Monday, 19 November 2012

Artisan Bread and Hummus

I know I’ve lost half of you by now, just from reading the title, but don’t be put off. This is EASY! I promise. I have tired so many challah recipes and I can’t do it, I just cant. My challah making attempts have ranged from very disappointing to inedible, and all involved a monumental effort. SO not worth it. So I gave in, and did what any respectable Jewish woman would do and I brought my challah. Then, one day, when we were living in Columbus, Ohio, I realised something. It was actually going to take me longer to put coats and shoes on both girls, strap them into the car, schlep them to the kosher bakery, and then return home again, then to just roll up my sleeves and make my own bread, even taking into account that I would have to stop every 5 minutes or so to change a nappy(diaper), kiss a boo boo, put a princess dress on one of my princesses, answer the phone, have a glass of wine (come on as if...), etc. etc. So, I gave it one last shot. THANK GD because this is what I came up with and it’s truly amazing. Wow, it’s so so good, and so easy!

I’m so happy to be able to give out the recipe at long last. I couldn’t while we were in Ohio because I sold loaves and loaves of this. It went against every fiber of my being to say no when someone asked for a recipe, so here we go – enjoy Ohion’s. Flour, water, yeast and salt, that’s it. Traditional challah is made with oil, sugar and egg. It’s delicious, but like everything, the sweetness has become so mainstream that it’s not even special any more. It used to be that sugar was reserved for desserts, or special significant meals on Rosh Hashanah, and Thanksgiving when the sweetness was significant. Now however, it’s the norm for everything, and every meal to be so sweet. Taking a step back, and going back to savory, truly savory food is what’s special now.
This recipe has saved me a lot of time too. We’ve done away with providing an appetizer when we have guests because the bread is so good with the hummus, there is no need. For our Friday night dinners this is served with the hummus, zehug, a very spicy middle eastern chili spread that we buy, edemmame, (thawed and served with a sesame soy dressing – recipe to come), some olives and pickles if you fancy, prewashed salad leaves out of a bag, and of course wine. My husband has taken to roasting some beetroot (beets), then peeling and slicing it to serve with this. Pretty random I say, but always goes down very well. I sometimes make a quinoa salad if I have time, but there is no need at all.

If everything is arranged simply and beautifully, it makes it all very special. My favorite part of food preparation is the presentation. My good friend from Columbus, feels that 90% of the enjoyment of a meal is the presentation, not sure I would go that far, but if you preserve most of your energy for the presentation side of things, rather than staying up all night, rolling your rice in vine leaves, you’ll be much happier with the results.

Artisan Bread

Buy the very best bread flour that you can find. In Canada, I’ve only found one brand, but I really like it. I buy Robin Hood multi-grain bread flour – excellent. In the States I would only use king Arthur bread flour, you can even buy it in Walmart. Don’t waste your time trying to make it with all purpose flour. I triple the below recipe and freeze most of it in loaves in freezer bags. then thaw as needed. So this really does save you time, and a lot of money, and of course it’s so much healthier than the traditional oil and sugar laden challah that we’re all used to.
5 3/4 Cups bread flour
2 cups any combination of ground flax, whole wheat, rye, oat, or make this 100% white, in which case, use 7 3/4 cups of white flour.
5tsp Salt
4tsp Quick rise yeast
1tbs Sugar – you absolutely need this to activate the yeast.
2.5 Cups warm water
In a large bowl or jug place your yeast and sugar. Add the warm water which should be blood temperature, makes sense right? Whisk with a fork and leave for about 10-15 minutes until frothy on the top. If it’s not frothy start over. Either your yeast is dead, or the water was to hot or cold.

In the meantime, while your waiting for your yeast to frothefy, measure out your flour and salt in a big bowl and give it a little whisk with a fork. I use a cleaned out plastic toy bin, I don’t have a big enough bowl when I triple the recipe.
When your yeast is ready, pour the water into the flour, stir with your fork until almost incorporated, then pour out onto your clean, floured surface and kneed for about ten minutes until springy. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but you’ll know when it’s ready, it will feel alive and springy, just springy - you’ll see. You’ll probably need to add some more flour as you go.

Clean out your bowl, or stolen toy bin, pour a little oil in it, then place your dough in and roll around in the oil until covered. Cover with a towel or cling film. If you’re making this for the next day, well done on being so very organized, give yourself a pat on the back, and place in the fridge. Take out the next morning and allow it to come to room temperature. If your making this for immediate consumption, leave in a warm place for an hour or two, until doubled in size.

Once doubled in size, punch down, knead for a minute or so then form into any shape you desire. Score three lines with a serrated knife – just for the effect, then dust with a nice amount of flour. Allow to sit for half an hour, and then bake in a preheated 430° Fahrenheit for thirty five minutes until cooked through. Now the cookbooks always say knock on the underside of the bread until it sounds hollow. Maybe I don’t know what knocking on something hollow sounds like, but this has NEVER worked for me. I carefully insert my knife on the underside of one of the loaves to see if it’s cooked. If still doughy, bake for a little longer. If the hollow trick works for you, by all means.

Try to make this as close to serving as you can. It’s good the next day, but not even close to how amazing it is that first night. One of the reasons this bread is so good is because it contains absolutely no preservatives, but that also means you can’t plan on having it sit around all week for you to use for sandwiches. Don’t worry though, you won’t have any leftovers from this.
I got my very first food processor a few months ago – Really enjoying it. I brought the biggest one that I could find, which is a big time saver. About two weeks back my mum asked me what I was making for Friday night dinner, “well, to start, home made bread, and home made hummus...”, and then my mum cut me off, not to say, ‘oh darling how wonderful, I’m so proud, can I have that recipe”, nope, nothing like that, rather, “Oh darling, I think it’s probably time you went back to work”. Ha! Well, I know it sound like a silly thing to make, after all, the hummus that is sold in almost every supermarket is delicious, but this is REALLY good. Plus, it save so much money. I buy a big bag of dried chickpeas. Once a month I soak as many as I can in my biggest pot overnight, drain, rinse, then boil the heck out of them the next day, or to put it more politely, boil them for around two hours. Then I freeze in portions, ready to be plucked from my freezer when I want to make the hummus. If your eyes are glazing over, fine, whatever, buy yourself some cans of chickpeas, see if I care ;). Every recipe that I see is very heavy on the Tahina. I use very little – personal preference. In fact, if you want to make this without any Tahina at all it would still be pretty amazing.

2-3 cloves garlic (or to taste)
A pinch – I mean it, a pinch of cumin (don’t worry if you don’t have)
1 tsp. tahina
2 cups chick peas
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice

Place your garlic in the food processor and blitz. Add cumin, tahina, and blitz again. Add chickpeas, oil and lemon juice, some salt and process until wonderfully smooth. Check seasoning, its always easier to add salt at the end.

I like to smear this on a plate, or place in a nice bowl, drizzling with some olive oil, and sprinkling zatar a middle eastern spice mixture on top, or paprika, or chickpeas, or pine nuts...
Serves 8.

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