Cheesy Basil Challah - filter 9.8.14

Autumn Challah


If your summer was anything like mine you’re asking yourself right now “Where did the summer go?!” How are we already coming up on the start of fall?! As much as I love the heat of summer, the barbeques with friends, fresh amazingly delicious fruits and vegetables, hiking, biking, soaking in the sun, enjoying a margarita on a patio, and an overall feeling of freedom and nostalgia I can’t say I’m not excited for autumn. Oh the time of year where there’s a crisp bite in the air and dewy grass on your morning walk and the comforting feeling of the holiday celebrations that are coming up. We start to leave the freshness of summer foods behind for more comforting yet very delicious dishes.

I love to cook, and this is the time of year where I start to transition from preparing colorful abundant salads, light grilled meats and veggies, and desserts topped with fresh fruit and ice cream, to warmer, fragrant, rich and soothing dishes.

I’m an early riser, even on the weekends, and I love to get up early to a quiet house, brew a pot of hot coffee and get to baking. Nothing says comfort to me like a nice hot loaf of bread with fresh jam for breakfast. My newest hobby is perfecting the art of making Challah bread. If you know what Challah is you know that it is a beautiful braided bread masterpiece. Although it is a “loaf” of bread, calling it a “loaf” just doesn’t do this wonderful bread justice. The bread is moist, soft and light, yet still holds a dense quality and an amazing chew characteristic. Often you will see Challah that is filled with different flavors, like chocolate chips, fig jam, or savory cheese and basil.

There are many meanings to the “art” of making this bread. I live in Denver, where we are at an elevation of 5280 feet, which can make baking a little tricky. Figuring out just the right amount of water and flour is the first step in a dry climate. Next kneading the bread just the right amount of time to develop the gluten without making the dough tough is the next step. Once you’ve perfecting these things you might think you have it down, but now the more literal meaning of “art” comes into play. Rolling out the dough and forming it into strips is easy, but braiding is what takes some practice. Not to worry though, each time you take on the challenge to braid these wonderful dough “locks” the finished product is more beautiful than the last.

There is no better way to celebrate this accomplishment than spreading some soft butter over a hot slice of the gorgeous Challah, breathing in the aroma, and enjoying every bite!

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