Monday, September 17, 2012

Holidays: Rosh Hashannah Challah

For me, Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) is important as a culinary tradition.  Each year, it's a time to make my favorite Jewish recipes (challah and matzoh ball soup!) and to try new ones (this year, spinach quiche).

Even though I make challah year-round, I like to experiment a bit during the holidays.  Typically when I bake challah, I rely on my bread machine for the whole process, resulting in a nondescript, rectangular loaf.  For special occasions, I use the bread machine to make the dough, but then take it out to braid it and bake it in the oven.  But I've almost always used the same basic recipe.

So this year, I was pretty excited when I came across Smitten Kitchen's Apple & Honey Challah recipe.  The recipe is meant to be done by hand... but knowing I wouldn't have time for that this year, I decided to use my bread machine to make the dough.  I was sad that it didn't work: My test made it clear that the ball of dough was too dry and dense and did not rise nearly enough.  Even so, the flavors were really good, so I'm planning to tinker with it later on (more liquid? extra risings?).

Despite this, I wanted to share the link because of the great illustrations for braiding to make a round loaf (click and scroll down for the pictures).  It was so easy to do and came out looking special, which to me is the whole purpose of bothering with braiding.  I did not get pictures of mine before it was devoured, but it was probably the best-looking braid I've ever done, which I attribute to the ease of the technique!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Learning New Things: Fondant Cupcakes

After a couple of years thinking about taking a cake decorating class, I finally did.  And I had a lot of fun!

This first class was an opportunity to get familiar working with fondant.  We worked on cupcakes, which were a nice small size that didn't require too much rolling, and used white Wilton fondant.  To get the different colors, we mixed in the gel colors ourselves, which is way cheaper than buying colored fondant and means you don't need to keep lots of colors in inventory.

In two hours, here are the cupcakes* I made:

 And some close ups:

If you have experience with things like ceramics or papercrafting, I think working with fondant is a natural extension.  There is a lot of fine motor skill involved.  I think the greatest challenge for me is being artistic while trying to be consistent--cutting the fondant into pieces of consistent shape and size will take me a lot of practice.  The idea of making a whole batch that look the same is a bit intimidating!

*Next time, I plan on taking the pictures right away.  I dropped a couple of these while packing them up to bring home.  Oops!