• Thin Mint Challah
  • caramel-challah
  • birthday-challah
  • orange-challah
  • Glazed Thin Mint Challah
  • Caramel-Cheesecake Challah
  • Sprinkled Chocolate Chip Birthday Challah
  • Orange-Raisin Challah

Week 31: Za’atar Challah

za'atar challah

za'atar challah -- notice the specs of za't.

I’ll do two favors for you.  First, and these are in no particular order, if you don’t know what za’atar is, here’s info.  Second, I’m saving you (and by “you” I mean the couple of people that enjoyed the za’atar challahs) the steps of dipping your plain challah into a za’atar and olive oil mixture.  You’re welcome. Use the time I’ve saved you by paying it forward.

Week 30: Churros Challah

Churro(s) challah!!!

Is it churro or churros?  Is it like Dodgers and Lakers, where you dont know if that’s the actual name, or if they always pluralize it, even though there is a legitimate singular form?  Or is it like Vin Scully, where, as a kid, having never seen his name in writing, I was never sure if it was “Vin Scully” or “Vince Cully”.

Enough witty banter.  I refuse to do the research on this one, so Churros Challah is what we will call it.

How did I make it, you ask?  Start with the cinnamon challah recipe.  That’ll make your churro(s) dough.  That’s the easy part.  Now figure out how to make sugar and cinnamon stick to the outside of a baked challah.  Good luck.

Week 29: Beer Challah

I’ll be honest — I’m not a huge fan of beer bread.  I think I’ve only had it twice in my life, and twice was enough.  So, I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to make beer challah.  It was late. I didn’t know what I should make.  It was the tail-end of a two-hour beer tasting event.  It happens.  Let’s make the best of a bad situation.

the fancy shmancy beer for the beer challah

So, beer challah.  Pretty simple recipe – replace the water with beer.  Of course, the recipe calls for a combination of hot and cold water, so I microwaved the beer for a little while.  Otherwise, it was the normal recipe. You could definitely smell the beer.  I suppose if you close your eyes and think about beer, and take a swig of beer with each bite of challah, you might be able to taste the beer as well.  But, really, you couldn’t taste much beer.  It’s the beauty of this recipe — most small changes are overwhelmed by the sweet awesomeness of the basic recipe! The moral of this story: if you want a beer challah recipe that has a distinct beer flavor, start with a challah recipe that isn’t as awesome.

Week 28: Peanut Butter-Cinnamon-Banana Challah

Peanut Butter-Cinnamon-Banana Challahs

Call it what you will… I call it a cop out.  A delicious cop out, but a cop out nonetheless. Cop out cop out cop out. What’s the origin of that word? Anyway, take the Peanut butter challah recipe, mash in some bananas from the banana challah recipe, and add a dash of cinnamon, and there you have it! Some claimed it was “oddly delicious”.  I don’t think there’s anything oddly about it.  It was delicious.  How could it not be… I made it :)

Week 27: Indian Masala Challah

I believe that if you look up the phrase “Indian food” in the dictionary, it should say “See ‘foods that will never come out the same when made at home'”.  The same applies to Masala Challah. It’s doubtful I will ever be able to match what you will find at the traditional Kosher Jewish-Indian bakeries in the Pico-Robertson area.

Masala Spices used in today's challah recipe

Masala, a term describing a mixture of spices used in South-Asian cuisines, could actually indicate any number of flavors.  You may find masala in the form of a powder or paste, and masalas tend to lose quality and flavor when not fresh. The masala chosen for this experiment (right), is a Tandoori variety, intended for chicken baked in a clay tandoori oven.  Not shown is the use-by date, which, if this packaging had one, would have probably been some time in 2009.  Lofty dreams of Tandoori chicken never having come to fruition, this particular packet of exotic spices will serve a greater good — week 27 of 52 of challah flavor experimentation. One tablespoon + one teaspoon of the masala spice was added to the standard five-pound challah recipe prior to the flour addition.  The kitchen quickly filled with the mild yet distinct aroma of the spices that many will identify as uniquely Indian.  Even though the amount of spice was minimal, the dough turned a bright orange — most likely the result of the paprika, which, to date, has never been used in an Adventures in Challah recipe.

Masala Challahs in the traditional 6-braid style

The dough rose and braided exactly as expected.  As you can see by the image to the right, six-braided challahs have made a triumphant return!  Round braids had been the norm for quite some time, but realizing that the only way to be taken seriously in the experimental-challah-baking arena is to perfect the standard braids, I have decided that each week I will practice the horizontal six-braid that we all know and love. The final product was better than expected.  The challah has a great smell and very mild taste.  There is a hint of heat on the back end, but nothing overpowering.  Perhaps the next time I will add a little bit more masala spice, or purchase a new package to see if the freshness makes a difference. This was a very simple variation on the traditional challah recipe — something I would recommend you to try with your favorite spice mixture!

Week 26: Carrot-Craisin Challah

carrot challah dough -- notice the grated carrot and craisins

Look! Over on that cutting board! It’s carrot cake! No — It’s challah!  No — It’s carrot challah!  No… it’s actually carrot-craisin challah. But you were close. I present to you, for your consideration, a challah with the same great taste as plain or raisin challah, and as much vitamin A, B, C, E, K and beta carotene per serving as you would find in a baby carrot the size of a small child’s pinky toe!  Amazing, right!?! Learning from past cake-inspired challah variations, I began this adventure with the standard dough.  I replace a little bread flour with some whole wheat flour.  I added in some spices (nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger) and a little vanilla.  I then incorporated two heaping cups of finely grated carrots and a cup of craisins that I revived by soaking in water for a little while. I laid it out on a table, ran some electricity through it, and my usual 5-lb challah dough ball had frankensteined itself into a 6-lb cake-challah bastard! Just kidding about the electricity, though.  Don’t really do that to your challah. The dough rose exactly as every other challah rose, and braided the same way too.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take an “after” picture, so all I can show you is the dough, post-first rise. The results were delicious.  Carrot isn’t a particularly flavorful vegetable, so those who were concerned about the carrotiness of the challah were just being stupid, for lack of a better word.  The craisins added a much-needed zing, and the texture was exactly as you would expect. Next time you have two full costco bags of baby carrots left over from a social event, don’t hesitate to try this one out!

Week 25: Thin Mint Challah

For some reason, the idea of mint challah is just really unappealing to me.  Even now, after having made it and enjoyed it, I cringe when I think about it.

So, why did I do it?  I did it because the whole point of this blog, and this year of experimentation, is to see what sorts of crazy ideas could actually work.  And mint challah turned out to be delicious!

Don’t let the name fool you — although it is girl scout cookie season, unlike thin mint ice cream (a variation on traditional cookies and cream), these challahs don’t have chunks of thin mint cookies in them.  Rather, they are the essence of thin mint cookies — mint and chocolate.

I used the normal challah recipe, added a touch of peppermint extract, a dash of green food coloring, and mixed in some chocolate chips.  At the last minute (7 of the 8 cups of flour already in the mixer), I decided the color wasn’t green enough, so I dripped in a few more drops of green.  Lo and behold (is that the phrase?  seems weird when I look at it) the green didn’t mix in completely!  Instead, it left swirls of green in the otherwise very, very faintly green dough.  It was pretty cool!  Got a new trick up my sleeve for the next time!

When it was done and cooled, I covered it with the usual glaze (powdered sugar and water) with a small amount of peppermint extract, to give that fresh from the dentist minty deliciousness.

Overall, a brilliant dessert challah. Highly recommended.

Week 24: Spinach Challah

Spinach Challah along side a Pretzel Challah

Remember how delicious Popeye made canned spinach look?  And then we found out that spinach is really kind of gross at times.  And canned spinach is really really gross all the time. Fortunately, the gross side of spinach doesn’t rear its ugly head in this week’s challah recipe.  The sweet deliciousness of the challah is accented by a mild spinach flavor and bright green color.  It’s really quite pleasant.  And healthy(ish)! I took a whole bag of fresh spinach and wilted it down to around a cup of cooked spinach.  You can use frozen, well drained spinach as well.  Just please don’t use canned spinach.  It’s not the same.  I added the cup of spinach to the normal challah recipe, which then required a little extra flour to compensate.  That’s about it. Green challah. Perfect for St. Patricks Day, and for the episode of Popeye where he was training for a marathon.

Week 23: Pretzel Challah!

Pretzel Challah!

This one deserves the exclamation mark!  It’s that good! In fact, I might just end every sentence in this post with an exclamation mark!  Or not! It took a while to figure out the pretzelization process.  At first, I was trying to do it the way my bread machine cookbook said to do it, which was to boil the “pretzel” in plain water, 30 seconds, flip, 30 second, then dip in a baking soda and water solution (then bake it).  That works well for the bread machine’s pretzel dough, but not so well for challah.  The nooks and crannies of the challah braids would retain liquid and end up soggy and gross. Finally, a new cookbook came out that described how to make pretzel challah.  I didn’t follow the recipe for the challah (I think mine is pretty good as is), but this cookbook said to boil the challah in the baking soda-water solution (rather than plain water then dipped).  The solution is basically 1/3 cup baking soda to 4 cups of water.  In order to dip my 1-pound loaves I put 12 cups of water and a full cup of baking soda. Anyway, normal challah recipe, boil for 30-45 seconds, flip, 30-45 seconds, give it a quick drain with some wooden spoons, put it on your silpat, sprinkle with salt (I used kosher salt since I didnt have pretzel salt) and bake as usual. It looks really dark, but really, it’s “pretzel’d”.  And it’s AWESOME! Makes you wonder what else can achieve pretzel’d awesomeness by boiling in baking soda…  I’ll revisit this post later with a witty completion to that thought.

Week 22: Chocolate Strawberry Challah

chocolate and strawberries challah -- not as good as it sort of looks

Eww… This one was an epic failure.  I don’t even want to talk about it.  bleh. Valentines day is all about chocolate dipped strawberries, right?  So, shouldn’t a challah of chocolate and strawberries be the perfect pre-Valentines Day challah?  You’d think so… right?  Am I really the only one?  I guess there’s  a reason for that. Anyway, it did not turn out well.  I used frozen strawberries rather than fresh, because I didn’t have any fresh ones, and when they defrosted they turned to liquidy mush.  I think, more than anything else, that’s why the challah was a failure.  The strawberries sort of broke down and made the rest of the challah soggy. I made the chocolate challah (cocoa powder added to the normal challah recipe), with some chocolate chips and the strawberries.  That’s how I did it.  And I tell you this purely because if we don’t learn from our mistakes we’re bound to repeat them.  If only the Oscars host-selection committee took as diligent notes as I do…