fig puree for my second challah (which I made a standard long braid in stead of a round... but even though it was Rosh Hashanah, we did enjoy the round for Shabbat).
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The verdict: We liked it, but we didn't love it. It didn't get finished before it became stale. That said, I would definitely make this for a crowd. The dough is very lightly salty, but aromatic from the olive oil. The orange juice really came through in my fig puree. And the challah simply baked up in such a lovely way.
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