Playing with Color

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:

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Then I strained them:

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And had a bright blue water left over:

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I mixed the blueberry juice into one strand of the challah and the turmeric into another, leaving the third strand plain.

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The result wasn’t as saturated of color as I would have liked, but I could see how with more volume it could be.

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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.

Canada Day Challah

Wednesday, July 1st was Canada Day. As a Canadian I needed to celebrate on the closest shabbat.  However, the truly closest shabbat is the 4th of July, and as an American I need a red white a blue challah on that day. On Friday, June 26th, I woke up to fabulous news.  SCOTUS had ruled on same-sex marriage, finally making it legal in all 50 states. Plus, this weekend was pride weekend.  What’s a gay-allied-dual-Canadian-American to do? I asked my friend Maxine, and she said go with the pride challah because she’s “more queer than Canadian”.  But I’m more Canadian than queer. So I made both.

First, my Canada Day Challah.  I decided to use maple syrup in the challah instead of honey. And I cut out a Leaf shape:

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Then the Pride Challah. I’d already made a rainbow one back in the fall for Parshat Noah.  So I looked for rainbow sprinkles at the store.  The only kosher ones had too many white ones in them to look rainbow.  I hit up the candy isle– skittles aren’t kosher and M&Ms don’t have purple (and do have brown).  So I used what I had on hand, the “gayest” thing in my pantry– the mulitcolored fennel sprinkles that I used back at Purim.

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The final products were beautiful and delicious.  The maple leaf, because of the amount of salt on it (that’s red colored salt I used) tasted like pretzel challah and was a big hit!

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The one I didn’t like

I tried a new flavor a few weeks ago. I haven’t posted, because it wasn’t that good. Rosemary Garlic Challah. It sounds delicious doesn’t it?  Well, it was a bit of a dud.

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I used roasted garlic and fresh rosemary from the garden.

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It turned out beautiful but tasted a bit meh.

Lemon Cheesecake Challah

Yes, you read that headline right, Lemon Cheesecake Challah.  Seriously.  We could probably just stop there.  But why?  Here’s the story…. This weekend is the holiday of Shavuot.  This holiday, I lovingly refer to as the “stay up all night and eat cheesecake holiday.”  What’s not to love about that.  The holiday commemorates (in part) the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We stay up all night in anticipation of receiving the Torah (fun!).  And because G-d gave us the commandment to keep kosher in the Torah, all of our prior meat and dishes were suddenly rendered problematic, and we ate dairy until we could kasher things. This, among many other reasons, is why we eat dairy on Shavuot.  Of course, I don’t eat meat at all, so most of my festive meals feature dairy in some sort.

I found the recipe for lemon cheesecake challah on Smitten Kitchen. I used my regular challah dough because it is proven, but I followed their recipe for the cheesecake filling and the lemon curd.  Lemon curd may become my new favorite thing to make. If I’d known you could make something THAT delicious THAT easily, I would have made it before.

Now, technically, for motzi on shabbat, challah needs to be parve (neither meaty or dairy). So when I make dairy challah, I always make a loaf of “plain” as my second loaf, so that motzi can be over parve challah for the halachically minded among us.

Now, on to the challah…Using my regular dough, I rolled out a large rectangular shape.

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Then cut slits into the sides:

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I layered on the cheesecake filling, then the lemon curd:

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Then “braided” it:

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I brushed it with egg and sprinkled it with some nice, organic, coarse sugar.

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Then baked it.

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This is a beautiful and delicious recipe.  Happy Shavuot everyone!

Yom Ha’atzmaut Challah

For challah this week I turned to the Torah portion.  Then realized that it was the part of Leviticus about skin lesions and that would not make an appetizing challah.  Luckily, this week was also Yom Ha’atzmaut which is Israeli Independence Day, a much better idea for basing a challah.  So I brainstormed ideas. A flag challah was the first idea. And a map of Israel was the second.  However, the map idea seemed difficult, as which borders would I use?  So to avoid the political, I did the flag and a braid, with a strand of blue.

i wanted to try a new way to color the challah, so I made blue salt.  I took my blue dye and mixed it with coarse salt.  The outcome was beautiful!

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Tgat at then decorated the challaot!

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The challah was salty, but not overly so, like a pretzel not a salt lick!

Shlissel Challah

It’s been a while since I posted.  Passover happened, so I didn’t make challah for two weeks. But I’m back!

There is a tradition that, for the Shabbat after Passover to make a challah with a key in it or key shaped. I’ve seen lots of explanations for this tradition, relating it to the key to heaven or to a humbleness of our understanding that our needs were provided for in the desert.  I’ve also seen two versions, one with a key inside and one with a key shape.  Since I needed two loaves for Shabbat, I made both!

first the key shaped one:

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First I cleaned the key with soap and water then with alcohol.  Then I put it on a braid

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and covered it with a bit of dough.

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The end result had a hidden surprise!

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Bacon challah!

Let’s face it, Jews love bacon. As much as we hate to admit it, we all want bacon.  Unexpected bacon is a happy surprise.  So what would be more delightful than a bacon challah?  I had to give it a try!

I started by frying up some of the delicious smoky fatty stuff…

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Once it it was cooled, i crumbled it and mixed it into my dough.  The finished product was a perfect bacony salty delicious doughy goodness!

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And bacon is parve, so this challah doesn’t even have the kashrut issues of some of my dairy ones!