Tag Archives: alchemy

Challah {Four-Strand Braid}

29 Nov

Four Braid ChallahThanksgiving snuck up on me this year – does everyone feel that way every year? I had suggested to my parents that we embrace “Thanksgivukkah” and serve a Jewish-themed appetizer course, followed by the traditional Thanksgiving meal. They did not require much convincing. Any excuse to eat latkes, lox, and pastrami is welcomed around these parts.

I was not able to attend October’s Cooking Club (Hostess: SLSC; Theme: Thanksgiving Inspiration; Date: 10.27.13), but the menu included Pumpkin Challah expertly baked by EDL, which received rave reviews from the attendees, so I decided to include it in my family’s celebration.

However, I have a very traditional family, and as I braided the pumpkin challah, I could tell my dad would have preferred a regular old challah.  The pumpkin-flavored bread ended up being delicious and appreciated, but my dad was right. If you were expecting challah, it wasn’t “challah.”

I have made challah before, but looking through my recipe files, it may have been over 8 years ago – and I have never made a braid with more than 3 strands. The pumpkin challah turned out perfect, so I went back to the same source for her traditional challah recipe. Another winner! I particularly appreciated the tutorial on how to braid challah, and I decided on the four-strand braid. I wanted to use half the batch of dough to make dinner rolls, and didn’t think I would have enough dough to attempt anything more complex that would still have a wow-factor. I literally got “oohs” and “ahhs.” It is hard to deny that braided challah is indeed gorgeous.

– 1 packet active dry yeast
– 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 1 t sugar
– 1 egg (whole)
– 3 egg yolks {save the whites for breakfast tomorrow!}
– 1/3 cup honey
– 2 T canola oil
– 1 t salt
– 1 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 6 c flour {you probably won’t use it all, but should have it available}
– 1 egg yolk
– 2 t water

How do I make it?

  • Pour the yeast into a large mixing bowl. Add the 1/4  c water and 1 t sugar. Stir to combine and dissolve, and let it sit until it gets foamy (about 5 minutes).
  • While the yeast is doing its thing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the whole egg, 3 egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt.
  • When the yeast in the large bowl is foamy and fragrant, add the remaining 1 1/4 c water and pour in the egg mixture you just whisked. Whisk it all together.
  • Add flour to the mixture, one half cup at a time. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Continue to add flour until the dough is smooth and pliable. {You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook, but it doesn’t take that long or use too much energy to do it with your hands. When you use your hands, you are very aware of whether it is too sticky. When the dough is ready, it should be slightly tacky on your fingers, but not stick in clumps.}
  • Place the kneaded dough in a large bowl that you have sprayed with cooking oil (if you want to use the same bowl, be sure to wash it out first). Spray the top of the dough with oil too.
  • Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, and place in your oven (that is OFF) to rise. In a large microwave-safe container (like a 12-cup Pyrex), microwave water until it boils, and place that into the oven with the dough.
  • Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  • Take the dough bowl out and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Re-microwave the water and place it back in the oven.
  • Cover the dough bowl again with the towel and place it back inside the oven and let it rise for another hour. At this point, it should have approximately doubled.
  • Take the dough out of the oven and punch it down a few times. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board (or a clean granite countertop). Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling too sticky on your fingers.
  • I used half of the recipe to make small dinner rolls*, and the other half for a braided loaf.
  • Separate the dough you will braid into 4 equal portions. I found it easiest to use a bench scraper to cut the dough into long pieces, rather than balls. You will be rolling the dough into rectangles (rather than a circle), so this served as a little shortcut for me.
  • With a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle – whatever you have – but make sure it is well-floured and stays that way), roll one portion of dough into a rectangle. Now take that rectangle and, using your hands, roll it into a long strand (like a play-doh snake). Roll the strand around and try to work out the seam, and squeeze out any air bubbles. If you can, try to taper the ends a bit by squeezing them and then rolling to smooth them out.
  • Repeat this process with the other three portions.
  • Lay the strands out parallel to each other, with the tapered ends farthest from you.
  • Loosely pinch the strands together at the top. You are now ready to braid.
  • Starting all the way at the right, weave the strand OVER-UNDER-OVER. That is, OVER the first strand to the left of it, then UNDER the next strand, then OVER the final strand. Leave that strand all the way at the left, and repeat with the next strand. Continue this process until you are at the end of the strands.

Four Braid Challah

  • Pinch together and tuck under both ends.

Four Braid Challah-2

  • Step back and admire.
  • Place the braid on a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  • Whisk the egg yolk and water together in a small bowl until smooth and uniform.
  • * To make dinner rolls, make more strands, and tie them each in a knot, pinching the ends together and placing that pinched seam down on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
  • Brush the dough (the large braid or the dinner rolls) with the egg wash.

Four Braid Challah-3

  • Let the dough rise, uncovered, for 30-45 more minutes.
  • Place a rack in the middle of your oven, and preheat to 350. You will be baking for 40 minutes total, in two shifts.
    • After the first 20 minutes, pull the challah out of the oven and re-brush it with the remaining egg wash, making sure to get in the little crevasses. {One of my favorite things about challah is that little part that gets exposed during baking – but you need to take this time to brush it with egg wash!}
    • Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. If the crust is getting too brown, place a piece of tin foil over it (the dough will still bake, but the crust will not get more brown under the foil).
  • The dough is done when it sounds hollow when you tap on it (easier to hear when you tap on the bottom).
  • Serve with pretty much anything – breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Four Braid Challah-5Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Original link: http://theshiksa.com/2010/08/25/challah-bread-part-1-the-blessing-and-the-dough/comment-page-2/#comments

our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly “link up party” called Our Growing Edge, which is an online way to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. Our Growing Edge is the brain child of Genie from Bunny Eats Design, and I am the hostess this month. The posts for November’s link up can be found here. New for me with this post: A four-strand braid for challah!

Challah with Apples and Honey

4 Sep

Challah-3Tonight marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. Happy New Year! I love this holiday and seize the opportunity for fresh beginnings. I treat it like a traditional new year and spend the day reflecting about the past year and year to come; straightening my apartment, organizing my life, and vowing to get to the gym; and cooking. Always cooking. And always vowing to get to the gym.

There are a few explanations about the origins of the tradition, but on this holiday, we enjoy a taste treat – apples and challah dipped in honey. I always learned that the round apple represents a fresh new year, and the honey symbolizes (well, pretty literally) sweetness. Together now: A sweet new year. Braided challah bread is a traditional Jewish food, but on Rosh Hashanah, challah is shaped into spirals to symbolize continuity.

Challah-2This recipe combines apples, honey, and challah in one awesome 9″ round pan. I feel like you might not need serving suggestions (“slice, raise to mouth, and chew” seems a little obvious), but I recommend serving straight from the oven when it’s fresh and hot, or as soon as possible after. Keep it on your kitchen counter under a cake saver, and serve toasted slices with some spreadable honey butter* a day or two later. And if by some bizarre chance it lasts longer than that, use it in a bread pudding or slice it into crustless squares to use for french toast. {I have a few squares in my freezer now – get ready for breakfast Saturday, SLRH!}

– 2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
– 3.5 c flour, plus more for kneading
– 3/4 c warm water (100 degrees)
– 1/3 c honey {buy local! perfect farmer’s market purchase}
– 2 large eggs and 3 large egg yolks
– 1 package active dry yeast
– 1 t kosher salt
– 2 apples, peeled and sliced in to small thin pieces
– 2 T unsalted butter
– 3 T honey

How do I make it?

  • Spray a large bowl with olive oil spray.
  • Combine the melted butter, the flour, water, 1/3 c honey, the eggs and yolks, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix until dough forms using a spoon or a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth; or if using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix until smooth. Add a bit of flour if it gets too sticky to work with.
  • Transfer dough to prepared bowl, and spray with olive oil. Cover with plastic.
  • Let rise in a warm place until dough almost doubles in volume, about 1.5 hours. It’s ok if it takes a little longer (if you have the time), and it’s also ok if it doesn’t totally double.
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Press into a large rectangle, about 9″ x 14”. It doesn’t really matter exactly how big or what shape, you just want a large surface area. Spread the apples over the dough and then knead to incorporate. Return to bowl. Spray again with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let rise again in a warm place until dough almost doubles in volume, about 1 hour more.
  • Butter sides and bottom of a 9” round cake pan. You can also cover the bottom with a 9″ round of parchment paper (but be sure to butter the sides). Roll dough into a rope (about 24 inches) on a floured surface. Coil into a circle, and transfer to pan. It will not fill the pan, but fret not. Butter plastic wrap, and cover dough.
  • Let rise again until dough almost doubles in volume, about 45 minutes more. It should now fill the pan!
  • Heat remaining 2 T butter and 3 T honey in a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts. Brush dough with the honey butter.
  • Bake until golden brown and firm, about 35 minutes.
  • Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes or until cool to the touch. Turn out loaf from pan, and let cool.

More information please?

* Honey butter can have a variety of ratios of honey : butter. You can use anything from 1/4 c honey : 1 T unsalted butter, to 1/4 c honey : 3 T unsalted butter. Heat the honey and butter in a small pan until the butter melts; refrigerate to solidify, or serve warm.


Original link: http://www.marthastewart.com/314038/apple-honey-challah

Serve with:

Food_034_How to: Roast Asparagus

Roasted Garlic + Rosemary Beer Bread

13 Jul

Roasted Garlic + Rosemary Beer Bread

Do you love fresh-baked bread … but fear the thought of working with yeast? I recommend starting with a delicious baby-step: Beer bread! Beer bread is just what it sounds like – bread that is made with beer. What kind of beer? Any kind, really, and the bread will take on a subtle taste of the beer you choose. For this recipe, all you do is mix together the ingredients, and bake! No proofing or rising – just one hour till your kitchen smells like freshly-baked bread.

Roast the garlic in advance and keep it in your fridge for a few days in the tin foil you used to roast it – and you will be ready to make this bread at a moment’s notice.

Beer bread will generally not be sturdy enough to use in a sandwich, but would be perfect for a snack, or served with queso or cheese fondue spooned on top, or toasted and spread with a whipped butter.

– 2 roasted heads of garlic
– 2 c whole wheat flour
– 1 c flour
– 2 T sugar
– 2 T extra virgin olive oil
– 1 T baking powder
– 1 T chopped fresh rosemary
– 3/4 t kosher salt
– 1 bottle beer (I used Corona, but try any lager or pilsner – or other!)

How do I make it?

  • Preheat the oven to 375, and spray a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients except the beer. To remove the roasted garlic from the bulb, just pinch at the root end, and work your fingers (and the garlic) toward the open ends – it will squeeze right out. Stir the ingredients, separating the garlic cloves and coating them with flour.
  • Pour in the beer and only stir until the ingredients are moistened – do not overmix!
  • This will need to bake for almost an hour, but check on it at 50 and 55 minutes. The top will turn golden brown, and a toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle will come out without crumbs clinging to it.
  • Let it cool before removing from the pan and slicing.

Roasted Garlic + Rosemary - squareOriginal link: http://recipes.womenshealthmag.com/Recipe/roasted-garlic-beer-bread.aspx

Homemade Grilled Bread

23 Jun


At this month’s Cooking Club, I acquainted myself with a propane grill at a good old-fashioned barbecue in AWP’s backyard. My apartment building has a community grill on the roof, and I had not made much use of it – until now. Yes, the success of this bread has made me want to grill.

For Cooking Club, I selected to make Grilled Flatbreads; we will talk about them later. The toppings for the Grilled Flatbread were just gilding the lily – this bread is wonderful on its own and deserves its own post. It is thick and moist and, if I may, it tastes kind of like Papa John’s breadsticks. No joke. It puffs up a satisfying amount on the grill – I started my dough at about 1″ thick and after grilling it ended up 2″ or 3″ high (and it is not just a 2″ – 3″ high bubble inside!). Serve on its own or with a garlic dipping oil, or with any dipping sauce really, and enjoy.

1 package active dry yeast
– 4 3/4 cups white flour plus more for dusting
– 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 T kosher salt
– 1/2 c low-fat sour cream
– vegetable oil (like canola, for brushing)

How do I make it?

  • Dissolve yeast in 3 c warm water (100-110 degrees) in a large bowl (I use an enormous bowl with a snap-on lid) until it gets a little bubbly and/or foamy.
  • Add the flours, and mix with your fingertips until a shaggy dough forms.
  • What is a shaggy dough? I wondered myself, until I made the recipe the first time and the dough was … well … shaggy! Kind of stringy, I guess. I will tell you what it’s not: pretty.


  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap (or lid) and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  • Sprinkle salt over dough, then add sour cream. Knead with your hands until well incorporated – the dough should pull away from sides of bowl and hold together in a loose, wet ball (about 5 minutes). The dough will be very soft and wet.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap (or lid) and let dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Knead dough a few times to deflate. At this point, you can either:
    • Cover and chill for up to 2 days. The dough will develop in flavor and continue to rise slowly in refrigerator. I have been using this method; even if it is just shifting the hours to another day, it is less burdensome to think of this as a one-hour recipe (that is ready to bake the next day).
    • -OR- Let the dough stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, 3–4 hours. The warmer and more humid your kitchen is, the faster it will rise. Chill for 1 hour before grilling to make it easier to handle.
  • Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Generously flour a work surface. Working with 1 or 2 portions at a time (depending on how many flatbreads will fit on your grill), roll out dough or press with your hands. My dough was so elastic that I just used my hands and pulled it as thin as I could get it, which was a bit less than an inch. It does not have to be, and will likely not be, perfectly round.
  • To bake:
    • Heat a gas grill to high. Brush grill rack with oil. Grill dough until lightly charred on one side and no longer sticking to grill, 2–3 minutes. It may help you to close the lid while you are cooking. Using a spatula, flip dough and grill until cooked through, 1–2 minutes longer. If it seems like the outside is done and the inside is not, put it on the top rack of the grill to cook the inside with indirect heat.
    • -OR- Heat your oven to 450. Place the dough on a floured heavy baking sheet, and cook until browned (about 10 minutes). Flip, and repeat (it will be less time for the second side).
  • If you are not sure if the dough is done on the inside – and really, how would you be for your first batch? – make one of the servings the crash test dummy, and try it at various points to see how the baking is going.

Grilled Bread!

Original link: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/07/grilled-flatbread

Fresh Ricotta Cheese

15 Jun


al·che·my [al-kuh-mee], n.

1.  a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
2.  any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.

That is how I feel about making fresh ricotta cheese. In honor of this post, I am adding an “alchemy” tag, for those recipes where something truly common is transformed into something of great value … something magical … maybe short of “elixir of life,” but hang with me, you never know.

Would you believe you can make fresh cheese that will be ready to eat – start to finish – in under 15 minutes? I promise you can!

Use fresh ricotta cheese in lasagna, on pizzas, or serve with some cinnamon and fresh fruit for breakfast (that is, if you have any left after you taste one bite of the fresh, warm finished product).

You will need cheesecloth to make this recipe, which can be easily found at any kitchen store, most grocery stores, or of course, online.

– 1 quart (4 c) organic whole milk
– 1/2 c heavy cream
– 1/4 t kosher salt
– 1.5 T fresh lemon juice
How do I make it?
  • Place a large strainer over a larger bowl, and line the strainer with two layers of cheesecloth. My strainer sat very close to the bottom of the bowl, so I crumpled a few balls of tin foil to separate them.
  • In a dutch oven, slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil over moderate heat. Stir often with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom. You do NOT want the milk to scorch.
  • Once the mixture is boiling, add the lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain for a few minutes. Pick up the cheese cloth that has caught the curds and place in a smaller bowl. and chill, covered. (You can discard the liquid in the large bowl.)
  • The ricotta will last a few days in the refrigerator.

Yep, that easy!

Original link: http://www.cherryteacakes.com/2011/07/neapolitan-spinach-pesto-ricotta-pizza.html


1. Be sure to use fresh lemon juice to get maximum curd-age (lesson learned from loyal friend and commenter, Holly).

2. I tried this with organic skim milk (still with the 1/2 c heavy cream) this morning – with great results! The curds were a bit bigger, and it tasted just as delicious. Do not get me wrong, the whole milk version was probably a bit richer, but the skim would be perfect to mix in to a dish like pasta or lasagna if you are looking for something lighter (I usually am). I could tell it was lower-fat in the same way that you can tell frozen yogurt is not ice cream – does not stop me from eating and enjoying it!