Challah

Well if you have been watching what you eat lately (as I have been), you are probably getting sick of not eating pounds and pounds of carbs. I know I am missing Jimmy John’s sandwiches, toast, eggs benedict, and just basically anything that has bread. I think the most important part of any diet is cheating, and cheat days specifically. I was reading through blogs and stumbled upon this fabulous challah bread with a beautiful 6 strand braid and I just had to try it. This bread is as delicious as it looks. So when your cheat day Saturday rolls around, have fun with it and make this bread. Make french toast with it, sandwiches for lunch, and eat it with indulgent european butter for dinner.
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I started off with the 4 strand braid for my beginner loaf and could not be more pleased. This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour which is a very reliable bread recipe source. There are a number of comments with concerns regarding the water to flour ratio. I did not have any problems with it, mine turned out great with 1/2 cup water to 4 cups flour. There are 6 tbsp of oil which I think makes up for less water. This allows you to create a dough that is not overly sticky and can be rolled and braided.
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Challah is kind of a richer, eggy bread, traditionally served during the sabath. It is an enriched bread similar to brioche except that it contains no dairy. Brioche and challah are not the same thing, contrary to what some commenters at the King Arthur website seem to think. They both have one seriously important thing in common though… they make excellent french toast! I am working on mastering how to braid these breads. And I’ll say, it is really not that hard. Especially with the excellent pictures and directions from King Arthur Flour.
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Challah

1/2 cup lukewarm water
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water for the egg wash

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, water and honey. Allow it to foam so that you know its working. Mix in the vegetable oil, eggs, and salt. Turn the mixer on low and add in the flour, cup by cup, making sure the dough does not get too dry. Knead with the stand mixer for 7 minutes or until the dough springs back when pushed in with your thumb.

Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours until doubled. (I placed mine in the fridge at this point and baked it later that night, just in case you run out of time.) Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured work surface.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each into a 6 inch log. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Roll each of these logs into a 15 inch rope. Cover and let rest for 10 more minutes.

Roll the ropes some more until they are 20 inches long, they will shrink back a little bit to 18 inches. Lay them parallel to each other and pinch the ends on the left together. This is where you need to look at the pictures provided by King Arthur if you are having trouble.

Take the rope nearest you and move it away from you over the two adjoining ropes. Then move the rope back under the rope next to it. Repeat this, but start with the rope farthest form you. Bring it towards you, across the two adjoining ropes. Then move it back under the rope nearest it, away from you. Continue, alternating sides, until the whole loaf is braided. Pinch the ends together and tuck underneath.

Gently pick up the loaf and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with greased plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow it to rise until it is quite puffy, ~ 90 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 about 15 minutes before the bread is done rising.

Whisk together the egg and water, brush this carefully over the risen loaf of bread. Place the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet (to keep the bottom from browning too much). Bake for 20 minute. Rotate the pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for another 15 – 25 minutes until golden brown. There is a lot of variation here, so keep a close eye on the bread.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Creamy Chicken and Farro

Farro is pretty much my new obsession. It has that wholesome flavor that I always crave during the deep, dark, depths of winter. The weather has been so up and down lately, and today we are back in the dark cold depths of February. Farro is full of fiber and nutrients but will also satisfy your craving for carbs. And so many fabulous chefs are doing amazing things with this simple grain. My second favorite thing about farro is that it is an ancient grain! Why would you not want to eat the grain that Egyptian kings enjoyed?

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There are a variety of farro brands/items out there. I think that all of them are interesting, just read the labels because some of them require overnight soaking. Pearled has less nutrients but is essentially ready to cook. Whole grain farro probably has more nutrients but does require much longer prep/cook times. Those longer times could actually be good for your recipe if you are leaving something in the crockpot for 8 hours, the whole grain farro will definitely hold up.

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This dish rings in at about 370 calories for a 1 cup serving. It is extremely filling and will stick with you all day. It is so nice to have something that tastes creamy and indulgent but that is not just jam packed with unnecessary calories. It keeps well in the fridge and reheats like a dream in the microwave for a delightful work lunch. If you are worried about the milk ingredient, just use whatever you have. It will be fine. Add a touch of half and half if you want to give it a boost. I almost always have carrots but don’t constantly stock celery, so I often make this dish sans celery.

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Creamy Chicken and Farro

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cups dry farro
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup half and half
2 heaping cups cooked, chopped chicken
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the farro and toast for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in the 4 cups chicken stock and bring this to a boil.

While the farrow is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, season with salt and pepper. Saute this for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and softened. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute more.

Mix in the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly to incorporate any dry flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the milk into the vegetable and flour. Whisk constantly. Reduce heat to low and allow it to cook for 3 minutes until it thickens.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the farrow and stock. Stir to combine. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the farro is cooked and thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

This is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.