The month of March was just not very productive for me in any segment of my life… After shredding a part of my finger early in the month, I didn’t have much desire to cook, bake or type. Lack of sunshine and warmth took its toll… I was so hoping for spring to come and all we got was snow and bitter cold. As I write this it’s still cold out, but the sun is shining, the trees and flowers are budding and it makes such a difference. I also took a few days off from work to spend with my family and to do the things I love – bake and paint.
I really missed getting my hands sticky with dough and having the aroma of fresh baked goods around the house. All I could think of was to bake something good, warm and familiar and nothing sounded better than this challah bread topped with poppy seeds. Every bakery in Bosnia sells this bread. Their sizes range anywhere from a small knot, to an individual size challah to a large family challah. For me, it is an essential part of a good breakfast! It can be eaten just plain or spread with butter, jam, honey, paté or anything you may like. It can be used for a sandwich or for the bread pudding. It looks great on a holiday table!
500 g (4 cups) all-purpose flour (+ flour for kneading)
21 g (0.7 oz) fresh yeast
1 TBSP sugar
200 ml (3/4 cup + 2 TBSP) warm water
50 ml (about 1/4 cup) sunflower or vegetable oil
½ TBSP salt
Milk for brushing
2 TSBP poppy seeds
Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Make a deep indent in flour, add 1 TBSP of sugar and crumble up the yeast. Lightly mixing by hand, add ¼ of the quantity of water. Mix only inside the indent, just to get a small ball of starter. Cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Combine the rest of the water with oil, egg and salt and stir well. Put the flour bowl back on the mixer and mixing at a slow speed start adding the liquid. Switch to medium speed setting and mix for about 3-, rest for about 3- and then mix for 3 more minutes.
Dough will look nice and smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Lightly dust your working surface with flour and knead the dough by hand for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on what you want to make, a three- or four-strand challah.
Shape each piece into a foot long strand. Transfer all the pieces onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Braid the strands to form a challah. Cover the bread and let it rest and rise for about 30 minutes.
Brush the bread with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake at 200 C or 395 F for about 35-40 minutes or until challah gets a nice, golden-brown color.
As we are counting the last hours of the old year and looking forward to the new one, I just want to reflect on the past year and say that it went pretty well for me. I tried to focus on doing things I love. I’ve baked a lot, trying to be inventive and try new things. I’ve tried to take better photos of my food and my surroundings. I tried to spend more time painting. I have actually finished several paintings out of which two were sold in a charity event helping needy Bosnian families and one got an award and it is still displayed in our local museum gallery. I tried to spend more time with my kids, be a better parent, be a good friend and a listener. I tried to keep an open mind and an open heart to the new things that came along. Have I succeeded? Not sure. I am sure of one thing though: I will not stop trying and hoping that this new year will be better in every way not only for me, but also for all of you that are reading this post and for the whole world.
This is my latest painting. The original photo comes from a Croatian photographer Boris Stromar and can be seen at Boris’ website. With Boris’ permission I have used this photo as a reference. The painting depicts river Una, one of the most beautiful rivers of Bosnia and Europe.
Here is the progress from this week. I had a lot of problems with the small boat in the background, so I had to re position it and change the shape of it. Now I think it looks better. I have mainly worked on the lower left corner and somewhat on the big boat. The big boat supposed to show reflection of the clouds since it has some leftover rain inside… I plan to work on the big boat and hopefully finish it next week… Stay tuned my friends.
Busy summer days are over, so I can finally concentrate on painting again. I started this one last Tuesday and this is the result of 2.5 hours of painting. The medium I’m using is soft pastel, and the size is 28 3/4 X 20 3/4 in (or 73 X 52.6 cm). More progress photos coming next week…
This is very different from what I usually paint, but I am having so much fun doing it. The paper I am using is also different from what I am used to. It is a bit textured and takes the pastel well. This painting is quite small (8 X 12 in) and detailed. So far I am happy about how its coming along…
One painting done, another one in making. This time I am trying to get out of my comfort zone and paint some blackberry blossoms. They caught my eye the other day when we were taking our dogs for a walk in the park. They are so subtle and graceful with their fine, white petals. Usually I paint landscapes, architecture, animals occasionally, but not flowers. Recently I painted some tulips for exercise and didn’t like the end result (maybe because photo wasn’t mine)… This time the photo is mine and I am eager to do this well! Stay tuned.