This fall I went to upstate NY and got to photograph a crew race. I am working on my photography skills and, in particular, my ability to document the mood and action of the moment. Let me know what you think. vkanephotoessaylowQ
I promised my friends I would post this recipe for a wonderful challah bread and so here it is….
This recipe makes two LARGE loaves (feeding 8 to 10 people each loaf). I would say cut the recipe in half but that is not easy to do and the bread is somewhat labor intensive. Instead I prefer to make the full recipe and then stick the extra baked bread in the freezer. Thawed and warmed it is wonderful with supper, or make french toast, or just enjoy toasted with jam and tea on a winter afternoon.
This recipe is from a great cookbook: A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman
Sponge Starter – (30 to 90 minutes ahead – longer wont hurt)
1.5 Cups warm water
2 Tbsp dry yeast
Approximately 2 Cups flour (the original recipe calls for bread flour, I used unbleached white)
All of the sponge starter
0.5 Cups warm water
0.75 Cup sugar (I used a little less than half a cup so it wouldn’t be so sweet)
3.5 teaspoons salt
3 egg, at room temperature, plus one egg yolk
0.5 cup vegetable oil
6 to 6.5 cups flour of your choice
Egg Wash Topping –
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (I used the left over egg white from above plus one whole egg and it worked fine)
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar if desired
sesame or poppy seeds if desired
In a very large bowl, mix the warm water and dry yeast. Allow the mixture to stand for a couple of minutes to let the yeast swell and dissolve. Stir in the flour to make a soft, thick, pudding/ pancake batter like mixture. Cover the sponge with a damp tea towel and leave still in a WARM place for 30 to 60 minutes. If you see the sponge is rising beyond the limits of the bowl during its fermentation period, stir it down and then let it continue to sit for allotted time.
Stir down the spongy mixture in the work bowl, then add the rest of the water, the sugar, salt,eggs, yolk, oil and about 5 cups of the flour (If you are using a mixer with a dough hook, stir down the sponge and put it into the work bowl of the mixer to add all ingredients). Mix until it is a messy mass, not smooth. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes (this allows the dough to relax; it changes its character by absorbing the flour better. It will be a lot easier to manage in the end.) After this rest period, knead the dough (by hand or the mixer with a dough hook) until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour as required to make a dough that is easy to handle (not too sticky or tacky).
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel. Let it rise in a draft free, warm environment. In the winter I turn my oven on to 150F and then turn it off during the last mix and rest. Then I put the bowl of dough in the oven with the door shut to stay warm. ***Plan A**Let it rest until it has almost doubled in size, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. OR ***Plan B**** You can let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. When the dough has risen, whisk together the ingredients for the egg wash.
Gently deflate the dough. Divide it in half for 2 loaves. Form the dough into loaves, braided or loaf style or rolls. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet (the parchment really is important). Cover with a damp tea towel until doubled, about 45 to 90 minutes. Then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. The egg wash is what gives it the lovely brown color.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the bread in the oven and then reduce the heat to 350F and bake until the bread is medium brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes for smaller loaves and 45 minutes for larger loaves. If it starts to brown too much too early cover the top loosely with foil or parchment paper. When done cooking cool on the pan for 10 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Slice when the bread reaches room temperature to avoid crumbling (if you can wait that long!!)
We went to Nepal to visit with our dear friend, a young Nepali man (IL) who lived with us for almost a year in the USA ten years ago. He lived with us when he was 17. He is now 27, married, and has a beautiful 2 year old son. He came from a village about 100km outside Kathmandu, but a lifetime away. Betrawati is a sleepy, beautiful village where the friendships and family ties run deep over many generations. Before he came to the USA he had been to Kathmandu at least once, but never outside Nepal. He did not grow up with running water in his house, reliable electricity, indoor plumbing of any kind. They cooked (and still cook) on a wood fire built at the base of a earthen clay ‘stove’ and all slept together in the loft over the kitchen. The kitchen ceiling is black cinder from years of smoke and heat from cooking. The menu is dal baht (rice and lentil broth), milk tea, and yogurt made from the milk of the water buffalo who resides across the dirt road. She is milked every morning at 5:30am so there will be time to boil the milk and prepare the tea and start the yogurt for that day. No leftovers allowed, there is no refrigeration. Any scraps go back to feed the water buffalo.
Over the years the family was able to save money and built an extension on the house which has two rooms downstairs and four small rooms upstairs. Still no running water inside or reliable electricity. We slept upstairs in the addition on beds with thin futons and windows that looked out to the rice paddies that came right up to the back of the house. On either side were a collection of four or five houses all of which belonged to the extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins all share the chores of daily life.
A typical day is to rise with the sun, have milk tea when it’s ready, do your chores, wash up, eat dal baht at around 9am and head to school for the 10am start. No busses, everyone walks. School is out at 4 and everyone walks home together. Children change quickly out of school uniforms into their play clothes, do homework, chores, and congregate on the front patio/dining room/laundry line to play games. Adults are finishing chores and the women are preparing dinner, dal baht. Then it is time to wash the dishes by the tap next to the out house. Into the darkness the children play. Then around 8:30 people head off to bed.
The land was very dry and surprisingly soft, and dusty. Since the roads were, for the most part, not paved, there was an huge amount of dust in the air.
Bathing, at least for the women, meant walking down to a cousins house in the morning where they have a tap that is about four feet off the ground and the water falls onto a slab of rock about 2×3 feet. The water is still cold from its journey down through the mountain stream. It only runs until 9am and then is diverted to the rice paddies, so get there early. It is about six feet off the road where people are walking to work and children are going to do chores or go to school.
I was at a total loss of how exactly to accomplish bathing in this set up with any kind of modesty. My wonderful host’s wife (PL) guided me like I was a giant, befuddled child. She told me: Bring your soap, shampoo, clean clothes, and a very small towel. Also bring your ‘washing gown’ which is something like a strapless beach coverup that ties around your chest to keep it secure. Once you have the gown on you shimmy out of your clothes and wash, wearing the gown.( It becomes very wet and clings in all the wrong places.) When you are done and rinsed you hop across a few rocks to the front porch of the adjacent house where you use the tiny towel to dry off and then shimmy into dry clothes while trying not to get them soaking wet from the bathing gown. (All this while trying not to notice the people walking by on the road.) PL was so kind and understanding and patient with me. And I knew it was this or face another few days of total griminess.
To get to school there are bridges made of steel cables with metal slats across the bottom. These bridge/walkways are wide enough to walk single file and are strung across a wide and powerful river which flows from a glacier up in the mountains. We were introduced to a favorite game -walk out to the middle of the river, hold tightly to the cable railing, and lean out over the edge as far as you dare and then just stare at the raging water rushing below you. You lose all sense of yourself as a person standing on a bridge and really do feel like you are flying. Our host, IL, told us they did this often as kids. I can totally see why, but as a parent it would scare me to death.
In this village the women still hike into the mountains to collect the grasses they need to feed the water buffalo. Everyone knows everyone. The warmth and deep sense of community far outweighed any lack of modern conveniences. My kids were enthralled and both vowed to come back to work in the school so that they could live among this wonderful family for more than just a few days.
I just returned from a week in Nepal. We travelled to several areas, all of which had their own unique character. This post just shows Kathmandu, the capitol of Nepal. Kathmandu was ancient, beautiful, filthy, chaotic, hot, dusty, delicious, poverty stricken, friendly, gracious, corrupt. It felt like the opening scenes in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ movie had come to life, minus the Arabs and the cleaned up disneyesque part. I will write more, but for now I hope you enjoy the pictures.
If you wish to see a larger version of the pictures, just click on them.
Getting There: Lu Xun park is located at 146 East Jiangwan Rd. (146 jiang wan Lu) near the Hongkou Stadium. Getting there is very easy by metro. Take line 8 to the Hongkou Stadium station and get out at exit 1. At the sidewalk turn left (so the stadium is on your left) and walk about 200 yards to the park entrance. There is no entrance fee.
The park was built in 1896 as a shooting field. In 1905 they added an amusement park area (kiddy rides). The famous Chinese writer, Lu Xun, was placed in a mausoleum on the park grounds and the park is now dedicated to him.