this post is sponsored by Coombs Family Farms. thank you for supporting the partnerships that allow brewing happiness to grow and exist. xoxo.
I’m not Jewish but many of my closest friends are. Therefore, I’ve snuck my way into enough Shabbat dinners to know that I’m in love with challah. So a few weeks ago, I decided to make my own. That was when I truly fell in love with challah. The process. The patience. The art. I’m obsessed with it all.
In a short amount of time I went from using Molly Yeh’s classic challah recipe from her cookbook, to venturing out and making variations of my own. It’s my goal to learn more about bread making, and I’m starting here with this new found love. And while I love the classic, it hasn’t taken me long to start experimenting with variations of my own.
Since it’s October, I started playing around with adding pumpkin to the mix. The other adaptation I knew I wanted to make was subbing out the granulated sugar for something more natural and lower on the GI scale. So I partnered with Coombs Family Farms, and sweetened the whole loaves with maple syrup and maple sugar. I’m currently fully obsessed with the maple sugar, it’s a granular version of maple syrup and therefore has endless uses. It’s seriously changing the baking game forever.
This loaf is a bit sweeter than a traditional challah, and full of maple and pumpkin flavor. It’s also a slightly wetter dough than a traditional challah, which makes for a softer bread when baked. It also means it’s a bit messier to knead, but as long as you flour your hands and your surface well, you’ll be good.
As a note for people who don’t make bread often… Yes, it’s a long process. Yes, it requires patience. No, you can’t skip steps or shortcut. But nothing tastes better (or makes you feel more accomplished) then making your own bread at home. DO IT. xo.
Maple Pumpkin Challah
This Maple Pumpkin Challah is a sweet, seasonal take on the classic. Sweetened with maple syrup and maple sugar, you get a softer and healthier loaf!
- 4 1/2 tsp (2 packets) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/3 cup Coombs Family Farms Pure Maple Syrup
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (sub other flavorless vegetable oil), plus more for oiling bowl
- 1/2 cup Coombs Family Farms Maple Sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring surface
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp water
- Coombs Family Farms Maple Sugar, to taste
In a large mixing bowl, add your active dry yeast and warm water. Whisk gently together, and let sit for 10 minutes. The yeast should bubble and activate.
Add canned pumpkin, Coombs Family Farms Pure Maple Syrup, eggs, grapeseed oil, Coombs Family Farms Maple Sugar, and salt to the bowl. Whisk together until well combined.
Add in flour, one cup at a time, mixing the batter until well combined after each cup. (I usually use a whisk for the first 3 cups, then switch to a wooden spoon or my hands for the last cups!)
Once the dough is shaggy and holds together, generously flour a surface and your hands. Transfer the dough to your surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands or the surface.
Form the dough into a ball. Grease a large bowl with grapeseed oil, and transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for two hours. (It should double in size.)
After 2 hours, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough into a rough rectangle. Cut the dough into six even sections. Use your hands to roll each section into a 12-18" rope.
Connect the ends of three ropes together by pressing them into one strand. From there braid the three ropes over each other until there is no more length to braid. Press the opposite ends together, and tuck each end under to make a nice looking loaf. Do this same thing for your second loaf.
Transfer loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you are placing them on the same tray, make sure there is at least 3-4" between the loaves. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a small bowl whisk together your egg yolk and water. Use a basting brush to brush eggwash onto the loaves, covering the whole surface. Sprinkle each loaf with a generous amount of maple sugar.
Bake for 28-32 minutes (check after 28 minutes!)
Once baked, transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before slicing.
Serve with butter, plain, or make some delicious french toast out of it.
I don’t know how to write about politics right now, and I don’t know how to not write about politics right now. But what I will say is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the way we are having conversations right now.
I’m afraid of the amount of lying, finger pointing, blanket statements, and unwillingness to listen. I’m afraid that twitter has undermined our ability to speak in a nuanced way. I’m afraid Instagram has given us a short attention span for each other. I’m afraid headlines have taken away our desire for depth. I’m afraid we’re all deeply wounded and deeply numb.
I’ve been working on my own conversations skills recently – choosing to have the hard conversations. But more than that – choosing to have those conversations with a kind and open heart. It’s not easy, but it might be the only way.
It occurred to me that we could learn a lot about having difficult conversations, especially political ones, from learning how to bake challah. So I present to you my extremely cheesy list of “8 Lessons We Can Learn About Having Difficult Conversations from Baking Challah.” (Eat your heart out Buzzfeed.)
- Begin by acknowledging the life. Just as bread baking begins by activating yeast with water and watching it come to life, we should approach each person and conversations with an open acknowledgement of the life they have lived. Their life has lead them to this point and this opinion, and almost always their life experience has proven to them that their opinion is *right.* You are probably the same. So we must begin by acknowledging this and learning about each other’s experiences in order to move forward.
- Add more sugar than salt. Challah is a sweet bread, which means it requires more sugar than salt. In the metaphorical sense, I mean the same – add more sweetness and kindness to the conversation than saltiness. I’m not saying don’t add salt. Salt is necessary to be able to properly taste the sweet. Just be sure to have more sweetness.
- It’s going to get messy. There’s no way around this one. It’s going to get messy. Be prepared for it. Mentally, physically, emotionally. There’s no way around it, you gotta go through it.
- You have to knead for a while. The same way you knead bread, you may have to spend time pressing another person. Gently, yet unrelentingly and with purpose – press them. Your arms may get tired. You have to keep going.
- Results may take a long time. After you knead bread, you have to wait hours for it to proof. The same is true for people. You probably will not change their mind or see the effects immediately. Give it time. They will rise. They will grow. Believe that the work you put in will pay off with time (and space.)
- You may have to reshape. It is probable with any hard conversation that you may have to go back in and reiterate your point in a new way to make it stick. This is what I think of as the braiding phase. Change up the way your conversations looks, change the approach.
- Give it time to cool off. Once the conversation has been kneaded, braided and baked, you have to let it cool off. It will burn your tongue or your hands if not. Give people time to cool off. Things may get heated, in fact, they probably will. So allow people the gift of cooling off. We all need it.
- Everything is better shared. Just as challah is a bread best shared, so are our conversations – our hearts. Share yourself with others, even when it gets messy or takes a long time or requires a cool-off period. Continue to share. It’s the best part.