Today was my first official day of Spring Break! It was so nice not having to set the alarm last night, and being able to sleep until my body decided to get up (about 9 a.m.!) I decided that I’m going to do or make something “different” than the norm each day of break. Since tonight’s dinner is fairly boring (yet another sandwich, just to play it safe, tonight from Subway) I decided to chronicle today’s adventure in photos.
I’d made up my mind last week that I was going to bake bread at least one day during my break since it’s such a time-consuming process that I don’t normally do. My favorite The only bread I ever make is the traditional Jewish bread for Shabbat (Sabbath) called Challah. It’s a slightly sweet, slightly eggy braided bread, usually topped with an egg wash to make it shiny, and then covered in sesame or poppy seeds.
I ran to the local produce market to pick up supplies for the bread, and was thrilled to see that each ingredient I needed was on sale, and the total came out to under $10!!
I apologize that there aren’t photos of each step, but I was working alone, and if you’ve ever made bread, you know it can be a messy project! My hands were COVERED in dough, and I couldn’t take a picture until the bread was in its bowl, ready to rise for the first time. It had already sat for about 10 minutes by the time I took this picture, so it had risen a bit already:
I set the bowl on the pre-heated oven to help the yeast grow and cause the dough to rise. In the hour that the bread was rising, I made another trip to the market to get foil cookie sheets (since we only have 2 good ones), and aluminum foil to line the other pans. Soon after I returned, I saw that the bread dough had nearly doubled to this:
Next came my absolute favorite part of bread baking: THE PUNCH DOWN! I remember being a little girl and just WAITING for my mom to call me into the kitchen to watch her punch bread dough down. It’s really amazing how much air can form in this simple substance! After punching the dough down, I kneaded it for a few minutes to even out the texture, then divided it into 4 even pieces so I could make 4 loaves. Then, each piece got divided into 3 pieces, each of which got rolled into a long “snake”. I braided 3 pieces together to form 4 braided loaves of challah:
These then were ready for another rise. They sat, just relaxing, for another 35 minutes until the texture was right (bounce back when poked), then I brushed them with a vanilla egg wash, and sprinkled 2 of them with sesame seeds. Then, I put them into a 350* oven for 45 minutes. The smell was absolutely divine. Slightly sweet like cookies, earthy like well, baking bread… and when I opened the oven, I was beyond excited to find the MOST gorgeous bread I’ve ever made (if I say so myself!)
2 of these loaves are going to my two fellow Jewish bloggers. One is going to my Jazzercise friend Mindy. The other one? Definitely half gone already! the slices were perfect in texture. Usually I mess up somehow and they end up too dense, or too chewy and these were PERFECT! Ok, I’m tooting my own horn too much. I did of course take a picture of my slice, topped with a bit of SmartBalance:
There may or may not have been another slice just like this that was consumed soon afterward. This is one of the few things that I make with an actual recipe that I never stray from. Rather than posting it, I’ll just send you to the link for Shabbat Challah from Allrecipes.com
I had an ulterior motive for baking this bread today, other than just that I wanted to. I’ve volunteered to be a baker for Meghann’s 2nd Blogger Bake Sale, and I’ll be selling loaves of this amazing bread! I realized that I didn’t have any decent photos of it! So granted, yes, I benefited by baking it… but so can you! You can bid on one (or all 4!) of the loaves on April 6!
Now, something new for me: I was contacted by Khara over at cookware.com and she asked me if I would be willing to post an article for you all. I said yes, with one condition: it had to be something I thought you’d all enjoy! She sent me this great article about gifts for foodies, so here you go!
Unique Gifts for Foodies
There’s no telling how much time we could spend trying to figure out the best present to give those people on our list that have it all. This is especially true for the foodies in our families or circle of friends as they’re always trying to get their hands on the latest and greatest gadgets in the culinary world to add to their dinnerware and cookware collection. However, the best part about finding a unique gift for the foodies in our lives is that this market is always coming up with creative ideas to help chefs kick their recipes up a notch and we’re going to highlight a few items that will make any kitchen go from good to great in terms of organization, taste and style!
A dish wouldn’t be the same without the spices and herbs we add and there isn’t a better way to grind these ingredients than with a mortar and pestle set. These hand washed wooden sets not only take care of all of your mincing needs but they also add an authentic feature to the meal. Furthermore, foodies that enjoy fresh herbs to use in their mortar and pestle kit would thoroughly enjoy owning an indoor gardening set from AeroGarden where they can enjoy fresh ingredients year round. To dig a bit deeper in the spices and herbs category, consider looking out for a unique spice rack that would complement your family member or friend’s kitchen design. Not only is this a great way for them to stay organized but this kitchen accessory can couple as a stylish piece of décor for everyone to enjoy
I think I might need to get an AeroGarden! They seem so cool! Thanks for the article Khara!
Make sure you visit Monica’s wonderful blog at Run, Eat, Repeat for a chance to win one of those comfy cozy Quaker gift packs, and also Jenna’s blog, Eat, Live, Run to find out about how she’s trying to earn $4200 for Leukemia and Lymphoma by running the 2009 Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco. RUN GIRLS!!!!!
ALSO, The Hungry Yogini is giving away the beloved Barney Butter!
If you’ve gotten to this point, you definitely deserve kudos (not the chocolate covered granola bar, the pat on the back kind) because this was a LONG one! Thanks for reading