Recipe Love: Challah Bread (or a Giant Loaf of Love)

I adore baking bread and am always amazed that with a few simple ingredients, you can go from something that resembles paste to creating something so utterly delicious. Kneading dough is also the perfect way to get out your aggressions, though not that I have any.

Growing up in my predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Miami, one bread favorite was always Challah. It’s essentially bread rich with eggs and served at high holidays. Though to me, it’s perfect anytime of year. It’s also the first bread that I learned to bake. I let it rise twice for long periods of time which yields fluffier dough. It also turns out a gigantic loaf of bread. My finished bread (pictured below) measured in at a whopping 15” x 7”. You may want to divide this up into two smaller loaves. I used a 3-strand braiding technique, much like braiding hair but this type of loaf also turns out really pretty when using a 5 or 6 stranded braiding technique. Artisan Bread Baking has excellent tutorials on bread braiding techniques. Hope you enjoy making this as much as I do!  Enjoy.

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Challah Bread

1 ¼ c warm water (295 ml)

1 yeast packet (1 ½ t or 9g)

2 Tbl. Honey (about 40 ml)

2 Tbl. Sunflower oil (about 40 ml)

2 eggs

1 t salt

4 cups all-purpose flour (500g) (plus more for kneading and dusting)

1 egg white + ½ t water for egg wash

 

Pour yeast into a bowl. Add warm water (110 F / 45 c) and honey. Sir and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes frothy.

Add oil, eggs and salt and blend well. Gradually stir in the flour a little at a time until incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating more dough as necessary. Knead dough until it is no longer sticky and is quite elastic - usually around 10 minutes.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Place the bowl in a warm, dry place and let sit until it has risen double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and knead slightly to release any air. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece out into a snake shape.

To braid the 3 stranded method: Place each piece along side one another, folding the right piece over to the left and the left piece over to the right at the top (photo 1). Lift up the center piece and bring the left piece over to the right to start braiding as though braiding hair. Keep braiding until you reach the end. Tuck the left piece over the right and the right piece over the left as in the beginning.

Place the braided bread onto an oiled baking sheet. Cover with the damp cloth and let sit for a ½ hour until risen. (* This second rising really adds dimension, air and girth to the loaf)

Create the egg wash by mixing a teaspoon of water with an egg yolk. Brush onto the bread making sure to reach the crevices. (* You can also use an egg yolk mixed with water for the wash. It creates a darker, more golden crust. I personally just prefer the egg white)

Bake the loaf in a 375F (190c) preheated oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown. When it is fully cooked, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool before serving.

For the Love of Pizza

I love to cook and of course adore to eat. One of my favorite foods is Pizza. I once spent a gluttonous 30 days eating my Pizza way through the Mediterranean. I’ve had pizza in Rome, the famed Pizza in Naples and a surprisingly fabulous pizza in Dubrovnik. Though the journey was tantalizing, I must admit that I gained so much weight on that venture that when I returned home to the States my father said to me “You look great but I’ve never seen you with a pot-belly.” Thanks Dad.

So now I reserve pizza for special occasions. I’ve spent the last year on a weight-loss kick and am now happily and healthily down 30 pounds (almost 14 kilos!). Thanks Weight Watchers.

Last night we had my boyfriend’s daughters over for pizza. I made the dough in the afternoon and let it sit then using a pizza stone in the oven, cooked it to delicious perfection.

The recipe is incredibly easy. I really suggest using a pizza stone for the best results.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (235 mil)

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups (410 mil) flour, plus more for kneading

Place the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add warm water and sugar and let sit for about 10 minutes. The mixture should become frothy.

Add olive oil and salt and mix. Gradually add in the flour about a cup at a time stirring to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, take out and turn onto a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary. Knead 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let sit in a warm place until risen and doubled in size, about 1 hour.

When you are ready to make pizza, place the stone into the oven and turn on to the highest setting- about 450-500 degrees F or 250 C.  Let heat about 15 minutes while you make your pizzas.

I’ve found that making smaller pizzas with less sauce and not a ton of toppings work best when using the stone. Top with your favorite ingredients and then slowly slide onto the stone. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Pizza Love in the Netherlands

Pizza Love in the Netherlands

New Friend and the Food of Dutch Language

I have my very own friend in the Village- one that I met myself. I actually had met her a few years ago in Alaska of all places and turned out she lives about 2 blocks from my boyfriend. Though my life is ripe with these sorts of magical occurrences- still, what are the chances? And to make things even sweeter- she’s also crafty. I hit the craft lottery so to speak when I found out that in addition to owning several sewing machines, she also has an overlock serger machine, a walking-foot sewing machine and a knitting machine- all of which I can borrow. I’m in a bit of crafty heaven right about now. And like me, she also loves to cook.

The other day she picked me up and we drove to Groningen (the Big city here). It’s a beautiful old town with a University and great shopping. It was positively freezing though and that made strolling through the Friday Market near Arctic. She took me to a stall that sold nothing but spices. Absolutely glorious spices of every color, type and dimension. As a girl who loves to cook, I was just about blown away!

Early on, I decided to focus my Dutch language learning for the time being on food. I read Dutch cookbooks and all the Grocery Store advertisements to learn words. Funny, that I learned to say “Bieslook” (Chives) before I learned to say “Hoe gaat het?” (How are you?) But it makes sense for now as I can not yet go to school until I start the Immigration process and get a residency number. I figure I will master the language of food, then move on to fashion in this self-study. Perhaps this mode of learning will amuse my teachers once I finally can enroll in Dutch school. At least, for now my homework is delicious.

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