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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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After I was done with my cornmeal pancakes, I still had almost half a bagful of finely ground cornmeal I purchased from a Rodriguan entrepreneur some months back. Contrary to my expectation, the processed corn had a surprisingly long shelf life and I was happy to have a bowl of cornmeal porridge on my list of breakfast items for the next few weeks. When I ran a Google search for ‘cornmeal cake’, this devilishly simple cake from Elegant Meraki stood out a mile and I felt that I had saved the last of my cornmeal just for this one. Liberally soaked in orange honey syrup and topped with pistachios, it has a rich golden crumb, which goes well with an infusion of Bois Cheri’s Paul & Virginie black tea.

ORANGE HONEY CORNMEAL CAKE

Ingredients:

For the Cornmeal Cake

1 cup almond flour

1 cup finely ground cornmeal

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Zest of 1 medium orange

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon orange blossom

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Orange Glaze

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon orange blossom

1 tablespoon orange liqueur

3 tablespoons honey or golden syrup

3 tablespoons pistachios, chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray or line with baking paper.

  • Sift together almond flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, and set it aside.

  • Whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, zest, juice, orange blossom water and extract until it is just combined.

  • Slowly add flour mix and whisk only until just combined. Set aside for 20 minutes then pour into pan.

  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, set on a wire rack to cool.

  • For the glaze, combine the fresh orange juice and honey in small sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • It will thicken slightly. Stir in the orange blossom water and liqueur. Poke holes in cake, 1/2 inch apart.

  • Using pastry brush to slowly brush glaze over cake. Do not rush the process as it will make cake soggy.

  • Leave the cake to cool completely, then top with toasted pistachios before serving. Makes 10 servings.

Orange & Honey Glazed Cornmeal Cake

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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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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