Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Cardamom Infused Challah

Challah 0035 by Meeta K. Wolff

I’ve seen a flood of Holiday Christmas posts, ideas, gift guides and menu ideas all across the web for the past few days. I went and buried my head in the sand, hoping if I stayed there for a while Christmas this year would blow past.

No, I am not a Christmas grouch. On the contrary I am usually right up there planning my Christmas dinner, organizing cookies baking evenings and bringing the decorations down as soon as December comes around. And if I do tend to fall behind, the tunes of “Last Christmas” by Wham! and the first steaming glasses of Glühwein at the Christmas market usually gets my Christmas spirit rolling. None of this seems to be working this year.

As a food photographer Christmas happened here in August and September, when I baked a few stollen, lots of Christmas cookies and a whole Christmas dinner for various magazines. Maybe that Christmassed me out. Or maybe the 3 weeks in Dubai with the sun, sand and warmth just pushed my thoughts for the festive season back and I am still in summer mode. I won’t go into the curses every time I have to put on stockings or scrape the car windscreen free of ice. And we are at the beginning of winter.

Luckily I have a 11 year old son who loves all of the magical charm Christmas brings along. The Advent calendar, candles, sparkly lights, baubles and decorations all enamour him immensely, loosing all his coolness of a pre-teen and once again becoming a small child captured by the enchantment. He is still somewhere between not believing in Santa Claus and wanting to believe just in case … you know if he does really come flying by with Rudolph and co., his sledge filled with gifts. So he dutifully will write and color his modest wishlist and each morning comes running down the stairs to be the first to open the Advent calendar.

His fervor is contagious and so I found myself fighting my way through the bustling crowds into the stores on a Saturday to buy decorations, brushwood and wreaths for the first Advent. I guess I was not the only one in town with the idea. Loaded with candles, chocolates for the Advent calendar, tinsel, stars and wreaths I headed back home. I should have had a few glasses of glühwein … maybe the spirit would have come merrily.

Challah 0043 by Meeta K. Wolff

That afternoon as we began to bring down some of the decorations from the attic, I did feel a certain small Christmas spirit ignite somewhere deep inside. Hearing Soeren sing to the carols playing on the radio made me smile and hum along. As the incense burnt its cinnamon-y perfume through the living room, my thoughts wandered off to the warmth of baking. A yeasty spiced dough was what I was craving, not entirely Christmassy but something that would help motivate me more.

A simple but satisfying challah was what came out of the oven, filling the air with aromas of warming cardamom and yeasty goodness.

Breakfast on first Advent was an easy and relaxing affair with pots of spiced herbal teas, warm slices of challah, slathered with butter and dollops of fruity jams. The candles provided a cosy light and the mistletoe hanging above the window shimmered as the sun rays shone through the leaves.

“How about asking your parents to come here for Christmas Lunch this year?” I asked Tom and before we knew it we were planning, thinking, talking Christmas!

This challah is extremely easy to put together without any complications. Cardamom infuses its flavors exclusively … I find cardamom and yeasty sweet breads work so well with each other so add as much or as little to suit your taste. You can also add a handful of dried cranberries to the dough while you knead it for a more fruity flavor. For me I was happy to have all the boasting flavors of cardamom in this challah.

Recipe: Cardamom Infused Challah

Printable version of recipe here

Challah 0036 by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus time for dough to rise overnight
Yields: 2 challah loaves

Ingredients:

  • 235 ml + 118 ml luke warm water
  • 50g + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 600g all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 85g + 1 tablespoon acacia honey +
  • 155 ml vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • A good pinch of ground cardamom
  • 50g sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Put 235ml warm water in a small bowl. Add the 2 teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top and swirl the bowl just to combine. Set aside for it to proof for five minutes.
  2. In the meantime mix flour, salt, 50g sugar and cardamom in a large bowl until ingredients are mixed.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs.
  4. Add the proofed yeast to the flour, followed by wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon so that it is just combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Using your hands begin to knead making sure to incorporate what's at the bottom and the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead until the dough until dough is smooth. It will be slightly sticky at this point. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and continue to knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour with a light hand as needed, 7-10 minutes
  6. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Set each in a large oiled bowl, cover both bowls with plastic wrap or a damp towel then allow the dough to rise in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to set out the dough on the countertop in plenty of time before shaping, so it can come to room temperature.
  7. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Prepare 2 baking sheets lined with baking paper.
  8. After the rise, the dough should be soft, silky and pliable. Divide each mound of dough into three equal balls, so that you have a total of six. Roll each ball into a log almost 30 cm long. Braid 3 of the logs together to create 1 loaf then repeat with the remaining 3 logs for your second loaf. Pinch the top edges of your logs together then place one log over the next and braid until you reach the bottom, pinch these edges together. Tuck the tips beneath the loaf when braiding is finished. Repeat with second loaf.
  9. Put each loaf on its own baking sheet. Make the eggwash by mixing the yolk with a 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush over loaves. Sprinkle the loaves with the sliced almonds.
  10. Bake in the oven for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and baked through.

Verdict

Challah 0036 by Meeta K. Wolff

I am not entirely cured of my Christmas grouchiness … but I know I will get there. There are plans of more Christmas baking and adding more decorations as we countdown. Luckily our tree does not go up till the 23rd … by then I think I will be in the full swing of Christmas.

What are you doing to get into the Christmas spirit?

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas inspirations:

Next week I’ll get a bit more Christmassy for you all with another yeasty sweet treat. See you then.

Have a great week!

More Christmas ideas from WFLH:

MincemeatFrangipaneTart-0066-WM_thumb ChristmasCookies2010_0013-CR[2] FlorentineXMasCake_0024_CR2
Hazelnut Frangipane Tart with Quince Hazelnut Mincemeat Hazelnut Marzipan Macaroons, Jam Drops with Morello Cherry Preserve and German Sptizbuben Florentine Christmas Fruitcake


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

12 comments :

  1. I'm finding it hard to feel festive too - mostly because it's summer. :-) But I love the sounds of this bread. :-)

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    Replies
    1. That might explain it ... I think I would find it hard too if I was going to have to celebrate Christmas in the summer ... right now I'll take summer over Christmas though!

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  2. A beautiful challah! So smooth and fragrant. I haven't made that bread since a while...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rosa. You are a big baker ... you should try this ... it really is a lovely bread!

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  3. Oh Meeta - this is the most beautiful loaf of Challah, ever!
    I feel like time is slipping by so fast... it's hard to switch gears to Christmas when it should STILL be summer :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Kristen! Time is slipping by fast ... I am trying to find ways to enjoy it more consciously. Little steps make it easier rather than bounding forward as I normally do.

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  4. Same thing here, I cannot get into the spirit at all, baking a Stollen at the moment, may be this helps! Cheers Gudrun

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    Replies
    1. I think baking does get one into the spirit ... I hope it does for you. I baked a stolled with a twist this year. Hope yours went well.

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  5. Every year I promise I'm going to slow things down for the holidays and just enjoy them. And then every December I find myself facing deadline upon deadline and Christmas preparation gets pushed back till the last possible moment. Why does this always seem to happen? It must be that I am not a planner. Your bread is beautiful and it is reminding me to take a deep breath and enjoy the season. I swear next year is going to be different! Buon Natale Meeta

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not finding myself in the stress of it just was missing the spirit. I have planned out my to dos and I am getting along well ... I am just not doing it with the light Christmas feeling I usually do. But the baking is getting me there!

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  6. Yikes - I have simply been too busy to think about Christmas this year! We also don't have a tree up because the cats would eat it... Good thing we are going skiing in Austria then!! ;) Love the look of the challah - anything with cardamom gets my vote!

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  7. can someone help me with converting this to imperial measurements?
    Marylou

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta