Easter Challah

Happy Belated Easter!

I was so proud of myself because I learned how to make a four-strand braid to make this special loaf. 🙂 The challenge in the original recipe was to learn how to make a six-strand braid, but a four-strand seemed like enough of a challenge at the time. 😉 I loved how it looked too.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I modified the braid and used a proofing oven. I learned the four-strand braiding technique from Tori Avey.com. This link actually has very useful steps for several challah braiding techniques.

Challah is best eaten the day it is made. Because I made the challah the day before Easter, we ate it toasted with butter and jam. I thought it was a perfect holiday breakfast along with our colored Easter eggs. Lovely!

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 17 ounces (4 cups) unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T instant yeast
  • cooking oil spray, for coating the bowl

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T water

To Prepare the Dough:

  1. Weigh out 17 ounces of flour; or measure 4 cups of flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. The more accurately you measure your flour, the better your bread will be; too much flour will yield a dry, heavy loaf.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients, except the cooking oil spray, and mix to make a rough dough.
  3. Knead the dough — by hand, using a stand mixer, or in a bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. It’ll still have a slightly rough surface; that’s fine. (I kneaded the dough in a stand mixer using a dough hook for about 5 minutes.)
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  5. Allow the dough to rise for about 2 hours. (I placed the bowl in a proofing oven.) It won’t necessarily double in bulk, but should become noticeably (if not dramatically) puffy.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
  7. You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. I chose a four-strand braid. (Instructions for these and a six-strand are in the link above.)
  8. Divide the dough into four pieces, or into equal pieces for desired braiding techniques. A scale is a big help in dividing the dough evenly.
  9. Shape each piece into a rough log.
  10. Cover the logs with plastic wrap, and let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  11. Roll each piece into a long rope. Your goal is ropes about 20″ long; if the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and let it rest again for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling. The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax.

To Make a Four-Strand Braid:

  1. Pinch together the ends of the strands so that all six strands are joined at one end.
  2. Take the strand furthest to the right and weave it towards the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over.
  3. Take the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand furthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided.
  4. Pinch the ends of the loose strands together and tuck them under on both ends of the challah loaf to create a nice shape.
  5. Gently pick up the braided loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

To Finish:

  1. Cover the braided loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s very puffy, 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature or in a proofing oven.
  2. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Whisk together the large egg and 1 tablespoon water to create the egg wash. Brush this glaze over the risen loaf.
  4. Nest the challah on its baking sheet into another baking sheet, if you have one. This double layering of pans will help prevent the challah’s bottom crust from browning too quickly.
  5. Put the challah into the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it’s a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it’s not as brown as you like, check it again at 30 minutes.
  6. Once you’ve tented the challah, bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf looks and feels set and its interior registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

Note: Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. While challah does tend to dry out after a day or so, it’s always good toasted or made into grilled sandwiches or French toast.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Babka and Easter Paska

Three Years Ago: Easter Babka

Four Years Ago: Low-Fat Oat & Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles

Five Years Ago:

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Spicy Roasted Poblano & Potato Chowder with Maple & Browned Butter Skillet Cornbread

When it snows on the first day of spring, you have to seize the opportunity to make one last cozy soup- at least in my house. 🙂

On a recent family trip to Newport, Rhode Island, we ate a lot of delicious chowder. Sometimes twice in one day! :/ This inspired the choice to make a chowder during our last (hopefully our last) snowstorm of the season.

This recipe was adapted from Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning. I modified the method and proportions, and added a cilantro garnish. I really liked the soup and quick bread pairings in this book.

For the Chowder:

  • 5 medium or large poblano chiles
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 large yellow onions, finely chopped in a food processor
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, minced in a food processor
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, about 7 medium, peeled and sliced 1/8″ thick with a mandolin
  • 4 1/2 T masa harina or fine cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese, for garnish
  • minced cilantro, for garnish
  1. Adjust the oven rack so that it is 6 inches (15 cm) below the heating element and preheat the broiler.
  2. Place the poblanos on a small, heavy baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  3. Broil the chiles, turning with tongs halfway through cooking, until the skins are blackened all over, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven. Fold and seal the aluminum foil together and let cool. (This helps the charred skin steam off.)
  5. Melt the butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  6. Add the onion and celery and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and oregano and sauté until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
  8. Add the broth and potatoes, cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue simmering while you prep the chiles.
  9. Remove the chiles from the foil pouch. Discard the stems and seeds. Peel off and discard the blackened skins.
  10. Chop the chiles and add them to the soup pot.
  11. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, unit the potatoes are fall-apart tender, about 25 minutes.
  12. Place the masa in a medium bowl and gradually whisk in the cream.
  13. Add the mixture to the soup and cook, uncovered, until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  14. Season with salt and pepper.
  15. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese and minced cilantro. Serve immediately.

Note: The cooled soup (without cheese) can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator overnight and reheat very gently.

For the Skillet Cornbread:

  • 6 T (85 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (140 g) cornmeal
  • 1 cup (140 g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream or plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 T pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. While the oven is preheating, place the butter in a 12-inch (30.5 cm) cast iron skillet and place the skillet into the oven. Heat the pan until the butter is melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, maple syrup, and eggs.
  5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and scrape the melted butter from the skillet into the batter.
  6. Mix with a wooden spoon until just blended. Do not overmix.
  7. Scrape the batter into the skillet and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 14 to 15 minutes.
  9. Let bread cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Cut the cornbread into wedges or pieces, as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: This moist cornbread freezes well. Stack the cooled wedges, wrap them in foil, and freeze in a ziplock plastic bag for up to 3 months. To reheat, arrange the bread in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Bread Soup

Two Years Ago: White Bean Soup with Bacon & Herbs

Three Years Ago: Slow Cooker Pork Tinga Tacos

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago: Hungarian Lentil Stew and Spicy Lentil Chili

Pumpkin-Orange Bread

I have to make some sort of pumpkin bread in the fall. This orange variation sounded lovely and resulted in a moist and tender loaf. My family didn’t appreciate the pepita garnish on the top of the loaf, but I thought that it added a nice crunch and contrasting texture. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I incorporated whole wheat flour and baked the loaf in my favorite Pullman loaf pan. Nice.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • grated orange zest from 1 large orange (about 2 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from 1/2 large orange)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or Pullman loaf pan with butter and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and nutmeg, 30 seconds.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together butter, pumpkin, eggs, orange zest and juice, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Make a well in flour mixture and pour pumpkin mixture into it.
  5. Stir together just until combined and no dry flour remains (do not overmix).
  6. Transfer to prepared pan and sprinkle top evenly with pepitas, pressing lightly to adhere.
  7. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes for a standard loaf or about 35 minutes for a Pullman loaf.
  8. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer loaf to a wire rack and let cool completely. Bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in parchment-lined foil, up to 3 days.
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Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

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Buckwheat Popovers

My family is happy to eat soup and salad for dinner with a bribe like a warm, eggy popover. This version was earthy and delicious. I had to make them a couple of times to get the baking temperature and cooking times just right. (No worries, we ate the less than perfect ones too. 😉 )

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. We enjoyed them with Spiced Red Lentil Soup, but they would also be wonderful for breakfast with butter and jam.

Yield: 6 Popovers

  • 1 cup/236 milliliters whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, plus more for pans (or use cooking spray)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup/90 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Brush cups of a popover pan (or muffin tin) with butter or coat with cooking spray. (I have had more success with cooking spray.)
  3. In a large measuring pitcher with a spout (this makes pouring easier later), or in a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt until frothy.
  4. Add flours and whisk until mostly smooth, though a few clumps may remain in batter, which is fine. (If you prefer you can mix everything together in a blender instead of a bowl.)
  5. Pour batter into prepared cups. Bake 15 minutes.
  6. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes until popovers are golden brown and puffed. (Reduce baking time by 5 minutes if using a muffin tin.) Keep tabs on their progress by looking through the window in the oven door. Do not open the oven door until the last 5 minutes of baking or they won’t puff.
  7. Serve warm.

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Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

This wholesome quick bread really caught my eye. I made it as a special after school snack for my kids (and me!). They enjoyed it with a glass of fresh apple cider. I thought it was absolutely perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

The recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I baked the loaf in a Pullman pan, used freshly ground allspice and freshly grated nutmeg, and substituted pecans for walnuts. Yum!

Yield: One standard or Pullman loaf

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or boiled cider
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling top, optional
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • cream cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a Pullman loaf pan or a standard 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and soda, and spices.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Mix in the rolled oats, applesauce, and nuts.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle rolled oats over the top, as desired.
  8. Bake the bread for 40 for a Pullman pan or up to 60 minutes in a standard loaf pan, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely.
  10. Store cooled bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
  11. Serve with cream cheese, or as desired.

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