Category Archives: Hostess Gift

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

1 cup (4 1/4 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
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)
1 egg white, saved from above
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) water


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.

Breakfast Blessings For Multiple Occasions Part 3 Sour Cream Coffee Cake



I recently posted about the boxed breakfast I delivered to friends for two very different occasions…one friend dealing with the loss of her nephew, and the other having her third child. Click HERE if you want to read more about their stories and how I delivered their breakfast box.


You can get the recipe for the pancake muffins I included in the box HERE.


You can get the recipe for mini frittatas I included in the box HERE.


Today, I am featuring the recipe for this beautiful sour cream coffeecake.


It is moist and delicious with a cinnamon streusel filling in the middle and a crispy cinnamon sugar topping. I love the way it makes my house smell when it is baking. I just love the aroma of cinnamon and cake!!! Whenever I make this for my family, my children devour it and ask for seconds. I like to savor the one piece I allow myself with a cup of coffee…preferably with a book and some peace and quiet! I have made this coffeecake on a number of occasions to share with friends. It is something that everyone loves!


Sour Cream Coffeecake

1/2 cup (3 ounces) vegetable shortening or butter (4 ounces)…I use butter
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped walnuts (optional)


1.Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream starting and ending with flour mixture. I like to do this in the pattern of flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour.

2. Grease and flour a regular-sized tube pan*. Spread half the batter in the pan, then half the topping; then the remainder of the batter, and finish by sprinkling the top with the rest of the topping.

3. Bake the cake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool it for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Place the cake right-side-up (topping up) on a plate to serve.

*This can also be made in a 9″ x 13″ pan. Just serve it right from the pan in squares.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

* This coffeecake is also delicious made with plain or vanilla yogurt, or buttermilk instead of sour cream

*If you make this in a 9 x 13-inch pan be aware that you’ll have to spread the batter quite thinly to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon half into the pan, using a rubber spatula to spread batter out evenly; sprinkle on half the topping; then drop the remaining batter, in spoonfuls, on top. Don’t bother to try to spread it around; just sprinkle with the rest of the topping. Cake will puff up and look fine by the time it’s done.

*Don’t over mix your batter. Mix each flour addition just until all of the flour in incorporated

Bake and Share Ideas:
  1. Bake the coffeecake as part of a breakfast box for a friend the morning of a funeral they need to attend as I explained in part 1 of this post. See the link at the beginning of this post to read more
  2. Bake the coffeecake as part of a breakfast box for a friend who just had a baby as I explained in part 1 of this post. See link at the beginning of this post to read more.
  3. Bring the coffeecake to share at a picnic
  4. Bring the coffeecake to your Easter brunch!
  5. Bake the coffeecake and deliver it to a group of road workers in your community. This spring is sure to bring lots of road repair and construction!
  6. Make this coffeecake as a hostess gift. Hosting a party is exhausting and giving your host breakfast for the morning after the party is a wonderful gift!!!
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Blueberry Buckle                Game Day Churros          Cinnamon Star Bread

Cinnamon Star Bread for My NYE Hostess


Every year, my next door neighbor hosts a New Years Eve party. If you have ever hosted a party of any sort, you know how much work goes into the prep and planning and how exhausting it can be to host. Knowing that this particular party always includes adults and kids staying up late, I thought making a breakfast basket for my neighbor and her family would be a perfect hostess gift.


This year, I decided to make chocolate croissants and an impressive looking and most delicious cinnamon star bread. I am so thankful to have wonderful neighbors and friends to celebrate with! What better way to show thanks than with a freshly baked breakfast! I wrapped the cinnamon star bread in saran wrap, boxed up the chocolate croissants, and put them in a basket along with a bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice from a local grocery store.


The cinnamon star bread is much easier to make than it looks! It is a sweet dough with a cinnamon sugar filling and a soft and tender interior. It is sure to impress all with taste and appearance!


Cinnamon Star Bread


3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons (7-8 oz) lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons)(2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor*, optional; for enhanced flavor
2 teaspoons instant yeast,
2 tablespoons (7/8 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup (1 5/8 oz) potato flour or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup (2 1/4 oz) cinnamon sugar
1. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
4. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10″ circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4″ of bare dough around the perimeter.


5. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle.

6.Repeat the layering process — egg, cinnamon sugar, dough circle — leaving the top circle bare.

7. Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.


8. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again.



Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.

9. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes. While the star is rising, preheat the oven  to 400 degrees F.

10. Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.

Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: one star loaf, about 8 to 12 servings.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

*The buttery sweet dough flavor can be purchased online through King Arthur Flour and Amazon.

*See my tips and techniques page about how to measure flour if you are not weighing your ingredients.

*Don’t be afraid to tackle this bread! It is much easier than it looks!

How can you bless others with cinnamon star bread:

  1. Give it as a hostess gift
  2. Make it for a brunch you are hosting or it bring it to a brunch you are attending
  3. Make it as a special treat for your co-workers
  4. Make it on Saturday evening for your family to enjoy for an extra special Sunday breakfast.