Sunday, December 18, 2011


Knowing that this recipe will be the last one I make this year as part of THE CHALLENGE, Anna & I both looked forward to learning how to turn six strands into one loaf of bread. This was a far cry from my years of turning a massive mane into pigtails each morning before elementary school. As opposed to other multi-braided loaves, this is not the result of two triple braided loaves stacked on top of each other.

The ingredients included the usual suspects -- wheat flour, eggs, yeast, honey. The dough didn't rise as much as I expected. It might have been the addition of White Whole Wheat flour, but it was easy to mix in the KitchenAid.

After the first rise the dough was weighed into twelve equal balls, enough to make two loaves. Once covered they needed about 45 minutes to rise again and were then rolled into tapered "snakes". Each of us took six strands and smooshed them together at the top. By the way, that's a formal baking term.

Now came the tricky part. With us facing each other, Anna read the instructions one move at a time, from the open book. Basically, each strand has a numbered position 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. The very clear pictures and instructions from "Inside the Jewish Bakery" directed us to "move #2 over #6", "move #1 over #5", etc. It was a bit like dragon boat racing, we just followed the shouted orders. Pretty quickly we were locked into a rhythm and in a few minutes we were both finished.

So far, so good. We finished braiding at the same time, which meant that both loaves were similar in size and should bake evenly. Next Anna added two coats of egg wash followed by each of us personalizing the seed topping. She opted for sesame and charnushka (small, pungent black angular seeds also known as kolonji). I used poppy seed with a little charnushka for sentimental reasons; historically it was sprinkled on top of rye breads in Russia, home of my parents before they were lucky enough to emigrate.

Because I was using a home convection oven, and the loaves needed separate pans, I had to bake on two shelves. The bottom one was covered with tiles, while the top one wasn't. I reversed the pan direction and shelf positions midway. They were done in about thirty minutes and the room smelled heavenly.

The recipe advises you to wait almost an hour before cutting into the bread. This is generally good advice because you want the moister interior to cool and settle so it doesn't glom together (another baking term)  and compress when you cut it, ideally with a serrated knife. I hadn't anticipated how long it would take to complete from start to finish. I cut my loaf after only 30 minutes because we were all anxious for a taste.

You can notice in this picture where the various strands were braided. It was delicious but a little denser than the all white flour challahs I've had in the past. That could also be because our loaves were long and narrow, causing us to knock the air out of the dough while rolling it pretty thin. We tried it with some of my homemade jams and happy "yum-yums" were heard throughout the room. 

The result -- a beautiful girl holding her beautiful six strand hand braided Honey Whole Wheat Challah.

Saturday night I decided to take what was left of my challah and try a recipe that I haven't made since the 80's, the Brasserie's Orange French Toast. I knew this type of bread would be firm enough to hold its shape yet soft enough to absorb all of the eggs, milk, orange juice, etc overnight in the refrigerator.

Gently fried in butter, it was as good as I remembered. The Brasserie was a unique bistro style restaurant in New York City back in the day, offering exciting French influenced fare for the casual table.

I didn't bother to slice the orange into supremes (the orange segment cut from between each membrane). Instead, I picked a flower from my garden and added homemade Mango Meyer Lemon Jam. It was a great way to start the day. If you'd like to make some for yourself using Challah or French bread, here is the recipe as it appeared in Florence Fabricant's New York Times column back then.
Brasserie Orange French Toast
  • 1/2 cup Milk (or half & half for a richer taste)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange
  • 5 Eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Medium-sized French breads each about 16 inches long
  • Butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Beat milk, orange juice, eggs, sugar and vanilla together until well blended. Strain into a large bowl. Grate the zest of an orange (without the white pith) and add to the mixture.

Cut breads to 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick slices on an angle. You should have approximately 18 slices. Do not use the ends. Briefly soak the bread slices in the egg mixture and place them in a single layer on a tray, a large platter or a shallow baking pan. Pour any of the egg mixture not absorbed by the bread over the slices. Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight. If possible, turn the slices once during this time.

Peel away all the white pith of the orange and cut the orange into slices to use as a garnish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Melt butter in 1 or 2 large skillets or a griddle. Fry the bread slices over medium-low heat until nicely browned, turning once to brown both sides. Depending on the type of skillet, you may need a little more butter.

Dust French Toast with confectioners’ sugar, garnish with orange slices and serve.

Yields 6 servings

Florence Fabricant in The New York Times


When I return, after spending the holidays in New York City, Anna & I will continue with the CHALLENGE as we bake POLISH POTATO BREAD on Friday January 6, 2012. It's also the first Village ArtWalk of the new year so I'll have my tent set up in the driveway leading to the TreeHouse at 932 12th Street West, Bradenton. Stop by for a taste Friday night from 6 - 9:30pm or Saturday from 11am-4pm. There can't be an ArtWalk without CHOCOLATE ORGASM COOKIES, so look for them too. Drop me an email if you want to pre-order some ($5 for a package of 4) since we usually sell out quickly on Friday.


and hugs from the kitchen,        Bonni

always available at (941) 746-6647   or

Sunday, December 11, 2011


This is half of a Florentine cookie, because it takes two of these cuties sandwiched between either melted semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate, to become "a single cookie". I realize now that I forgot to take pictures of the finished ones before they were all gone. They were a delicious melange of almond, chocolate and cinnamon with coconut overtones (even though there was no coconut in them), and disappeared quickly. Here in Florida it's tough to create & maintain crisp cookies (especially if there's honey in it), with our humidity. Still, it was finger-lickin' good.

 The first mistake I made was to use ground almonds. I should have used hazelnuts because I forgot that Anna is allergic to almonds. She was my indespensible other half during the creation of these and she couldn't even taste one. I feel awful!!

This cookie starts by finely grinding nuts in a blender or food processor. I used my trusty Oskar, a small processor similiar to one that Cuisinart makes. Be careful because if you grind nuts too long they ultimately break down into nut butter, not what you want here. This is what the ground almonds looked like.

The liquids are combined and heated on the stove. 

The dry mixture is added and heated to a specific stage.

When it's all cooked to the right temperature it has to cool a bit.

The warm dough is portioned, then baked on a non-stick surface.

After cooling on a rack they are sandwiched between molten chocolate. The amount of time & labor, combined with some pricey ingredients, suggested it wasn't feasible for me to bake & sell any. I hope you were some of the folks that sampled them on Friday. Yum!

This coming Friday Anna & I will be baking HONEY WHOLE WHEAT CHALLAH. I've never created a challah with whole wheat flour before, nor made a 6 strand braided bread. Happily, Norm & Stan's book has very detailed instructions. Warm samples of the bread will be available on Friday from 2-4 if you visit us in the TreeHouse (down the driveway next to the former Bonni Bakes).

Lately I've been making a variety of jams & chutney, utilizing the fabulous Keitt Mango from my tree. At this point the available combos are MANGO STRAWBERRY CARDAMOM; MANGO MEYER LEMON & LIME, and KEITT MANGO CHUTNEY. An 8 oz jar is $4 and comes wrapped for gifting. Try some on the challah...what could be bad?

This week I'll be baking some mega muffins ($1.75 each) -- my CRANBERRY ORANGE, BLUEBERRY LEMON or VEGAN PUMPKIN DATE RAISIN. If you'd like to order any for pick up on Wed. Dec 14th, give me a call by 5pm Monday at 746-6647 or email

Because I'm incredibly lucky, I'm off to spend the holidays with my kids in New York City and family in Maryland. To insure that I can shlep enough Florida-made goodies up North, the kids sent me an early birthday present (see below) that should wrap things safely.

If I don't see you this weekend, have a joyous HOLIDAY, surrounded by people you LOVE and I'll be in touch next year.

Hugs from the kitchen,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The first bake is POPPYSEED (MOHN) BARS

This week we kicked off the beginning of the challenge to bake all of the recipes found "Inside The Jewish Bakery". The first recipe was for a dessert that I don't remember eating before...Poppyseed Bars. In Yiddish poppyseeds are known as "mohn", and they crop up often in eastern European recipes. In this case they are used as a moist filling between a shortbread type base and a streusel topping sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The base of the cookie was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and proved to be a good foil for the poppyseed/apricot/honey filling and crunchy topping. Many people who tasted these at Saturday's Village ArtWalk were impressed by the not too sweet taste, typical of much Jewish baking. Others had never experienced poppyseeds as a filling, thinking of them only as a bagel topping. And then there were the New Yorkers who were transported back in time after one taste. In the end, the plate was empty and little Otis Whaley was seen slyly picking up a few crumbs. To me the crust tasted just like a hammentash (triangular holiday filled cookie) and were delicious. They're cut into 1"x2" bars and are the perfect partner alongside a cup of coffee or glass of tea (the way my Grandmother drank it). Do you remember these, if so we'd love to hear about it.

If you're interested in buying some, for delivery this Friday, they're available by prior order only for $12/lb, minimum order 1/4 lb. Call or email me by Thursday at 746-6647 or

On Friday Anna & I will be baking Florentine Cookies, the delicate lacy ones sandwiched together around melted white or bittersweet chocolate. What could be bad? Samples will be available by 3pm on Friday Dec 9th. Let me know if you'd like me to save you one.

Hugs from the kitchen,