Thyme challah and blackberry chia jam

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Baking is an incredibly humbling experience. It requires accuracy, discipline, and patience. I do not consider myself to be naturally patient. There have been a few instances this week that have reinforced the fact that I need to practice my patience. So why not practice and have something delicious to show for it?

Every month Buzzfeed’s food section has a list of recipes with products that are made with seasonal ingredients or specific to a holiday in that month. While looking over the list for March I found a recipe for pretzel challah from the Hola Jalapeño blog. It looked delicious and one of my new years resolutions was to bake more bread, so I decided to go for it.

I first attempted this recipe on Tuesday night. My first mistake was starting at 6 pm. This is a very time intensive process. You need to make the dough, let it rise for 2-3 hours, let it chill, boil it, and then bake it. I started my second attempt around 10 am and finished around 3 pm. Give yourself time to complete this.

My second mistake last Tuesday was heating the water to too high of a temperature for the yeast. Yeast are tricky little things. Some blogs say to let the tap run warm until its just hot enough that you want to take your finger out. Others say it should be like a baby’s bath water. These are two vastly different temperatures to me and I’ve been trying to figure out how to achieve the perfect yeast activating temperature. The first time around the water was too hot and it killed a lot of the yeast. There were a few bubbles and the top had a little froth so I thought it would be ok, it was not.

I went through the process of making the dough, kneading it, making braids and preparing the boiling solution before I realized it was a lost cause and I should just give up and try again over the weekend with more time. They didn’t turn out as lovely looking as in the original recipe, but I was pretty happy with the taste and texture of the loaves.

The jam is kind of a side note in this post, although it could be it’s own featured recipe. It’s tart and delicious and only requires four ingredients! Plus it’s really easy to make and basically fool-proof. It uses the Aztec diet staple chia seed, which I will be sure to write a post about soon because it’s versatile and does interesting things with liquids.

Thyme Challah (halved and adapted from Hola Jalapeño’s recipe)

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Ingredients (grouped in the order in which you will mix/use them):

Yeast mixture:

– 1 tablespoon of yeast

– 1/2 cup warm water

– 1 teaspoon sugar

Dry ingredients:

– 3 cups of flour

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 2 tablespoons of sugar

Wet ingredients:

– 2 eggs

– 1/3 cup vegetable oil

– 2 tablespoons honey

– 1/4 cup water

Extra:

– 1- 2 cups of flour for kneading

– Salt for sprinkling on top

– 1 tablespoon dried thyme

– 1/4 cup baking soda for boiling mixture

 

1. Mix together your yeast mixture and watch it get frothy and bubbly. If it doesn’t do this, start over immediately.

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Watching the yeast bloom successfully was a very exciting moment for me.

2. While the yeast is doing its thing, mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together your wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

3. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, mix it into the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula until it is fully incorporated.

4. Flour your surface and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky – this will likely take a while. Once done kneading, split the dough into two parts and place them in two well oiled bowls. Roll the balls of dough around in the oil and then cover the dough with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, which could take between 2 and three hours (you can make the jam during this time)

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How beautiful it is to have your dough rise.

5. Now that the dough has risen, divide it into two parts and then divide each part into three more parts. Roll the three parts into ropes about a foot long and then braid them. This is harder than it looks and could take a few attempts. Place your braided dough on a floured sheet and freeze for 20-30 minutes.

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6. While the dough is chilling, fill a large saucepan about halfway with water and add 1/4 cup baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil.

7. Once the bread has chilled, boil each loaf for about 2 minutes on each side. Preheat the oven to 400 F or 200 C. Once after loaf has been boiled, sprinkle salt and dried thyme on top.

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8. Bake two loaves at a time for 15-20 minutes. Let it cool before enjoying!

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Blackberry Chia jam (Original recipe from Two Peas in Their Pod)

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– 1.5 pounds frozen blackberries (I had a 3 lb bag so I just eyeballed half)

– 3 tablespoons of agave nectar (it didn’t come out very sweet, add more for your own taste)

– 3 tablespoons chia seeds

– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Warm the blackberries to a slow bowl in a large saucepan over medium heat.

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2. Reduce the heat and once the berries are nice and soft, use a potato masher to mash the berries. The original recipe suggests leaving some of the berries whole for texture, which I think is a wise choice.

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3. Add the agave and chia, mix well and heat until it thickens.

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4. Remove from the heat and allow the jam to cool. Add the vanilla and store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in a sealed container or in the freezer.

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