Challah

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One of my favorite breads are challah, and I usually bake it for holiday meals, such as Thanksgiving. Challah is a traditional enriched Jewish bread flavored with honey. Sweet and rich, it is great for special meals, breakfast or anytime.

It is often made without dairy to satisfy Jewish dietary restrictions so it can accompany meals with meat, but this recipe has butter in it for a soft moist crumb. Since I am not Jewish, I happily ate this with my turkey. The recipe is from On Baking, and the crumb turns out perfect every time I have made it.

I wanted to braid it with 6 strands instead of 3, so I found this great video instructions – check it out, it really explains it well. Thanks for posting that!

Ingredients: (original recipe from On Baking)

  • 92 ml honey ( 3 fl. oz)
  • 18 g salt (0.6 oz)
  • 840 g bread flour (1 lb, 12 oz)
  • 15 g active dry yeast (0.5 oz)
  • 60 ml hot water (90 F/ 32 C) (2 fl. oz)
  • 150 ml water, room temp (5 fl. oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 120 g butter, melted (4 oz)
  • Egg & milk/cream for egg wash

Method:

1. Mix the honey, salt and 240 g (8 oz) of flour in a mixing bowl.

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2. Dissolve the yeast in the hot water in a small bowl.

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3. Add the yeast mixture, the rest of the water the eggs and the butter to the bowl and stir until smooth.

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4. Mix in the rest of the flour, adding a little (about 60 g/ 2 oz) at a time. Mix well after each addition. At some point, switch to kneading.

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5. Knead the dough until elastic, about 5-10 minutes

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6. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 – 1.5 hours.

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7. Punch down the dough and divide into 2 parts

8. Divide each part into 6 strands (or as many as you want to braid). When making 6, I found it useful to weigh them to get them to be equal size.

9. Roll out 6 strands to rolls. They will contract a bit, so let them sit for 5- 10 min and rest.

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10. Meanwhile, cover the remaining 6 pieces of dough so it doesn’t dry out.

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11. Roll out the strands again, make them long and thin.

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12. Start braiding the bread. Push the dough strands together at the top and spread them in 3 and 3.

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13. Cross over the topmost strands all the way across.

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14. Take one of the top strands, and cross it over two strands. Then replace it with the strands second closest to the top on the other side. The first crossover might look a bit odd, that is ok. Gently tuck it under a bit when you get to the next one.

15. Repeat with the other side – topmost strand down in the middle (over 2) and the strand second closest to the top on the other side replaces it (ends up topmost).

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challah-1616. Keep going until the end, gently tucking the ends under the bread in the end.

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17. Place the bread on a parchment lined sheet, and repeat with the other half of the dough.

18. Again, roll the strands and let them relax, then reroll, to get long and even ones.

19. Brush both breads with an egg wash of egg and milk. Do a second layer over the first.

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20. Let the breads rise until doubled, about 45 min.

21. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

22. Bake about 40 min, until golden and hollow sounding.

23. Let cool on a wire rack.

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Whether you use a 3 strand braid or 4 or 6, this challah is so delicious. I love it with butter on top for extra richness, and it great for French toast too.

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Croissants

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I have wanted to try and bake croissants for a long time, but I have held off since it is time consuming, and a bit intimidating. I thought I was going to try a couple of times before I was successful, but this is the first time I made these, and they turned out so good.

I looked at different recipes, and decided I was going to try the one from Tartine Bread, the book from Chad Robertson with recipes from his Tartine Bakery. I got the book last year, and while I have browsed it many times, I had yet to try baking anything from the book. It is a gorgeous book, and I do recommend it, Robertson has very interesting, almost spiritual, approach to baking.

These croissants are made with a bit of sourdough too, which was intriguing, but I have tasted the ones from Tartine the last time I was in San Francisco, and they were delicious. There was one problem though, and that was my sour dough had been somewhat neglected. I discarded most of it, fed it again, and it revived. I think I would ideally had an extra day to revive it, but there was still yeast activity in there. I do in general make it and maintain it a little different than the sourdough in the book, but it should not be an issue however you choose to handle your sour dough.

Ingredients: (original recipe from Tartine Bread (book 1))

Day 1, leaven:

  • 1 tbsp sour dough
  • 220 g all purpose flour
  • 220 ml water

Day 1, poolish:

  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 200 ml water
  • 3 g active dry yeast

Day 2:

  • 450 ml whole milk, at room temperature
  • 300 g leaven (from above)
  • 400 g polish (from above)
  • 1 kg bread flour
  • 28 g salt
  • 85 g sugar
  • 10 g active dry yeast
  • 400 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (for egg ash)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (for egg wash)

Method:

Day 1:

1. Make the poolish by mixing the flour, water and yeast in a bowl. Cover and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place your sour dough in a different bowl and add the flour and water. Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature overnight.

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Day 2:

3. Mix the milk, leaven and poolish in a large bowl the next day. Save the remaining leaven as your sour dough starter, if desired.

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4. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, and mix until a dough begins to form. Let rest for 25-40 minutes.

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5. Fold the dough on top of itself, like a letter, and transfer to a bowl or proofing box and cover.croissant-7

6. Let the dough rise for 1.5 hours, where every 30 minutes you pull the bottom of the dough to the top, stretching and turning it over in the bowl. The entire dough should be stretched each time. The theory here is work the gluten without a lot of kneading.

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7. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag ( I used a heavy ziplock bag), and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

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8. When the time has almost passed, cut the butter into cubes and spread over a work surface. Dust with all-purpose flour.

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9. Bang the butter together using a rolling pin, until you have a cohesive mass. The flour should be worked into the butter, and help it have a softer consistency without getting warm. Form a 8″x12″ rectangle of the butter.

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10. Keep the butter cool while you roll out the dough. Take it out of the plastic bag, and roll it to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle.

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11. Place the butter on one end of the dough rectangle, so it covers 2/3 of it.

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12. Fold the unbuttered piece of dough over 1/2 the butter, then fold over the last piece of dough and butter.

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13. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle again. Fold the dough over in thirds again, like folding a letter.

 

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14. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. The dough should be cold, but the butter should not harden, so don’t keep it there longer. If you have to, leave the dough out of the fridge for 15 min or so before working on it

15. Roll the dough out to 12″ x 20″ again, and do the letter fold. refrigerate for an hour again.croissant-18

16. Do this once more – take out the dough, roll it out and fold it over.

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17. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. (If you want, the original recipes says you can wrap the dough in freezer proof wrap and leave for up to 3 days – let thaw overnight in the fridge before using).

18. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper. I used cookie sheets and they were too small – these are big croissants!

19. Roll the dough out to 18″ x 24″ and about 1/2″ thick.

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20. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, creating 2 long, thin, ones.

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21. Cut each rectangle into 4 parts, and cut each across to create 8 triangles.croissant-24

croissant-2522. Roll each triangle up and place on the prepared sheet.

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23. Repeat with the second part of the dough.

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24. You let these rise for 2 hours, or you can do as I did and cover with plastic wrap and retard in the fridge overnight – that way they are ready to be baked fresh for breakfast.

Day 3:

25. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator and preheat oven to 425 F.

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26. Mix an egg with a bit of cream to make an egg wash, and brush over the croissants.

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27. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and flakey.

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I was really happy with the taste and flakeyness of these, it was worth the work – though it was a lot of work, or waiting, at least. The portion is HUGE though, it makes 16 very big croissants. Next time I might try to half or even quarter it, and maybe make them a little smaller.

The croissants were fantastic right out of the oven, pretty good the next day, and OK the third. I don’t think they would have been good to keep longer. We happened to be invited to a small gathering the evening of the day I baked these, so I gave the rest away for people to eat the next day – there was no way we could have eaten all of these by ourselves!

Cinnamon Buns

cinnamon-20Is there anything better than warm cinnamon buns with lots of sticky filling on a cold fall day? I am not a huge fan of cinnamon, but I do get a craving for these. They are very rich and wonderful just out of the oven.

I got the recipe from a friend who brought them to work one day, the recipe is from a cookbook somewhere, but I don’t have the source. The original recipe uses a standing mixer to make the dough, I just hand knead it and it works fine.

Ingredients, buns:

  • 4 1/2 – 5 cups all purpose flour (705-780 g)
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast ( about 40g fresh yeast cake)
  • 1/3 cups sugar (90g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, lukewarm (250 ml)
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter in cubes at room temperature (90 g)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk for brushing

Ingredients, filling:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (220 g)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour (60 g)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp  (generous) cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter in cubes (113 g)
  • Method:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk

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2. Add 2 cups of the flour, sugar and salt and mix.

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3. Add the eggs and butter and mix in

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4. Mix in the rest of the flour and turn out on a work surface. Knead well, until smooth and elastic.

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5. Put the dough back in your bowl, cover with plastic film and let rest 1.5-2 hours, until doubled.

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6. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix together the flour, sugars and cinnamon.

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7. Cut in the butter until you have mixture that resembles crumbs. I find it easiest to use my fingers to ‘squeeze’  in the butter with my fingers.

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8. Store the filling in the refrigerator until needed.

9. When the dough has risen, roll it out to a 14×10 inch (35×25 cm) rectangle.

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10. Sprinkle the dough with the filling, covering it evenly.

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11. Roll up the dough from the long side. Pinch it closed on the long side.

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12. Cut the roll into 10 pieces, about 1.5 inch (4 cm) thick each.

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13. Place the rolls on a parchment lined sheet, or in a lined and greased 9×13 inch pan.

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14. Cover with film and let rise for 1 hour.

15. Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C.

16. Brush the rolls with milk

17. Bake the rolls in the oven until golden brown, about 25-30 min.

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18. Let cool a little on the sheet, the gently remove them with help of a spatula. Leave them all joined together and let cool on a rack

19. Pull apart to serve. You can serve them still warm, cold or gently re heated.

These are so decadent, I don’t feel they need any icing, but you could add some if you wanted tom of course. They are rather big, so you could also make 2 smaller squares and twice the rolls with a little shorter baking time.

Quick breakfast rolls – ‘Shower Buns’

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I am not sure exactly where the concepts comes from, but going on trips or vacations with friends back in Denmark we always had the concept of ‘shower buns’ – rolls that would rise or bake while you were in the shower in the morning, getting you freshly baked bread for breakfast.

Some recipes requires you to make the dough the night before, and then leave to rise over night in the fridge. This is definitely a nice approach, and you can probably modify most regular recopies with a little less yeast to accommodate for the slow, cold rise. I wanted one that was quick and easy to make at the spur of a moment, and found this one that is made right away. It has a lot of yeast, and only rises once. It also is a lightly enriched dough containing butter, so it gives a ‘luxury’ roll, perfect for Sunday mornings.

Ingredients: (original recipe in Danish)

  • 6 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 50 g yeast cake (17g dry yeast, or .6 oz)
  • 300 ml milk (1 1/4 cups)
  • 50 g butter, melted (1/2 stick)
  • 800-900 ml flour (3 1/3 -4 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Method:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and melt the butter.

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2. Add all the other ingredients and knead to form a dough.

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3. Divide into 12 pieces and form rolls.

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4. Set the rolls on a parchment covered sheet and let them rise under a moist towel.

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5. Preheat oven to 225 C/ F. If your oven is underneath your stove, you can place the sheet on top for some extra heat for rising.
6. Let the rolls rise for about 25 min – while you take your shower!

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7. Brush rolls with a egg and water mixture (egg wash) for extra shine. You can also use milk or water.
8. Bake for 12 min.

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Very fast, very easy and they are really best right out of the oven.

Burger Buns

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My husband wanted to cook some burgers, and asked me if I had time to make some buns – of course! I went looking for recipes, and the one that looked the best was an enriched bun from the King Arthur Flour homepage.

I only changed one thing and used slightly less sugar than originally called for.

Ingredients (original recipe):

  • 1 cup lukewarm water ( 225 ml)
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (30 g)
  • 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour (420 g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • For decoration: 2-3 tbsp melted butter or eggwash
  • Sesame or other seeds

Method:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugar.

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2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

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3. Knead until a smooth dough forms. I found this dough is really easy to work with.

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4. Put the dough in a bowl and cover, let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

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5. Punch down the dough and knead through.

6. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each to a small roll.

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7. Place the buns on a parchment coved baking sheet with plenty of space in between and press down each bun until it is 3 inches/8 cm across and flat.

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8. Cover and let rise for about an hour.

9. Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C.

10. Brush with half the melted butter or eggwash, and top with seeds (if using seeds you are better off with eggwash).

I didn't have any sesame seeds so I used flax seeds. I really liked the contrast.

I didn’t have any sesame seeds so I used flax seeds. I really liked the contrast.

11. Bake for 15-20 min until golden. Transfer to a wire rack.

12. Brush with the rest of the butter and cool.

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I realized later that brushing with butter would not make the seeds stick, you need to use an eggwash or press them really firmly into the dough. Besides that, they were great. They are quite sweet and rich, but I think that works well with a burger.

Happy baking and grilling!