Challah for Rosh Hashanah

Need more of a challenge with challah? This is not it 🙂 On the other hand, it’s a sweet dessert bread full of yum – apples and honey. So, challah is traditionally served every Friday as part of the Shabbas ritual. But for Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s in the Jewish calendar – typically sometime in October), the challah should be round – symbolize the cycle of the year(s) – and include apples (more roundness -> cycles) and honey (for the wish for the sweet beginning to the new year).

This is not a whip it up on a weeknight recipe – it’s the one I was yelping about the three rises for the Purim party. None of this rises is an overnight one, so make sure to budget enough time during the day. It is quite tasty though; worth the time. Make sure to allow it to bake through otherwise the center will be goopy.

Apple Honey Challah

9″ round loaf
Original from Cherry on My Sundae

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm (100-110°F) water – do not go too hot on the water, or you will kill the yeast and the bread will not rise.
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2/3 cup honey, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tart apples, peeled & diced
  1. Combine the yeast and water; set aside for 10 minutes. It should become frothy.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp butter in the microwave or in a sauce pan over medium-low heat and allow to cool. Combine the butter, bread flour, 1/3 cup honey, eggs, yolks, salt, and the yeast mixture. Mix until a dough forms. Knead in a stand mixer with a dough hook or transfer to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes; Or until smooth.
  3. Transfer dough to a bowl, preferable buttered or slightly oiled and turn over once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.
  4. Remove dough to a floured surface and shape into an ~8.5″ x 14″ rectangle. Top with the apples, fold over, and knead the dough to incorporate. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F with the rack in the lowest position. Butter or oil a 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll into a 24″ long rope. Coil the dough into a circle in the cake pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  7. Meat the remaining 4 tbsp butter and 1/3 cup honey in a sauce pan over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Brush half of this mixture over the dough. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and firm.
    Apple Honey Challah baking
    Brush the other half of the butter-honey mixture over the bread. Or just pour it over the bread; if you do, place a pan, plate, or something else to catch dripping honey under the cake pan. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan, and allow to finish cooling on the wire rack.
    Apple Honey Challah cooling
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My first request! – Challah

I may have mentioned I made a round challah for the last Feastly – took pictures and everything too. 🙂 Which lead to a discussion on Sunday about learning to make (standard) challah, my offering a copy of the recipe to my guest, and his statement ‘why not post it on the blog?’. Easiest method of transmission. BRILLIANT!

A bit of history: For a while, I was making this challah every weekend. And by ‘a while’, I mean about 5-6 months. And then got bored and tried something new. So weird like that – doesn’t mean I stopped liking this particular challah recipe (it’s not like I wandered off to try new challah recipes), I’d just gotten acclimated to the taste (so it wasn’t as ‘wow, that’s so good) and not the work. This one doesn’t require that much work – if you’re used to making bread. And challah was one of the first breads I learned to make. Which is like deciding to learn how to ski by going down the intermediate trail the first time you strap on skis – not really a huge risk of death, destruction, injury, and/or mortifying embarrassment, but probably not the best idea for two reasons:

An overnight rise

Braiding

Most breads have a rise time, which makes baking bread have a different rhythm than baking other tasty things. This challah involves refrigeration for 4-12 hours, which is a whole different rhythm than other breads – easiest way is to shove the bowl in the refrigerator at night and come back in the morning, which spaces baking out to two different days. I may have mentioned that I learned stir-fry first so I wouldn’t be able to walk away from what I was doing? Yeah….

Traditional challahs have a 4 strand braid, and being the stubborn ‘purist’ I can be, that’s the one I started with while learning this recipe. Whee. Speaking of tradition, challahs are usually served as part of Shabbas – Friday nights at sundown, the demarcator as to when observant Jews start performing no work, because Saturday is the day of rest. Which meant I was being a very bad Jew by starting my challah on Friday nights after work and finishing up on Saturday. Good thing I’m not very observant.

Just go with a 3 braid (done like you’d braid hair). Unless you’re bringing this to an observant family’s Shabbas dinner. Or trying to impress someone. Orrrrr just looking for a challenge. Look, what I’m saying is that the number of strands to your braid don’t affect taste, just looks and you should have fun with it. If you want to learn a 4 strand braid, check out these youtube videos: 1 from NYBakers and 1 from CookingOutsidetheBox. I’ll be trying the second one next time I make a challah.

Challah

make 1 loaf
Original from the Joy of Cooking

Used pre-long-rise

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water – warm (105°F – 115°F)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour

Use post-long-rise

  • rye flour, optional
  • 1 egg whisked with a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp poppy or sesame seeds, optional
  1. Combine the yeast and water; allow to stand until yeast is dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the all-purpose flour, eggs, egg yolks, oil, honey, and salt. Mix until thoroughly blended, then gradually stir in the bread flour.
  3. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. It should no longer stick to your hands or the bowl. Transfer to a boil and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise, preferably in a warm  (75°F-80°F) place, until doubled in volume, 1-1.5 hours.
  4. Transfer dough to a clean work surface, punch it down, and knead briefly. Transfer back to the bowl and cover; refrigerate covered until nearly doubled again in volume, 4-12 hours (really, just stick it in the fridge overnight).
  5. Divide the dough equally into the number of strands you’re using. Roll on an unfloured work surface into balls then allow to rest, loosely covered, for 10 minutes. Roll each ball into a rope – if using 3 balls, you want the ropes about 13-14 inches long and 1.5 inches thick; if using 4 balls, 10 inches long and 1 inch thick. Dust with rye flour, if using (keeps strands more distinct after baking). Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal (makes the loaf easier to remove post baking; also taste). Braid the ropes together.
  6. Set loaf on the baking sheet and brush the egg-salt wash over the top of the loaf. Loosely cover loaf with a lightly oiled sheet of plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled, about 45 minutes.
  7. Heat the oven to 375°F. Brush loaf again with egg-salt wash then sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if using. Bake until crust is gold brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped – 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before serving.

Feastly ChallahP.S. SIX strands!

Next, Tuesday? The Apple-Honey Challah I made for the last Feastly

In which we Feastly

So Adam and I joined Feastly (http://eatfeastly.com/) and hosted our first dinner on Saturday.  The idea behind Feastly is for people to get together over dinner at each other’s homes. Some members sign up as cooks (like Adam and I) if they want to host – there are amateurs, professional cooks, and every thing in between. Other members sign up as ‘feasters’. Cooks host dinners, parties, brunches, cooking lessons, or whatever they choose to – they set the menu, the house rules, the number of seats available, price per head, etc. Some use the site to drum up business or as another source of income, others try to just cover the cost of the meal, and, again, everything in between.

Adam is so busy these days at work that all he really wants to do after work is eat dinner and recharge, so we made a deal: this is completely my thing – I take care of the planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, advertising, write up on Feastly; Adam knows the date and time and does his hosting/interacting with new people thing. Which let me tell you, makes dinner parties a success – he’s got a gift for getting conversation going and keeping it going. Trust me, I’ve tried dinner parties on my own, I need Adam and his hosting thing – it must be his southern charm.

What can I say, I like the team we make. Good thing too, since I married him 🙂

So what did we actually, you know, cook?

Well, having pulled together a menu, I spent about 10 minutes staring at the screen trying to come up with something to fill in my nemesis on forms.

The title.

Let’s just say I’m not confident about my naming abilities. Among other things, this is how a male child of ours will end up with the initials REBL. Took me months to notice Adam had snuck that past me. And he had to be the one to point it out. Bloody [expletive], this northern Jewish white girl is not too comfortable with her male child by a gentleman from the state that kicked off the Civil War having initials spelling out ‘rebel’. Bloody promises…

ANYRATE – I named our Feastly ‘Steak and Chocolate’

(I am looking forward to when Adam has the brain-space to do naming work, again.)

The menu:
Steak à la Alton Brown’s method
Tagine of Butternut Squash, Shallots, Cranberries, and Almonds
Stir-fried Broccoli
Homemade Challah
and
Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick run down on the ones I’m not talking much about:
the tagine – I need a new tagine. The one we got for our wedding (because that came up while I was on a Moroccan kick) is this beautiful, hand painted, lovely, small, 1 or 2 cup tagine – basically big enough for a side dish for 2 people. I was serving 4. Also, I have eventually figured out that this is one of the tagines intended to be a pretty serving dish, rather than a cooking dish that you pull off the stove and place on the table as, ta-da!, now it’s a serving dish. So, yeah, I’ve managed to do bad things to this one, namely a crack in the ceramic in the bottom portion that goes all the way through, as evidenced by the drippy, drips along the crack after cooking. This, Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine, is the one I’m lusting after, these days.
Stir-fried broccoli – mostly like steamed broccoli in a wok. Cut the broccoli into florets, heat oil in a wok, stir-fry as much minced garlic as you like, add the broccoli, sprinkle with a teeny-tiny bit of sugar, pour in some water, cover the wok and cook until bright green and tender.

I’ll get to the dishes I do want to talk about more in a second, but I’m gonna plug Feastly for a second. Click here if you rather skip the plug.

So Feastly – yeah, my reaction that evening (after our guests left) was ‘I totally want to start planning the next one’. I got to meet two new people who were interested in food and interesting dinner companions, while having a good meal with good conversation. The Feastly team was awesome – quick to contact us in response to our original application to be cooks, fun to talk to, honest in where the site is, who they are, what info they have and what they hadn’t thought about until we asked, and really good about advertising my dinner in their email and on twitter. The tools to set up a ‘feast’ on the site were clean and easy to use, as well as giving me as much control as I wanted plus, prompted me to add in info about a couple things I hadn’t thought of, like if I wanted shoes on or off in our house and dress code (either way and casual. this time. 🙂 ). The tool to manage the feasts I’m hosting is good and allows you to re-use menus if you want. They also let feasters tell you they’re ‘craving’ a particular past menu, so you know what was popular. It’s like a ‘like’ button, but for food. Also, it’s now the Tuesday after the Feastly and we’ve been paid – 3 days (2 business) after the event. Check them out if you’d like to eat out some nights, but rather not deal with a full-fledged restaurant experience. They’re mostly in the Washington DC area but open in the New York and San Francisco areas and looking to expand. I’d love to host some of y’all over for dinner.
Plug over.

Normally, when I cook, especially multiple recipes at one, attempting to time them to come out together, an end result is a mountain of dishes in the sink. This time not so much. My secret? The challah and the cookies were mostly made the day before. As the two real ‘baking’ recipes (and thus my main source of dishes), I could then wash the dishes the day before.

Challah (at least the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I use) just has a step ‘allow to rise in the refrigerator, covered, for 4-12 hours until doubled in size’. Yeah, that’s gonna happen overnight. It’s been years since I made a challah though, so the next day, I had to watch a Youtube video on how to braid 4-strand challah. ::shrugs:: I found one, it produced a pretty loaf.

Feastly Challah

Adam and I have been buying our flour from the bulk section of Glut (it’s a food co-op in Mt. Rainer, MD) where they have everything I can think of – except all-purpose flour. Well, they do, it’s bags of Red Mill all-purpose emptied into a bulk bin; not doing that. So we’ve been using whole wheat pastry flour at a one-to-one substitution for white flour all-purpose – the extra grinding to produce pastry flour seems to balance out the extra bindiness (that’s totally a scientific term there) of whole wheat and the 1-to-1 substitution is working for us. I also don’t sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds like Joy calls for – other wise, follow the straight up recipe from Joy of Cooking and you too shall have challah. Yummy, yummy, eggy challah.

Steak à la Alton Brown
Alton Brown is a cookbook author who should work perfectly for me – science based, good explanation of why he does what he does, and so on.  I think I just hit him at the wrong point in my learning career. If he’d been one of the first authors I’d read, I’m sure my whole method of cooking would be different – totally would have learned to substitute ingredients much earlier. Maybe even have reached a point where I feel confident enough about what I’m doing to start experimenting sooner. But as it is, I didn’t. And I have no idea how to copy his recipes out succinctly.
Be that as it may, for this dinner, I got two NY strip steaks (about 1.25 lb) from Harvey’s Meats in Union Market the morning(ish) of. Countered them around 5pm to bring them closer to room temp, lightly misted with the oil we keep in a spray bottle (per Alton’s suggestion), rubbed it over the meat to distribute, salted and peppered each side, and heated our cast iron griddle pan on high heat. Luckily Adam remembered to turn on the vent in our microwave at this point. So looking forward to somewhere (anywhere) we can have an actual hood. Put the meat in the pan, waited three minutes, stuck my fingers in my ears as I flip the steaks and Adam takes the batteries out of the smoke alarms and opens some windows. Wait three minutes (produces rare to medium-rare steak; cook to your tastes), pull off heat, put on resting rack (i.e. a dinner plate with enough chop sticks laid across it to hold up the meat) and plop a bowl over the plate. Slice on the diagonal upon arrival of guests and serve.

And now for the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
Deep-dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I may have mentioned in ‘Things you should know about Laura’ that I’m allergic to chocolate. Adam, on the other hand, loves chocolate and totally doesn’t get it as often as he’d like since he thinks it’s just silly to have it available when I can’t eat it. … Yeah I’m not sure about that logic either. He might just be telling himself that in order to keep from having it every dayFrom my perspective, chocolate is a staple of baking and something most people absolutely love. So, unless I can bake the chocolaty goodness, I am not a good baker. … Yeah, I’m not too sure about that logic either. Too? In addition? So, if we have an ‘event’ (good dinner party, someone’s birthday, other celebrations…) I like to bust out the baked desserts because randomly keeping them in the house is a recipe for bad things (mostly eating all of them within two days).  And I like to use try out the chocolate desserts at these events since I can get more feedback that way – not being able to taste test them myself.

Ramekins came out of oven.
Ramekins go on table.

1 minute later, ramekins are empty.

I think everyone liked them. 😀

Recipe count: 44 left to try
Section count: Desserts – 11 left
originating source: TheKitchn

yields 3 ramekins/servings

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup/2oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup/4 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup/2.5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (medium or small is fine)
  • scant 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the chocolate chips are large (à la Ghirardelli 60% coco dark chocolate chips), chop into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy but not whipped. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy (and pale), about 2 minutes. Or less if you turn the stand mixer up. Add the vanilla extract and egg; beat for about a minute.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chips into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between 3 ramekins; use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push batter to the edges of the ramekins and smooth down evenly. Place ramekins on a baking sheet (for ease of taking in and out of the oven) and bake for 18 minutes, or until gold-brown on the edges and still a little golden and soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving with or without a scoop of ice cream.

Variation: (and what I did) Cover the ramekins of unbaked cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead; cook for 20 minutes.
Originating recipe claims you can freeze these bad boys for up to 3 months and bake without thawing (although will need more time in the oven) – I haven’t tried it, but thought I’d let y’all know. Drop me a line in the comments if you try it – let me know how it went.