Learning by Doing: The Marzipan Challah

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I love challah. I make it every so often to eat in thick slices, toasted and slathered in butter. It is a lovely bread, satisfying to make because the dough becomes so smooth when kneading, and delicious because it somehow manages to be a little cakey while still definitely being a bread. I normally use the recipe from The Kitchn, weaved into a six strand plait, and it is normally great.

Then, I stumbled upon this recipe for marzipan challah. Doesn’t it just look so beautiful? Sometimes, when I find a recipe, I will yearn for it. This was one like that: a desperate feeling that I needed to make it to have that sweet almond taste wrapped in the folds of gluten.

I got marzipan immediately, came back from the shop and was kneading within minutes. As always, the challah dough came together and was a beauty to knead. I was excited. The dough rested for two hours, and it proved up lovely. I rolled it out, I spread the marzipan mix across the dough, I coiled and shaped and I left to prove one more time before popping it in the oven.

Somewhere, somehow, during its baking, this bread went bad. The marzipan mix streamed from the base, caramelising into hard, burnt slabs on the parchment paper. Most bizarrely, where the bread an been a coil at first, it had sprung A WHOLE EXTRA LAYER. This loaf had gone from an elegant little spiral to a weirdly tiered melting monstrosity – you can spot the extra tier because it’s a bit paler, having obviously formed later in the bake.

Failed Marzipan Challah

I’m trying to work out why. I have absolutely no explanation for the extra layer, especially because there is still a little bit of bread there, so the dough has morphed around the marzipan and I don’t know why that would be. On the marzipan all falling out, I have two theories: 1) the marzipan was not very cold, and had been mixed with butter, and so just melted everywhere, and should’ve been chilled before putting in the bread, or 2) the seam where I had rolled up the dough was at the base of the loaf, meaning the marzipan was not encased and so could just slip out. 

But these are mere theories. If you have thoughts on why this might have happened – on how I might have made this monstrosity – do let me know. 

Failed Marzipan Challah

Sausage, Fennel and Lentil Stew (or, spirit food)

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My spirit animal – I think – would be a sun bear. They are bears, small but still a little stocky, and are generally quite shy, solitary creatures. They will kick off if provoked though. Plus, they have incredibly long tongues, so they are always a little bit awkward, a little bit funny looking. 

Sausage, Fennel and Lentil Stew

If there was a spirit animal equivalent for food – a food patronus or something – then this Sausage, Fennel and Lentil Stew would be mine. I feel a great affinity for it. It’s a bit simple, a bit untidy, never really gonna scrub up good or look nice in a photo. But it’s lovely at its centre – a very hearty dinner. If it was a person, it would give good hugs (I do). Plus, it’s good on a budget, but still just a tiny tiny bit unusual, since fennel doesn’t crop up that often. Fennel is wonderfully fragrant, it adds to the comforting taste of this dish, but it makes it a bit quirky – it’s the fennel that makes it a hug, followed by an unexpectedly off-colour joke. Or something. 

sausages

Basically, this food looks a bit dodge but it’s actually alright. Better than alright, if you catch it on a high-self esteem day. I’m a bit like that, and I like reasons to talk about sun bears. 

It’s really, really not photogenic. 

Sausage Fennel and Lentil Stew

Sausage, Fennel and Lentil Stew
Serves 4
A hearty, delicious but deeply un-appetising looking meal.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 8 pork sausages
  2. A little oil
  3. 4 rashers bacon
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 onion, finely diced
  6. 2 small bulbs fennel*, finely diced, stalks discarded
  7. 1 1/2 tsps dried rosemary
  8. 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  9. 1 cup speckled lentils
  10. 4 cups chicken stock
  11. 2 bay leaves
Instructions
  1. First, brown the sausages over a medium heat in a deep pan in a little oil. Keep them moving to make sure they brown evenly and don't burn.
  2. Add the bacon, and let cook a bit. Still keep the sausages moving.
  3. Add the onion, fennel and garlic. Stir to coat in oil and fat, and cook until they begin to turn clear and smell lovely.
  4. Add the rosemary and fennel seeds, and let cook for another minute.
  5. Then, pour in the stock and add the lentils. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Now, let the lentils cook and the stock reduce, stirring occasionally. Thiswill take about 45 minutes, then you can enjoy trying to serve it in a way that looks attractive.
Notes
  1. *One big one would probably also be fine.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/