Baking has always been a little intimidating to me, There is just so much SCIENCE behind it! When you want to make a double batch, you can’t just double the recipe because of the ratio of leavening agents (baking soda/powder, yeast, you know, stuff my ancestors didn’t have when they made matzoh).
Sidenote: what is the difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder? They are both (as I mentioned before) leavening agents, which means they work with the other ingredients to create carbon dioxide which makes the baked goods rise Rise RISE! Well I took the liberty of looking into these happy cousins (and I threw yeast in there for just shits and gigs), here are some specifics
- Baking Soda :: 100% Sodium Bicarbonate. It needs to be combined with a liquid AND an acid in order to create the chemical reaction to awake the awesome power of…itself. The carbon dioxide bubbles expand under oven temperatures (so be sure to bake immediately after mixing!).
- Baking Powder :: Mainly Sodium Bicarbonate, but also has it’s own acid included (usually cream of tartar or corn starch). It also needs to be mixed with a liquid to activate its self. Technically you can substitute this for Baking Soda, but it’ll probably affect the taste, and you’ll need a different amount, but c’mon friend, you’re playing with fire. Bite the bullet and pay the…what, $0.79 for Baking Soda which will last you about 4 years. You can also make your own Baking Powder by mixing Baking Soda with…you guessed it, Cream of Tartar, but then again…$.079….
- Yeast :: And now we’re getting into organic territory. The previous 2 agents create chemical reactions, where yeast is a LIVING THING…and also gives bread that awesome yeast flavor (and let’s not forget beer, sweet, sweet beer). Yeast also needs a liquid to be activated, but in order to create the carbon dioxide it feeds on sugar. It eats the sugar, and dispels carbon dioxide.
And here we are. Baking anxiety. I’ve had plenty of loafs not work out because my yeast was old, or I didn’t let it dissolve properly, or I sub-consciously sabotaged myself, and so every time I start a baking project (from scratch, of course), I get a little nervous. But, c’mon, if you saw this could you say no:
Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah – Smitten Kitchen
Holy crap. This looked amazing, and it tastes AMAZING. I dove right in, and it worked out so well. I was apprehensive to work with figs because I HATED fig newtons when I was younger because they looked like chocolate, but they weren’t chocolate. They were gross fruit masked in a delicious dark color. Stupid Fig Newtons. So I’d say this is the first time I’ve gone out of my way to interact with a fig. We got along quite nicely.
So while I’m letting the dough rise (eat that sugar yeast!), I made the fig “paste”, which also leads me to the point in the story when I didn’t follow a specific direction. I had the figs chopped up and everything in the sauce pan
And then once it was made, I thought “hmm, I thought the figs would break down since it looks so velvety smooth in the photos”. Well a food processor makes things velvety smooth, a food processor step that a certain someone completely looked over. Sigh. Which made “spreading” it in the dough a little difficult
But I rolled it up regardless, and MASTERED the intricate wrappings of the fig-filled tubes
I’ve made a few Challah in my day (scroll down to see more) and this is the only one I’ve ever double egg washed, but it did give it a great deep brown color. Also, it started browning too early, so I had to wrap it in tin foil during the last 10 minutes, which I have never had to do before, but a great tip! After the egg wash you top it with some additional salt (which is also in the fig paste, I also used Kosher salt rather than sea salt since that’s what I had and I don’t bend for anyone). If you’ve ever had salted caramel, you’ll understand how amazing the salt interacts with the sweet figs. I would probably put even more on if I could go back in time (funny story, I just saw Back To The Future about a month ago for the first time, I finally understand all the references!).
My past Challahs (all taken with cell phones…and of course I included this one just because…)
Wow, this bread is AMAZING. I waited maybe a full 50 seconds for it to cool before I took a slice out and then my eyes cartoon popped out of my head. I actually like the chunks of fig woven throughout, rather than in a sweet succulent and velvety paste (ok, I am curious what it would be like, but NO REGRETS). Please please please try this recipe (and post pictures! I want to see) because it is impressive looking, and so so good!