Challah for a Friday night

Photo by Stephen Scott Gross

It’s Friday night at the end of April, and I’m still baking (this is, after all, Minnesota). I know challah as a traditional Jewish bread but it’s a close relative of a whole family of enriched, sweetened breads. The most famous is brioche (see link below), which is twice as enriched–with butter. Challah’s lighter, and it works well with butter, or any vegetable oil (including coconut oil; melt it first). We’ve done this versatile favorite many times here on the website, and of course, in our books. Here are some of my favorites–the first link includes the dough recipe for a basic white-flour challah. All these recipe-links will open in a new tab:

A round braided challah you can bake in a crock pot

crock pot challah

Shaping the braid or the turban

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The flatbread challah: the fastest ever

Braiding the fancy six-strand challah

How to: Six Strand Braided Challah | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Apples and Honey Challah

Apple and Honey Challah Recipe | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Whole Grain Challah With Cranberries and Orange Zest

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And challah can be made from our brioche dough formula, here shaped into Mallorca buns…

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Happy Friday!

New cake book: Zoe Bakes Cakes!

My friend, co-author, and business partner– the multi-talented Zoe Francois, has written the only cake cookbook you will ever need. Zoe Bakes Cakes dropped three days ago, and it’s already hugely successful. Someone asked me if I helped out on this cake book: answer is no, except for sampling the cakes!

Zoe and I met 18 years ago in our kids’ music class, and found we had some common interests–music, art, photography and FOOD. Once we figured out the food part and decided to write about bread together, Zoe broadened the repertoire beyond the country loaves and rye breads that were my obsession. That meant sweeter, richer treats like brioche and yeasted pastries. It temporarily satisfied the sweet tooth, but I knew that sooner or later, Zoe would write a cake book. The book is incredible, with scrumptious cakes, crystal-clear directions, and absolutely gorgeous photography–all shot by Zoe herself (she’s also a photographer–did I mention multi-talented?). Have a look…

and then have a bite…

… because if you can bake bread, you can bake cake too! The cake book is on Amazon and booksellers everywhere. Happy baking…

Incredible crust: bread-baking in a cloche

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So many people asked us about baking our dough inside a closed cast-iron pan that Zoe did a beautiful post on the subject a few weeks ago.  The cast-iron pan method is based on a much older method, where bread is baked inside a closed clay pot (or “cloche,” meaning bell, in French).  Both methods depend on trapped steam from the dough to create a perfect crust, but the clay pot has the added benefit of being porous, so moisture is trapped, but also conducted away from the surface as the bread bakes.  I tested the Sassafras brand “La Cloche” product, and I’m very impressed with the crust I’m getting –take a look at the picture above; this crust is thin and shatters when broken (the burned bits are perfect in artisan loaves; that’s how you know you’ve baked long enough).  Keep in mind that these crust results are hard to re-create with loaves very high in whole wheat (because of oils in the wheat’s germ).  The bread above is about 15% whole grains– it’s a light version of the Peasant Loaf in the book, and of course our basic recipe works great in this situation.  Whole grain breads perform beautifully in “La Cloche,” but the crust tends to be softer and thicker. One other thing to note–any clay product is somewhat fragile, and after some years of owning the Sassafras product, the base did crack (still quite usable with a stone underneath).

For crust aficionados, I think the “La Cloche” results are a little better than what I get inside closed cast-iron. 

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Sheet Pan Taco Pizza for Super Bowl Sunday

Throughout college, many weekends were spent eating pizza. This was for several reasons: pizza was delicious, and affordable, but most importantly, my boyfriend delivered pizza. This made pizza often free, which was better than affordable and even better than delicious. One particular pizza his pizza-chain made was “taco” pizza: a very American take on the taco, with tomato sauce and cheddar cheese, and then topped with shredded lettuce and fresh tomatoes. It was my favorite; somehow the fresh lettuce and tomato on top complimented the crust and melty cheese underneath perfectly.

I decided to recreate this pizza in sheet pan form, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday. I was feeling nostalgic for taco pizza, and this pizza also reminded me of the famous taco dip my mom would make for any and all events – layers of sour cream, cheese, lettuce, and black olives. This pizza has some of that, plus a delicious, thick crust and melted cheese. Our version here is very American and also pretty Midwestern (my family always opted for no spices and beans in both pizza and dip form), but I have listed in the recipe ways you can bring more flavor to your pizza if desired.

Taco Sheet Pan Pizza

from Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes A Day

A few notes: The second layer of tomato sauce can be replaced with salsa, if you would like your pizza with a little more kick. Refried beans can also be added to the pizza along with the ground beef (or in place of it). You can replace the mozzarella and cheddar with Monterey Jack and/or Colby (just make sure you replace them with a cheese that melts well).

3 cups lukewarm water
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 cups bread flour

Ingredients for finishing
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 pound ground beef, cooked with your favorite taco seasoning (drain the grease from the meat before topping pizza)
2 cups grated mozzarella

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded lettuce

chopped fresh tomatoes, black olives, sour cream, jalapeños, guacamole, etc

For the dough
Combine the warm water, olive oil, yeast, sugar, and salt in a 5-quart bowl; preferably, in a lidded (not airtight) plastic container or food-grade bucket. Mix until all of the flour is incorporated using a stand mixer or dough whisk. Cover, and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. You can use the dough right away, or refrigerate it for up to 14 days.

Remove 2 pounds of dough from your dough bucket, and place it on a generously floured surface (for a thinner crust, use 1 1/2 pounds). Knead the dough a few times, and shape into a ball. Cover with a tea towel and let rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes.

Put your stone or pizza steel on the middle rack in your oven, and preheat the oven to 500, letting the oven preheat for a good 45 minutes. Spread 4 tablespoons of olive oil on a half sheet pan, making sure to oil the inside rim. Gently stretch the dough into a rectangular shape, and lay the dough onto the pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top of the dough, and use your fingers to work the dough evenly so it covers the pan (if the dough begins to resist, let it rest for 10 minutes and try again).

After the dough has rested, work it again as best you can so it evenly covers the pan. Let it rest for 30 minutes while the oven is preheating.

Spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce evenly over the pizza. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the crust are light golden, and the sauce starts to caramelize around the edges. The bottom of the crust should also be light golden brown and crisp.

Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully spread another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (or salsa!) over the pizza, then top with the ground beef.

Cover with the grated cheeses, and carefully put the hot sheet pan back on the stone. Bake again for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown underneath.

Cover the pizza with shredded lettuce, fresh tomatoes, olives, and whatever other ingredients your heart desires. Serving guacamole and sour cream on the side is a nice idea.

Enjoy! We hope your team wins!

Broa (Portuguese corn bread) with Caldeirada de Peixe (Portuguese fish stew)

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I may have made a resolution about not complaining about the weather this year, but too bad!  Greetings from Minnesota, where I’m freezing at my desk, so today’s a soup and bread day.  In the book, we included a Portuguese Corn Bread (Broa) and an accompanying Portuguese Fish Stew (Caldeirada de Peixe) to go with it–it’s a perfect combination.

The Broa dough is simply our Master Recipe, substituting 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal (yellow or white, stone-ground or regular) for 1 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour.  Bake as usual as a round loaf.  In the picture above I used a lightly greased and stove-top pre-heated black cast-iron skillet (my skillet doesn’t come with a cover or I’d have tried that, see Zoe’s post about baking in covered cast-iron).  Amazon carries the Lodge brand (click here to view).   Here’s the Caldierada de Peixe recipe: (more…)

Holiday Tea Ring with Eggnog Glaze

This tea ring is an ultra fancy cinnamon roll, baked as wreath and topped with an Eggnog Glaze. The cuts and twists of the dough make for a super-festive bread that is actually really easy to make, so don’t leave this one just for the holidays.

If you head to our Breadin5 Instagram page, you can watch our stories and see us make the tea ring! You can also check out other holiday posts: Holiday Star Bread, Panettone Monkey Bread, Chocolate Chestnut Bread, and Stollen Buns.

We hope you have a happy holiday, however you celebrate. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021.

Dough

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon Red Star Platinum Yeast

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup bourbon

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon filling

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Eggnog Glaze

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

2 to 4 tablespoons eggnog

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Bourbon, optional

For the dough

Mix the water, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, oil, bourbon, and vanilla in a 6-quart bowl or lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle/flat beater), a Danish dough whisk, or a wooden spoon. If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled (don’t try to use it without chilling).

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises for 2 hours.

The dough can be used as soon as it’s chilled after the initial rise, or frozen for later use. Refrigerate the container and use over the next 5 days.

On baking day: Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat.

In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (small cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch-thick rectangle, about 14 x 18 inches. As you roll out the dough, add flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Spread the butter mixture evenly over the dough.

Starting with the long side of the dough, roll it up into a log. Pinch the seam closed. Stretch the log until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick. Join the 2 ends together. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Stretch the dough to make sure you have a nice, wide opening in the middle of your wreath, but leave plenty of room around the edge.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

Brush lightly with the egg wash. Make evenly spaced cuts all the way around the wreath about 1 inch apart. The cuts should go just about to the bottom of the ring, but not quite to the bottom.

Gently pull every other piece to the outside of the ring and then twist that piece to face up. Do the same with the remaining pieces, but have them face up on the inside of the ring. The ones on the inside of the ring may not lay flat on the baking sheet, which is fine.

Bake for 25 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and well set.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, 2 tablespoons egg nog, and vanilla until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until the mixture is smooth. Add more eggnog (or bourbon!), 1 tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Pour the glaze over the warm braid, then serve.

Eat and enjoy!

Red Star Yeast provided yeast samples for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities.

Christmas Stollen… and stay tuned for Swedish Tea Ring with Eggnog Glaze next week

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Christmas Stollen is a wonderful German baking tradition this time of year. A sweet loaf that is studded with dried fruit, spiced with cardamom and a special treat of almond paste runs through it. Once it comes out of the oven it is traditional to slather the warm loaf in butter then roll it in sugar, but we skip the extra butter and dust it with a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar to look like the snow outside. This loaf actually holds up very well for a couple of days and that makes it a great gift for the holidays. We’ll have one more Christmas post in December, from Sarah Kieffer– an inventive Swedish Tea Ring with Eggnog Glaze.

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Hawaiian Buns for Thanksgiving

Hawaiian Buns are a delicious treat: they are soft, and sweet, and perfect for both snacking on or serving with a warm meal. The most famous are, of course, the orange package of King’s Hawaiian buns found in your local supermarket. While the supermarket brand doesn’t contain pineapple or honey, those two ingredients were often used by Portuguese immigrants in Hawaii in the early 1900’s when refined sugar was scarce or too expensive to purchase. Our no-knead brioche and challah doughs already contained honey, so with just a little tweaking (and some pineapple juice and vanilla), we found ourselves with a great version of these famous buns, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

We have more Thanksgiving bun recipes on our site (Herb Crock Pot Dinner Rolls! Soft Pull Apart Buns!) and you can find links to them here. We also have a Thanksgiving round up post, complete with many of our sweet breads, plus a homemade-bread stuffing recipe, that you can check out here.

Hawaiian Buns

Fresh pineapple juice will not work here; the enzymes in fresh destroy the yeast. Some people heat the fresh juice with good results (this will kill the enzymes), but I’ve found canned to be the easiest (and cheapest) method. The pineapple juice can inhibit the yeast, so we use extra here to insure a good rise, and soft, tender buns. Having your eggs at room temperature will also help the dough rise quicker. The juice can also cause the melted butter to curdle when mixed, so I keep them separate until everything is mixed together. You can shape the buns the night before serving and let them do a slow rise overnight in the refrigerator.

1 cup [240 g] lukewarm water (100F or below)

1/2 cup [120 g] canned pineapple juice (fresh will not work here, see note above), room temperature

2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup [50 g] granulated sugar

1 cup [2 sticks | 226 g] unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup [170 g] honey

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

5 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon kosher salt

7 cups [990 g] all-purpose flour

In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the water, canned pineapple juice, yeast, and sugar.

Mix the butter, honey, eggs, vanilla, and salt together in a 6-quart bowl or lidded (not airtight) food container.

Pour in the flour and begin to mix, slowly adding the water/pineapple mixture. Use a Danish dough whisk to combine all the ingredients together (this can also be done in a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a paddle). The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled; don’t try to work with it before chilling.

Cover (not airtight), allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours, and then refrigerate.

The dough can be used as soon as it’s thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours. Refrigerate the container and use over the next 3 days.

Hawaiian Buns

On baking day, cut off 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Quickly shape the pieces into balls. Place the balls in a greased 8 x 8-inch baking dish, or an 8-inch cake pan. If you want more than 8 buns, as shown in the photos, double the quantity of dough used, or pull cut 2.5 ounce pieces to make the amount needed. If you want pull-apart buns, nestle the buns close together. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour. Brush the tops with egg white (this will give them some shine).

Hawaiian Buns

Bake the buns at 350F for 16 minutes. Brush the tops of the buns with melted butter, then bake for 5 to 8 more minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and brush the tops with more melted butter.

Hawaiian Buns

Serve slightly warm and enjoy! These buns can also be made in a Crock pot, follow our direction for Crock Pot Buns here.

Hawaiian Buns

Mini-Wreath Loaves with Bread Flour

With holidays coming up, these are very festive…

People often ask us why we only used all-purpose flour (where we called for white flour) in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Why not “bread” flour, which is higher in protein and is often considered traditional in bread?  Well, not in all traditions. French baguettes, for example, are typically made with lower-protein flour for a more tender, and less chewy crumb.  And we knew most of our potential book users already had all-purpose flour in the house.  But sometimes, a stiffer dough is desirable, like when something really needs to hold its shape, like these wreath-shaped, well… bagels.  You can always swap bread flour into our recipes that call for all-purpose, just by adding a little extra water (details below).  

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Baking with Kids: Crock Pot Monkey Bread

The school year is upon us, and many parents and kids alike are finding themselves in a completely new routine. Our children are trying to navigate distance learning, hybrid learning (or something in-between) while parents are juggling jobs and their new teaching career. It’s wild, and often overwhelming, to say the least.

Since our kids are now home more, they are encouraged to take on more responsibility; we all have to pitch in to make our Covid lifestyles work. One area they are taking charge in is the kitchen: chopping vegetables, baking bread, and learning to use the Crock-Pot are all on their to-do lists.

We have several recipes on our site for Crock-Pot breads, and they have been a huge hit. But we’ve found that teaching our kids to use the Crock-Pot is a win-win: it’s easier to use than the oven, and there is less chance of getting burnt transferring items in and out of it. Combine it with the ease of our no-knead bread, and the options are endless.

If you head to our Breadin5 Instagram page, you can watch our stories of River (below) mixing the brioche dough and shaping the monkey bread. We’ve made this bread extra-simple by topping it with store-bought caramel sauce that is poured on after baking, so you don’t have to worry about transferring and flipping hot caramel.

And, if you need more Crock-Pot ideas, you can check out our Crock-Pot Cinnamon Rolls, Crock-Pot Challah, Crock Pot Brioche, Gluten-Free Crock-Pot Bread, and Crock-Pot Dinner Rolls.

Brioche dough, from New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (makes about 4.5 pounds of dough)

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon Red Star Platinum Yeast

1 tablespoon kosher salt

6 large eggs

1/2 cup [170 g] honey

1 1/2 cups [340 g] unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

7 cups [990 g] unbleached all-purpose flour

Filling

8 tablespoons [1 stick, or 114 g] unsalted butter, melted

1 cup [200 g] granulated sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup store-bought Caramel Sauce

For the dough

Mix Red Star Platinum yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with water in a 6-Quart Round Food-Storage Container with Lid (not airtight) container.

Mix in flour without kneading, using a spoon, a Danish Dough Whisk or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled.

Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises for approximately 2 hours. Then refrigerate for at least four hours before first use; it is easier to handle when thoroughly chilled. This dough can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge. Beyond that, the dough stores well in the freezer for up to four weeks in an airtight container, in one-pound portions.  When using frozen dough, thaw and use as instructed.

For the filling

Line your Crock-Pot with parchment paper. You will use this paper to remove the monkey bread from the pot, so make sure it is coming up the sides of the Crock Pot (it may have some creases, but this won’t affect the bread baking).

Sprinkle the surface of your dough with flour and take out a 1 1/2 pound piece.

Divide the dough into about 32 pieces, as even in size as possible, but perfection is not needed here.

Roll the dough into small balls. If the dough is sticking to your hands, coat your palms with a small amount of flour.

Combine the sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Drop the dough balls into the melted butter, then the bowl of cinnamon sugar and roll them around to coat them evenly.

Place the balls in the lined  Crock-Pot, cover and turn it to high.

Leave the crock pot covered until the dough is cooked through and springs back when touched, anywhere from 1 to 2 hour, depending on your Crock-Pot. Use the parchment paper to remove the Monkey bread from the pot.

Flip the monkey bread onto a serving plate and remove the parchment paper (which is now the top).

Drizzle the Monkey Bread with the caramel sauce and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Eat and enjoy!

Red Star Yeast provided yeast samples for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities.