A No Fail Challah

No Fail Challah

Varun goes to a Jewish Pre-school.

Not technically a Jewish preschool but one that is affiliated to Jewish Church. He is in the secular class but every Friday, they have the Rabbi bless the Challah. Apparently the kids all get a piece for lunch.

One Friday, he came home and told me he didn’t get the Challah.

I had made a whole wheat Challah earlier but it was a bit dense. I wanted a no fail recipe that would last a couple of days without being too dense. So, I reached out to the broader mothers group that I belong to here and asked mom’s for a recipe that could be made without too much effort or planning.

No Fail Challah

This is a recipe that is used by a Jewish Center here and the kids in the class help make it.

We tried the recipe last evening. Between the two raises and bake time it was almost 9:30 pm when we had it baked.

I somehow managed to let Varun not gobble it up while it was still warm. He wouldn’t go to bed till it was baked.

First thing he asks for today after waking up is “Challah”.
I think he probably dreamt about Challah.

Mom, Dad and Varun enjoyed it very much. Varun even took some in his lunch box.

The braids make it a beautiful looking loaf. It was light with a nice thin lacquered crust.

By the time I woke up and reached for the loaf, half of it was gone. Devoured.

It turned out to be that good.

Baking bread is like meditating. There is kneading, waiting for bread to rise, punching it down and then waiting again. The shaping of Challah gives a unique twist. It is an exercise in patience and love. And especially with Jewish breads I love their tradition of seeking blessing for the family while prepping and baking the bread.

Give it a try this weekend. It is great as it, buttered up or with some jam. It makes for   fun activity with kids.

And it makes a scrumptious  french toast, if you manage to have any leftovers!

No Fail Challah

Note: I raised the bread 3 times in a warm 170 F preheated oven which was then turned off. Alternately, you can keep it in front of a heater vent or in a microwave in which you have steamed a cup of water for 30 secs.

In school, they bake the bread after first 30 minute raise and it works out as well.

No Fail Challah Recipe 

Makes 1 loaf

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/6 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar. 
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4  cup cold water
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups of All Purpose flour (add more if too sticky) 
  • 1 egg + 1 table spoon water ( For egg wash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil for greasing the baking sheet
1. In a small bowl, add yeast to the water to proof the yeast. Add sugar and set it aside till the yeast activates and foams.
2. In a large bowl, add oil, salt, honey , boiling water . Stir to mix well. Add cold water and then mix again.
3. Add eggs one at a time to the water-oil mixture and beat well.
4. Add the yeast to the water-oil-egg mix and then add 3 cups of flours. Mix well. Add more in 1/4 cup increments if the dough is too sticky. If it is moderately sticky resist the temptation to add more dough.
5. Knead for 5 – 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Cover with oiled cling wrap and a thick towel and then set this aside in a warm draft – free place to rise for about 30 minutes.(See Note above for where to keep the dough to rise)
6. Punch down the dough once doubled and then knead for a minute. Cover and set it aside for another raise in a warm- draft free place for about 30 – 45 minutes.
7. Once again when risen, knead the dough. Form 3 dough balls of equal size. Form a long “snake” or “rope” of each dough.Braid the dough. Cover and set aside for 30 – 45 minutes on a well-greased cookie sheet.
8. About 20 minutes before baking,paint the egg wash over the braids. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
Bake the Challah for 35- 40 minutes till golden on top.Let cool. Slice thickly and enjoy with a dab of butter, jam or with eggs!

Cornmeal Pumpkin Anytime Muffins ( No Added Sugar or Butter!)

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins

I know, I know the last couple of recipes have been very indulgent. Creamy chocolate pudding and Dahi- Vada. What can I say, I really love them.

Cheese, whole milk, elaborate process, whisking. This recipe is an exact antidote to that.

One pot prep. Healthy. No added sugar. And Varun approved to boot.

Cornmeal, pumpkin and applesauce come together in these muffins to create a naturally sweetened muffin which is great for breakfast with eggs ( or just coffee), after school snack or with chili for dinner.

It has fiber, good carbs and protein.

And did I say no oil, sugar or butter.

They freeze well in an airtight container and are perfect to be made on weekend when your toddler naps or when he wants to help in the kitchen and you are ok with a little mess.

Microwave when needed for a minute for a healthy snack with a pat of peanut butter or as is.

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins Recipe

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons sugar for dusting on top (optional, incase you need things to be a little sweet)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons chopped almonds, walnuts for crunchy topping.

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper cups.

2. In the meantime, mix all the dry ingredients ( cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl or a stand mixer.

Dump pumpkin puree, applesauce and egg in the same bowl.

Mix well for couple of minutes ( by hand) or a minute, if using a mixer on low-speed.

3. Scoop the mixture in paper cups.

Dust with sugar. Sprinkle chopped nuts.

4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or frezee for later.

Potato Bread

Potato bread

Do you follow a lot of blogs?

I sure do. More than enough. I don’t subscribe to them but have them bookmarked and visit them time to time. And if something catches my eye, I add that recipe to my try list. And this does not even count my recipe inspiration board on pinterest.

I am addicted. And I am loving it.

Potato bread is one such recipe by a fellow blogger who actually pursued her hobby and went to a culinary school. Oh, what a life! As part of school, she learnt bread making and posted a potato bread recipe.

I have hated store-bought potato bread but her photos of potato bread made me want to try it.

So, this Sunday, I made potato bread. And I must say, it was a revelation. It is good bread for sandwiches and  for sopping up gravies. It is mildly potato flavored, not too dense or not too light. Although Vipul became a fan, I think that this was a successful experiment – something I may not try again. Nothing against the bread, but just that there are more bread recipes pinned and vying for my attention!

Potato Bread Recipe

Makes 1 loaf

  • 1/2 cup mashed boiled potato
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water (  to proof the yeast)
  • 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

1. Take the potato , milk, water, honey and butter in a saucepan and warm them till the butter melts. Take off heat and whisk well. Set aside to cool.

2. Beat the egg.

3. Proof the yeast in water with the sugar. Wait for 5 minutes or till the yeast doubles over. If it doesn’t proof, discard and start with fresh yeast.

4. In the meantime, mix 3 cups flour with salt and ginger root and mix well with a spoon for a minute or so.

5. Add the yeast and the potato mix and then mix well for few minutes. Dump the sticky mix onto counter top and knead well with heal of your palm.

Repeat till you have a nice smooth dough.

Avoid adding more flour unless it is very sticky and does not come together after kneading.

6. Place this in a well oiled bowl, covered with oiled cling wrap,  in a warm, draft free place to rise. The dough is risen well when it looks about doubled in volume and if you stick 2 fingers in it stays indented. This is called first rise.

It can take a couple of hours at least. Go nap or watch a movie.

7. After first rise, take the dough out of the bowl. Gently press it down and then roll into shape. Set aside for second rise.

The loaf should rise above the sides of the pan.

8. Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Bake the loaf for 20- 25 minutes till golden brown or the interior reads 195 F at least.

Let cool and then slice.

Enjoy!

Easy Peasy Whole Wheat Olive Focaccia

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My apologies for being a bit tardy in posting last week. Work got in the way and I didn’t have enough time to blog. I promise to do better this week.

Last night, I was mentally prepping menu’s for weekend and the week so I can shop accordingly. A fried egg sandwich came to my mind. Hmmm…that with coffee would be a good strat to the weekend. While thinking about bread, focaccia came to my mind. Only problem – I haven’t found focaccia in the supermarkets or even in a bakery here in Hyderabad. I needed a hearty bread for brunch.

So I looked up online to find an easy focaccia recipe and found one that needs minimal effort. Just mix all the ingredients up and let yeast do its work. The dough rises and flavours meld.  A few hours later with minimal effort we had a chewy focaccia. It was denser due to whole wheat flour but I am sure half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour would result in a lighter bread while still being healthy. Olives added saltiness to the bread. Herbs in the bread enhanced its flavour so we could eat it as is. Which is exactly what Varun did after removing olives.

The recipe is very simple and requires very little effort beyond the initial kneading. If you have a food processor or a stand mixer then even that is minimal. Also, it  is very versatile. Change the herbs – lemon – cilantro, roasted garlic, smoked paprika – sun-dried tomatoes per your mood. Play with toppings, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, red onions. Its bound to surprise you with its flavour.

Give it a try this weekend. It can be dressed up into an elegant brunch with salad and wine or into a memorable breakfast with fried eggs and bacon.

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Easy Peasy Whole Wheat Olive Focaccia Recipe

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for topping + 1 tablespoon to grease the pan
  • 1/2  cup olives

1. In a large bowl, mix sugar in the water and add then add yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes till the yeast proofs.

2.  Once proofed, add all the ingredients listed (other than olives) and knead for about 10 minutes. It will be sticky which is fine. Cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to double. It takes about 3- 4 hours here but can take longer. Have patience with the first rise. Else the bread will not be soft.

3.   Punch down the dough, and knead for 30 seconds again. Oil a baking pan well and spread the dough in this pan. You can leave this free form. Using your fingers, make dimples in the dough. Insert an olive in each dimple. Brush with olive oil.

Set aside for another 45 minutes to rise.

4. Pre-heat oven to 180F/350 C and bake the bread for 30 – 35 minutes till golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan.

Cut and serve warm. It goes well with salads, soups, or in an open faced sandwiches.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon raisin bread 2

Vipul’s parents are in town for the summer holidays along with his uncle and aunt. The day begins and ends with food and food plans. What should we have for breakfast/lunch/evening snack/dinner? They are determined to fatten us up while they are all here!

I volunteered to make cinnamon raisin bread one weekend mainly to give them a break. But it’s so hot in Hyderabad that I could not bear the thought of being in the kitchen and near the stove. Breads are perfect in such weather. You mix and knead the necessary ingredients and step aside for a couple of hours letting yeast do its job. Come back in knead, roll and shape and again step out to do your thing while yeast continues its work. Once doubled, the bread is then baked in the oven and ready to be served.

So, bread it was. But what kind? Basic sandwich bread would be too boring, something like a focaccia too time consuming… I wanted something basic with just a little bit of oomph to impress my visiting in-laws. Cinnamon raisin bread was what I settled on. It’s a little bit beyond basic, goes perfectly with tea and is not too sweet. Perfect.

Cinnamon raisin bread

I looked up a few recipes online and most of them were for 2 – 3 loaves of cinnamon raisin bread which seemed a bit excessive. If my experiment was not successful then who would finish the remaining loaves? I stumbled across a recipe from food.com with a built-in calculator for 1 loaf. Oh good, now I don’t need to do the math. Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand and off I went to make us some bread.

A typical bread requires some sort of leavening agent like yeast to make it rise. And the leavening agents need time to do their magic. They cannot be rushed else it results in a hard bread. Patience is the key here. Slow rises in fridge and an extra third rise is considered to lend deeper flavor to the bread than the standard two rises. A few hours and a movie later, as the bread baked,our house was filled with enticing aromas of cinnamon. Everyone peeked into the kitchen one by one to get a whiff of when the bread would cool enough for them to taste. Even Vipul’s dad loved it with a hot cuppa tea after his nap.

Cinnamon raisin bread 3

Chocolate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread Recipe

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

1.Heat the milk until it just begins to form bubbles on the edges and then set aside to cool.

2. Mix yeast in warm water and set aside for 10 minutes to froth.

3.  Cream the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes and then add the beaten egg to it.

4. Add salt to the flour and mix. Add the egg- butter mix, milk,raisins and the yeast to the flour and knead into a stiff dough. Start with 2 cups of flour, adding as necessary to knead the dough into form.

Grease a bowl with butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl.Cover with a cling wrap and set aside for 2-3 hours till doubled in size in a warm draft free place.

5.  Mix the cocoa and cinnamon powder and set aside.

6.Punch down the dough to its original size and rollout into a rectangle 1/2 an inch thick. Moisten the dough with the milk and then spread a layer of the cinnamon-chocolate powder on it.

7. Roll into a tight log (along the long edge). Place this loaf  in a well-greased baking pan. Tuck in the ends. Cover loosely with a cling wrap and let this rise for another 30 -45 minutes.

8. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 F till golden brown. Brush the top of loaf with butter once the loaf is out of the oven.

Let cool before slicing.

Serve with tea, coffee, with some butter or jam or as is. Enjoy!