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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