Daring Bakers

Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Challah

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May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I was super pumped to participate in a challah challenge (should that be called a challahenge?) because a) I love bread, and b) for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about challah all year. The bread must have been something I considered tackling as part of a baking resolution, but I never got around to it until now.

As someone raised in the Methodist church, the only things I knew of challah were it is a braided bread and associated with the Jewish tradition. Ruth’s instructions informed the Daring Bakers that challah refers not to bread, but to the  portion of bread which, in the days of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, was set aside as an offering to the high priests. The braid symbolizes the coming together of separate pieces into one combined entity, like the everyday and the holy, and the coming together of family and friends.

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It wasn’t until I was in graduate school studying  for my social work degree that I really started to consider the privileges I enjoyed  in society simply because my faith celebrated Christmas and Easter.  A classmate who was very vocal about her Jewish faith made it clear those of the Christian faith had an unfair advantage in the workplace because employers recognized Christian holidays like Christmas and Good Friday, but not Jewish holidays like Chanukah or Passover. I will always remember her discussing how she felt it unfair she had to take a day off for Christmas, a holiday that held no meaning for her, yet she had to use her vacation time for Yom Kippur. I am grateful that hearing her story allowed me to consider the structures I had always known in a different light.

More recently, with the recent passage of Amendment One here in North Carolina, I have realized how a country founded on the separation of church and state does a pretty bad job when it comes down to it. We certainly seem to find many more ways to use our differences to drive each other apart (hate?) than to use our differences as a reason to come together to learn and celebrate (love?). Fortunately, I got to use the challah I baked for a celebration.

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I made a traditional three-strand braid and a four-strand braided round. Ruth explained round challah is traditionally used on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) as an example of the cycle of life and the cycle of the year. I needed no help with the three-strand braid, but I found the video Ruth made about how to make a four-strand braided round invaluable. I think my braids turned out well because I had learned from my experiences rolling snakes of dough (see butter mints and pretzels) and braiding dough (see King Cake).

I used a Honey White recipe Ruth provided, and I turned it into Honey Wheat because (gasp!) I ran out of all-purpose flour. As I near my one year goal of blogging, I notice I am slipping when it comes to planning to have ingredients on hand. Ruth also suggested we check out The Challah Blog, and I echo that suggestion to you all. Challahs like stuffed pizza challah, nutella challah, and pumpkin challah can be found within its pages.

Though non-practicing, my friend Jenn is of the Jewish faith. It just so happened Jenn recently celebrated her birthday, so I gave her the braided round to enjoy for her new year. It made my day to receive her verdict, “Challah is delcious!” Indeed.

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5.0 from 1 reviews

Honey Wheat Challah
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 2 loaves
  • 1½ cups warm water, separated
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) dry active yeast
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour*, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups wheat flour*
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast.
  2. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
  3. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour.
  4. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top.
  6. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and leave dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours.
  7. After the rise, punch down the dough and divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf.
  8. Place loaves on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, and allow to rise 30 minutes.
  9. After the second rise, brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash.
  10. Bake loaves at 325 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until done.
  11. Cool on wire racks.
*You may need up to 9 total cups of flour. I used 4 cups of white flour and 2 cups of wheat flour.


Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Armenian Nutmeg Cake

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The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered, yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

Though I very much wanted to bake both the nazook and the nutmeg cake, thus far I have managed only the nutmeg cake. If the nazook is anywhere near as delicious as the nutmeg cake, then I know I’m in for a treat. The nutmeg cake was so delicious it inspired me to write a new list titled, “If I owned a bakery, I would sell this.”

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The cake uses the same crumbly beginnings as a crust and a batter.  Despite the two parts, the cake is very easy to assemble and takes little time to go from pantry to oven. I loved the way the bottom layer of crust became almost toffee-like when baked, and the cake itself was moist, tender and full of flavor.

I enjoyed this nutmeg cake as a coffee cake, paired with coffee of course, in the morning, and as a dessert in the evening. Though I didn’t go this far, I couldn’t help but think a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of a warm slice of cake would make a delicious dessert.

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Not into nutmeg? In his instructions to the Daring Bakers, Jason wrote, “Nutmeg cake, despite its moniker, can be made with cinnamon or cardamom instead, and can also use different nuts on the top (or none at all). Like with nazook, there are substantial possibilities to change the spice & nut choices on top of the basic cake recipe.”

Now you have no excuse not to bake this cake! Whether you are looking for a new coffee cake to bring to brunch or a new dessert to serve after dinner, nutmeg cake is the cake you need. Enjoy!

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, cubed
  • ½ cup walnut pieces, may need a little more
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  1. Mix the baking soda (not the baking powder!) into the milk. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl.
  3. Add the brown sugar and the cubed butter to the bowl, then use a fork to mash the butter into the dry ingredients. Stop when you have created a uniform crumbly mixture.
  4. Press half (about 2 cups) of the crumbly mixture into the bottom a springform pan.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and the nutmeg until frothy; about one minute using a stand mixer or about 2-3 minutes if whisking by hand.
  6. Pour milk and baking soda mixture into the egg and nutmeg mixture and continue to mix until uniform.
  7. Pour the rest of the crumbly mixture into the mixing bowl with the egg and the milk mixtures.
  8. Mix until well incorporated.
  9. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.
  10. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. The top of the cake will be a golden brown color, and toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when done.
  12. Allow the cake to cool in the pan before releasing.
I used skim milk and was perfectly satisfied with the results.


Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Dutch Crunch Bread & Curried Chicken Salad

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Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Dutch what? Given I haven’t stepped foot west of the Rockies in 10 years (insert frown here) and have yet to travel to the Netherlands (still frowning),  I had never heard of  Dutch Crunch prior to this challenge. I have since learned Dutch Crunch is a topping applied to a bread, and in the States, is quite popular in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was pleased to have a reason to try a recipe popular in San Francisco as my co-workers and I recently gained a new group of colleagues located in the Bay Area. I don’t like to talk about “my real work” on Love & Flour, but I thought it warranted mentioning because a San Francisco vibe has been in the air.

Now that I think of it, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo recently re-branded the last of the Wachovias  where I banked here in Charlotte. I’m wondering if I should actually start to worry about some sort of San Francisco take over of Carolina.

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Frankly, I wouldn’t care, because Dutch Crunch bread can take over my kitchen anytime. Granted, bread is my favorite food, so therein lies my bias, but yum!

Dutch Crunch bread is also sometimes called Tiger Bread since the topping can crack into a striped pattern. I liked how the Dutch Crunch topping on my rolls gave the appearance of a turtle shell instead. I do wonder if this could have anything to do with my use of the full Dutch Crunch topping recipe on my six rolls when the recipe was actually written for topping 12 rolls. Oops.

When my taste tester took a bite of the Dutch Crunch bread, the first comment was, “mmm, sourdough.” Well not quite, given I baked a soft white roll, but since San Francisco is also know for sourdough, fine by me.

To complete the challenge, we were instructed to make a sandwich using our Dutch Crunch bread. I adapted a curried egg salad recipe into curried chicken salad, though with Easter nearing, the egg salad option presents a great way to use leftover hard boiled eggs. The rolls I made also puffed up large enough to use as bread bowls for soup should one be so inclined.

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Sara & Erica included a few links in their instructions so those of us unfamiliar with Dutch Crunch could educate ourselves. An article from The Bay Citizen stated, “Until recently, Dutch crunch was largely unknown outside of the Bay Area and the Netherlands, but the rest of the world is starting to catch on.”

When I read that the first time, my heart beat a sigh of love. It’s a pretty mundane sentence, but it perfectly sums up why I love baking new things. Just like books (my love for which I will write about one day), cooking and baking new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients or techniques presents me with a simple way to explore the big wide world from my teeny tiny kitchen. I hope you will have a chance to do some exploring soon too. Enjoy!

Curried Chicken Salad on Dutch Crunch Bread
Recipe type: Bread, Entree
  • Curried Chicken Salad
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can of shredded chicken
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apricot preserves
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dutch Crunch Topping (for 12 rolls)
  • 1½ cups white or brown rice flour (not sweet or glutinous rice flour)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Soft White Rolls (for 6 rolls)
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used whole, though the authors reported no noticeable differences between nonfat and 2%)
  • ¼ cup warm water (lukewarm, not hot, to the touch)
  • 1½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for greasing a bowl
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  1. To make the Curried Chicken Salad:
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
  3. To make the Dutch Crunch topping:
  4. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk to combine.
  5. The consistency should be stiff (like royal icing), spreadable, but not too runny. When you pull up on the wire whisk, the mixture should drip off in a slow, steady stream rather than run off quickly or drop off in clumps.
  6. In necessary, add more water or rice flour to adjust the consistency. (I added just under a tablespoon of additional water).
  7. Allow the mixture to stand for 15 minutes before applying to the bread.
  8. To make the soft white rolls:
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk, water, sugar, and yeast.
  10. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble or foam a bit.
  11. Add the vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour.
  12. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix until the dough comes together.
  13. Add the remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (I used an additional 1¾ cups flour for a total of 3¾ cups).
  14. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  15. Place the dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  16. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until at least doubled in size.
  17. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions to make rolls or 2 equal portions to make a loaf. Shape into balls or loafs accordingly, but try to handle the dough as little as possible.
  18. Place the formed dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for the 15-20 minutes required to prepare the Dutch crunch topping.
  19. Once the topping has been prepared, use your fingers or a spoon to thickly coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping. Err on the side of applying too much topping as a thin layer will not crack properly.
  20. Bake at 380 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  21. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
The curried chicken salad can be modified to curried egg salad by substituting 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped, for the chicken. Reduce the mayonnaise to ¼ cup, and if desired, substitute ½ cup chopped English cucumber for the celery.