It is fitting, as get close to the end of the year, that I made this friendship bread. My friend Maxine was the one who issued this challenge. Every year her family, my family, and three other families go away for Labor Day weekend together. Of course I had to make a special labor day challah. Maxine had suggested a friendship symbol, saying that she imagined that as two hands holding each other. I pictured something like this:
But how do you make that in challah?
It creates a level of three dimensionality that I would have a hard time recreating.
So first I made two hands.
These were literally traces of my fingers. You can see there is a left and a right.
Then I sculpted them to hold each other. After trying a few positions, I decided curling fingers under each other made the most sense and looked the most like two friends.
It baked up well.
My friend Kate sent me this recipe. It looked amazing. So I put it in the queue.
I didn’t have everything on hand that I needed, but I made some easy substitutions. For the Pesto I used Scallions instead of Garlic Scapes, and it came out much like the filling in an earlier challah I did. But it was still good:
The food processor makes this one possible. Then I used goat cheese for the cheese, as we only use kosher cheese, and there just aren’t that many around.
Luckily we had this one in the fridge from a recent trip to either Costco.
The final product looked great:
Even after it was baked:
I ended up bringing it to my parent’s house for a shabbat dinner where mom and dad had made pizza. It was the perfect combination for a pizza dinner! (Don’t worry, there was a plain, non-dairy one for us to make motzi on).
Apricot and Zattar– that is a combination I could not have come up with on my own. But here’s what happened. I belong to a listserv that is for “farmers” in Seattle. I get tons of great information from this list about how to raise my chickens. And on occasion, there is something else valuable on there. Well, one of those “something elses” happened to be the offer to buy crates of fresh apricots straight from the farmers for a deep discount. There was a farm in the Yakima Valley with hail damaged apricots. So we bought a case. And they were delicious.
So that got me thinking that I should make an apricot challah. Which led me to google. Which led me to this recipe.
I made the apricot paste, adapting their recipe, using fresh fruit and no jam. Just a bunch of honey to keep them sweet.
The outcome was amazing! The spouse suggested I was heavy handed with the zaatar (especially because finding kosher zattar in Seattle isn’t easy, it was EXPENSIVE from Whole Foods). But the combination of the two flavors was divine.
I’m not a huge fan of figs, but I happened upon the Smitten Kitchen fig challah recipe and knew my spouse would love it. For this challah, you make a fig paste using dried figs, orange zest and juice, and water.
The fig paste is then spread on the challah:
And the challah is shaped. I chose a twisted ring because I thought it would be pretty:
It was beautiful:
Our guests compared the filling to that of a fig newton cookie. It was sweet– which must come from the dried figs, as there was no sugar added. And the bread was cake-like. Even as someone who doesn’t appreciate figs, this was a good challah.
One guest suggested it would be a good one for Rosh Hashanah and I enthusiastically agree. I may have to put it in my regular RH rotation.
I’ve done a lot of fun challot this year with bright colors. From the rainbow one for Parshat Noah back at the beginning of the year, to the Flags this month, I’ve had a lot of fun with color. However, the color I’ve been using is a kosher food dye designed for coloring icing. It isn’t really meant to be baked like my challah is. The color ends up a bit browned on the outside, dulling it. So I thought I’d experiment with other ways to color the dough. Back in the fall I did the spices coloring the outside. I wanted to try to find a way to color the inside too.
Google gave me lots of suggestions for “natural” food dyes. Beet juice was the most common one. But I haven’t been able to learn to like beets, and wanted to try dying with things on hand. The two ideas I found that were ingredients I already had were blueberries and turmeric.
For the blueberries, it was suggested that I crush them and boil them. Then strain them. So I did. The buleberries and turmeric simmering on the stove:
Then I strained them:
And had a bright blue water left over:
I mixed the blueberry juice into one strand of the challah and the turmeric into another, leaving the third strand plain.
The result wasn’t as saturated of color as I would have liked, but I could see how with more volume it could be.
I was unable to taste either flavor in the dough. Others at the table, with more nuanced palettes that I have, said they could taste the blueberry.
On a halachic note– in general adding fruit juice to dough makes the bread need the “mizanot” blessing instead of “motzi”. When I do flavors that might render the challah “mizanot” I always make a second plain loaf to make motzi over. This particular week I also made 4 challot for the mitzvah corps at our synagogue. They go in the freezer and are given to families who need food assistance for some reason– a family loss or illness.
Last week I made the 4th of July challah.
It’s all right, but a bit messy. I would like to get better at stripes. So I decided to refine the technique.
Last week I had used small bowls to dye the stripes. They were messy and awkward. So this week I sued plates with the dye.
And let the stripes dry a bit once dyed.
Then, wiping my hands between stripes, I placed them in the baking dish.
This design is inspired by my love of open water swimming.
The final product ended up a lot cleaner looking:
So clearly this technique is a step in the right direction.
My 6-year-old friend Mimi came over for shabbat during Memorial Day weekend. She guessed the challah that week would be an American Flag. It wasn’t. But I said I’d use her suggestion for the 4th of July instead.
So I rolled out dough and cut a flag:
Then I dyed the red stripes and the blue field.
My hands looked like this:
But the final product looked like this:
Pretty good. But the stripes are a bit messy. I’ll have to work on that.
Happy Birthday USA!