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Archive for March, 2009

cannellini bean spread with sun-dried tomato and basil

cannellini bean spread with sun-dried tomato and basil

Cannellini beans must be one of the worlds perfect foods  – their soft creamy texture barely encumbered by a thin shell, the outside barely distinguished from inside. A very close relative of the kidney bean, but more delicate. They are great warmed or cold with only a slight give when you bite it. Plus they have pretty good nutritional value, providing 15 g protein, 11 g fiber, and over 20% of the USRDA of iron and magnesium in a cup.

I’ve always been a canned bean fan for ease of preparation, but I recently decided to try reconstituting dried cannellini beans when I was making soup the other night. I did my research — how long to soak the beans in advance? How long to cook them? I found a few good online resources here (info on all beans, but cooking instructions are for pressure cooker), here, and here. Consensus seemed to be that cannellini beans need at least 4 hours soaking and then about 45 minutes to an hour to cook on the stovetop. My friend Julie, aka Yulinka, always adds baking soda to her beans to aid in digestion, so you can add this to the soaking liquid.

I soaked the little white beans no larger than pebbles for their allotted four hours and then some. Fretted when the wrinkled skin expanded faster than their insides so they looked like opaque white raisins. Breathed a sigh of relief when the insides caught up and the beans had tripled in size and started to look like the canned variety after about 2-3 hours. Tasted the post-soaked, pre-cooked version just to check the texture — yup, they definitely still need to be coooked. And then 45 minutes on the stove in 3X as much water and a few pinches of salt. Watched them like a hawk. 45 minutes came and went. Not ready yet. 1 hour, almost there. Step away for a moment. Beans split, thin skins separated from creamy centers. Disaster.

cannellini beans

Luckily I had a can of white beans to throw into the soup and refrigerated this tasty but ugly mess for another day and a little inspiration to hit.

This came soon enough when, even though I have already professed a distaste for sun-dried tomatoes, I decided to embrace my attempts at reconstituting dried foods and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, if I pureed everything together, it probably couldn’t be so bad.

The resulting white bean spread got the nod of approval from my downstairs neighbor/foodie cook and ardent recipe follower, Bruce and his always ready with a tasting spoon wife, Judy.

Italian-esque White Bean Spread

I have no idea whether this is remotely Italian, but cannellini beans are often used in Italian cooking and the classic tomato-basil combination evokes a caprese salad (sans mozzerella). Instead of reconstituting the dried tomatoes, you can use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and use the olive oil from the jar (if you have enough) which should be infused with that tomato taste. The cayenne gives the spread a kick at the back of the tongue that intensifies the longer the ingredients have to mesh.

Makes ~ 1.5 C and keeps for about a week refrigerated

1/2 C dry cannellini beans, reconstituted in 1.5 C water (~1C) or 1 can (15.5 oz)

5 sun-dried tomatoes (dried)

3T extra virgin olive oil, separated

zest and juice of 1 lemon (~1 1/2 T)

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 T fresh basil (I used basil that I had frozen the last time I cut down my basil plant), or 2 t dried; can probably substitute other Italian herb to taste such as oregano or thyme

1-2 t kosher salt (to taste)

1/2 – 1 t freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Prepare cannellini beans. Rinse and sort beans (remove any stones and debris) and then soak at room temperature for at least 4 hour or overnight. Don’t worry if they get wrinkled initially – eventually the beans will expand to fill their  skins. Simmer beans in fresh water to cover for ~1  hour (or more) with a few pinches kosher salt. Don’t worry if they split because you’re going to puree them anyway! OR – use one can of beans, rinsed and drained.

Prepare sun-dried tomatoes. Option 1 (quick method) – microwave 5 tomatoes in 2T olive oil for 3-4 minutes in 1-minute increments (handle carefully because oil will be hot). This will quickly infuse the oil with the intense tomato flavor. Allow to cool to room temperature and then cut tomatoes into thin slivers — I found kitchen shears easier to use than a knife. Option 2 – soak tomatoes in boiled water for 15 minutes (don’t over soak), drain, cut into slivers, and either soak in olive oil, or use as is.

sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted using Option 1; note infused olive oil

sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted using Option 1; note infused olive oil

Add tomatoes and infused oil to beans in a large bowl. Zest lemon over bowl and then add its juice. Add cayenne, salt and pepper to taste, and herbs, ideally basil. Use immersion blender to puree and add additional olive oil to attain desired consistency.

Serve with baguette or pita.

white bean dip

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of mice and men

Today is Purim, and I had elaborate plans to fulfill the mishloach manot mitzvah by baking Ashkenazi and Sephardi hamantashen, oznei haman, and fazuelos from around the globe to share with my friends and with you my new friends.

I did my background research. I looked into the history and my culinary options.

Ashkenazis make hamantashen, Haman’s pocket (since he accepted bribes) or Haman’s hat – a tri-corn like our Colonial “fathers” wore – filled with prune or poppy seed. The German word for poppy seeds is mohn, and Gil Marks in Olive Trees and Honey reports that the word’s similarity to Haman’s name is the genesis for this fillings. Prune — I have no idea where that comes from. Call them dried plums, but they’re still prunes  in my book. The few times I have actually made hamantashen, I used a cookie-like dough and filled them with chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.

Askenizim from different origins not surprisingly make different types of dough. There’s soft yeasty dough and more crispy cookie-type dough.  The former lets the filling shine. Apparently Poles and Hungarians tend to make the latter. And the French, bless them, sometimes make a brioche style dough (Faye Levy’s 1,000 Jewish Recipes).

To me, Sephardim are a bit more exotic – probably because I’m not Sephardic. Many Sephardim make oznei haman, Haman’s ears, as thin sheets of dough shaped in half circles and pinched in the middle, fried and covered with confectioners’ sugar, called  fazuelos (Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food),or, in Italian, orcchie di Amman (Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica) — the name reminds me of orchiette, the ear shaped pasta. I had a really hard time picturing these until I came across step-by-step illustrations online.

And then come the nuts. Moroccans make Gorayebah – almond topped butter cookies (Joyce Goldstein’s Saffron Shores). Greeks make a lot of interesting food for Purim depending on which area of Greece  you are from – marzipan (called novies) in the shape of the Purim characters,  buns (called folares) in the shape of Haman’s foot, sesame bars (multiple names) seen to represent Haman’s fleas (hmmm…), walnut squares to represent Haman’s teeth, and almond pastries. I bought  Nicholas Stavroulakis’ Cookbook of the Jews of Greece in the Jewish Museum in Athens a few years ago.

I looked to my friend Ellie Levi, aka The Baking Architect, for inspiration and motivation. Like KH Krena’s valentines (exhibit I mentioned in” sticky fingers“) Ellie’s mishloach manot deserve their own art exhibit. Somewhat more perishable and difficult to store over the years, I dare you to resist their call for more than an afternoon.

One year, Ellie and her sister Yali cooked and baked according to a Persian theme, in accordance with the site of the Purim story.

Purim-themed mishloach manot: Images from a hand painted 13th century megillah from Persia (The Baking Architect)

Persia-themed mishloach manot: Images from a hand painted 13th century megillah from Persia (The Baking Architect)

... filled with lots of (Sephardic) Persian goodies...

... filled with lots of (Sephardic) Persian goodies...

... described in detail

... described in detail

I had the best of intentions. Really I did.

Eventually, I decided to throw all of my research to the wayside and make Ashkenazi-style hamantashen my way. Different from every past year — no chocolate — but with a flair that I could only call á la francais. I was going to make mini apple triangle galettes — little hand-shaped freeform pies filled with freshly sliced apples (no prunes here!), perhaps atop a slather of dolce de leche or luscious caramel, sprinked with some turbinado sugar. Voilà! The perfect new Zahavah tradition.

And then I ended up fulfilling one of the other Purim traditions — ad d’lo yada — a few days early. Nothing crazy, just enough that I didn’t feel like spending my day baking.

NOTE: In case someone was concerned, I did make sure to fulfill my mishloach manot obligation – thank you, Monica Hirsh, for delivering with care such a classy, beautiful gift of flowers and food  to my sister’s office and really making her day a special one. What is great about Monica, beyond her amazing aesthetic and what I found out later is our shared time in Cantabrigia, is her personalized service. I requested delivery confirmation, having never sent anything to my sister’s office, and received an email note later in the day that detailed the delivery (time, signed by) and felt like a communication from a friend or colleague. Such small details make such a big difference in the whole experience.

Purim Celebration shaloch manot by Monica Hirsh

Purim Celebration shaloch manot by Monica Hirsh

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stinky cheese

As usual a little bit behind in my magazine reading, I didn’t see this cartoon from this week’s New Yorker, but my friend from college and fellow francophile Josh forwarded it to me.  Here’s a shot of it from my own copy:

New Yorker Cartoon: Matthew Diffee, "It's not the noise, Sir. It's the Camembert."

New Yorker cartoon: Matthew Diffee, "It's not the noise, Sir. It's the Camembert." (NOTE: this image is a photograph taken from my own magazine and the cartoon itself is copyrighted; please use official link if you want to distribute)

Now, I honestly don’t think of Camembert as being so particularly stinky. But, my guess is that I’m eating it incorrectly.

See, when I was an exchange student living with a family in the Loire Valley (in a little town called Mont près Chambord…the mountain near the Chambord château) and then vacationing with them in the Vendée, I recall that we didn’t refrigerate our cheese. The famille preferred most cheese soft and runny, almost of the consistency that it might get when I make a baked brie now. So, 1 to 2 to 3 weeks in that special cheese cupboard they had, with that nice moldy rind…mmm…quite a stink, but it probably tastes pretty good.

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a taste of my NY

I was in NY this past weekend and my time can be summarized in a few words – family/friends, food, and art. Not surprisingly, much of the latter two were shared with the former. It was such a NY weekend. And for the first time in a long time, the only thing I bought were things to fill my pantry and fridge.

pantry and fridge items purchased in NY

my NY goodie bag

I got everything on my list and then some. In addition to good balsamic, parmesan, and fun demura (and white) sugar cubes, I found kosher beef jerky, gnocci from italy, ras al hanout spice mixture (which honestly I could have found up here, but I saw it in Fairway so I just bought it), and the pièce de résistance…Hazelnut oil. I found the hazelnut oil in Zabar’s (specific info on the oil on my resources page) and had bought the same one a few years ago but let it go rancid because I didn’t realize it needed to be refrigerated. I was SO happy to find this oil again!

Besides visiting the old classics foodie haunts on the UWS (Zabar’s, Fairway, Gourmet Garage), I stopped in to the newly renovated Kosher Marketplace — one of the higher end all kosher grocery stores in my old “chood” to see what it looked like. No longer a cramped tiny store, and still carrying some very high end products and interesting products, but check out the pictures below, and giggle along with me about some of the product placement issues they’re still working on (Meira — these are for you) …

expensive chocolate + bean dip!

yum...Payard's kosher collection...

fancy french apple sauce - French Lau in London used to order these to remind her of home

Delis compote aux pommes: authentic fancy French apple sauce - French Lau, living in London, used to order these to remind her of home

I didn’t just shop for food … I took advantage of NY’s culinary and cultural variety.

I got into the city only 3 hours before sundown, wanted to catch a small photography exhibit at a Chelsea gallery, and needed to find food for shabbat for my sister and my friend. This is probably only possible in NY and a handful of cities. We went to the exhibit — photography of female Israeli soldiers and dancers in Russia (captured poignantly not in performance, but behind the scenes which is where, as Elvera, who I met when we were in a dance company together, and I know only too well, the real emotion is), met the artist (!), and managed to pick up Indian food just cross town in “Curry Hill” and get back to my friend’s apartment more or less in time for shabbat to begin. Only in NY!

Saturday afternoon, we ate Indian leftovers and then walked to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibit on Chagall and the Russian Theater which is only around for 2 more weeks. What made the exhibit really interesting was that Elvera is originally from the Ukraine and could give her own commentary about life and the theater (having trained in dance there) in the more modern Soviet Union, when it was still united.

And then in the evening, I went to a CityStep benefit held at the Alvin Ailey building. Right outside the room where our benefit was being held, there is a stunning mosaic of Judith Jamison (who, I might add, received an honorary Doctorate of Arts the same year I walked…) that I just can’t resist sharing with you.

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

I had Sunday brunch at Pain Quotidien with some of my international friends that I so sorely miss. And interestingly enough, a guy wearing a yarmulke was eating in there too…Romy and Thierry wouldn’t let me take a picture of him eating his baguette and butter. And I wasn’t in the mood to approach him to start a discussion. Clearly we both subscribe to the “traditional French (and Belgian) baguettes are kosher; check that they are made on a floured (not greased) baking sheet/stone” rule and believe that this rule does not only apply to France (Belgium) … <ignoring the fact that I have become a bit more lax about eating out>.

After strolling through the MoMA and seeing some classics that I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen before in person, I was treated (and I mean treated!) to one of my favorite meat places for an early dinner. It has been so long since I’ve eaten meat out in a restaurant — and especially red meat — that I truly savored each bite of my Wolf&Lamb ribeye  burger with grilled onions. This was no meagre hamburger. This was the kind of burger that melts into the bun. No ketchup required. I couldn’t decide whether to eat it with my hands or a knife and fork. So, I alternated between hands and cutlery. It may not have been pretty, but it tasted pretty great. And the company, my dear friend MD, made it all the better. And thanks for the help with the picture — otherwise it would have been all bun!

Wolf&Lamb ribeye burger

And then it started to snow.

And snow.

And snow.

And eventually I got home.

But, wow…I did a lot in just a few days. You always hear about a NY minute. I think it took me six months away to realize and appreciate the vivaciousness of this city. And these were just a few tastes of my NY. I can’t wait to return for more. Imagine what I can do if I actually plan…

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loads of kale

There has been a lot of talk about CSAs – community supported agriculture – in the world at large and in the Jewish community. For example, check out the past few Hazon Food Conferences and their The Jew and the Carrot blog.

I first learned about CSAs when my good friend, Meira, the source of the  pretzel chicken “nuggets” recipe, joined a CSA in New York and cooked interesting dishes with her fresh local vegetables. She always introduced each dish with, “I got this squash/cabbage/spinach from Eve, my Jewish female farmer.” She really seemed to feel a kinship with her farmer, especially after going to some sort of outdoorsy event way out on Long Island and driving past the Garden of Eve farm!

So, I was excited when my own local community decided to partner with a CSA. But I was also a bit apprehensive. Sure, there are a lot of pros – supporting local farmers and guaranteeing their livelihood, getting in tune with a more agrarian life (and a little reminder of the importance of the harvest in Jewish festivals), eating fresh (and almost entirely organic) produce, etc. And my friend Laura, whom I call “farmer Laura” since she will be be spending the summer as an ADAMAH Fellow — is organizing the CSA partnership and was quick to point out some of the logistical virtues partnering with this particular farm — Heavens Harvest — notably that they provide timely recipes that incorporate that week’s harvest and pre-pack everyone’s share (or half-share for couples or three-tenth-share for those single people out there…they’ve even thought of us!) which is apparently a vast improvement over other CSAs that have you bag your own which can take forever.

Despite all of these benefits, I was worried about one con – the loads and loads of kale that I would very likely be stuck with at the end of the season.

See, apparently kale is a very hearty leafy green and grows when other veggies can’t quite make the cut. So if the weather is really bad, kale will dominate.

Of course, I have never cooked kale. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten kale.

But, I’m open to new things and in preparation for joining the CSA, I decided to buy some kale and make something with it. In case I needed a push over the edge, the label on the rubber band around the kale was written in French, calling the leaves chou vert frisé. I once had a boss who could convince me to do any menial task by telling me, “it’s French…you’ll like it.”

So I bought some curly green cabbage and tried a recipe on a card near the grocery store entrance.

looked like a bouquet, so I put the kale in a vase

looked like a bouquet, so I put the kale in a vase

Based on my experience, I think I’ll be joining the CSA…

Kale and White Bean Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Kale and White Bean Soup with Parmesan Crisps


Adapted from Whole Foods Vegetarian Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup recipe card.

Makes ~ 5 cups soup or 4 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

1-2 t thyme (to taste)

1-2 t oregano (to taste)

5 C ersatz chicken broth (i.e., parve chicken soup powder + 5 C water)

4 cups packed chopped kale (i.e., 1 bunch, chopped)

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced; or 20-25 baby carrots cut into thirds

1 small can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes

1 small can (14.5-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Parmesan crisps (see recipe below)

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion ~3 minutes until softened, then add garlic and cook together another 2-3 minutes.

Add 1t of each herb and carrots to pan and mix.

Add tomatoes, broth, and kale and mix a few times. Cover saucepan and allow kale to steam until tender, ~5 minutes.

Add drained cannellini beans when kale tender. Keep on heat until parmesan crisps finished to allow beans to warm.

Serve with parmesan crisps or sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

122-cropped

Parmesan Crisps

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Spread ~1T of parmesan cheese in ovals on parchment (1T per oval)

Parmesan crisps, uncooked

Bake in oven 5-7 minutes — WATCH VERY CAREFULLY –  these can burn really quickly. Remove before your smoke alarm goes off (like mine did the first time I tried this!).

Parmesan crisps, baked

The crisps will peel very easily off of the parchment paper.

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My family once vacationed in Nice, my parents taking us kids along when they had a conference in the large convention center. We had fun, but I pretty much treated Nice as any other place to hang out. My sister and I actually went bowling. Bowling!

And we complained about the pebbly beach.

plage a Nice

I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty and calm of this city until I spent several weeks there on my own. That’s when I met Gianin (non pensare, fare) and had an opportunity to really explore Nice, renting a flat in the Musicians’ Quarter, riding the bus every day like a local, and taking dance classes in Vieux Ville (Old Town).

Vieux Ville back alley (view from OffJazz top floor stairway window)

Vieux Ville back alley (view from OffJazz top floor stairway window)

One of my favorite parts of the day, dance classes notwithstanding, was relaxing after class. Sometimes I went out with fellow students and teachers (most notably the inseparable Dutch ladies whom I soon visited in den Haag) or took a quick dip in the Mediterranean. But usually I meandered back to my flat either along the waterfront or through the market.

Some days, this would take me hours — I was a true flâneur that summer in the best spirit of that word — one who experiences a city by strolling through its winding streets and alleyways, noticing the little nuances and habits and daily rituals and rhythms of life.

When I walked through the market, there was lavender everywhere. Soap. Perfume. Herbes de Provence in cute little ceramic pots. I had been cooking with lavender for a while, infusing it into a liquid – honey, milk, melted butter/margarine – to incorporate its essence into something I’m baking without making the end product taste like perfume. But now when I cook with lavender, and the sweet scent fills the air, I am reminded of my summer walks home through the market and other flânerie in Nice.

* * *

When I came home from New York this past weekend, I found almost a foot of snow outside.

Inside though, on my small windowsill herb garden, my lavender plant has started to bloom. It began shooting buds about 2 weeks ago, towering high above the fuzzy leaves below. And just this week, a few tiny delicate purple flowers have started to barely show their faces, peeking shyly out from their green sheaths.

lavender flower

You almost need to squint to see them. But they’re there.

lavender flower closeup

So it was time to bake another lavender cake.

Lavender tea cake

lavender tea cake, on a napkin I bought in Nice

Lavender Cake

Adapted from The Kosher Palate‘s Yellow Cake recipe. While some recipes call for grinding up dried lavender buds into a fine powder to give flavor to cakes, ice creams, etc., I find this gives a too heady a fragrance and taste. I prefer the infusion method that I have described below. This methodology can be incorporated into other recipes – just infuse the lavender into warming honey, milk, or shortening. I may try this with rosebuds as well.

I typically make this as 2 loaf cakes (like tea cakes) or 4 dozen small or 2 dozen large cupcakes; can also be made as a bundt cake; makes approximately 15 servings. I use a silicone loaf pan, and the cake develops a really nice, caramelized crust.

3 C all-purpose flour

2 C sugar

1 T baking powder

1/2  kosher salt

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/2 C margarine

1 C soy milk

4 large eggs

2 T dried lavender

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease pan(s).

Prepare lavender infusion: melt margarine in bowl over low heat and add lavender. Heat until fragrant, approximately 7-10 minutes. Drain margarine through fine sieve, pressing lavender on mesh. Discard lavender. Allow margarine to cool (but should still be liquid).

Infusing lavender

infusing lavender

lavender in seive

margarine drained, lavender buds stay out of batter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of mixer using paddle on low speed.

Add oil, cooled margarine, soy milk, eggs, and lemon zest. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Scape down sides of bowl occasionally to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on size of pan. Cake is done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (no crumbs). I typically bake on the longer side because I like a crunchy crust.

Cool and serve.

Lavender tea cake

what remained after sharing with my neighbors

cupcakes

sometimes I make lavender cupcakes

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community challah

When I moved to DC,  I chose my apartment location for its proximity to my office and the Dupont Circle metro station (a straight shot to the station near my parents’ house, but still far enough away to afford me privacy), and its “safe distance” from the then-starting-to-gentrify, but in my parents’ mind still-sketchy, 14th street.

Little did I know that someone must have been looking out for me.

I happened to be remarkably and somehow strategically close to the Kesher Israel Synagogue and therefore within walking distance of an incredibly warm and welcoming community. This is the synagogue that really defined community for me and helped direct me towards figuring out what type of person and Jew I aspire to be.

It was here that I first joined a synagogue with my own membership.

That I got invited to the Rabbi’s house for lunch!

That I made and served my first shabbat meal.

I have since joined other synagogues and communities, and have even gotten a Rabbi’s invitation or two, but the community that will always be a point of reference for me will always be Kesher.

And a major part of this community was food. One problem with DC at the time is that there were very few places to buy fresh challah. As a result, many people baked their own. And since I was a very novice cook at the time (and have still never really developed into much of a baker — see labo(u)r of love), my parents bought me a bread machine. And then I got a recipe for challah from a couple that was known for being really good cooks — Eric and Aliza.

Eric and Aliza's challah recipe - the original 4X6 index card

Eric and Aliza's challah recipe - the original 4X6 index card

I made this challah so many times and became somewhat well-known in the community for bringing it to different people’s shabbat meals, that once Eric and Aliza brought their own home-made challah to someone’s home and the host remarked, “oh, you made Zahavah’s challah!” (Though for the record, I always always always referred to it as Eric and Aliza’s challah!).

Bread Machine Challah

Based, in gratitude, on Eric and Aliza’s challah recipe, so generously shared and so shamelessly sold as my own. This recipe is meant to be made in a bread machine, on the “dough” setting. It is really easy and requires little more than 5-10 minutes to place all ingredients in the machine, 90 minutes to run the “dough” setting, and then 20 minutes in the oven to bake (with additional time to let rise if you want). This is a somewhat forgiving recipe. I have accidentally added 5C flour instead of 4 and I once forgot to add the egg and added it before the last kneading cycle — most of the time, it has come out just fine. And the challah freezes pretty well if you wrap in aluminum foil and keep in a ziplock bag.

Makes enough for a meal of 8-10 adults: 2 medium-sized challahs (3- or 4-stand braids) or 1 large challah (6-strand braid)and 1 roll.

- 1 1/8 C warm water

- 1/4 C vegetable oil

- 1 egg

- honey (I never measure, but probably ~ 2 T) – NECESSARY IF USING WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR

- 1/4 C sugar (I make it a heaping 1/4 C)

- 1 t salt

- 4 C flour: I almost always use 2 C white all-purpose flour, 2 C wheat flour

- 1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 t)

- additional egg for egg wash (optional)

Measure wet ingredients into bread machine bowl – water, oil, egg. Make sure water is warm, not hot, to activate the yeast without cooking the egg.

Add sugar, honey, salt and flour(s). Make sure that the salt is under all of the flour because you don’t want it to touch the yeast.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the yeast into the well.

Put “bowl” into bread machine and set to “dough” setting.

After 90 minutes, challah dough should be ready — it should have risen to the top of the bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Knead the dough a little bit more on a well floured board (or your counter). Stickiness will depend on various factors such as altitude, humidity, etc. But, again, I never mind a bit of flour on my baked goods (see “sticky fingers.”)

Divide and braid as appropriate:

- For 3-stranded braid – braid as you would braid hair, alternating strands from right and left and consistently put “outside” strand over center strand

- For 4-stranded braid – always braid from in one direction (either right or left…does not matter, just be consistent), putting “outside” strand (A) over second strand (B), under third strand (C), and then over fourth strand (D); then new outside strand (B) goes over C, under D, and over A; then new outside strand C goes over D, under A, over B, etc. NOTE – this is how I do it. I have seen other directions elsewhere that are all the same, but different from my methodology. I like mine and it’s the only one I can vouch for

4-stranded braids - after rising

4-stranded braids - after rising

- For 6-stranded braid: hard to describe, but very similar to the 4-stranded braid. I believe I got this method from Spice and Spirit, a Lubavitch cookbook that left much to be desired for me, but did have some pretty good diagrams for braiding

- To complete any braid: I generally start a braid about 1/4 of the way from the top. When I reach the end, I pinch the ends together and tuck them under. I then return to the top of the braid and repeat. I do not start a braid by pinching everything together at the top because I find this makes a very messy end that does not match the other one.

- Simple roll: roll out small piece of dough about 8 inches and twist into a knot, then tuck top end underneath bottom of roll

4-stranded braid and some rolls, after rising

4-stranded braid and some rolls, after rising

After loaves are formed, place on lightly greased and floured (or parchment covered) cookie sheet (I sometimes use Silpat). Allow to rise again (not required, but better) on top of pre-heating oven, covered with clean cotton towel

OPTIONAL: make egg wash – beat egg with 1 t cold water and brush over challah with pastry brush twice – once before putting in oven, and then after 10 minutes in the oven; this will help give the crust a nice sheen

Bake in oven for 20 minutes (sometimes 25) until challah is golden brown (NOTE – some people like it slightly undercooked and doughey)

Cool on baking rack. Best served warm (can wrap in aluminum foil and reheat at ~200°F for 20 minutes)

challah fresh from the oven; no egg wash used

challah fresh from the oven; no egg wash used

Variations:

- sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds after first egg wash

- rosemary challah — omit honey and use 100% white flour; crush 2 T dried rosemary with mortar and pestle and add 1T with dry ingredients; mix the second T rosemary with kosher salt or fleur de sel and sprinkle after first egg wash

- cinnamon challah - great for shavout; add 1.5T cinnamon with dry ingredients; can also add a cinnamon sugar coating after first egg wash

sprinkle challah – another kid-pleaser from Caroline of “noodles and nuggets” fame – add chocolate or colored sprinkes into the dough or onto the top of the challah after the first egg wash

Do you make your challah by hand, or do you use a bread machine?

How do you braid your challah?

What are your favorite variations?

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