Sunday, September 23, 2012


I definitely was supposed to have been born Jewish.  Or at least have a bunch of Jewish friends or something to make my weird obsession legit.  Well I do have several, so that makes me feel a little better I guess.  Or f*** it, why can’t I just love their food and traditions?!

I’ve made lots of Jewish foods over the years – apricot babka, latkes, hamentashen (several times trying to get the dough to taste the way I want!), honey cake (epic fail, or is it just not good?), brisket, etc.  Never challah though.  While my mom is a phenomenal bread maker, it always intimidates me, even though one of the absolute best feelings (in the kitchen) is kneading dough with your hands.  It’s soft, has great elasticity and smells so good.  You can work out some aggression or angst on the dough if necessary too!

I found this recipe for fig challah a couple weeks ago and I knew I had to make it soon.  It seemed like the perfect baking challenge for me in my new kitchen.  And the result?  Success!!  I had a lot going on in the kitchen yesterday and I added way more orange zest than the recipe called for.  When I tried the filling it was all I could taste, so I added a few prunes to try to regain a little sweetness.  I think it worked out well – the citrus flavor came through but wasn’t at all overpowering and the fig flavor was strong as well.  The bread itself?  So good.  It had a nice crumb – soft, chewy, slightly flaky crust and while it was a teeny tiny bit dry for my taste, it was nothing a little butter or honey couldn’t fix.  Definitely not reach-for-some-milk-quick kind of dry. 

I’ll be making this again, for sure, despite the tricky braiding process – I mean, check out the pictures – gorgeous!!  Worth every minute of effort.  Bring it Joan Nathan.  (Ok, so maybe that’s a little aggressive)




2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
¼ cup plus 1 tsp honey
⅔ cup warm water (110-116 degrees)
⅓ cup olive oil plus a little more for the bowl
2 large eggs
2 tsp flaky sea salt such as maldon – I used fleur de sel
4 cups AP flour

Fig Filling
1 cup stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs – I used a combination of calimyrna and black mission
½ cup water
⅛ tsp freshly grated orange zest
¼ cup orange juice – I just squeezed the orange I had zested, no idea how much juice it was
⅛ sea salt
Few grinds black pepper

Egg Wash
1 large egg, beaten
Sea salt for sprinkling – I also used coarse sparkling sugar for sprinkling

See Smitten Kitchen’s website for instructions and excellent photos of the braiding process:

Baking GALS Round 13 - No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Heecctiiccc!  That has how the last 2 months have been for me, hence the lack of posting.  I went on two trips this last part of the summer and have moved apartments after being in the same one for 4+ years.  First the trips – one was to see my parents in Cape Cod, my annual pilgrimage which I generally love.  This year the weather was crappy!!  A friend was supposed to join which would have made it fun despite the clouds, but then her flight got all screwed up so I was left to entertain myself with my parents.  It was still a nice visit, but a bit of a let-down. 

Next up was North Carolina with that same friend.  Her family has a house near Wilmington and they go every August.  Finally – beach weather!!  We took full advantage, laying out for at least 5 hours a day, soaking in the rays, drinking up some delicious cocktails (basically vodka and sprite zero – super tasty, refreshing and figure friendly!) and eating lots of great food.  Throw in a boat ride and vacation was complete.

When I got home, I started the long arduous process of purging my belongings.  I knew there was probably plenty that I no longer needed that I had stored away.  Boy was I right – ummm, why on earth would I need an entire bag of paid bills dating as far back as 2005….seriously?!?  Hello shredder bin.  I had a storage area in the basement that was packed to the brim – I think I kept the equivalent of one box full of stuff.  When did I become such pack-rat?  No mas, my friends.  I donated a ton of clothes & shoes and threw out at least 10 large bags of useless things.  I’m looking around at the minimal storage space in my new place and thankful that I took the time to do such a big cleanse.  Everywhere except in the kitchen of course….and now we get back to the food.

My mom said it best.  When I told her I had baked a co-worker a birthday cake her response was “Well its home – you’ve baked there, so now its home.”  Saying something as simple as that really settled me, it’s amazing how much power moms have!

Ok, onto the Baking GALS treat for this month.  I actually didn’t have to bake for it at all.  This recipe is sort of an easy way to make granola bars.  You basically melt some butter, sugar and peanut butter then pour it over the oats, mix it and let it set.  Simple simple.  Though I gotta say, while tasty, these are very sweet – I mean really sweet.  I also think there is too much butter, they tasted a little greasy.  Not to knock this recipe completely as I love the idea of these bars, but I feel like there could definitely be some improvements.

At any rate, I hope the guys enjoyed them – and had some milk to wash them down!  Next month, not something so sickly sweet, perhaps something seasonal – apples or pumpkin...hmm.  And sorry for the mediocre pictures, I’m trying to get better!

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker  (