Fair Trade Food: Melanie and Julie

October is Fair Trade Month, and we want to lift up one of our long-time Fair Trade partners: Equal Exchange.  In their honor, we asked our staff here at LWR to take Fair Trade products from Equal Exchange and make anything they can think of, and boy do they have a treat for you.

This week, Melanie made a delicious Challah Bread and Julie and her friends made cookies to share.  As you watch our blog this month, maybe you’ll be inspired to make some of these on your own. Happy cooking!

Fig, Olive Oil & Sea Salt Challah Bread

Melanie Gibbons

challah bread
The final bread, cooling on a rack

There’s something about autumn for me that just begs for the oven to be turned on. I bake bread year round, but particularly love the smell of yeast and baking bread mixed with the fresh, cool air of fall coming in the open kitchen window.

I thought LWR’s food blog series to highlight Fair Trade month was the perfect opportunity to try a new recipe that I’ve had my eye on – Smitten Kitchen’s Fig, Olive Oil & Sea Salt Challah Bread.

Most bread recipes include oil, but typically it’s a mild, flavorless vegetable oil. Any bread recipe like this one that highlights olive oil in the flavor profile, requires a good oil — all the better for this application! Some olive oils can be bitter, but Equal Exchange’s Fair Trade Olive Oil has a round, floral, mellow flavor that shines in this beautiful bread. It’s even sweeter to know that the oil was produced in a way that honors the farmers, producers and land behind each and every bottle.

Spread the fig filling on the dough before shaping it.

Of all forms of baking, bread is the one thing that requires a little flexibility and less stringent measuring. It’s been humid in Baltimore these last several weeks, so I had to add a tad (maybe a half cup) more flour to the dough to make it workable. Beyond that, I’ll let you in on a secret: this bread is brilliant for making something fairly simple look really impressive! Deb (the Smitten Kitchen creator) gave great instructions for how to form the beautiful, round weave of the loaf.

If you’ve never tried baking bread before, this is a fun one to start with. It’s forgiving, tastes and smells incredible, and will make you famous among your friends and family. And if that’s not enough to motivate you, consider the chance to create a holy moment of breaking bread — with those you love around the table, and with those you are helping to empower on the other side of the world. What could be sweeter than that?


knots of Challah dough
Twisting or knotting the strands of dough gives Challah its distinct shape
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet — 1/4 ounce or 7 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup (85 grams) plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
Fig Filling
final formed dough
The final, formed dough is ready for the oven
  • 1 cup (5 1/2 ounces or 155 grams) stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest, or more as desired
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • Few grinds black pepper
Egg wash
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Makes 1 large loaf

Buy Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Our extra virgin organic oil is robust and peppery with a strong fruit finish. It comes from two farmer co-ops which are part of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a non-profit, non-governmental organization in the West Bank.

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Julie’s Delightful Date Cookies

Julie Thompson

cookies on a plate
Julie’s Delightful Date Cookies

My ineptness at cooking is well documented. Fortunately, many of my friends are talented cooks who enjoy sharing, and I volunteer to wash dishes. When Lutheran World Relief invited staff to blog about cooking with Fair Trade food, my dear friend, Laura, immediately came to mind. Not only does Laura cook, she blogs — her own special way of keeping her geographically scattered family and friends abreast of what’s happening.

Laura and her husband, Nik, care deeply about others and the world.  As a result, they’ve made intentional decisions about their food consumption.  Together with their toddler, E., they plant, harvest, can, pickle, freeze, shop, cook, bake, eat and share their bounty with others.

Be sure to have a helpful assistant

Years ago Laura and I started going to a Farmers Market every Saturday, a tradition we continue to this day, now with E. in hand. Even if we don’t need to buy anything, we may simply get together to catch up.  We share what’s on our minds and in our hearts.  Even though Laura teaches me about produce and ingredients during these excursions, cooking still intimidates me.

LWR’s Fair Trade food blog came as a challenge that I could successfully tackle with Laura and Nik’s culinary and photography expertise and E’s eagerness to help.  Why volunteer to blog when I’m not a cook or a writer?  I love LWR’s work with small-scale farmers.

Since the recipe called for LWR’s Fair Trade coffee, I chose LWR’s Sisters’ Blend.  It honors both women coffee farmers & U.S. Lutheran women who advocate for Fair Trade. Sisters’ Blend seemed fitting given our friendship and passion for social justice.  While the cookies cooled, E’s grandfather, “Pappou” dropped by.  Pappou asked where he could buy Fair Trade coffee for his office and went home with cookies and a bag of LWR’s Sisters’ Blend Coffee with lwr.org/coffee on the back label.

Julie’s mise en place

Laura and Nik suggested we use the French cooking technique mise en place which means “everything in its place” for the great photo opportunities it provides.  We discovered, mise en placespeeds up the baking process while also creating more dishes to wash, which give me a chance to get more involved.

So what cookies did Laura, E & I make while Nik snapped pictures? Delightful Date Cookies, a prophetic name as making the cookies together was, in itself, a delightful date.


ingredients in a stand mixer
Mix the ingredients thoroughly
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon brewed Sisters’ Blend coffee. *Make espresso strength if you’d like to taste the coffee after the cookies have baked.
  • 1/2 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract or vanilla flavor, optional
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 3.5 oz bar Fairly Traded Dark chocolate, chopped into chunks *We used 80% Cacao*
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans *I substituted walnuts*
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries


Don’t forget to sample your cookies!
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cream together the butter and both sugars in a large bowl until smooth and light. Add the eggs, coffee, and vanilla, if using.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Then, stir in oats, chocolate chunks, walnuts, dates, and cranberries.
  • Drop rounded tablespoon of dough, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one slightly with the back of a spoon. 6. Bake the cookies until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes.Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Buy Organic Sisters’ Blend Coffee

With this special blend, Lutheran World Relief and Equal Exchange honor women coffee farmers who are active in their co-operatives and Lutheran women in the U.S. who advocate for Fair Trade. Complex with hints of sweet cane sugar and lively citrus overtones, with a buttery smooth finish. From small farmer co-ops in Peru and Nicaragua.

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