When Nancy Leson told me the kind of seeds she'd sprinkled on the challah she baked, I immediately dropped a dime on her to the Bread Police. Wounded she asked, "Was that really necessary, Stein?" But the simple fact is she left me no choice.
Fennel seeds on challah, indeed! Everyone knows the only legit topping is poppy seeds. But fennel? And orange juice? And orange zest. Hmmm...actually sounds kind of good...
Here's the Joan Nathan recipe she followed. I've seen some extraordinarily complicated challah braids in my time. Nancy's was, to put it diplomatically, minimalist. But fancy or not, we both agree there's nothing better than next-day challah for French toast.
This week's discussion started out about sourdough. Nance confessed that "The one dough that really stymies me time and again is sourdough." She readily admits killing several batches of starter, including a rye starter I gave her.
Then she mentioned a new batch from Alaska she'd been given. I instantly memory-tasted the sourdough pancakes at Anchorage's Peggy's Airport Cafe in the '70s. Peggy's was famous for pies, but I loved it for the sourest, stretchiest, best flapjacks I've ever had.
I checked and Peggy is still there. If you visit Anchorage, try some out.
"How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" – Julia Child