Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Cuisinart Christmas

I know it may seem strange for a Jew to be speaking about Christmas shopping, but when BlogHer gave me the chance to go on a $300 shopping spree at JCPenney I donned my figurative Santa hat and took to the JCPenney website to create my wish list. After all, I love Christmas music. I love Christmas trees and Christmas sparkle lights. What's not to love about Christmas shopping?

We don't really have a holiday where you buy gifts for everyone (Chanukkah has been Christmas-ized in the United States--it's not really a gift giving holiday per se). Sure, I have to get gifts for the twins on Purim and we buy birthday presents and "just because" presents, but I've always felt like I dodged a bullet by not having that Christmas gift scramble headache. What if you couldn't come up with something good? But once I got into the spirit of things, I found that it was intoxicating to think about everyone opening up these random gifts. I loved the idea of seeing their faces when they received their box.

I started with my brother because he was easy. His roommate recently moved out and he had sent out a Clarion call for kitchen equipment. He ended up with the 11 piece Kitchaid set which comes with a very cool ladle that I may steal from him because it has a pour spout.

I then moved onto the twins because toys seemed like a sure bet. They received the KidKraft Cake Set and the Public Garage. Josh has been pining away for a mandolin. I bought myself a pair of shoes and a new robe. And we still have money leftover for my sister, niece, more toys for the twins and a pasta attachment for me.

I have to admit that there is something appealing about doing all of your shopping in one spot--with one exchange of the credit card number and one company shipping all of your packages. I hung out in the store one afternoon grabbing myself a free massage from the massage chair (oh how I covet one of those) and examining a donut-making machine. I fell in love with new plates and perused all of the kitchen gadgets. Seeing everything in front of me jogged my memory and suddenly I thought of 20 more things we "needed."

So, in addition to the Christmas music and candy canes, I guess we are sort of celebrating Christmas this year. Thank you BlogHer!

By the way, you too can win a $300 shopping spree at JCPenney and get all those cool Cuisinart attachments you've always longed to have. BlogHer is giving away one shopping spree a week for 5 weeks. So enter and then tell me what you buy if you win.

Okay, field trip over--come back to school.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Mars Factory

We are very lucky to get to take a tour of the Mars factory because one of our students informed me that BlogHer was organizing a giveaway of M&Ms and like the chocolate whore that I am, I wrote Jenny, groveling and begging and promising to make an M&M challah if she would please drown me in samples of Premium M&Ms. The FedEx man didn't know what hit him when he delivered the box yesterday.

The teacher gives M&M premiums an A+.

I know part of my love is the headiness of owning 35 pounds (yes, you read that correctly) of chocolate all at once. I was giving it away left and right today and I know EXACTLY how Oprah feels. The other part of my love is that I was coveting the Premium M&Ms that are currently on an end-display at my supermarket. I am a fan of all things M&M--mostly because it was the only option at my socialist Jewish sleepaway camp beyond Goldenberg Peanut Chews. I will always have a special place in my heart for M&Ms.

The Premium ones are a little different from the regular ones. First of all, they come in different flavours. Second of all, the candy shell is very thin. Just a little slip of a shell. My favourite so far has been the mocha.

Yesterday morning, the ChickieNob and I attempted to make a chocolate challah using the triple chocolate flavour (it's white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate all in one little disc of love). We have been on a bit of a chocolate challah kick since the ChickieNob mused over dinner one night that chocolate and challah would go well together. And she is so right.

The only thing I would recommend is throwing the M&Ms in the cuisinart for a spin to chop them into smaller bits. We dumped them in as-is and it was a little bit too much chocolate in one bite and not enough in another. A warning--the dye sort of leaked too, giving the dough a tie-dyed look. Not sure how you could keep that from happening--or if you'd even want to.

Since you are probably going to ask, here is the recipe for the Premium M&M Challah. After you have your fill, get back to class by clicking here and letting the class know what you brought today.


(takes about 5 hours—unless the dough doesn't rise well and I need to force the dough. Begin before noon in order to have it ready by 5. I built this recipe from a Cooks Illustrated base recipe)

3 ¼ cups flour

¼ cup sugar

2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (one envelope)

1 ¼ tsp salt

About ½ package of the Premium Triple Chocolate M&Ms

2 eggs plus 1 large yolk (save the egg white for the wash)

4 tbsp margarine or butter, melted

½ cup warm water (and an additional tablespoon in the egg wash)—30 seconds in microwave from Brita

Place inside the Kitchenaid bowl 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and chocolate (whisk together). Pour on top the two eggs and the yolk, the melted butter, and the ½ cup of warm water. Click the Kitchenaid into place with the bread hook kneading the dough. Do not walk away from the mixer. When it starts to form a ball, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour—very slowly. You just want to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl, but not to overwhelm it with flour.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been greased with a bit of canola oil (pour in a bit of oil and use a paper towel to coat the bowl). Turn the dough inside the bowl to coat with oil and loosely place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough (you want air to get to the dough). Leave for 1 ½--2 hours until it doubles in size. Punch it down and let it rise again for 40—60 minutes. If it is not rising, force the dough by placing it on top of a warm oven.

Lightly grease a foil covered cookie sheet. Divide the dough into two pieces—one half the size of the other (small piece will be 9 ounces, the larger piece will be 18 ounces). Make three ropes with the larger piece and braid together. Do the same thing with the smaller piece so that you have two braided loaves. Attach the smaller loaf to the larger loaf by coating the top of the larger loaf with the egg white wash and then placing it atop. Put a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the loaf and allow it to rise one last time—30—45 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 375°F while the dough is rising this final time (the heat radiating from the oven will help the dough rise and most ovens take much longer than the allotted time to actually reach the correct temperature). Remove the wrap and brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash. Bake until loaf is golden brown—30—40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing. Bake for 33 minutes in the oven.