Saturday, February 16, 2013

Looking Out My Backdoor

As most of you know by now, if you come here often, I love birds. In winter, I hang suet and fill two feeders, one with mixed seed and one with shelled peanuts. The suet and peanuts are especially popular with woodpeckers, which rarely come around in the summer. Though that red bellied one is pretty fond of seeds, too.

Here's a look at the current residents:


Above: Northern Flicker   And Below: Red Bellied Woodpecker

Note the seeds flying  in this shot. He shovels out whatever is in his way to get to the good stuff.
How annoying is that?


Last, and Maybe Least: Downy Woodpecker


It's a love/hate thing with these guys because of what they do to our trees:


Click here to visit Michelle's site, Rambling Woods, and see more Nature Notes

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Heavenly Challah

We used to have a Great Harvest Bread store in the area that made the most amazing challah bread, a rich and egg-y loaf intended for Jewish celebrations. It made the best French toast we ever had. Over a recent family meal, we found ourselves mourning the loss of Great Harvest in general, and that challah bread in particular.

And then I thought to myself, "Self, this is why God made the Web. I bet between me and Google we can figure out how to challah." And did we ever.


Going straight to the point, I Googled for the "recipe for Great Harvest challah". I found an interview with the owner, Don Kinney, wherein he relates that a customer gave him their family recipe for it: "It’s a simple recipe, it’s flour and eggs and yeast and honey. I use honey instead of sugar."

How hard could that be? Googling on, this time for "honey challah" and sifting through the resulting recipes, I happened on this one: Most Amazing Challah. It didn't have honey in it, but I didn't have any honey in the house anyway. Plus, it was getting five-star raves and it made a lot. (REALLY a lot. More on that in a bit.) If I'm going to spend hours on baking something, I do want to end up with a lot of whatever that something is.

The recipe calls for quick-rising yeast and pareve margarine. Didn't have them either. So I substituted regular yeast and butter, and did the standard two-risings method.

And, as previously noted, it makes A LOT: "2 big loaves or 4 regular-sized ones". In fact, there was so much dough my mixer couldn't handle it all. I had to haul out the biggest bowl I owned, transfer it into there, and have the hubby strong-arm the last of the flour into it.

I divided it into two loaves. They practically filled the oven. Once baked, each one nearly covered a whole cookie sheet and stood 5-6 inches tall in the middle. Impressive. Maybe a little intimidating.

And. It. Was. Perfect! We all agreed it was just like the Great Harvest version, same texture, taste, aroma - this bread has it all.

Big project. Big mess. Big bread. Totally worth it.