Category Archives: Get Together

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.

Apple Custard Pastry-For My Mom On Mother’s Day

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Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Apples cooked in sugar, calvados, and butter topped with vanilla bean pastry cream, sandwiched between flaky, buttery puff pastry makes for the perfect dream dessert for my mom on Mothers Day! I enjoy treating my mom to something extra special on Mother’s Day. To me, the lunch and dessert I make her are so much more than just food. I enjoy taking the time to really think about what she would like most and coming up with the perfect menu and dessert for her. The ingredients are just part of what goes into making my mom a special dessert. The thought, time, and love that go into it are the way that I like to show my love and appreciation for my mom. This year, I really tried to think hard about what to make. My mom loves apples, and my vanilla bean pastry cream. So why not put them together to make an amazing Apple Custard Pastry?

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

I wanted this to be a fairly simple dessert that could mostly be made ahead of time so that I can relax on Mother’s Day. So I am using frozen puff pastry for the pastry portion of this apple custard pastry. The pastry cream can be made up to two days ahead of time, and the apples can be cooked one day ahead of time. To make the apples, I sautéed apple slices in a bit of butter, sugar, and calvados. The calvados gave the apples an amazing flavor! It is an apple brandy made in France. I was a bit surprised at the price of the smallest size bottle of calvados when I went to the liquor store. It was $19.99 for the bottle, and I was only using 1/2 TBS of it for this recipe.  Why does everything from France have to cost so much? I asked the worker at the store what else I can use it for. She said it is wonderful in a summer sangria or splashed into coffee. I was tempted to buy the much cheaper $9.99 apple brandy made in America, but this was for a very special occasion, so I went for it and bought the calvados. I was so happy with the flavor of the apples! It was well worth the cost! Now I have to find a great sangria recipe to use it in! If you do not want to spend that much, just buy the good old american apple brandy. I tested this recipe earlier this week, and am so pleased with the results! It may be one of my new favorites, and I  know my mom will love it!

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Apple Custard Pastry 

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

1 box of frozen puff pastry sheets
2 TBS Vanilla Sugar-You can purchase or make your own. See Baking Tips below to make your own
1 tablespoon of butter, melted

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

For the Apples

3 Apples-I used honey crisp, but any good cooking apple will do
1/2 tablespoon calvados or apple brandy
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

For the Pastry:

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 .Thaw puff pastry according to instructions on the box. Unfold one sheet of dough. cut along fold lines, then cut each section in half so you have 6 rectangles. Repeat with other sheet of dough.

puff pastry dough

3. Place rectangles onto baking sheet. Brush each rectangle with butter, and sprinkle with vanilla sugar.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove the oven and cool completely on wire rack.

puff pastry

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.

Pastry cream

For the Apples:

1.Peel, core, and slice the apples 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
2. Melt butter in sauté pan. Add apples, sugar, and calvados. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until apples are just soft, stirring occasionally. Transfer to parchment linked baking sheet to cool completely.  Apples can be made a day in advance. Store in refrigerator in an air tight container.

sautéed apples

To Assemble: 

I recommend assembling no more than a couple of hours before serving to keep the pastry crisps and flaky.

1.Slice each puff pastry rectangle in half horizontally (like a hamburger bun) so you have a top and a bottom.

Slice off pastry horizontally

2. Layer cooked apples on the bottom of each pastry.

apples on pastry

3. Top with a layer of pastry cream

pastry cream

 

DSC_7876

4. Place the top of the pastry on the pastry cream.
5. Decorate by piping three rounds of pastry cream on top.

Apple Custard Pastry with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, sautéed Apple Slices, and puff pastry

Recipe Source for Pastry Cream: Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook

Baking Tips:

*To make vanilla sugar: place 2 TBS of sugar into a bowl. Scrape the seeds from one half of a split vanilla bean and mix it into the sugar.

*Bake the pastry the day you serve the apple custard pastry

*The pastry cream can be made 2 days in advance and the apples can be made one day in advance.

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Make the apple custard pastry for your mom on mother’s day!
  2. Bring the apple custard pastry to share at your next BBQ!
  3. Make the apple custard pastry and take it along for dessert on picnic!