Category Archives: House guest

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.

Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake for a Spa Weekend Getaway Part 2

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My last post featured a bag of breakfast treats I made for my girlfriends to enjoy on a spa weekend getaway. I included fruit, fresh apple cinnamon scones, and blueberry buckle coffee cake.

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I have been wanting to try this recipe for a while now, and this was the perfect occasion. The blueberry buckle came together quickly and baked up beautifully. It has the perfect amount of sweetness, not overly sweet, and a wonderful buttery crumb. I ended up bringing my blueberry buckle to the spa, and enjoyed it poolside while reading “Wildflower” by Drew Barrymore. (I highly reccomend the book; it’s a fun easy read with a lot of interesting stories about Drew’s life.) It was the perfect way to spend my relaxing spa day! I look forward to making this recipe again and again especially with fresh picked blueberries in July!

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Blueberry Buckle Coffecake
Ingredients

STREUSEL
1/3 cup (2 oz)  sugar
1/2 cup (2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 oz)  (1/2 stick) butter
CAKE
2 cups  (8 1/2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) (4 tablespoons) butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk
2 cups (10 oz) fresh or frozen blueberries
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8″ square, 9″ square, or 9″ round cake pan. If you use an 8″ square pan or round pan, make sure it’s at least 2″ deep.
2. To make the topping: Mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Cut or rub in the butter with the side of a fork, two knives or your finger tips until it reaches a crumbly state. Set aside.
3. Blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla.
Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture to the sugar/butter mixture, ending with flour. Add blueberries. Stir only enough to blend.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping over the batter.
6. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
7. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve right from the pan. Or, to transfer to a serving plate, Loosen the sides with a knife or spatula. Holding the pan in your left hand, gently tip the cake out onto your right hand, remove the pan, and gently right the cake onto a serving dish.
Yield: about 12 to 16 servings.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

*Toss the blueberries with 2 Tbs of the flour mixture before you fold them into the batter. This will prevent the blueberries from sinking to the bottom.

*Be sure your ingredients are at room temperature

*See my tips and techniques page on how to measure flour if you do not weigh your ingredients

Bake and Share Ideas:
  1. Make a special breakfast bag like I did and deliver it to a friend just because or bring it on your next getaway. A breakfast bag would be great to take to a friend or caretaker in the hospital, or to a friend who just had a baby in the hospital.
  2. Take a blueberry buckle coffee cake to your next brunch to share
  3. Enjoy some blueberry buckle with a cup of coffee or tea and friends!

Fresh Apple Scones for a Spa Weekend Getaway Part 1

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Last weekend, I was blessed enough to enjoy a lovely spa weekend getaway with an amazing group of ladies. We were all looking forward to seeing one another, relaxing and recharging, and having a lot of fun. Since we would be staying in a hotel, I wanted to treat the girls to a bag full of breakfast treats. The bag included a few pieces of fruit, a piece of blueberry buckle (which I will feature in part 2 of this post later this week), and these delicious fresh apple cinnamon scones.

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After I baked the scones, I wrapped them in small white bags I found at Michael’s to keep them fresh in the bag of breakfast treats.

 

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I have been making these scones for quite some time now. For the longest time, my husband did not like scones…until he met these babies! I made them one evening a few years ago just to try out the recipe for the first time. The next morning, I wrapped a scone in a paper towel and sent it with my husband to enjoy on his way to work. Not long after he left, I received a text from him telling me that the scones were amazing! YES!!!!! I finally found a scone that he loved! These scones are always a big hit! I always add more apples than the recipe calls for, and cut the apples in chunks. For some reason, this time that I made them, I did not add as many extra apples as I normally do, and I cut the apples the size that the recipe suggests. BAD MOVE! I did not think they came out as well as they do when I make them my way. I usually double the amount of apples and cut them in about 3/4 in. chunks.

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones
Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 oz)  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) (4 oz) cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup (2 3/4 oz) chopped fresh apple, in 1/2″ pieces (about half a medium apple); leave the skin on, if you like (I use an entire apple and chop them in 3/4 in pieces.)
3/4 cup (4 oz) cinnamon chips (I use Hershey’s brand cinnamon chips. Not every grocery store has them. I find them at Jewel-Osco)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 oz) applesauce, unsweetened preferred

TOPPING
3 tablespoons coarse white sparkling sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spice.
2. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.
3. Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon chips.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and applesauce.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.
6. Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Gently pat and round each half into a 5″ to 5 1/2″ circle about 3/4″ thick.

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7. To make the topping: Stir together the coarse sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the topping.

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8. Using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

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9. Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2″ space between them, at their outer edges.

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10. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
11. Bake the scones for 18 to 22 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.
12. Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.
Yield: 12 scones.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

*Keep all ingredients as cold as possible

*Do not overwork your scone dough

*You can freeze the scones after you shape them into triangles. Freeze them on a sheet pan  for an hour, then place in a freezer bag. Bake them straight from the freezer. They may take a few extra minutes to bake.

*Refer to my tips and techniques page for more tips on making scones.

Bake and Share Ideas:
  1. Make a special breakfast bag like I did and deliver it to a friend just because or bring it on your next getaway. A breakfast bag would be great to take to a friend or caretaker in the hospital, or to a friend who just had a baby in the hospital.
  2. Take some scones to your next brunch to share
  3. Package a couple of scones, a bag of tea, and a tea towel and take them to a friend who needs a reminder to “slow down.

As I was photographing for this post, I noticed this quote from my yogi tea:

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SPREAD THE LIGHT AND BE THE LIGHT FOR SOMEONE TODAY!!! 

“SLOW DOWN” Tea Towel by Kimberly K. Carter

Kimberly K. Carter is a wonderful friend of mine who is an amazing graphic designer. She designed my blog including all of the artwork and the logo. A while back, she posted this “Slow Down” design on her Facebook page.  I immediately fell in love with it, and asked her if she could make a tea towel out of the design. The evening of our first bake and share gathering, Kim blessed me with this beautiful hand made tea towel, and I told her I want two more!!! I love it so much! I smile every time I see this towel hanging in my kitchen. Thank you Kimberly K. Carter!!!!

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The tea towel is available to purchase in Kim’s Esty shop. Click HERE to view her shop.

 

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