Heavenly Delicate Challah Topped with Sweet Crumble


NAME AND PRONUNCIATION: chałka [how-kah]
DESCRIPTION: challah—sweet brioche type of bread
TYPE OF CUISINE: Eastern European—Jewish

This is one of the most important types of bread of my childhood, so it took me ages to this recipe perfectly right. My prefect challah is delicate, but not too puffy, never ever dry and with shiny, dark golden crust.


2 challahs • Preparation time: about 35 minutes • Resting time: 1 hours plus 30 minutes • Baking time: about 20 minutes


TIPS:


01
Challah can be made sweeter if you want it as a dessert or a sweet snack, or less sweet if you would like to use it for an open, savoury sandwich. Adjust sugar accordingly – use 5 or even 6 tablespoons of sugar, if you like your bread a little sweeter, and reduce it down to 2 tablespoons, if you prefer your bread less sweet.

02
If you decide to make your challah less sweet, you can also top is with poppyseeds or sesame seeds, instead the sweet crumble.

BRAIDING TECHNIQUE:


01
Lay out all the strands to make it look like a 6-arm octopus and number them in your head them from 1 to 6 left to right. Now, it is time to weave! Take the strand 1 and place it all the way to the right, behind the strand 6.

02
Now take the strand 6 and place it all the way to the left. Your strands will now run 6, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, with strands 1 and 6 running on top of other strands. Strand 1 is first across and strand 6 is just below.

03
Now notice the middle of your challah, which is in between strands 3 and 4.

04
Take strand 1, move it over strand 6 and to the middle of your challah, so between strands 3 and 4. Your order now is 6, 2, 3, 1, 4 and 5.

05
Now take strand 2 and place it all the way to the right making it 6, 3, 1, 4, 5 and 2. The middle is now between strands 1 and 4. Take strand 6 and put it down over strand 2 into the middle.

06
In short, the general rule of weaving is this: you need two strands across your challah, one on top, one below. You place the one on top over the one on the bottom and in the middle of your challah. Then add another across strand coin in the opposite direction to the one you have left. Having two strands across again, always bring the top one across the bottom one in the middle of your challah. Repeat until you finish braiding all the strands.

07
At the end, pinch all strands together and fold underneath.

INGREDIENTS:


Challah:
 550 g all-purpose flour
 ½ cup warm milk
 ½ cup warm water
 30 g butter
 1 egg
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast

Sweet Crumble:
 1 tablespoon butter
 1 tablespoon flour
 1 tablespoon sugar

METHOD:


01
Melt butter in a small pot and set aside to cool.

02
Sift the flour, add all ingredients, including cooled, melted butter and knead for at least 20 minutes, until the dough is silky smooth.

03
Place it a bowl, cover with a tea towel and put in a warm place for it to rise for about 1 hour. Use these tips on raising a perfect dough.

04
After the dough has doubled its size, take it out on a worktop and knead for few seconds. Split it in two, cover one half with a tea towel and spilt the other one into six equal parts. Roll out each part to form 6 equal strands.

05
Lay the six strands side-by-side, then pinch all 6 tops together so they are connected at the top. Fold the pinched bit underneath, so the strands do not fall apart. Braid your challah slowly, closely following the directions above.

06
When you finish braiding both challahs, proof them in a warm place and covered with tea towels for about 30 minutes.

07
While you are proofing your challahs, make the sweet crumble. Simply combine all ingredients, form a neat ball and place in a fridge.

08
Once your challahs are proofed, cover them with egg white or egg wash, sprinkle with sweet crumble (the best way is to grate chilled crumble on a cheese grater and sprinkle on your loaves) and bake in 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy!


The Best Doughnuts with Lemon Glaze with Strawberry and Rose Filling

Name and pronunciation: pączki z różą [punch-key z roo-Jean; “Jean” prononuced in a French way]
Description: doughnuts with rose filling

 

I love Polish doughnuts! They are absolutely delicious, not too sweet and much less dense than many other types of doughnuts. Also, they are always in a shape of balls and most often with lovely filling inside. They resemble berliners, but are more delicate inside. The most traditional type of Polish doughnuts is one with a rose jam filling and topped with thick glaze and candied orange peel.

10 doughnuts • Preparation time: about 45 minutes • Resting time: 1 hours plus 30 minutes • Frying time: about a minute for each doughnut

Tips:

01
Make sure you use enough flour for dusting your doughnuts before proofing. They will be very delicate and you do not want them to stick.

02
When placing your risen doughnut in the oil, handle them very gently. They need to stay perfectly round and fluffy.

03
While I absolutely love my doughnuts with a filling, my family prefer plain doughnuts, only glazed. It is perfectly fine, they will be lovely either way!

04
Every rose is edible, but you should never ever consume commercial roses from flower shops. They are treated with many chemicals and are never safe to eat. You can get dry rose buds in Asian shops or health stores, in a tea section. Simply remove the green parts and add the rest to the fruit.

05
You can mix the glaze with a spoon, but I like using a blender to make it super smooth.

Ingredients:

Doughnuts:
 2 cups all-purpose flour
 ½ cup warm milk
 2 yolks
 1 egg
 35 g butter
 4 tablespoons vanilla sugar
7 g dry yeast
⅓ teaspoon salt

Filling:
 4 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
 4 tablespoons sugar
 10 rose petals
 dash rosewater (can be replaced with plain water)

Lemon glaze:
 2 cups powder sugar
 lemon juice

Method:

01
Melt butter in a small pot and set aside to cool.

02
Meanwhile, beat the yolks with the egg with vanilla sugar until they are very fluffy and almost white.

03
Sift flour with salt into a mixing bowl. Add milk, yeast and eggs beaten with sugar, and gently mix.

05
Knead for about 15 minutes. The dough will be very sticky at first, but dusting the worktop with some flour will do the trick.

06
After 15 minutes, add melted, cooled butter and keep kneading. It seems like there is too much moisture at first, but keep kneading. Soon you will end up with a perfect, smooth dough. Keep going for another 15 minutes.

07
Cover and place in a warm place to raise for about an hour.

08
Use this time to make a filling. Making the filling is super easy. In a small saucepan, place strawberries, add a dash of rosewater, rose petals and sugar. Start with about 4 tablespoons of sugar and add more if you need to. Simmer on low heat and keep stirring every so often, so it doesn’t burn. Stop when the filling is nicely thick. Cool.

09
After an hour, you dough should be twice the size. Knead a little bit to let the air out and roll out on a worktop. Cut about 10 circles with a cake cutter or roll into 10 equal balls. You can weigh the dough portions to make sure they are the same. Dust with flour generously, cover with a tea towel and place on a flat surface to proof. Keep them quite far from each other, they will raise significantly.

10
Now, it is time to deep-fry them. I like using a wok for it. Heat up enough oil to cover a half of your doughnuts. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle when you place your doughnuts, but they should not brown too fast or they will burn. Gently place about 3 doughnuts in the oil and fry. When the bottom side is nicely browned, flip them using a straining spoon. Continue with the rest.

11
When brown on both sides, it is time to remove them from oil and place on a cooling rack.

12
If you choose to add filling, you need to do it when your doughnuts are just cool enough to handle, or the filling will not have enough space inside. You can either use a piping bag with a special, long tip, or simply get a syringe (the largest size). Pierce each doughnut on a side (the light ring is the softest part) and inject a portion of the filling to the middle of your doughnuts.

13
When cooled completely, cover with lemon glaze. To make glaze, simply add lemon juice to the sugar few drops at the time and mix energetically. Powder sugar mixes with the smallest amount of liquid and you need your glaze very thick, so be careful not to add too much juice at once. Dip doughnuts in gaze and sprinkle with finely grated lemon peel before the glaze sets.

Enjoy!

Pierogi with Green Lentils and Coriander

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi [pee-yeh-ro-ghi] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings
Type of cuisine: Polish

I absolutely love pierogi with green lentils. They are flavourful and have a great texture, actually resembling meat, so even the most dedicated carnivores are guaranteed to enjoy them. I add fresh coriander, so it is not strictly traditional Polish filling, but it is a real staple in our house and we eat tonnes of them!

Approximately 40 servings • Preparation time: about 60 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
With fresh pierogi, you have a choice between serving them just cooked, or frying them. After cooling or freezing, you should fry them.

02
Both fresh and fried pierogi are perfect when served with fried onions or sour cream.

03
Because you need to add two layers of dough to each bite, make sure that the filling is slightly saltier and a little bit spicer than you need it. This way it will be perfectly balanced when cooked.

Ingredients:

Dough:
one portion of pierogi dough

Green lentil filling:
 200 g dry green lentils
 1 large onion
 fresh coriander (to taste, I like quite a lot)
 salt (to taste)
 pepper (to taste)

Method:

01
Make a portion of dough and set it aside for 30 minutes.

02
Cook the lentils until soft all the way through, but not mushy. The filling is much better when it retains the natural texture of perfectly cooked lentils. You will need about twice as much water as you are using lentils. 

03
Chop the onion and fry it until brown, but not crispy.

04
Drain cooked lentils. It is best to give them good few minutes to make sure all water is drained well and the filling is not too runny.

05
Mix cooked lentils, fried onion and chopped coriander while gently breaking the lentils with a fork, to achieve a consistency resembling cooked minced meat. Season with salt and pepper. 

06
Make pierogi following these instructions.

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Enjoy!

Delicious Pierogi with Cottage Cheese

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi z serem [pee-yeh-ro-ghi z seh-rem] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings with dry cottage cheese
Type of cuisine: Polish

This is a true taste of my childhood. My late maternal grandmother made the best pierogi with cheese. This recipe is based on how she made them.

Approximately 40 pieces • Preparation time: about 60 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
With fresh pierogi, you have a choice between serving them just cooked, or frying them. After cooling or freezing, you should fry them.

02
Both fresh and fried pierogi with cottage cheese are perfect when served with fried onions or sour cream.

Ingredients:

Dough:
one portion of pierogi dough

Cottage cheese filling:
 250 g Polish dry cottage cheese 
 250 g potatoes
 1 large onion
 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
 2 teaspoons black seed (Nigella Sativa, to taste)

Method:

01
Make a portion of dough and set it aside for 30 minutes.

02
Cook the potatoes until very soft. Cool them and mash them thoroughly.

03
Chop the onion and fry it until brown, but not crispy yet. Mix all the ingredients together.

04
Make pierogi following instructions.

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Enjoy!

Easy Sourdough Bread

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Name and pronunciation: chleb na zakwasie [h-leh-p • nah • zack-fah-sheh]
Description: sourdough bread
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

There are many different recipes for a sourdough, some more difficult than others. This is a perfect one to start your wild yeast adventure. Sourdough bread always takes a while, but this method does not take a lot of effort, just time, which is a great advantage.

Approximately 1.5 kg loaf (or two smalls ones) • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Resting time: 3 x 12 hours • Baking time: 45 minutes

Tips:

01
I find it easier to bake two smaller loaves than one large one.

02
To bake, use any cake form, but bread crust needs moisture and high temperature, so I get best results using cast iron pots.

03
Always line your forms with parchment paper.

04
If your oven does not have a steam function, place a bowl of hot water next to the forms.

05
Use bread flour of any kind you like. I usually mix white and whole-wheat flours 50/50, but you can also add some rye flour for a nice, strong flavour.

06
It is a good idea to slice and freeze all excess bread. It defrosts in minutes and remains as fresh as on the first day.

07
To make the top crust thicker and crispier, I spray the top with water several times during the last stage of rising. Be generous and make sure you spray your bread with water and generously cover with flour just before baking as well.

Schedule:

01
Morning: prepare your starter for activation and leave it until evening.

02
Evening: make the sponge and leave it overnight.

03
Morning: knead the bread dough, move it to forms, cover and leave it to rise for the whole day.

04
Evening: bake the bread and cool it. Two days before the bread runs out, prepare new starter to activate for new loaves.

Activating starter

Ingredients:

100 g cold starter
 100 g flour
 100 ml water

Method:

01 
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a non-metallic container and leave out in warmth for about 12 hours. Make sure it has space to rise. I always use a 500 ml glass.

Making sponge

Ingredients:

activated starter from previous stage
 500 g bread flour
 500 ml water

Method:

01
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for about 12 hours in a warm spot.

Kneading dough

Ingredients:

 sponge from previous stage
500 g bread flour
 25 g salt
 seeds, grains and nuts (optional)

Method:

01
Mix all ingredients and knead by pressing and stretching for at least 10 minutes. The dough needs to feel elastic and springy to be ready.

03
Split in two and roll the loafs in flour. You can mix the flour with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or oats for added crust flavour.

04
Place the loaves in forms lined with parchment paper. If you want to score your loaves, do it now. Make sure the cuts are quite deep, because the dough will still rise significantly and shallow scoring will disappear.

05
Cover with tea towels and leave for about 12 hours in a warm spot.

Baking bread

Method:

01
Pre-heat your oven to maximum temperature for about 10-15 minutes. Boil water and fill in a small bowl. Place it in the oven.

02
Bake your loaves for 10 minutes in the maximum heat, then lower it to 200ºC. Bake for another 35-40 minutes.

03
Cool down the loaves before cutting them. If you do not have time to put away the loaves away after they have cooled down, simply wrap them loosely in tea towels and leave them on a kitchen counter until the morning.

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Enjoy!

Polish Onion Bread

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Name and pronunciation: cebularze [tzeh-boo-lah-zhuh; “zhuh” is pronounced like French “je”]
Description: onion bread
Type of cuisine: 
Polish

This onion bread is an integral part of my region’s cuisine, so I was very surprised when I learnt that only people from my area knew about it. In recent years, it got more and more popular in other parts of Poland and all my friends absolutely love it!

8 servings • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Resting time: 60 + 30 minutes • Baking time: 40-50 minutes

Tips:

01
You can prepare the onions the night before and leave them in a fridge overnight. They get very aromatic and flavourful this way.

02
Be careful not to leave them in the oven for too long. The dough needs to be soft and, since it is quite thin, it becomes crispy rather quickly.

03
Read my tip for rising perfect dough.

Ingredients:

Onion topping:
 3 large onions
 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
 2 tablespoon olive oil
 1 teaspoon salt

Dough:
500 g all-purpose flour
 250 ml (approx. 1 glass) warm milk
 7 g dry yeast (one little packet)
 60 g unsalted butter
 1 egg
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 tablespoon salt

Method:

01 
Chop onions into small cubes and fry them with a little bit of oil on low temperature until it is soft. Then add poppy seed and salt and leave to cool down.

02 
Mix flour with yeast, sugar and salt. Melt butter in milk on very low heat (without letting it get too hot) and pour the liquid over the flour mix. Gently whisk the egg and add to the rest of ingredients, leaving a little bit as egg wash for edges.

03
Mix and then knead for at least 10 minutes, until the dough is perfectly smooth and light. Leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60 minutes. After the dough has risen (best if it doubles in size), split it into 16 parts, shape each part into a ball and flatten on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving some rising space between them.

04
Put a portion of onions you have prepared earlier on each bun and leave for another 30 minutes to rise. Generously brush with egg wash around edges and bake for about 20-25 minutes in 185ºC until nice and golden.

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Enjoy!

This recipe was featured in Luxembourg City Magazine, November 2015 (page 28).

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Photos: Sven Becker for CityMag, November 2015