Shlissel Challah – The key to key challah

“And the Lord said onto Moses. Hearken, O Moses for ye shall take for yourself bread which hath been leavened, and a key shall be placed upon it…”

– Levitironomy 12:43

“R’ Akiva said in the name of the Rabbis, When the verse states “a key shall be placed upon it” the verse means the challah should be in the shape of a key. R’ Meir said: in Pumpadeesah I once saw a man place a key inside of a regular bread, and said that he was placing a key upon it, therefore what the verse means, is to just place a key inside of the bread”

– Tractate Bava Gedola 12b

“On the Shabbos following Pesach, one must make a challah either in the shape of a key, or with a key placed inside. Men of faith will follow both opinions, and make a challah in the shape of a key with a key on the inside.

– Machmanodies Sefer Hamitzvos

Ok, as you can clearly see the meforshim talk about shlissel challah, and actually there’s a Shita M’Fursemmes that discusses the Machmanodies, and compares it to mezuza (how going l’fi two da’os is actually going like neither), but we don’t have time for that.

Annnnyway, enough leytzanus (and apologies to whoever is still reading and has no idea what just happened)…let’s talk about challah.

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As I’m sure you no doubt remember, we’ve covered challah before, but I’m here to tell you, I’ve uncovered the key to making challah, want to hear what it is?? Get a scale.

Maybe you’ve heard this diatribe a few million times whilst here in this weblog, the whole scale thing, and I’m fairly certain I’ve convinced a grand total of -4 people to buy a scale (yes, that means 4 people returned theirs…probably out of spite…you spiteful bunch), but seriously, what if I could give you a master formula that can be scaled up and down as needed to make challah? Well guess what fellow internerds, I’ve got you covered. So get a freakin scale already, like f’realzies.

Ok so here’s the master ratio for Challah, taken once again by Peter Reinhart’s book Crust and Crumb:

flour 100%
water 38%
eggs 21%
oil 6.25
sugar 12.5
salt 1.6
yeast 1.4

So we’ve spoken about baker’s percentages before, but to reiterate, here’s the general gist: all amounts are in proportion to the flour present, so the amount of flour is always denoted as 100%, and then all of the other percentages are the percent of that specific thing, in relation to the flour. So if you had 100 grams of flour, then you would need 38 grams of water, 21g of eggs, 6.25g of oil, and so on. I think you can see here why a scale makes this so much easier. All you need is one constant, so say you have 4 eggs, and want to make challah with that, well 4 eggs usually is in the 200 grams range (@ 50g per large egg), well from there we know, you would need 952 grams of flour, 361 grams of water, 60g of oil, and so on.

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my worksheet…this is how we do baking in the fogel house

 

Now these numbers are fairly constant, but say you wanted to add more yolks (say you wanted a yellower challah, or wanted to boost the shelf life by increasing amount of fat and emulsification, etc…)  well keep the 21% but adjust it to include yolks. Want to do some coconut oil with the oil (you know, because coconut oil is a saturated fat, which will lend more structure, and more flavor), same idea…keep the % the same, but adjust as needed. Want to make your challah with beer instead of water??? Well that probably means you have a problem , but hey I’d join you in that most wonderful problem! [and no, the alcohol, doesn’t get “fully cooked off”…and yes, it might affect the gluten formation because of the alcohol, but don’t you bust my bubble!] The options are limitless.

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look at that beautiful dough

Oh and one last thing, pretty much whenever I make bread, and I have the time, I like to “ferment” my dough. Now terminology aside, what I mean by that is, basically allowing the dough to rise verrrry slowly, so the yeast, flour, and enzymes have time to develop stuff (basically flavors, but also it affects the quality of the dough, brings out certain sugars, enhances browning, enhances gluten formation…that sorta stuff), the way we do that is to have the dough rise in the fridge. Now you can do that one of a few ways, the easiest way to do that is combine all your ingredients, and after kneading, place in the fridge to rise for up to 4 days (punching down and redistributing the gases every once in a while). Another way to do this is by making a poolish or a biga. Those are both pretty similar things, and what you do essentially is combine some flour and water (You want more water than flour, so in the order of 100-120% water [actually the difference between a biga and a poolish are the amounts of water, but I digress]) mix until combined, and let it sit in the fridge for up to 4 days (again, mixing every once in a while). Once you have your poolish/biga thingamabob, you then add it together with the rest of your dough, and complete the challah making process (obviously accounting for the amounts of water/flour in the biga).

Biga/Poolish pardon the horrendous quality of the picture
Biga/Poolish
pardon the horrendous quality of the picture

Now we didn’t even discuss kneading, and forming dough, but we’ll leave that for the next time I decide to write about dough.

So there you have it! As a God fearing individual, I assume you will take it upon yourself to be m’kayim this mitzvas asey shel z’man grama of shlissel challah (oh and by the way, there are some shitas that say you can’t be yotzey if your wife makes it because she’s patur from this mitzva)

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French Toast

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How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.

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Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.

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Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.

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That’s it. Easy as pie.

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By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.

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Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Flatbread with Kalamata olive oil, and Dukka

Yeah, so the name kind of says it all…I guess I’m not here to tell you how to make something, but more here to give you an idea for supper? Truthfully, I’m not really sure why I’m here, maybe I just need someone to talk to, ya know?

Anyway, can I speak freely here for a second? This whole “dip” craze has gotten a little out of hand. Sure I get the idea that sometimes you want to eat something with your challah on Shabbos, because the likelihood is there’s probably not going to be enough food coming out later, so let’s eat a few loaves of bread with some mayonnaise. I get it. Here’s my gripe…the dips that I’ve had, are anywhere from okay to absolutely terrible. If you’re going to stuff your gullet, at least do it right….I mean, have you tried the so called tomato dip? and dill dip? They taste nothing like their respective predecessors. The dill dip really pisses me off, because the few that I’ve tasted, taste like someone had leftover mayo lying around, and just added dried dill to it. It legitimately upset me.

Onward!

Long story short, I made challah the other week, and it was pretty bad; It was pretty flavorless (unless you count “yeasty” as a flavor), and all in all, it was pretty bland. I had a lot leftover raw dough, and I froze it, and then let it sit in the fridge for a while to thaw/ferment. This slow fermentation process, allows the dough to change in flavor, and texture. So even though the dough was pretty boring when I made the challah, I knew that it had a chance, if I let it slow ferment, to possibly taste better.

I decided to shape the dough like a flat bread. Flat breads can be viewed as a sub-category of dough in it’s own right, and can encompass many different types of breads (naan, pita, matzoh, to name a few), but generally flat breads, are high water content doughs (ie – a flour:water ration in the realm of 70%, [whereas most “bready” doughs are in the area of 60-65ish…these estimates are pretty much all made up, but that’s my take]…and this flat bread is not baked in some sort of container, it can be yeasted, it can have added fat…and on and on….now besides this sentence being possibly the longest run on sentence within parentheses (I’m going for the world record…[I’m also going for the record of most parentheses] {these brackets make 10!}) I also don’t know what else to say parenthetically about flatbreads, so let’s get back to the dish at hand). The type of flat bread I had envisioned, I’m not quite sure of the name, and I think it would just be called a …”flatbread” was more like a wet-ish dough that would be spread out on a baking sheet, dimpled with my fingers (to create texture, and pop some rogue yeast bubbles), spread some spices (that wouldn’t burn with the long cooking time), and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.

For this particular dish, I decided to spread the dough on a baking sheet, spread some coarse salt, ground mustard, and black pepper, nothing too crazy, whatever, I keeps it real. I decided to bake the dough in the baking sheet on the floor of the oven for the first 10-15 minutes to get a nice crust, and then finished it through, at about 350.

After the bread was done, I allowed it to cool on the counter, I cut it up in pieces, and then preceded to dunk the bread in kalamata olive oil (more on that in a second), and dip in some Dukkah, and it was just so dern tasty, that I thought to myself, I should really spread the word, so here I am.
Now about the olive oil. Oil in cooking, can generally can be viewed in three different ways, 1) great for high heat cooking, but pretty flavorless, 2) so-so for high heat cooking, with so-so flavor or 3) absolutely a terrible idea for high heat cooking, with (most likely) a lot of flavor. In general the more an oil has a flavor to it the less stable it is, and the more likely it is a terrible idea for high heat cooking (for one, you’re more likely to burn the oil, and two even if you aren’t burning the oil, you’re more than likely cooking out the flavor associated with that oil). So vegetable and canola oil are great for high heat cooking (and are pretty flavorless), whereas toasted sesame oil is a terrible idea, but is very tasty. Olive oil comes in a few different varieties, and you’re regular run of the mill supermarket brand “extra virgin olive oil” really probably isn’t a terrible idea [mainly because it’s not really extra virgin olive oil…but that’s for another post] but it’s also not a great idea. Meaning, you’re probably not going to burn the oil, but you will cook out the nuances. So normally, if I’m cooking something over high heat (roasting, frying…) my first choice wouldn’t be olive oil, and if you have non extra-virgin olive oil, that would be a better choice. Now if you have a good extra virgin olive oil, that you paid good money for, and has a very distinct flavor to it…for sure don’t cook with it. Instead use it fresh, so you can taste it. This kalamata olive oil (that I picked up in some random place I can’t remember…but I did see available with a hechsher in Trader Joe’s) is a good example of olive oil that has a distinct flavor to it, and shouldn’t be cooked.

Instead, dip your bread in some, and eat it. If you happen to be weird and are against the idea of dipping bread in oil, but would dip bread in mayonnaise, I think you’re fundamentally lacking an understanding of what mayonnaise is, and it would be my honor to explain…actually, maybe I’ll have a post on that in a bit…hang tight. But if you pulled your head out of the sand for a second, and tried it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now since I’m not one to leave well enough alone, I decided to heed the advice on the side of the dukkah container, and then proceeded to  dunk the oil laden bread into the spice blend, and boy was that a great idea. It was like a flavor attack from flavor ninjas that were simultaneously flying flavor rocketships in my mouth. It was awesome, and I’m trying to spread the dukkah gospel now.

By the way, dukkah is this Ethopian spice blend that is readily available in Trader Joe’s also with a hechser. I saw it for the first time on the kosher blog – This American Bite, but Yosef Silver, when he made Dukkah crusted Salmon, and knew I needed to try it. When I brought it home, the spice blend said to try it like we did, bread dipped in olive oil, and then dipped in the spice blend, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope next time you’re planning on buying dips for your shabbos table, try this instead.

 

Stuffing

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All right, so this month’s kosher connection’s theme is stuffing, and I was trying to figure out what to do with that, figuring I can’t just make stuffing, because everyone’s going to be doing that, and I have to be different. But then I thought, wait, probably everyone’s thinking that, so no one will make it. And then I thought, wait, maybe everyone’s thinking that! Ok I really didn’t take it that far, so yeah, I made actual stuffing. Stuffing, which by the way, might be the most non-photogenic food out there, is a pretty cool thing.

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I was thinking, let me take you on a journey…in the vast expanse that is my mind, and go through how I tackle stuff I want to make in the kitchen. You’ll no doubt recall from previous posts, that I’m essentially a 2 year old, and am stubborn. I have to do things my way. Well this is my general thought process when it comes to making stuffing. Enjoy.

In my opinion, the definition of stuffing is a savory bread pudding wherein (yeah, in my mind, I say words like wherein…I’m smart like that) bread pudding = custard + liquid. Ok so first things first. The dried out bread part. The original bread matters, not only for taste, but because what’s in the bread, so you’re going to want good quality bread. To dry it, cut it into cubes, and you can leave it out on the counter, or you can dry it in a 200 degree oven, until it’s, well, dried. (If you really care, according to America’s Test Kitchen, drying in the oven is the best way to do it, because it causes evaporation of the water molecules as opposed to drying on the counter top, which because it takes longer, causes the starch and water to swell, and it’s the starch that hardens, so essentially the water is still left behind, and you want the water out of there, so the dried out bread will then soak up more liquid…)

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Now for the custard part. Custard is what you call something that was a liquid, and is now firmer because of eggs. So the proteins that are found in the eggs, set up into a meshwork that holds the liquid in place. Examples of custards are – creme caramels , cheesecake, quiches,. In all these cases, I usually use Ruhlman’s ratio for a free standing custard (as opposed to a non free standing custard, like creme brulee, or creme anglais, or even French style Ice cream) which is 2 parts liquid to 1 part egg. You can use any water based liquid, provided it has minerals dissolved in it (like salt water, milk, stock, etc). Basically, each individual protein is this large glob of a molecule, and it has a bunch of negative parts to it, and since they all have these negative parts, they kind of want to repel from one another, and will bind on itself, and will bind with only a few other proteins. If you add minerals, the positive parts of the mineral will occupy the negative part of the protein, and now they don’t hate each other as much, and can form a stronger bond, which is really important.

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Think of how weakly bonded a scrambled egg is. it’s pretty easy to rip it apart. Now imagine this concoction, which is relying on the eggs bonding, but is heavily diluted. Which brings us to the next thing, you need to heat the custard gently to work. Reason being you don’t want to overshoot the setting temperature, because if you do, the proteins will bond to each too much, and now it’s actually squeezing the water out of it. There’s obviously more to discuss, but we’ve got stuffing to make, but one last thing. A lot of custard recipes calls for heating the liquid up, and then tempering the eggs, which can be a pain in the butt. Well truth be told, you only need to heat up the liquid, if you want to dissolve something into it (like heating up a vanilla bean in the milk, if you’re making creme caramel). However, if you’re just using the liquid straight, you don’t need to heat it up. So no need to wrap a towel around your bowl, so you can whisk with one hand, while slowly drizzling in your hot liquid with the other. For this recipe, I didn’t use the 2:1 liquid:eggs ratio, but more like 3:1 liquid:egg ratio. I used vegetable stock as the base, and it was like 900ish grams, and I used 6 eggs, which, since each egg is 50grams, comes out to about 300grams. Whisked it all together, and set it aside.

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Then I sauteed onions, mushrooms, celery, and carrots, until softened, about 10 minutes. Added in minced garlic for the last 30 seconds, and then tossed it with my dried out bread. Chopped a whole lot of fresh parsley (which in my family is one of the staples of our stuffing), combined the liquid, mixed until combined, and baked in a 300 degree oven for 40 minutes.

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Personally I like my stuffing, more on the fluffy than crunchy, but if you want it crunchy-er, then you can spread it more thinly on a sheet pan, or make stuffins (ie muffins + stuffing), by putting the stuffing in a muffin pan, so you’ll have more crunchy parts.

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Also obviously you can stuff the stuffing into a turkey and bake away. Personally, I roast my turkey in parts so I don’t have a turkey cavity to stuff, but what I have done, is bake the stuffing with a few pieces of turkey carcass over top of it, to allow the juices to drip through.

Anyway, I hope I didn’t bore you too much.

Questions? Comments? I don’t care!

I kid!! Post away in the comment section!



Stuffing

this is enough for about 15-20 people

Ingredients:

  • Bread, cut into cubes, and dried (about 1lb dried)
  • Liquid (I used 4 cups of vegetable stock)
  • 6 eggs (you can probably use only 4, and still have a good result, but that’s just a guess)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium ribs celery, diced
  • 2 small packages of mushrooms, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole bunch of parsley, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300
  2. Sautee onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until most of the liquid has evaporated, and vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sautee for 30 seconds, adding salt and pepper to taste
  3. While vegetables are sauteeing, combine stock and eggs, and whisk vigorously, until thoroughly combined
  4. Combine sauteed vegetables with bread, and parsley, and pour stock mixture over.
  5. Place in 9×13 pan, or if you want a crispier stuffing, spread thinner on a sheet pan, or alternatively in muffin cups, and bake for 30-40 minutes