Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweet Challah

Wow, Challah -  where to start? Challah is a huge topic, and there are entire blogs dedicated to challah making.  Challah is a sweet bread, that is a traditionally served on Shabbos. Many women make it fresh every Friday. Most of you know that homemade challah is delicious, especially fresh out of the oven. I'll tell you a little secret- in the past 7 years, I have never had bakery challah show it's face on our Shabbos table. Not that I am bragging, we just like home made challah so much better! Since it is a messy task to make challah fresh every Friday, I like to make a huge batch every month or so, and freeze it for the next few weeks. We warm it up in the oven on Friday, and it tastes practically fresh! Don't be scared to try making challah- anyone can do it. It just takes some practice. There are many different ways to shape challah, braiding being the most common. Six braids are especially pretty, and I found the following video very helpful in learning how to make a six braid.

If braiding seems too daunting, you can roll 6 even balls of dough and arrange them in a circle with one ball in the middle, in a 9 inch circle pan, and the result is very pretty. 

The following recipe is from my sister-in-law, and after trying a few different recipes, I have to say this one is the winner! 

Sweet Challah  makes 6 large braids
5 lbs all purpose flour ( approximately 12 cups)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup oil
4 eggs
3 tablespoons dry instant yeast
3 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Notes before beginning:
1. The temperature of the water is very important for the dough to rise properly. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast, and if it is too cool, the dough will not rise. The water should feel like bathwater- perfectly lukewarm.
2. Do not try to make the dough in a Kitchen Aid- it will break it! The best mixer to use is either a Magic Mill or a Bosch. If you do not have either of those mixers, you can mix the dough by hand ( I do!) and it will be fine. If you are mixing the dough by hand, be prepared to knead it for at least 10 minutes. The longer you knead the dough, the smoother it will be, producing beautiful challos. 
3. When braiding the challah, make sure to sprinkle the ropes generously with flour- it helps the challah keep it's shape better. I one time heard a challah expert (seriously, she gives classes) say that flour is like a challah's hairspray- it keeps the braid together.

 Pour warm water into a large bowl or an 8 quart pot. Add yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, until there is a layer of foam on top from the yeast. Add the flour, sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Knead for at least 10-15 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour -1/4 cup at a time. Cover with a damp towel, and put it in a warm place to rise. Let it rise for an hour or until it doubles in size. Form challos into braids, and place onto lined baking pan. Cover again with a damp towel, and allow to rise for another hour. Be careful not to move the pans around too much- they can lose their height if they are bumped around. In a small bowl, mix together 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water. Mix well. This will be your egg wash, and gives the challos a nice shine. After the challos have risen, brush the egg wash on gently with a pastry brush. There are a few options for toppings. The most common are sesame seeds or poppy seeds. For a sweeter challah, the following crumb topping is delicious: 

Crumb Topping:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)
Mix together well until it forms a fine crumb. Sprink over challos after you have applied the egg wash. You can also sprinkle some crumbs on the pans before you put the braids down, and it gives the crust a nice sweet crunch. 

Bake the challah at 375° , 25 minutes for chewy challah, 30 minutes for crunchy challah.

If anyone has any specific questions on making challah, please feel free to leave a comment, and I will do my best to reply.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Whoopie Pies revisited.....Baby Boston Cream Pies

I just can't get whoopie pies out of my head!! We were invited to a barbecue with some cousins and naturally I would be bringing dessert. The plan was to make cream filled cupcakes. The plan was to listen to my husbands request  and make cream filled cupcakes. At the end of the night I had 21 Boston Cream whoopie pies in my kitchen and a crabby husband. Where did I go wrong? Oh dear, I think I need help.Wait, I know I need help.Ok, lets not discuss this. Well in case you want to make these too, here's the recipe:

Boston Cream Pie Whoopie Pies

Cake-Cookie Part
3 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening
1 c. buttermilk*
1/4 c. sweet milk
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vinegar
5 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs. Combine the baking soda and vinegar with sweet milk. Stir in the buttermilk. In a seperate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and cream of tartar.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to cream mixture, and mix at a low speed until combined. Pour half of milk mixture in, and mix just until combined. Pour in the next third of flour, mix, and add in last of milk. Pour in the last third of the flour, and mix until combined. Scrape sides, and add in vanilla. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for about 12 minutes or until cookies spring back when touched with the finger. Let cool before filling.

* To make buttermilk at home, put 1 tablespoon vinegar into the 1 cup measuring cup. Fill the rest with milk, and let sit for 10 minutes. You can use rice milk or soy milk as well. 

Custard Filling
4 large eggs (yolks only, discard the whites)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 Whisk egg yolks until smooth in bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stirring constantly, gradually add milk in a slow steady stream and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about five mintues. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one third of the milk mixture into the yolks. Mix together. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk mixture in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon. Pour into a bowl and cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm- at least  2 hours, or up to 2 days.

Chocolate Glaze
2 cups powder sugar
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk
Mix everything together. It should be slightly thick, similar to a brownie batter. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well, until smooth. If it is too thick, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. The glaze will thicken as it cools, so if it gets too thick as you dip the pies, you can reheat it for 10 seconds at a time in the microwave. Note: The glaze recipe is really " a little of this and a little of that " kind of recipe. I tried my best to estimate the measurements that I use, but I almost always end up adding some more milk or powder sugar to get it to the right consistency.

To assemble:
I didn't have patience to wait for the custard to cool, so I poured it into a ziploc bag, and laid it flat in the freezer for about 10 minutes, and it seemed to do the job. Lay half of the cookie/cakes in a pan. Snip off a corner of the ziploc bag, and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of custard on the cookie. Now, either you can glaze half of the cookies in advance, and have them ready to cover. Or you can dip each one as you fill the cookie, and put it on top. There are pros and cons to both ways. If you glaze them in advance, they are hard to pick up, but they don't drip on the filling. If you glaze them while you fill, they are easier to pick up, since they are already in your hand, but they will drip. Personally, I like the natural look of the drips, so I dipped them as I filled. Refrigerate after assembling to allow the pies to set. 

Alternate Chocolate Cream Filling
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening together until smooth. Blend in confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and pinch of salt. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. beat until light and fluffy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to the basics...

Sometimes when I am looking for something to bake, I get distracted. Distracted with things like caramel, peanut butter, custard and the likes. Not that these are bad things. Far from it. But sometimes really yummy things get forgotten about. Really basic stuff. Like cookies! 

These are my two favorite cookie recipes, and really- how can you go wrong? If you need to bring dessert somewhere, you don't have to worry about someone being allergic to peanut butter, or not liking custard. These cookies are about as basic as you can get, and they are just delicious, plain and simple.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks margarine
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 3/4 - 3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt 
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Using a mixer, cream margarine. Add sugars and beat until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, and let beat for at least five minutes, until very creamy. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. The batter should be thick enough that you can pick up some dough without your hands getting all sticky, but thin enough that the chocolate chips stay inside the dough and don't fall to the bottom. Its a hard balance to find! Generally 2 3/4 cups flour is enough, but on a hot day, sometimes it needs 3 cups.  If you accidentally added too much flour, you can add some milk/soy milk ,  1 tablespoon at a time. Drop by teaspoon on a baking sheet, and bake for exactly 11 minutes. Cookies may look underdone, but they harden as they cool. 

Chocolate Fudge Cookies
1 1/4 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for exactly 10 minutes, do not overbake!

Now go bake some cookies!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I'm sure you have noticed the new look around here....and if you didn't its ok, I won't tell anyone. I figure if I am taking this seriously ( which if you have seen the cheesecake, you will realize I am!) I better get a more professional look going. I stumbled upon these two amazing blogs : Mystylebackgrounds and Kevinandamanda. Mystyle has really cool backgrounds for all you bloggers out there, and Kevinandamanda  has the most unique fonts. I am amazed at the talent that is out there. I had such a good time looking through all the fonts, and downloading a million new ones. So thank you fellow bloggers for pulling through for us, and I hope you enjoy the new look.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heaven on a spoon

Really there is no name that would do this cheesecake justice. Let me tell you, I love cheesecake. I don't announce it to the world ( although now I am) but I am pretty picky on cheesecakes. I have tasted many homemade cheesecakes. And I always gush over how good they are. But a lot of times they are "eh, ok." But this one really raises the bar quite a bit. Rich, decadent and creamy. I am sure there is some sort of science to the ratio of cheese:eggs:sugar, but the magic in this cake is the combination of flavors. Cheesecake....peanut butter....caramel....brownies. It really is heaven on a spoon. So instead of ranting and raving, allow me share some pics with you, but let me warn you, you may need some tissues...

You might want to move away from your keyboard now...
In case you missed the caramel...

What? You want the recipe? Are you sure? Its kinda deadly. In a diet killer kind of way. Oh well, if you insist...

Peanut Butter Caramel Cheesecake
1 *gasp* brownie mix
1 egg
1 tablespoon cold water
2-8 ounce packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dark karo syrup
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

Mix brownie mix with egg and water. Pat into a 9 inch springform pan.* Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. ( It will look undercooked.) Let cool. In a small saucepan, combine karo syrup, peanut butter and vanilla sugar. Mix over medium heat until smooth. Pour 3/4 of caramel mixture over brownie crust. Put in the freezer to set for 20 minutes.  Mix cream cheese, sugar ,2 eggs and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Pour on top of caramel. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, center will be jiggly. Turn the oven off and leave inside to cool for about an hour. Remove and let cool completely in the fridge. Drizzle with remaining caramel, and chocolate glaze. (Recipe to follow.) To get a nice drizzle, pour either glaze into a sandwich size ziploc bag, and snip off a small piece of the corner, drizzle over the top.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup powder sugar
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix everything together. It should be slightly thick, similar to a brownie batter. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well, until smooth. If it is too thick, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Note: The glaze recipe is really " a little of this and a little of that " kind of recipe. I tried my best to estimate the measurements that I use, but I almost always end up adding some more milk or powder sugar to get it to the right consistency.

* Ok, so I admit it, I have no idea how to use a springform pan. I actually didn't use one for this recipe, although you are supposed to use a springform pan when making a cheesecake. So, if you know how to use one, by all means please do. But if you are ignorant in these matters like me, you can use a 9 inch pan. To get a pretty slice, use a disposable pan, and slice the side of the pan open when you slice the first slice so you can slide it out of the pan backwards.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BBQ in a snap


So yesterday we had an awesome barbecue, and I thought I would share it with you! And the cool part is we threw it together in less than 20 minutes! So here's what we had:

A: Chicken Breast and Hotdogs in Hunts Honey Mustard Barbecue Sauce
B:Yummy fresh corn
C:Crinkle Cut French Fries....Stop and Shop special
D:New Kosher Special Sweet and Sour Sauce
(Incidentally the best Chinese restaurant in the world)
E: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
F.Three Bean Salad
G: Coleslaw
H: Hamburger Chips Dill Pickles


Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into french fry shapes

Pam cooking spray
Garlic Powder
Cajun Seasoning

Heat oven to 450. Spread sweet potato slices in a cookie sheet in a single layer. Spray slices with pam. Sprinkle seasonings over. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft.

Three  Bean Salad
1 pound  fresh green beans*
1 can chick peas ( garbanzo beans)
1 can baby corn
1 red onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced small
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 4 inches of water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim green beans. When water is at a strong boil, pour green beans into the water. Let the water return to a boil, and cook uncovered for 6 minutes. Pour green beans into a colander, and rinse with cold water. Put green beans in a bowl and add the rest of ingredients. Mix well.
*If you are in a hurry you can use two cans of canned green beans.

This is a great recipe for coleslaw that I got from my good friend DT. It comes out perfect every time! Thanks DT!

1 bag Dole coleslaw
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sugar
1/4  cup vinegar
splash of lemon juice
Mix everything together.

Enjoy your BBQ!
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