Challah Bread

After making the braided milk bread last week, I really wanted to try my hand at making challah bread. Challah bread is a soft, egg bread that is eaten by Jewish people during certain holidays. I’ve seen different styles of the bread, but my favorite shape is the six strand braided version.

As I set about researching how to braid the bread, I remembered that my brothers used to make challah bread all the time when they worked at a bagel store. So this first time around, I cheated, and enlisted their help. I should have taken some step by step photos, but forgot. I’ll do it next time.

The challah breads I’ve eaten have always been adorned with sesame seeds. We put some on initially, but then I didn’t like how they looked. I liked the bread better without the seeds. Also the seeds kept making a mess when I was taking pictures and kept dropping on the floor. Since I was watching little bro’s girlfriend’s adorable little puppy during this, I decided to take off all the sesame seeds, so the puppy wouldn’t eat any that fell. Of course by the time I realized the sesame seeds had made little indents in the bread, it was too late.

For the recipe, I chose this one. Since I’ve never made challah bread I didn’t want to tweak around with the recipe. The only difference is that I didn’t do the double braids. Instead we did the braids similar to this video.

The bread came out super soft. I’ve read that the bread makes good french toast so I plan on trying that. It also makes great sandwiches.

There’s a lot of cupcake bakeries that have popped up in the last few years, but Sprinkles has the distinction of being the very first cupcake bakery that launched the cupcake craze.

Since I have a such a sweet tooth, I’ve wanted to try Sprinkles for a long time, but with no locations nearby, I haven’t had a chance. When Sprinkles announced over the summer that they were opening up a store in San Diego, I was beyond ecstatic. I stalked followed the process quite closely. After some delays, they finally announced a firm opening date: January 13th.

I didn’t go to the opening day, but I heard it was crazy. There were more than a hundred people in line before the store opened at 9 am. Since then, the lines have been steady.

This weekend, BF agreed to pick me up some cupcakes. I gave him a list of four I wanted to try. But he came back with 10! What a sweetheart. I think he realized how long I have been waiting for Sprinkles to open, but 10 was more than even gluttonous me could have wished for.

The first one I had to try of course was the red velvet, which is their most popular flavor and one of my favorite cupcake flavors. The cupcake was very tender and moist with a perfect balance of red velvet flavors. I did find that the frosting was far too sweet. I’m not a big fan of frosting to begin with, and the cream cheese frosting was definitely on the high end of the sweet scale as frostings go. I wish the cupcake had more cake and a less frosting.

Next I sampled the coconut. The coconut was not quite as tender as the red velvet, but was still pretty soft. The coconut flavor was light and blended with vanilla. I liked that it didn’t taste heavy of coconut extract. Again, I found the frosting to be too sweet and scraped most of it off.

Next I sampled the dark chocolate with chocolate frosting. This cake was very tender and moist as well, just like the red velvet. The chocolate flavor wasn’t too intense, but it was still tasty. The frosting contained bittersweet chocolate, so it wasn’t as sweet as the other frostings.

The german chocolate is their current new flavor, available for a limited time only. It is a chocolate cupcake topped with a sticky frosting of caramel, pecans and coconut. I found the frosting much too sweet and while it is reminiscent of a german chocolate cake, I also didn’t like how messy this one was to eat.

The final cupcake was a black and white.  A dark chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. It was basically the other dark chocolate one I ate with a vanilla frosting instead.

The other cupcakes were doubles of these five. As BF explained it, that way I could eat some right away and photo some later, which I thought was a very considerate gesture.

There were other flavors available that day as well we didn’t try. Sprinkles offers quite a few flavors, some which are staples every day and some which are only offered on certain days. You can view their calendar of flavors online.

Beginning Monday January 17th, you can also preorder online, which will hopefully cut out the long wait time.

So did the cupcakes live up to the hype? I feel kind of torn. On the positive, I really enjoy their cupcakes. Each was is moist and tender with a great flavor. They might not be the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but the cupcakes are pretty good. However, I definitely would not wait an hour in line for these cupcakes. Also at $3.50 a pop, I think these are a bit pricey (but to be fair $3.50 is about average for what other places charge for cupcakes as well).

I recently sampled the Sprinkles red velvet mix, and it tasted just like the cupcake I got from the bakery. So it is cheaper to just buy the mix ($14 for a can which makes about one dozen, which is pricey but cheaper than getting a dozen cupcakes from the bakery) and make my own, and in the future I’m probably going to be doing that a lot. The mix is available at their store and also at William Sonoma. However, if I’m in the area, or in the mood for just a single cupcake, and there is no long wait, I’d definitely come back and get one of these as a sweet treat.

I’ll definitely be back to try the other flavors, though next time I plan on trying preordering online.

8855 Villa La Jolla Dr
San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 457-3800

Though mochi is a japanese confectionery treat, it is widely popular in chinese cuisine as well. I’ve noticed some noticeable different between japanese style mochi and chinese style mochi.

Japanese mochi tends to be beautifully designed, using a bean paste jelly-like substance to create intricate shapes.  It is similar to how we use fondant on cake. However, like fondant, the bean paste jelly used is very sweet, and I find that the mochi often gets lost in it.

Traditional chinese mochi does not use the bean paste jelly. Instead, it only uses the mochi flour and filling. There tends to be more emphasis on the chewy exterior flour and less filling. There are often very pretty Taiwanese mochi as well, but it’s usually a print embossed onto the mochi dough.

One of the things I used to always request from Taiwan was mochi. There was a store that I used to go to (the name now escapes me), which sold tons of mochi, many of them beautifully designed. However, a few years ago, my relatives told me the place wasn’t any good anymore. I also noticed that the traditional mochi, which once had been found everywhere, wasn’t as widely available.

On my last trip two years ago, my aunt took me to a place called Pau Chuan, located inside Sogo shopping center, which made several types of mochi. The one that is really special is their handmade mochi. Most mochi is made by machines now, so handmade is quite a lot of work. The mochi was so soft and yet so chewy at the same time.  I loved it. It’s been a while since I’ve been back, so there may be better places now. But at the time, this was my favorite.

So with Baby Bro’s GF going back to Taiwan during her winter break (you can read about part 1 and 2 of her visit here), I requested she bring me back some mochi.

These mochi can be kept in the fridge or freezer — in fact they need to be or else they will go moldy. Luckily they still retain their chewy texture even after being in the fridge. These mochi don’t look as fancy as some of the other ones in Taiwan, but they taste so good. The one fancy one was this one with the flower embedded on top.

The mochi come in a few flavors: taro, green bean, red bean and peanut paste. My favorite is still the traditional red bean. The flower one was red bean as well, but with a fancier decoration.