Challah, Glorious Challah!

When I think of homemade challah, the words warm, rich, golden and ambrosial come to mind. I find that baking my own is immensely rewarding.  My house is filled with a wonderful yeasty aroma, the fresh bread is heavenly and, in the unlikely event there is any left over, nothing makes a better French toast or bread pudding.

This lovely golden egg-rich and light-textured bread is prepared much the same as the dough for traditional white bread, but it is a stiffer dough and is baked on a cookie sheet rather than in a loaf tin.

The only trick is in the braiding, but a “trick”, of course, is just knowing how to do something.  Invariably, instructions on braiding bread tell you to lay three ropes of dough on a work surface and braid them horizontally, much as you would braid a pigtail.   This technique is very likely to produce a long skinny loaf as there is a tendency to pull on the ropes as you braid them.

The technique suggested here, which I learned from Chef John Clancy, calls for four ropes rolled out slightly higher in the center and tapered toward the ends.  The braiding is executed in an upward vertical manner and the loaf is then flipped on its side for that picture-perfect plump loaf.

.

Ingredients:

2 packages rapid-rise yeast (about 5 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon sugar

5 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Procedure:

  1. Mix yeast, ½ teaspoon sugar, and 1 cup warm water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup.  Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix remaining sugar, flour, and salt in large bowl of electric mixer; add eggs, butter and yeast mixture.  Using dough hook attachment, knead at low speed until smooth and satiny, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Form dough into a ball and let rise in a large, lightly buttered bowl covered with a damp towel until approximately doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Deflate to original size, re-form into a ball, cover, and let rise again until doubled in size.
  4. Deflate dough again and turn onto a lightly floured work surface.  Press dough into a rough square and cut into 4 equal pieces, preferable with a blunt object to seal in gases (a wooden spatula works well. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Roll each portion of dough into an 18-inch rope that is thicker in the middle than at the ends, stretching dough as you roll.  Place ropes on a large work surface to form an X and pinch in the center to seal.  To finish the braid, follow the illustrated steps.
  6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet; cover with damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.  Beat yolk with milk; brush entire loaf with this glaze.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake until bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers between 190 and 200 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes.  Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool.
  7.    Braiding technique:
    Drawing #1

    [Drawing #1]  Make four ropes of equal length and lay them out in the shape of a four-pointed star; pinch them together in the center to seal.  Think of the points as numbered one to four.  Starting with point one fold it directly over the center, so that it lies beside point three.  Then fold point three directly over the center, again creating a four-pointed star.

    1. Drawing 2

    [Drawing #2] Now fold point four directly across the center so that it lies parallel to point two; then fold point two over the center, again creating a four-pointed star. Continue this one-side-to-the-other braiding, making sure to keep the bread upright until all the lengths have been folded.  As you work, give the ropes a little slack when you reach the center and braid a little more tightly toward the ends.  This will give the baked loaf the characteristic high in the middle shape.

    1. Drawing #3

    [Drawing #3] Continue this one-side-to-the-other braiding, making sure to keep the bread upright, until all the lengths have been folded.

    1. Drawing #4

    [Drawing #4] Pinch the end pieces firmly together at the top.

    Drawing #5

    [Drawing #5] Lay the finished bread down on its side on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise 30 minutes.  After this third rising brush entire loaf with the egg yolk and milk glaze, dip a finger in the glaze, then in the poppy seeds and gently roll your finger over the loaf for an even topping.  I  just learned this technique from Maya of chaitimeblog.wordpress.com.  As you can see from my photos,  just sprinkling on the poppy seeds gives an uneven finish.  Bake in the middle of a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the crust has turned a shiny golden brown.  Place on a rack to cool.  Happy Hanukka!

    Variation:  Add 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads dissolved in one teaspoon hot water in step one for a more golden color.

    My recipe appeared in the March/April issue of Cooks Illustrated, 1994

    Photos by sweetpaprika

Maple and Mustard Glazed Easter Ham

A succulent glazed ham is an easy and classic choice for a holiday celebration. And since Easter is right around the corner, why not plan on picking up a half pre-cooked ham, either shank or butt end if you will be serving 12 or fewer people.  For a larger number of people, a whole ham would be your best choice. Providing you’re not going for a smoked country ham, a ready-to-eat ham is an economical choice as it often goes on sale just before Easter.  Even so, look for the best quality. “In natural juices” on the label will assure a better flavor than”with water added”.

Now, which to buy, the butt end or the shank end?  The butt end will provide more meat, although it will be more difficult to slice because of the shape of the bone.

And to accompany your savory entree, how about a batch of Chef David Leite’s airy pull-apart rolls?

Ingredients

½ ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (not spiral cut), shank or butt end, 8-11 lbs.

About 50 cloves

Glaze

½ cup champagne vinegar

¾ cup maple syrup

½ cup country-style Dijon mustard

2 T apricot jam

Pinch of kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Remove the ham from the refrigerator still in its wrapping a couple of hours before you’re planning to cook so as to bring it close to room temperature.

2. Make a diamond pattern on the ham by cutting straight lines into the fat with a sharp knife about ½ inch deep parallel to each other.  Score another set of lines at a 45 degree angle to the first to create a diamond pattern. The classic appearance is achieved by inserting a clove at each intersection.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place ham, fat side up in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  Cook ham in oven for one hour.

4. While ham is cooking, make glaze.  In a small saucepan, heat vinegar over medium heat until reduced to 2 T.

5. Add maple syrup, mustard, jam and salt.  Cook, whisking, until well combined, about 2 minutes.  Season with pepper to taste and set aside.

6. Remove ham from oven and brush top and sides generously with one third of the glaze.

7. Return to oven.  Remember that the ham is already cooked so you don’t have to cook to an internal temperature of 140 degrees as is often instructed.  The ham will need about another half hour of cooking to achieve an inner temperature between 110 and 120 degrees.  It will be very warm, if not hot, and is more likely to retain its moisture.

8. Baste every ten minutes with the glaze. Don’t baste ham with its own juices as the glaze might wash off.

9. Take the ham out of the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Photographer Bill Brady

The Silence of the Yams*

Yogi Yam

and Kin

Yes!  It’s high time overlooked and under-appreciated yams and other root vegetables asserted themselves.  They’re not only full of health benefits, but delicious and colorful with their deep orange flesh.   Yams are significant sources of vitamin B6 and potassium. They’re rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates and known as an energy boost.

The Demise of Yogi Yam

Yams are great roasted, pureed, turned into sweet confections like pies and yes, yam bread. This is a quick bread, a snap to put together with no mixer or food processor needed.  Great with a cup of tea or coffee.  Actually, it’s somewhere between a bread and a cake and makes a scrumptious dessert.

This recipe was developed by my son Chris who is a terrific cook and has a natural talent for blending flavors together.

Yam Bread

Yam Bread

Set oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.  Set aside.

Ingredients

3 medium yams, rinsed and patted dry

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

1 t baking powder

¼ t baking soda

¼ t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 t pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups mixed dried fruit cut into a medium dice—apricots, dates, prunes, raisins, cranberries, candied orange peel (your choice)

(Optional)1/4 cup orange marmalade, heated in a small pan until syrupy

Directions

Roast 3 medium yams for about one hour until pierced easily with a sharp paring knife. Set aside to cool enough to handle.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients:  flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nuts.

Cut yams in half and scoop out the pulp into a medium-sized bowl and mash (about 1 ½ cups).  Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet.  Add the chopped dried fruits and continue folding just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky.  Don’t over mix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees until bread is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  At this point, if you like, you can glaze the loaf with melted orange marmalade.   Place on a wire rack to cool.  Run a table knife around edge and remove from the pan.  Slice and serve.  Makes one 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf.

Slice and Serve

* Thanks to Michael Pollan for the title of my post.  Pollan’s Food Rules is the most common sense approach to what we should be eating that I have read.  Highly recommended.

Photos by Chris Kirigin and Michael Kirigin

Briarcliff Indoor Farmers Market Season Finale

The very first eggs from Feather Ridge Farm's pullets

A last look at this season’s lively Briarcliff Indoor Farmers Market. Time to check the local outdoor farmers markets--Community Markets.

THE PLACE for artisan bread and cheese

Gorgeous Shitakes and Oyster Mushrooms

Fresh fish on Ice

The Doughnut Man

Eggs, Milk, Cream and Chicken from Feather Ridge Farm

Quotation of the Day

[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony.  It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.  ~M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Poppy Seed Twist, aka Braided Challah

This lovely golden egg-rich and light-textured bread is prepared much the same as the dough for traditional white bread, but it is a stiffer dough and is baked on a cookie sheet rather than in a loaf tin.

The only trick is in the braiding, but a “trick”, of course, is just knowing how to do something.  Invariably, instructions on braiding bread tell you to lay three ropes of dough on a work surface and braid them horizontally, much as you would braid a pigtail.   This technique is very likely to produce a long skinny loaf as there is a tendency to pull on the ropes as you braid them.

The technique suggested here, which I learned in John Clancy’s baking class, calls for four ropes rolled out slightly higher in the center and tapered toward the ends.  The braiding is executed in an upward vertical manner and the loaf is then flipped on its side for that picture-perfect plump loaf.  Just in case there is any leftover bread, nothing makes better French toast or bread pudding.

.

Ingredients:

2 packages rapid-rise yeast (about 5 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon sugar

5 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Procedure:

  1. Mix yeast, ½ teaspoon sugar, and 1 cup warm water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup.  Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix remaining sugar, flour, and salt in large bowl of electric mixer; add eggs, butter and yeast mixture.  Using dough hook attachment, knead at low speed until smooth and satiny, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Form dough into a ball and let rise in a large, lightly buttered bowl covered with a damp towel until approximately doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Deflate to original size, re-form into a ball, cover, and let rise again until doubled in size.
  4. Deflate dough again and turn onto a lightly floured work surface.  Press dough into a rough square and cut into 4 equal pieces, preferable with a blunt object to seal in gases (a wooden spatula works well. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Roll each portion of dough into an 18-inch rope that is thicker in the middle than at the ends, stretching dough as you roll.  Place ropes on a large work surface to form an X and pinch in the center to seal.  To finish the braid, follow the illustrated steps.
  6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet; cover with damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.  Beat yolk with milk; brush entire loaf with this glaze.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake until bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers between 190 and 200 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes.  Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool.      (Continue reading Braided Challah . . . )

Hampton Holiday

Corey Creek Winery

Corey Creek Winery

Halloween is here

Halloween is here

Finally returning to my blog after a lovely trip to the Hamptons, Long Island, NY where my son Chris’ girlfriend Diana invited my daughter Patricia and her boyfriend Walker and my husband Michael and me to her Easthampton home. The weather was beautiful, raining only one day and Sunday, October 4 was so warm, bright and sunny that a number of swimmers enjoyed the ocean waters.  Let me share some of the photos I took and  a few of the terrific dishes Chris and Diana made for us.

Beer Batter Bread

Beer batter bread slices

Beer batter bread slices

3 cups bread flour

1 t baking soda

3 T dried rosemary, crumbled

3 T dark brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1 bottle room temperature beer

½ cup melted butter

Mix dry ingredients.  Add beer all at once.  Mix.  Batter will be lumpy.  Put half of butter in a 9-inch cake pan with 2 inch sides.  Add batter.  Put the balance of the butter on top of mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. (For a crunchy top, sprinkle on one T raw sugar before baking.)

Diana's rosemary beer batter bread

Diana's beer batter bread

Braised Short Ribs

4 lbs. meaty short ribs

2 T olive oil

flour as needed

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 scant t thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups dry red wine

4 cups beef stock

Beurre marnier made with 3 T butter and 3 T flour

½ cup dry sherry

Brown short ribs on all sides in olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven.  Remove ribs.  In the same Dutch oven, make a dark roux by adding the same amount of flour as you have fat in the pot.  Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour in wine and beef stock.  Bring to a summer and return ribs to pot.  Simmer for 2 hours or longer.  Thicken sauce as desired with beurre marnier.  Add sherry and simmer for one minute longer.  Serve sauce over ribs.

Beet and Goat Cheese Napoleon

8 medium size beets

1 small bunch basil

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 T white wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic

1 t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

8 oz. goat cheese

Heavy cream as needed

Roast 8 medium size beets in a 350 degree oven until they can be easily pierced with a fork (about 45 minutes).  Rub off the skins with your fingers and cut them into ¼ inch slices.  In a blender combine basil, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Mix goat cheese with heavy cream until spreadable. Spread goat cheese between three slices of beets and top with one tablespoon basil oil.  Serve as an appetizer.

Chris' braised short ribs

Chris' braised short ribs

Chris' beet, cream cheese and basil Napoleons

Chris' beet, goat cheese and basil Napoleons

Chris' pumpkin in the light

Chris' pumpkin in the light

Chris' pumpkin in the dark

Chris' pumpkin in the dark

Autumn

Indian corn

'Lunch' lobster roll restaurant

'Lunch' lobster roll restaurant

Pumpkins at farmers market

Pumpkins at farmers market

House resident Pete the praying mantis

House resident Pete the praying mantis

This is a quiz.  Guess what's pictured here.  A few photos above provide a clue.

This is a quiz. Guess what's pictured here. A few photos above provide a clue.

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