• 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 14: Maple Challah

This was a busy week.  My desire to adventurate (is that the correct usage?) in challah was trumped by my desire to meet deadlines in my real job, so I was only able to make one quick batch, just to see how maple challah would work.  And work we both did! I replaced sugar with brown sugar, added a tablespoon of maple flavor and around a quarter cup of maple syrup to the standard challah dough recipe.  The dough turned a rich mahogany and smelled of IHOP. I made one large challah and a bunch of minis, and after 15 minutes (the usual mini baking time), the minis were still pretty raw.  Left ‘em for another 3 minutes.  Still not looking done.  Left another few minutes.  Still not quite there.  When all was said and done, I think the maple minis cooked for somewhere between 22 and 25 minutes, and weren’t at all overbaked. The full-size challah was a different story… Since I put it in with some other flavored challahs, which cooked in the normal amount of time, the full-size maple came out raw in the middle.  The problem is, until you’ve had raw challah, you probably have this notion that raw challah = raw cookie dough.  It doesn’t.  It’s pretty gross, actually.  I think the full-size challah probably would have taken somewhere around 35 minutes, which is kinda crazy. Nevertheless, maple is delicious.  It’s subtle, like the peanut butter was subtle, but definitely worth making again.  And, like many of the flavored challahs, the essence comes out when the challah is completely cooled.  I might even venture (venturate?) to say that they benefit from a relaxing overnight stay in a ziplock bag. Can’t wait to see how maple challah french toast will taste!

Experiment – Jelly Donut Challah – SUCCESS!

Ok, so it’s not really that much of an experiment… but it was so good, I had to share it with you. I took the basic original egg challah dough and created some 2-ounce minis (that’s the size of all my minis).  After they baked and cooled, I took a knife and cut a small slit in the bottom of each.  I used a cake decorating piping tip and ziplock bag to inject normal strawberry jam into the middle (if I had a syringe, I would have used it, but the piping tip was adequate). I then made a batch of normal glaze (powdered sugar, a dash of vanilla and water) and drizzled it over the top. It was simply amazing!  The taste was spot-on with a jelly donut and the fresh, soft challah was easily mistakable for a real donut.  I’d HIGHLY recommend you try this next chanukah!

Week 13: Latke Challah

Twas the night before hanukah, and all through the house… it smelled like a bagel shop.  Not like latkes. Not like challahs.  Like a bagel shop.  And, of course, what smells most in a bagel shop?  Your nose!  Oy.

Latke Challah -- check out the real latke flakes!

Anyway, this week was an attempt at latke challah.  I tried a half batch on Sunday to see what would happen.  I took the normal recipe, added a little garlic powder, a little onion powder (flavors you’d find in a latke, or on an everything-bagel in a bagel shop…), around a cup of mashed potatoes and a cup of grated, raw potatoes.  The results were actually quite good.  They were garlicky, oniony, and exactly what you’d expect a latke challah to taste like.  The problem was, the shredded potato disappeared.  I was hoping it would crisp up, and be a fantastical latke-challah bastard child.  It was more like a garlicky challah with the occasional weird, limp, white shred sticking out. So, today was the dress rehearsal.  We go live on Friday and can’t have any mistakes!  If we’re going to get it right, it’s gotta be today (plus Im going to a Hanukah party tonight, and would love to show them off to 30 of my friends).  This time around, rather than putting in raw potatoes, I fried them up, just like latkes (or, more accurately, like hash browns, since I left out all the seasoning, eggs, flour, etc).  I did everything else pretty much the same. Crumbled in the “latkes” as I was adding the flour, and the results were quite positive (that’s the 2nd time I used “quite” in describing the results.  what does that mean?)! It’s not like cookies and cream ice cream.  You can’t dig around and find whole latkes.  But with each bite you get a little crunch from the crispy potato shreds, and that’s exactly what I was looking for when I set out on this latke challah adventure. On the down side, we can’t get this bagel shop smell to go away.  I am sooo not hungry for bagels right now.

A Realization — Dried fruit -> Dried challah

We were sitting around the shabbat table last night when my wife commented that she’s never had a moist raisin challah.  It’s true… have you ever had a really moist raisin challah? I realized that it’s probably because the dried fruit naturally wants to rehydrate, and how else will it rehydrate than by sucking the moisture out of the challah!  Im sure there’s a more technical definition.  Perhaps a topic for a high school science class project. But then I realized that the craisins are sucking the life out of my cranberry challahs too!  Bastards! What do I do?  How do I make a cranberry (or raisin) challah that’s not dried out?!?  Obviously, you say, use grapes or non-dried cranberries.  Why don’t you try that and let me know how it goes. Post your suggestions, if you’ve get ‘em!  And until we crack this chestnut, I guess we’ll be eating cranberry bread pudding and raisin challah french toast.

Week 12: Apple pie Challah’mode

apple challah

apple glazed, apple filled, apple pie "challah-mode"

I did it!  I finally did it!  After weeks of smelling the new apple spice air freshener that my wife installed downstairs, and constantly feeling like there was a lack of “apple spice” in my diet, inspiration struck and I figured out how to make the apple spice challah I was waiting for all my life ever since my wife went to Target a few weeks ago. I started with the normal challah recipe, replaced the water with apple juice and added a teaspoon of cinnamon (Since starting this blog, I’ve gotten very good at spelling cinnamon).  The dough smelled fantastic, but after all the other great-smelling-doughs-that-never-taste-like-they-smell irritations I’ve experienced over the past few months, I knew I needed to push it a little further. Here’s the “inspiration” part… I took the apple dough, spread some margarine, brown sugar and cinnamon (there’s that word again!) on it and braided it together into the round braid I love so much.  So, now we’ve got a dessert challah made with apple dough.  “But it’s not really ‘apple pie’,” you’re thinking.  Shhh… let me finish. I then cut up an apple into thin slices and layered a few of them in the middle with a little more brown sugar and cinnamon.  Probably a quarter of an apple in a 1-lb challah.  I pulled the edges back over so that the apple mixture was in the middle, flipped it over, and tadda!!!!  Apple Pie Challah! Now for the final touch — I whipped up a simple glaze of powdered sugar, vanilla and (wait for it… wait for it…) apple juice!  (you thought I was gonna say cinnamon, huh?)  I glazed the Apple Pie Challah with the apple glaze, and that’s where I’ll leave it.  I’m not even going to try to describe the awesomeness.  Make it or ask me to make you one.  You won’t be disappointed.

Week 11: Sweet Potato Challah

I don’t think there’s any music genre that I enjoy as consistently as Christmas music.  I’d say it has an approval rating up around 90% in my car.  Yes, I’m a rabbi’s son.  Yes, I like Christmas music.  Get over it. I was so excited to hear that KOST 103.5 has already started playing non-stop Christmas music!  Woo hoo!  And it’s only mid-November!  Maybe next year they’ll start right after Halloween. I’m not sure exactly what it is that I enjoy about it.  I certainly don’t take the words to heart.  I don’t believe all the “Jesus is king” stuff.  I sing it.  I know almost every word of every major Christmas song.  But I don’t believe in it.  I guess what I’m trying to say, unlike my attempt at sweet potato challah, Christmas music doesn’t disappoint. Which brings me to my next point… Why didn’t my sweet potato challah taste like sweet potatoes?  I basically followed my pumpkin spice recipe — cutting back on the oil, adding half a cup of canned, smashed up sweet potatoes, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger.  It was delicious. Definitely not a flop.  But it would take a very discerning pallet to find the sweet potato flavor in there. I did a little research, and it looks like most recipes call for half a cup of sweet potatoes, but they also call for 3 cups of flour.  As you know, my recipe calls for 8.  So, next time, I’ll double the amount of sweet potatoes.  Hopefully it won’t throw the rest of the recipe out of whack. I’ll post an update and a picture when I make a second batch.  If you have any suggestions, comment away! UPDATE: I made the recipe again, but this time with a full cup of sweet potatoes.  Maybe someone can tell me this: Is sweet potato challah supposed to taste at all like sweet potatoes?  Because this doesn’t. I was driving home from a meeting this morning and realized something — try to define the taste of a baked potato without any salt, butter or toppings.  It’s pretty plain.  Wouldn’t add much flavor to anything.  Now try to do the same for an un-adorned sweet potato.  It might have a little more flavor and sweetness, but not enough for 1 cup to flavor 5-pounds of challah dough! So, I’m not sure whether to call sweet potato challah a success or a failure.  On one hand, it didn’t taste at all like anything other than normal challah.  But on the other hand, maybe that’s exactly what sweet potato challah is supposed to taste like!

Experiment — Cranberry-Lemonade Challah

What do you do when you have 40 mini challahs that are just so-so? Feed them to the dog. what if you dont have a dog?

Some things are never as good when you make them at home.  Take Thai iced tea for example.  Have you ever made a glass of Thai iced tea that has the same “where have you been all my life” effect that it has when you get it in a restaurant?  No. The answer is no.  It’s because you think to yourself, “I have most of the ingredients, but I’m sure I can use non-fat half and half instead of sweetened condensed milk. Plus it’ll be healthier.”  Well, you’re wrong. But I digress.  For some reason, when I’m experimenting with a new challah recipe, I have this image in my mind that it’ll turn out exactly like the flavor I’m trying to mimic.  In this case, I figured that I could replace the water in the challah recipe with cranberry juice and lemon juice, add a little extra sugar, and end up with an amazing and airy challah with the sweet, tart and refreshing flavor of the raspberry lemonades I used to drink at the Cheesecake Factory, before I realized that it’s basically as bad for you (if not worse than) a big glass of regular Coke. Let’s just say, Thai iced tea or cranberry lemonade challah — not as good as you’d expect when you make them at home (see how I tied that all together? So nicely too). Next time, I’ll try adding some lemon zest and dried cranberries and see if it makes the difference.  They’re not terrible, just not great either. Oh well.  It was still fun and exciting… Right up to the very first bite.

Week 10: Peanut Butter Challah

peanut butter and cranberry Challah

My wife bought one of those scented oil plug-in air fresheners and now the entire downstairs smells like apple cider.  Every time I smell it I get the urge to make some sort of an apple cider challah or drink hot apple cider (which is weird because I never much cared for it).  I think it would be awesome — apple cider challah, that is.  But it seems like more of a rainy day in December kind of challah.  So, for this week, we venture into PB land. The recipe is simple enough — I cut the oil by half and added a half cup of creamy peanut butter.  I thought there would be enough fat in the PB to compensate.  I was right. The result? Awesome!  You can definitely smell the peanut butter, and the taste is subtle yet rich.  Definitely not overpowering.  My wife loved it, and she doesn’t really like peanut butter.   So, there you go. Even more impressive than the taste was the texture.  I’m not sure why, but the challah came out softer and had a smoothness to it.  I can’t really explain it.  Maybe I’ll send a loaf to Guy Fieri or Adam Richmond.  They know the good food words. I made a batch of cranberry challah, this time with 100% cranberry juice and no water.  When I braided the PB strands with the cranberry strands, it was almost like a PB&J sandwich.  Success!  Can’t wait til Friday when I get to make more!

Week 9: Cranberry Challah with a twist

It’s November, and Thanksgiving is on my mind.  Not sure I’ll be able to figure out a decent turkey-and-gravy challah, but I’ve got the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce covered! The last few week’s I’ve made pumpkin spice challah, which is essentially canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice mashed with a normal challah recipe.  This week (since I still have half of the large can of pumpkin left) I made it again, but with brown sugar instead of regular sugar.  That little change… made no difference at all.  Maybe if I compared them side to side I’d taste a difference, but FYI, nothing mind-blowing. As a new recipe for this week, I’m making cranberry challah.  I replaced half the water with cranberry juice cocktail (real cranberry juice was too expensive), mixed in a half cup of craisins (dried cranberries), and added a teaspoon of cinnamon. In my head, I was expecting a bright red challah, almost like red velvet cake.  As you can see from the picture, it ain’t that.  But it is delicious.  Next time I’ll try adding a little red food coloring to the liquids before the flour, and using all cranberry juice (cocktail) instead of some water, to up the cranberry taste. Something else I did differently, for the first time ever, I braided the pumpkin dough in with the cranberry dough. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the roll on the bottom, left has half and half. Exciting stuff! Plus I voted! (I sent 20 of these mini rolls with my mother in law, pearl, to the west valley JCC.  If you happen to read this, and are there, find her in the JFLA office to pick up a free taste!  Also, my wife Elana brought a dozen to the Federation building on Wilshire)

Week 8: Braided ROUND Pumpkin Challahs

The pumpkin challahs were so good, I decided to do them again this week, with a new braiding technique I saw online while I was researching the pumpkin challah recipe. It’s easier than you would ever believe (much easier than the standard 6-braids challah), and it’s so different from anything you normally see, it has the “wow” factor every time! It even worked for mini challahs!  The strands werent long enough to make it more than 1 weave around, but they were adorable and a big hit when I handed them out for free at a synagogue boutique on Sunday. No long post today… Just a picture of my challahs and a link to do it yourself.