Kitke Bread (also known as Challah Bread)

Growing up in South Africa, my grandmother used to buy us Kitke (or as I knew it as a child plaited bread). I loved it. The mere novelty of food being plaited just completely overwhelmed my childish brain. Kitke is a Jewish bread and for some reason is known as Kitke in South Africa and as Challah in the rest of the world. Hence why I found it almost impossible to find when we first moved to the UK. Of course, as part of this baking endeavor, I had to stretch myself and try it. The recipe I used is from The Shiksa in the Kitchen and the original can be found here (the plaiting instructions can be found here). I found this a pretty good recipe, but I found that I didn’t add enough flour, which made the dough very sticky to work with, and the bread didn’t have as much definition as I would have liked. It is however a good recipe, but the next time I make it I will tweak it a little. I have added my notes on what to tweak in italics.

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 7 g packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 2 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 ½ to 6 cups of plain flour (This is where the trouble started)

For the egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I may leave out the salt next time, I like the glaze to be slightly sweet)

Optional Toppings

Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds (and who wouldn’t want those)

Method

I’ve split the method into sections, just to keep track of where you are in the process. 

Activating the yeast

Pour ¼ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 packet of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. If it doesn’t, your yeast may have expired, which means your bread won’t rise—go buy some fresh yeast!

Making the dough

Once your yeast has activated, add remaining 1 ¼ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together.

Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies—only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.” If you plan to add raisins or chocolate chips to the challah, incorporate into the dough as you knead.

This is the part where it all fell apart for me. I had no idea when to stop adding flour, and I was a little too cautious. I think the next time I will try the standard way for other dough and make a well in the flour and start adding the liquid to make a dough. I think I’ll start with 5 cups of flour and hope for the best! That being said, the recipe is great. I did still manage to make scrumptious kitke/challah, It just wasn’t the prettiest.

Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil.

Meanwhile, remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil.

First Dough Rise

Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of your oven. Take the saucepan full of boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 1 hour. (By the way, this method of rising the dough is genius! It rose beautifully and I didn’t need to worry about if it was warm enough of if it didn’t have a draught, it was just amazing!)

Second Dough Rise

Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.

Kneading

Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky. Now your dough is ready to plait braid.

I split my dough in half, and made 1 medium size loaf and about 8 medium size rolls.

Braiding a Challah/Kitke

Making the strands

My strands were a bit of a mess, the dough was too sticky and I needed up having to coat practically the entire kitchen in flour to make sure it didn’t stick. Braiding the loaf is simple enough, there are plenty of more complex ways of braiding, but the simplest is to braid the dough in the same way you would braid hair. 

For a simple braid, you need to split the dough it into 3 equal size portions. Then roll each section into strands. To roll strands, the Shiksa says:

Take one of the portions and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is flat and about 1/4 inch thick. Don’t worry about the shape of the dough, it doesn’t matter. Put the smaller part of the dough towards the top of your rolling surface, with the widest part towards the bottom.

Using both hands, put pressure on the rolling surface and pull the dough back towards you, rolling it back into a strand shape. Keep even pressure on the dough as you roll so that no air pockets collect in the strand.

Once your strand shape is created, roll it back and forth with both hands to erase the seams and smooth out the strand. As you roll, angle your hands outward and apply gentle pressure to taper the dough on the outer edges. By doing this, your strand should end up slightly thicker in the middle and thinner on the ends. This will help make your braided challah tapered at the ends, which creates a beautiful shape.

Further taper the strand by grasping one end between your two palms and gently rolling the dough back and forth. Repeat for the other end of the strand.

Braiding the Kitke / Challah

This is exactly the same as braiding hair. When I was a child and I first learned to braid hair, I eventually learned it by remembering that each of the 3 strands wants to be in the centre. So, connect the 3 strands at the end furthest from you. Then, place the left hand strand into the centre position. Next, place the strand that is now on the far right, in the centre and so on. If you get stuck, the easiest is to refer to the Shiksa’s article.

After you’ve braided your challah, place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (this will catch any spills from your egg wash and keep your challah from sticking to the cookie sheet).

Note: I usually only put a single challah braid on a cookie sheet, since they tend to expand a lot when baking. (this was a brilliant tip)

Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.

I put my sesame and poppy seed toppings on at this stage.

Let the Loaf Rise

Let the braid rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.

Preheating and First Bake

Heat oven to 350 °F / 175 ºC. The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes total, but to get the best result the baking should be done in stages. First, set your timer to 20 minutes and put your challah in the oven.

After 20 minutes, take the challah out of the oven and coat the center of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash. This area tends to expand during baking, exposing areas that will turn white unless they are coated with egg wash.

Second Bake

Turn the tray around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put the tray back into the oven. Turning the tray helps your challah brown evenly—the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front.

The challah will need to bake for about 20 minutes longer. For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your challah—it may be browning faster than it’s baking. Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.

Take the challah out of the oven. At this point your house should smell delicious. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.

This recipe will make 1 very large challah, 2 regular challahs, or 24 mini challah rolls.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake

This is one of the recipe’s that is near the front of my recipe book. I’ve had it for ages, and I can remember at one point in high school I would use this to make all sorts of variations. This particular variation is the chocolate loaf cake. I am used to this recipe having cracks in the top, but my oven clearly doesnt circulate the heat very well and thus my loaf cakes tend to have a lopsided crack like this one.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Soft Butter/margarine (not melted)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
  • 1 1/4 Cups Self Raising Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Cocoa
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Method

My original recipe says mix all the ingredients for 3 minutes and pour into the baking tin. I’m changing it slightly because that’s impractical.

Grease the loaf tin and preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla essence until it is smooth.

Mix the remaining dry ingredients together, then add the liquid mixture stirring with a spoon/spatula.Once the ingredients are combined, beat with a mixer for 3 minutes.

Pour into the greased loaf tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Medium Rye Bread

After last week’s rye bread, I wanted to try again, but vary it to be a medium rye. To be honest I’m not really sure if it’s doing what it is supposed to, even if it is really yummy.

Ingredients

  • 175ml full-fat milk
  • 175ml water
  • 2 tbsp dark soft brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar because that’s what I had in the house)
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 350g rye flour
  • 100g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • sunflower oil, for greasing

Method

Put the milk, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, for just a few seconds until the liquid is lukewarm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a bowl.

Stir in the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until there is a light froth floating on the surface.

Put all the flour, rye and white, in a large bowl, stir in the salt, then make a well in the centre. Pour the warm yeast mixture on to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands to form a soft, spongy dough. (Because of the warm of the yeast mixture and the stickiness of the mixture initially, it is quite gross, but really funny if you have the sense of humour of a 10 year old)

Turn the dough out on to a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size. (I placed mine in the warm kitchen with the tumble dryer going, and it worked really well)

Put the dough on a floured work surface and knock it back with your knuckles, then knead for another minute.

Shape the dough into a fat oval or round loaf, pulling the dough from the top and sides and tucking it underneath to make a neat shape.

Place the loaf on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and score the surface 4 times with a sharp knife. Cover it loosely with the oiled cling film and leave to prove for a further 40–50 minutes until it has doubled in size once more.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or until it is well risen and the base sounds hollow when tapped sharply. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving

Light Rye Bread

I love rye bread, but baking bread is not something I have ever done. Somehow using yeast and letting it rise is a bit magical to me. I don’t know how to knead and I have no idea. But watching the new series of the Hairy Bikers (the Hairy Biker’s Bakeation) making rye bread looks really easy, that coupled with the fact that I haven’t yet found a yummy rye bread in the UK meant that I had to take up the challenge.

Ingredients

  • 175ml full-fat milk
  • 175ml water
  • 2 tbsp dark soft brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar because that’s what I had in the house)
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 250g rye flour
  • 200g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds (I didn’t use caraway seeds because I forgot to buy them)
  • sunflower oil, for greasing

Method

Put the milk, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, for just a few seconds until the liquid is lukewarm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a bowl.

Stir in the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until there is a light froth floating on the surface.

Put all the flour, rye and white, in a large bowl, stir in the salt and caraway seeds, then make a well in the centre. Pour the warm yeast mixture on to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands to form a soft, spongy dough.

Turn the dough out on to a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Kneading this dough can be hard work so you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and give it some welly.

Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size.

I put my bowl in the living room, while I watched some TV. The living room is warmer and in my mind I thought it woudl be better than the cold kitchen. 

Put the dough on a floured work surface and knock it back with your knuckles, then knead for another minute.

Shape the dough into a fat oval or round loaf, pulling the dough from the top and sides and tucking it underneath to make a neat shape.

Place the loaf on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and score the surface 4 times with a sharp knife. Cover it loosely with the oiled cling film and leave to prove for a further 40–50 minutes until it has doubled in size once more.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or until it is well risen and the base sounds hollow when tapped sharply. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

My first attempt at Lemon Meringue Pie

This is my first ever attempt at a lemon meringue pie. The irony of this is that I didn’t even really know if I like meringue. But I did it. I’ve learned lots and I wouldn’t be doing myself any justice if I didn’t post it here. Let me warn you, this is a complicated recipe, but it was the simplest one I found and can be found here. It involves making pastry, making the curd and making the meringue. It is awesome fun though, so make yourself comfortable and start baking. The meringue turnout out beautifully (if not the prettiest, but it tasted amazing.

Ingredients

For the sweet shortcrust pastry

  •  225g/8oz plain white flour
  •  pinch salt
  •  110g/4oz cold unsalted butter, cubed
  •  2 tsp caster sugar
  •  1 medium free-range egg yolk

For the lemon curd

  •  100g/3½oz caster sugar
  •  7 tbsp cornflour
  •  4 large lemons, zest and juice only
  •  6 free-range egg yolks
  •  100g/3½oz unsalted butter, melted

 For the meringue

  •  6 medium free-range egg whites
  •  300g/10½oz caster sugar

 Method

For the pastry

Notes: Don’t overwork the pastry when you take it out of the fridge,  it needs to stay as cold as possible, so before putting it in the fridge, roll it out a little (into the size of a dinner plate) before putting it in the fridge.

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter to the flour and then rub between your fingertips until a fine breadcrumb consistency is achieved.
  3. Add the sugar to the flour and butter. Using your hands, mix to a firm dough with the egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
  4. Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.
  5. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and grease a 22cm/9in fluted loose-bottomed tin. Place the tin onto a baking tray.
  6. Roll out the pastry until it’s big enough to generously fit the tin, leaving excess pastry falling over the sides of the tin onto the baking tray underneath the tin – don’t trim at this stage. (I had about half the pastry left over, but to be fair I did use a smaller tin)
  7. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Now trim the excess pastry using a sharp knife. Bake the pastry case blind for about 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is pale golden and dried out – remove the paper and beans for the last five minutes. Lower the oven heat to 150C/300F/Gas 2.

For the Lemon Curd

Notes: Don’t add too much water to the cornflour mixture, and when I used an electric mixer it splattered all over the kitchen. I think the next time I will just mix the mixture with a spoon to make sure it stays smooth. Also, carefully keep an eye on the curd when it’s on the heat, for a while it seems like nothing is happening and it solidifies quickly, just keep stirring and it’ll be fine. 

  1. Meanwhile, for the lemon curd, mix together the sugar, cornflour and enough water to make a paste, in a large bowl.
  2. Bring 50ml/2fl oz water and the lemon zest to the boil in a small pan
  3. Gradually pour the hot liquid onto the cornflour and sugar, whisking all the time until smooth.
  4. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon juice and butter. Return to the pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring all the time, until thickened.
  5. Pour into the baked blind pastry case and leave to cool slightly.

For the Meringue

I didn’t pipe the meringue on, I just plopped in on with a spoon and smoothed it out and I still had loads of meringue left over. I think next time I will make less meringue. Also, not matter how tempting, do not open the oven while the meringue is in, that is what caused mine to crack.  When it’s done, switch off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven to cool. 

  1. For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks.
  2. Whisk in the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking well and at a high speed between each addition.
  3. Transfer the meringue into a piping bag (with a plain nozzle) and pipe the meringue on top of the lemon curd.
  4. Bake for about 35-45 minutes until the meringue is crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallow-like underneath.

Super Chocolate Muffins

A super Chocolate MuffinI am a lover of chocolate, but I am nothing compared to the crazy chocolate lover in my house. She’s been having a bit of a hard time at work, so I decided to bake these little treats to cheer her up. Of course, when going hunting for recipes, I go straight to Pinterest. I logged onto Pinterest, searched for chocolate muffins, and found the most yummy looking ones. I tried them out as soon as I could and here they are. As usual I’ve added my notes and comments on what I did when making them, but the original recipe can be found here. Let me just preface the recipe by saying it is a bit complicated, but well worth it.

Ingredients

  • ¾ stick (85g) Unsalted butter (I used baking margarine)
  • 4 ounces (115 g) chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used milk chocolate)
  • 2 cups (256g) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (134g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (43g)  unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (I couldn’t find unsweetened cocoa powder, so I used 1/2 Bourneville cocoa, 1/2 normal cocoa)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (this seemed like a lot, but I did double check and it is what the recipe says)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 284ml buttermilk (a standard size tub)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment:

  • 12-cup muffin pan

Method:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular size muffin pan or fit with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Do not overmix the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. (I was pleasantly surprised that it actually did make 12 standard size muffins)

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Banana Nut Muffins

All my love for banana bread is transferred into these smaller yummy versions with nuts. At least with these I can convince myself that they’re a little healthy because bananas are good for you. And you don’t need a mixer for it. I love recipes where I can use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix by hand because they make me feel all home-makery (which I am very far from). The original recipe is here, but I’ve amended and added as usual.

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)

Equipment

  • 12-cup muffin pan

Method

Prepare the muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla.
Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated, don’t over mix. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Recipe makes 12 standard size muffins.

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