Hola! That’s what you say after a trip to Puerto Rico, beautiful island and some of the friendliest people I have ever met. I know there has been a long break in my posting schedules last two plus months but I am alive and breathing. I am sorry for this absence, hope I will be back on track with getting you some delicious baked goods, right in time for your holiday baking. I am in that period of life where you do a major overhaul in life (in my case making a move to NYC, all about it later). Somethings just take a backseat like baking and this blog for a while but fear not, I am back and you will be getting tons of new recipes.
In between all this chaos I did make a trip to Puerto Rico and I am in love with this island. Everything from shades of green in the El Yunque rainforest, pristine beaches and the colorful historic Old San Juan. Sleeping and waking up to nothing but sounds of birds, frogs and insects in rainforest, there is something intoxicating about it . We lived in the middle of rainforest, in a B&B aptly called Rainforest Inn and our hosts Bill and Rene were very gracious. The best part of this stay was the private hike with a waterfall at the end. You might not know but I had a fear of dogs and I would run like some kind of lunatic when they come near, thanks to Bill I became friends with three of their dogs, Gracie, Maya and Simone.
Strolling the blue cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan lined with kaleidoscopic architecture and alluring forts surrounding the city makes you think how much we lose when we don’t preserve the history. I ate tons of fried Puerto Rican food, had some of the best local coffee and formed a habit of asking for pique, a type of hot sauce which is full of flavor. Only thing I won’t miss is the hot and humid weather which I totally despise.
While I was turning pages of Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft for my review, I was thinking there are so many recipes I wanted to make but when it come to chocolate and orange combination I am pretty much incapacitated. I have fond memories of eating a chocolate as a kid with these two flavors. Challah is one of my favorite breads and this recipe works perfectly by hand. Very easy recipe for someone who is new to bread baking, the dough comes together beautifully. I have a challah recipe here but this recipe with addition of sour cream is really worth trying. I found the bread softer and is perfect when you want a more cake like bread. I had the pleasure of talking to author Uri Scheft personally, we talked about food from our countries and everything about bread. I was so excited talking to him that I almost blocked others, yikes!! He is the owner of Breads Bakery in New York City and creator of what is called World’s Best Babka. I discovered Breads Bakery last year and have been a fan ever since. The moment I heard about the book coming out I thought about writing a review and testing some recipes. After this recipe I am already dreaming of making that babka soon, which you should expect on blog!!
Orange and chocolate, in Uri’s words is a magical combination and I am totally on that boat. The orange confit is easy to make and so good that I ate leftover with just a spoon and used fingers too or should I say licked every last drop of it. I used Valencia orange as I couldn’t find Navel as he recommends, but it worked perfectly. Use the best bittersweet chocolate you can find. I am almost ready to bury myself in flour, butter and sugar and few new cookbooks. So have you found any new favorite cookbook for your holiday baking?
Recipe from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft
Makes 3 loaves
- 235 grams/ 1 cup water, room temperature
- 235 grams/ 1 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 orange (Navel is recommended, I used Valencia)
- 300 grams/ 1 1/4 cup water, room temperature
- 15 grams/ 1 tablespoon plus 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1000 grams/ 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 100 grams/ 1/2cup sour cream
- 100 grams/ 1/2cup sugar
- 15 grams/ 1 tablespoon salt
- 60 grams/ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 340 grams/ 2 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped roughly into ½ inch shards
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- pinch salt
Make orange confit
- Over medium high heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir often and dissolve the sugar.
- Remove half of the syrup to a small bowl. Add orange slices and bring a boil. Drain the slices and discard this syrup.
- Lower heat to medium-low, add back the remaining syrup and bring to a simmer, occasionally swirl to coat slices. Cook until it thickens like marmalade, 10 to 12 minutes. Strain, keep syrup for other use like over toast or glaze your breads.
- Chop orange confit, set aside.
Make challah dough
- Add water into the bowl of stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with yeast, whisk it.
- Add flour, eggs, sour cream, sugar, salt and butter. Mix on low-speed until it comes together. Increase the speed and knead for about 4 minutes. If making by hand knead the dough until it is smooth.
- Lightly dust the work surface with flour and transfer the dough. Use your palms and push the dough away from you, fold it over itself and make a quarter turn. Repeat this a few times and you will have a nice round shaped dough. Transfer the dough to a rising bowl.
- Using a knife make a checkerboard pattern over top of dough, add chopped chocolate and orange confit on top. Start folding the dough over to itself and mix the toppings. Do not knead, the chocolate should stay chunky.
- Dust the top with some flour and cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise till it is about 70 percent, about an hour.
- Prepare loaf pans by lining it with parchment paper and greasing it with butter. Carefully divide dough into 9 equal parts (if using weight scale it will be 200 grams each) without letting all air out and form balls. Set 3 in each loaf pan and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap.
- If you have only one loaf pan use the remaining dough to make a braided bread like this.
- Let the bread rise for about an hour, until double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 425° F, do this 30 minutes before the rising time.
- Make the egg wash and brush the top. Bake for 15 minutes and turn, bake another 10 minutes. Internal temperature should reach 190° F. Remove from oven and place pan on cooling rack, set aside to cool.