Purim is right around the corner and I finally decided on a theme for my shalach manot this year. Last year, I was so last minute with my concept that I ended up just making fun rainbow cupcakes with Cracker Jacks. You can’t go wrong with rainbow, right?!? So with less than 2 weeks to go, I’ve started preparing my concept and I think it’s going to be great. The inspiration started with some leftover swag samples of zahtar and zhug spices from Whole Spice from the Kosher Food Bloggers Conference 2012. I knew I wanted to use them in my shalach manot but nothing was coming to me until I started dreaming about vacation in Israel. Sitting at a restaurant with warm bread, spices and lots of really good olive oil waiting to be devoured. Yum! And that’s when it all happened! Zahtar and olive oil rolled right into the bread and braided to impress. For the Kosher Connection Purim link-up this month, check out some other incredible Purim shalach manot ideas at the bottom of this post!
Zahtar Braided Bread
makes 20 mini braids
1 box Tribes-A-Dozen Voila! Hallah bread mix (I used Wholey Wheat)
1 packet yeast (enclosed in box)
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp warm water (110-115 degrees F)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp honey
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup zahtar
flour for work surface
I followed the simple directions on the back of the Voila! Hallah box for the dough. I placed the bread mix in the bowl of my stand mixer. I made a well in the center of the mix, poured n the yeast and stirred with a bit of the mix.
I added the warm water and let stand for 5 minutes, until it bubbled.
I added 1 egg, 1 egg yolk (setting the egg white aside for later), oil and honey and with the hook attachment, mixed the dough on medium-low speed for 10 minutes. I scraped down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough was elastic, smooth and sticky. I sprayed a large bowl with vegetable spray then transferred the dough to the bowl, turned it once and placed it in a warm, draft-free area to rise for 45 minutes.
I lightly dusted my work surface with flour then placed the dough on the flour. Don’t worry if your dough doesn’t double in size. As long as it has risen a little bit, it will bake perfectly.
At this point, I stepped away from the directions on the box. I floured a rolling pin and rolled out the dough to around 12″ by 24″. I drizzled the dough with the olive oil then brushed it all over the dough. I sprinkled the zahtar over the olive oil and rubbed it in all the way to the edges of the dough.
I rolled the dough lengthwise into a log.
If you want to bake the bread as is, you can just spiral it into a pinwheel shape, brush with egg white and bake in a pan at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. But keep reading if you want to learn how to make adorable mini braids.
I sliced the dough every 2 inches so each braid would be around the same size. Check out that zahtar swirl!
I took a piece of the sliced dough and flattened it out a bit with my hand, just to give it some size. Using a sharp knife, I sliced the dough in half. I then sliced each piece, keeping the top in tact. I turned the two halves of each piece outwards so the layers of zahtar would show then crossed the halves over each other to make a twist.
I placed the litte zahtar braids in the cutest mini paper baking pans that don’t even need cooking spray.
I brushed the braids with egg white and set them aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for another 45 minutes. I placed the tiny baking pans on a cookie sheet and placed them in the 350 degrees F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops were browning and the house smelled like delicious homemade Challah.
I removed the bread from the oven and transferred the pans to a wire rack to cool. My kids have been going nuts for these little braided zahtar treats and now I have to make a whole new batch for my shalach manot! Wondering what else I’ll be adding to my shalach manot this year? I’m still working on it but so far, I’ve got the mini zahtar braided bread, little bags of zahtar and zhug from Whole Spice, and little bottles of extra virgin olive oil. I might also make pepper jelly or something pickled, but I’m still unsure. If you have any ideas, let me know!