Posts tagged: videos

How to Make a Beautiful Loaf of 6-Braid Challah Bread

By , December 15, 2011

Mmmm, challah bread! The perfect holiday treat for your own family, or a friend! Challah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath and on holidays, and is usually parve (made without milk or meat); this recipe isn’t parve (okay with me since I’m not Jewish), but if you’d like it to be, just substitute oil for the butter.

Here’s the challah recipe that I’ve used for many years (plus my tips for success), as well as video instructions on how to do a pretty 6-braid loaf.

Before we start, know that this bread requires two risings. Keep your eye on the dough — once it has doubled each time, move onto the next step promptly. I wouldn’t recommend leaving to go shopping and letting it over-rise and sit around too long, because the yeast will consume more sugar than you want, and the resulting bread will be more yeasty and not as subtly sweet; if this happens, the bread will still be good, but not as good.

Ok, let’s get started!


Challah Bread

7/8 cup water, at 100° – 110°

2 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs at room temperature

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups flour (I like using half white, half whole wheat…all white is yummy but not as healthy…or you could also use all whole wheat)

For the egg wash: 1 whole egg + 1 Tbsp water


Proof the yeast by stirring it into the water and letting it sit until it’s bubbly and foamy on top, about 5 or 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and warm the honey if needed so that it’s free flowing.

Stir the salt into the flour in a large bowl, and add all the other ingredients (yeast water, honey, the 2 eggs, and butter).

If you have an electric stand mixer, now would be the time to use it, allowing the dough hook to knead the dough for several minutes.

If, like me, you don’t own a stand mixer, no problem! — with a wooden spoon, stir until a dough forms. With the same wooden spoon, pretend that you are the stand mixer. Knead the dough as best you can for several minutes, until smooth, using the spoon — digging into the center of the dough, twisting, lifting, dropping. I’ve made this bread many times and discovered that you want to add a bare minimum of extra flour, or else the resulting bread will be too dry. When kneading with a wooden spoon in the bowl, you won’t be tempted to add flour since the dough won’t be sticking to your counter, to your hands, etc., while you knead. (You can also knead with your hand inside the bowl! Either way works just fine.)

Now, with the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl completely with a lid, plate, or plastic wrap.

Set aside to rise until doubled in size. To speed the process, I like to turn the oven on for a minute or two, then turn it off (test with your hand to be sure it’s only just warm) to create a slightly warmer environment than the ambient temperature in my kitchen… then put the bowl into the warm oven.

Once it’s doubled in size, punch it down and gather the dough into a loaf shape, cutting it into six pieces of equal size. Feel each piece with your hand, re-distributing dough from piece to piece until they all feel about the same.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a rope as long as you like; mine usually end up about 18″ long.

Lay your ropes onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (you can, instead, grease a cookie sheet generously, but I find that parchment is really a good tool in this situation, otherwise the egg wash tends to glue the edges of the bread to the sheet, making it a little hard to get off. You can certainly do it that way… but if you have parchment, use it here.) 😉

At one end, pinch the ropes together, and now you’re ready to braid! Watch the video below for instructions on how to do a 6-braid loaf (it’s not hard, and the end result looks very impressive!).

Once you’ve braided your loaf, it needs to rise until doubled in size. I’ve tried covering the loaf with wax paper, plastic wrap, a damp tea towel, and they always stick to the loaf no matter what. My favorite method, therefore, is this: turn on your oven for a minute or two until it’s slightly warm, and then turn it off. You don’t want it too warm! Meanwhile, boil some water. When the water boils, pour it into a couple of mugs, and place those in your warm oven. Put the uncovered braid into the warm oven, and close the door. (I like to turn on the oven light to add a little more warmth too.) This way, your braid can rise without anything covering it, and because of the high humidity, it won’t dry out while rising. Because of the warmth and humidity, this step may go fairly quickly, so keep tabs on the braid.

Once your braid is doubled in size, take it out of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°. While the oven’s heating, make an egg wash by combining 1 whole egg and 1 Tbsp of water in a small jar and shaking vigorously. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash onto the braid.

When the oven is hot, put your braid onto the middle rack and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden and the underside is lightly golden, but not overdone. Try not to over bake, as that will also dry out the bread. You want the top to be golden, but not too dark.

A nicely done underside will look like this. See how it’s golden also, but not too dark?

Let the bread cool, and enjoy! It’s delicious fresh, but also keeps nicely on the counter; seal it inside a bag to keep it from drying out.

It’s a wonderful gift to give, too!


Gratitude Sunday * October 2, 2011

By , October 2, 2011

Sunday’s a good day to remember what we’ve been grateful for over the past week, don’t you think? I’m joining Taryn over at Wooly Moss Roots in her Gratitude Sunday tradition, and here’s my list:

– The weather! This week we had incredible weather — sunny, settled, and in the 80s. I’ve savored it. And there’s more in the forecast!

– Blanket on the lawn, magazine, ice water, warm breezes, bright sun & dappled shade, blackbirds chattering, sleeves rolled up, sun-warmed body.

– Our crock-pot.

– A wonderful dream, where my soul sister Sonja (who’s been on the other side for 7 years now) came to hang out with me. I’ve been missing her a lot so this was really special. In the dream, we went swimming and she reminded me of our anniversary, which I had totally forgotten about! When she was living, we’d always celebrate our “friendship anniversary” sometime during the month of September, usually by taking ourselves to lunch at our favorite restaurant. We were coming up on our 16th anniversary when she died. For some reason, I guess I stopped remembering our anniversaries several years back, and would have forgotten this one too, had it not been for her reminder dream (on the last day of September!). In the dream, we calculated together that it would be 23 years this year, and we marveled at that!

– Having a 10-day retreat at my parents’ house while they’re away. Having the private outdoor space that is their backyard… having my garden right there to putter around in… hearing crickets — and nothing else — at night… being able to hang things on the clothesline… playing the piano in their living room… reading outside next to my garden with tea, with my feet on the cool grass, until it’s too dark to see… you can see why it’s a retreat!

– A canceled work-related meeting, meaning I could stay home and slack off a bit! Perfect since I felt especially crappy this week.

– Meeting my Hubby at the neighborhood farmer’s market today 🙂

– Staying out in my garden tonight until dark, pressing nasturtium leaves. What a quiet, centering activity that was.

– The smell of clothes that have dried on the line outside! And simply just hanging things out on the line. This is one of my favorite activities; today I hung out my pajamas, towel, and the down comforter just so they’d get ‘that smell’.

– Letting myself cry instead of holding it back. Sometimes you just need a bit of a cry. It feels cleansing.


And now here’s another little garden tour for you; it looks much like the one from last month, but it was such a beautiful evening that I couldn’t let it pass without showing you. 😉


What blessings have you appreciated throughout your week? Leave a comment and let us know!


Movie Time! Garden Tour + Afternoon Thunderstorm

By , September 3, 2011

I was relaxing over at my parents’ house yesterday after a meeting, and decided to take you on a little garden tour! In addition to the utterly scintillating subject matter, the tour features two bonus soundtracks — Ambulance Siren and Thunder:


And here’s the rainstorm that had just happened right before the tour!


Quiet Summer Night at Our House

By , July 31, 2011

I took this video tonight…the beautiful clouds against the sky drew me to the bedroom window with my camera.

Just a quiet Sunday summer night with crickets. The traffic’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s lighter than usual. And it’s hot out still, 85° and it’s past 9:30pm. The crickets are going fast! After an oven-like day, this is the time to be out and about!

Hope your night is peaceful…

Our City Dawn Chorus

By , May 24, 2011

I love when I happen to wake up early enough to hear the early-morning birds, before the noise of the city starts up. Last Sunday morning I awoke and decided to record our dawn chorus because it’s so beautiful!

I really love birdsong. I come from a long line of bird watchers and nature lovers…my dad would take me on nature walks as a little kid, pointing out whose nest was whose (my favorite was the oriole’s sweat-sock nest!), and whose song we were hearing around us (my favorite was the red-winged blackbird). Hearing birdsong is one of my true, deep pleasures in life!

Here’s the sound of our city dawn chorus, with the hollow — almost haunting — song of robins.

Does it sound like yours? Is it different? Who sings at dawn in your neighborhood?

Philosophy Friday: Even Julia Child Made Mistakes in the Kitchen

By , August 21, 2009

I was recently watching a Julia Child episode on DVD, when she launched into this little sermon about peoples’ irrational fear of failure while learning to cook. I liked it so much that I recorded it and posted it so you could see it, too:

Julia Child – “Don’t be afraid of failure in the kitchen” from The Herbangardener on Vimeo.

We must not be deterred if our cooking flops, because that’s how we best learn the quirks of the ingredients we cook with, and how to combine things for the best results. I sometimes get pretty frustrated when my cooking doesn’t work out, especially when I waste good ingredients (and precious time!). But I also know that mistakes can be very good teachers…

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