Daily Archives: 21 May 2010

Viva La Diva

Ju-boy claims that I make friends quickly.  He doesn’t mean this as a compliment.

Let me clarify.  The man claims that the Brits take years to cultivate a friendship.  Anyone that he has known for less than twenty years is merely an acquaintance.  Friendship is reserved for those loyal enough to have stuck with him for a score of years.  My opinion?  If you’ve managed to be friends with my at (most) times ascerbic husband, you deserve a medal and a rubber room.  Actually, my experience with British friends are that they are a loyal bunch.  Unfortunately, in my life I have had the chance to see fair-weather friends at play, and really can’t count a Brit among them. 

But Ju-boy is correct, I do make friends quickly.  What he considers a liability I consider a gift.   When I first moved to Stepford Teaneck Ra’anana I was fortunate that Ju-boy came with his own set of friends (befriend one, get the whole set).  But I also made my own friends in the community, and one of them is Vida.  Vida had made aliya to Israel a few years before I moved to Ra’anana, and she is one of the most interesting (and vocal) people I have ever met.  What started out as basically a stepmom support group for two became a valid friendship.  Vida has a blog of her own, feel free to check it out. 

The other day she asked me if I would blog about spelt bread.  As she said, it’s now in fashion, and what do a I think about it?  I didn’t think anything about it, I’ve never been fashionable, and had never even eaten spelt bread before.  But I’m always up for a challenge, and this past week was in Eden Teva Market and bought a kilo of organic whole spelt flour.  Wow, that’s some expensive flour!  I tried to cut corners and looked for non-organic refined spelt flour, but there doesn’t appear to be such an animal.  If there is, not one of the “in” health food stores in the area carried it. 

Spelt loaves about to escape

I’ve been told never to experiment in the kitchen when guests are coming, but I usually do.  In this case, however, I was a little hesitant.  With just family here for Shabbat (including a visit from Scarlet and Sasquatch) I thought this would be a good venue to premiere my spelt challah.  Being such a spelt newbie I first asked my buddies over at israel-food, and they were very helpful, helpful in confusing me!  Reduce liquids, add more liquid, don’t overmix, add gluten, don’t let it rise too much.  A lot of this also contradicted with the instructions for making spelt bread on the flour package itself.  The recipe had lots of water and said to mix the dough for 10 minutes.  My food guru Ruth said to use less water and don’t mix for over 4 minutes. 

Spelt challah ready for Shabbat

Good thing I listened to Ruth.  This spelt dough was quite the little diva.  It doesn’t like being handled too much, nor does it like being left alone.  The instruction on the flour package said to let the dough rise for an hour and a half, shape into loaves and then let it rise again at another hour and a half.  The first rise went well, but 30 minutes into the second rise that dough was knock knock knockin’ on my kitchen door.  I heard that if you let the diva dough rise too much it thrown a hissy fit and deflates, so I quickly preheated the oven and threw it in there.  35 minutes later they were already cooling.  One loaf I saved for dinner tonight, but Ju-boy and I just had to do a little quality control with loaf #2.  The jury is still out on this one.  It produces a really crumby (not crummy) loaf.  I think the recipe would have benefited from an egg or two.  Slathered in butter it’s delicious, but a bit heavy as a stand-alone slice. 

Okay, Vida, you happy now?

Spelt Challah (recipe adapted from the Adama brand whole spelt organic flour package)

1 kilo (2.2. pounds, roughly 7 cups) whole spelt flour

2 tablespoons dried yeast

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Lastly, add the water and olive oil.
  • Knead for 4 minutes (the package says 10 minutes, don’t listen to it).
  • Let the dough rise for about an hour and a half in the bowl, until doubled.  Keep the bowl covered with a damp towel.
  • Punch the dough to release the air trapped inside and shape into loaves.  The dough is sticky.
  • Let it rise again.  The package says another hour and a half, but after half an hour my dough was ready to pack its bags and run away from home.  Again, cover the rising dough with a damp towel.
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).  Bake at this temperature for 10 minutes, then lower your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F) and bake for another 35 minutes (my loaves were ready in 25).

Normally I’m a fearless challah baker, but actually was a bit trepidacious in the face of this challenge.  I suppose if I actually had one recipe instead of several ones that all contradicted each other (the Internet isn’t always the most helpful tool) things would have gone a little more smoothly.  I don’t know if I’ll make this again.  I don’t suffer divas lightly.  And in the end, this was quite a heavy diva.

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