Category Archives: New Neighbor

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.

Breakfast Blessings For Multiple Occassions Part 2 Mini Frittatas

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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.

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

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Today, I am featuring the recipe for the mini frittatas.

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These frittatas are a delicious 1-2 bite breakfast  food. They are very quick and easy to make. The frittatas are a wonderful make ahead breakfast food, and they freeze beautifully. I warm them up in the microwave directly from the freezer. They are a great way to ensure you are having a healthy, protein packed breakfast and are great for on the go! These mini frittatas are a perfect bake and share breakfast food. This recipe makes 24 mini frittatas. It can be catered to your own taste. If you prefer ham or sausage, use it instead of the bacon, or use whatever cheese and herbs you prefer.

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Mini Frittatas
Ingredients

cooking spray
8 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped
2 1/2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 Tablespoons shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

  1. Spray mini muffin tin (with 24 cups) with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the cheese, and parsley.
  3. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture.
  4. Sprinkle the chopped bacon evenly among the muffin cups.
  5.  Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve immediately.
  7. If you will be sharing or freezing the frittatas, cool them on a wire rack and package in an air tight container. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. They can be warmed directly from the freezer if frozen.
Baking Tips:

*My frittatas took 8 minutes to cook, so check yours around 7 minutes…not every oven is the same.

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

Bake and Share Ideas:
  1. Bake the frittatas as part of a breakfast box for a friend the morning of a funeral they need to attend as I explained in my last post. See the link at the beginning of this post to read more
  2. Bake the frittatas as part of a breakfast box for a friend who just had a baby as I explained in my last post. See link at the beginning of this post to read more.
  3. Bake the frittatas and bring them on a camping trip to share with friends
  4. Bring the frittatas to your next breakfast or brunch gathering
  5. Invite some friends over to enjoy coffee/tea and frittatas
  6. Bake the frittatas for a friend who just moved into a new home and has yet to unpack.
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A New Neighbor Welcome Basket and the Best Homemade Crusty Bread

*This post contains affiliate links

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I have been looking forward to sharing this post with you ever since I had the idea of starting this blog. We recently had a new neighbor move into our cul de sac. I love the idea of bringing a new neighbor a special welcome basket. If you have ever gone through the moving process, you know how taxing it is. Add to that, not knowing anyone in your new neighborhood. Bringing a new neighbor a welcome gift is a great way to introduce yourself to your new neighbors and make them feel more comfortable in their new home. I also use this basket as a house warming gift for friends that move into a new home. I got the idea from my favorite christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. George and Mary use this blessing when the Martini family moves into their new home in Bailey Park.

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The basket includes salt, wine, and homemade crusty artisan bread.

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The recipe for the bread comes from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I highly recommend this book. You can click on the book title to view the book on Amazon. The premise of this recipe is to be able to make a delicious crusty artisan style loaf of bread with very minimal effort. You spend five minutes mixing four ingredients together. Let the dough rise for two hours and pop it into the refrigerator. When you want to bake a loaf of bread, pull a one pound portion of dough out of the bucket, shape it, let it rest, and bake it. I have been making this bread for many years now. My husband said I have ruined any other bread for him as he prefers my homemade bread over any restaurant or store bought bread. It is THAT good!!! When I tell people how simple this bread is, they never believe me. I promise, you can make this bread even if you have never baked a loaf of bread in your life! The authors of this book also have gluten free dough that makes a delicious crusty loaf of bread. YES, I said gluten free, delicious, and crusty bread in the same sentence!!! The recipe for the gluten free dough is in the book mentioned above. I am going to give you the master recipe from the book that I mainly use to make boules, baguettes, and dinner rolls along with some tips I have learned throughout the years of using this dough.

MASTER RECIPE

Ingredients:

3 cups (1 1/2 pounds) lukewarm water (you can use cold water, but it will take the dough longer to rise. Just don’t use hot water or you may kill the yeast)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast)

*If you use cake yeast you will need 1.3 ounces.

1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher Salt

6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) all-purpose flour (This recipe was tested using Gold Medal Flour. I use King Arthur all purpose flour. It has a higher protein content, so I use 1lb 12oz)

Mixing the dough:

In a 5 or 6 quart bowl or lidded dough bucket (I got my large bucket from Kohls), dump in the water, and add the yeast and salt.

Dump in the flour all at once and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk, which is one of the tools that makes the job so much easier!

Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, It will be a wet rough dough.

Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape. (I snap all of the lid down except for one corner.)

Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container.

But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it.  DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.

The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilled. It is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime. The flavor will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.

The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for this dough. It will never rise up again in the container.

Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.

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You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)

Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using kitchen shears and form it into a ball.  Place the ball on a sheet of parchment paper… (or rest it on a generous layer of corn meal on top of a pizza peel.)

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Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (although letting it go 60 or even 90 minutes will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf. This may also improve the look of your loaf and prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for this dough.

You can also try the “refrigerator rise trick,” shaping the loaves and then immediately refrigerating them overnight. By morning, they’ll have risen and are ready for the oven after a brief room-temp rest while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a Baking Stone* on the center rack, with a metal broiler tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)

*(or Cast Iron Pizza Pan– which will never crack and conducts heat really well. Be careful to dry it after rinsing with water or it will rust)

Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a very sharp serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) If your dough is collapsing when you make the slashes, it may be that the dough has overproofed or your knife it dull and dragging the dough too much.

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Slide the loaf into the oven onto a preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color. As the bread bakes you should notice a nice oven spring in the dough. This is where the dough rises.

If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 20-25 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature. If you cut into a loaf before it is cooled you will have a tough crust and a gummy interior. It is hard to wait, but you will be happy you did! Make sure you have a nice sharp Bread Knife that will not crush the bread as you cut. Or you can tear it apart as they do in most of Europe.

If you have any leftover bread just let it sit, uncovered on the cutting board or counter with the cut side down. If you cover a bread that has a crust it will get soggy. Leftover bread makes delicious toast the next morning.

*Recipe Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

TIPS

*I always let my boules (round loaf) rest 90 minutes. If you want to bake your bread sooner, shape it into a baguette. I let the baguette rise for 40 minutes and it only takes 20-25 minutes to bake

*When my dough is gone, I do not clean out my bucket. I like to leave a little bit of dough residue in the bucket. It helps to flavor my next batch of dough with a sourdough flavor.

*Don’t be afraid to add extra flour to your dough while you are shaping it if it is too wet to handle.

*I let my shaped dough rest on parchment paper, then transfer it directly to the oven on the parchment. I found the cornmeal to be very messy.

*To make rolls, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Pull off a 3oz. piece of dough and shape into a ball for each roll. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let rest 20 minutes. Cut a cross on the top of each roll using kitchen shears or a serrated knife. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Brush  rolls with melted butter right out of the oven. Enjoy!

*Check out the author’s website for more information and instructional videos

Master Recipe-click on this link to go to the artisan bread in five minutes a day website.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does! And I hope you use it to bless all those around you.