Let me tell you about a random day (off from work) in my life.
I ran to the store to pick up a few fresh and tinned items…and forgot my list. And coupons. Despite having to improvise, I don’t think I did too bad. I did manage to get almost everything I needed, and only picked up an extra cheese. I have a weakness for cheese. In this case it was Amish farmer cheese. That is one versatile cheese, let me tell ya. Oh, and I forgot to get cat food. Dang!
Anyway, back in my apartment, I put everything away and set out to clean my kitchen. It’s tiny. It doesn’t take much to make it a mess. But I had to. I wanted to cook. And bake. I ended up just making a simple chow mein-style dish of stir fried onion, carrots, celery and cabbage, tossed with noodles leftover roasted chicken, then topped with a sauce I made up on the fly. Shoyu (Hawai’ian/Japanese-style soy sauce), fish sauce, garlic, ginger, a touch of honey, a bit of Sriracha, and too much sesame oil. It tasted good, and I have leftovers for lunch.
Then I decided I wanted to make challah. I’ve never made it before and always wanted to try. I just read an article about an Italian lady who supposedly makes a mean challah in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Yankee Magazine. She made her way to New England on a study program, then met and married a Jewish man, hence the Challah. The recipe seemed pretty straight forward, unlike so many other recipes I’ve found. I gave it a go. As it turns out, she does make a mean Challah. Well, my loaf came out pretty tasty, despite using AP flour instead of bread flour. Meh.
About the time the loaf came out of the oven, I had to go. I didn’t even get to sample my fresh-from-the-oven Challah. It was Thursday, and on Thursday nights I get together with a friend for a little Girl’s Night. We usually just go to a local pizza parlor for a few beers and some food. Exciting, I know. This particular night, we had to make a run over to the town bowling alley to swap vehicles; she had borrowed a friend’s truck. For my participation in this venture, she bought all my beer for the night. Yay! When we got there, we grabbed a beer (the friend wasn’t done bowling yet) and I was promptly presented with a tiny orange plastic mummy. A quarter machine trinket. We have another friend who is, shall we say, quirky. He like to give quarter machine trinkets to his friends. I have a little mug filled with them. It’s kind of sweet, really. He doesn’t really do Christmases or birthdays or any of that, but if he likes you, you get a quarter machine trinket.
I’m thinking about making a little Christmas tree for him next year, using quarter machine toys as ornaments.
So, that was a random day for me. But pretty typical. I never know what is going to happen from one moment to the next with my friends. All I know is I have to make every moment with them count.
Oh! I almost forgot. The challah recipe. It really is easy. Give it a whirl. You won’t regret it.
adapted from Yankee Magazine January/February 2012
- 3 3/4 c bread flour, divided, plus 1/2 c extra as needed, plus extra for work surface (I used AP flour)
- 2/3 c plus 1 Tbsp water, divided
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 c sugar
- 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for bowl and wrap
- 3 large eggs, divided
- Poppy seeds, optional
In a large bowl, stir together 3/4 c flour, 2/3 c water, and yeast. Let sit 45 minutes (to give yeast a head start on rising and to yield a richer flavor). Add remaining 3 cups flour, salt, sugar, olive oil, and 2 eggs. Stir dough until it just comes together; if it doesn’t, add up to 1/2 c more flour. Turn dough out on a well floured surface and knead until a smooth, supple dough forms, 10-15 minutes. Clean the mixing bowl; then coat with oil. Put dough back into the bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turn dough back out onto lightly floured baking sheet (note: I used parchment instead) and fold over once or twice to deflate. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Weigh each piece to make sure they’re equal (note: I don’t own a kitchen scale !horror! but It came out fine); each one should weigh about 14 ounces. Roll each piece out to a 16 inch-long strand; then pinch the ends together at the top.
Braid strands together (like braiding hair), folding the right outer strand over the center one, then the left outer strand over the center one as well. Repeat until the loaf is fully braided; then pinch strands together at the bottom.
Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water to make a wash. Brush loaf with mixture, reserving some for a second wash after rising. Cover loaf with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, 45 minute to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°. Brush loaf with remaining egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds if you like, and bake until challah is nicely browned, 35-45 minutes. Let cool before serving.
I finally did get to try my challah. It makes a lovely breakfast with a good cup of coffee.