Tuesday, March 02, 2010

you say challah, i say holla!

I'm a gentile. There. I said it. I had to get it out there. I have no business making challah in my home. But, I did grow up with a mother who passionately loves every Jewish person she has ever met, with a fervor that sometimes makes me think she wishes she could convert. As a result, you can often find me buying matzoh and coconut macaroons as soon as they're seasonally available, making latkes left and right and other such things. I even save the schmaltz after roasting a chicken and use it for different meals.

We are always buying challah downtown because the kids love it. I've been thinking I should try my hand at it. My friend has a new blog called The dinner chronicles, and I'm always impressed that there's a loaf of freshly made challah on her table. Because I have an obsession with multi-tasking, I threw making a loaf of challah into the Sunday that also included assembling a cassoulet. I'm a glutton for punishment.

If you've been a long time reader (my sister), you know that I have had a running issue with yeasted breads, specifically sourdough. I've never totally flopped a loaf, but they're never as good as I expect them to be. Mostly I'm scared. Yeasties are alive, and they can smell the fear. I feel like if I don't coddle them correctly, they'll misbehave. They need a lot of positive reinforcement, those little buggers. Kind of like the other little buggers that live in my house.

I used the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart (see below), and I'm happy to report that it was a success.
There's only a small chunk left, and I won't be surprised if it disappears as soon as the kids get back from school.

from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
  1. Stir together 4 cups bread flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/3 instant yeast in a mixing bowl or bowl of the electric mixer. In a separate bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons veg oil, 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks (Thanks, Kelly!) and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add up to 6 more tablespoons water, if needed.
  2. Knead for about ten minutes by hand, or at medium low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook of the food processor. Sprinkle in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should pass the windowpane test, and register approx. at 80 degrees.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a bowl, and transfer into oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat with oil. Ferment at room temperature for one hour. (I let it go even longer than this because I left the house - bad bread maker!)
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to de-gas. Reform it into a bowl and return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1.5 times its original size.
  5. Remove from the bowl and divide it into three equal pieces. Form each into a ball, cover with a towel and let rest for ten minutes.
  6. Roll the pieces out into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them together. Line a sheet pan with parchment and transfer loaf to the pan. Brush the loaf with the leftover egg whites. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  7. Proof for 60-75 minutes or until the dough has grown to 1.5 times it's original size.
  8. Preheat oven to 350degrees (convection if you have it)
  9. Bake for 20 mintues. Rotate pan 180degrees and continue baking for 20-45 minutes depending on the size of the loag. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190degrees in the center.
  10. When done, transfer to a rack and cool for at least one hour before slicing or serving.


Lilies of the Field said...

ok _ first of all> love the intro.. so very true. and i indeed i too buy matzo ball soup, macaroons and matzoh. Matzoh actually is quite common staple whenever available at the supermarket - wait... . is this not normal.... a little matzoh with butter does me just right.

second of all _ YEASTIES>>. . .ha! that's your new nickname..

third - that turned out awesome. beautiful..proud of ya! <3

Kate said...

Gorgeous! (And thanks for the shout-out.)

Clinging By The Fingernails said...

That bread is beyond beautiful!!