eat in my kitchen

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Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

Camembert and Pear Challah

A lot of cracking and aching was going on in the oven while I watched my camembert, pear, and thyme challah bake. At one point I got worried that my braided bread was going to explode. It rose and expanded on all sides, it looked more like a challah pancake than the elegant breaded loaf I had in mind. Maybe I filled the single yeast dough strings a bit too generously with ripe – and stinky – cheese and chopped crisp fruit, but I had a feeling that the recipe needed it. So I trusted, which is always the only sensible thing a baker can do when the object of attention doesn’t perform as expected.

To my surprise, it worked out in the end and the shape still reminded me of a Hefezopf – the German name for challah. I used my classic plain challah recipe and replaced the sugar with honey. It’s common in Germany to use butter and milk for this kind of bread, instead of water and vegetable oil, which you usually find in traditional challah recipes. I like the added richness coming from the dairy products, I find it tastier. Seeing as the fruit and cheese bring in even more juice and moistness, I could have made the dough a bit drier, added more flour to help it keep its shape. But the final texture was so nice, soft and spongy, that I’d rather accept the pancake-look than ending up with a dry Hefezopf.

If you don’t feel like camembert, you can also go for any other aromatic cheese that melts well. I already have a raclette challah in mind, next time. And I’m sure that apricots or peaches would also do a pretty good job instead of the pear. So feel free to experiment, but keep in mind, the juicier the fruit, the more it’ll soften your dough.

This challah is a perfect picnic, brunch, or Saturday lunch treat, preferably accompanied by fresh fruits, wine, and a selection of cheese and prosciutto. A green salad with juicy tomatoes also goes very well with it.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

When I baked my challah, it was a very hot day. So the butter in the dough literarily melted in my hands and turned braiding into a fiddly task. The single braids stretched quicker than I reacted, I was too slow. If you also happen to go for this recipe on a day with high temperatures, to avoid stress and frustration, try to work quickly when you braid the loaf. Keep the braids a bit shorter to begin with, due to the filling they’ll expand in length.

Makes 1 large challah

honey 2 tablespoons
butter, melted, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
organic eggs 2
plain flour 520-550g / 4 cups – 4 cups plus 4 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon

For the filling

aged camembert, cooled and cut into thin strips (it’ll be a mess if it’s too soft), 250g / 9 ounces
medium to large firm pear, cored and cut into tiny cubes, 1
fresh thyme and a little rosemary (the needles, chopped), a large handful

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon

Stir the honey into the hot melted butter and whisk until combined, let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Add the milk and eggs and whisk, the mixture should be lukewarm.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the milk-butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix for about 5 minutes or until well combined and smooth. If it’s too soft and sticky, add a little (!) more flour. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for about 3-5 minutes or until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C (100°F) warm oven, for 60-70 minutes or until almost doubled in size. If it’s a hot summer day, you can let the dough rise at room temperature (that’s what I did this time).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the dough is puffy and almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide into 3 parts and roll them into longish, but not too thin sausage sausage shapes (see picture above). Flatten each piece of dough until it’s roughly 7.5 cm / 3″ wide. Divide the camembert, pear, and herbs between the 3 pieces of dough and spread, leaving a little rim all around the filling. Fold over each piece of dough, roll it gently, and seal the overlapping side and ends well. The filling should be completely wrapped inside the dough.

To braid the bread, work quickly, as the dough stretches. Lay the ends of the dough rolls on top of each other at one end and braid them tightly. If they become too long and thin, squeeze them together a little. Bend both ends of the bread under the loaf and quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes or until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting).

For the glaze, whisk the egg yolk and water and brush the top of the challah. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and spongy. When you knock on the challah’s bottom, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting the bread into thick slices.

The challah tastes best on the 1st day.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

A Bavarian Sandwich with Obatzda and spicy Radish

Obatzter Sandwich

In a Bavarian beer garden, you can be sure you will find plenty of beer, sausages and at vesper time a traditional delicacy which is served with bread, I’m talking about Obatzda also known as Obatzter meaning mashed. Drinking beer in Bavaria demands strong physical condition as it’s served in a 1 liter mug, the “mass”. You may imagine that it’s quite helpful to have  some rich food on the side when drinking such quantities (obviously people don’t stop after their first “mass” of beer). Obatzda is one of them and it’s offered in huge varieties. It’s basically a cream made of aged cheese leftovers often mixed with either herbs or spices like hot paprika powder or caraway seeds, onion, garlic, a shot of beer, horseradish, butter, cream cheese, I could continue endlessly. It is, again one of those dishes that evolved in each region with each personal preference and local tradition.

My Obatzda is green, it’s based on rucola and a middle-aged camembert and cream cheese. I added some radish and watercress to bring out the rucola’s mild spiciness next to the rich and tangy cheese. White bread wouldn’t have managed to keep up with these strong flavours, I used dark spelt bread. This sandwich needs a dense and juicy texture, strong bread with a nice crust. What is great about this dip is that you can really play around with the leftovers of your fridge. Spring onions, dried tomatoes, olives, all the ingredients mentioned above, you can create your own Obatzda after your own preferences. After your selection is made, mix everything in a blender or mash with a fork and spread on a slice of bread, a thick layer, this is a luscious Bavarian sandwich after all!

For a little bowl of Obatzda, I mixed 30g / 1 ounce of rucola with 50g / 2 ounces of aged camembert, 150g / 5.5 ounces of cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the camembert’s age and tanginess you might need more or less cream cheese, the same with salt. When the dip is spread on a slice of bread, sprinkle with thin slices of radish and some watercress.

Obatzter Sandwich

 

Obatzter Sandwich

 

Obatzter Sandwich

Sandwich Wednesday with Camembert and Juicy Pomegranate

Camembert + Pomegranate Sandwich

It felt like a lot of people enjoyed my Stilton and Pear Sandwich a couple weeks ago as much as I did. I received quite a few messages from people who tried it and loved it which made me think about further possible cheese and fruit combinations. There are a million variations but I particularly love a mix of sweet and aromatic flavours. When it comes to cheese, I’m the kind of person who eats what others might consider to be beyond the expiry date, to me a cheese can’t be too ripe. There is a wonderful cheese section in my favourite department store which has – as you can imagine – a very distinct smell in the air. So when I go there with friends you can be sure that when the others are already on the run, I’m still standing there fascinated by the variety. When it comes to cheese, I feel no pain!

At the moment I buy a lot of pomegranate, they are sweet and juicy (and full of antioxidants which isn’t bad either). So the fruit is set. My cheese of choice is an an aged Camembert, so stinky that I have to wrap it twice and put into a box to keep the rest of my fridge safe, but it tastes delicious! I bought a loaf of Ciabatta, my current favourite for sandwiches when I don’t bake my own bread, which I cut in half and cover with thick slices of my creamy Camembert (for 2 people I needed around 90g of this cheese). I baked it in the oven under the grill for just 20 seconds, any longer and there wouldn’t be any cheese left. This one melts really quick! I kept a baking dish under it to collect the cheese running down the sides of the bread. When it was golden brown, I took it out and sprinkled my sandwiches with the seeds of 1/3 of a pomegranate and crushed black pepper.

Camembert + Pomegranate Sandwich

 

Camembert + Pomegranate Sandwich

 

Camembert + Pomegranate Sandwich

 

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