Category Archives: New Baby

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.

French Bread Frittata For an Irish Breakfast Party

French Bread Frittata, delicious, quick, and perfect for breakfast or brunch

French Bread Frittata, delicious, quick, and perfect for breakfast or brunch

French Bread Frittata, delicious, quick, and perfect for breakfast or brunch

I was a very busy baker this past weekend! I baked for a wonderful fundraiser on Sunday for the Brain Up foundation which supports brain cancer research. I made macarons, Madeleines, chocolate chip cookies, and another friend made two different kinds of scones. I will be posting about the fundraiser and sharing my Madeline recipe later this week.

I also baked for my neighbor’s annual Irish breakfast on Saturday. It is a really fun gathering of wonderful neighbors and friends, and I was really looking forward to it. I have a bit of a problem when I start thinking about what I want to bring to a gathering. My mind starts thinking of all of the possibilities, and I can never narrow it down to just one thing. I tried to think of what would be suitable for a traditional Irish breakfast. My neighbor comes from an all Irish family and she is first generation American. She took care of the traditional items like white and black pudding, egg bakes, and Irish soda bread. Last year I brought a variety of scones, so I wanted to change it up a bit this year. I couldn’t  show up without scones, so I made vanilla bean scones.  I also made the cinnamon sugar shamrocks I posted last week. As I said, I have a problem! I think my friends and family have come to enjoy my problem of not being able to decide what to make. It means more tasty treats for them! This year, I really wanted to make something with egg in it to bring. I enjoy making and eating homemade baguettes, and I enjoy making and eating frittatas, so I decided to pair them up and make a french bread frittata. I mean, both are delicious, and paired together, I figured they would be amazing! AND THEY WERE!!!! They disappeared off the cutting board in about five minutes! I wish I had made more!

Baguettes:

You do not have to make your own baguettes as I did. You can buy them from the store. But, I think the taste and flavor of the bread is just as important as the frittata, so be sure to buy a good loaf! Or, make my loaves by using the master recipe for artisan bread in five minutes a day I posted a while back. The directions for the baguettes are in the “Tips” section found at the end of the post. I really can’t say enough about how amazing this bread and master recipe are. I made my dough on Wednesday, and Ieft it in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake my bread Friday evening. I took the dough out of the fridge, shaped it, and baked two baguettes on Friday evening so they were ready for my french bread frittatas Saturday morning. Putting the frittatas together Saturday morning was quick and simple! Just whisk the egg mixture together and bake! The egg mixture can even be made the night before and refrigerated until the next morning. This makes for an even easier and quick breakfast or brunch meal.

French Bread Frittata, delicious, quick, and perfect for breakfast or brunch

 

French Bread Frittata

2 french baguettes
8 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use kosher salt)
4-5 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped (you can also use ham or cooked breakfast sausage or roasted veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms for a vegetarian version))
3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons shredded mild cheddar cheese (feel free to use whatever cheese you love!)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 green onion, chopped (you can use more than if you desire)

Directions

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line a sheet pan with foil.
3. Using a serrated bread knife, cut around the outside top of each baguette, careful not to slice through the bottom. Hollow out each baguette, leaving  at least a 1/2 inch of bread in the bottom and on the sides. You can save the scraps of bread to munch on, slice up and serve with a spinach dip, grind up and use as bread crumbs, or cut into cubes and make croutons.

French baguettes made with the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Hollowed out French baguettes

4. Whisk the eggs, milk or cream, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the cheese, green onions, and parsley.
5. Sprinkle the chopped bacon (or whatever meat and/or veggies you desire) evenly among the hollow out bread.
6. Fill each loaf with the egg mixture almost to the top of the bread, dividing the mixture evenly between the loaves.

French bread frittata

7. Bake until the egg mixture is puffy and just set in the center, about 25-35 minutes. Start checking your loaves around 25 minutes. My loaves took about 32 minutes. If your bread begins to brown too much, wrap the foil around the outside of the loaf.
8. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes, then slice,  serve, and enjoy! It is great served warm or at room temperature.

Baking Tips:

*I like to whisk my egg mixture until it starts to get frothy and foamy. I think it makes for a fluffy frittata.

*Have fun and play with different variations of the frittata. Next time I would love to try a veggie version and a breakfast sausage version.

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Bring the french bread frittata to your Easter brunch!
  2. Bake the french bread frittata as part of a breakfast box for a friend the morning of a funeral they need to attend.  See this post to read more about a breakfast box
  3. Bake the french bread frittatas as part of a breakfast box for a friend who just had a baby as explain in this post.
  4. This would be awesome wrapped in foil and warmed up over a campfire on your next camping trip.
  5. Bake the french bread frittata for a friend who just moved into a new home and has yet to unpack.

 

Calzones, One to Keep and One to Share

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This calzone recipe is one of my “Go To” recipes when I am either making dinner for a large crowd, or making a dinner for someone in need whether they are ill, just had a baby, or just lost a loved one. The recipe makes two large calzones. It is perfect for sharing because I can feed my family with one calzone and share the other calzone with a family in need. It is also great because you can customize your filling to the liking of your family and the recipient. The calzones are absolutely scrumptious! I love bread and I love pizza, so this is a match made in heaven!!

I recently shared my calzones with a friend who had her third baby.  I dropped it off at her house right at dinner time with a salad and fruit. If you want to take the calzone to your friend before dinnertime, or make it as a freezer meal, you can bake it half-way, then your recipient can either freeze it, or finish baking it at dinnertime. If you want to make the calzones ahead of time for a party, you can bake them half-way then freeze them. The day of the party, let them thaw in the fridge in the morning, then finish baking them during your party. I have done this on numerous occasions and they are always a big hit!

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Calzones

Ingredients

2 cups lukewarm (110°F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
6 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon salt

Filling Ingredients of your choice:

Cheese-Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone, Cheddar

Sauce-Pizza Sauce, Marinara, Spaghetti Sauce, Pesto

Meat- Italian Sausage, Ham, Prosciutto, Pepperoni, etc

Herbs-Pizza Seasoning, Basil, Parsley, Crushed Red Pepper, Thyme, Oregano

Vegetables-Chopped or sautéed vegetables of your choice

Instructions
Dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water in a large bowl. Let proof for 5 minutes or so; mixture should begin to bubble.

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Stir 1 cup flour into yeast mixture. Add salt, then stir in an additional 4 1/2 cups flour. When dough begins to hold together and pull away from the sides of the bowl, it’s ready to knead.

Knead dough, using remaining 1/2 cup flour for work surface. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes, then let dough rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Knead an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Dough should be smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. I knead the dough in my stand mixer using the dough attachment. I almost always need to add the entire remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

Form dough into a ball and place in greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl with a damp towel or piece of plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours depending on where you set the bowl (as well as the humidity level in your kitchen.) I place the bowl of dough in my oven with the oven light on to rise.

Punch dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface (alternatively, you can leave dough in bowl and let it rise again, for about half the time of the initial rising; this will produce a finer-grained product).

Cut your bread dough into 2 pieces. Roll out each piece into a rectangle about 10 x 14 inches. Spread a thin layer of sauce on first. Then layer it with your choice of ingredients. Leave a half inch border around the dough.

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Starting with the long edge, roll the dough around the filling jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam and ends together very tightly and place the roll on a parchment lined baking sheet seam side down.

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Cover the calzone with a damp towel or plastic wrap (grease the underside of it so it won’t stick to the dough). Let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Fifteen minutes before you want to bake the calzone, preheat your oven to 450°F. To make the crust crunchy, preheat a roasting pan on the oven bottom along with the oven. Just before the calzone goes in, pour in 3 or 4 cups of water.

Slash the tops of the loaves, brush with the egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 TBS water) and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

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Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F.  *If you plan to freeze or half-bake your calzone see Baking Tips for Instructions. Turn the heat down to 400°F and continue baking for a further 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

To serve, allow the calzone to cool and “set” for 10 or 15 minutes. Then cut in slices. I like to serve mine with any extra sauce for dipping.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

My Marinara Recipe:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4-1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes if desired
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes-I like to use San Marzano Tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons pizza seasoning
3-4 teaspoons sugar

Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes if. Cook 2 minutes. Add parsley, tomatoes, salt, pepper, pizza seasoning, and sugar. Stir sauce, bring to a bubble and simmer 5-30 minutes over low heat. If you are short on time, 5 minutes will do the trick. But I love to let this sauce simmer the full 30 minutes when I have time. The flavors are wonderful!

Baking Tips:

*To Freeze: Bake the calzone for the first 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Wrap tight in plastic wrap and tin foil then freeze. When you want to bake it, remove calzone from the freezer the morning of the day you will be baking it and place it in the fridge to thaw.  When ready to bake, let calzone rest on the counter while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

*To half-bake and deliver to recipient: Bake the calzone the first 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool completely and wrap tight. Deliver it to your recipient with baking instructions. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

*Be careful not to make your filling too juicy or use too much sauce

*Don’t be afraid to use strong flavors.

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Bake the calzones and feed your family with one and share the other with a family in need
  2. Invite friends or family over for a game night and serve the calzones
  3. Take the calzones to your next potluck. You walk out a rockstar!!!