Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Challah Bread

Fresh off my success with the Apple Sauce and Oat Bread, I decided to try my hand at something a bit more traditional. At first I looked at some recipes for the bread machine but I kept coming back to loaves that would have needed some handling. To me, putting a bunch of ingredients into the bread machine, only to take the dough ball out later to kneed it or shape it, doesn’t save me any effort. If I’m putting all the ingredients into a machine, it might as well be my wife’s trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.

The bread type that I decided I wanted to make was Challah. I found a very interesting recipe online that caught my eye because it used some orange juice in place of plain water. I was sold, even though I didn’t expect the small amount of juice to produce any noticeable orange-y flavor. I can’t help it, I just like jamming fruits and juices into recipes where you don’t expect them. I’m a maniac.

I didn’t make any major changes or substitutions to the recipe, so I’m reproducing it here as a relatively faithful, albeit terse, paraphrasing of the original. I did leave out the poppy seeds, as a matter of personal preference. I’ll give a review of my results, and suggest you go read the original recipe for more information,

Challah Bread

  • Package of dry bread yeast
  • 1 Tsp sugar
  • 1/2 Cup warm water
  • 1/3 Cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil (+ extra)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 1-1/2 Tsp sea salt
  • 4-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour (+ extra)
  1. Combine the yeast, water and sugar in your mixing bowl, mixed gently. Wait 5 minutes for the yeast to proof and foam up.
  2. Whisk in the orange juice, olive oil, 2 of the eggs, the honey and the sea salt
  3. Using the bread hook of your mixer, begin beating the mixture. Add in flour, 1 cup at a time, waiting between cups to make sure that the result is smooth.
  4. When all the flour is in, mix for 5 more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic
  5. Pull the dough out of the mixing bowl onto a floured surface. Kneed by hand for two minutes
  6. Form the dough into a ball and put it into a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil
  7. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours. Punch down.
  8. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour more. Punch down.
  9. On a floured surface, cut the dough ball into 4 even pieces. Roll each out into strands.
  10. Braid the 4 strands into a round. Place it on a greased cookie sheet.
  11. Whisk the remaining egg, and wash the surface of the bread with egg. Allow the loaf to sit for 30 minutes more.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  13. Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes, or until done.

Results

I’m pretty happy with this bread. It looks great, smells fantastic, and tastes like Challah.

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There’s something not quite right about the texture of it, however. It’s too….floury, and not smooth enough. Maybe I added too much flour, or maybe I didn’t kneed enough or didn’t let it rise long enough, or something. The recipe calls for 4.5 cups of flour, so that’s what I added to the mixing bowl. I don’t know if that last half cup was supposed to be reserved for flouring my countertop. Maybe I worked too much extra flour into the dough when I was kneeding it. In the pictures from the original recipe, the dough appears to be stickier than it ever was for me. Next time, I’ll follow my gut and cut down the flour to 4 cups even, to see if that helps.

Dana also commented that she thought the bread could have used a little more salt. I thought it was fine in this department, but I could be convinced to add a little extra next time.

Besides the texture issue, which all but disappears in the presence of some butter, this loaf of bread was a big success. I’m really looking forward to figuring out what my next loaf is going to be.


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Apple Sauce and Oat Bread

Every once in a while, a recipe comes along pinterest and grabs my attention enough to stop what I’m doing and make it. Yesterday a recipe came along that really caught my attention for several reasons:

  1. It was a bread recipe, and I’ve been thinking about starting make more bread
  2. It used apple sauce, and I had a half-used jar of apple sauce in the fridge that I was trying to find a use for and
  3. The pictures in the original recipe looked so good

The recipe called for two ingredients that I didn’t have on hand: coconut sugar and oat flour. A brief rummage through the internet lead me to believe that I could substitute coconut sugar for refined white sugar 1:1, and a quick trip to the store picked me up a little bag of oat flour for cheap.

Yes, I recognize that refined white sugar may have the same sweetening ability but loses out on some of the other benefits of coconut sugar. My version of this bread should not be considered to be as healthy as the original.

When we first saw the recipe, both Dana and I thought that it looked a little bland. But, I was convinced, it would be a great baseline recipe on which we could make modifications later, once we know what it tasted like.

Apple Sauce and Oat Bread

  • 1 cup Oat Flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together the Flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, sugar and apple sauce. Mix until incorporated and smooth. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated. Slowly mix in the milk until smooth. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Results

Right out of the oven, this bread is surprisingly good. It’s sweet and has a little bit of caramelization around the edges. The texture is soft and a little fally-aparty, but with a little bit of butter it’s a very tasty snack. We were both worried the recipe would be a bit bland, but overall we were quite happy with it and will definitely make it again (with variations).

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You really can’t taste the apple sauce, so it’s not an “apple-flavored” bread but the sauce does add moisture and body to it. It’s a simple, sweet bread recipe with a great texture and relatively neutral flavor.

Variations

While making this recipe, and during tasting, there were a few ideas we had to change it up and tailor it for different occasions:

  1. Less sugar. The bread came out a little more sweet than we might normally like. I don’t know if this is because of the sugar substitution. Next time, I may use less sugar.
  2. Add some pie seasonings, like cinnamon and/or nutmeg. 1/2 tsp cinnamon might be a good place to start for a cinnamon-flavored bread
  3. Find a way to add more apple. We were expecting an apple flavor, and were a little disappointed when it didn’t come through. Maybe we could add a layer of apple slices, like a jewish apple cake, or we could substitute some of the sugar for my boiled apple cider syrup (to make the result a little less sweet, and give it a bit of tartness). Or maybe, and this starts to get wild, we add some dollops of apple pie filling here and there to the batter with some swirls.
  4. Chocolate chips. They work great with banana bread, and I imagine this bread would play excellent host to them as well.
  5. Substitute some of the sugar for brown sugar.


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Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

It’s a super-secret family recipe. Like, hush-hush, keep a lid on it, this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds kinds of secret. I’m posting it on this blog where anybody can see it, but I’m trusting you not to tell nobody. Responsibility, shifted.

Dana was making some sugar cookies and I was trying to get rid of some left-over cherry jam, when magic happened.

Oh, and we have this adorable xmas-themed serving plate, which we can only use at this time of year. Let’s take a picture so we can remember it the other 11 months of the year:

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The “recipe” is quite a simple one: Make sugar cookie dough, roll it up into little cookie-sized balls, use your thumb to press it down and form a little cavity, and fill each one with a dollop of jam. We used cherry (my very first batch, from June 2012). Bake according to the directions and, if you’ve been a good boy or girl this year, have one (or several).

These cookies are easy to make and the results are extremely tasty. I’d like to try it with some other jams as well. Luckily, I have a few.