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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Four Strand Challah

I LOVE Challah, I guess it’s from my Jewish roots.  It’s great slathered with butter, jam or honey (or any combination of the three).  Challah french toast is awesome!  I started with all-purpose flour in this adaptation of a Williams-Sonoma recipe.  Next I’ll try using at least half white whole wheat flour.  I might have to add some vital wheat gluten to help the rise, we’ll see.  This is eggier than my Italian bread, more like a brioche, and it’s huge!  I am going to have to cut this in quarters and freeze 3/4 so that my husband and I can enjoy it without it spoiling.  Included with the recipe will be instructions on how to do the four strand braid.  It has a higher profile with the four strands and looks so much prettier!

Four Strand Challah-1 huge loaf

2 pkgs. or 5 t. active dry yeast

1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

1/2 c. sugar

3 lg. eggs, at room temp.

1 beaten egg or shine spray

5 c. all-purpose flour

1 heaping t. salt

1/2 c. (1 stick) sweet butter, softened

1 T. seeds, I used sesame (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy.  Add the sugar, eggs, 4 1/2 c. of the flour, salt and butter.  Either mix by hand until sticky and then knead on a floured surface or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (I used the mixer).  As you knead add as much of the last 1/2 c. flour as you need to  keep the dough from being too sticky while keeping the dough soft, smooth and elastic.  You should knead about 5-7 minutes, you can’t overknead so keep going until the dough feels soft, supple and silky!

Form into a ball and put in a greased bowl, covered, or rising bucket, in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  Line a sheet pan (rimless) with parchment or silpat. Punch dough down and place on work surface.  Divide in 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece in a ball and then roll into a rope a little longer than the pan you’re putting it on.  Here’s how to braid:

1.  Place each rope parallel, vertically in front of you.

2.  Take the leftmost strand and pass it to the right UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it, and then back to the left OVER 1 strand.

3.  Take the rightmost strand and pass it left UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it (now braided), and then back right OVER 1 strand.

4. Repeat until you reach the ends of the ropes and then tuck the ends under.  Braid the other end in the same way until you reach the ends of the ropes and then

tuck that end under.

Place the loaf on the prepared pan, cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rise again in a warm draft free place until almost doubled.  About 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Brush the braid with the beaten egg or spray with shine spray and sprinkle on the seeds, if using. Bake until brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, internal temperature (taken from the side into the center of the loaf with an instant read thermometer) should read 190-200 degrees F.  About 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Yummy!                                                                                                                                            Tips

1.Don’t be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading, the dough gets less sticky as you knead.

2.To make sure the dough doesn’t dry out roll in oiled bowl or bucket so that the top gets oiled.  Cover when not working with the ropes of dough.

3. Invest in a rising bucket, the sides are marked so you can see when the dough is doubled.  They are cheap.

4. You can always braid 3 strands if you think the 4 strand is too difficult!  It will taste just as yummy!


Spicy Red Pepper Dip, Superbowl Chili Bowls and Mocha Biscotti

I’m baaaaack!  It’s been a pretty slow month cooking wise, health issues and my daughter’s wedding have taken precedence!  Anyway, no excuses.  My back is still hurting from overdoing a Group Sculpting class (I should know better!) and there is still wedding “stuff” to do, but I needed to share some recipes and tips!

Superbowl Sunday was yesterday and although I am a die-hard Jets fan, anyone from NY was a Giants fan yesterday.  Watching the game with my daughter and husband  (while addressing wedding invitations!) required some snacks and food!  We are all trying to be svelte for the wedding so I decided to make the food healthy!  The next three recipes are tweaked Weight Watchers recipes, all are scrumptious, I assure you.

The game was a nail biter!  My Giants prevailed in the end and the food was yummy.  All the recipes can be doubled, even tripled for a crowd.  And, of course, they are just as good for a winter supper or a different kind of party (not just Superbowl) or for any day of the week.  Who doesn’t love nice, crunchy biscotti dipped in coffee or tea!

Spicy Red Pepper Dip

1 – 7 oz. jar roasted red pepper, drained, reserve liquid

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a food processor, puree the peppers, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic and cayenne. Slowly add juice until desired consistency.  Refrigerate until served, mixture thickens when refrigerated.


1. Drain the peppers well, otherwise the mixture is too loose.

2. You can make this as spicy as you like, just add more cayenne.

3.  Serve with crudite and crackers- I love Fiber One Crackers, they’re healthy and delicious.

4.  You can use this as a sandwich spread or thin with some olive oil and use it as a salad dressing!

Superbowl Chili Bowls

4 tsp. olive oil                                                 1 T. chili powder

2 onions, chopped                                         2 tsp. cumin

1 carrot, chopped                                           1 tsp. dried oregano

1 celery stalk, chopped                                 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 c. seeded and chopped green pepper          1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, minced                         1(16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp (or more) deveined and seeded jalapeno        1 tsp. kosher salt

1 lb. very lean ground beef                pinch black pepper

Topping:  chopped fresh cilantro, chopped red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream

In a large Dutch oven heat the oil and saute the onions, carrot, celery, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander, cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beans, salt, pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer gently, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Serve.


1. Make sure you use good quality chili powder and oregano-I order my spices from Penzey’s-they are a great source for all kinds of spices and recipes.  They’re fast,  reliable and reasonably priced and of excellent quality!

2. If you think the chili looks to dry after adding the tomatoes you can add a little crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (NOT spaghetti sauce!).

3. You can serve the chili over rice (brown to keep it healthy) for a heartier meal!

4. You can use ground turkey, chicken, pork or vegetarian ground beef substitute and the chili would still be great!  Just make sure it’s lean.

5. Change up the beans-use your imagination.  Add other veggies, sautéed eggplant or zucchini (don’t add it raw, to watery!) or chopped sautéed portabellos would be great.  Corn would be a nice addition as well.

6. You can also serve this with tortilla chips (baked to keep it healthy!).

Mocha Biscotti

2 c. all-purpose flour                                   1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. slivered almonds                              1 c. sugar

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder          2 large eggs

2 1/2 T. ground coffee                                3 T. strong brewed coffee

2 t. baking powder                                       1 1/2 t. vanilla

3/4 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use silpat.

Combine flour, almonds, cocoa, ground coffee, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl combine the sugar, eggs, brewed coffee and vanilla.  Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture and beat on low-speed with an electric mixer.  It will form a fairly dry dough.  Divide in two and shape each into a 15″ X 1 3/4″ log (about 1″ high)   Transfer to cookie sheet and pat down tops until each piece is about 3/4″ high and 2″ wide.

Bake until the logs are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean., 20-25 minutes.  Transfer the logs to a cutting board and let cool 10 minutes.  With a serrated knife cut the logs crosswise on an angle into 1/2″ slices.  Arrange in a single layer on sheet. Lower oven temp to 300 degrees F. Bake 12 minutes per side, turning once.  Transfer to wire rack, they crisp as they cool.


1. Go wild, use your imagination, use flavored ground coffee and brewed coffee.

2. Use the nuts of your choice; pistachios, walnuts, pecans-they’re all good.

3. Use almond extract or coconut, your choice.

4.  Add mini chips or dip on side in melted chocolate or just drizzle with melted chocolate-all delicious!