Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Challah Bread

I made this bread for the first time at Culinary School a few years ago and it has been one my favorite thing to make ever since. It is very beautiful and really easy to make.

Funny story, the first time I made this a fellow student and I tag-teamed it. The first try we thought we had done something wrong because it was taking so long to rise. We thought we used dead yeast so my friend tried to help the situation by kneading in more yeast about 45 min into the first rise. That obviously didn't work. The second try we got all the way to the braid but we thought we killed the yeast because we put it in too hot of a spot to raise (but really we didn't wait long enough for it to rise). We FINALLY succeeded the third time by just waiting patiently for the full time like the recipe says. Every time I make Challah I think of all those times we failed and I laugh. If at first you don't succeed try try again, especially in the case of Challah because the end product will be worth it!

Here is a little bit of history about Challah (HAL-la). It is a traditional bread originating from Jewish Sabbath and holiday celebrations. They eat 2 Challah loaves at each of the 3 Sabbath meals and during the holidays. It is to commemorate the manna that fell from heaven for the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. (If this is what manna tasted like I would have been one happy Israelite camper!)

This year I made some on Christmas Day for my family, while it was baking I decided to take a little nap...when I woke there was nothing but a crust left!

Here is the recipe:
Honey (3oz) 6 TB
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Bread flour (14oz) 2-3 C
Yeast 1 TB
Water, hot (2oz) 4TB
Water, warm (5oz) 1/2 C
Eggs 2
Butter, melted (2oz) 4TB
Egg wash

1. Stir together the honey, salt and (4oz) 1/2 C flour in a mixer bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the hot water. Add the yeast mixture, the warm water, eggs and butter to the mixer bowl. Stir till smooth.

2. Using a dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed, adding the remaining flour a little at a time until smooth and elastic (5 min). Add more flour if the dough seems too sticky.

3. Let dough rise until doubled (45 min-1 hour)

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long strip about one inch in diameter and about 12 inches long. Lay these strips side by side and pinch the tops together. At this point move onto a grease cookie sheet to continue braiding. Tuck both ends under themselves for a nice finish.

5. Let the loaf rise until doubled (45 min)

6. Brush with egg wash before putting it in the oven at 350 for 40 min. (convection ovens about 300 for 30 min)
Recipe from  my culinary textbook "On Cooking".

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cooking, Crafts, and Plants...what more could you want?

I am getting really excited about blogging after all the exposure my blog has gotten for the falling water gingerbread house I did this Christmas. I plan on taking my blog to a whole new level! (Mostly because I just quit my job and I will have a lot of free time on my hands.) I will post on a few of my favorite things which will include: "How to's" on cooking, crafts, and plants.

Be sure to subscribe to my blog by clicking on the "Follow" button in the sidebar to the right so that you are updated on all my new posts!

Look forward to some fun ideas on how to ring in the New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A little more on the gingerbread house

Royal Icing Recipe:
4 C powdered sugar
3 TB meringue powder
1/2-3/4 C warm water
*make sure to not leave uncovered too long*

"Water" Recipe:
2 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1 C water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 TB butter or margarine
In a sauce pan combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking without stirring (mixture should be bubbling over the whole surface). Cook to hardball stage (265 degrees. An easy way to test this is get a cup of cold water and drop a little bit of the mixture into the water.) Remove from heat, stir in the butter and food coloring (we used a sky blue and tiny bit of green).
*For the "water" we cooked it a little past the hardball stage. Before starting line the area with tinfoil and while the candy is super hot pour it into the tinfoil lining.
For the "waterfall" let the candy cool till it is pliable then pull it like taffy and shape. Work fast because it cools very rapidly.

Here is the Original Fallingwater Gingerbread Post.
Want to see what became of the Falling Water Gingerbread House?  Check it out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 25 Favorite Songs

I decided to share my top 25 favorite songs according to their play count on my iTunes. This was kind of interesting because if I were telling you my favorite songs they wouldn't necessarily be on this list or in this order but... the play count doesn't lie.
#1 River Waltz- Lang Lang (from the movie, The Painted Veil)
#2 Go On, Say It- Blind Pilot
#3 The Story I Heard- Blind Pilot
#4 One Red Thread- Blind Pilot
#5 Half Life- Imogen Heap
#6 I Buried a Bone- Blind Pilot
#7 Two Towns from Me- Blind Pilot
#8 Paint or Pollen- Blind Pilot
#9 Get It Out- Blind Pilot
#10 Things I Cannot Recall- Blind Pilot
#11 Oviedo- Blind Pilot
#12 Closer- Joshua Radin
#13 3 Rounds and a Sound- Blind Pilot
#14 Gonna Get Along Without You Now- She & Him
#15 Look At Miss Ohio- Blind Pilot
#16 Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want- She & Him
#17 Winter Song- Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
#18 Between Two Lungs-Florence And The Machine
#19 5 Years Time- Noah and the Whale
#20 Poor Boy- Blind Pilot
#21 Lonelily- Damien Rice
#22 The Calculation- Regina Spektor
#23 Until I Die- Ben Kweller
#24 Someone Else's Life- Joshua Radin
#25 The Bitter End- Blind Pilot

Basically what I got out of this list was that I really like Blind Pilot. That whole album is AMAZING. River Waltz is #1 because I put it on repeat when I'm trying to fall asleep.

My top 10 favorite song (that I would say) are:
(not necessarily in any order)
#1 Later On- Kate Nash
#2 The Cave- Mumford & Sons
#3 Winter Winds- Mumford & Sons
#4 Between Two Lungs- Florence And The Machine
#5 Bruises- Chairlift
#6 Something In the Water- Brooke Fraiser
#7 Quand je Marche- Bense
#8 Comme Des Enfants- Coeur de Pirate
#9 Pour un Infidele- Coeur de Pirate
#10 Nightingale- Laura Veirs and Saltbreakers

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Life of a Plant Waterer

So as many of you know I water plants for my job. I love/hate it. One of the funny things that happens on a daily basis are the comments that people make to me. I thought I would share a few:
1. "WOW! I didnt realize that plant was real!!"
- Oh, its not this is just fake water.
- Are you kidding me!!!! I have walked past your desk and watered this exact same plant every week for the last 3 years!!!
2. "Want to come to my house next and take care of my plants"
-Awkward laugh...sure
-What?! creepy!
3. Then there is a whole category of comments referring to me pouring water people...on co-workers...computers... filling up their cups, mugs or water bottles...
-Again awkward laughter. I usually cant even come up with words to say back to them.
- If you only knew how much I really want to pour this on your head/computer/co-worker...
4. And then there are the concerned comments..."How is my plant this week?" or "It's looking a little sad this week." or "Is it dying?" or "I think it might need more water"
-Oh it looks just great. (forced smile) I'll do what I can and we'll see how it looks next week.
-Look, I really only know how to do one thing in this life really well and that is water plants. This plant has looked the same for 2 years, it looked the same last week and it will look the same next week. Why would you think it's terminal or dehydrated!?
5. People who ask me if I talk to/name the plants or tell me that they do.
- Awkward laugh...sure do. Now make sure you only say nice words to this plant or it may die.
-Yeah, I've named all the hundreds of plants I water and (out loud) make sure to personally greet them ever time, tell them how great they look, reassure them I'll take good care of them, then bid them a fond farewell. NOT!

For the most part I dont mind my job and it makes me laugh when people make comments about the plants. I think I'll have to do another post someday about the questions they have about their plants at home and how they try to describe them to me.

More Flowers

I just love flowers. They make me happy. I loved the flowers in this wedding.