Saturday, March 26, 2011

Give Us This Day...Holla! It's My Birthday

When you make bread from scratch, you accept the responsibility of creating something with your own hands.  There is wisdom in the making of bread if you are looking for it.  Simple ingredients; yeast, sugar, water, flour.  Getting your hands dirty, adding substance just a little bit at a time with each tiny handful of flour.  Taking the time.  Good bread takes time.   

When you live your life from scratch, you accept the responsibility of creating something with your own hands.  There is wisdom in the everyday making of life if you are looking for it.  Simple ingredients; faith, patience, forgiveness, joy, love.  Getting your hands dirty.  Adding substance just a bit at a time with each new experience.  Taking time.  Making time.  Making a good life takes time.

I made a lot out of my 36th year of life.  Ingredients combined from scratch, not processed by someone else and simply digested by me.  Things like a new faith and a charming new friend.  Some fragile bridges over wide expanses and making time to see the joys I was missing.  Getting to them is messy.  I made quite a few messes in my 36th year of life, but the end product was quite nice.  And very easy to digest.  

Today is the last day of my 36th year.  Tomorrow I begin again.  Happy Birthday to me.  Holla!

Cheese and Chive Challah
(pronounced holla!)

The eggs in this bread give it a wonderful, flaky pastry like texture.  Very different from the breads I have been writing about for weeks now.  This one takes awhile to execute, but it's so worth it.  Give yourself at least 3 hours and be rewarded with two gorgeous braids of challah for your dinner table.  These braids do not have an overwhelming cheesy-ness.  The addition of the fontina gives the dough a wonderful complex flavor.  It  is my favorite choice, but Swiss would work well also.

1 cup warm milk, any % will work
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 large egg yolks (save the whites)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese, about 3oz.
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3 cups all purpose flour, divided
cooking spray
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1.  In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the warm water and let stand for 5 minutes until it gets foamy.  Stir in the butter, salt, 5 yolks, and 3 eggs.  Add the fontina and the chives.  Stir in the bread flour and 2 cups of the all purpose flour.  This dough is really sticky.  Really, really sticky.  Don't panic!

2.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Add in that last 1 cup of flour a handful at a time, and some additional all purpose flour if necessary, to keep it from sticking to you and your surface.  Knead for 8 minutes and then place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray.  Turn the dough to coat with spray, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot for 45 minutes.  After this first rise, punch it down in the bowl, cover again and let rise for another 45 minutes until it doubles in size.

3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Don't use too much flour here.  It is actually easier to stretch and roll this dough into ropes if it is not sliding around in a pile of flour.  Divide into 6 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a rope about 15 inches long.  Braid three ropes together, pinch the ends together and fold them under.  Repeat with the other three ropes.  Place each braid on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you don't have parchment paper this recipe will not be a failure.  The paper works well because this bread is so "eggy" and this keeps it from getting too crusty and hard on the bottom of the loaf.  You could use a silicone mat or just coat your baking sheet with cooking spray in the absence of parchment, but think about it for next time.  It really does make a difference and is really cheap to have on hand.  Lightly coat the tops of the loaves with spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes until doubled in size.

4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5.  Using the leftover egg whites from step 1, take 1/4 cup of the eggs whites and whisk it together in a small bowl with the 2 tablespoons of water.  Brush the loaves gently with the egg mixture, or use a paper towel to glop it over the top if you don't have a brush.  Sprinkle the loaves with the Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes until golden.  Cool on a wire rack and then try and stop yourself from eating a whole loaf!  Quick!  Take the extra one to a deserving neighbor!


  1. We love Challah bread...but, I pick mine up at Great Harvest. Always a lazy bee. Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful b-day!! Cheers to 37!

  2. Now I want to make some bread! Thanks so much for visiting on my SITS day!

  3. Happy Birthday! Thank you for gracing the world with your 36 years of wisdom. I look forward to another 36 years online, and then the next 36 on some outer space "universenet". Can't wait for the book!