Saturday, April 21, 2012


Back in September of 2008 I read an article in the New York Times Magazine's Recipe Redux column about challah. Four years later, I finally made it. Not the 2008 version, which, much like the article, is offensive on a lot of levels. I made the 1976 version. Well, I made my food processor version of it. In fact, I've made it about seven times in the past three months, and I think I've perfected it.

The original recipe from Sarah Schecht of Brooklyn appeared in an article by Craig Claiborne in 1976. I’ve divided it in half, given food processor directions, and braided like a sane person instead of in an eight-strand braid. However, the pictures you see in this post are actually of a double batch following the instructions below (literally, I made it once, then made it again . . . otherwise it doesn't fit in the food processor, or in any bowl I own to rise) and then following Ms. Schecht's instructions for braiding, which even I could follow.
I highly recommend using Penzeys Ceylon cinnamon, which has a heavenly, ethereal taste, unlike the heavy ground bark you get from your average grocery store cinnamon. I used Penzeys cinnamon blend this last time, and while it is leaps and bounds better than grocery store cinnamon (which is probably stale China cinnamon), it might have resulted in challah too breakfast-y to use for lunch sandwiches.

If you are planning to use your challah for sandwiches, allow the second rise (the one after you braid it) to continue a little longer. On cold days, I let it rise more than an hour. The challah pictured here rose for two hours and 15 minutes in a kitchen with an ambient temperature around 71 degrees. The reason traditional challah might fall apart when you cut it for sandwiches is because it is supposed to be easy to pull apart to share on Shabbat, like a loaf of dinner rolls.
2012: Challah
  • 4 1/2 C unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading
  • 1 t dry active yeast
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T plus 1/8 t sugar (save the 1/8 for the egg wash)
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (save one for the egg wash)
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T canola oil
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water
  • Place the flour, yeast, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in the food processor bowl. Pulse to combine.
  • Add the vanilla, 2 of the eggs, and the oil and run on bread setting for 20 seconds. Add 3/4 c lukewarm water and run again for 20 seconds. The dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to your hands. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then lay a clean towel over that, and let rise for at least an hour.
  • Turn the dough onto a flat surface and knead briefly. Cut off 1/3 of the dough, knead quickly, shape into a ball, flour lightly and let rest for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a 12-to-15-inch-long rope. Continue with remaining balls.
  • On a baking sheet lined with a Silpat non-stick baking sheet liner (or analog), align the ropes, side by side. Gather the tops together, one at a time, pinching down to seal. Braid them. When braided, gather the bottom ends of the ropes and pinch them together.
  • Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf is doubled in size, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1/8 t sugar. Brush the loaf with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.
Makes 1 loaf.

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Monday, April 02, 2012

April's Mozzarella del Mese: Nodini

Last month I made my first batch of mozzarella using New England Cheesemaking Supply's 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit. It was pretty firm. Definitely sliceable. Well nigh shreddable. This month I wanted to go for a more delicate consistency, like the light and airy fresh mozzarella I've had at fancy restaurants. The best example of this locally is available at the Cheese Cave in Claremont. On one of my many cheese buying binges there, the owner saw my we bairn and suggested she might like some nodini, which means "knots" in Italian. Nodini are just little knots of fresh mozzarella.

I owed four quarter-pound batches of mozzarella to some colleagues who helped me out with a little class project (in case you're wondering, according to Fullerton's zoning ordinances, the incoming CSUF president could keep chickens at her official residence). When asked what form they would like, the only one with an opinion requested nodini. The recipe in the booklet that comes with the kit yields approximately 3/4 lbs mozzarella. So instead of using one gallon of milk I increased it to 1 1/2 gallons of milk and increased all of the other ingredients proportionally, except for the salt. I also modified the original instructions to maximize moisture retention and tenderness. They turned out light as air and delicious, so I'll be returning to this interpretation of the recipe again.

For those of you playing along at home, I used Straus Family Creamery's whole, organic, non-GMO, creamtop, pasteurized milk which I purchased from Mother's Market in Brea.

Nodini adapted from Ricki's 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe in the booklet accompanying the 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit.
Yield: Approximately 1 1/8 lb. cheese

  • 1 1/2 gal whole, non-ultrapasteurized milk (I used pasteurized milk. The directions vary slightly in terms of times and temperatures for raw milk.)
  • 1/2 C cool, chlorine-free water
  • 1/2 tablet (or 1/2 t if you're using liquid) rennet
  • 1 1/2 C cool, chlorine-free water
  • 1 1/2 t citric acid
  • 1/2 t cheese salt
  • 2 gal stainless steel pot or any non-aluminum or non-cast iron pot.
  • slotted spoon
  • thermometer
  • long knife
  • large microwave-safe bowl
  • powderless nitrile gloves
  • Put a large bowl of chlorine-free water in the refrigerator. Put another large bowl of chlorine-free water in the freezer.
  • Dissolve rennet (tablet or liquid) in 1/2 C water. Stir and set aside.
  • Affix the thermometer in a readable position on the pot.
  • Dissolve citric acid in 1 1/2 C water. Pour into the pot.
  • Pour all of the milk into the pot and stir vigorously.
  • Heat the milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit while stirring.
  • Remove the pot from the burner and slowly stir in the rennet solution with an up and down motion for approximately 30 seconds.
  • Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for 7 minutes.
  • Check the curd. It should look like custard, with a clear separation between the curd and the whey. If the curd is too soft or the whey is milky, let set for a few more minutes.
  • Cut the curd with a knife that reaches to the bottom of your pot. Cut cubes no smaller than 1 inch square.
  • Place the pot back on the stove and heat to 100°F while slowly moving the curds around with your spoon.
  • Take off the burner and continue slowly stirring for 2 minutes.
  • Pour off the floating whey.
  • Ladle your curds into a large microwaveable bowl and drain off as much of the whey as you can without pressing the curds too much. Put on your gloves.
  • Place the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute. Meanwhile, take the large bowl of water out of the refrigerator and set it next to where you'll be tying your nodini.
  • Remove and drain off the whey as you gently fold the curds into one piece. Add 1/2 t salt.
  • If it's not warm enough to stretch, microwave for another 30 seconds. But if it's already starting to stretch, try to keep the microwaving to a minimum.
  • Stretch the cheese by pulling it into one long rope. Try to work it as little as possible to maintain the delicate texture.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the rope and pull it off from the rest of the rope. Immediately drop the knot into the large bowl of cold water. If the rope cools off too much to work with, pop it back in the microwave for a few seconds. Continue to do this until you've run out rope and have a bowl full of cold water and little knots of cheese.
  • Put your bowl full of cold water and nodini into the refrigerator for five minutes.
  • After five minutes, use the slotted spoon to transfer your nodini from the bowl of refrigerated water to the bowl of water in the freezer. Put your bowl full of really cold water and nodini in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • You can wrap these in waxed paper and store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, you can float them in brine (just salt and water) in an airtight container for a similar length of time. Really, you'll end up eating them WAY before two weeks is up.
Previous Mozzarella del Mese:

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