Working to get things ready for Thanksgiving, today, I focused on the stuffing. I don’t know about you, but stuffing is integral to my Thanksgiving plate. It’s what catches the gravy. It’s what you snack on, right out of the fridge, while you stare at the contents wondering what to eat next. Stuffing the morning after, fried up a little, with an egg on top? Oh lordy.
Right around a year ago, Food52 had a contest for “Your Best Thanksgiving Stuffing.” and I entered my challah stuffing – it’s vegetarian, buttery and herb-filled. While it was selected as a finalist, another meatier stuffing prevailed. Nevertheless, the most exciting part of this whole contest? Definitely when Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs – the founders of Food52 – joined Al Roker on the Today Show and they all made the two finalist stuffing recipes!
I was so excited I almost passed out when I heard “Mrs. Wheelbarrow.” But even more wonderful were the comments and reactions I heard in the coming weeks, as friends and strangers alike tried my stuffing recipe.
The secret to this stuffing is in the bread. You must use a good challah. I make my own, but you don’t have to. To prepare for Thanksgiving today, locate a source for great challah and order two loaves for your holiday cooking.
One loaf will be perfect for your leftover turkey sandwiches. One loaf will be cut into cubes and made into this delicious stuffing.
What We Call Stuffing
Makes one 13 x 17 baking pan, or one large cast iron pan
1 large loaf of challah
2 c celery, diced
2 c onion, diced
2 c cremini mushroom, diced
8-10 sprigs thyme, chopped
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
3 c vegetable stock, preferably homemade
3 oz butter
4 oz melted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Cut the challah into 1″ cubes. Leave the cubes out on a parchment lined sheet pan, on the counter, to get stale, at least overnight and preferably 3 days.
Melt 3 oz of butter ina large heavy sauty pan. Saute the onions until wilted, add the herbs, celery and mushrooms and cook until just slightly cooked thoruhg.
In a large bowl, combine bread cubes, vegetables, melted butter and vegetable stock, and salt and pepper. Test for seasoning and adjust.
Press stuffing into a large buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered parchment and then foil. At this point, the stuffing can be held for several hours, but should be at room temperature before baking.
Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes, the last 10-15 minutes without the foil and parchment, to crisp the surface.
And here’s the recipe for my homemade challah. It’s really heavenly.
makes two large loaves
a stand mixer is really nice, but you can make these loaves by hand
a large rising bowl, oiled
two sheet pans, lined with parchment, brushed with oil and dusted with cornmeal
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbls flour
1 c/ 8 oz warm water (110•F = hot from the faucet)
5 tsp yeast (two packages)
Warm a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer by running hot water into it. Whisk all the sponge ingredients together. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let it bubble away for about 10 minutes, while you get the rest of the ingredients together. (If, after 10 minutes, you don’t have any foaming, your yeast may not be fresh. Start again with fresh yeast. Keep your yeast in the freezer if you don’t use it frequently!)
1.5/12 oz c warm water
3 whole large eggs
2 egg large yolks
1/2 c/4 oz canola oil (or peanut)
1/2 c/95 gr Sugar
2 Tbls Kosher Salt
1/4 c/2oz light colored honey, I like to use clover, wildflower or apple blossom
7-8 c/840-960gr flour
1 egg yolk
1 T sugar
poppy seeds (or my favorite, and what Agatha’s recipe called for, charnushka seed from Penzeys)
If you are using the stand mixer, get the paddle attachment going at a nice slow pace, and add to the sponge, the eggs and egg yolks, the oil, sugar, salt and honey, and warm water. Scrape the bowl and add about 2.5 c of the flour and mix and scrape the bowl again. Mix for about five minutes at a medium speed.
Add four cups of flour. Stir it up with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Don’t worry if it’s all shaggy. Now, walk away from the dough. Take a 10 minute break. Check your email. Make a cup of tea. When you come back, the flour will have absorbed the liquid and it will be much easier to work with.
Switch to the dough hook. (Or roll up your sleeves.) Let the hook work on the dough for about 10 minutes. The dough will be nice and elastic, and will have a few little bubbles on the surface. It will be very soft.
Flour your counter lightly, turn out the dough and give it a little bit of a knead. Be gentle with it. Push it away, and use the bench scraper to lift and turn. It’s a very delicate dough and the bread will have a better crumb if you use a light touch.
Tip the dough into the oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled.
When it’s all puffy and fabulous, gently deflate the dough (do not punch it down… that’s not nice), and then let it rise again for 45 minutes.
Now it’s time to braid your loaves. Tip the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two parts. Then divide each half into three parts. Roll each part into a length about 12″ long.
Line the three ropes up side by side. Start in the middle, braid to the end, then braid the other half. (here’s a link to a way-too-long You Tube video showing you how.) Tuck the ends under and pinch them together. There are a number of other braids – a four-rope braid and a six-rope braid. I can just manage the three strand, but that’s just me.
Carefully lift the loaf and place it on the sheet pan. Repeat with the second loaf.
Brush the loaves with the egg wash, . Sprinkle generously with the seeds. Let the loaves rise, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375•F/190C.
Bake the loaves for 40 minutes, switching their positions halfway through. Check to make sure they’re not browning too quickly, and if they are, tent with foil. When the loaf is finished, a thermometer inserted will measure an internal temp of 190.
Pull the loaves out of the oven and cool on a rack.