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Fig + Olive Oil + Sea Salt Challah

fig olive oil and sea salt challah My breath deepened when I read this Challah recipe. I was immediately imagining the aroma this Challah must give off... fresh out of the over... sweet sticky insides, salty crispy outsides... mmm mm good. This is serious Rosh Hashana Challah heaven! Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this insanely awesome recipe, and the wickedly wild braiding how-to! Whoever actually gets around to making some of this for the holidays - send me some!! : )

fig olive oil sea salt challah

fig olive oil sea salt challah

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 1 large loaf

Bread 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet — 1/4 ounce or 7 grams) active dry yeast 1/4 cup (85 grams) plus 1 teaspoon honey 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil, plus more for the bowl 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour

Fig Filling 1 cup (5 1/2 ounces or 155 grams) stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest, or more as desired 1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice 1/8 teaspoon sea salt Few grinds black pepper

Egg wash 1 large egg Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

To make dough with a stand mixer: Whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into 2/3 cup warm water (110 to 116 degrees), and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy. In a large mixer bowl, combine the yeast mixture with remaining honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, and eggs. Add the salt and flour, and mix until dough begins to hold together. Switch to a dough hook, and run at low speed for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to an olive-oil coated bowl (or rest the dough briefly on the counter and oil your mixer bowl to use for rising, so that you’ll use fewer dishes), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

To make the dough by hand: Proof the yeast as directed above. Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed. Let rise as directed above.

Meanwhile, make fig paste: In a small saucepan, combine the figs, zest, 1/2 cup water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Process fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.

Insert figs: After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half. Roll the first half of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (really, the shape doesn’t matter). Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge. Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within. Then gently stretch the log as wide as feels comfortable (I take mine to my max counter width, a pathetic three feet), and divide it in half. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.

Weave your challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So, now you’ve got an eight-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move the leg to their right — i.e., jumping it. Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-cover heavy baking sheet, or, if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel. Beat egg until smooth, and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer — the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.

fig olive oil sea salt challah

fig olive oil sea salt challah


Also for the holidays: Challah Poppers, and Challi Pops.

Book Report: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

a sick day for amos mcgee Freida was home sick a few weeks ago, as seems to be our family's summer tradition - an impromptu sick week in the middle of July. Hudi was sniffly and teeth-y, and Freida was coughing and sneezing. So along with amped-up doses of Vitamin C, meticulously hidden shots of liquid Echinacea, and a pocket-full of Ricola throat drops, came the UPS man with our favorite monthly delivery: PJ Library books! And as fate would have it, one of my favorite library books landed with a thump on our doorstep.

I don't quite know why I have long adored A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead. Maybe because I love cute little old men, or because the illustrations are so quirky, or because the writer and illustrator are married (how sweet?). It's a beautiful book, with a really kind and simple message, and apparently I'm not the only one who loves it; this book won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. AND it's the first book Erin Stead has illustrated! Can you imagine? The Caldecott on her very first book?? Nice.

a sick day for amos mcgee

The book tells the story of a friendly zookeeper who spends his day taking care of various animals. He plays chess with the elephant, and runs races with the tortoise. But one morning he wakes with the sniffles and the chills and can't go into work. So his friends decide to come check in on him. They wait for the bus and ride over to Amos' home, and take care of him for a change. It's the simplest story of visiting the sick, and is told in the sweetest most unique way.

a sick day for amos mcgee

I suppose the mitzvah behind it is what made it PJ Library-worthy, but my curiosity on that matter led me to google the Steads... (That's where I learnt about the Caldecott.) If your curious too, read about how she heard about the big win here. One of my longtime dreams has been to write and illustrate a children's book, and I found the interview fascinating! Especially this part:

But winning the award for a collaboration with her husband has made the honor even sweeter. “We work together all day long, every day. We’re each other’s first pass. It would be really different if we didn’t win this as a team.”

a sick day for amos mcgee


If you aren't already part of the PJ Library community, getting signed up is a piece of cake! You can join in here, for a free subscription to monthly Jewish(ish) books for all your kids!

Honest Photography

honest photography I know I've posted here before about the concept of honest photography, but I thought I'd revisit it once more via the most honest wedding photos I've ever seen. When we were in Florida back in January for my brother Yossi's wedding, Zalmy Berkowitz  (remember this honest photographer?) joined in the celebrations by gracing us with his camera lenses (and his presence). And while a bearded dude in a kasket with several leather camera straps around his neck (talk about hipster) may not bear any semblance of "professional photography", the captured images emanate beautiful honestly. Seriously, have you ever seen a more radient bride?? He captured her beauty. In the most natural, personal way. To me these photos feel so alive and intimate, I almost feel like I'm invading someones personal space...

honest photography

And how about those family photos? The ones where the camera boss sets you all up to "perfection", tells you which hand to place over which, and just how to ever-so-slightly tilt you chin forward and gently smile? Ha! This man is evolved. And honest. :)

honest photography

Not to mention, he gets results. Have you ever seen a more happy family photo? It may be imperfect, but it's so much more real! And so much more us.

honest photography

I'm particularly partial to this shot, in the way my girls are so used to their crazy-ass daddy that they can't even be bothered to look up at him flinging himself off a sofa. They are so comfortable in the photo setting, they hardly notice there's a photographer at all; they're just stuck on the fact that they are jet-lag, hungry for dinner, and annoyed at the windier-than-expected weather. :)

honest photography

But the greatest outcome is the love. How he captured the love...

honest photography

It really feels too personal, right?

honest photography

Photography is an art form. One that has been long lost in a rolodex of generic professional wedding photographers, sears family portraits, and studio shots. The life has been sucked out of this genre for much too long, it's time to go back to raw and organic film (literally, this guy uses actual film!). So do yourself and your family an eternal favor - seek out an honest photographer.

You can see a slew of more wedding photos and find out lots more about Zalmy here.

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