Cookies and Cream Mini Cheesecakes

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These little cheesecakes are a favourite for any event. Easy to eat without a plate or cutlery, these cheesecakes leave behind very little mess.

Making these, I intended to add a fudge swirl to modify the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Original. Upon realizing I forgot muffin liners (AFTER already forgetting Oreos) I rushed out to the grocery store with my friend to pick some up. I came home to find my house filled with smoke because I left the fudge melting on the stove. Luckily there was no fire and I baked some challah to cover the smell of smoke. Thanks DN for the support and help throughout this adventure.

Taking this as a sign that I shouldn’t change the recipe, the only changes I made were using light cream cheese and sour cream.

Ingredients:

18 Oreos (any type, try a fun flavour to change it up)
2 8-ounce packages light cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup light sour cream
a pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 275˚F and line a muffin tin with liners (that you purchased in advance). Place 1 whole Oreo in the bottom of each liner.

In an electric mixer beat the cream cheese.

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Add sugar and beat again.

IMG_0863.jpgCrack two eggs into a separate bowl and beat together.

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Add vanilla and the egg mixture slowly.

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Place remaining 6 Oreos in a ziplock back and break apart (using a rolling pin). Stir in oreos.

Divide batter into muffin liners and bake for 25 minutes. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

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These can be stored in the fridge (in an airtight container) for 3 days or the freezer for 1 month.

Science Fact of the Week:

Sour cream is a dairy product that results from fermenting cream with lactic acid bacteria. Sour cream is high in healthy fats which may be protective against disease. It is also rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, riboflavin and phosphorous. These nutrients are essential for eyesight, immune health, bone health and energy.

Raisin Bran Muffins

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These muffins are simple to make and freeze nicely. Make a big batch and stick them in the freezer for a quick breakfast or snack on the go.

 

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Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive/grapeseed/canola/coconut oil
2 cups wheat bran
1 ½ cups raisins
1 cup prune juice
1 cup nondairy sour cream
1/3 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F and line a 12 muffin tray with paper liners.
Combine oil, wheat bran, raisins, prune juice, sour cream, molasses, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes.

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IMG_0879.jpgWhisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.

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Stir dry ingredients into the bran mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened.

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Fill muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes.

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An absolutely delicious bakery-style bran muffin loaded with fibre and with no added sugars. Feel free to top with turbinado sugar if you want to increase the sweetness factor. These freeze well for 2 months if sealed well in a plastic bag.

Science Fact of the Week:

These muffins are packed with fibre and contain prune juice as a hidden ingredient. Together these are great for constipation, and make these muffins a natural health alternative to treating tummy troubles. As well, it is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that make this muffin a quick and easy breakfast.

Cranberry Orange Scones

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These were again created off the same favourite base scone flavour. They truly work with any combination of flavour and are a great snack to keep on hand.

Make ahead and freeze the dough for a quick and fresh treat.

Thanks AH for the flavour suggestion and the help making these.

Ingredients:

For the scone

2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour (plus extra for counters)
6 tbsp. (75g) granulated sugar
2 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest of one orange
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, frozen (I throw it in the freezer ice drawer about 20 mins before I start making the scones, and take it out only when I’m ready to use it)
scant 1/2 cup heavy cream (I use 35% Cooking Cream)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the glaze

1 cup (120 g) confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tbsp fresh orange juice

Directions:

Mix the the first 5 ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest) in a large bowl.

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Grate frozen butter (simplest to use food processor). Add butter to flour mixture and combine with pastry blender or fork. Mix until flour is combined and no larger than pea sized amounts remain.

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Create a well in the centre and add cream, vanilla and an egg.

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Mix wet ingredients in the well with a fork. Combine dry and wet ingredients with a spatula.

Shape and slice the dough exactly as done in Earl Grey Scones with Vanilla Glaze.

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Bake for 12-17 minutes (15 minutes works perfectly for me).

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Science Fact of The Week

A single orange can contain 75% of the recommended dose of vitamin C. Maintaining regular doses of vitamin C can be preventative of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Last year I wrote a literature review of vitamin C and cancer, looking at its use even as a cancer treatment. To get some extra vitamin C, you can eat the extra orange left after juicing! Contrary to popular belief, vitamin C is actually higher in other natural food such as red and green peppers!

 

Poppy Seed Cookies

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Another one of my mother’s classics…I found the handwritten recipe without specifics such as amount of vanilla, salt and lemon juice, baking temperature and time, etc.  So that’s where The Science of Baking got to work…

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Ingredients:

3 large eggs
¾ cup olive/canola/coconut/grapeseed oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Juice of one lemon
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Process eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor until well combined.

Add flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds, and pulse until just combined and the dough starts to form by wrapping around the blade.

Divide dough in half.   Shape one half into a round disc and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

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Shape the other half into a log and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for one hour.

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Roll out the disc to ¼-1/2 inch thickness on a counter dusted with flour, and use cookie cut-outs (I used a star shape) to shape the cookies.

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Bake the cookies for 13 minutes or until slightly golden on the edges.

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Slice the log into ½-inch thick cookies and bake for 14-16 minutes.

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Science Fact of the Week

Poppy seeds go beyond a classic bagel decoration. Seeds come from the dry fruit pods of the poppy plant. They contain anti-oxidants, dietary fibre and many nutrients and minerals such as B-vitamins, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium. Added to these cookies they not only provide texture and flavour, but some nutrition as well!

Soft Pretzels

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I was once stuck in the LaGuardia airport for 8 hours, and since the Air Canada terminal barely had anything aside from an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels I was limited in my dinner options. I would probably say this was the beginning of my soft pretzel addiction. I later made them for the first time on National Pretzel Day (April 26 for reference) and have since used this recipe to make pretzels for any random occasion.

When making my last batch I actually made an error. I placed the dough in the mixmaster bowl and covered it with a damp cloth to rise, and put it in the oven (off) so it was in a warm dark place. I later turned the oven on to preheat (for something else) and forgot the dough was in there. 30 minutes later I realized the rising dough in the bowl was beginning to bake. I have since learned to check if anything is in the oven before preheating it.

Anyways, I’m sure I’m boring you with my stories about pretzels, let’s get to the recipe. Try this with half multigrain flour for a bit of a more nutritious option.

The base recipe comes from Baker By Nature (adapted).

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

1 1/2 cups very warm water
1 Package Rapid Rise Yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 and a 1/2 cups bread flour (optional to make 2 and 1/2 cups of it with multigrain bread flour)
6 tbsp margarine, softened

For the Cooking Liquid:

8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda

Egg Wash

1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt

Toppings

Flaked Sea Salt

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand for 10 minutes (until foamy).

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In a stand mixer with hook/dough attachment add flours, margarine and yeast mixture. Mix until combined and dough is kneaded (10-12 minutes).

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Transfer the dough to and oiled bowl and let rise for one hour (doubled).

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Preheat oven to 450˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large wide pot bring water and baking soda to a boil.

Divide dough into 8 pieces, then divide each in half to create a total of 16 pieces. Roll each ball of dough into a strand (approximately 3/4-1 inch thick).

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Shape the dough into a “U”.

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Fold the right edge towards the left 1/3 of the strand.

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Fold the left edge towards the right 1/3 of the strand.

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Fold the end of each dough under the pretzel.

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Place the shaped pretzels in the boiling water for 20-25 seconds.

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Brush the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkled with flaked sea salt.

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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The dough freezes well once shaped and can be used at a later date. Allow to defrost and continue from boiling baking soda mixture.

Science Fact of the Week:

Although I’ve always used yeast in baking, it wasn’t until grade 12 that I understood how it works. Yeast are small single cell organism that make the dough rise by metabolizing simple sugars. Carbon dioxide and alcohol (not in alcoholic levels) are released into the dough to make it rise. This is used to help bake breads, cinnamon rolls, pretzels and even pizza dough.

Peppermint Mocha Meringues

Nothing “tastes like winter” quite like these Peppermint Mocha Meringues. We’ve even heard they taste like Christmas (thanks CS for the confirmation)!

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Ingredients:

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ tsp. cream of tartar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. pure peppermint extract
4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. ground espresso powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200F.  Beat the egg whites with the wire whisk of an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl until foamy.

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Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the beaters start leaving a trail through the whites.

In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt.

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Slowly add the sugar mixture into the egg whites, beating on high speed until they hold stiff, glossy peaks.

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Add the vinegar and peppermint extract and beat again.  Sift the cocoa and espresso powder over the mixture and fold in the dry ingredients.

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I used a large ice cream scoop to drop the meringues on to 2 large baking sheets covered with parchment paper.

 

 

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Bake for 120 minutes, then leave oven door halfway open for another 30 minutes, allowing cookies to dry.  Makes 18 large meringues.

The original recipe for these was a peppermint meringue, but the addition of espresso powder gives these a unique flavour that reminds you of keeping warm on a cold winter day. Feel free to top with whipped cream, fruit, chocolate sauce or any other add ons.

Science Fact of the Week:

Like me (Max) you may be asking, what on earth is cream of tartar. It is a byproduct of wine and grape juice processing (sadly no, it is not alcoholic). It is added to meringue to stabilize whipped egg whites since it is an acidic salt. Quoted from Slate.com “Added to the whites before whipping begins (typically at a ratio of ⅛ teaspoon per large egg white), the acidic powder lowers the pH of the albumen. This changes the electrical charge of the proteins, making them more sensitive to denaturation, so the egg whites promptly begin to foam. The cream of tartar also increases the mixture’s hydrogen ions, which prevent the protein molecules from bonding too tightly. With the proteins aligned but not jammed together too tightly, the structure keeps the water and air bubbles in place, and therefore is stronger and more secure.” Some people even suggest adding it to any recipe that uses egg whites. Now we know!

Gingerbread People

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Tis the season for gingerbread men and women, so we thought we would share our favourite recipe. This has been tweaked from the original (added espresso powder and vanilla extract) and works perfectly. Decorated with royal icing, people will be asking you where you bought them.

Ingredients

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 large egg
2/3 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)

For the Royal Icing

2 tbsp meringue powder
1 lb icing sugar
6 tbsp water

Directions:

For the Cookies:

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Cream the margarine (or butter) and sugar in an electric mixer.
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Add egg, molasses and vanilla. Beat well.

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Add in the dry ingredients (remaining ingredients) and mix slowly at first.

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Once incorporated, increase the speed of the mixer until a dough is formed. Scrape down the edges and mix again. It should be sticky.

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Shape the dough into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for minimum 2 hours, and up to 3 days.

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Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use a gingerbread cutter to shape. Use a spatula transfer the gingerbread to a lined baking sheet.

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Place baking sheet with gingerbread men in the refrigerator for 30 mins. This allows the dough to maintain its shape when baking.

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Bake for 8-14 minutes (depending on the size of your gingerbread cutter). I used a small one, and my cookies baked for 9 minutes. They are done when they are just beginning to brown and are firm.

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For the Icing:

Sift the sugar and meringue powder into bowl of electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Add water and beat until it has soft peaks.

I like to ice the gingerbread men using ziplock bags and multiple colours. I transfer spatula-fuls of icing to a ziplock, add food colouring, and then seal. I mix it around in the ziplock and then slice a tiny piece of the edge to create a make-shift piping bag.

I use white icing to draw all the faces first. Feel free to get creative and draw emoji faces (Thanks RT for that idea). I’ll then use different colours to add gum-drop buttons, ties, bowties, draw outlines and any other designs. Be creative!

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Domestic Goddess lovingly refers to these as Menchies (little people). They are great.

Science Fact of the Week:

Like me as a kid, you may be asking – what on earth is molasses? Molasses is a byproduct of refining cane sugar. It comes from crushed sugar cane. It comes in multiple forms: light, dark, molasses, blackstrap, sulphured and unsulphured. We use unsulphured molasses, meaning it has no sulphur dioxide added to it. Molasses is very high in sugar, but it is unlike refined sugar in that it contains some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and selenium.

Halva and Tahini Brownies

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Happy Holidays!

This recipe is originally from Bonnie Stern in the National Post. We tried this for the holidays and instantly fell in love so we thought we would share it with you.

Ingredients:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
½ cup strong coffee at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
4 oz. halvah, diced into small cubes
½ cup raw tahini, stirred until smooth

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Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9-inch by 13-inch. baking pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
2) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process oil, sugar, eggs, coffee and vanilla.

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3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, powder and salt.

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4) Add the dry ingredients to the processor and pulse until just combined.

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5) Add the chocolate chunks and halvah and fold in with a rubber spatula until just combined.
6) Transfer the batter to prepared baking pan. Drizzle tahini over the batter and swirl with the tip of a knife.

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7) Bake 28-33 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature then transfer to refrigerator in order to slice once chilled.

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Science Fact of the Week:

Tahini is made of sesame seeds and is rich in vitamins and minerals which may promote healthy cell growth and prevent anemia. Tahini is high in healthy fats and amino acids, providing many nutritional benefits.

Multigrain Challah

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Now it’s my turn to have my hand at the Challah game. This one is adapted from Norene’s Prize Winning Challah. I started making this challah in my second year of university, and it has been a hit! It is super forgiving and doesn’t require any fancy machinery.

As for the flour, this can be done with regular best for bread flour however I prefer multi-grain to give it some extra nutrients. I originally found this multi-grain flour (Best for Bread Multigrain by Robin Hood) at Walmart. However, my local Walmart did not have it in stock. After getting a tooth implant the day prior, I spent 2.5 hours hunting around grocery stores and eventually (after calling) found it at Real Canadian Superstore.

I reset my phone after making this recipe and lost some of the progress pictures. I apologize for the trouble! Now, for the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1 package quick rise yeast (1 Tbsp)
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups of multigrain best for bread flour
2.5 cups of white best for bread flour

For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tsp water
1 tsp honey

For the Topping:

Option A: Sugar Crumb Coating:
4 tbsp. margarine, semi-melted
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar

Option B: Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

Option C: Sesame Seeds

Directions:

Dissolve sugar and honey in warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave for 10 minutes before mixing.IMG_5557.jpg

Add oil, warm water, sugar, salt, eggs, and the multi-grain flour. Beat well. Gradually add the remaining flour. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes (or mix all ingredients in the electric mixer with a dough hook) until smooth and elastic. I find I have to add quite a bit of flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

Grease a large bowl with canola oil and turn over the dough so all sides are lightly greased. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm dark place for 1.5-2 hours (I like to use an oven that has been off for at least a couple hours).

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(Dough may also rise in the fridge; and will last 3 days before shaping and baking).

Punch down and let rise again until doubled (45 minutes)IMG_5531.jpg

The dough can be divided in half to make two challahs (3-piece braid), or one large challah (6-piece braid)

To shape (6 piece bread): Divide dough in half, then divide each half into thirds. IMG_5533.jpg

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Roll out each dough ball into a long strand.

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Join all strands together at the top and weave the far right strand over the next two strands, under the third and over the last two.

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Once shaped it can be placed in the fridge overnight. If you chose to do this, take the dough out of the fridge and let rise for 3 hours before baking. Or if you are baking the same day:

Preheat oven to 400˚F

Transfer to parchment paper and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for 1 hour.

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Prepare topping (for streusel mix all ingredients in a bowl). Brush challah with egg wash and then sprinkle with topping.IMG_5546.jpg

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cover with foil for the last 5-10 minutes if it is browning too quickly. (If two smaller challahs, 25 minutes.) Dough will sound hollow when tapped with your fingers

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This recipe is easily doubled and and is great for a shabbat dinner or regular Wednesday night (as I had made this challah for).

Science Fact of the Week:

Multigrain bread is made from more than one grain. This flour contains whole grains which is important to consider for their added health benefits. Whole grains are a source of dietary fibre. This extra fibre (compared to white bread) can help lower blood sugars and aid digestion. Whole grains also contain many added minerals and nutrients.

Sufganiyot (Hannukah Donuts)

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This was the first attempt at a Chanukah delicacy and it worked!  Uniquely made with a bread machine, these homemade Israeli style donuts need very close supervision (don’t step away from the pot).

Ingredients:

2/3 cup slightly warmed unsweetened vanilla almond milk
¼ cup water at room temperature
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted pareve margarine at room temperature
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups bread flour
2 ½ tsp. bread machine yeast
Peanut/canola oil for deep frying
Jam/Nutella for filling
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:

Add to bread machine pan all of the ingredients in the order listed above from milk through yeast.  After 2 hours, remove dough from pan.

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Roll out the dough to ½ -inch thickness and cut rounds using a standard drinking glass dipped in flour.  This should make 32-36 rounds.

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Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with a dish towel for one hour.

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Using a thermometer, fill deep pot with approximately 2 inches of oil and bring to 375F over medium heat.

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Carefully place 4 donuts in oil for 1 minute until golden brown

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Then flip them and fry for another 30 seconds.

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Remove from pot and place on cookie sheet lined with paper towels.  Continue to deep fry the donuts while the temperature remains at approximately 375F. Feel free to dust with icing sugar or “inject” with jam/Nutella/filling of your choice.

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Science Fact of the Week:

For this recipe we used peanut oil! It has a high smoke point and as such can be heated to a high temperature. These are fried for a short period of time, keeping the oil absorbed to a minimum.