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Welcome to our January Bakealong challenge. Each month, we’ll announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake this striking braided Classic Challah Bread, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. Enjoy!

Classic challah is a soft loaf made with all-purpose flour (or a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours) and enhanced with both eggs and a sweetener (either sugar or honey). It is similar in taste and texture to Greek tsoureki or Swiss zopf, but unlike those breads it’s dairy-free. Traditionally served at the Jewish Sabbath and on most holidays (save Passover), challah and its many incarnations are a part of Jewish cuisine and culture in much of the world.

What distinguishes challah from other soft white breads is its striking appearance; the loaf is a shiny, deep-mahogany brown, thanks to a coating of egg glaze before going into the oven. The dough for this loaf is wonderfully smooth and supple, making it an ideal candidate for braiding. The simplest way to go is a three-strand braid; but feel free to try the slightly more complex four-strand braid, or even a six-strand braid, which makes a stunning presentation.

CLASSIC CHALLAH

Ingredients:

For the Dough

1/2 cup lukewarm water

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey or golden syrup

2 eggs, room temperature

4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kitchen salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

For the Glaze

1 egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon cold water

Method:

  • Combine all the ingredients and knead, by hand or bread machine, until it forms a soft, smooth dough.

  • Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until puffy. It will not necessarily double in bulk.

  • Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide the dough into pieces.

  • The number of pieces will depend on the type of braid. The traditional challah is a three-stranded braid.

  • For a fancier presentation, make a six-strand braid. Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 20″ long.

  • If the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and rest for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling.

  • The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax. Gently pick up loaf and place it on a lined baking sheet.

  • Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it’s very puffy, for 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature.

  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 375°F. To make glaze, whisk together egg and water.

  • Brush glaze over  en loaf. Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet to insulate the bottom crust.

  • Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Tent loosely with aluminum foil.

  • Once you have tented the challah, bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes till the loaf looks and feels set.

  • Remove bread from oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Store any leftover bread well wrapped in plastic.

  • Challah tends to dry out after a day or so, but it can always be toasted or made into grilled sandwiches.

KAF Challenge: Classic Challah

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Panna cotta is dessert I think I should make more often. It is one of those examples which justifies the old adage that ‘simple is beautiful’ or ‘less is more’. All the way from Italy, this delicate chilled pudding is traditionally made from cream and gelatin with a side serving of fruit coulis. You can play around with the gelling agent and the dairy as long as your final product has a soft set and a slight wobble with a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture. You need to make sure your mixture does not turn lumpy or gritty at any point; it is not a good idea to walk away from your pan as it goes on the stovetop. If you are worried that it does not get to set properly, you can serve this vanilla speckled strawberry panna cotta, from BBC Good Food, right out of dessert cups or shot glasses instead of unmolding it on a plate.

STRAWBERRY PANNA COTTA

Ingredients:

For the Panna Cotta

3 agar agar leaves

450ml double cream

200ml whole milk

100g white caster sugar

1 vanilla pod

For the Strawberries

400g strawberries, hulled

1½ teaspoon corn flour

50g white caster sugar

Method:

  • For the panna cotta, put agar agar leaves in a small bowl of cold water to soften, about 5 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, pour the cream, milk and sugar into a pan, split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds.

  • Add the seeds, along with the pod, to the cream mixture. Heat gently until hot, but not bubbling.

  • Remove agar agar leaves from the water, squeeze out any excess liquid then add to the hot cream.

  • Stir the mixture until agar agar is dissolved and leave to stand for 20 to 30 minutes until cooled.

  • The vanilla pods should be suspended in the liquid by this point. Strain mixture through a sieve.

  • Pour into 6 serving glasses, then chill for at least 3 hours. Toss strawberries in a small saucepan.

  • Add the corn flour and sugar in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

  • Cook until the released juices thicken and strawberries are softened. Set the mixture aside to cool.

  • Once completely cooled, top panna cottas with the strawberry mixture. Chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry Panna Cotta

After a 2-month long holiday break, start of term is always a big headache [and heartache] for parents who have been blissfully ignoring the chore of getting their kids ready for school. One of the main sources of worry remains the school lunchbox, which becomes a daily casse tête as mums and dads strive to find a balance between a healthy meal and one that would keep their children happy and satisfied until they come home for tea. These blueberry scones, from Handle The Heat, remain fresh and tender, just the thing a child would like to discover next to his sandwich and juice carton at lunch time. You can sprinkle them with sparkling sugar or dab on a thin coat of plain icing but rest assured that once you send your child to school with a blueberry scone, he will ask you to pack a couple more next time … to share with his school mates!

BLUEBERRY SCONES

Ingredients:

For the Scones

1/2 cup fresh milk

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup frozen butter, grated

1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 tablespoon butter, melted

For the Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it lightly.
  • Mix milk and sour cream together in a small bowl and place the mixture in the refrigerator.

  • In a bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  • Add the frozen butter and mix in with a pastry cutter or two forks until the size of small peas.

  • Drizzle the milk/sour cream in and stir until almost combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  • Dump out dough and shape it into a 9-10 inch disk. Cut the dough into 8 wedges like a pizza.

  • Place the wedges on prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2″ apart. Brush with melted butter.
  • Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes until golden. Remove scones from pan.

  • Cool on wire rack. Make glaze by mixing powdered sugar with vanilla and 2 tablespoons cream.
  • Add more cream or milk if needed to get the desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over the scones.

Blueberry Scones

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