Recipe of the Day: Susan's Challah

Susan’s Challah

5 cups unbleached white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 TBSP yeast
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream ( I almost always use homemade yogurt)
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup butter softened
1 egg beaten for glaze

Warm the milk/yogurt together to 90 degrees. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the center. Put the yeast in the well and add the warm milk/yogurt mixture. Mix to disolve with your fingers. Add the beaten egg and butter. Mix to form a dough. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until soft and shiny. Let the dough rise in a greased bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap, in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface, punch down and form into a ball. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece into a rope about 10 ” x 1 “. You may have to work slowly with a little rest in between so as not to stretch the dough to quickly.

To make the dough into a braid, press the four ropes together on one end, giving them a little twist and tuck for neatness.

challah 1
Counting from your left, fold strand 1 over strand 2, 3 over 1 and 4 under 1 and 4 over 3. Repeat until you reach the end. As you work the strands will probably lengthen. Nip and tuck the second end in the same way you did the first. Place finished loaf on a greased baking sheet, cover wtih oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 400.

Brush loaf with the second beaten egg and bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes

Cool on wire rack.
challah 2

This bread but lovely served with any meal. We spread with honey butter. Delicious! If there is left overs it mades great toast or sandwiches.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! and Reflections…

I cannot believe it is already 2007. Where in the world did 2006 go? It was a very tiring year I must admit. My mom has been ill, or should I say more ill over this past year. I had an abdominal hysterectomy in May. So I have let time slip by me while life was going on. I have a very busy schedule as it is and one of my goals in 2007 is to “stop and smell the roses”. When you wake up and can’t think of what month it is, it is time to slow down. And as I approach 50 at breakneck speed, it is even more important for me to enjoy the journey more than try to arrive at the destination.

I suppose with the passing of each year, one reflects on their past, wonders about their future and tries to correct any regrets. I have very few regrets. One thing I am extremely proud of is the amount of time I have spent with my children over the past 20 years. We began homescooling in 1988 and it seems only yesterday that I sat at my kitchen table in our single wide mobile home and nursed Hannah while the other three did their book work. Since that first year we have moved a half a dozen times and added two more children to our family. And I am happy to say I have another 7 or so years of homeschooling to go. Wonder if Benjamin would notice if I held him back a couple of grades to prolong the end of this phase of my life? ;) Of course at 10 he is determined he will always live here with his dad and me.

I don’t make “resolutions” but I do try to start the New Year off on the right foot. I stopped by last week and paid my membership to the local Curves for Women. Yeah, I have to make myself go and while I know all the reasons why I could exercise without paying for it, I won’t. I will, however, go to keep from wasting the money. Silly huh? I cannot imagine how good I might feel now that I have had my surgery, which was a complete success and life changing in a positive way, if I exercise regularly as well. Take a few more pounds off. I don’t set weight goals either. No need to set myself up to fail before I ever get started. I hope to arrive at a very comfortable size and feel younger than my 47 years. How’s that for a goal?

On the business side of things…I worked all day yesterday on my books. I hate that part of the business. It is time to pay year end sales taxes and get my papers ready for our income tax preparation. Everything is in order ready to finalize. I plan to do better in 2007 and not wait until the end of the year.

I will be changing some of my packaging and streamlining my soaps and such. I am passing my newsletter on to a lovely farmgirl friend “up north”. She is enthusiastic and will do a wonderful job I am sure. She is growing her own soap business and the newsletter will be a great addition. When she has her website up and running I will be sure and share it with you all. She will be offering some of the soaps I have discontinued, along with her own creations. She will also be doing bottle lotions, tub truffles and other things I know you miss. My main focus will be on soaps, lotion bars and lip butters. I must streamline for time’s sake and I believe it is best for me to stick with what I love and do well. And still leave time after homeschooling, family and soap business to garden, sew, write and relax a little. I will have my new and improved website up and running by the middle of January and will be ready to resume shipping on January 29th.

So I suppose that is it for today…Happy New Year! Make every day of it special.


Recipe for Biscotti & Homage to Good Coffee

The word “biscotti” literally means twice baked. Biscotti is all the rage in coffee shops and tea rooms and I think one of the main reasons is it will keep for a very long time. Because it is found mostly in shops where you don’t blink at paying $3+ for a cup of coffee some may think it hard to make or even an exotic treat. The opposite is quite true. It is very easy and the variations are endless. Don’t be afraid to try baking this Italian cookie. I think Rachel and I will bake a batch today and maybe post a tutorial.

Back to the “gourmet” coffee shops where we fork over sometimes even $4 or more for a cup a joe. And I can’t even say a good cup of joe. I am not a fan of chain shop coffees. Convenient? Yeah I suppose. But I prefer to make a pot for my thermos and just take that with me. It is very seldom that I purchase a cup of coffee and go “WOW, now this is good coffee.” I won’t pick on any chain in particular, because quite frankly, it very well may just be me. It sure seems lots of people disagree with me, as everytime I go into the city there is a new “coffee cafe”. And a line at the drive up and several people standing in line to place an order inside. Oh and I am well aware what a stroke of genius it was to open the first one. However, if you are like me, and very particular about your coffee I can tell you there is no better than Green Mountain Coffee from Vermont. I don’t really remember how exactly I tasted it the first time, since I have never been to Vermont. But the moment it hit my taste buds I was smitten. I place an order about once a month or so. And if you are so inclined and decide to order let me tell you the very best blend. Purchase a bag of each: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Tanzanian Peaberry and Dark MagicĀ® Espresso. Mix these in equal parts. OH MY – Rich and in my opinion what a cup of coffee is supposed to taste like. Granted it might be hard for one person to drink roughly 3 pounds of coffee before it is stale in the bags so maybe you would want to get together with friends and divide it. I am warning you though, you will be hooked. And I can say this about Green Mountain Coffee ~ their customer service is just as great as their coffee. You will love doing business with this company. Oh, I could go on and on about this…both coffee in general and GMC…but I will get to the recipe for Biscotti.


Traditional Italian Biscotti

12 ounces of butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup white sugar
6 large eggs
1 tsp anise extract (I do not like anise and traditional biscotti calls for it. So I substitute almond 1/2 tsp).
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
8 ounces chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time. Beat until fluffy. Stir in
flavorings. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add them to the egg mixture along with the almonds. Stir with a spoon and as the dough comes together, knead by hand.

Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each piece into a log about 15 inches long. Place logs onto cookie sheets two to a sheet the long way. Flatten the logs out until they are about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. As soon as they loaves are cool enough to touch, slice them diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the slices onto the cookies sheets and return to the oven. Bake 7-8 minutes on one side, turn over the slices and repeat for another 5-6 minutes or until cookies are crisp and light brown. Place on wire racks to cool. Store in an air tight containter for up to 4 weeks. Biscotti can be frozen for no longer than 3 months.

Number 2 of 27 Things to Live By: Be the first to forgive. (This is one of the hardest things for me.)