challah bread

So I’m not Jewish, but this bread is kind of amazing.

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I MADE BREAD! From scratch! (cue confetti and applause)

According to Wikipedia, challah bread (egg bread) is a special braided bread eaten on Sabbath and holidays.  Specifically, the tradition states that the three Sabbath meals and two holiday meals each begin with two complete loaves of bread.  Traditionally, each single loaf is woven with six strands  — together, both loaves have twelve which represent each tribe of Israel.  Before the loaves are baked, each loaf is brushed with egg wash to give off a golden sheen.

Since I can barely braid my own hair with three strands (let alone six), I took a shortcut here.  Tasty nonetheless!

Challah Bread

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Ingredients

2 1/2 cups warm water (110 F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

Original recipe:

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Grease two baking trays and place finished braid or round on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

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blueberry banana bread

So this is kind of delicious.

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…and strawberries. Strawberries go with everything. Almost.

It’s a wonder I still find the motivation to bake, let alone do anything anymore over winter break, given that my early mornings have disintegrated into daily battles with the alarm clock and love affairs with my pillow.  I end up getting most of my work done in the afternoon and late evening, sometimes pushing past midnight or 1 AM.  Including baking.  (Woo, college!)

Nonetheless, I found a way to milk the last of the blueberries and overripe bananas in my pantry to their most useful potential.  Combine my recent obsession with baking with my love for blueberries and voila — you get blueberry banana bread!  Mmmmm.

Looks like breakfast will be taken care of for the next week or two!

Blueberry Banana Bread

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Ingredients: (makes 3 mini-loaves)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  (If the butter isn’t cooperating, try microwaving it for 30 seconds first.)  Beat in eggs and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add it to the creamed mixture until just combined.  Stir in banana mush and gently fold in blueberries.

Pour into three greased 5-3/4-in. x 3-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Use discretion; depending on the size of your pan(s), it could take up to an hour!  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  After bread is entirely cooled, slice and enjoy… preferably with strawberries on the side.

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peanut butter and banana on toasted bread

Short on time for breakfast or hungering for an additional meal?  Try this alternative snack, which can be whipped (haha, whipped. get it?) together in about 3 minutes.

peanut butter and banana on toasted bread

Peanut Butter and Banana on Toasted Bread

Ingredients: (serves 2, or 1 if you’re starving)

1 banana
2 slices whole wheat bread
a generous serving of peanut butter
a dash of cinnamon
honey
whipped cream

Slice banana and microwave for 30 seconds.  Spread peanut butter on toasted bread, and top with banana slices.  Drizzle honey on top and decorate with whipped cream and cinnamon.