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Welcome to Spike's & Jamie's "Spike’s Good Eatin’ Recipe Collection Archives"!!  Here we store all the back issues of the original "Spike’s Good Eatin’ Recipe Collection" and of the "Spike’s Jewish Good Eatin’ Recipe Collection". These newsletters were written by Spike (Jann McCormick) and published by Jamie from 2000 until Spike's death in 2008.  Spike loved to cook and share her cooking with those she loved.  Sharing her recipes was the next best thing.

[Spike’s Jewish Good Eatin’ Recipes]  [Spike’s Good Eatin’ Recipe Collection]

(¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·-> Spike’s Jewish Good Eatin’ Recipe Collection <-·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯) - Challah

from: Spike's and Jamie's Recipe Collection

Many of these recipes have not yet been added to the recipe web site - so you are getting a "sneak peak" of future additions. We hope you enjoy these recipes!!!

Shalom, from Spike the Grate and Jamie the Webmistress

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ALL ABOUT CHALLAH

Making your own challah is one of the most satisfying ways to welcome Shabbat into your home on Friday evenings. With a little know-how and planning, even the busiest of cooks can gaze with pride on a fresh-baked challah, gilded with a smattering of poppy or sesame seeds. In addition to making Shabbat more festive, you'll be able to use any challah leftovers over the weekend--challah makes a sublime base for bread pudding or French toast.

This golden bread is rich in tradition, and rooted in more than 3,000 years of history. It is customary to have two loaves of challah at the Shabbat table. This custom hearkens back to when the Israelites were wandering in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Every day, the Israelites received a portion of sweet manna to sustain them. On Friday, G-d provided a double portion of manna, so they would not have to work to collect it on the Sabbath. When the table is set, both loaves are covered with a cloth, which is said to recall the dew that covered the manna the Israelites once gathered.

At mealtime, the challah cover is removed, the challah is raised and the blessing (the Hamotzi) is recited, after which the challah is passed around for each person to take a piece. Customarily, challah is torn rather than cut with a knife, a symbol of war. In fact, some people cover all knives on the table before this blessing. In addition, pieces of the challah are not handed out, but each person tears their own piece (or the challah pieces are passed on a plate), symbolizing that it is G-d, not man, who gives us our bread.

Taking Challah

In Biblical times, it was common for people to give Sabbath offerings to the priest at the great Temple. To remind us of this tradition, it is traditional to remove from the challah dough a small piece--about the size of an olive--before baking. This portion is burnt in the oven. As the challah is separated and the small piece is burned, the following blessing is recited:

"Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to separate challah." 

"Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'haf'rish hallah min ha-isa."

To make the perfect challah, you must seek out high-quality ingredients that are suitable for this extra-rich dough. Almost everything you need should be available at a neighborhood grocery store. If for some reason you are having trouble locating an ingredient, online sources like King Arthur Flour can help you procure the ingredients you need, from unbleached bread flour to gourmet yeasts.  This page outlines the basic ingredients in challah and provides you with the information you need to make substitutions or experiment with your favorite recipe. 

Flour
As bread baking increases in popularity, it's possible to find special flour for bread-making at just about any supermarket. Bread flour has a slightly higher percentage of protein than all-purpose flour, which results in a bread with more elasticity. If you are kneading by hand, other than using an electric mixer with a dough hook or a bread machine, you might have to knead a dough made with bread flour a bit longer than you are used to, in order to develop the dough.

Yeast
Years ago, the only kind of yeast available to bakers was compressed fresh yeast. While this type of yeast is still used at bakeries, it quickly loses freshness and is rarely used in home kitchens. You can, however, buy fresh yeast from many bakeries, and some grocery stores also carry it in the refrigerated section. Challah made with fresh yeast is marvelously springy and soft--almost cake-like. If you choose to use fresh yeast, keep it well refrigerated and discard after a couple of weeks. You may also freeze fresh yeast, well wrapped, for up to a month. A good rule of thumb for substituting fresh yeast for dry or instant yeast is to use 1 oz. fresh yeast for every four teaspoons of active dry or instant yeast.

Active dry yeast is the most common type of yeast used at home. Always check the expiration date when buying yeast. You can store unopened vacuum-packed packets of yeast at room temperature; once opened, however, dry yeast must be refrigerated and used soon.

Instant yeast, also labeled as bread machine yeast, is more resilient and error-proof than other types of yeast. Because it ferments more quickly than active dry yeast, it is often recommended in recipes for bread machines, where many bakers want their bread as quickly as possible. Although some pro bread bakers look down on instant yeast--their theory is "half the time, half the flavor"--it can be a convenient alternative when time is tight.

[These sites have excellent information on yeast and how it works: Fleischmann's Yeast; Red Star Yeast]

Sweetener
You can use honey, sugar, or a combination of both as a sweetener in the challah. Substitute either ingredient in equal amounts--but be aware that if you use honey, you may have to add a bit of extra flour to compensate for the extra liquid. Also, challah made with honey browns faster than challah made with sugar, so be sure to keep an eye on your bread as it bakes.

Eggs
Challah is an egg-rich bread, and the extra yolks contribute a golden hue to the loaf. Most recipes call for large, not extra-large or jumbo, eggs--and this is one recipe where size makes a difference! Baker Marcy Goldman notes that warmed-up eggs work considerably better than cold eggs because the rich dough develops better at warmer temperatures. In the old days, bakers simply allowed their eggs to come to room temperature by letting them sit on the counter for a while. Now, because of recent concerns about salmonella, you may want to take a shortcut. Simply place the eggs in a heatproof bowl, fill with very warm tap water, and allow them to sit for one or two minutes before you use them in your recipe. You'll be rewarded with higher, fluffier bread for taking this minor step.

Salt
Salt affects the activity of yeast. Without salt, the yeast acts very rapidly and peters out too quickly. Too much salt will stunt yeast activity. Salt adds flavor and strengthens the dough structure. 

Fat
Most challah is made with shortening or vegetable oil, so that the bread is pareve and can be served alongside a meat or dairy meal. In recent years, however, some bakers have begun to bake challah with butter and milk to make the dough even richer. When made this way, challah resembles its extra-rich cousin, French brioche. If you're serving a pareve or dairy meal, you may want to substitute dairy ingredients just for a change of taste and texture. 

Never kneaded? Don't be afraid--kneading bread dough is not only easy, it's also relaxing. Your mind is free to wander as your hands--or kitchen helpers--are at work. Here's a brief discussion of the basics of kneading, along with some pros and cons for each method.

Kneading by Hand
Even if you plan on using a food processor or stand mixer with dough hook to knead your bread, it's a good idea to knead by hand at least once. Kneading by hand helps you more accurately assess the dough's development. If you're a bread baking novice, you'll probably want to make your first batch of bread by hand, just to get a feeling for dough so you'll know what to look for if you rely on a machine next time. You can knead bread dough on any clean, flat surface, like a countertop, work table, or kitchen table. Choose a kneading location that is at a convenient height--one that allows you to press down on the dough with your arms extended, exerting pressure from the shoulders without bending over. You can also use a marble slab, which is terrific because it remains cool, or a wood bread board. Using one of these work surfaces on top of your table or counter will allow you to use a dough scraper to remove scraps of dough--you won't have to worry about scratching your counter. 

To begin, dust your work surface with a bit of flour so the dough doesn't stick. If you're working with a sticky dough, keep your hands dusted with flour.

To knead the dough, use the palms of your hands to push down on the mass from your shoulders. Turn the dough a quarter turn, fold it in half, press again, then continue turning, folding, pressing, and turning, until the dough forms a smooth ball. If dough sticks to your work surface, use a dough scraper to pull up the scraps and work them back into the dough. If your dough is sticky, add flour gradually in increments no larger than 1/4 cup. If the dough is very stiff, soften it with cool water added by the teaspoon. It takes a bit of time to incorporate extra water into the dough, so keep at it.

When the dough is no longer sticky to the touch, pick up the mass of dough and gently stretch it. Knead briefly and stretch again, then repeat several times. Then lift the dough and let it drop a few feet down onto the work surface (If you've had a bad day at work or just have got a little extra aggression in your system, it's fine to really smack the dough down on the counter.) Lift and drop a few more times, then continue kneading and stretching.

The dough is ready when you can tear off a piece and stretch it without breaking. It will feel smooth, almost satiny.

Using a Stand Mixer
Stand mixers are more efficient than your hands or even a food processor at developing the gluten in dough. Using a mixer also allows home bakers to make stiffer doughs and still develop gluten to its full strength, allowing for a larger loaf of bread with better texture. 

The one disadvantage to using a stand mixer is that heat from the motor and from rapid kneading may cause the dough to become too warm. To compensate, you may want to use ice water and cold ingredients while kneading the dough. 

As pro baker George Greenstein, author of Secrets of a Jewish Baker, points out, most mixers do a better job of kneading when they operate at full capacity. To make your machine work efficiently, look for recipes that call for between six and eight cups of flour. Kneading in a stand mixer is usually done with a dough hook. At the initial stages of just mixing the dough, however, you will probably have better results using a flat beater until the ingredients are adequately combined.

Food Processor
The food processor is one of the more efficient ways to knead dough--and because of that, it's easy to over-process the dough. In baker's terms, so much heat is built up from friction that the yeast cells are "burned" and become useless. To compensate, for each cup of water in the recipe, use 1/4 cup warm water to activate the yeast, then 3/4 cup ice water when you start running the food processor. If the machine sounds like it's struggling to process the dough, stop, divide it in half, and knead each half separately.

Bread Machine
Bread machines were all the rage a few years ago, but I have a lot of friends whose machine sit and gather dust. Although the convenience of waking up to fresh bread is alluring, that funny-looking vertical tube of bread may not be as appealing. Bread machines are set at 350 degrees, and you have very little control over how dark the crust gets. With their limited capacity, you can't really bake the two loaves of challah that most people make for Shabbat. Plus, a large part of the sensation of challah lies in its braided presentation. 

Despite its fallibility in the baking department, bread machines are terrific labor-saving devices for kneading challah dough and providing an insulated place for it to rise. They can also be a terrific boon for those with muscular aches, arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome who aren't up for the sometimes-vigorous exercise of kneading. By using the machine to do the grunt work, you'll free your hands and your time for other tasks--plus, you'll still have the pleasure of using your hands to shape the dough.

Almost any yeasted bread or coffee cake can be made in a bread machine, including challah. If you're not using a recipe written specifically for your bread machine, keep in mind that the yeast and salt should never come in direct contact with each other. Most recipes made for machines are careful about this, but if you're adapting a recipe, use the following procedure: Dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar, waiting a couple of minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Then add the remaining sweetener, oil, eggs, flour, and last of all the salt.

As the machine is working, check on it once in a while. The dough may need more flour; if so, sprinkle it in a tablespoon at a time. The dough should form a soft ball. If the dough isn't becoming a unified mass, use a rubber spatula to help combine the ingredients.

Even pro bakers occasionally pick up a great tip that makes all the difference in creating the perfect loaf. Here are some fail-proof suggestions I've gleaned after some memorable kitchen goofs. 

Rising : Many factors, including the recipe, room temperature, and humidity, will determine how long it takes for the dough to rise. The best way to decide whether it has risen sufficiently and is ready to be punched down and shaped is to perform a "ripe test". Gently stick two fingers in the risen dough up to the second knuckle and take them out. If the indentations remain, the dough is ripe and ready for punch down. If not, cover and let rise longer. 

To rise properly, bread requires a moist, warm environment. Many recipes call for covering the bread bowl with a damp towel, then wrapping with plastic wrap. In my experience, however, the moisture from the towel can cause the dough to rise too quickly and become unwieldy. To avoid these problems, you may want to try a tip from pro baker Marcy Goldman: Insert the dough Use a clear plastic bag and loosely seal with a twist tie or knot closed. To make sure that the bread doesn't dry out or form a crust, spritz the dough with a bit of oil from an oil mister, or use a pastry brush to lightly coat with oil.

Punching down: Most novice bakers assume that this step means they have to knead the dough again. Actually, all you need to do is use your fist or the palm of your hand to gently deflate the dough, which usually has large air pockets after the first rise. The dough will probably make a slight hissing sound. Fold the dough over itself once and punch down again, and you're ready to move on.

Egg wash: Want to capture the rich mahogany hue of bakery challah? Here's a pro baker secret. Most challah recipes call for the baker to brush on an egg wash (usually a mixture of one egg, an egg yolk, and about a tablespoon of water) just once. Instead, brush on the egg wash after you've shaped the bread, then let it air-dry while the bread goes through its second rise. Just before baking, brush on another coating of egg wash.

Avoiding a burnt crust or bottom: If the bread is browning too quickly 
when baking, simply cover the loaf with a sheet of parchment paper or a 
brown paper shopping bag that has been folded to make a tent. 

To avoid burnt bottoms, try raising the oven rack a notch. If that fails, you may want to resort to double-sheeting--that is, using two baking pans rather than one. This should give you a few extra minutes of safety. 

Braiding: 
There are countless ways to fashion your challah dough into an elegant loaf. The most popular braid, a three-strand affair, looks terrific and is simple to make. If you'd like to make a taller, more visually impressive challah, make one large three-stranded challah and one separate, thinner three-stranded challah. Dip your fingers in water and make a trough in the larger braid, then arrange the smaller braid on top, tucking in the ends carefully.  Another easy alternative is a loaf-style challah. To make loaf challah, simply divide the dough into three or four balls, then nestle them into a loaf pan before allowing them to rise. This method is virtually fail-proof and allows you to concentrate on getting the rest of dinner ready.

One of the most stunning braids is a six-stranded braid. Although it takes a little practice, the effect is stunning! If you become confused, simply separate the strands and begin again.

Roll out six equal sized pieces of dough into "snakes" about 12 inches long. The dough cylinders should be fatter in the middle and tapered on the ends. Line up the six cylinders next to each other and pinch them together at the top. Number them left to right, 1 through 6.  Bring strand #6 from the right side up and over strand #1. 

Bring strand #1 up and over so it extends upward to the right. The two upward-extending strands are now the "arms" of your challah, and the four bottom strands are the "legs." Keep the legs spread apart in pairs.

Now bring the left arm down into the center between the two pairs of legs.

Next bring the outer right leg up to form the new right arm.

Finish the cycle by bringing the top right arm back down between the legs.

Think of braiding as aerobics for your challah. Remember, arms come down, legs go up! It's easy once you learn the rhythm. 

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BREAD MACHINE CHALLAH

Machine dough, regular oven baking. Do not bake this recipe in the machine - it is too large. The recipe is for 1 1/2 pound capacity machines. 

1 cup warm water (approx. 100 F.) 
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs - beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 1/4 to 5 1/5 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon yeast

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 yolk
sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Place water, salt, sugar, eggs and oil and all but 1/2 cup of the flour into machine pan in the order prescribed by the manufacturer. 

Process on 'dough' cycle. 

Dust in additional flour as dough forms into a ball and seems wet enough to receive remaining flour. Usually, it takes all the flour, but holding some back as the dough matures through kneading results in a better mixture. You will also notice that on humid days, the recipe will absorb a larger amount of flour. This is normal. 

Divide dough into three sections and braid into a loaf. 

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Place bread on sheet. Generously brush bread with egg wash. Sprinkle on sesame seeds. Place whole baking sheet into a large plastic bag (this is your proofer tent). 


Allow bread to rise 30 to 40 minutes (until almost doubled). Brush again with egg wash. 

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Place bread in oven, reduce heat to 350 F. and bake 30-35 minutes. 

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APPLE CHALLAH 

What could be more appealing - a rich challah studded with chunks of fresh autumn apples. This is the perfect cross between a bread and a cake. The bottom of the baked bread becomes caramelized with sugar and apple juices. Leftovers make terrific "apple" French Toast. 

1 cup warm water
pinch sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (or unsalted melted butter)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached bread flour

Apple mixture:
3 cups coarsely chopped apples
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Egg wash and garnish:
1 egg - beaten
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons coarse sugar (optional) for sprinkling

non-stick cooking spray

Generously spray one 5 by 12 inch loaf pan or two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. You may also use a 10 inch spring-form pan. 

In a large mixing bowl, briskly whisk together the water, pinch of sugar and yeast. Let stand to allow yeast to swell or dissolve. Briskly stir in the oil (or melted butter), eggs, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Add most of flour to form a smooth but resilient dough (a soft but elastic bread dough). Add additional flour and knead - 8-10 minutes. 

Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and place this in a plastic bag and seal loosely. Let rise until doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare apples. Place in a medium sized bowl and toss with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Prepare egg wash by whisking together the egg and sugar. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Roll or pat out into a large round (about 10 inches across). Press in half of the chopped apples. Fold in edges of dough over apples (in any way you can). Roll to flatten with a heavy rolling pin (this flattens the dough so as to offer more of a surface on which to place remaining apples). Pat or press remaining apples on dough. Bring edges of dough over, pressing in apples that may pop out. The idea is to distribute the apples over the dough in a random way. 

Let the dough rest five minutes. Then, using a dough cutter or sharp knife, cut into odd shaped chunks - about 16 pieces in all. Lay pieces of apple-filled dough in prepared pan, lining bottom first, then gently laying remaining pieces on top. Top with any escaped apple pieces. 

Whisk egg wash ingredients together. Dab on egg wash as thoroughly and generously as possible (since dough is not a smooth surface, you have to drizzle and dab on the glaze rather than paint it on). Sprinkle with coarse sugar (optional). Place loaf pan(s) inside a large plastic bag to rise. 

Let rise until doubled or dough is puffy and has almost reached the top of the pan - 45 to 90 minutes. Bake 40-45 minutes until well browned. If top of bread starts browning too quickly (and bread interior is not done), cover lightly with a sheet of foil to protect top crust. 

Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a rack. 

You can use almost any apple in this recipe - a combination of tart and sweet is best. If apples are new and thin skinned, you can leave the peels on - the bright red hue bakes up very prettily in the finished loaf. 

I also make this bread with a combination of apples and cranberries (whole) or some plumped dried cherries. 

This recipe works well with oil or melted, unsalted butter (for a danish-like effect). 

I have also varied this recipe by mounding the chunks in a ten inch spring-form pan. 

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OVERNIGHT FRENCH TOAST

Leftover brioche, challah, or even, slightly stale split croissants will work in this recipe. The bread soaks overnight in an egg liquid, and it puffs up in the oven. Serve hot with warmed maple syrup nearby. Crumbled maple sugar would be nice to finish this off, but a dusting of cinnamon and icing sugar is fine.

butter for greasing pan
8 to 10 thick slices (about 1 inch) of bread or challah bread cut in 
triangular 
halves (or 6 to 8 croissants) 
8 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter - melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

maple syrup as required
icing Sugar
cinnamon

Grease a 9-by-13 inch Pyrex pan or 5-quart oven-proof ceramic casserole.

In a large bowl, stir all soaking liquid ingredients together. Soak bread for a few minutes in this liquid. Arrange bread slices in baking pan. Pour remaining liquid over bread slices. Cover lightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Lower heat to 350 F. for the last 10 minutes. Bake until the French toast is browned. Dust with icing sugar and a touch of cinnamon.

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CHALLAH

This egg-rich braid is traditionally served in Jewish households to begin the Sabbath. Try serving for breakfast with fruit preserves or slice thick and use to make superb French toast.

1/2 cup Water 
2 Egg(s), room temperature
2 tbsp Butter (cut in pieces)
2 tsp salt 
2 tbsp Sugar
3 cups Bread flour 
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
Glaze 
1 Egg, lightly beaten 
1 tbsp Water

Bread Machine Method
Have liquid ingredients at 80 degrees F and all others at room temperature. Place in pan in order listed. Select dough/manual cycle. Do not use the delay timer. Check dough consistency after 5 minutes of kneading, making adjustments if necessary. At the end of cycle, remove dough and follow shaping and baking instructions. Have liquid ingredients at 80 degrees F and all others at room temperature. Place ingredients in pan in the order specified in your owner's manual. Select basic cycle and medium/normal crust. Do not use the delay timer. Check after 5 minutes of kneading, making adjustments if necessary.

Mixer Methods
Using ingredient amounts listed for medium loaf, combine yeast, 1 cup flour, and other dry ingredients. Combine water and milk; heat to 120 to 130 degrees F.

Hand-Held Mixer Method - Combine dry mixture, liquid ingredients, and butter in mixing bowl on low speed. Beat 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs; beat 1 minute. By hand, stir in enough remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead on floured surface 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Use additional flour if necessary.

Stand Mixer Method - Combine dry mixture, liquid ingredients, and butter in mixing bowl with paddle or beaters for 4 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs; beat 1 minute. Gradually add remaining flour and knead with dough hook(s) 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Food Processor Method
Put dry mixture in processing bowl with steel blade. While motor is running, add butter, eggs, and liquid ingredients. Process until mixed. Continue processing, adding remaining flour until dough forms a ball. Rising, Shaping, and Baking Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover; let rise until dough tests ripe. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. Roll or pat into a 14- x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place in greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover; let rise until indentation remains after touching. Brush loaf with slightly beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake in preheated 375 degrees F oven 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.

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GEORGIAN CHALLAH

2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm water
6 cups all-purpose flour (about)
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Dissolve the active dry yeast along with the sugar in the water in a large glass container. Mix and let sit about 10 minutes. In a large bowl mix 5 cups of the flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture and the vegetable oil. Work the ingredients together with a spoon; when they come together turn out on a floured board, and knead with your hands until the dough becomes a smooth ball. Place in a greased bowl and let rise, covered, for an hour or so or until doubled. Punch down and divide into 4 balls. Cover with a towel and let rise about a half hour. Meanwhile, place 4 empty round baking pans or cookie sheets in a preheated 400*F (205*C) oven for about 10 minutes and remove. 

When the dough has risen, punch down and divide into 4 balls. At this point you can treat this like everyday or Sabbath bread. For weekdays, press down and stretch, using the back of your hand. Grease the baking pans and press the dough down into them. Using your fingers, make big indentations in the center of the dough. For Sabbath bread, keep the shape in a round and make a few slashes in the bread. Sprinkle the dough, whatever the shape, with water and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped with a spatula. 

yield: 4 loaves (P).

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CHOCOLATE CHALLAH BREAD PUDDING 
Recipe Courtesy of Nick Malgieri 

2/3 cup dark raisins 
3 tablespoons dark rum 
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter 
1 loaf challah bread 
1 1/2 cups milk 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
3/4 cup sugar 
1 vanilla bean, halved 
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate 
8 large eggs 

The day before you want to serve this dessert, if possible, put raisins in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and drain. Place plumped raisins in a plastic container with a tight-fitting cover and sprinkle with the rum. Cover and let macerate overnight. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter and cool slightly. 

Cut the challah in half, and cut one of the halves into thin slices. Cut remaining bread into cubes. 

Put diced challah in the bottom of the baking dish. Strew with the raisins and rum and half the butter. Dip one side of each slice of challah into the butter and arrange, slightly overlapping and buttered side up, over the top of diced challah and raisins. 

Combine the milk, cream and sugar, and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and allow to stand 3 minutes; whisk smooth. 

Whisk eggs until combined in a large mixing bowl, then strain the milk mixture into the eggs and beat them together. Do not overbeat or the custard will have a great deal of foam on the surface. Strain the custard back into the pan and use a large spoon to skim any foam from the surface. Pour the custard over the challah. 

Place the baking dish in another larger pan and pour warm water into it to come halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake the bread pudding for about 45 minutes, until the custard is set and the challah is an even color. 

(¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯)

ROSH HASHANNAH CHALLAH RECIPE
(kindly supplied by Auntie Rivka - who else?)

At every Rosh Hashanah meal Challah is an essential item. I know that many of you have seen this recipe before, but it is a traditional recipe that works, and works well.

One rule of thumb to always follow when you are baking challah or bread of any kind is NOT to scoop the flour out of the flour bin into the measuring cup. The flour should be lightly spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled off with a knife. I saw these instructions once in a manual for a bread making machine. I tried the very same recipe scooping out the flour and leveling it off and then by spooning the flour into the measuring cup--believe it or not spooning the flour into the measuring cup resulted in an airy flakier Challah then scooping it out of the flour bin! Scooping the flour may result in your using too much flour, which of course results in a denser bread!

I now do this spooning technique with all my dry ingredients and have no trouble getting a light flaky texture.

Of course too much flour also implies not enough liquid so you may wish to increase the amount of liquid. I suggest spooning the flour. It is easier and more accurate.

Another possible problem is the rising temperature. A trick is to place a warm tea towel over the dough while it is rising and put the covered bowl in a warm place. I will often use my oven for this. DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON! Merely place the covered bowl of dough into the oven with the oven light on. This is a protected area where no draft can reach the rising dough. The oven light adds just enough heat to cause the dough to rise. Another method is to mix the dough in your bread maker on the dough setting. Take out the dough, braid the challah let rise again and bake. The bread machines heats the surrounding temperature very precisely.

When mixing the water and yeast together, make sure that the water is lukewarm. Cold water will not allow the yeast to rise to its full potential, and you will get denser flatter challah.

Too little sugar will also cause heavy dense loaves. The sugar reacts with the yeast sop be sure to measure your sugar accurately.

Lastly, make sure that the yeast you are using is fresh. This is very important. Older or expired yeast may result in a denser flatter bread. Unused yeast should be kept in the fridge.

Note: The average package of yeast is 1/4 ounce. This works out to be 2 1/4 tsp.

2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water.
1/4 cup honey
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the honey.
The yeast will foam. Do not panic This is NORMAL!

To this mixture add:
1 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
Hint: If the eggs have been in the fridge, run hot water over the eggs. When you crack them the yolks and whites will comes out easier! (An old Auntie Rivka trick!)

Make sure the mixture is thoroughly mixed.

Gradually a little bit at a time add 4 to 4.5 cups of flour, constantly kneading the dough until it is firm but not hard, Again I recommend using the dough cycle in a bread maker for this.

Let the dough rise until it has just about doubled in size.

Hint: Auntie Rivka used to grease the bowl in which the dough was to rise. This made the dough much easier to remove from the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into the number of braids that you want. Braid the challah,

Place the challah on a greased baking sheet. Let the challah rise a second time until it has doubled in size. It is possible that you were not letting your challah rise long enough--I understand I too am often in a hurry and try to rush the process. Experience has taught me that this does not work!

In a small bowl combine 1 egg and a tsp of sugar. Blend well. GENTLY brush this on the challah Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

Place in a PREHEATED oven at 375F until the challah turns a golden brown--usually in about 40-50 minutes.

SHALOM FROM SPIKE & JAMIE


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