Holla and hollaback

Dueling challahs! (Challah, egg bread of squalah!)

Mark Bittman: Challah

Makes: 1 large loaf

Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended

The traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews is rich, eggy, and very, very tender.  There is enough dough to make a festive braided loaf, which is easy to make and fun to shape. However, unless you have a large food processor (one with at least an 11-cup workbowl), you will have to make this by hand or with a standing mixer. Leftover Challah makes excellent French toast or can be used in bread pudding. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

5 cups (scant 11/2 pounds) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons instant yeast

A few threads saffron (optional)

1 tablespoon honey or sugar

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

11/3 cups water or milk, warmed to about 70°F if you’re working by hand

Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or softened butter for the bowl and pan

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Coarse salt (optional)

1. Put the flour in a food processor. Add the salt, the yeast, and the saffron if you’re using it and process for 5 seconds. With the machine running, add the sweetener, whole eggs, and most of the water or milk through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, then remove the cover. The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. If it is too dry, add water or milk 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 or 10 seconds after each addition. If it is too wet, which is unlikely, add another tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly. Knead for a minute or so by hand.

2. Grease a large bowl with oil or butter. Shape the dough into a rough ball, put it in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise for at least 11/2 hours, until nearly doubled in bulk. Deflate the ball and cut it into 3 equal pieces; shape them into balls and let them rest on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes, covered. Roll each of the balls into a rope about 14 inches long and 1 inch thick. Braid them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes while you heat the oven.

3. Heat the oven to 375°F. Beat the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and brush the top of the loaf with this mixture; sprinkle with poppy seeds and, if you like, a little coarse salt, then put in the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it or the internal temperature is about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. Best eaten within a day (store in wax paper if necessary).

Good, very easy. But not as good as…

Smitten Kitchen: Best Challah (Egg Bread)
Adapted from Joan Nathan

The secrets to good challah are simple: Use two coats of egg wash to get that laquer-like crust and don’t overbake it. Joan Nathan, who this recipe is adapted from, adds that three risings always makes for the tastiest loaves, even better if one of them is slowed down in the fridge.

Time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours’ rising
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons or 3/8 ounces or 11 grams)
1 tablespoon (13 grams) plus 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (118 ml) olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon (14 grams) table salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups (1000 to 1063 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins (about 70 grams) per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling.

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.

5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.

6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.

7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.

Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.

Round or straight braid? Raisins or skip them? Straight loaves of braided challah are eaten throughout the year–typically on the Sabbath–round challahs, often studded with raisins, are served for the New Year and the other High Holidays that follow. I made one of each, so you could see examples.

Winner! Gotta work on the braiding technique, but otherwise, delicious.

Burger time

Barefoot Contessa’s Sliders with some kickass beef from the farmers market! And more goodies from the market: corn, sugar snap peas, and baked sweet potato fries.

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Sliders (Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds premium ground beef (80 percent lean and 20 percent fat)
  • 1 tablespoon good Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the grill
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 3 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces grated Gruyere
  • 12 small Brioche buns
  • 4 ounces baby arugula
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced in 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 small red onions, sliced in 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • Ketchup, for serving

Directions

Build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl and add the mustard, olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix gently with a fork to combine, taking care not to compress the ingredients. Shape the meat into 12 (2-inch) patties of equal size and thickness.

When the grill is medium-hot, brush the grill grate with oil to keep the sliders from sticking. Place the sliders on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the sliders over with a spatula and cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, until medium-rare, or cook longer if you prefer the sliders more well done. For the last 2 minutes of cooking time, place 1/2-ounce Gruyere on the top of each burger and close the grill lid. Remove the sliders to a platter and cover with foil.

Slice the buns in half crosswise and toast the halves cut side down on the grill.

Divide the baby arugula among the 12 bottom buns, top each with a slider, and finish with a slice of tomato and red onion. Cover with the top of the bun and serve hot with ketchup.

Chokes

I need to work on my artichoke trimming skills. This is a good recipe to get some practice with that. Pretty tasty.

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Fried Minted Artichoke Recipe (by White on Rice Couple)
Be very liberal in stripping the leaves off of the artichokes when prepping.  The outer leaves will fry up tougher. If you need to, you can always strip more leaves off after frying. Make sure oil is hot before starting to fry, and pull garlic just before it reaches golden brown, as it will become bitter if overcooked. Serves 2 or 3.

  • 12 Baby Artichokes
  • 10 cloves Garlic
  • @ 40 large Mint Leaves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 Lemon, cut into wedges
  • Sea Salt
  • oil for frying
  1. Prep the Artichokes. Strip away the outer leaves until they are a very light green (usually about 1/3 -1/2 of the outer leaves). Trim the end of the stem and the top of the artichokes. Slice in half.
  2. Fry. Pour enough oil in a large saute pan to fill 1/4″ deep. Heat over med-high heat. When oil is hot, place artichokes cut side down in a single layer (fry in batches if necessary) scatter garlic cloves between the artichokes and add half of the mint.
  3. Fry until garlic and artichokes until lightly golden (about 2-3 minutes) then flip and fry until just done (about another 2 minutes). Make sure to pull garlic out just before being it is fully golden as it will continue to cook a bit more after being removed from oil and will become bitter if overcooked.
  4. Drain on paper towels, squeeze a little lemon juice over artichokes, season with sea salt and toss with remaining mint leaves.  Plate with additional lemon wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Going bananas

Don’t you love it when bananas start to get too ripe? Time for banana bread! Family recipe edition.

Carole’s Banana Bread

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter (3 oz.)
  • 1 1/4 cup mashed bananas (about 2 1/2 large bananas)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (optional – I’m guessing on the amount. Whatever looks right to you is fine with me.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

Process sugar, lemon juice, and butter for 20 seconds in food processor.

Add mashed bananas. Process for 5 seconds.

Add eggs and vanilla. Process for 5 seconds.

Add dry ingredients. Pulse 4 or 5 times.

Mix in chocolate chips

Bake about 1 hour.

And why are we going bananas, you ask? The attractive nuisance just finished his 2L year! Woohoo!

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