Thursday, May 31, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Challah

Daring Bakers' Challenge:  Challah!

This is my first Daring Bakers' Challenge.  I have made Challah before, but not this particular recipe.  And, of course, I had to tweak it a bit (don't all bakers do this?).  So, let's just jump right in!

 I used a bread machine to mix everything and do the kneading for me.  Honestly, who wants to stand around and do that all day?  Anyhoo.....the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of raisins, but I wanted to mix in a couple of other things too.  I hope that's still in keeping with the kosherness of Challah.  My apologies if it's not.  So, I added about 3/4 cups of raisins and 3/4 cups of dried cranberries.  I also threw in about 1/4 cup of chopped pecans, just because they had been sitting on my counter, giving me the evil eye for about 2 weeks now.

Ok, so wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and away we go!  An hour and a half later, voila!
I did actually knead in the cranberries, nuts and raisins by hand.  Give me some credit!

 For shaping, I used the spiral method, instead of braiding, just to save time.

It was a beautiful dough to work with.  Very smooth, and not sticky in the slightest.  It reminded me of the German bread Stollen, which I often make at Christmas.  But, unlike Stollen, Challah is not as time consuming, and still very tasty!

I hope everyone enjoys my variation, and I look forward to next month's challenge!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I just looked up from my desk, and noticed it's raining.  Like, really raining.  And, my windows are down.  Great.  That pretty much sums up my life.

On to better things.  Let's talk granola.  I have found, that a cup of vanilla yogurt (choose your preference) with granola will tide me over until lunch.  And, it's delicious!  And, mostly healthy!...depending upon what you put into your granola.  I am always looking for shortcuts in the kitchen (and out, let's face it), but I don't want to eat processed or fast food.  So, every month or so, I'll whip up a batch of homemade granola, and voila, instant breakfast!  Here is the basic recipe I use.

Trail Mix Granola
adapted from Home Made Simple

3 c. organic old-fashioned oats (I use steel cut, from Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 c. organic coconut oil
1/4 c. organic agave nectar
1/8 c. organic brown sugar
1 t. organic vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. organic cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. add-ins, like dried fruit, nuts, coconut, seeds, etc.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together oil, nectar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.  Pour over oats and toss well.

Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes.  Let cool completely, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in add-ins.

Divide evenly into re-sealable bags or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

(Disclaimer:  You might notice from the pictures, that I baked the fruit with the granola.  I would NOT recommend that.  It tends to get a bit hard.  And, by hard, I mean burnt.  FYI.)

Easy peasy.  I love the versatility of this recipe.  Of course, I adapted the original recipe to sub coconut oil for canola, and agave nectar for honey.  It also called for 1/4 c. of brown sugar, which made it WAY too sweet, especially if you're trying to lower your sugar intake.  So, I  halved the sugar, although I still think it's a little sweet.  But, if you, like me, are putting this over yogurt, then you might want it a little sweeter if your yogurt is on the tart side.  It wasn't until about 5 or 6 years ago that I actually started liking yogurt.  So, comparitively, it's still a new food for me. 

As for the add-ins, here's where you can really have some fun.  Just use whatever you have on hand!  I had cherries, sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut and chopped almonds.  But, if you want to make it a little more appealing for the kiddos, throw in some M&M's, or maybe mini chocolate chips.  Give it a try.  You'll never go back to store bought granola again, I promise.
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