Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Challah for lazy people.

I might be converting to Judaism, but my family isn't so I attended 2 Christmas dinners this year - one with my mom and one with my dad. Because my mom is interested in my conversion and wants me to share all of the stuff that I'm learning with her, I decided that she might be happy to try some of my newly aquired Jewish recipes. I baked a loaf of challah and brought it with me to our Christmas dinner. She loved it and saved the leftovers to make sandwiches with (there weren't many because my sister also got excited about the challah: "Is this that Jewish bread? I love this stuff!").

It still requires work, but making your challah dough in the bread machine saves you some of the hassle. I do most of my bread doughs in the bread machine. It's just easier and I've never noticed a decline in taste or quality. Then again, it's not like I'm a bread connoisseur or anything.

So here we go with the recipe:


1 cup water
2 egg yolks
1 egg
4 tbsp butter (or shortening if you want it to be parve)
3 tbsp sugar
1-1/4 tsp salt
3-3/4 cups white flour
1 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Measure first 8 ingredients in the order listed into your bread maker.
2. Select the dough/pasta setting and press start.
3. When the cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface.
4. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Roll with palm of hand into long smooth strips. The pieces should be thicker in the middle and gradually taper towards the ends. Braid the 6 dough strips. Place on lightly greased baking sheet.
5. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until double in volume.
6. Beat another egg and brush over challah. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

-I like to make things slightly more healthy by using a combination of white and whole wheat flour, but you really can't do that with this one. You need to use all white flour to get the right texture.
-If you need help figuring out how to braid your challah, there's a great video here!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Costa Rica, and the quest for Yuca Latkes.

Toucan.  Not King Billed...  What's the other?
A Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan... Not a King Billed Toucan, which is what Toucan Sam is.

R and I were in Costa Rica last week, so I wasn't able to wish you all a Happy Hanukkah on the first night. But here I am, finally: Home in Canada where the snow is plentiful. Our flight home was delayed by 2.5 hours and we got home at 5am on Tuesday morning. I'm sure that I'm still trying to catch up on the sleep that I missed because of this.

We pretty much only did two things in Costa Rica: We hiked and we ate. We stayed mostly inland (where it's not especially hot) and spent our time near Lake Arenal where there's an active volcano that erupts more than once a day, and in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where there a a lot of really cool birds and animals.

There were a few things about their traditional cuisine (or, as they call it, "typical food") that I really loved, but I'll stick to the things that you could probably bring into a kosher kitchen (and if any of this is definitely NOT kosher for some reason, please comment and let me know!):

Yuca: This was my favourite. For breakfast at one of our hotels, we were served little discs that looked a lot like potato latkes. After taking a bite I got curious and asked the women in the kitchen what it was made of. Yuca! Yuca is a tuber and is used in place of potatoes in Central America because it's more readily available. We had yuca in a number of different ways, but my favourite was definitely the yuca "latkes". I'll definitely be working on a recipe for those in the weeks to come, but if anyone has one to share I'd sure appreciate it!

Heart of Palm: I'd never had it before we went to Costa Rica and it's great. The flavor is hard to describe, but the texture is firm yet smooth. It's crunchy, but not in the same way that a carrot or a piece of celery is crunchy. It's really good, but it's apparently very expensive to buy in North America. Once I have a chance to go to the Asian or Latin American market near my house I'll confirm or deny this.

Guanábana: Called Soursop in some places, guanábana is a huge fruit that is green on the outside and white with large black seeds on the inside. Because of the seeds, the flesh is difficult to eat and the fruit is usually blended with water to make a smoothie of sorts. We drank guanábana con agua just about every day that we were on vacation. It has a really unique taste and you could compare it to coconut or banana or strawberry, but it doesn't really taste like any of those things. In Costa Rica it's pretty common to find guanábana flavoured Tang in grocery stores, which I thought was really funny for some reason.

Gallo Pinto: Directly translated, gallo pinto means "spotted rooster", which is cute because that's kind of what it looks like. Gallo pinto is rice with black beans and I think that I ate more beans and rice during my stay in Costa Rica than I ever have in my life. They serve gallo pinto with almost every meal, and it made a great breakfast when we were heading out for a big hike because it's full of carbs and protein. I liked eating mine with scrambled eggs and fresh avocado. The avocado in Costa Rica is amazing because it's actually tree ripened, instead of on-your-counter-in-a-brown-bag ripened.

The poor man's umbrella
Poor Man's Umbrella in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Challah. Holla!

Yes, I made my first challah on the weekend. I cheated a bit and made the dough in my bread machine, but I braided and baked it myself. The texture was fantastic but it wasn't as egg-y as I was expecting it to be. I think that I need a better recipe. I'm not even happy enough with this one to post a recipe at all. But I will share the video that I used to figure out how the HECK I was supposed to make a six-braid challah:

That was definitely helpful, but even after that I had to get R to help me with it because I couldn't wrap my brain all the way around the idea. I'm too used to braiding hair. Braiding bread is pretty different!

challah.  holla!

I've been pretty busy in the kitchen lately, but I've been busy everywhere so it's hard to find the time to post about my creations. We're leaving for a trip to the Cloud Forests in Costa Rica on Monday, but I'll try to squeeze another post in before then.