Friday, July 27, 2012

Maple Cinnamon Challah

I rarely make challah in loaf pans, but every so often, it seems like the right choice.  Since we're normally "tearers/rippers" in our family (as opposed to "slicers"), sliced challah only comes around when the loaf really necessitates a knife.  This challah is one of those.
For this challah, I used Trader Joe's Maple Sugar, which I have been wanting to try since I made Wisconsin Maple Syrup Challah back in March. Maple sugar is created when sap is boiled beyond the point of maple syrup and into a crystallized state. It's so sweet, and, when I opened the bag, I found out how wonderfully fragrant it is!

In this challah, I also introduced margarine into the baking process.  Margarine is not something I've ever used in bread before, and I think it does add something to the flakiness of the dough.  You could, of course, always use butter for a dairy challah.

3/4 c plus water
1/4 tsp plain white sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry or instant yeast
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash (you can also reserve a little of the 1 egg in the dough)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp maple sugar

3 - 3 1/2 c bread flour

For the cinnamon swirl filling, adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp water

You can make this challah with or without the cinnamon swirl. If making without, simply proceed as normal with braiding. Conversely, you can simply substitute maple sugar into your own basic challah. Because maple sugar is very strong and sweet, I recommend 2 tbsp of maple sugar to replace every 1/4 tbsp sugar (about half the original quantity of sugar).

Before you start, take out your margarine and allow it to reach room temperature. Proof yeast in very warm water with the 1/4 tsp white sugar. Allow to rest about 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add the room-temperature margarine in small pieces (kind of like you would for a pie) and add the eggs. Mix gently to break the yolks and add the maple sugar, flour, and salt. I usually mix briefly before going to the dough hook on my KitchenAid.
maple_cinnamon_01   maple_cinnamon_02
I'm not sure if it was the margarine or just the humidity of baking the summer, but for this challah, I probably ended up ultimately using closer to four cups of flour. Add more as needed if you dough is not holding together. Once a ball forms, punch by hand a few times and place in an oiled bowl. Let rest for about an hour and a half until doubled in bulk.
While the dough rises, you can make the filling if you are doing a cinnamon roll challah. I've done challah with cinnamon several times before; it's definitely one of our favorite flavors. My mom's technique for cinnamon rolls is to use melted margarine or butter as a base for the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Here, I followed a recommendation in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, where Martha suggests you simply mix the cinnamon and sugar together with a little water to create a paste. It worked really well! I think you could also sub out some of the sugar for maple sugar if desired. Definitely trying that next time!
maple_cinnamon_05 maple_cinnamon_06
Punch down the dough. Divide with a bench scraper (FYI: Up until just before publishing this, the recipe said "Divide with a bench press!) or sharp knife into two large pieces. Either braid as normal here or you can make the filled challah. I flattened each piece with my hand and then gave a quick roll with a rolling pin.

Add the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then fold over the two long sides. Remember, the longer your roll, the more coils of cinnamon you'll have but less soft dough. It's your preference.
maple_cinnamon_07 maple_cinnamon_08
Start at the top. Roll down toward you and place in an oiled loaf pan. I didn't seal my seams as good as I could have, so my cinnamon edges kind of leaked out. It made the whole loaf very sticky, but oh so crystallized and delicious!
Let rest an additional 20 minutes. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, rotating halfway!
Slice and enjoy! (In the interest of journalistic integrity, I made these on Thursday night at around 10pm. The Hazz had already gone to bed, and I managed to eat about half of one of the loaves by myself. Then when I got home from work this afternoon, he had polished off the good portion of the rest. Yum! We're saving the other for Shabbat along with a Basic Challah.
Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!

PS: Are you thinking about the High Holidays yet? I'm married to a Hazzan, so I'm already HEARING about them ;) But, I've got a few fun things in the works for Rosh Hashanah this year that I'm really excited about. Stay tuned and Happy Baking!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rosemary Olive Oil Challah

Thanks to everyone who sent messages and comments about last week.  While I cannot say things are great, they are better.  It was important for me to be away from home and from fancy challah baking.  That said, we made basic challah, and it was delicious and loved by all.  It was exactly the Shabbat we needed.  I promise, I'm working on getting a Rye Challah recipe for you.  So, stay tuned.
This week, since I couldn't find any rye flour at my local grocery store, I decided to go with the garden again.  We have two beautiful rosemary bushes in our garden--one regular and one creeping.
rosemary1 rosemary2
I've used rosemary in challah before, but for this challah, I wanted to experiment with a pretty high content of olive oil.  We use Trader Joe's extra virgin, and we're very happy with the flavor and the price!

I was inspired by A Hint of Honey's Rosemary Olive Oil Bread, which uses a mixture of white whole wheat and bread flour.

1/2 c plus 2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp raw sugar (white sugar is fine if that's what you have)
1 1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 egg plus 1 more for egg wash (you can also reserve a little of the 1 egg in the dough)
1/4 c olive oil
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 c flour (I used about 3/4 c white whole wheat and the rest bread flour)
3/4 tsp salt
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

This recipe is on the small side, and will yield one medium-sized loaf or two quite small loaves. Perfect for dinner for two!

Mix very warm but not hot water together with the yeast and sugar.  Let rest for about 10 minutes.  During this time, you can go out to your garden and harvest some fresh rosemary!  I chose to use the creeping rosemary for this recipe, because the leaves (are they leaves?) are smaller and I think the flavor is a bit more delicate.
Add egg and olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon.  Add the flour (use any combination of whole wheat, bread flour, or unbleached all-purpose), salt, and 1 to 1 1/2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped.  Knead by hand or on a stand mixer until a ball forms.  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 and remove. Punch out all air bubbles.  Braid in your preferred method. Allow to rise 20-30 minutes. Top with an egg wash (I use the yolk and white) and the remaining rosemary.
rosemary5 rosemary6
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
Can I just say how much I love garden-season Shabbatot?  Oh, I've already said that?  Well, I'm  saying it again.  This Shabbat, it's zucchini and patty pan squash soup, beef and tofu with garden oregano, rosemary olive oil challah, stuffed garden tomatoes, and kale salad with garden cucumbers.  We made extra, so come on over!

Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

View of Shabbat - Rye Challah

Things are keeping me away right now, chaverim... And I'm iphone-blogging. But my sister-in-law and I tried Rye Challah with caraway seeds. More to come...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Red, White, and Blue{berry} | Part II

Sometimes, chaverim, challot just don't turn out the way I envision them.  In my mind, they're so tasty that I think I can actually sense the flavors.  In my mind, they smell heavenly.  In my mind, they're gorgeous.

This recipe totally fit that bill, but it didn't taste great.  It tasted... fine.  It smelled... fine.  Actually, it smelled a little like vegetables.  And it looked... pretty good.  But, the taste and the smell... *sigh*

There are lots of recipes out there for beet bread.  Bright, gorgeous red loaves.  I wanted to try it with my own fresh garden beets, so pretty and so fresh.
rwb_1 rwb_2
After a bit of research, I decided not to roast the beets and instead just shred them first with a box grater and then with a my food processor. Perhaps this was my first mistake. If I'd roasted them, I could have made more of a think puree. The dough was certainly lovely, if not a bit magenta-ish pink. I hoped for the best.
In the meantime, I whipped up a small batch and added some wild blueberries to half. Once the doughs were ready, I laid them out, said a few more prayers that this might work and braided!
rwb_4 rwb_5
It certainly was a lovely challah and, visually, exactly like I planned. I love the idea of braiding two different doughs together.
I baked it like normal, and soon the smell of challah beets filled my house. Uh oh.  This wasn't what I expected.  Everything I had read told me that the beets would just add color but not too much flavor.  Where my garden-fresh beets just too strong?  Had I wasted some precious, grown-from-seed beets on a challah disaster?

I kept hoping.  And out they came from the oven.
Plus a ruby red challah.
I could tell you guys that this challah is awesome. Or, I could not give you the recipe, because it's a total bummer, and I don't want you all to think that everything I make I'm totally satisfied with. I actually threw a smaller, three-strand away :( because it looked weird, and it tasted LIKE BEETS. The remnants of these challot have been saved... The Hazz hasn't tried them yet, but he wants to give them a go. I don't know. It was a firework of an idea, but a total dud in reality.
Do you ever try new challah recipes that just don't work out? Don't give up! Shabbat Shalom from our bayit to yours!