Who was your first blog crush? Mine was Smitten Kitchen. I’ve been reading since nearly the beginning. I remember when she first went on that Caribbean food blogger trip. I was green with envy and thought maybe I’d get to go one day. And I remember when she announced she had a bun in the oven with real buns in the oven. And when she told us so long ago that there would be a cookbook. She’s who I looked to when I started this blog. In a way she’s been my mentor, not that she knows it. And I imagine she’s been a mentor to thousands of others too.
I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging lately. What it means to be a blogger. Why it matters. And I think back to Smitten Kitchen. She’s brought us on the ride that is her life. We connect with her. We resonate with her. All through the lens of food. I’ve typed this sentence before—food is a powerful thing. It brings people together, whether through the comment section of a post or around an extra long table filled with beautiful food.
Last night we went over to a friends house for a Rosh Hosannah celebration. My first. And when I needed a recipe, where did I go? Back to Smitten Kitchen—to the lady that taught me it all (next to Martha). I made her Fig Challah Bread from that long awaited cookbook. I was in bread making, bread braiding heaven. But the morning after I’m wondering why I thought it was a good idea to bring Challah. Something I’ve never made before. To a celebration I’ve never attended before. Did you know Challah is a main part of the first course? I know now.
Luckily Smitten Kitchen’s recipes are nearly fool-proof and always delish. For the recipe, head over to her site. Next time, I’ll probably add an extra egg to get a little closer to that rich, eggy flavor I love. (I had to add extra water to get my dough to come together, which I attribute to the weather. I’m thinking the additional egg and maybe a touch more flour, if needed, should do the trick.) PS—I made a new friend last night who’s basically a professional Challah maker. Hers was killer. She recommends this video for braiding techniques. If you’re anything like me, the video will come in handy. I’m far too visual to understand written braiding instructions. I may have braided and unbraided mine a time or two. But the end result was beautiful, aromatic, and rewarding. I think I want to be a bread maker when I grow up.
If you’re scared of yeast, check out this video I made a while back.
Got the chills while reading those first two paragraphs. Your energy and passion is igniting and contagious. Its that very same energy that keeps people, like myself, afloat. Girlfriend please, keep it moving. You’re appreciated more than you may know.
I wish I could reach out and hug you. Thank you for the encouragement!
This looks so lovely, and makes me wish I wasn’t straight-up terrible at making bread. If I ever do learn, I’ll be coming back for this figgy awesomeness.
Which braiding technique off the video did you use, the six braid or the four? Yours looked perfect.
I actually didn’t see the video until after I made the bread. I only used 4 strands based off of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. But I pretty much did it by trial and error.
wow..such beautiful braiding.. The challah looks fantastic. I’m very eager to try it too!
I do get confused with all braiding instructions like 5 over 2 then under 1..it takes me awhile to get there..thanks for sharing the braiding technique video!
I’m so thrilled to have run across this insightful post. I found it chock full of food for thought, especially about the wonderful world of food blogging, something to which I’m fairly new. Sometimes I feel a bit like Julie during the first 15 minutes of Julie&Julia–like I’m sending out my thoughts to the vast ether without any control over where they’re going–but reading this post reminded me just how far the food blogging community has come since those days. I’m glad you chose to share your inspiration and a great recipe–a hearty thanks from the heart of an eager reader!
Your Challah is lovely! We are big Smitten Kitchen fans, too. And thanks for the kind words today!
long time lover of Deb as well. You did her recipe just in the visuals dept., even if it did need another egg, it’s gorgeous! Very sweet post, friend.
G O R G E O U S! My guy and I make a similar shaped bread out of pretzel dough. IT RULES. But I always end up eating too much, and then go to bed early with a stomach ache.
Also.. Deb rules, too. She’s awe inspiring. But so are you 🙂
This is just beautiful, I’m so impressed! I agree, Deb is pretty darn awesome. And so are you! 🙂
I love Deb! Such a lovely tribute to her. Beautiful Challah!
Well, I’m not into food blogging (except for the one occasion when I made an easy-as-pie dessert https://allesineenvrouw.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/easy-as-pie-dessert/ ) because the BF is the cook here, but I must say …. The Faux Martha was one of my first fav blogs. 🙂 Love the way you put it all into words – with a personal touch, but not too much – and most of all: into beautiful pictures. Makes me wanna do a little cookery myself.
Thank you for inspiring me, Melissa! (I’m not gonna dive into breadbraiding though…. waaaaay out my comfy zone)
I’m in absolute agreement about Smitten Kitchen – she’s inspired so many. This recipe looks delicious – I’ve seen so many recipes using figs lately, and I can’t wait to try this one.
Although she wasn’t my first blog crush (Orangette and Forty Sixth at Grace were), I do love SK and I love the food blogs (why I do Friday Food Files).
I make something called Zopf, which would be a Swiss equivalent to Challah, but more buttery and dense. I love it. It’s also braided straight down, which you can achieve with a ‘faux’ braid twist. And once too stale to eat, it makes the best French Toast.
I think your challah turned out lovely.
Oh that sounds good! Do you have the recipe for the Zopf posted?
I posted way back an adaptation for a three kings cake, using a Zopf recipe.
Maybe I should do another post that also shows how to braid it?
Butter, sugar, and milk. This sounds perfect! Braiding posts are always welcome. I think everyone is afraid of the braid.
It’s almost too pretty to eat!
Mine was Deb too. There’s just something about the way she writes and the stories that she tells that make her so accessible and normal. Major love for her. This challah is just gorgeous too, I’m so impressed by your braiding skills.
ha! my SK fig challah is on its’ second rise, right now. though, this whole process reminds me why i don’t have a blog about baking. what do you do when your dough is not as elastic as you’d like? my first batch was tough…so i ended up tossing it and starting again. any way to save it next time?
We think alike! Tough dough is usually because of lack of gluten or enough liquid, which happened to me yesterday too. Maybe it’s the weather? Or maybe it really needs that extra egg 🙂 I would knead in a little more water. Kneading also helps build the gluten structure. Using bread flour helps too because it has extra gluten (I used AP though for this though).
thanks for the tip! it is very dry in my house.
SO with you on Smitten. I’ve read her for years and years too and je dig.
And that challah? Holy crap I just died.
Totally with you on long-time Smitten Kitchen love. Also with you on looking up to bloggers like Deb and feeling mentored by them, even when they have no idea! Your challah looks beautiful — you do her proud.
I should give SK another try. I made 2 of her recipes when I first started blogging and both were very mediocre. But I know people adore her so many I just had bad luck!
“maybe” not “many”
It looks beautiful!
Lovely post. My parents have a bread maker (which I love using!) and the first bread I learned to make was challah 🙂 Smitten Kitchen is definitely one of my favourite food blogs, and I knew I wanted to try that recipe when I saw her post, now I really can’t wait!
Ah! I saw this over at Smitten Kitchen and the braiding was tying brain in knots just thinking about it. Thanks for the video demo! This bread is so beautiful!