Challah

Challah

So if you’re going to do bread recipes, how can you not do a challah recipe? My mom and sister make their doughs and do a first rise in a bread machine, and then take out the dough to shape, do a second rise, and then bake in the oven. Personally, I like to make my dough in my food processor, then take it out to rise, shape, rise again, and bake. Maybe that’s just because I’m not lucky enough to own a bread machine. But hey, whatever works for you, works for me.

I’m going to be setting up a separate page about the laws of taking challah, for those of you who wish to learn more about the it and get the chance to partake in the mitzvah when they are baking bread. You can click here to be taken directly to the page. I am also going to be setting up a how-to page on different braiding techniques for some easy, and some not-so-easy, ways to make a beautiful loaf for your table.

So, having said all that, please enjoy the recipe below. It will make two medium loaves or three small.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups water, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup oil
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar, divided
⅓ cup honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 egg (for the egg wash)

Directions:

If you are making this in a bread machine, place all of the wet ingredients first (except for the 3rd egg, that is for an egg wash on top of your braided challahs), then all of your dry ingredients, adding your yeast last. Set your machine on the dough setting. Once the machine is done, remove the dough from the machine and braid or shape the bread to your liking. Make an egg wash from the remaining egg and a little water mixed together, brushed on top of the bread. Bake in a preheated 350°F degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the challahs are golden brown and sound hollow when knocked on. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

If you are making this recipe by hand or in a food processor, use these directions:

In a medium sized bowl add the yeast, ¼ cup of warm water (heated to 105°F-110°F) and 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy, like beer.

In a large bowl or in your food processor fitted with your dough blade, mix together the flour, remaining sugar and salt. Slowly add the wet ingredients until dough begins to form, including the yeast mixture. If using a processor, let the processor run until a ball begins to form around the blade. In either prep method, once a ball has formed, turn it out onto a floured counter and knead the dough for a few minutes so that it comes together to form a nice cohesive elastic dough. Add more flour or water as needed.

Lightly grease a large bowl and put your dough in it to rise. Cover the dough with a dish towel and place in a warm area for about an hour or so, until it has doubled in size.

Turn out your dough on to a floured surface, and punch the bread down to release air bubbles. Knead the dough for another few minutes and then shape/braid your loaf into whatever shape you desire.

Place loaf(s) in oiled pans and cover with a dish towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until again doubled in size, approximately 1 hour. You can top with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or just egg wash the tops.

Bake at 350°F until bottom of the loaf(s) sound hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Post-Fast – Indulgence!

Creme Brulee

Crème Brûlée French Toast

I know this goes against what I was saying about not gorging yourself after the fast, but if you’re ever going to eat something rich and calorie loaded like this dish, this is the time to do it! What’s even better about this dish is that it’s even better if you prepare it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight, having the bread soak up all the flavours, and then bake it right after the fast and eat it hot! This recipe will make 12 servings.

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup
1 large challah
10 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons orange flavoured liqueur or orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13×9 inch baking dish, making sure that the pan is at least 2 inches deep. Cut the challah into large cubes. You can remove the crusts or keep them, it’s a matter of personal taste. Arrange the bread cubes in the baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half/milk, vanilla, liqueur/juice concentrate, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Do not toss, as you want the sugar/syrup mixture to stay on the bottom of the pan. At this point you can let the dish sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the egg and milk mixture, or you can refrigerate the bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and if you’ve chilled the dish, bring bread to room temperature. Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot french toast immediately. TIP: When you serve this, turn the piece upside down on the individual’s plate, to allow the caramel-y goodness (and the Crème Brûlée aspect of the recipe), run down over the toast!

Cheese, Red Pepper & Mushroom Strata

Strata

This strata (a fancy term for a layered bread casserole) makes a wonderful brunch dish or great for a milchig dinner. Serve with a nice salad and you’ve got a great meal. You can even prepare this dish the night before and let it sit covered in the fridge then bake off the night you wish to serve it. This tends to make an even better dish because it gives the bread more time to soak up all of the flavours! If you don’t have Shiitake mushrooms, any kind will do. If you don’t have your own roasted red peppers (though you should, see my recipe for them!) you can use jarred.

Ingredients:

¼ cup of butter
1 lbs. Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
1 roasted red pepper, sliced into thin strips
12 slices of challah – cut into 1 inch dice
2 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups cream
5 large eggs
¾ cup fresh chives, chopped (same quantity dried)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped (2 teaspoons if using dried)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups goat cheese (soft)
1 ½ cups parmesan, grated
1 cup fontina, grated

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium sized skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. Add sliced red pepper to the mushrooms. Submerge challah cubs in a large bowl of the milk. The bread should absorb all of the milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, eggs, chives, thyme and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and add the crumbled goat cheese, and whisk together until fully incorporated.

In the buttered glass dish, lay half of the bread mixture down and don’t worry if it does not fill the entire base. Top with a layer of mushroom/pepper mixture. Add grated fontina and parmesan, then the cream/egg mixture. Repeat the layering process using the remaining ingredients. Bake strata uncovered for 1 hour or until golden brown and firm in the middle.