CHALLAH // braided egg bread recipe

April 20, 2014

Full disclosure: I took this picture over the summer. After baking this bread with more than a little help from my mom. BUT I totally was responsible for the braiding, so that counts for something, right?

My family isn't huge on long-standing traditions (probably a relic from my mom growing up Catholic and my dad growing up Jewish), but if I had to point to a newly-minted family tradition from my parents, it would definitely be this bread.

This is a bit of a special occasion bread -- I'm pretty sure my parents make it every New Year's, and I made a couple of less-photogenic loaves for Easter. But it's also perfect if you have a bit of time on your hands on a weekend afternoon, because it's so good and the kneading and braiding process is basically free therapy.


Makes two loaves


1/4 cup warm water
1 package active yeast (this recipe is for regular yeast, see note below if you use quick-rise yeast)
3 eggs
Milk (add to two eggs to make 2 cups total)
2 tbs melted butter
2 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
6-6 1/2 cups flour


1. Dissolve yeast in water in a large bowl.  

2. Break two eggs into a 2-cup measuring cup and pour in milk to make 2 cups. Beat the mixture together, then add to the yeast mixture. 

3. Add butter, salt, and sugar to mixture and blend.

4. Stir in five cups of flour one cup at the time, each time stirring until smooth and elastic.

5. Sprinkle flour on a board or counter. Place the dough on the board and keep a sprinkle of flour on it as you knead -- it shouldn't be so sticky that half of it ends up on your hands! Knead dough until non-sticky, smooth, and satiny, adding flour as needed.  

6. Put dough in greased bowl, turning to grease fully. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set in warm place. Let the dough rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).  

7. Test the dough by inserting two fingers 1/2 inch into dough -- if indentations remain, the dough is ready. Punch dough down and squeeze out bubbles.  

8. Divide the ball of dough into six equal parts and roll each small ball into a strand. Braid three strands together and fold the ends under, pinching to help them stick together. Repeat with the remaining three strands.

9. Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until almost doubled (about 45 minutes).

10. Crack an egg into a bowl and beat until mixed. With a brush (or simply a folded paper towel) spread the egg mixture over the top of each loaf of bread -- this will give the loaves their shiny, golden crust, so I like to be thorough and get into the braids' crevasses.

11.  Bake in 375 oven for 25-30 minutes, then serve fresh and hot! The bread will last for another few days (or less depending on how much self control you have), especially if wrapped in tin foil and refrigerated.

FAVORITE TOPPINGS: hummus, aoili, jam, a piece of cheese and slice of tomato, or just straight up eat a hunk of bread plain -- my favorite snack!

NOTE: For quick rise yeast (which seems to work equally well), follow the directions on the yeast packet to modify the recipe. In general, you'll mix the yeast with the dry ingredients and then add in the warmed-up liquid ingredients (add the eggs to at room temperature). You'll then give the dough a shorter first rising time (ten minutes or so) and then continue with the recipe. 

xo Diana

ART PROCESS 06 // escape from the cubicle + first commission

April 19, 2014

When Susan first approached me about the possibility of creating a set of abstract paintings for her dining room, I was thrilled. Not only was it an exciting opportunity to create a larger work, but Susan herself is extremely creative, so I knew she would have lots of interesting ideas for the paintings.

I wasn't wrong. Often I look to my environment for painting inspiration (such as my breakfast!), but Susan actually picked out one of my favorite paintings as a starting point: Geometry of Arrows.

She was drawn to the colors and simple geometry of the piece, perhaps because of her interest in quilting. I got straight to work creating some sketches of other geometric compositions.

These are actually just our three favorite compositions -- I kind of went nuts on this stage! I loved doing this painting and I hope to use some of the unused sketches as a starting point for future paintings.

We originally thought we would pick three separate patterns and create a series of paintings that could fit together. However, after I experimented with a deeper-edged canvas that allowed me to paint around the edges of the piece, we decided to choose one pattern that could flow across all three canvases.
Next we choose a color palette that incorporated a lot of secondary colors -- Susan is a wonderful gardener and very drawn to greens -- and I created a miniature painting on a piece of canvas.
To maintain the strong geometric pattern and allow the design to line up across all three canvases, using a grid was essential. You can see my math in the margins as I figured out how to scale the grid up onto the full-sized canvases. :)

I did about three layers over each painting, working on the shapes, colors, and composition. This process felt almost meditative somehow, and I barely noticed the time passing as I worked through each stage.

It was almost a surprise to me when it was finished.
Working on a commission piece was very different from my usual style of painting. I was much more meticulous about how I progressed and collaborating with someone else forced me to really honestly evaluate each stage. One of the best parts for me was getting to see the space where the paintings would live, and tailoring the piece to its future environment.

I think the painting is all the better for it. 

If you're interested in commissioning a painting, I'm currently accepting work for May. Just send me a message -- I'd love to work with you!

xo Diana

CAMERA GIVEAWAY! // celebrating with latrina from of trees + hues

April 17, 2014

Some pretty awesome news: one of my blogger friends, Latrina from the gorgeous blog Of Trees & Hues, just had her 29th birthday and, to celebrate, we're giving away a DSLR camera!

Yep. It's pretty good, right? The camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T3i, which I'm especially excited about since I've been using this camera since last summer. I absolutely love it and have been blown away by the photos it produces! (For the lucky person who wins it, I totally recommend investing in the "nifty fifty" -- a relatively inexpensive 50mm prime lens, which I can't get enough of.)

A big group of people -- all amazing bloggers, designers, and shop owners -- joined Trina in making this raffle possible, so definitely check out some of these lovely people! And feel free to hop over to Of Trees & Hues to send Trina a birthday message, or, like I do, just drool over her photography and design skills. :)
Of Trees and Hues | Lorelai's Things | Cocorrina | Melissa Alam | Buckets and Spades | Whisky & Tinder | Thatch & Thistle | Thou Swell | Writers Block Near You | A Lively Blend | Tara Victoria | Fashiony Fab | My Life Box | Kyla is Inspired | Star Crossed Smile | Love Grows Design | Coco and Mingo | J for Jamie | 45 Wall Design | We Resolve | To Adventure | Team Wiking | Hanna's Places | Clear the Way | Diana Willard | Pen & Peplum | La Designerie | Witty Title Here | Cambria Grace | Mamages | Emma Lou Designs | Safaris and Sunsets | Tori's Tales | Folk & Fest | Lucky Number Seven | Likes of Us | Ex Vitae | Horses of Ares

How the giveaway works:

>>Enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below -- signing up for the first entry will open up a ton more ways to earn more entries!

>>The raffle ends midnight on May 6th and is open to international readers.

Good luck everybody!

xo Diana

a Rafflecopter giveaway

weekend details + sour cream coffee cake

April 13, 2014

So I have a camera, and I have an online course, and I have a promise to myself to learn how to shoot in manual properly.

And it turns out the hardest part of this promise is actually getting myself to take the camera out of its bag! So, some shots from a sunny photography walk this weekend, followed by a way-too-good cake. Er, delicious breakfast food. Try it.

We found the local public library and drooled over the amazing books (not literally, not to worry). Next weekend's goal: library cards!
It turns out Saturday was the Cesar Chavez parade, and it turns out there are at least three rival vintage low-rider clubs in San Francisco. Debating which one to join.
I adore the murals in the Mission District, and have so much respect for the people who make them. Never ceases to inspire me.
Oh, and it's spring!
This cake is heaven.

It's sweet and dense and moist. And my mom has been making it as a special breakfast treat for years, so that's how you know it's something good.

I'm pretty sure you could bake this up in a flat pan, but putting it in a bundt pan just makes it that much more delicious. :)

From The Silver Palate Cookbook. Makes 10 servings in a 10 inch bundt pan


  • 16 tbs (2 sticks) sweet butter
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups dairy sour cream
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shelled pecans, chopped (you can also substitute walnuts or almonds)
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10 inch bundt pan and lightly dust the inside with flour.
  2. Cream together the butter and 2 cups of the sugar. Add eggs, blending well, then the sour cream and vanilla. (For those of you without a stand-up mixer, or a mixer of any kind, never fear -- I mixed this whole thing up the old-fashioned way.)
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and beat until just blended. Do not overbeat.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar with pecans and cinnamon.
  6. Pour half of the batter into the bundt pan. Sprinkle with half of the pecan and sugar mixture. Add remaining batter and top with the rest of the pecan mixture.
  7. Set on the middle rack of the over and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Or cold. Honestly, it will be amazing no matter what.

xo Diana


April 10, 2014

I've been feeling the fear a lot lately: that paralyzing feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt.

There have been a lot of moments in the past few weeks where I really doubted that I could make this work, or that this was even a good idea. This includes being an artist, running my own business, even blogging -- everything is new for me, and even some of the little parts of it can be intimidating.

This weekend I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the De Young Museum and was really interested to learn many of her paintings came out of moments of negative feelings -- pain, sadness, maybe even anger. Yet (I think) they are truly beautiful paintings and create a lightness and happiness within their own world.

This quote of hers really rang true for me:

I've been terrified every moment of my life, and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to.

-- Georgia O'Keeffe

Yes and yes. Pushing through the hard stuff today. Best of luck with everything you're trying to make happen!

xo Diana

P.S. As I was working on writing this piece, Emma's post on a similar topic popped right up! Always reassuring to know that other people are going through similar things!
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