January 16, 2013

Pin It Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah - Cook the Books

Taken From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
To start off my Cook the Books challenge with Smitten Kitchen's cookbook, I flipped through all the pages of amazing looking food and flagged a bunch of recipes I wanted to try. I narrowed it down to this one for my first challenge.  I was feeling particularly brave and had some time on my hands (Sunday's are always good for a little culinary adventure) so I decided to give this recipe a go. I promise I did make an effort to not make something from the desserts section of this cookbook, but I think I managed to make the closest thing to a dessert without it actually being a dessert.  I guess I just can't help it; I'm drawn to sweet things.

I chose to make my dough in my stand mixer, although the recipe also gives directions for kneading your dough by hand. I had a little trouble with my dough rising. It could have been a number of things: the mixer dough kneading, the temperature in my kitchen (it's been in the 40's in SF the last week) or the fact that I covered the bowl with plastic wrap (like the recipe called for) and not a towel (does that make a difference?!).  In the end the bread was the right consistency but I did have trouble rolling out the dough.
Switching to a dough hook during my stand mixer dough making process.
I made the fig mixture (chopped dried figs, orange juice and zest, water, salt & pepper) by heating it  for about 10 minutes until the figs were soft.  I processed the figs until they were a paste and waited for my dough to finish rising (about 1 hour).
Once my dough had "risen" I cut it in half, rolled out half the dough and spread on half the fig mixture.  I did the same with the other half of the dough and rolled each sheet into a tight roll, attempting to trap all the fig paste on the inside.
I cut each roll in half so I then had 4 dough rolls. I stretched the dough out as much as I could without breaking it, but this is where I started to get discouraged. My dough was very tight and was not stretching nicely.  I couldn't get it as long as Deb suggested (about 3 feet), so I think I ended up with less twists and turns when I braided the Challah. When I try this again, I'll knead my dough by hand and try and make the house warmer while it rises.  This may help with my dough consistency, or at least it can't hurt to try.
Now the braiding looks confusing (and I definitely was confused for a while) but just read Deb's instructions and try and set your dough up to look the same as her pictures.  It makes following her instructions much easier.
After I braided it, I brushed it with an egg wash and let it rise for another hour. I preheated the oven to 375 after 45 minutes and used my pizza stone for the first time.  I'd probably just use a regular baking sheet next time, as pizza stones are really good for making crispy crusts, which is not something I generally love in my challah.  Deb suggests covering your challah with foil if it starts getting too brown, which I did, but maybe not soon enough.  The edges of my challah got pretty well done, not burned, but crispier than I would have liked.  Again for next time, I'd cover the challah with foil sooner to avoid a dried out crust.
However, even though there were a number of things I'd change for next time, this turned out pretty well in the end and was delicious!  It's like a richer, grown up cinnamon swirl bread, but with orangey figs instead of cinnamoney raisins. 
It was even better the next morning, thickly cut, toasted and smeared with raspberry jam. I'm glad I tested this one out with no intended audience or specific purpose so that I can make sure it's even better next time, and there will for sure be a next time. 

If you are feeling brave and have some time, try this one out, you may get frustrated, but you will not be disappointed. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your great grandmother, the original Rebecca, would be proud!