13 October, 2011


Making bread is not a task to be entered into lightly. Until now I have shied away from making leavened bread, anything that needs to rise gives me pause. In my household we never used yeast, we used baking powder to make biscuits and cakes rise, but dinner rolls? They were always frozen.
Since I moved to Italy I have been forced to try new methods of baking; baking powder is no longer available and an oven is a rare commodity, this is limited baking taken to the extreme. What is available is yeast and loads of it, they even use it in cakes! So after much consideration, and an available oven, I tried my hand at bread baking, this is the day I made Challah!


¾ cup Water, Warm
1 tbsp. Sugar
1/3 cup honey
sprig of diced rosemary
1 package Active Dry Yeast
¼ cup Olive Oil
3 Eggs, Divided
¾ tbsp. Salt
3 cups All Purpose Flour

In a bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 minutes.
Do not stir the yeast for 5 minutes, just let it multiply.
Whisk in the oil, and then 2 of the eggs. Add 1/3 cup of honey, rosemary, salt, and whisk to combine. While stirring gradually add the flour and whisk.

Once the dough starts to come together, start kneading the dough, add as much flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking, it should become smooth in your hands.

Form the dough into a ball and place it a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let it sit in a warm place to rise for 2 hours.
I used the inside of the oven set on warm.

Now when it comes to braiding the Challah, that's where it gets a bit complicated. Now you can braid challah in several ways; you can opt for a simple 3 strand braid or you can do a more complicated 6 strand braid.
I have included a diagram from Krissy's Blog that explains the 6 strand braid extremely well. If you want to do the 3 strand, it's just like braiding hair, you girls know what I'm talking about.

The prettiest probably is the 6 strand, but make sure you pull all of the strands down as the braid will form on top of the strands going down. It's only decorative so have fun!
Divide the dough into 6 balls, and then roll each ball into a long 12-inch strand. You are now ready to braid the dough.

Continue the pattern until braided and then pinch the bottoms together.

Place bread braid on a properly oiled baking sheet or silicone matt, then beat the last egg and brush on top of the loaf.
Let the loaf sit out in a warm place for 1 hour, once again, the oven will work fine.
Preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C.
Once the loaf it done rising again, brush the rest of the egg wash over the loaf and bake.
Be watchful that the bread does not burn, this process is very quick, around 20 minutes.

02 October, 2011

Market Day Pasta

Moving is never easy..

For the greater portion of my first month in Italy I was lost when it came to food. The grocery store across from my house left much to be desired, dusty cans and moldy produce made me dread my weekly shopping excursions. For 3 weeks I just chalked it up as a cultural experience and made the best of it because without a car my options were pretty limited. Then I found the market.
Mercato Trionfale is one of the biggest and cheapest markets in all of Rome, it also happens to be within walking distance of my house. The market boasts have dozens of stands selling everything from buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto, to fresh fruits and mushrooms. This is what shopping was meant to be.

One of my favorite meals I have deemed "market day pasta", it's a combination of the fresh pasta and vegetables that have become staples of my weekly market trips.

Market Day Pasta

2 tomatoes
2 japanese egg plants (or one medium eggplant)
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 pinches of dried red pepper flakes
1 cup of cauliflower
2 ounces smoked mozzarella
1/2 tablespoon rosemary
4-6 oz fresh fettucini

Place water to boil.

Using a cheese grater grate the egg plants and cauliflower florets, this makes almost a ground-beef like texture.
You may opt to slice some of the eggplant to add into the veggies for aesthetics.
Add to the pan with diced garlic, rosemary, olive oil, pepper flakes and diced tomatoes, sauté.

Once the water boils add the fettucini and leave in for one to two minutes.

Take two spoonfuls of pasta water and add to the vegetable sauté.

Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables.

Dice the mozzarella into small pieces and add to the pan, stir on medium heat until the cheese is melted.

Add salt and pepper flakes to taste.
Be careful adding salt, the smoked mozzarella can be very salty.