Friday, June 29, 2012

Pesto Challah

I love garden season!  Our basil has been going a bit crazy lately, so the thing to do is... of course... make homemade pesto.  And when one has fresh pesto, the thing to do is... of course... make pesto challah!

For this challah, you can use your own fresh pesto or store-purchased pesto.  When I make pesto at home, I leave out the cheese to make it parve and then freeze it.  Then I add parmesan later.  It's really up to you, but keep this in mind in case you want to serve your pesto challah with a meat meal.
3/4 c water 2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 egg plus 1 more for egg wash
3 tbsp olive oil
3 c flour (for this recipe, I used 1/4 c white whole wheat and the rest a mixture of bread flour and unbleached all-purpose flour because that's what I had... you can use any proportion to your taste)
1 tsp salt (you may want to omit this depending on the salt quantity in your pesto, especially if it is store-purchased)

2 tbsp prepared pesto

For the homemade pesto, you'll need...

2 BIG handfuls of fresh basil
Pine nuts (about 2 tbsp)
2-5 cloves of garlic (we like it garlicky)
olive oil
pinch of salt
parmesan cheese (if desired)

To prepare the pesto, wash the basil and place in food processor. Peel and roughly slice the garlic and add with the pine nuts. Add a pinch of salt and pulse until finely chopped. You may need to wipe down the sides of the food processor with a spatula. Through the feeder tube, add the olive oil slowly to your desired consistency.
I'm always blow away that two huge handfuls of basil produce such a small amount of pesto. My yield was this little teeny tupperware full... which I divided into a mere 6 ice cubes (freezing is a great way to get just the right amount. You can freeze in ice cube trays and then pop out and put into a plastic bag).

For the challah, add the yeast and sugar to warm (but not hot) water in mixing bowl. Allow yeast to proof about 10 minutes. In the meantime, you can retrieve your pesto from the freezer and thaw it in the microwave if need-be. I used two ice cubes which was equivalent to about 2 tablespoons of pesto.
Mix the pesto into the proofed yeast. Add the egg. Since the pesto already has olive oil, I went easy on the amount of oil in this challah, adding just 3 tablespoons.
Add the flour and salt (if using). At this point, you can also add parmesan cheese if you want to make your challah for a dairy meal. Mix by hand or on a stand mixer until a ball forms. This dough is a bit more relaxed than most of my other doughs.
Place in oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap or a towel. Allow to rise at about an hour and a half, until dough has doubled in size. Braid as normal.
pesto_09 pesto_10
Allow to rise an additional 20-30 minutes. Top with an egg wash and parmesan cheese if you like. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
Surprisingly, the flavor of pesto challah is milder than the taste. You do get your garlicky goodness (which we luuuuurve!), but you can add more or less pesto to your own taste. The result is really fun and the color of the pesto plus the additional olive oil, gives the bread a lovely shade.
Have I mentioned that I LOVE garden season?
Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Friday, June 22, 2012

View of Shabbat: Back to Basics {Basic Challah}

You guys.  Haverim.  I have a confession to make.  I'm a little challah-whelmed.  After the last few weeks of very adventuresome challot {here and here}, I wanted something basic.  Something real.  Something safe.

I wanted to go home.
Do you ever find yourself just yearning for the simple?
I think it was a good choice.
Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemon and Lavender Scented Challah

Garden Season continues!  The basil, thyme, and sage are going crazy.  The tomatoes are starting, and the peppers are gaining color.  When we first planted our garden, I added a little lavender plant.  One year later, the plant has increased in size probably ten-fold and I've never used it for anything.  Time for that to change.
Most lavender recipes out there are for fresh or dried lavender flowers.  I had a great time exploring all sorts of different recipes and information links here, here, and here.  I ultimately decided that I wanted to use various Lemon Lavender muffins as an inspiration.  I've used lemon once before, although the result wasn't very successful.  Last time, I used so much lemon juice that the dough was extra soft, and the lemon scent was overpowering.  This time, I decided to pair the lavender leaves with the zest of a lemon.  Additionally, I added quite a bit of sugar to this recipe and used warmed milk instead of water to proof the yeast.  I think the yeast may have under-proofed a bit, because my resulting challah was dense, almost like a tea biscuit... which was really my goal.  This is the kind of challah that I want to slather with lemon curd and serve with Earl Gray tea.

1/2 c milk (I used skim)
1 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1/4 c plus 1/4 tsp sugar
1 egg (split, I beat it then used "most" in the dough)

2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of half of 1 lemon

Leaves of 1 sprig of fresh lavender

I based this recipe off of my REALLY Small Batch Challah, as I did earlier this month with Strawberry Basil Challah.  One small-size loaf.

Finely chop the lavender.  Place lavender and milk in a small sauce pan on the stove and warm.  Add the yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let rest for about 10 minutes.  Add the egg, rest of the sugar, and lemon zest.   Add the flour and salt.
lavender_1 lavender_3
Knead with a dough hook on 2 or by hand until the dough holds together as a ball.  {You can see how small this batch is here.}
Cover and place in a covered, oiled bowl. Let rise until doubled bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. As I said, the dough didn't seem to really rise... but I just went with it.  Braid as normal.
The Hazz also made me a little "A," perfect for a pre-Shabbat sampling...
Let rest for about a half hour. Egg wash with the reserved egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
I love this challah. It's surprising. It smells like tea time. It just feels fancy. I'm calling it a success. Can't wait for more challah from the garden throughout this summer.
Shavua Tov, from our bayit to yours!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heart-Shaped Challah

Two years ago, I married my best friend.
The man of my dreams, the love of my life.
The least I could do is make him a themed-challah for this past Shabbat. Remember these woven hearts from grade school? That's what I used to base this shape.

First I laid out six strands as so, with some strands longer than others.
Then I wove each strand together like the paper hear.
I tucked under each strand, sawing off extra if necessary.
heart_3   heart_4
Then I just "blobbed" the top portion together and rounded it out. Pretty scientific, huh?
The result was lovely. I informed The Hazz, "You can't look at the challah. It's covered in a towel." Unfortunately, he informed me after we removed the challah cover at dinner that he guessed that it was a heart. He figured our anniversary was coming. No surprise!
Here's to many, many, many more years together!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Strawberry Basil Challah

So, apparently Strawberry + Basil is a trendy combination of flavors.  And all of these look really awesome.  Strawberry Basil Lemonade sounds very refreshing.  However, when I started seeing some baking recipes with this flavor, it got me thinking... could I turn Strawberry Basil Scones and Strawberry Basil Cupcakes into Strawberry Basil Challah?  Well, I gave it a go...
One of thing things that I love, love, love about warm weather is my garden. The Hazz gave it to me for our first anniversary last year {coming up on two years on June 13th!}, and it's one of my favorite places.
garden_02 garden_03
And one of the best things about the garden is the herbs... particularly... THE BASIL!
strawberry_basil_02 strawberry_basil_03
I was very excited to spot these sweetened dried Strawberries at Trader Joe's, similar to the dried blueberries we used in Wild Blueberry Challah in April. A combination of both berries in one challah... definitely coming up in a next few months! Yum!
1/2 c water
1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tsp white sugar
1 egg (split, I beat it then used "most" in the dough)
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
Small handful of fresh basil, chopped
Dried Strawberries

I based this recipe off of my REALLY Small Batch Challah, a challah I created to "test" recipes. I was apprehensive about this recipe working... so the yield is low. One small-size loaf.

The method here is similar to other challah, but since the recipe is so small, you might need to mix by hand instead of with a hook if the dough ball is too small for your mixture. Proof the yeast in the hot water with the sugar. While you're waiting, chop the basil and strawberries.
After the yeast is frothy, add most of the egg (reserve a small amount to be used in the egg wash), vanilla, and oil. Stir in the flour, salt, and basil.

Knead with a dough hook on 2 or by hand until the dough just starts to hold together but is still shaggy. Add the strawberry pieces all at once. Continuing kneading until the dough holds together as a ball.
strawberry_basil_06 strawberry_basil_07
Cover and place in a covered, oiled bowl. Let rise until doubled bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface. Braid as normal, trying to keep the strawberries on the inside of the dough.
Let rest for about a half hour. Egg wash with the reserved egg. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
This challah is really different. The basil aroma comes across much more than the basil flavor. The whole result--the fresh basil marrying the sweet strawberries--is a lovely combination... I completely understand why the flavors are so popular. I think when I make this challah again, I'll add more strawberries and perhaps put a little vanilla in the egg wash to sweeten the whole thing up. I also tried it toasted with a bit of lemon curd... delicious and it made me feel so fancy!
Are YOU incorporating garden fresh ingredients in YOUR challot?

Friday, June 1, 2012

View of Shabbat - June 1st

Friends, sometimes you just have to go back to the basics.
Especially after all that DAIRY last week.
We needed some basic challah.
Plus, it's my birthday tomorrow... so there were more pressing things to bake.
Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!