Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making a change

So this post is about a big change. Well, maybe not so big. Maybe it's a little change, but I like it. I have (drumroll, please) changed my challah recipe! I was so proud of developing the recipe, and here I am messing with it, the very act that eventually scared me off of challah baking altogether, back in the 90's. So why mess with it? Laziness. No, seriously, one of the chief issues I had with my recipe was that one egg yolk, because I was not happy with the separating and the subsequent brain-racking to decide what to do with the leftover white. Do I go the easy way out and just toss it? Do I respect the egg and its source and save it for a future recipe? Do I stress over the growing mass of eggwhites building in the freezer and annoying me? I happened upon this recipe by Carine Goren, an Israeli food writer, on her website. It has a very helpful video, with the added bonus of instructions for braiding five strands, but it is in Hebrew, both the video and the text, so if you are not up to it, here I come to save the day.

The other reason that I like this recipe is that it is totally counter-intuitive to any other challah recipe I have ever made. Instead of adding in the water and then adding flour until the dough seems right, you add in all the flour from the outset, and adjust the water to that. The other advantage is that I never have to worry that the amount of flour I am using (1 kilo) is getting close to the no-man's land between taking challah without a bracha and not being required to take at all. It is the water that changes, not the flour. This recipe also appears on the Shimrit website (that is the nifty granulated fresh yeast I mentioned before), but again, also in Hebrew. I am not sure how this would work with regular dry yeast, but since it follows the same basic techniquw as a breadmaker, it logically seems to follow. My only alteration - I have slightly increased the amount of sugar, as the Israeli concept of what a sweet challah is and the American ideal are a little different.

Sweet Challah
1 kilo flour (about 7 cups)
1 package Shimrit yeast (about 5 teaspoons dry yeast, but I have never tried it)
1 package meshaper afiya, optional (the original does not call for it, but I like it - the dough improver I have mentioned before)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (3/4 is the original amount listed)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
up to 2 cups warm water
egg wash - 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Empty all the flour into the mixer bowl. Add in yeast and meshaper afiya and stir well to combine. Mix in sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Add about 1 1/4 cups of the water. Use the dough hook to mix. After a minute or two, check to see if the mixture seems dry. If so, add a little more water (I have never needed more that 1 1/2 cups, but it could be an environmental issue, so your amount needed could vary a lot). Scrape down and continue to mix, kneading the dough for about 10 minutes. You can also do some kneading by hand, if you are so inclined. Put the dough in a greased bowl, turning to cover all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled. Punch down and shape the loaves, placing onto parchment lined pans. (Carine Goren lightly flours her surface where she makes the "snakes" and flattens each piece before rolling it up, rather that just rolling a ball of dough into a snake. I find it works nicely.) Let rise about an hour, then brush with an egg wash of 1 beaten egg and a tablespoon of water. Bake at 350 for about 1/2 an hour. Cool on a rack, and enjoy!
I will add pictures to this at a later point, but if you are getting ready for Shabbat now and thought about baking challot, here you are!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

This one's for you, Shosh

This was a very quiet Shabbos in Casa Cookies. Shana is still in the US, and Dani and Lola spent Shabbos at Saba and Savta's, so it was just me, David, and lucky Ayelet. We really had a nice, low-key time.

Just to make sure the pictures get posted for Shana to see, I am going to rush this post and will fill in details later. I decorated a birthday cake for Avraham, son of our friends Yocheved and Jon, who, I am sad to report, are returning to the States next week after four years of "staying for the year." They will be sorely missed. Yocheved is quite the baker herself, but what with packing and organizing, she did not have time to decorate for the birthday boy.
The colorful decor was her concept, I just made it happen for her. The color is a little off here, as the swirls were really a combination of orange, purple, and teal, but you get the general idea. Happy birthday, Avraham!

Last week's flavors are getting a brief shout-out here as well, as I remembered to photograph a platter, but obviously late in the game (i.e. the glarey plastic wrap gives it away every time).

The flavors were lemon glazed ginger crisps, coffee and cream brownies, chocolate thumbprints, cherry oatmeal crumble bars, and Black Forest Cookies.

This week's flavors get a more advantageous viewing:
Chocolate dipped chocolate chip, snickerdoodle squares (a new flavor), chocolate crinkles, oatmeal fudge bars (also new), and lemon currant cookies (yes, new as well). Maybe next post will include some close-up love for the new flavors. Maybe. I am trying not to write checks that I can't cash...

Have a good week, and an easy fast. May this year be the last for Tisha B'Av as a tzom.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Break from blogging

I don't know what my problem has been - it is now a month since my last post. Do I have nothing to say? Maybe. Not to mention all the pictures I have forgotten to take. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I must owe you all many, many paragraphs.

So, in the interim, what has been going on?

The school year wound down and all the chugim ended.
Dani graduated from elementary school and already started junior high.
Shana finished her 11th grade bagruyot and flew off to the States to work in camp.
Ayelet was very bored for the last two weeks of school and is now working, tutoring in math.
Ariella was Mitztayenet HaMachatzit (outstanding student of the semester) for first grade.
Camp started, which means it's nearly over

Now for a little more detail.

We lived through the school zimriya (performance of songs and singalong).
Ariella's class sang and did the standard hand motions, while Dani's class did daglanut, which was repeated at graduation a few days later, but in a much smaller space in which they had barely practiced. Awesome.The kids finished their chugim, which included Ariella's gymnastics performance.
Locally, sixth graders are deemed worldly and advanced, and ready to move on. So we make them spend the first half of sixth grade stressing out, attending open houses, taking entrance exams, enduring interviews, and waiting for acceptance or the feared rejection. Then they make their school decisions, and spend the rest of the year doing nothing. It's good they have all their experience and education under their belts to make the process easier. And then it turns into June, and they graduate, in the most non-American experience there is in this land of casual dress and informal attitudes. That pretty much sums up the evening, which, might I add, was moved indoors because of the intense heat, into a beit midrash WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING! I was impressed that no one passed out.

Dani then began a mandatory Gemara course at his high school in Y-m, which was probably more education than he had the whole year. At least in Gemara. He and three other boys who will be attending there in the fall learned how to navigate public transportation, as well as the more onerous task of buying ice cream, snacks, and drinks at the various establishments just steps away from the school campus.

Shana finished her bagrut tests of eleventh grade, for which she studied feverishly, and the initial results are excellent. We are very proud. Then she jetted off to the US to enjoy mother's helpering in beautiful Lake Como PA. Can't believe we sent her 7000 miles away. Guess she is growing up. She seems to be enjoying the experience.

Ayelet was beyond bored for the last bit of school - can't say I blame her, as no classes were taking place, just preparations for a play she was not in. She was most relieved when the last day rolled around. She enjoyed a couple of weeks of sleeping really late, and now she has started her job and can only sleep moderately late.

When the school year did finally end for everyone, we were very proud of the kids - they all did beautifully on their report cards. Ariella was even awarded Outstanding Student of the Semester - Kol Hakavod Ariella! And that just about sums up life - next up, baking, with far fewer visual aids...

I celebrated my birthday, won't tell you the number, but it will be the last one ever that starts with 3 (unless I live to 300, but that doesn't really appeal). Shana and Ayelet made me a beautiful and delicious cake.
I also made a birthday cake for a neighbor who is celebrating her daughter's 21st and her 50th - they are both buttercream enthusiasts, so I made sure to load it on.I tried a few new flavors: a whiskey-spiked blondie with chocolate and pecans, oatmeal fudge bars (a fudgy filling with an oatmeal base and crumb topping), and gooey raisin bars (ma have mentioned those before - shortbread with a gooey topping, kind of like a pecan pie, but with raisins). All were well-received, and will someday be photographed.
These platters, which I somehow remembered to photograph, were for a barbeque. They included thin mint sandwiches, lemon wedges, molasses cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped chocoalte chip cookies, and Mexican brownies. Here they are individually, to pad this post a little more...When I manage to upload and other pictures I may photograph, I will post again!

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