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Challah Bread

29 Jan

Giving It Another Shot!

I started on my bread making adventure when I was in college. The outcome was great, but the process had some major flaws… One major flaw in particular: I blew a fuse in the apartment EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. The apartment was somewhat drafty and to let the bread rise in a dark, quiet, warm place I would need a space heater in the back of the apartment. Never fail, 20 minutes later, the apartment was dark and shut down.

I decided to give it another go now when I moved to NYC… same problem. This apartment was much smaller and I decided it was probably a fire hazard and I should just quit the whole bread attempt. There are literally millions of other things to bake, stop with the bread Kristin!

Well, I’m stubborn and in a new apartment, but this time, IT WORKED! And it was delicious!! I decided on Challah Bread and ended with some fabulous french toast for breakfast!

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Prep Time        Cook Time             Total Time
3 – 3.5 hours          30 min               3.5 -4 hours
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Yields: 1 Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tsp of Active Dry or Instant Yeast
  • 1 Cup of lukewarm Water
  • 4 – 4.5 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Tsp of Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Large Egg Yolk (Keep the Egg White for the Egg Wash you’ll use later)
  • 1/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the yeast in the lukewarm water with a pinch of salt. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top of the mixture. When you see the froth, this means that the yeast is active and ready to use.
  2. Whisk together 4 cups of flour (save the last 1/2 cup to the side), sugar and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or large mixing bowl if you’re kneading by hand)
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  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs, egg yolk and oil. Whisk these together to form a semi-liquid mixture pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.IMG_2309
  4. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg mixture and mix with a spoon until you form a shaggy dough that is difficult to mixIMG_2310
  5. With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes (or, if by hand, turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes). If the dough seems sticky, like bubblegum, add the excess flour, a teaspoon at a time,  until it feels tacky, but no longer sticky. The dough is finished kneading when it is soft, smooth and holds a ball-shape.
    IMG_2314
  6. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere quiet, warm, and dark. I placed mine in my over (with the heat off!). Let the dough rise until doubled in size, roughly 1.5 to 2 hours.FullSizeRender
  7. Braiding the Dough: There are two routes you can go here: (1) Standard 3-stranded braid, or (2) 6-stranded braid.
    1. 3-Stranded Braid: Separate the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll into a long rope, 1 inch thickness and 16 inches long. Cinch at the top, fold under and braid down. Cinch at the bottom and fold under.
    2. 6-Stranded Braid: Separate the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll into a long rope, 1 inch thickness and 16 inches long. Cinch at the top and fold under. The game plan here is “over two, under one, over two” always starting from the far right rope. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, go under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes. It is now the furthest-left strand. Continue using the right-most rope, follow the pattern and make the braid as tight as possible. Your braid will start to shift left as you go and it is OK to lift it up and recenter if you need to. Once you reach the end, squeeze and cinch the ends of the rope together and tuck them under the loaf. If the rope seems too long, it is OK to plump it together carefully.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaf on the paper. Sprinkle with a little flour and drape a dishcloth over the top. Place the pan in a warm spot, away from drafts and let rise until puffed and pillowy, roughly an hour (Do NOT place in the oven this time because half way through you’ll need to turn the oven on to pre-heat). Try not to peek! 🙂
  9. About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the Challah. Be sure to get into ALL the nooks and crannies as well as down the sides of the loaf.

     

  10. Place the Challah in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The challah will be done when it is deeply brown.

     

  11. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm.
  12. Finally — Slice & Eat!!

No kidding, we ate this bread all weekend! It was a perfect addition to short-ribs, it made fantastic french toast and mid-day sandwiches. You name it, if we could make the bread fit, we did! I hope you enjoy it as much as my home did!

Enjoy!
Kristin

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Baking School: Weeks 6, 7 & 8

12 Nov

I know, I’ve been slacking on my Baking School updates, there’s been a lot going on the past couple days/weeks: Lots of friend’s birthdays, two of my best friends from college bought a house and another best friend got engaged! So much to be excited and thankful for with Thanksgiving just around the corner.

We’ve been moving along pretty fast the past 3 baking classes.

Week 6 we made:

  • Palmiers
  • Tarte aux poires en cage (Individual Pear Tarts with Lattice)
  • Galette aux fruits de saison (Seasonal Fruit Galette)

     

Week 7 we made:

  • Linzer Torte
  • Tarte Flambee

    

Week 8 we made:

  • Brioche: Nanterre and Parisienne
  • Scones
  • Blueberry Muffins
  • Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

     

    

Week 8 is definitely one of my favorites so far! I’ve made enough tarts in the past couple weeks to do in my sleep so I’m happy to be moving on to breads, muffins and so much more!

Keep an eye out for some great posts coming up. With Thanksgiving, Christmas and some other special occasions right around the corner I’ll be spending most of my nights by the oven!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

25 May

One of my best friends from college, Jan, came to me a couple of days ago with this recipe and I instantly fell in love! She found it on the  Joy the Baker Blog as she was stumbling through the web. As I read through the recipe and saw the picture of the final product, I knew instantly why she brought it to me…

Jan and I lived together through our senior year in college when my baking experiments really took off. She put up with a messy kitchen, lots of dirty dishes and my crazy baking moods. Usually, it was me baking, her keeping me company with wine and conversation and the both of us enjoying the finished product, but on a couple of occasions Jan took my baking to the next level.

I was in the mood to bake some bread one afternoon and decided on a cinnamon swirl bread that really caught my eye. I spent the day baking and when the bread was finally finished I popped a slice in the toaster and spread some butter on it. It was delicious. I thought that was it, until the next morning I woke up to the most wonderful smell of Jan cooking french toast for breakfast with the cinnamon swirl bread. It was even more delicious that I could have imagined.

Anyway, long story short, Jan will be coming to NYC tomorrow to celebrate my birthday with me and I’m very excited to bake this Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart bread as a thank you for putting up with all of my crazy baking days in college!

Enjoy!

What You’ll Need:

Dough:

  • 2 3/4 cups + 2 tbs Flour
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 ounces Unsalted Butter
  • 1/3 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 large Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Filling:

  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 ounces Unsalted Butter, melted

Icing:

  • 1 cup Confectioners’ Sugar
  • 2 tbs Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour with the sugar, yeast and salt. Set it aside for later.

In another small bowl, whisk together the 2 room temperature eggs and set them aside for later as well.

In a saucepan on the stove, melt together the milk and butter until the butter has just melted. Take the mixture off the heat and add the water and vanilla extract. Let the mixture rest for about a minute or two.

Pour the milk and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Add in the eggs and continue to mix until the eggs are fully incorporated. The mixture will be a bit soupy, but continue to mix until the dough and the eggs come fully together.

Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and continue stirring until the dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. The dough will be sticky. This is what you want.

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm space to allow it to rest until doubled in size, roughly 1 hour.

Everyone has their own method to letting dough rise. I happened upon my method by accident one afternoon in college. Dough needs a warm, dark and low traffic space to rise. It needs to be quiet and undisturbed. In a small college apartment there really aren’t many spots with all of those elements, so I went with the darkest, which happened to be the bathroom. Lucky for me, it happened to also be the least traffic area, with only 2 girls living there, and there was a space heater built right into the wall. It was the perfect bread rising room! Now, living in NYC, where you’re lucky if you can find a bathroom with enough room to fit yourself, let alone a bowl of rising bread and a space heater, I’ve managed to make it work… Until tonight, when my tiny space heater blew a fuse and all my lights shut out, but I was back up and running in no time!

While the dough is rising, in a small bowl whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. In another bowl, melt 2 ounces of butter until slightly browned. Grease and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Set both bowls and the loaf pan aside.

Once the dough has risen, we are going to take it out of the bowl to deflate it and knead into it roughly 2 tbs of flour. Once that’s kneaded together, cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling-pin to roll the dough out to be 12 inches wide and 20 inches long. The dough may be a bit tough to roll out at first, but just keep working with it. If you can’t get it to the exact dimensions, it’s not a big deal, just work with what you have.

Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter across all of the dough and then sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Be generous and use ALL of the mixture! You can never have too much cinnamon sugar!

Slice the dough vertically into 6 equal size strips. Stack the strips one on top of the other and then slice horizontally into 6 equal slices again. You now have 6 stacks of 6 squares.

Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan vertically, like a flip-book. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow to sit in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

As the dough is rising in the pan, place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, place the loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is very golden brown. This will ensure that the bread is baked all the way through and cooked well.

Remove from the oven and allow the bread to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

As the bread is resting, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk, cinnamon and vanilla together to create the icing.

Once the bread is cooled, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board. Place a stand or plate on the top of the upside down loaf and carefully invert it so that it is right side up.

Drizzle with icing and serve warm!

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