While I am a confirmed atheist, I do enjoy the food aspects of holidays, religious or otherwise, from many different cultures. Besides which, my BFF and my brother-in-law are both Jewish, so I have a special place for Jewish holidays in my world. Monday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. While apples and honey are traditional for the holiday, I decided (after consultation with my BFF) that this was the perfect reason to make challah. I love challah so much, but have never gotten around to making it myself. So finally I felt motivated enough.
1 package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup butter, softened
In a large bowl, place the warm water. Dissolve the sugar and yeast. Add 3/4 cup flour and blend thoroughly. Let the yeast mixture proof for about 15-20 minutes. Add the egg and the butter and mix those in. Then add a cup or so of flour and mix it in. Keep adding flour a little at a time while you mix and start to knead the dough, until its no longer sticky. Keep kneading til the dough becomes elastic. Cover and let the dough double in size, like an hour and a half. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, and divide the dough into thirds. Roll each third into a rope of roughly the same size. Braid the ropes together (Here’s a good visual on braiding challah). Once you’ve braided the challah, stick it on a lightly-greased baking sheet and let it rise again, for about an hour. Bake at 35 for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown, and enjoy!
The recipe was awesome! Perhaps not quite as good as when I’ve bought challah from the grocery store, but hey, it was my first try with this. I also think I’m going to try for a little less sugar next time I make this. Also there is an onion variation I now want to try as well. Since apples are a thing for this holiday, I had the challah (and the casserole I made for dinner) with hard cider. Now that it’s basically fall, hard cider is something I drink a lot. Song of the week: You’re A Better Man Than I by The Yardbirds. One of the great, under-appreciated 60s rock bands, the Yardbirds launched Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck’s careers. This is one of my favorite songs by them.
Brioche is amazing stuff. Admittedly, I have made brioche several times before. However, I am trying to make sure to eat healthy, so I decided this week, so modify my brioche recipe, to make it a bit healthier. Ergo, it qualifies as a new recipe. For the record, it’s not actually healthy – a loaf of bread with more than 1/2 a cup of butter in it is never going to be healthy. But it you can keep something rather bad for you delicious in the process, nothing wrong with trying to make it a bit healthier.
2 1/2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 package yeast
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
8-10 tablespoons butter, softened
Mix 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, and salt together in a very large bowl. Add the water and eggs, and mix together. You can use electric mixers, I prefer to just use a spoon. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet. Take about half the softened butter, and use your hands to squish it into the dough. Add a bit more flour as you go so it doesn’t get too soft. As you mush in the butter, start to knead the dough. Add more softened butter as you go, and flour, until the dough is soft and somewhat elastic, without being sticky. Then you stick it in the fridge to rest and rise overnight.
The next day, pull it out of the fridge and play with the dough a bit until it becomes pliable. Then shape it into a log and stick it in a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for like 3 hours or so, or until it’s doubled in size and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350.
This turned out amazingly well. You can get a bit of the whole wheat flavor in it, but it doesn’t taste heavy or dense like whole wheat bread often do. It’s also more filling than standard brioche. The only quibble I have with it is that it is really crumbly. Well, that and the fact it takes forever to make – one of these days I’m going to mess around more and find a faster way of making it. Song of the week: Purple Haze, by Jimmy Hendrix. Iconic. Game-changing. Perfection. And no matter how many times you’ve listened to it (and I mean really listened) it is mind-blowing.
I am a stress baker – when life gets difficult one of my main coping mechanisms is to bake things with lots of sugar and probably chocolate. However, I do try to be a healthy person, for the most part. This week, when the urge to stress-bake occurred, I remembered I had a zucchini nearing the “use it or lose it” phase of life. Internet-land helpfully reminded me that zucchini can be used in desserts, and I knew what I was going to bake – chocolate-chip zucchini bread.
This is my base recipe, but I modified it for myself a bit.
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 medium-large zucchini, grated
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 a bag (ish) of chocolate chips
Cream the butter and sugar together. I always use salted butter because a, it tastes better, and b, most recipes that call for unsalted butter have you adding salt anyways, and that just seems inefficient and silly. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then add all the other ingredients (except the chips) and beat them all together with a hand mixer. Zucchini is super easy and fast to grate with a cheese grater so no worries if you don’t have a food processor (like me). Stir in the chocolate chips last (to taste). Pour batter into a greased loaf pan (or 2 mini loaf pans) and bake at 350 until done – aka golden brown on top, amazing smell, and springs back when you touch it. Cool on a wire rack once its done.
The result: awesome – even better than I expected. The cinnamon and nutmeg I think are the true key to this recipe. I admit – I was skeptical about this one, but I shouldn’t have been. The best I can describe it is that it tastes like oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies in bread form. You really don’t notice the zucchini either, although you know it’s there. So you can snack on it without feeling guilty – although, disclaimer, I don’t think this recipe is actually healthy in any way. So don’t feel guilty (one should never feel guilty about eating good food regardless) but don’t lie to yourself either. Finally, the song of the week: Woman of Faith by Eddie from Ohio. I find this song extremely soothing, and listened to it on repeat for awhile this week. Not quite as long as my 2 hour Sweet Child O’ Mine repeat marathon, but a solid runner up.
I have an absurd fondness for bunnies. Seeing a bunny is a good-luck omen for me (which is a very long story). So naturally, my amazing BFF last year sent me a picture of a loaf of bread, shaped like a bunny. It was so cute and I had to make it. But then I didn’t. This year, when Easter rolled around, I knew the time had come, the time for bunny bread.
Rather than trying a new type of bread, I went with my standard yeast dough. I use this dough for everything: rolls, pizza, pide, baked with brown sugar and cinnamon, etc. It is simple, quick (for a yeast bread) and amazingly versatile. For the record, this is a template; I don’t actually measure:
2/3-3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 package yeast
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups flour
Start by heating the water. I describe the proper temperature as “tea temperature,” hot, but not so hot you burn your tongue. Too hot kills yeast. Add the brown sugar and yeast, stir until its all dissolved, and let it sit until the yeast is bubbly, about 10 minutes. Once that happens, add the olive oil and 1 cup of flour or so. When the dough is sticky, but has largely come together, sprinkle on the last bit of flour, and knead that into the dough until it is elastic. Cover and let rise for about an hour.
The dough my be mine, but the construction technique is absolutely the hard work of a different blog, which you can (and should) check out here. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to get the air out. Rip off about half of the dough and set it aside: its the bunny’s body. Take about 1/3 of the remaining dough and roll it into a fat, long-ish sausage, and set it on the baking pan. Take another, smaller hunk of dough, and do the same thing, only make it more of a U shape. Then take the big blob of bunny body, and set it on top of the the 2 sausages. Tada, legs! Pull off a small piece of dough, and make a short little sausage, and stick half of it under the bunny’s butt for its tail. With the remaining dough, make it into a tear-drop shape, and place it where the bunny’s head goes. Slit the pointy end of the teardrop head in half, separate, and press down, to make the ears. Let it rise for another 30-40 minutes.
Once it has finished rising, stick it in a pre-heated oven at 400 and let it bake until golden brown about 30 minutes or so. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack immediately. Once it has cooled, enjoy!
As you can see, the bunny bread is both adorable and delicious. The only problem with it was that I felt really awkward about cutting it, and had a difficult time figuring out how to cut it. I was laughing at myself for having this problem, so I figured the best thing to do would be to chop off its head, and get it over with. As with any loaf of bread there are a million things to do with it, but I decided to add to my ridiculousness, and make Welsh Rarebit, using the bunny bread. Song of the week: Rose Tattoo by Dropkick Murphys. They are one of my favorite bands, and I absolutely love this song – its amazing.