Challah at me! ... do people still say that?

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Challah: what isn't it good for?

Stuffing? Yes please!
French toast?  Oooohhhh baby
Slathered with butter and jam for breakfast?  OK!
Oozy grilled cheese?  Yuh-huh!
Fresh out of the oven?  Duh!

Sure, you could pick up a loaf at the store but making this beautifully braided bread at home is so easy!

The perfect eggy bread for your Easter feast or really any occasion that could use a slightly sweet, super simple, perfectly plaited loaf!  


Classic Challah

Makes 2 loaves

2 ½ cups very warm water
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
7–8 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar and allow the yeast to bloom and bubble up for around 10 minutes.

When the yeast is all lovely and foamy, beat in the honey, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Holding the hook attachment for your stand mixer in your hand, beat in one cup of flour at a time until it gets too difficult to mix by hand.  Add in the salt.  Attach the hook to the mixer and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed.

Cover the bowl with a small piece of plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1–1 ½ hours or until doubled in bulk.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and give each a few kneads.  Set the balls of dough aside for about 5 minutes to relax the gluten then divide each ball into three equal pieces.  Roll each into a long snake about 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Pinch the ends of three snakes together and braid them into one loaf.  Do the same to the other three pieces of dough and lightly grease two baking sheets.  Place the braided loaves onto the baking sheets and lightly cover each with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow them to rise again in a warm spot for about one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F and beat the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle each with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.  Pop the loaves into the oven for 20–30 minutes or until a deep golden brown then loosely tent the loaves with aluminum foil.  Continue baking the loaves for 10–15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread registers 190F.

Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Store the loaves well wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

No Knead, No Problem! My go-to bread for lazy days

No-Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

This bread is literally the easiest bread out there.  No snazzy yeast, no finicky sourdough starter, just some baking soda, baking powder, and buttermilk to get this dense and delicious loaf ready for your plate!


Easy No-Knead Bread

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour
2–2 ½ cups spelt or whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾–2 ¼ cups buttermilk, plus a little for brushing
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons runny honey
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat your oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat or spelt flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 1 ¾ cups of the buttermilk followed by the melted butter and honey.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until all of the liquid has been evenly mixed in.  If needed, feel free to add some of the remaining buttermilk to make the dough come together.

Once the dough is too stiff to stir with the spoon, lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it.  Gently knead the dough to form it into a rough loaf but be careful not to overwork it.

Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking sheet and, using a large knife, score an ‘X’ across the top making sure to cut about halfway down.  Use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of buttermilk all over the top of the loaf and scatter the top with pumpkin seeds.

Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 25 minutes then reduce the heat on your oven to 350F and continue to bake for an additional 20–25 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you rap on the top with your knuckles.

Transfer your loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool.

Starch on starch on starch: Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

We Bergs are firmly a starch family.  

No dinner is complete without potatoes, rice, noodles, or some sort of doughy delicious bread.  I mean, sure, it's February and I'm trying really hard to dig into healthy veg filled plates to counteract the winter slumps but, come ON!

Starch is the best!

It's on days like this, days that I am sliding down the slippery slope of fading New Year's resolutions, that I like to overindulge in the stuff and really double down so I give you Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia.

I mean, Potatoes + Bread = Unbridled Joy in my books and the multipliers of cheese and thyme are kind of a no brainer.


Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Makes 1 - 9x13" loaf

¾ cup + 2 tbsp warm water
1 slightly rounded teaspoon quick rise yeast
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup finely grated white cheddar cheese
1 small Yukon Gold potato, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, for top of loaf

In a glass measuring cup, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and set aside in a warm place for approximately 15 minutes to activate the yeast.  

In a large bowl, stir together the flour and kosher salt and make a well in the middle.  Once the yeast mixture is nice and foamy, pour it into the well along with a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and begin mixing the dough with a wooden spoon to combine.

Once combined, dump the shaggy dough mixture onto a well floured work surface and begin kneading for approximately 6 – 8 minutes.

Shape the dough into a tight skinned ball and place into a well oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

While rising, coat a 9x13 baking pan in remaining 3 tablespoons of the remaining of extra virgin olive oil and set out your grated cheese.  In a small bowl, toss together the thinly sliced potato and thyme with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.

Once risen, press the dough into the pan, making sure to poke your fingers all the way through to the bottom of the pan while you stretch the dough.  Cover the formed focaccia with your clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425F and scatter the cheese evenly over the dough.  Arrange the potatoes overtop and sprinkle with pepper and coarse sea salt.  Bake the focaccia in your preheated oven for 18–25 minutes or until golden and the potatoes are soft and beginning to brown.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and let cool slightly before digging in.

Doughn't go breaking my heart: Fresh Pasta Dough

Fresh Pasta Dough in the making Note: you might want to take any rings off... mine are currently full of flour and egg...

Fresh Pasta Dough in the making
Note: you might want to take any rings off... mine are currently full of flour and egg...

Like bread, making homemade pasta brings me back to rainy days stuck inside the cottage playing with the one thing my mom has always been an expert at making: homemade Play-Doh.  Somehow, when occasion would strike and we’d be stuck inside with a summers’ day worth of energy, she would turn a couple of packets of Kool Aid into this amazing smelling, brightly coloured dough that we could spend hours and hours playing with.

I, always being rather kitchen-inclined, would knead the dough and shape it into any sweet treat I could dream up while my brother sat next to me mashing every colour together until he was left with a big muddy looking mass…  We’re different, my brother and I, but there are a few very strong similarities that we do possess.  A doofy laugh, some cocktail knowledge, lanky limbs, and an undying love of pasta.

I, always being rather kitchen-inclined, would knead the dough and shape it into any sweet treat I could dream up while my brother sat next to me mashing every colour together until he was left with a big muddy looking mass…  We’re different, my brother and I, but there are a few very strong similarities that we do possess: a doofy laugh; ample cocktail knowledge; lanky limbs; and an undying love of pasta.

Making homemade noodles might seem a bit daunting and, yes, it is a bit more of an undertaking than tearing open a box of dry rotini on a Tuesday night but it is oh so worth the effort.  I've scaled this recipe to serve two as I find it's perfect for a date night meal but feel free to multiply the recipe to serve more.

If you can't find '00' flour in your grocery store, all purpose will work just fine.  The two flours have similar protein/gluten levels (between ~10-12%) and are therefore pretty interchangeable when used for fresh pasta.  The main difference between the two is that '00' has been more finely milled thus resulting in a slightly better texture.

Now, don’t be daunted by the length of the method below.  In addition to detailing a method using good old-fashioned elbow grease, I've also included a couple of different tactics for making the dough using a little help from some handy dandy kitchen equipment. 

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting some of my favourite sauces, fillings, and pasta shapes so stay tuned!  In the meantime, give this a whirl, roll it out thin either by hand or with a pasta roller, and cut into long, thin noodles – it’ll be perfect draped with carbonara or my favourite tomato sauce.


Fresh Pasta Dough

Serves 2

1 cup + 2 tablespoons ‘00’ or all purpose flour, plus a bit more for kneading
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 ½ tsp olive oil

Dump the flour onto a large work surface and sprinkle with salt.  Using you hands, gently mix the salt through and create a well in the centre of the mound.  Crack the eggs into the well, being careful not to let them spill out over the edge.  Add the oil and, using a fork or the tips of your fingers, beat the eggs and oil together and begin to incorporate the flour by pulling it in from the inner wall of the well. 

Once the mixture becomes a bit shaggy and tricky to work with, start using your hands to knead the dough into a cohesive ball.  At this point, set the ball of dough aside and discard any scraggly dry bits and flour that is left over.  I typically have about 1 – 2 tablespoons of refuse at this point so don’t feel the need to try to incorporate everything. 

Bring the ball of dough back over to your work surface and continue kneading for about 8 – 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth, adding a dusting of flour when necessary.  Wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling, cutting, shaping, drying slightly, and cooking.

 

If you’re looking for a bit of a tidier method, feel free to use your stand mixer or a food processor. 

For the stand mixer approach, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of your mixer and create a well.  Crack the eggs into the well and add the olive oil.  Using a fork, whisk the eggs and oil together and incorporate the flour until a shaggy dough forms.  Fit your mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead on low for about 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  As with above, if a few tablespoons of flour are left in the bottom of the bowl, no worries!  Cover the dough with plastic and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before using.

For the food processor approach, toss the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Crack the eggs into a glass measuring cup, add the oil, and give it a whisk.  With the mixer running, slowly pour the egg mixture through the chute and blitz until it all comes together into a smooth dough.  Remove the dough from the processor, leave any scraggly bits behind, and give it a bit of a knead for about 4 or 5 minutes, adding flour when necessary.  As with above, allow the dough to rest covered in plastic for 30 minutes prior to using.