Challah Donuts

As I mentioned in my last post, Challah Bread, my family discovered that my father is half European Jewish through an ancestry DNA test this past fall. I turned to baking to celebrate this new family heritage by making challah bread for my families holiday celebrations. It was so exciting to be able to connect to our family history through baking!

While strolling along in the grocery store one day shortly before the holidays, I came across a “bake From Scratch” magazine holiday issue. (Just a side note here…this magazine has become one of my new favorite baking publications out there!-and no, they did not pay me to say that.) I was thrilled to come across an entire section in the magazine devoted to challah dough! It included four recipes you can make with challah dough including challah donuts. YUP, I said CHALLAH DONUTS!!!!!! I about jumped up and down in the store thinking of how delicious fried challah dough would be. That soft, fluffy, and slightly sweet dough fried into a donut sounded like heaven to me.  Then I thought about how I could fill these fried rounds of deliciousness with one of my most favorite things on this earth, vanilla bean pastry cream. AND, I found another way to connect to my family history though baking…well baking and frying in this case.

I decided to treat my family to a very special movie snack for family movie night during the kids holiday break. At first, the kids were a little disappointed that I did not make popcorn…until they took one bite of these drool worthy challah donuts. I heard words like, “amazing,” “the best thing you have ever made,” and “can I have another one.” Nobody missed the popcorn! Since then, I have gotten many requests to make them again. I just fulfilled one of those requests last week. My son requested challah donuts  to celebrate getting his cast off his arm. I was more than happy to bless him with these fried, pastry cream filled bites from heaven!

Challah Donuts

Ingredients:

For the Donuts:

1 recipe of Challah Dough (see recipe below)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 C (210 grams) granulated sugar (vanilla sugar works wonderfully here! See my baking tip below)

For the Pastry Cream:

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise, seeds scraped
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Directions:

For the Pastry Cream:

1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.

3. When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, very slowly pour 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to slowly add the milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until it has all been incorporated.

4. Place a fine mesh strainer over your saucepan. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan through the mesh strainer to catch the vanilla bean pod and and any bits of egg.

5. Cook the mixture over medium high heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about two minutes.

6. Transfer the mixture to a an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attached, or a hand mixer. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.

7. Place the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

For the donuts:
    1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with baking spray with flour.
    2. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface, and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2- inch round cutter, cut dough, rerolling scraps as necessary.  Place onto prepared pans.
    3.  Set a wire rack over paper towels. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (I like to use my cast iron dutch oven) pour oil to a depth of 3 inches, and heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Add donuts to hot oil in batches of 3-4, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until light golden brown, 1 1/2-2 minutes per side. Remove, and let drain on prepared rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Dip doughnuts in sugar.
    4. Spoon pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Use a sharp knife to make a small hole in one end of each doughnut. Insert piping tip and fill with cream. Serve immediately.*Makes approximately 24 donuts. You can freeze half of your challah dough to use at a later time if you only want to make 12 donuts.

       Challah Dough

      Ingredients:

      1¾ cups warm water (105° to 110°)
      2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar
      1 tablespoon (14 grams) active dry yeast
      ½ cup (100 grams) olive oil
      5 large eggs
      ½ cup (144 grams) honey
      2 tablespoons (36 grams) kosher salt
      7½ to 8 cups (1,050 to 1,120 grams) all-purpose flour

      Directions:

      1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 1¾ cups warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and salt. Gradually add flour, ½ cup (70 grams) at a time, until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

      2. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

      Recipe adapted from bake From Scratch Holiday 2016

      Recipe Source for pastry Cream: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

      Baking Tips:

      • Dip your donuts in vanilla sugar to take them above and beyond. Vanilla sugar can be purchased or you can make some by placing a used vanilla bean in a bowl of sugar. Let the bowl of sugar sit for a few days before using.
      • Use a good deep fry thermometer to maintain the proper temperature when frying
      • Place your challah dough in your oven with the oven light on to rise. If it gets too warm with the oven light on, prop the oven door open.
      • If your dough is too sticky while kneading, add flour 2 TBS at a time until dough pulls away from side of bowl

      Bake and Share Ideas:

      1. Whip up a batch of challah donuts for your next family movie or game night
      2. Share challah donuts at your next brunch whether you host a brunch or attend a brunch
      3. Invite some friends over for coffee and challah donuts!

Challah Bread

It has been a few months since I have shared a new post. I wanted to take some time to focus on my family. One of the things I did during this time was to help my dad find out some information about his ancestors. He had asked for my help early last fall. My dad’s mother was adopted, so he wasn’t sure what her background was. Although, he always suspected that her ancestors may have been jewish. To confirm his suspicions, I had an ancestry DNA test done on my dad. He was right!! The test showed that he is almost half European Jewish. It was such a wonderful thing for him and my family to find out this information. It is such a great feeling to be able to connect who we are to our past. This knowledge does not change who we are now, yet it gives us a connection to where we came from. To celebrate these new findings, I decided I needed to learn to make a traditional jewish bread called Challah bread. I have heard of it many times, but had never tried it. I turned to one of my most trusted recipe and ingredient sources of all time, King Arthur Flour. Now, a traditional jewish Challah bread is made using a 6 stranded braid. However, I was new at making this, so I decided to go with the four stranded braid. It turned out beautifully.

To test my new recipe, I made a loaf of challah bread one afternoon in December.  When my kids arrived home from school, the smell alone drove them to beg me for a taste. I was honestly quite pleasantly surprised at how delicious this bread is. It is a little sweet and has an incredibly soft and fluffy texture. Each of my children ate two pieces back to back of that first loaf. I am usually in charge of bringing bread or rolls to my families holiday celebrations. I decided that this year, I would bring Challah bread in honor of our new found ancestry. When I brought the bread to my parents house and explained what it was to my dad, he immediately hugged and kissed me. I do believe that he was truly touched by this simple gesture. What a blessing to be able to bless my family and my dad with this simple act of making a loaf of delicious bread! I also brought a loaf to my husband’s families holiday festivities.

I have recently made two loves in the past couple of weeks. This Challah bread is delicious toasted and served with butter and jam. It also makes wonderful ham sandwiches! My newly found way to use the challah bread is to make french toast with it. OMG!!! It is amazing! As I ate my challah bread french toast, I imagined how delicious it would be in a french toast casserole. I also thought how delicious it would be to add a bit of cinnamon and sugar to the loaf itself before baking…oh the possibilities! I froze a half of one of the recent loaves of bread that I made. I will update this post in the near future when I use that frozen loaf to determine if the bread freezes well.

Challah Bread

QUICK STARTER
1 cup (4 1/4 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
DOUGH
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) vegetable oil
2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save 1 egg white for the glaze, below)
GLAZE
1 egg white, saved from above
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) water

Instructions

To make the starter:

  1. Mix the 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in a large bowl or the bucket of a bread machine.

2. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes.

To make the dough:

  1. Add the dough ingredients to the starter and mix and knead together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until a smooth, supple dough is formed. The dough should not be too sticky. If it is sticky, add 1-2 TBS of flour at a time while kneading. Each time I have made this dough, I have had to add extra flour. However, that all depends on the environment that you live in.
  2. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it over once to coat it lightly with oil.

3. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s not quite doubled in size.

To shape the dough:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over once or twice, to expel the carbon dioxide. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll each into a snake about 18″ long.


On the lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, braid a four-strand braid.

First, Squeeze the ends of the strands together.

Take the left-handed strand and move it to the right over two strands

Then take that same strand and move it under one strand to the left

Next, take the right handed strand and move it to the left over 2 strands

Then take that strand and move it under one strand to the right.

Repeat until the loaf is done and pinch the ends together.

 

In a small bowl, make the glaze by mixing together the reserved egg white, sugar, and water. Brush the loaf, reserving some for a second application.
Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s almost doubled in size. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.


To bake the loaf:

Brush the loaf with the remaining glaze (this will give the finished loaf a beautiful, shiny crust.) If desired, sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seed, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the challah is golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and the internal temperature is 195°F.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely before slicing.
Store completely cool bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

  • When proofing dough (or letting it rise) be sure you place the dough in a warm, draft free environment. I like to use my oven for this. I turn my oven light on to warm it up a tiny bit. I also place a small bowl of warm water in the oven to keep the bread dough from drying out.
  • Don’t afraid of yeast breads! Give this one a try. The rising times are just a guide. Be sure your dough has doubled in size. If it has not doubled by the suggested time, check it every ten minutes

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Bake a loaf for a new mom, new neighbor, or use as a hostess gift. Put the loaf in a basket with all the fixings for making french toast along with syrup and jam.
  2. Bake a loaf for valentine’s day. Slice the bread then cut it into heart shapes. Use the heart shaped bread to make sandwiches or heart shaped french toast for your sweethearts!
  3. Bake a loaf of challah bread. Slice it horizontally (like one large sub sandwich) and layer lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ham on the bottom of the bread. Place the top of the loaf on the lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Slice and serve! Bring this to a friend, family member, or neighbor in need of a meal, or serve at your next gathering.

American Flag Cake Pops, BFB Bake and Share Military, and What I Have Been Up To

This past month has been ridiculously busy. Every May is crazy. It is the beginning of birthday season in our house which typically lasts into June and includes hosting four birthday parties! Add in baseball season, softball season, end of the school year craziness, and regular life responsibilities makes for one crazy month. I decided that I needed put blogging aside for a few weeks in order to focus on my kids and family and all of my added responsibilities this month. I have a lot to share with you in the next few weeks including my kiddos birthday celebrations and cakes, my end of the year teacher gift, and this very special bake and share post for the military.

American Flag Cake Pops

American Flag Cake Pops

DSC_8575

Two years ago, on June 9th, 2014, my town lost a hero. 19 year old Private First Class Aaron Toppen was killed in Afghanistan in an apparent friendly fire accident during a Taliban Ambush. The town has had a wonderful outpouring of love and support to honor the sacrafice that Aaron made for this country. The latest event to honor Aaron was held last weekend. Will Marquardt, an 8th grade Boy Scout, chose to erect a flag pole to honor Aaron Toppen in front of our local junior high school as part of his Eagle Scout project. He organized the project as well as the dedication ceremony held last weekend. When his mom, my trios former preschool teacher, contacted me to ask me to make cake pops for the ceremony, I jumped at the chance to honor Aaron’s memory with my baked goods. I think, in this case, I felt more blessed just to make this cake pop flag for this event than those did eating them! I didn’t care how busy I was this month. No matter what, I was determined to get this project done! Thank you to all military men, women, and families who serve, who have served, who have given their lives, and to those families who’s loved ones are deployed. Thank you to Will Marquardt for giving our town a wonderful memorial to our town hero Aaron Toppen.

Aaron Toppen Flag Pole

American Flag Cake Pops

When Will’s mom asked me to make cake pops, I knew I wanted to make something that resembled the American Flag. What I ended up doing was pretty simple! I think the hardest part was measuring out the holes to place the cake pops in in order for them to make the flag pattern.

American Flag Cake Pops
American Flag Cake Pops

 

American Flag Cake Pops

2 cakes of your choice. I doubled my tender white cake recipe.
1 batch of your favorite frosting. I used my Swiss meringue buttercream
red candy melts
white candy melts
blue candy melts
shortening
cake pop sticks
a basket or tray to hold your cake pops-my basket was 18 x 26
foam to insert your cake pops in-I purchased my foam at Michaels
white fondant
a small star cookie cutter-I found mine in a set of star cutters at Michales
white crinkle paper to cover the foam

Instructions:

1. Bake your cakes. Let cool completely

2. Crumble your cake. I break my cake apart and pulse it in a food processor until it is all crumbly.

3. Add about 1 cup of frosting to your cake crumbles. Use the back of a large spoon to mix the frosting into the cake. Pinch the cake/frosting mixture between your fingers. If it stays together, you are ready to roll. If it does not, add a little bit more frosting. Be careful not to add too much frosting. It will make your cake balls too mushy.

4. To roll the cake balls, I use a small cookie scoop. This helps to ensure that my cake balls will be the same size. I use a rounded scoop and roll the cake into a ball using my hands. To make the flag, I made 88 cake balls.

5. Cover the cake balls and refrigerate. You can also make the cake balls ahead of time and freeze them. Be sure to defrost them in the refrigerator before you use them.

6. Before you begin dipping your cake balls, you will need to set up your basket and foam you will be displaying your cake pop flag in. I had to cut my foam to fit in my basket. This can be messy. I cut mine outside. Once I had the foam in my basket, It was time to measure! I did 8 horizontal rows and 11 vertical rows. I measured out where each hole should go and marked it. I also determined how many blue cake pops I needed and where exactly they would go. Then, I marked a cake pop stick to the proper depth I wanted each stick to go into the foam. This does depend on what size cake pop stick you use. Be sure that it is deep enough to support the cake balls. I then made a hole using my marked stick in each spot I measured out. This will make placing your completed cake pops into the foam so much easier! It will also ensure that all of your cake pops are the same height! I also added the wooden red, white, and blue stars around the outside of the basket for decoration. I found them in the dollar section at Target.

Basket and Foam

Foam holes

marked cake pop stick

cake pop stick

7. Roll out your fondant and cut out stars.

8. Place the candy melts and and 2-3 TBS of shortening in a bowl.  Melt the candy melts in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds, then stir the candy melts. Microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir. Continue to stir until the candy is melted completely. Return to the microwave for 20-30 seconds more if needed. You want your candy to be a pourable consistency. Add more shortening if necessary to reach the desired consistency. Place your melted candy in a tall glass.

9. Dip the end of a cookie stick in the melted candy, then insert it into the cake ball. Dip the cake ball into the candy just until it is fully coated. Remove it from the candy, and tap off any excess candy. I found this video from Bakerella very useful when I was first learning to dip cake pops. I still use her method of dipping the cake pop, then tapping my hand to remove excess candy for the cake ball. Place the cake pop in the foam to dry. I dipped my blue cake pops first. As soon as I placed the cake pop in the foam, I added the white star to the top before the candy dried.

10. Continue to dip the cake pops until you are finished. After I completed the blue cake pops, I did a row of red, then white, then red, and so forth. Insert the white crinkle paper in between the cake pops to cover the foam when all of the cake pops are completely dry. I used 2 large bags.

11. Step back and enjoy your beautiful creation!

Baking Tips:

*The cake balls can be made ahead of time. Wrap them tightly and freeze. Defrost the cake balls in the refrigerator before using

*Start dipping with chilled cake balls!  I find that the dipping process is so much easier when the cake balls are cold. I take about ten cake balls out of the fridge at a time. Dip those, then take ten more out and so forth

*The cake pops can be made 1-2 days in advance. Just wrap them tightly either individually, or wrap the entire basket making sure no air can get in!

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Make American Flag cake pops to share at your Memorial Day gathering or Fourth of July party
  2. Make American Flag cake pops and give them to a military man or woman as a “thank you” for their service