Challah Bread.

This challah makes me holla, honey boo-boo child. While the recipe is a bit more complicated than I usually like to make, there’s something special about this bread: its subtle sweetness and springy softness, with a touch of honey to give it that awesome classic challah flavor, make it pretty irresistible. Inspired by a recipe from the forest feast, this is a homemade bread for the ages. Frequent readers of KellyintheKitchen might know that I usually end my recipe posts with a few serving suggestions. Well, this one ends with a serving command: eat this with honey butter. If you don’t, you will be sorry. Pillow-soft and meltingly good (not to mention gorgeous!) everything about this bread is worth the extra time and effort.



INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
2 eggs, divided
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (give or take)
1/2 tsp sugar
optional garnishes: sesame seeds, raisins, walnuts, poppy seeds, etc.

Just the Recipe link: Challah Bread

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, gently stir yeast into warm water. Place it in the oven – the oven should be off, but the oven light should be on. Let the yeast proof for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 1 egg, honey, sugar, salt, and oil. Mix into yeast and water. Then begin adding the flour, about 3/4 cup at a time, until the dough becomes kneadable and is no longer sticky.

Knead dough for 3-5 minutes. Flour the bowl and place the dough back into it. Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place back into the oven (again, oven off, oven light on) until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, punch it down in the middle. Now you have a decision to make: one big loaf, two small loaves, or about 12 small rolls? I decided to make 2 loaves, so I separated the dough into two equal-sized sections. If you’d like to separate the challah the traditional way, here are some tips.

Optional step: I wanted to make one loaf plain and one loaf with raisins and walnuts, so after separating the dough, I worked about 1/3 cup raisins and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts into one of the sections and then proceeded as usual.

Now, place the sections on lightly-floured baking sheets for shaping. Here are some great ideas on braiding the challah. For the raisin and walnut loaf, I did a standard four-stranded braid. So pretty and classic! And I did the other loaf in the shape of a wheat stalk: roll the dough into a rough baguette shape. Then, using a scissors, snip sections of the dough at an angle and pull them off to alternating sides.

Place the loaves back into the oven (you know the drill—oven light on, oven off) to rise again, about 35 minutes. Then take them out of the oven to rise for 10 more minutes, meanwhile preheating the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, whip the second egg with sugar. When the loaves have risen, brush with the egg. If you want, sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, a bit of brown sugar, etc.

Just before you start baking the challah, toss a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of oven, for steam. Bake the bread until well-browned, about 20 minutes. The wheat-shaped loaf definitely baked faster than the braided one, so be sure to keep in mind the shapes/sizes of the loaves as you bake them.

Enjoy the bread steaming hot right out of the oven with a big dollop of honey butter. Challah also makes great toast and sandwich bread when it’s fresh, and if you find you have some stale bread left over, it’s also a heavenly French toast. With more honey butter, of course. And did I mention this goes great with honey butter?

Advertisements

Upside-Down French Onion Soup.

Named for its backwards assembly, this dreamy dish is similar to your standard French onion soup, except you serve it upside-down! The “croutons” go on the bottom, the soup sits on top, and the cheese goes everywhere. Drool. And if you hate wasting things as much as I do, this is the perfect way to use up the stale leftovers of easy French bread or any other baguette-type bread. With butter, cheese, chicken broth, garlic, and fresh herbs, it’s is the ultimate comfort food. A word of warning, though: while the onion-shallot-garlic trio makes for awesome rich flavor, I discourage anyone from eating this potent soup prior to a date or a job interview, unless the date (or the job) is a garlic farmer. If your date is a garlic farmer, you’re in luck! Because this recipe serves 2.

INGREDIENTS

1 pad butter
olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices stale French bread (I used easy French bread), cut in halves
chopped parsley and grated gruyere cheese for serving

DIRECTIONS

Over medium flame, heat butter and olive oil in a pot and add onion.

Cook until softened and add garlic and shallot. Cook 2 minutes.

Add thyme and bay leaf and pour in chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper. To serve, place bread in a bowl, spoon soup over it, then garnish with parsley and gruyere. Best served piping hot!

Easy French Bread.

My search for an easy recipe for a perfect loaf of French bread started on my trip to Denver last month. My cousin and I were browsing bread recipes and found them all totally convoluted, intense, and just impractical, so I promised that I’d find out the secret to easy French bread and then share it with her on this blog. Well, I’ve found that secret in another gem from my cooking idol, Laura Calder. I’ve switched up a few things from her original recipe: I added a bit more salt and used half whole wheat flour. A word of caution, though: it might be an easy recipe, but it takes a really long time—you might even say, foreverrrr.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 1/4 cup warm water
additional flour or cornmeal, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Whisk together flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in 1 1/2 cups warm water, and add the 1/4 cup water if needed. The dough should not be dry, and it’s okay if it’s pretty wet–it should be sticky, rather than a firm dough ball.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for at least 12 hours, or at most 24 hours (I let mine sit 16 hours in the oven–keep the oven off, but leave the oven light on).

The dough is ready for the next step when you see little bubbles formed on top, and it will have just about doubled in size. If a brown crust has formed over the top of the dough, just use a spatula to fold it over once or twice to work this crust into the rest of the dough.

Take a tea towel and flour it generously. Place the dough onto the floured towel and turn the dough over so that all sides are floured. Knead it twice, fold the sides underneath it and shape into a dome.

Dust with more flour or cornmeal and wrap dough ball lightly in floured tea towel. Let sit for 2 hours.

Just before 2 hours is up, preheat oven to 450 F with Dutch oven or bread pan inside to heat. The dough ball will have more than doubled in size.

When the oven is preheated, transfer dough, seam side up, into the pan. Shake the sides of the pan to settle dough evenly, and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

After 30 minutes have passed, remove lid and let bread finish baking uncovered, about 20 minutes, until nicely browned.

I love this bread with cold butter and orange marmalade, and it makes great garlic bread too. Enjoy it, and be proud of how gorgeous this easy bread turns out!

Irish Brown Bread.

Historically, Irish cuisine doesn’t get much respect in the culinary world; traditional Irish dishes can be simple and even unsophisticated – I say so lovingly :) . But there are a few exceptions to this rule, and homemade brown bread is one of them. This recipe comes from lifelong brown bread baker Auntie Mary, aunt and neighbor to our family in Dublin. I’ve adapted the recipe from metric to standard, but other than that, it’s the same easy recipe Auntie Mary has been using forever–a real taste of the best of the emerald isle!

DRY INGREDIENTS
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp oat bran
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds, plus a palmful more, divided

WET INGREDIENTS
1 egg
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Using a fork, stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Pour the batter into a greased circular cake pan or deep rectangular bread pan. Make an X across the top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining palmful of sesame seeds.

Bake about 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean. Enjoy with ham and cheese, with soup, or buttered with tea.