Challah Archives - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah: A Guest Post for ‘Baking with Heritage’ at Food Wanderings

April 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Breads, Yeastspotting | 37 Comments
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A few months ago, Shulie, from the beautiful blog, Food Wanderings, asked me to write a post for her Baking with Heritage series.  I couldn’t have been more flattered, not to mention excited, since this would allow me to journey back to my childhood in my grandmother’s kitchen, where she taught me to make challah from an old family recipe.  This recipe was taught to her by her mother, who in turn learned it from her mother in Russia, who learned it from her mother in Russia. and so on and so forth. A precious family heirloom that is dear to my heart, and to me, the most perfect challah.

I rarely sway from this recipe, but in this case, my creative side overruled my traditional side, so this round, Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah Twist was born.

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah

Before I link you to my post, along with the recipe, a few things I need to touch on, totally unrelated to challah, but I wanted to update you and failed to do so in my last post.

Continue Reading Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah: A Guest Post for ‘Baking with Heritage’ at Food Wanderings…

Chocolate and Pistachio Marble Challah, plus my 4-Year Blogiversary Giveaway! Giveaway Closed

May 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Breads, Daring Bakers, Giveaway, Yeastspotting | 623 Comments
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UPDATE: This KA Stand Mixer Giveaway has been extended to June 8th, 2012, so you have 1 more day to get your entries in!

I hate humidity.  I hate muggy.  I don’t hate it because it makes me feel sluggish, sticky and sweaty.  I don’t hate it because it transforms my hair into a limp, Medusa like ‘do’ of curly rat tails or frizzes it out.  I hate it because it affects my baking.  I’ve complained about this many summers on this blog – this blog that is now officially 4 years old today!

Okay..now that I got that over with, back to my kvetching.


Humidity can really affect bread baking, especially if you want to braid or knot loaves or rolls.  You add the amount of flour approximated in the recipe, plus a little more, going by feel as you knead, which is usually the norm.  When its humid, you keep adding flour, and the stickiness resurrects with each fold and push.  The moisture in the air transfers to the dough, which absorbs cup after cup after cup of flour and it seems to melt into the never-ending moisture as if you barely added any flour at all.  THEN, when you shape the bread, and set it aside to rise..it spreads like a soaking mop across a fried chicken joint floor, obliterating any shape you created and you can forget about oven spring.  Humidity is the succubus of dough.

Of course a wave of humidity hit and is still going strong as I type this, right when I decided to create and bake my challah for this month’s Daring Bakers challenge.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.


I decided to make two flavored doughs along with the basic honey white challah recipe Ruth provided us with, using that basic honey white recipe for the two flavored doughs.  I split the recipe in half.  I kept one half white, then boiled water and stirred in 3 tablespoons dark cocoa for a chocolate dough, let it cool to tepid, then continued on with the recipe as written.

I now had a basic white challah dough, and a chocolate challah dough, in which I kneaded about 1 cup of grated dark chocolate into before letting it rise.  For the pistachio dough, I made half the recipe, adding about 2 tablespoons pistachio paste to the boiling water plus a drop of green gel food color, letting it come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

I was stoked, but after all the risings, I realized that all 3 of the doughs were way too tacky.  I started adding flour to each batch again, kneading, then more flour, kneading, then more.  I finally reached a point where I felt all three doughs could be braided and twisted into a cool knot I was thinking of, since there was probably enough dough for three large challahs.

At this point I didn’t care about a tough loaf of challah, I just wanted it to look pretty, dammit!  This goes against every cooking, baking, blogging rule I hold near and dear ..but I didn’t give a shit. Humidity also affects my mood. Not in a good way.

I started with the twisty knot and covered it to rise.  When I returned an hour later, it had spread, but even worse, the three doughs had amalgamated into one freakin’ ball of mosaic!  No high twisty bumps, no distinct ropes of dough, just a flat, mosaic boule – as you can see above and below.

Sooo..I decided to add more flour and try some braids with the remaining doughs, using this 6-strand method, my favorite, alternating the green, brown and white doughs.  Within 15 minutes the damn braids were already starting to flatten and spread.

Eff you, humidity!  Why must you seep through the walls no matter how high I crank the AC??

When an hour was up..I had two 6-strand braids that looked like this..

LOVE the sinkhole in the middle!  I knew they were going to bake up flat, so no pretty braids here.

Obviously, I couldn’t separate them back into three colored doughs, so  I cursed up a storm as if my foul mouth might perform magic on them, turning them into perfectly separated, braid worthy doughs.  Nope, didn’t work.  I dumped both flat braids into an oiled bowl and let it chill in the fridge overnight – not even a modicum of an idea of what I was going to do with this mess.

When I got home the next night, this is what I was greeted with…

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Just as I was about to give up and surrender to another boule, an idea struck.  Thank you, baby jeebus.

Remember those tubes of multi-colored plastic goo from the early 80’s, where you would put a glob on the end of a straw and blew it into a funky, psychedelic balloon?  It smelled like carcinogens and was probably akin to breathing in lead paint, but it was fun.  I just looked it up – my search term ‘blow goo on straw'; Super Elastic Bubble Plastic by Wham-O!

I was going to divide this lump of Super Wet Elastic Boule Doughtastic into 12 pieces, each piece a swirl of all three colors, like a glob of Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, then roll them into ropes, braid them together and pray.

Hmmm..this braid was looking okay – only the ends ‘melded’ into globs and lost the braiding, turning mosaic, but it had not flattened within 15 minutes – good sign.

When it was fully risen, it was nowhere near as bad as the first two, but I knew I wasn’t getting my usual, high, humpy, tight braids.  One turned out pretty flat.  One held some humps and looked okay, and that’s the one I photographed.  I had to slice it because I couldn’t fit the whole challah in my measly little Lowel Ego Light space.  Surprisingly, they weren’t tough at all – I think the humidity played a role in that too.  At least it was good for something.

Enough cannot be said about climate controlled kitchens.  I will have one – one day, when I hit the lottery.


Now, because of the humidity gremlin causing dough havoc, I can’t give you an exact recipe (although I did explain what I did in the 5th and 6th paragraphs – and I’ll explain again briefly), but, I can tell you to add dark cocoa to the amount of water in your favorite challah recipe (boil the water first, add cocoa, stir, then let cool before continuing), and knead a bunch of grated dark chocolate into the dough, for a chocolate dough.

For a pistachio dough, make or buy pistachio paste and add a couple of tablespoons into the amount of water listed in your recipe, boiled first, like for the chocolate dough.  Add a bit of green food color, if desired.  Let the pistachio water cool, then go ahead with your recipe.  I sprinkled turbinado sugar, after egg washing the dough, on top of  two of the loaves.

If you’d like the recipes Ruth provided for the Daring Bakers Challenge, which includes the one I used for my Super Elastic Bubble Plastic challahs, CLICK HERE.  If you’d like to see some gorgeous, braided challahs that didn’t flatten, click on the links to other Daring Baker’s blogs, HERE.

I’m submitting this challah to Yeastspotting, hosted by the talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

Now to the Giveaway.  It’s a Giveaway you see all over the blogosphere, but in this case, it’s from ME to YOU..no one else involved, to say thank you for a great 4 years.

Photo from Amazon.com

It’s  a KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer – your choice of color.

To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment.

For three extra entries you can..

1. Follow me on Twitter @parsleynsage

2. Tweet this giveaway – I just entered to win a Kitchen Aid 6 -Quart Stand Mixer at http://bit.ly/KztFYz .  Leave a comment to enter.  Ends June 4th, 2012.  June 8, 2012.

3. Like or share this giveaway on Facebook.

Leave a separate comment for each of the three bonus entries you do.

Finally, Bad boy First Love Part 12 is coming in my next post.  I need to be in a certain zone to write it, and that zone has been a bit elusive lately.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend!

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Bread Baking Day #47 Round-Up! Bread With Chocolate!

March 5, 2012 at 12:00 am | Posted in BBD, Breads, Cakes, Dessert | 31 Comments
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 I’m thrilled to bring you the round-up of Bread Baking Day #47 –  Bread with Chocolate I was stunned at the number of submissions I received from all over the world (some even made two or three breads with chocolate!), but more importantly, I was amazed by the beauty and creativity of each submission,  I think I want to try every single one!  Take a moment or 10 to check out each and every blog to see more beautiful photos of these breads, plus, get the recipes.  I’m sure you see at least one you’d like to try!

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted to Bread Baking Day #47 – you guys are truly masters of baking. Thanks so much to Zorra, who founded Bread Baking Day,and has had it up and running since 2007, for giving me this opportunity to host.  I enjoyed every second of it.  Bread Baking Day #48 will be announced tomorrow, March 6th.  It will be hosted by Astrid a from Paulchens Foodblog.  Go check it out!

Now, take a scroll through these 23 lovely, yeasted creations with chocolate, posted in the order in which they were received.  Enjoy!

Schokoladen-Pflaumen-Brot – Chocolate Plum Bread From Sandra   at From-Snuggs-Kitchen – Germany -Seeheim – Jugenheim

 Chocolate, Cranberries and Walnut Norwich Sourdough from Connie at My Discovery of Bread - Thailand

Chocolate Mango Bread from Roxana at A Little Bit of Everything, Roxana’s Home Baking – Virginia, USA

 Pane al Cioccolate – Italian Chocolate Bread from Jenni at The Gingered Whisk – West Virginia, USA

Chocolate Swirl Brioche Buns from Shelley at C Mom Cook – Pennsylvania, USA

Chocolate Spiral Bread from Sandie at Crumbs of Love - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Chocolate – Fruit Pizza (or Galette) from Judy at Judy’s Gross Eats -California, USA

Chocolate Wine Glazed Doughnuts from Lora at Diary of a Mad Hausfrau – NYC and Germany

Oven Baked Berliner Filled With Chocolate from Zorra at 1x umrühren bitte – Andalucia, Spain

Chocolate Chip Pecan Butter Horns from Jamie at Life’s A Feast – Nantes, France

Pain Au Chocolat from Lana at Bibberche – California, USA via Serbia

Chocolate and Polkagris Semlor from Ana at Anasbageri – Sweden

 Cheater’s Chocolate Challah from Margaret at Tea and Scones - Louisiana, USA

 Pain au Chocolat from Manuela at Cravo e Canela – Uma Cozinha no Brasil - Sao Paulo, Brazil

 No Knead Coconut-Chocolate Bread from Cathy at Bread Experience – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Italian Chocolate Cornetti From Cinzia at Cindystar – Garda Lake, Italy

 Chocolate Swirl Bread from Roxana at A Little Bit of Everything, Roxana’s Home Baking – Virginia, USA

 Chocolate Buns from Lien at Notitie van Lien - The Netherlands

 Chocolate Yeast Muffins from Roxana at from Roxana at A Little Bit of Everything, Roxana’s Home Baking – Virginia, USA

 Chocolate Marbled Brioche from Lora at Cake Duchess - Florida, USA

Chocolate Chip Pecan Bread Scented With Cinnamon and Orange from Jamie at Life’s A Feast – Nantes, France

Chocolate & Marzipan Finnish Pulla Swirl Twist from Mary at Mary, Mary Culinary -Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

And finally, Me, with a Black Forest Chocolate Chunk Cherry Bread

Check back at noon today for my SRC post, and Bad Boy First Love Part 7. 

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Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

December 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Posted in BBD, Breads, Candy, Daring Bakers, Fruit, Holiday, Yeastspotting | 45 Comments
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Remember back in ’09 I told you all about Herbie, my then almost 2-year old sourdough starter made using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method?

Remember how I told you I was going to introduce ‘him’ to all of you once my knee was better and I could start standing to knead some really amazing sourdough breads?

Well, that day never came, because I was a bad mama.  Once my knee healed and I was out and about on two legs, no cane, I kind of forgot about him in the back of the refrigerator.  When I remembered, it was probably three months since his last feeding.  I tried to revive him, but there was mold, and the small amounts I took out, minus the mold, and fed, – eagerly awaiting his bubbles of life, had already been given last rites.  It just wasn’t going to happen – it didn’t smell the way it wass supposed to, it was rank.  The smell was clearly sourdough starter rigor mortis.  I bid Herbie a sad adieu as I poured his thick liquid soul into the trash can.

Of course I later found out that he could have been saved by taking a tablespoon of him from the very center (his *sniff* heart), and giving him mad defibrillation with flour, sugar and water.  Just one tablespoon, and Herbie would still be here.

Batter like sourdough starter aka Herbie II

Oh, well..no use crying over trashed sourdough starter.  He gave me the best breads of his wild yeasted life.  Besides, I could reincarnate him someday.  That day has come, and may I introduce you to Herbie II? About 1 month ago, I just decided to do it, once again using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method.  There was no way any commercial yeast will ever step granule or cake in any sourdough starter I make.  Capturing wild yeast from everything around us, the air, atmosphere, our kitchens, etc…is the most amazing thing to watch develop – like gestating a baby, although not as wonderous and exciting of course, because this baby is not one you can cuddle and love and well, be human with – just one you can watch grow stronger and stronger, giving you the most complex, wonderful tasting breads, all with a lovely crumb and crust.

Firm sourdough starter

My weird intuition struck again…

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen: Great British Food!

So, I had already started gestating Herbie II, and one week later, it’s announced as the Daring Bakers challenge.  Although I loved that the challenge recipe for starter was all about capturing wild yeast, I’d already fermented enough grapes to capture Herbie’s wild yeast.  There was no sense in making another one.  I’m not a multi-startet type baker – one is enough, and from that one, I can make all kinds of starters for a variety of breads, and whatever is leftover from those, is given away or used to the last drop.  You will never see half-filled jars all over my kitchen or in my fridge labeled rye starter, oat starter, potato starter etc.  I think it’s cool that people do that, but if I could kill one starter with neglect, could you imagine the massacre of one plus?

I needed to bake a bunch of challah braids for Hanukkah.  I wanted to try Maggie Glazer’s recipe for sourdough challah for a long time, so I figured this would be a great time to do it.  I had already planned on filling one of the challahs with a homemade salted caramel with apples, which I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for months now, so why not sourdough and salted caramel apples?  Tangy, sweet, salty – God, YES.

Maggie Glazer’s dough calls for a firm starter to produce another firm starter for the challah.  Fortunately, Maggie has directions on how to convert a batter like starter into a firm starter.  I needed to take a tablespoon of Herbie and mix it with some water (I only use bottled) and bread flour until I had a dough that could be kneaded.  I surveyed Herbie’s young, unused, not yet powerful, baby bubbles and hoped for the best.  The next morning, as you can see in the above ‘firm starter’ photo, I had a risen mass of thick, bubbly, ‘cracked window’, dough.  Success!  Looks like the original Herbie’s super strength had been passed on to his younger replacement.  I proceeded on with the recipe,letting one more starter go to town – ending up with a lovely, silky dough.  It smelled wonderful too, like most wild yeast doughs.

I had to stop sniffing from above and let it rise..

While the dough was doing it’s thing, I made the salted caramel, chopped up some apples, added some spice, then stirred the apples into the hot caramel.  I think I will always keep a jar of this on hand.  I’m in love..I desperately wanted to start eating it right out of the jar I put it in for not only storage, but for the photo above.

If you don’t want to make sourdough challah, traditional challah, or any doughy vessel to place some of these glorious salted caramel apples in, I beg you to just make the salted caramel apples.  I’ve already had it over ice cream and well, straight out of the jar, but no double dipping, honest!  It’s..it’s…just amazing..I can’t even put it into words.

SO, like my Unique Twist on Challah back in ’09. in which I made a 6-strand braid challah, each strand filled with chocolate raisins and cinnamon sugar, I set out to reproduce something similar with the salted caramel apple filling.  This time I was only doing a 4-strand braid because I wanted thick ribbons and pockets of the caramel.  This is where I made my first mistake. This filling is wet…a small amount should be used for each strand to prevent any seepage and trouble braiding.  I used 1/4 cup full for each strand.  Bad idea,  I couldn’t roll the sealed strands to the 16 to 18-inches in length I wanted it to be for braiding, and the braiding was difficult, heavy, and there were several tears in between.  I ended up with a very sloppy, lopsided, wide braid.  Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I was presenting it to guests.

Dark circles under the eyes?  Concealer.  Lopsided, fat, lumpy challah braid?  Sesame seeds.

Next time I will be using only 2 tablespoons of the filling per strand..IF it’s for guests.  If not, who cares about lopsided, lumpy braids?  It was delicious, and thanks to the wonderful ‘new’ Herbie, it rose like Mary Poppin’s umbrella with a turbo engine in each spoke – not to mention the beautiful oven spring, and just look at that crumb!  I love how the gooey part of the salted caramel melts into it’s bready pocket, while the spiced apples kind of hang out, dropping into your hand occasionally when you tear off pieces.

You love challah french toast?  Wait until you try salted caramel apple challah french toast (hopefully, a photo coming soon – if the few slices left are not eaten before this can happen).  The sourdough has kept this bread silky soft and moist for 2 days now!

If you get a chance, please check out my fellow Daring Baker’s sourdough starters and creations by clicking on the links to their blogs HERE.  For the challenge sourdough starter recipe, and some great breads to make with it, click HERE.

I’m submitting my Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking showcase hosted by the incredibly talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

I’m also submitting it to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.

The GIVEAWAY winner of the six jars of Bonne Maman preserves and the $25.00 gift certificate to use at OhNuts.com is Katrina of Baking with Boys, who was #38!  Congrats Katrina!  Will send you an email to get your info ASAP.

My recipe for salted caramel apples will be posted soon.  I’ve been a bit lazy when it comes to typing it out LOL

Maggie Glazer’s Sourdough Challah Recipe (you can use any challah recipe you like, it doesn’t have to be sourdough)

Basic Sourdough Starter capturing Wild Yeast

Salted Caramel Apple Filling
1 cup sugar
1/2  cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
!/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon flour
Squeeze of lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a bowl, Combine the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon juice and flour. Set aside.

2. Pour the water around and over the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (I prefer this over the brushing the sugar off the sides with a wet pastry brush).

3. When the sugar dissolves, turn to high heat, and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the butter – it will bubble vigorously. Simmer and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the sea salt.

4. Take pot off heat, let sit about 3 minutes, then stir in the chopped, spiced apples while caramel is still very hot.  Let cool to room temperature.  If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight jar or container.

5. You will not use all of the salted caramel apples for the challah or challahs (if making two), so enjoy it over ice cream, pound cake – use as a cake filling etc.  The ideas are endless!

ASSEMBLE CHALLAH:
1, Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.  I used a scale for this.  Take one piece (covering the other three pieces with plastic wrap) and roll into a flat, oblong 12-inch disk.  Spoon two tablespoons of the salted caramel apple filling down the length of the disk, as shown in photos above.

2. Cover filling with both sides of dough, pimching to seal and making sure none of the filling gets into your seal..it won’t seal if that happens.  Gently roll and taper the ends, to about 16 to 18-inches in length.  Cover and repeat with remaining three pieces of dough.  Once you have all 4 filled strands, pinch them together at the top and braid using this 4-strand weaving method.  In a bowl or cup, beat one egg until uniform – this will be your egg wash.

3.  Place loaf on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash (I don’t use all of the white in the egg.  I let some spill out into a cup so my egg wash is more yolk than white – this gives it that nice burnished look)).  Brush loaf all over and let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. Once risen, brush again with remaining egg wash, getting into all the crevices that opened during the rise.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or nothing at all – your choice. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then carefully lift off of pan, and place on a wire rack to cool fully.

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A Unique Twist on Challah

July 6, 2009 at 1:06 am | Posted in Breads, Fruit, Yeastspotting | 105 Comments
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When I injured my knee (tore my ACL, MCL, ABCDEFG – CL, meniscus etc), and broke my fibula, I went through over a month of hell – pain, immobility, inabilities galore, wheelchair, walker, etc…and then months and months of all of the above post surgery over a month later.  Utter, complete frustration due to being unable to fend for myself, not to menton, downtrodden, bitchy, loopy on meds, you name it.

I’m still not 100%, so it’s not like I can wave my magic wand and ‘*POOF*, it’s over, I can run the NY marathon! However, I can now do things that seemed far off a short time ago, one of them being standing on my own for longer periods of time, walking a bit without holding onto anything, and as I mentioned in one of my last entries, getting into the kitchen and cooking – all mostly without the brace!

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah

Believe it or not, one of things I missed the most while laid up was bread baking. I’m a bread baking fanatic, but one would never know it looking through this blog because I haven’t posted many bread recipes.  In fact, I just so happen to have an over year-old sourdough starter that I made using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method, who’s still thriving (I had my father feed and bake with him while I was at the rehab facility for several months, since I didn’t want to lose the poor, abandoned dude). OK, why am I referring to my sourdough starter as if it’s a living, breathing human being or pet?

Well, HE IS alive. since yeast is a living organism, and damn, he bubbles and gurgles like a baby every time I feed him (Put away the straight jackets, most bread bakers would know I’m not crazy and have yeasty ‘pets’ of their own). I even named him – Herbie and one day I’ll introduce you to him when I start getting into some serious sourdough bread baking again. Plus, I need to dig into Peter Reinhart’s BBA ASAP, among other great books I possess, running the gamut from your basic white loaf to artisan and all kinds of wild yeast breads.

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The problem is/was… I need to stand to knead bread. You just don’t get the same result and smooth outcome when sitting. You really need to put your weight into it. Sometimes I succumb to the KA mixer, but I really prefer to take a bread from liquid(s), leavening, and flour(s), to home baked goodness by hand, so I just kind of blew it off until I could do it the way I wanted to.

In any event, this post isn’t about sourdough, artisan or any wild yeast breads, so let’s stop right here. It’s about a bread I couldn’t wait to tackle again once I had the ability to do so, using commercial yeast.  It’s called challah, and I’ve been making loaves of these since I was a teenager because it’s what I grew up with and learned, watching my grandmother make it many times.

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Growing up, even though we weren’t a very religious family, every Friday night there was a challah at the table. My dad would put a napkin on his head and start chanting gibberish, to make us laugh (I know, shoot us, we made a mockery of the Sabbath) and then we would all dive in, annihilating that golden, shiny, soft braid into one small end piece within minutes. Any body parts in the way and you could kiss them goodbye. We were almost primal in our lust for this bread!

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The one caveat, the Challah was always store bought, as my mother wasn’t what you would call a kitchen diva, unless it came out of a can or box. Don’t even ask about one of her ‘famous’ recipes called ‘porcipines’ [pronounced poor-key-pines - and 'poor' just about sums it up] . Okay, you can ask. It was a time where she was attempting to cook from scratch, so she ordered one of those Betty Crocker plastic recipe boxes they advertised on TV, filled with recipe cards for every occasion!

The infamous ‘porcipines’ were basically meatballs with rice. They would have been okay had she cooked the rice PRIOR to rolling them, as the recipe stated. They crunched when you bit into them..and I think my dad may have possibly chipped a tooth on one. In fact, they could have been used as weapons if need be. Think of those strange sado-masochistic like balls with silver spikes in them, but smaller.

She may as well have slipped razor blades into them like the crazy, old apple slashing psycho our parents warned us about on Halloween when it came to any apples in our GINORMOUS shopping bags with ghosts, goblins and witches on them. Of course, dear old Dad had to eat some of our candy inspect all candy before we ate it, to make sure all razor blades were removed prior to his little girls getting their hands on it.

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah

Once again, I’ve veered way off topic. Does a post exist in my blog where I do NOT veer off topic at least 4 or 5 times? Hmm..I will be throwing out some giveaways soon, and that could be the method I use to choose a winner. Skim through my blog and try to find one entry where it’s less than four times in one post.

OK – I’m now sticking to challah..no segues, no rambling about the fact that one of my cats likes Seth Rogan’s voice (another ‘veer off topic’ for another entry, as I think I’ve reached my quota). Last week, I decided it was time to get reacquainted with some yeast and braiding. It was my nephew’s 1 year celebration of life, and I went on a baking frenzy for his birthday party.

Since I really wanted to bake a challah, that was first on my list. I eventually ended up baking 3. I’ve been using the same recipe for years and years, once again another recipe gleaned from late Grandma’s weathered recipe box. I think it’s the best challah in the world and it’s unique because it uses egg yolks in lieu of whole eggs. This gives it a more dense, doughy texture and a little less rise.  Although it doesn’t rise as high vertically as your usual challah made with whole eggs, it still produces a huge, gorgeous challah that everyone goes crazy for.

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With that said, I wanted to do something different with one of the breads – fill it with something that you don’t usually see in a challah, but not only fill it, we’re talking taking each strand, rolling it out oblong and flat, filling it, rolling it up, sealing it, rolling the sealed and filled strand to elongate it and taper the ends, then braiding the strands together. Now, I don’t know how you all braid your challahs, but I prefer the 6-Braid method,

There are two ways to 6-braid a challah, and I prefer Maggie Glezer’s 6-strand braid method. You can also do a 3-strand braid, 4-strand braid or a 6-strand braid using a totally different method than Maggie’s, which happens to be a lot easier, albeit not as dramatic and beautiful as Maggie’s when baked. Technically, this is not a braiding method Maggie came up with, as it’s been used for centuries, but it’s her video I’m sending you to, and she does a great job of it.

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah

Here was the problem, the filling I came up with was a combo of grated semisweet chocolate, cinnamon, sugar and raisins. Kind of like cinnamon spiked Raisinettes, but I was concerned that my ultimate and favorite Grandma challah recipe wouldn’t bode well with the somewhat heavy filling due to the yolks. I felt that it might result in a flat braid where the filling would amalgamate into one big glob instead of an aesthetically pleasing ratio of bread to filling. This made me look to other recipes, particularly ones using whole eggs and a little less sugar.

I settled on Maggie Glezer’s Chernowitzer Challah, but you can use your own favorite challah recipe for this. The whole point is the filling, rolling and braiding of each strand, and of course you can make up your own filling, sweet or savory. It’s just a unique take on challah that I haven’t seen done before, or at least done using 6 braids. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve seen basic white braids done this way, but again, never a challah.

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah

I wanted to get a decent shot of the crumb, hence the similar photos, one after another. As you can see, I didn’t achieve individual concentric swirls of the filling (similar to miniature cinnamon rolls), which I was hoping for, but I don’t think braiding is conducive to concentric circles. Then again, maybe the latter method of the 6-braid, or a 3 or 4 braid might give you something closer to it. Regardless, I was still quite pleased with the eclectic swirl. Then again, what matters most is taste, texture and crumb, and all three worked out beautifully.

Now, of course I need to add at least one more photo, since I’m a visual junkie. Below is my Grandma’s amazing challah, on top of the Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl challah. One slight problem though..I like to double glaze my challah with egg wash half way through baking. In other words, glaze the risen challah with egg wash, put it in the oven, and half way through baking, take it out and glaze the areas where the bread rose and split open to insure a nice, even, dark, golden crust, like the Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah in the photos above.

I forgot to do that with Grandma’s, so you can see where the bread splits open. No big whoop since I think it gives it a nice rustic look. Plus, it was extraordinarily soft, with a tender, sweet crumb, and delicious as always. Same could be said of the Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl challah, and both were gone in minutes!

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Braiding Method Videos

3-Strand Braid

4-Strand Braid

6-Strand Braid Method #1 that you see in my photos

6 Strand Braid Method #2

OR..

How to Braid 3- 4- 5- 6- 7- 8- and 9-Strand Braids!!

 

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah
Preparation time: Depends on how many strands you fill and roll, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
Rising Time: 2 1/2 hours total
Baking Time: 40-45 minutes

1 WHOLE recipe Maggie Glezer’s Chernowitzer Challah or your favorite Challah recipe that gives you about a 1 1/2 lb to 2 lb loaf.

Filling
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons grated semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons raisins
2 Tablespoons to 1/4 sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

EGG Wash – 1 large egg plus 1-2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa, if desired, beaten together until uniform.

DIRECTIONS
1. After it’s first rise, divide dough into 3, 4 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the amount of strands you’re going to use for the braid. Combine all filling ingredients.

2. Roll each piece into a cylinder shape, then place on a lightly floured board and roll out into an oblong, flat sheet of dough, about 14 x 5 inches.

3. Divide filling evenly on each sheet of dough, then roll up tightly into a cylinder, making sure none of the filling gets near the edges. Pinch to seal each, then roll the cylinders into about 18-21 inch strands, tapering the ends.

4. Braid dough as you like, using the videos above if you need help.

5. Place braid on a greased, parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

6. While the braid is rising, preheat oven to 350F.

7. When doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and brush all over with egg wash. Bake for about 40=45 minutes, brushing with more egg wash half through baking, if desired.

8. Let Challah cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes then remove to a baking rack. Let completely cool before slicing.

My Grandma’s AMAZING Challah
Makes a 1 1/2 lb loaf
Preparation time: 20-30 minutes
Rising time: 2 hours total
Baking time: 30-35 minutes

*3 3/4 – 4 1/4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
*1/4 cup tepid water
1/4 cup of sugar (I add an extra 2 tablespoons, but that’s optional)
3 egg yolks
3/4 tsp salt
A scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
*3/4 cup tepid water

Egg Wash – 1 large egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup tepid water. Cover and let bloom until foamy.

2. Place 1 cup of the flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and pour the bloomed yeast into it. Mix the bloomed yeast into some of the flour from the sides of the hole, covering lightly with flour. Place in warm place, covered with towel.

3. When the batter rises and looks foamy, add oil, sugar, salt, eggs yolks and remaining 3/4 water, then mix until batter like. Slowly start to add remaining flour until you get a nice, non-sticky, somewhat firm ball of dough. You may or may not use all the flour, depending on many factors like the weather etc.

4. Remove from bowl, and knead on a floured surface for 10 – 15 minutes until smooth and elastic.

5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

6. When risen, gently punch/fold down the dough and remove from bowl to a floured surface. Cut into desired amounts of strands, rolling each to about 18-21 inches, tapering the ends, and braid, using one of the videos above if you need help in doing so.

7. Place braid on a greased or parchment/silpat lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap (I like to lightly grease the plastic wrap prior to placing it on top of the braid) and let rise for about another hour until doubled in size.

8. Right after covering braid to rise, preheat oven to 350F.

9. Once doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and brush all over with egg wash.

10. Bake at 350 degrees about 30-35 minutes until golden brown, brushing with more egg wash half way through baking, if desired.

11. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then remove to a baking rack and cool completely before slicing.

* You could make the Challah dough in a bread machine on the dough cycle  following the manufacturer’s directions.  Just don’t bloom the yeast first, layering 1 full cup of water, and all the flour (start with the least amount and add more flour as the machine starts to mix, if needed, until it feels as described in the above recipe), along with the other ingredients, according your bread machine’s instructions (you know how it is, some go wet first, dry last – others dry first, wet last).

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I’m submitting this entry to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread showcase hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. You’ve got to check out her blog, as she’s a baking virtuoso.  Her breads and everything else she creates, are beyond outstanding!

I’m also submitting this Challah to zorra’s BBD #22Sweet Breads hosted by Hefe und mehr.  This my first entry to both Yeastspotting and BBD, and I’m really looking forward to many more in the future!


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