Thursday, January 24, 2013


I was always so intimidated by making homemade bread.  I decided to tackle it recently and since Challah is my favorite bread I wanted to perfect this type of bread first.  I had a lot of fails but finally I found this recipe and this challah tasted just like the fresh challah at the bakery.  It was fantastic and I think it looked pretty professional too!  The hardest part about making this Challah was the braiding of the dough.  OMG I stared at the diagrams posted below forever and re-braided over and over again but still didn't quite get it.  I think the end result came out perfectly fine just not perfect. 


1 packet instant yeast
3-1/2 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 cup warm water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 tsp. table salt

For the glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten

In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the flour. Add the warm water, stir, and let this mixture, called a sponge, sit until it starts to puff up, 15-to 20-minutes. Add the eggs, oil, honey, and salt; stir until well combined. The sponge will remain lumpy—this is fine. Add the remaining flour and mix the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are combined. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until fairly smooth, about 2 minutes. The dough should feel very firm and will be hard to knead. If it’s soft and sticky, add more flour until it’s very firm. Transfer the dough to a large, clean container and cover it well. Let it rise until doubled in bulk and very soft to the touch, about 2 hours, depending on the room temperature. Line an insulated baking sheet with parchment or oiled foil. If you don’t have an insulated sheet, stack two sheets together (this keeps the bottom of the bread from overbrowning during baking).
To shape the dough:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle a little more flour over it. Spread and flatten the dough a bit, but don’t worry about punching it down. Cut it into six equal pieces. Set aside the dough pieces, cover them lightly with plastic, and brush all the flour off the work surface. Have a small bowl of water handy. Using no flour, roll a piece of dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick (don’t worry about making a rectangle; an amoeba-type shape is fine). The dough may stick to the work surface; this is all right—just nudge it gently with a dough scraper. Tightly roll up the sheet like a carpet to form a strand. Roll the strand back and forth between your hands until it’s thin, very even, and 12 to 15 inches long. At the ends of the strand, angle the outer edge of your hands into the work surface as you’re rolling to make the ends pointy and the strand thicker in the middle (This will help you get a football-shaped loaf). The strand needs to grip the work surface slightly during this rolling; the “grab” will help as you roll. If the strand is too slick, very lightly dampen it with water to help it grip the work surface better. Repeat the rolling out, rolling up, and elongating steps with the remaining five pieces of dough, rolling them out to the same length. Lightly sprinkle all the strands with flour to prevent them from sticking to one another during proofing. Arrange the strands parallel to one another. At one end, gather and pinch the strands very tightly together. Weight the end with a heavy canister to keep the braid from moving and to leave your hands free, and braid closely, following the illustrations below. Lightly tap each end of the loaf with your palms to tuck it under the loaf.
how to braid challah
1. Move the second-to-the-right strand to the far-left position.
how to braid challah
2. Move the far-right strand left over two strands, to the center position (spread the strands apart to make room).
how to braid challah
3. Move the new second-to-the-left strand over to the far right position.
how to braid challah
4. Move the far-left strand (the same strand you moved in step 1) over two strands to the center position. Now repeat the steps.
Transfer the braid to the lined baking sheet and cover it loosely but thoroughly with plastic wrap. Let proof until doubled in bulk and the loaf remains indented when lightly pressed, about 2 hours, depending on room temperature. (If in doubt, let the dough proof more rather than less.)
To bake:
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Just before baking, brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if using. With a thin wooden skewer, poke the bread deeply all over (the holes will prevent air pockets and help the bread keep its shape during baking). Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the challah 180 degrees and bake until the bread is a dark, burnished brown, about another 15 minutes. (If the challah is browning too rapidly cover it loosely with foil and let it finish baking. Don’t remove the loaf too soon, as you’ll risk underbaking.) Let cool thoroughly on a rack.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Toffee Coffee Cake

I think the combination of peanut butter and toffee is so delicious so I wanted to incorporate both of the flavors somehow.  The obvious thing would be to put them into cookies but I wanted to do something a little different.  I've been wanting to make homemade coffee cake for awhile so I thought that it would be a perfect combination and I was really right!  This cake is fantastic.  The cake is super moist with the perfect flavor combination of peanut butter and toffee.  The crumb topping is is thick and super crunchy and crumbly with the same flavor combo of peanut butter and toffee.   This cake is seriously dangerous and I have to get it out of my house before I gain 5 lbs just from looking at it.   This cake would make a great addition to breakfast or brunch menu or it's a delicious after school snack for the kids.


2 cups flour

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Caramel Toffee Popcorn

As one of our New Year's treats for the kids we made homemade caramel popcorn.  It definitely takes a little extra effort and time but it's worth it.  It came out super delicious.  It reminds me more of toffee popcorn rather than caramel.  After you make the caramel and toss it with the popcorn you need to take the extra step of baking it in a low temperature oven in order to get the caramel to harden and get crispy once it cools.  So worth it, you end up with a not sticky easy to handle buttery toffee caramel corn.  A must try!  I think this would be amazing if you mix in peanuts into the caramel coated corn before you place it in the oven or even better if you sprinkle toffee pieces onto of the corn right after it comes out of the oven before the caramel sets.  The variations are endless!


2 cup popscorn kernels, unpopped or 3 bags of microwave popcorn
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
½ cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. fleur de sel (or salt) - I used coarse kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Pop the kernels by following the directions on the bag. Place the popped corn in to large bowls (leave room for tossing).  Preheat the oven to 250° F and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter then mix-in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Then let boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. Be careful because the caramel mixture will bubble up and become frothy.
Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowl(s) and toss to coat thoroughly. The caramel is very hot so use tossing tools like long spoons or salad tossers!  Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and bake for 40 minutes (remove from the oven to stir every 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets). After 40 minutes, the popcorn should be completely crispy when cooled. If not return to oven for another 10 minutes.  Let the popcorn cool completely before breaking apart.  Once cooled you can store in an air tight container for at least a week if it lasts that long.