Month: November 2012

Challah-lew-ya

I’m not usually a “ritual” person. I like change and find routine boring. Except when it comes to making Challah on Friday.  I’m not religiously observant by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something that happens when I start my day making dough.  It just feels good, and it does set the day apart from the rest of the week.  I have come across several good recipes, but this one (posted previously) is my go- to favourite.  If it is hard to handle when you are mixing it, just let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes and then go back to it. It will have “relaxed” (hopefully, so will you).

This makes 2 HUGE breads, or 3 – 4 normal size loaves.

3 tbs.                    active dry yeast (instant or regular)

2 ¼ cups               warm water, divided

¾ tsp.                   sugar

5+1                       eggs (room temp. if possible)

1 1/3(ish) cups    clover or other light honey ( or you can substitute part with maple syrup)

¾ cup                    canola oil

2 ¼ tsp.                salt

10-12 cups          All-purpose flour ( I use organic unbleached, sometimes some bread flour…it really isn’t a finicky recipe)

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 ½ cups of the water, and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes and make sure it proofs.

In a very large bowl beat the 5 eggs with the honey. Add remaining ¾ cups of water, oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.

Add 5 cups of the flour and start mixer. (can add raisins now – 3 cups or so).  Keep adding flour until you have a shaggy mess. 2 options – keep adding flour and mix until you get a dough that is pretty stiff (almost done here) OR, you can let it sit now for 20 minutes – it makes the final knead really easy.

If you are hand kneading, do it now. Add enough flour to get a stiff but not dry dough. Think of “baby’s bum” as what you want here.  If you are machine kneading only, keep adding flour carefully until you get the right texture.

Let rise in a clean bowl, covered with damp towel for 2 – 4 hours. It is forgiving. OR let rise in fridge overnight.  If you refrigerate, it needs 4 – 6 hours to rise the next day)

When dough has risen, punch down and turn onto board.   Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes Divide dough into a multiple of 4. (this recipe makes 3 -4-5 loaves) Roll each lump into a ball, then pull the ball onto itself, making a seam at the bottom (to develop surface tension). Let balls rest 10 minutes at least (cover if they seem like they will dry out)

Roll balls into sets of 4 ropes. Let ropes rest a few minutes (covered).  Add flour to roll the ropes if necessary to keep from sticking, but you still want the dough to feel soft.

Do a 4 rope braid:

IMG_0341

(Pinch ropes together.  Number them 1,2,3,4. Put 1 between 2and 3, put 3 where 1 was then take 4 and put it between 3 and 2, and take 2 and put it where 4 was. Continue and tuck the ends under the loaf. If you need to see it, there are you tube videos.

Put braided challahs on a cookie sheet with parchment. Cover with damp towel (or do egg wash, but don’t sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds) and let rise 45 mins – 1.5 hours.  Again, it is really forgiving. Just make sure it is puffy and doesn’t spring much when you press it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do the egg wash (maybe for a second time) and sprinkle seeds – sesame or poppy, or my kids’ fave, pasteurized or sparkle sugar.

Bake for approx. 45 minutes. You may need to cover loosely with foil if it browns too fast.  Test for doneness by tapping bottom of bread and listening for hollow sound.

I just wish I could somehow post the aroma.

challah

Oh, and you can use the same recipe to make a KILLER bubka.

Bubka

Bubka

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The devil is in…the Brownies.

I can deal with an “ok” cookie, as long as it isn’t stale.  I love cookies and can’t resist them. But brownies and I have a special relationship.  They are my heroin. They DO make bad days better, and good days excellent. That is just the way it is. But there is no room in my life for “ok” brownies.  I have noticed that there is a divide – not quite an Obama/Romney divide (don’t get me started), but a gap nonetheless between those who like brownies cakey (gasp), fudgy (my usual) or chewy (sometimes those work too).

Essentially the difference is mostly about the egg to chocolate ratio.  I combined a few good recipes, and came up with the following:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – use the foil to grease the pan

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

A handful of chocolate chips ( ah, how big is that handful? At least a blue glass worth )

and the magic ingredient….1 tbsp espresso coffee powder

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the pan bottom with parchment, and then butter the sides.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate (not the chips). Remove the pan from the heat; cool slightly. Stir in the sugar and then the vanilla and salt. The mixture will be somewhat grainy; this is okay. Whisk in the eggs stirring each time until blended. Add the flour and espresso powder, stirring just until thickened and smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the extra chocolate chips.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs (not wet batter) clinging to it, 30 to 35 minutes. I LIKE UNDERBAKING THEM A BIT!

Set the pan on a rack until cool. Run a dull knife around the inside edge of the pan and then invert the pan onto a flat surface and peel off the parchment. Flip the baked brownie back onto the rack to cool completely. Cover and place a weight on top. (really – I’m not crazy – this “densifies” them).
Refrigerate a few hours or overnight. (These freeze really well.)Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

You can double this and bake in a 9 x 13 pan.

The verdict: Life is good!  A fudgy/chewy kinda great in fact!

That ugly looking fleck is a yummy chocolate chip. Mmmm.

For those of you who need an ultimate “cheat” recipe, and a non-dairy version, here is the 5 minute version:

1 package brownie mix
1 Tbsp. espresso coffee powder
1 bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 bag semisweet chips

Follow the directions for chewy brownies ( using 1 egg )
Underbake by 5+ minutes (depends on your oven)
Cool completely, cover and place a weight on top.Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.