Challah at Me

Everything has meaning. Everything has a purpose.

Woven into the smooth, elastic strands of dough that compose a loaf of lovingly braided challah bread is a taste of history. Surviving centuries of strife, passed down by word of mouth like folklore, it’s more than mere sustenance, yet hardly given a second thought beyond the customary blessing, if that. Even I was surprised to learn that the term “challah” isn’t necessarily defined by the rich, eggy, soft, and sweet crumb that immediately comes to mind. Any bread that’s sanctified for Jewish observances, from high holidays to regular old week days, can be challah.

That’s only the beginning of my true challah education. Visiting the Chabad Jewish Student Center at UC Berkeley prior to Shabbat one day, I was greeted by the sight of overflowing bowls of dough, the smell of yeast and flour wafting through the windows, perfuming the whole neighborhood.

Traditionally, seven essential ingredients compose the tender crumb we all know and love: water, yeast, sugar, oil, flour, and salt. Eggs, though frequently included to represent renewal, are not actually a necessary staple. That’s right; I wandered into this enclave of busy bakers to find about a hundred pounds of “accidentally” vegan challah dough at my disposal.

As explained by den mamma Bracha Sara Leeds, all while deftly kneading and twisting strands of the soft dough into elaborate braids, each ingredient can be linked back to the tenants of Judaism itself.

Water, the single most important, omnipresent component, represents the Torah. Just as we cannot live without water, we also cannot live without this guiding scripture. Bringing life and nourishment to all, it represents generosity and kindness. Like water, we want kindness to be infinitely abundant, flowing freely through our lives.

Flour is sustenance, the foundation to build a life on, physically and emotionally through our relationships with family, friends, and the community at large. We must feed these relationships as we must feed ourselves to maintain a healthy, happy, stable existence.

Oil is included to represent anointing, or sanctifying, to signify this loaf as being special, holier than your average daily bread. Oil enriches our lives, making particular moments, or meals, a bit more special.

Sugar stands in for all the sweetness in our lives, of course, but in this case also represents faith. With faith (in the future, in ourselves) comes sweet rewards. Fear not the sugar! Though challah is certainly classified as a sweet bread, it’s always well-balanced, to be served with equal enjoyment with toppings as diverse as jam or hummus, at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Yeast provides leavening, of course, allowing the dough to rise, grow, and expand. Whether that means growing in terms of our character, rising up above challenges, or expanding to reach our full potential, it only takes a small push to get started. Yeast is only a tiny piece of the recipe, yet completely transforms the finished loaves.

Salt, used sparingly but in fair measure, represents discipline or criticism. As difficult as it can be to accept, it’s necessary for contrast and proper perspective. Salt can also signify purification, removing toxins from the body, and anything that is toxic in our lives or minds.

Arguably the most ingredient is one absent from any written recipe. Patience, while kneading, waiting for the dough to rise once, rise twice, and again while baking, is indispensable. Have patience for yourself; don’t rush the process to reap the greatest rewards.

It’s my pleasure to share this simple, yet deeply nuanced, meaningful approach to challah for World Bread Day. As my 13th contribution to the effort, I wouldn’t miss this event for anything. Though I wish I could break bread in person with everyone in the blogosphere, I hope that sharing this little morsel of history might provide a bit of virtual nourishment, at least.

Continue reading “Challah at Me”

Cutting the Mustard

Cornbread in any form is an easy sell. Buttery, golden crumbs that cling to the fork and sop up the richest stews like a savory sponge, it’s the side dish that can easily steal the show. I’ve never met a cornbread that wasn’t at least passable when smothered with a generous smear of vegan butter, but the very best versions are always paired with a touch of maple sweetness. Inextricably linked to the sticky syrup in my mind, this is how I first remember eating cornbread, back in my elementary school years. It was on a field trip to a maple tree grove where we indulged in samples of freshly tapped and concentrated, still warm maple syrup, stirred into milk and drizzled over squares of tender cornbread. Ever since that fateful day, there’s been no match to that simple serving suggestion.

That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement.

Start by adding a bold punch of heat in the form of Colman’s Mustard. A riff on classic honey mustard, this sweet and spicy sensation isn’t just blended in, but swirled in thick, undulating ribbons, marbled throughout the classic golden loaf. Straddling the line between cake and bread, it has just the right pepper bite to accentuate, not overpower, that delicate balance.

Follow Colman’s Mustard on Instagram for their 12 days of giveaways, and don’t forget to scoop up some spicy rebates on Colman’s Mustard through iBotta next time you stock up.

Mustard-Maple Swirled Cornbread

Mustard-Maple Swirl:

1/4 Cup Grade B Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil, Melted
2 Tablespoons Colman’s Prepared Mustard
1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Ground Flaxseeds

Cornbread:

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Coarse Ground Cornmeal
1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 (14-Ounce) Can Corn Kernels, Thoroughly Drained
1 (14-Ounce) Can Full-Fat Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

Prepare the mustard-maple swirl first by whisking the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, mustard, flour, and ground flax together in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and set aside.

To make the cornbread base, grab a medium bowl and combine both flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Add in the corn, tossing to coat all the kernels with the dry ingredients to prevent them from simply sinking to the bottom of the loaf while baking. Separately, briefly mix together the coconut milk, maple syrup, and vinegar before adding the wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Use a wide spatula to bring the two together with as few strokes as possible. It’s perfectly fine to leave a few errant lumps in the batter!

Transfer the cornbread batter to your prepared loaf pan. Spoon dollops of the mustard-maple swirl at random on top and use a thin knife or wooden skewer to marble it throughout.

Bake for 32 – 38 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving.

Makes 8 – 10 Servings

Printable Recipe

This post was made possible thanks to the support of Colman’s Mustard. All content and opinions are unbiased and entirely my own.

Simply Bananas

Does the internet need another recipe for banana bread? It’s a reasonable question, given the millions, if not billions, of hits that Google will pull up from the most cursory of searches, and one that I grappled with when deciding to share today’s post. By the strength of sheer facts and numbers, I would have to reason that one more dissertation on the blue and black / white and gold dress would probably be more innovative than yet another darned loaf of baked banana puree, and yet here I am, quick bread in hand.

Statistics don’t tell the full story of the banana bread, as far as I’m concerned. There are easily hundreds of solid, superlative formulas out there that have stood the test of time, but the rest of those recipes? Redundant, untested, or simply repugnant. So I suppose I must clarify and say that the internet definitely doesn’t need any more crappy banana bread recipes.

Packed with soft chunks of whole banana and crunchy pecans, this particular rendition relies more on the inherent sweetness of the fruit itself than additional sugar. Some may look at that crumb and cry out that it’s under-baked, criminally banded with a sad streak almost as thick as the slices themselves, but that’s exactly what I look for in a good banana bread. If it’s not dense and moist to a fault, it’s not a recipe worth keeping. So for all the fellow banana bread lovers looking for a genuinely reliable formula that offers a bit more banana goodness than the norm, this one’s for you.

Yield: Makes 1 Loaf; 8 - 10 Servings

Simply Banana Bread

Simply Banana Bread

Packed with soft chunks of whole banana and crunchy pecans, this particular rendition relies more on the inherent sweetness of the fruit itself than additional sugar. Some may look at that crumb and cry out that it’s under-baked, criminally banded with a sad streak almost as thick as the slices themselves, but that’s exactly what I crave in a good banana bread.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 Large, Very Ripe Bananas, Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar or Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Molasses
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat or All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Chia Seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted and Coarsely Chopped

Instructions

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8- x 4-inch loaf pan; set aside.
    2. Toss four of the bananas into your blender along with the non-dairy milk, agave or maple syrup, and molasses. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, and then transfer the liquid into a medium saucepan. Set over moderate heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. You may want to pull out your splatter shield if you have it, or keep the pot partially covered to help prevent splatter. Cook until the mixture has thickened and darkened to a toffee-like, amber brown hue. Remove from the heat and let cool.
    3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chia seeds, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make sure that all of the dry goods are equally distributed throughout the mixture before chopping the final banana into small chunks and tossing in the pieces. Coat the banana chunks evenly with flour to ensure that they won't just sink to the bottom of the loaf during baking.
    4. Mix the vinegar, oil, and vanilla into the banana puree before introducing all of the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry. Stir with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together. Add the pecans last, being careful not to over-mix.
    5. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly.
    6. Let cool completely before turning out of the pan, slicing, and enjoying.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 339Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 223mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 7gSugar: 16gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

Worth its Weight in Gold [Bricks]

Dark as a solid block of dried molasses and boasting a density that could very well rival lead, vollkornbrot is one serious baked good. As I’ve affectionately nicknamed this loaf “brick bread,” it’s no secret that the texture is entirely different from the standard soft, fluffy American sandwich loaf or crusty French baguette. Not a forgettable filler or bland vehicle for jams or spreads, no sir, this German bread means business. Though easily obtained in most health food stores under the guise of “fitness bread,” shrink-wrapped and alarmingly shelf-stable, those flimsy slices can’t compare to the fresh stuff.

Thickly built on whole grains, and often nuts and seeds, each bite is a whole new textural experience. In fact, the traditional loaves don’t employ the use of any flour at all, employing only cooked wheat, spelt, or rye berries to hold them together. Variably crunchy and chewy, a proper vollkornbrot won’t break teeth, contrary to how some models may appear, but they certainly won’t dissolve into insubstantial fluff on the tongue. Think of each slice as a portable bowl of hot whole grain cereal, perfect for topping with any sweet or savory spread desired. So hearty and filling that just one small piece could power you through a grueling morning’s work, this is solid fuel indeed.

Not convinced yet? Try slicing it thin and assembling some dainty open-faced tea sandwiches. The contrast of that wholesome, grainy melange with light, crunchy cucumbers combines to create a divine little snack. Nothing if not versatile, my preconceived concept of brick bread” has been utterly and totally cast aside thanks to this beauty- Even if my own approach may be far from traditional.

Yield: Makes 1 Loaf; 8 - 10 Slices

Brick Bread (Faux-Vollkornbrot)

Brick Bread (Faux-Vollkornbrot)

Thickly built on whole grains and sprouted beans, each bite is a whole new textural experience. Think of each slice as a portable bowl of hot whole grain cereal, perfect for topping with any sweet or savory spread desired.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 1 day 4 hours
Total Time 1 day 5 hours

Ingredients

Starter:

  • 3/4 Cup Hard Red Wheat Berries
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Second Addition:

  • 3/4 Cup Steel-Cut Oat Groats
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Yeast

Final Dough:

  • 1/3 Cup Sprouted Adzuki Beans
  • 2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Instructions

  1. It’s a somewhat long process to make this bread, so above all else, you must have an ample supply of patience on hand! I highly recommend reading the recipe all the way though so you know what kind of process is involved.
  2. First, mix together the ingredients for the starter in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place for a full 24 hours.
  3. Once that time has elapsed, add in the “second addition” ingredients, mix well, and let sit for another 3 hours before proceeding.
  4. Finally, you can add in everything called for in the “final dough.” This is where my bread greatly diverges from traditional recipes. I use flour to hold everything together, because it seemed like that mass of grains would never create a solid loaf otherwise. Mix well, and kneed for 10 – 15 minutes to activate the gluten. Once smooth and elastic, roll the dough into a log and gently place it into a lightly greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Let rise for about 1 hour before preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is evenly amber brown. If it seems to be browning too quickly, you can tent a piece of foil over the top of the loaf pan. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 162Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 57mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 6gSugar: 1gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

 

Carb-Lovers, Unite!

I can’t fathom a world without bread. The foundation of many meals, this most basic staple is something that can elevate a ho-hum meal into something really special. I love everything about it- The taste, the smell, the texture, the way it must be kneaded and the way it rises by it’s own accord. It may surprise you since I’m so fond of creating desserts, but if I could only specialize in one baked good for the rest of time, I would choose to make bread.

Naturally, when I heard about the third World Bread Day, I was chomping at the bit to start a fresh loaf rising. Easy as it is to create, it always seems to be much more difficult to simply decide what kind to make! Pressed for time as it was, I settled on the first recipe that appealed, which happened to be Dakota Seed Bread. Why “Dakota”? I have no idea, but the hearty mixture of wholesome grains, wheat germ, and seeds sounded like the perfect bread to build a satisfying meal around.

But you know me; I can’t leave well enough alone, and my bread ended up with almost nothing in common with the original recipe. Substituting forbidden rice instead of wild, pepitas instead of sunflower seeds, and white whole wheat flour for almost all of the flour, not to mention omitting the dry milk altogether, it was an entirely different animal than the writers of Bon Appétit had intended. I’ve gotta tell you though, it was incredible.

Sure, it’s hard to go wrong with fresh, homemade bread in general, but this stuff was irresistible. Toothsome from all the add-ins, soft and tender crumb, with a strong but not brittle crust wrapped around it all, it definitely ranks near the top of my favorite breads. While I had planned on saving it to toast for breakfasts to come… I must sheepishly admit that I ate nearly the whole thing still hot from the oven, right then and there.

The black rice is more of a focal point in my loaf, coloring the interior an unexpected purplish hue, so I decided to name my version accordingly.

Yield: Makes 1 Loaf; 8 Servings

Forbidden Seed Bread

Forbidden Seed Bread

Toothsome from chewy whole grains and seeds mixed into a soft and tender crumb, with a strong but not brittle crust wrapped around it all, this might just be your new favorite loaf.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Uncooked Black Rice
  • 1 1/4 Cups Warm Water, Divided
  • 1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Pepitas, Toasted
  • 1/4 Cup Wheat Germ, Toasted
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Bread Flour

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot, bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil and add in the black rice. Cover, reduce heat all the way down to the lowest setting, and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
  2. Mix together the warm water and agave, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let sit until the yeast has reawakened and become frothy, and then add in the cooked rice, white whole wheat flour, pepitas, wheat germ, and salt in large bowl. Stir well to combine, and once there are no more dry patches, slowly add in the bread flour at little bit at a time. It will still be very sticky, but don’t worry about it; it’s a rather wet dough which makes it a moist loaf.
  3. Give it 15 minutes to rest before using a dough hook attachment to knead it in your mixer for 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl and drop the dough into it. Toss it to coat, cover with plastic, and stash it in the fridge overnight for better flavor, or leave it out in a warm place for 1 hour if you want your bread the same day.
  4. When you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan.
  5. Grab your dough, and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Knead it briefly by hand, adding in more flour if necessary, and then press it out into a rough rectangle, keeping it the width of the loaf pan. Roll the rectangle up and drop it into the pan, seam-side down. Cover loosely with plastic for about 30 – 45 minutes, until it has risen to about the top of the pan. It’s a fairly short loaf in the end, so it won’t reach any great heights.
  6. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until evenly browned all over and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Give it 10 minutes before de-panning, and let cool on a wire rack. Try your hardest not to wolf it all down immediately!

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 198Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 202mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 8g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.