Monday, June 22, 2009

You can eat my childhood, too. [RECIPES]

I'll save my fun "I'm taking up yet another new hobby" news for later because it's apparently vital that I share my mom's challah recipe NOW.

Not that I blame you for wanting this recipe, I've talked it up enough and, well, it's quite good.

I will say, however, that while my great grandbubbie did use a version of this recipe, she omitted what I consider to be The Crucial Turmeric, and so I associate my personal childhood of Fridays making challah with my mom with this recipe rather than hers because, well, I ate more of this particular blend.

It's a good blend.

I will also say that while these are both excellent blends of challah, it is not a Secret Home Recipe that came over from The Old Country sewn into my great great grandma's housecoat or anything. No, like many family recipes to which I find myself irretrievably attached, this recipe came from a send-away cookbook.

Like, when back in the day there wasn't any Internets, and you would send a request away to, say, Fleischmann's for their "Everything You Need To Know About Yeast Baking" booklet and then, 6-8 weeks later, you'd get a little package in the mail which included all those things you needed to know to use their yeast forever and ever.

And, if you were lucky, this little package would also include some glorious-looking baked items photographed in the most barftastic of stagings which would involve plastic flower arrangements, blinding flashbulb blow outs and heinous oilcloth place mats.

But you've seen this kind of thing before, so I don't need to go into too much detail. The photos in the Fleischmann's cookbook are about the same, which is to say that they are AWESOMELY FUNNY and I've already asked my mom to leave me this cookbook in her will. Complete with the deteriorating rubber band that is holding the book forever open to the challah recipe.

Thankfully, and unlike the Weight Watchers cards, the food itself in this cookbook is nothing short of amazing. I begged my mom to make no fewer than three of the items and then openly swooned at things like Moravian Orange Cake, Cinnamon Swirl Bread and then something with a Russian name that I couldn't pronounce but looked exactly like heaven would if it were made of fluffy bread.

I can see why my family has a lifelong devotion to Fleischmann's yeast. Clearly, these people know exactly what the fuck they're talking about when it comes to baking things. Delicious, fluffy, Imusthaveitnow kind of things.

Speaking of which, here's my mom's challah recipe, which originally came from Fleischmann's "Everything You Need to Know about Yeast Baking" booklet and to which I made one small change.

I dare you to not love this.
Mom's Challah
From Fleischmann's "Everything You Need to Know About Yeast Baking"
My changes in BOLD

My mom's changes in italics

Makes 2 loaves

4 1/2 - 5 1/2 cups white flour
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 package of yeast (I think you know what kind they want you to use, but I won't tell.)
1/3 cup softened unsalted butter
1 t ground turmeric (or saffron, if you have it)
1 cup very warm tap water
4 eggs at room temp
1 t cold water
1/4 t poppy seeds (use sesame seeds and die)

To make
In a your mixer or a large bowl thoroughly mix 1 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt and undissolved active dry yeast. Add your butter.

Dissolve the turmeric in very warm tap water. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping the bowl as necessary.

Add 3 of your eggs, 1 egg white (save the yolk for use later on) and 1/2 cup of flour. Beat at high speed until smooth and scrape if you need to.

Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl (around 2 3/4 cups). I find that using your dough hook is good here, if you've got one.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding a little flour as you go if it starts to get sticky. Do this for about 10 minutes. All the while marveling at the glorious yellow hue.


Place this HOT looking dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise in a warm place (like inside your oven without turning it on) for an hour or so.

Punch dough down, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Divide each of those halves into three pieces and roll each of those (six pieces now) into snakes. If you call them ropes, that's fine, but know that it's not as fun as calling them snakes and that is what you need to make it Authentic Just Like Finny's Childhood.

So you know.

Once you have all your snakes, pinch three together at the top and braid them together. Sealing again at the bottom by pinching the dough.

Do this for the other three snakes, too, and then place the loaves onto a lightly sprayed baking sheet.

Beat the leftie-over yolk with the cold water and brush onto the tops of the loaves before sprinkling liberally with poppy seeds. Don't cheap out on the poppy seeds because you know it'll keep you from having the authentic experience you desire.

Let this rise in the oven again for another hour or until it doubles in size.

Bake the loaves side by side like little best friends at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until they're a delicious looking shiny brown on top and make a hollow sound when you GENTLY DAMN IT knock on them.

Let cool on wire racks and then proceed to eat an entire loaf in 3 days, which maybe includes building a Sin Sandwich from two slices of challah, some very thinly sliced prosciutto (damn you delicious treyf) and asiago cheese which becomes severely naughty when paired with the Extra Naughty salt-cured ham.

Also, because I was mean and teased you with a story about how I baked challah and then didn't give you the recipe, I'm throwing in a Squash Killer recipe that, incidentally, goes ruuuully well with a nice big hump of challah. And is an alternative for those of you who aren't the worst Jews in the Whole Wide World like yours truly, and perhaps don't want to offend everyone with your Kosher-ignoring ways.

You may not be struck down at your dining room table for eating this. *MAY*, I said.
Carrot Zucchini Bisque
From Lean and Delicious Cookbook (out of print)
Adapted by the Live Earth Farm recipe database
My changes in BOLD

1 c water
6 large carrots - peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups of whole milk
2 T flour
1 t fresh ground pepper
1/4 t Vietnamese cinnamon
3 cubes of chicken bouillon
2 T extra virgins

To make
Add carrots and water to medium sized saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for another five minutes.

Remove pan from heat and drain liquid.

Puree vegetables in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer back to your pot and add milk. Place over medium heat, uncovered, and stir constantly with a wire whisk, slowly incorporating the flour. Then add the black pepper, cinnamon and olive oil. Add bouillon and stir until dissolved. Heat and stir for about five more minutes and serve, garnished with extra virgins, some parsley, freshly roasted green beans from your garden and a big hump of challah, if you have it lying around.

I recommend eating this on your new patio while looking at the beans on the tepee which you'll eat in just a few days' time.


  1. A neighbor just gave me a ton of carrots because she was leaving town and I keep looking at them wondering what to do with them. Now I know. Gotta remember to buy the zucchini tomorrow.

  2. I am so making this challah. I don't have a mixer, but I don't imagine great-great-grandma had one either so I think I can manage. I'll let you know how it turns out. I'll probably kiss your feet the next time I see you.

    Word verification: blegeys. "I want to make challah that doesn't turn out all blegeys."

  3. Ok. Seriously Finny. You're WAY too young to be talking about the Fleischmann's "Everything You Need to Know about Yeast Baking" booklet, but you're cracking me up. I have that booklet! I ordered it when I was a newlywed. In my defense, I married when I was 10 years old. ;-)

  4. I love this post. I am sitting at work not wanting to be working and blog surfing instead.

    I wish I had it in me to make this challah, espec because I am a shiksa married to an Israeli (I mean he was born here but speaks Hebrew w Saba and Safta and I took a class myself but was a dropout because our son was only 8 weeks old, and really what was I thinking to sign up for the class in the first place? But at least I know the words for wine and water and gift, etc) and would greatly impress my in-laws with this bread.

    But just reading the recipe makes me tired. Maybe if I had a fancy mixer, or got sufficient sleep, I would feel differently. I would like to make it someday.

    As far as non-kosher guilt, forgetta about it. If god didn't want us to eat bacon, it wouldn't taste so good!!

  5. I have a challah recipe that's mighty fine, too, but we won't argue recipes. And I do use sesame seeds alternately with poppy seeds and I really do like them. Poppy seeds always get stuck in my teeth. This weekend I will use my carrots for your cookies and be truly happy.

  6. Don't need the challah recipe because--HOLLA--I am already a challah-baking Jew, but that soup looks delish. Thanks.


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.