Baking Bread & Gifty Goodness

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:

DSCN2267I 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:

DSCN2268Next 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:

DSCN2269These 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!)

DSCN2274DSCN2272 DSCN2273

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:DSCN2275

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 :)

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42 Responses to Baking Bread & Gifty Goodness

  1. VeggieGirl says:

    HELLLLL YES for spring break and for bread-baking!! :-D

    VeggieGirl´s last blog post..Episode 8 of VeggieGirl TV: Powerful Protein Powder

  2. Meg says:

    Beautiful bread and great article!

    Meg´s last blog post..Cupcake Fun

  3. Becca A says:

    Wow that is perfectly executed challah! I hope I can do it that well!

    Becca A´s last blog post..No Jitters

  4. jessie says:

    wow that looks delicious! feel free to send some over my way :)

  5. jessie says:

    oh! and i especially think that the sesame one looks great :)

    jessie´s last blog post..random musings

  6. Kelsey says:

    mmmmmm bread + butter.. I just ate.. but I’d like to sink my teeth into that yummy deliciousness!!

    Kelsey´s last blog post..Flat Taco Party..

  7. carolinebee says:

    omg challah is my absolute FAVE (and the best bread name to say :D!) I cannot believe u made that, looks amazing!

    carolinebee´s last blog post..They DO Exist!

  8. laura says:

    That is beautiful bread!! WOW after spring cleaning I am making some.

    laura´s last blog post..Spring Clean and Win Week! Seventh Generation!!

  9. Julie says:

    That is the most beautiful homemade challah I have EVER seen. Great job! (I don’t happen to be one of the 2 Jewish bloggers, am I? I’ll do anything for free challah…)

  10. Erin says:

    I love breadmaking, and it certainly is messy! I am always enlisting the help of someone walking by to get things for me when I’m covered in dough. Yours is sooo beautiful!
    I never make pretty loaves. I’m impressed!
    I’m glad you are on break and feeling better!

    Erin´s last blog post..Vacation Highlights and Bar Reviews

  11. Hallie says:

    Holla at Challah! (ok, lame…but fun to say. try it.)

    I am so, so impressed. That bread looks PROFESSIONAL! I have never tried to make Challah myself…and really, with people like you in this world who do it so well, why should I?? ;-)

    Happy first day of break!

    Hallie´s last blog post..BSI Entry via Japan, Italy, Spain…and a Jewish kitchen?

  12. Christina says:

    Oh how pretty!!!

    Christina´s last blog post..BSI Winner and Give-away 3!

  13. Melissa says:

    Love the braided bread, it looks awesome and yummy too!!

    Melissa´s last blog post..Failures & Successes

  14. Bec says:

    love that you spent the first day of your week off baking bread :)
    ps I’m hopefully going to be a teacher too! I’ll finish my BA in 2 weeks and then I am off to do my bachelor of education next year!

  15. Selba says:

    Wow…. the breads look so nice!

    Selba´s last blog post..Warung Desa

  16. Marianne says:

    Is it odd that I’ve never had Challah? Seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the bakery here. It looks insanely good though. Although, how can you go wrong with freshly baked bread really? :D

    Marianne´s last blog post..I Want A Do Over

  17. Pearl says:

    Mara, that bread looks incredible. *sigh* :) Wish you were my neighbor!

    Pearl´s last blog post..Morning

  18. Your bread looks absolutely amazing! You’re quite the professional!

    Elizabeth (thelongweigh)´s last blog post..Time to Breathe

  19. Those are beautiful braids! I love braided and shaped loaves. Challah is my favorite.

    Elizabeth Barrette´s last blog post..Three Questions: White House Vegetable Garden

  20. coco says:

    oh….these look so beautiful and yummy~~~ Great job! :D

    coco´s last blog post..Day 6: Double working hard, Eating Hard and Enjoying Hard! ^_^

  21. MizFit says:

    those are amazing looking!!!

    MizFit´s last blog post..What Does MizFit Eat: Part 1

  22. Erin says:

    That looks SO GOOD! I love the punch down too! It’s so fun! BAM!

    Erin´s last blog post..Andrea: I only got 4 minutes…

  23. Oh Mara! Those are beautiful!!

    I know what you mean about the messy dough. I’ve narrowly escaped a camera “en croute” several times now. ;-)

    Nicole (Sweetie Pie)´s last blog post..Monday Food-day

  24. Betsy says:

    That bread looks so beautiful and delicious!! I’m so glad you’re going to be putting it in the bake sale… time to start saving my pennies! ;)

    Betsy´s last blog post..Last Week of March

  25. Danielle says:

    Oh I love Challah and yours look great! I’m glad they came out so perfect for you!

    Danielle´s last blog post..Another Year Older…

  26. Victoria says:

    I love it! Looks so gorgeous! I can’t believe I’ve never made Challah before. I definitely need to try sometime.

    Victoria´s last blog post..Baked Pasta with Winter Squash

  27. Vicki T says:

    Yum, LOVE challah.

    Vicki T´s last blog post..Shamrock Marathon!!

  28. Sarah says:

    These look JUST like pulla (a Finnish sweet bread my family makes all the time). We sprinkle them with sugar, cinnamon ans slivered almonds, but they’re braided and egg washed just like these!

    Sarah´s last blog post..Success!

  29. Katie says:

    Your breads look so good! I’ll watch for them in the bake sale.

    Katie´s last blog post..Forgetful Foodie & Beauty Product Review

  30. gina (fitnessista) says:

    that bread is GORGEOUS! i’m way impressed with your mad baking skills
    have a wonderful day!

  31. Krista says:

    That bread looks fabulous! Especially the piece with the melty butter! MMMM!

    Krista´s last blog post..Speedy Monday

  32. The bread looks so pretty!

    Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food)´s last blog post..Best Eats

  33. Tracy F says:

    Beautiful bread. I just want to eat it. My favorite part is punching down the dough too. Baking bread is so fun.

    Tracy F´s last blog post..Recipe River site map

  34. Melissa says:

    Looks beautiful, Mara, and I’m not even a challah lover (bad Jew, right?!)! Mazel Tov!

    Melissa´s last blog post..Kids and “Bad” Food Anxiety?!

  35. eatingbender says:

    I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling well! But holy moly does that bread look good! I got to try some at the Farmer’s Market I went to in LA – amazing. I need to make some at home – or else bribe you into making some for me ;)

    I just posted an article from Khara, too! I thought that was so cool!

    eatingbender´s last blog post..Budgeting

  36. kilax says:

    Those are absolutely beautiful! They look like they were made in a bakery :)

    kilax´s last blog post..Where’s my appetite?

  37. ahhhh, i love challah, and yours looks particularly amazing! and i’m totally sure you must have used it for french toast in the past, but if this has somehow slipped by you, try it!

    Sarah (Tales of Expansion)´s last blog post..Brooklyn comes through

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