Thursday, February 26, 2015


This month's theme for What's Baking is Baking Bread.  I was excited to cross something off my bucket list - challah.  I had always had in mind to make it but had never made the time to actually do it.  As it was, I didn't even find the time to make it for Shabbat, I ended up making it on a Wednesday!

I looked up recipes from a few sources and noticed that the techniques were different in each.  Some were instructions on how to knead the entire thing by hand, some (like the one I ended up using) use an electric mixer.  Some had several long rising periods, others had much less rising time.  Then they all ended with different ways to present it - a round loaf, a few small loaves, a simple braid or an intricate one.

I think that challah is going to be one of those things that take time to perfect your craft.  The end result of the recipe below came out a bit more dense than I usually like in my challahs.  And my braid was a bit uneven.  Don't get me wrong, it's still delicious, but I will definitely be futzing around with this one and trying alternate recipes to get the perfect airy challah.

Someone was too excited to eat the challah to wait for me to take the picture

This Shabbat is going to be a little extra special with homemade challah on the table.  And this weekend we will most definitely be enjoying some challah french toast for breakfast!

Challah (slightly adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking)

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (no more than 110 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tsp for the egg wash
4 1/2 cups bread flour plus more for flouring the board
3 eggs plus 1 more for the egg wash
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
2 tsp salt

- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast and the water on low speed.  Mix for a minute or so to dissolve the yeast.
- Add 1/3 cup sugar and mix again for a few seconds, then add 1/2 cup flour and mix again.
- Add 3 eggs.  Increase the speed slightly and mix again.  Once the eggs are well incorporated, add 1 more cup of flour.  On medium-low speed, work in the flour (scraping side of the bowl as needed), then add the oil and salt.
- Turn off the machine and add 3 cups of the remaining flour (a total of 4 1/2 cups).  Starting slow and working up to a medium speed, continue to work the flour into the dough, shutting the machine off once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Let the machine knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, making sure to turn off the machine every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl and/or to give the motor a rest (it can overheat while working this dense a dough).  If it is still sticking to the sides of the bowl after a few minutes, add a little more flour (one tablespoon at a time).  In the end, the dough should be firm, smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky.
- Put the dough into a large, oiled bowl, turning to completely coat it with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise until tripled in volume (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
 - Punch down the dough and prepare it for it's final shape:
***for a braided loaf: cut the dough into equal strands (as many as you want to work with).  Place the strands on a floured board, cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes.  Braid the dough (pinching the ends together) and place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
***for a round loaf: form the dough into 1 long rope and coil the rope into a road loaf on a floured board.  Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise 30 minutes.  Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl.  Brush the surface of the loaf with the wash, making sure to glaze the crevices between strands.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes.  To test for doneness, tap the bottom of the loaf with your fingers.  It should sound hollow.  Transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hash Brown Quiche

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love brunch.  I want to invite people over at least once a month so I can enjoy the decadent dishes I can get away with making.  In addition to my french toast, my go-to brunch dish is this hash brown quiche.  It combines eggs and potatoes in one delicious bite.  And (bonus!) after you pre-cook the hash brown crust, you bake the eggs at the same temperature as the french toast.  I pop it in the oven 15 minutes after the french toast goes in, then I even have time for the quick clean up before my guests arrive!

I have mixed it up a little as well since I started making this.  I've added mushrooms, switched out different kinds of cheese, etc.  So you can add your own personal twist to cater to your family's tastebuds.

This dish is also toddler approved (though you may have to tell them it's "cheese" or else they won't eat it).

Hash Brown Quiche (slightly adapted from Paula Deen)

3 cups shredded hash brown (either freshly shredded potatoes or thawed from frozen)
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) melted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees, F
- In a colander, gently press potatoes with a paper towel to squeeze out excess water.
- In a greased 9in pie plate, toss potatoes with the melted butter until well combined.  Then press the potato into the bottom and sides of the plate to form the crust.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown and starting to crisp.  When you remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half.  Then stir in the scallions, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the potato crust is out of the oven, pour the egg mixture into the center of the crust.  Use a spoon or spatula to spread out the cheese and scallions.
- Bake for 30-40 min (at 350) until the center is puffy and light golden brown.

hash brown crust, ready for the oven

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Split Pea soup

When the forecast for this week revealed a major snow storm, I knew immediately that I wanted to add soup to my menu.  That's the proper way to spend a snow day, right?!  Thankfully the storm wasn't as bad as predicted (we got 6 or so inches, not the predicted 2'+) but it was the perfect amount of snow to cause a snow day for my husband, we didn't have to worry about losing power, and we were able to get out and go sledding in the afternoon!

My husband's favorite soup is split pea.  But he can't order it many places, as a lot of restaurants put ham in it.  When I originally had the idea to make this soup for him a few months ago, I found this one from The Inventive Vegetarian, a site I've used before, so I trusted it would be good.  I made one or two slight changes to make it more to my liking, but otherwise this was the perfect recipe!  The soup itself is parve, though we added sourdough parmesan croutons which made this batch dairy once it was served.

I will advise to get the carrots, celery and parsley chopped first and put aside (they are added all at once so you can put them all together in a bowl) and not rinse the peas until just before putting them into the pot, as they will harden and become one big split pea clump if they have time to dry after rinsing.

This was a nice, cozy lunch that we ate while we looked out on the winter wonderland outside.

Split Pea Soup (slightly adapted from The Inventive Vegetarian)

1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
3 small (or 2 medium/large) garlic cloves, diced
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
1 lb (2.5 cups) dried green split peas, picked over and rinsed
8 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 bunch parsley, rough chopped
salt & pepper to taste
croutons, for garnish (optional)

- Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion to the hot oil and saute for a few minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add garlic and saute for another minute.
- Add the carrots, celery, peas, herbs, stock, and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Stirring occasionally, let it simmer for 90 minutes, partially covered.
- Salt & pepper to taste (keep in mind how salty the croutons you might be adding are).  Remove the bay leaves.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until well combined but still a little chunky.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons, if desired.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Salmon-Tuna Twists

When guests over for lunch I am usually not creative and end up serving deli sandwiches or tuna fish.  For some reason I just don't want to be bothered with preparing a meal in the middle of the day.  But when I invited my parents over a few weeks ago I decided to not slack off and actually make something for them (though, admittedly, I did serve them prepared leftovers as a side to this meal).

I recently rediscovered The Kosher Palette, so I looked there to find something simple but delicious to make.  I came across a recipe that intrigued me:  Salmon-Tuna Twists.  It uses canned fish and while my go to sushi order usually includes salmon rolls and tuna rolls, I never thought to combine the fishes in one dish, especially not combining them in canned form, which I use separately ALL. THE. TIME.  After looking over their recipe I decided to experiment with it a little bit.  For starters, they only used 3oz of each fish, but the cans are 6oz and what was I going to do with the half cans left?!  I played with the other ingredients and added an idea or two of my own and am very happy with the results.

The best part is, these can either be large enough to be a main dish, or they can be served as part of a meal (such as brunch or as an appetizer) in smaller form.  When I hosted my in-laws for brunch a week after making this for my own parents I made these again slightly smaller and again it went over very well.

Salmon-Tuna Twists (adapted from The Kosher Palette)

6oz can of tuna in water, drained
6oz can of salmon, drained
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp white horseradish, drained
1 tsp paprika
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In medium mixing bowl, combine tuna and salmon.  Chop with fork until large chunks are all broken down.
- Add mayonnaise, onion garlic, lemon juice, horseradish, and paprika.  Stir until well combined.
- On lightly floured surface, roll pastry sheet.  Cut to desired size (for larger twists, cut each sheet into quarters, for smaller twists cut into eighths).
- Spoon salmon-tuna mixture into center of each square.  fold two diagonal corners into center and press together.
- Place twists on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes (the larger twists will need longer than smaller twists).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies

Growing up, one of my favorite store bought cookies was Archway's Iced Spice cookies (though for some unknown reason we called them "Icy Spicy"s).  It now appears that they may have stopped making them, though I thought I bought some maybe last year (I'm probably mistaken and had bought another iced variety).  When it was announced that this month's What's Baking theme was "Baking with Gingerbread" I knew I wanted to try to recreate my beloved spice cookie.

I had made gingerbread men in the past but those weren't the soft cookies I was going for.  I did a little Google search and the picture accompanying this recipe was exactly what I was looking for.  I set out to make them ,but I wanted to go a little more festive with them.  I was going to use these for my cookie swap I signed up for on my cooking forum, so I bought a snowflake cookie cutter and got to work.

I also used a trick I learned from watching Rachael (Rachael Ray's daytime show).  When using molasses or honey, line the measuring cup with plastic wrap.  Pour the sticky stuff in, then lift out the plastic wrap carefully, and while holding it over the bowl of batter, cut a hole in the plastic and let it drip through.  You can squeeze it out to make sure you get every last drop, plus you don't have to clean the measuring cup after!

The end result was exactly what I was looking for.  It tasted just like I remembered!  Of course they puffed a bit in the oven so the detailed edges of the snowflakes were a bit lost and after looking at the photos I realize I inadvertently made and sent iced Jewish star cookies.  Oops!  At least they were delicious Jewish stars!

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies (slightly adapted from

2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses

2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg until well combined, then stir in the water and molasses.  Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients.
- If you want regular cookies, roll into walnut sized balls, place onto a lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
- If you are going to use a cookie cutter, roll all dough into one large ball and wrap well in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least an hour in fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4 in thickness.  use cookie cutter to make desired shapes, re-rolling excess dough  only once more.  Place onto a lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Add the additional tbsps of as needed to reach your desired consistency.  Carefully dip cookies in the icing and allow to harden before storing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Overnight Caramel French Toast

I love having people over for brunch.  Breakfast food is one of my favorite types of food, and any time I can get a bit indulgent and fancy I am in heaven.  

One dish that I love making is overnight caramel french toast.  My father makes this dish every year for his annual break-fast gathering.  About a year ago I asked him for his recipe, which he found online. (He doesn't remember the website but it is similar to this one.)  I knew it wasn't healthy, but his recipe was a bit much for me (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp corn syrup?!?!).  I did a little online search and came across a similar recipe from Betty Crocker.  I did a little back and forth between the two recipes and added a little bit of my own twist and settled on this delicious dish.

I have served this a few times now and it has always been received very well.  Plus, you prep it the night before so you don't need to worry about doing much the next morning.  It's great for a crowd as part of a brunch but also a few pieces reheated the next day (on the rare occasion that there are leftovers) make a perfect quick breakfast.  It's not something I would make just for my family, so makes me want to invite people over for brunch more often!

Overnight Caramel French Toast (adapted from a passed down recipe [source unknown] with inspiration from Betty Crocker)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf french bread, sliced into 1 1/2 in pieces
4 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
cinnamon sugar

- Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- In a medium saucepan, mix the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbly (do not boil).  Pour evenly into the baking dish.
- place the slices of french bread in a single layer over the caramel sauce, filling the baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
- Uncover, sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Tarts

When my cousin got married back in the early 90s our aunt compiled a booklet of family recipes for her.  At my bridal shower I was handed the booklet which my cousin lovingly passed down to me.  Considering our aunt had since passed away, this was even more special as it made me feel that the gift was from our aunt as well.

As I was deciding what treats to make for my family this year, I flipped through this booklet and came across this recipe for holiday tarts from my grandmother.  Because my grandmother passed away a week after my 11th birthday I don't necessarily remember her making these, but as soon as my mom opened her package she exclaimed "you made my mother's holiday tarts?!" so I knew I made them well.  My grandmother would make them as free-form thumbprint cookies but I made use of my mini muffin tin to make mini tarts.  What I love about her recipe is the "old school"ness of it.  She suggests using a thimble to make the nest.

I love family traditions, especially around the holidays, so it made me very happy to incorporate my grandmother's recipe this year.

Holiday Tarts (slightly adapted from my grandmother's recipe)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pastry flour
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup pecans
jelly (I used strawberry, but my grandmother used mint)

- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar.  Add slightly beaten egg yolk.  Gradually add flour.
- Roll into small balls by hand then dip in lightly beaten egg white.  Roll balls in chopped nuts.
- Press ball into greased mini miffin tin, shaping so the sides are higher than the center, creating a "nest".
- Bake for 20 min at 300 degrees.
- Let cook for 5 min before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
- Allow to fully cool, then fill centers with jelly.