Friday, October 31, 2008

Challah

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Click on pictures for a full view of the bread.

An intrepid group called
Bread Baking Babes holds a monthly baking event and, while I tried to resist, this month's recipe - a challah from The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook - had my name on it. I have an old dog-eared, almost spineless copy of the book and the early photos posted by BBB looked so beautiful I knew I had to participate. I decided to vary slightly from the recipe and use a six-braid technique that I had learned years ago. Everyone knows that once learned these techniques are never lost - it's like riding a bicycle, right? Not! That's why I was on the internet at a ridiculous hour searching for instructions to jog a fading memory. I fortunately found Braiding A Six Strand Challah and had so much fun braiding the first loaf that I decided not to braid the second. What could be easier than a brioche à tête? Again, drawing on an old technique, I proceeded as though I knew what I was doing. One hour later, looking much better than I hoped - I won't tell you where to look for the dropped strand in my loaf - the bread went into the oven and a wee bit later we had challah and brioche. While the brioche looked like a genetic accident, I was genuinely pleased with the challah. This is a wonderful recipe. The dough has a lovely, velvety feel and is very easy to work. The finished bread has a delightful, tight crumb with buttery flavor and a golden crust that offers a slight resistance to the bite. As an aside, I used Smart Balance Butter Blend Sticks in place of butter and it worked well. Next time I'll work on the brioche and, hopefully, come up with something a bit more comely. I'm thinking the addition of rum soaked raisins and toasted almonds would take the brioche to another level. If so, one recipe could produce challah, brioche and kugelhoph. The best part of making bread is that no matter how it looks you'll always have that wonderful aroma and something that can be eaten.

Sara of I Like To Cook is hosting this month's BBB event. Thanks Sara, this was a wonderful choice.

Challah
from The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook

Makes two loaves

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
3 TB sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
pinch powdered saffron
1 cup warm water (120-130'F)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp cold water
1/2 tsp poppy seeds

Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in the softened butter. Stir the saffron into the warm water until it dissolves. Add a little at a time to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Blend the single egg white and the other 3 whole eggs into the batter. Reserve the single egg yolk. Stir 1/2 cup of flour into the batter and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Blend in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it once to grease the top. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in bulk (approximately one hour).

Flour a pastry board lightly and set the dough on it. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 2 pieces, using 1/3 of the dough for one piece, and 2/3 of the dough for the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 12 inch ropes. Braid the ropes together tightly, using your fingers to press the dough together at the ends. Divide the smaller piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 10 inch ropes and braid tightly. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger one and seal the ends. Repeat this process to form the second loaf.

Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet. Mix the reserved single egg yolk with the 1 tsp of cold water and brush the top of the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, and let the loaves rise until double in bulk in a warm draft free place (approximately one hour). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks.

24 comments:

Martha said...

What beautiful pictures. I feel like I could cut a slice! And I know I can smell it!

Martha

Cathy said...

Beautiful and mouth watering. You've inspired me to give the recipe a try. I wish I had a slice right now with my first cup of coffee.

1215656559s20768 said...

Gosh, this is beautiful. I don't think I've ever eaten challah. I wish I had your bread baking skills. I will say that I have been venturing out in the yeast department lately.

Candy said...

Looks delicious! I love using challah bread for bread puddings.

Sara said...

Thanks for joining us, your bread looks lovely!

Allie said...

Wow do those look good. I could eat fresh bread for a meal by itself. You make it look like a pro!

Natashya said...

Such perfect golden goodness. I am hungry for challah all over again. Nice to be a buddy with you!

Judy said...

Don't resist anymore! Join us every month for a new bread adventure and more. Both your breads look gorgeous.

Patsyk said...

Your challah turned out beautifully!

Gretchen Noelle said...

I was so tempted to try my hand at the six braid, but then chickened out! Love how yours turned out!! Great job!

Mary said...

Thanks to new friends and old. Your compliments are appreciated. I really like the BBB group and hope to be an active contributor.

Arundathi said...

fantastic pictures! it was almost as if i could reach in and grab it! :-) thanks for visiting my blog, so I could discover yours!

Mary said...

Arundathi, thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll make a visit to my site a habit. Mary

Lien said...

Wonderful bread! and I love the brioche-à-tête idea too! Thanks for baking with us!

Mary said...

lien - thanks so much for your kind words. They are really appreciated and I DO hope to be able to join you all on a monthly basis.

Jude said...

Yum.. Should've done a couple brioche loaves as well. I've barely used my set :)

Mary said...

Jude, thanks for the kind words. I just took a look at your braid and it is a stunner. I hope you'll make our blog a habit.

The Inexperienced Foodie said...

oh wow that bread looks so good i definitly want to do some bread baking this winter

Mary said...

Stef, thanks for stopping by. This is a wonderful recipe. Do give it a try.

glynda said...

Wonderful looking bread Mary. Wish I had a taste of it right nowQ

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Lovely, Lovely. How fun to do the brioche shape with it, worked beautifully!
Sorry it took me so long to get here. Thanks so much for baking with us.

Mary said...

Glynda and mykitcheninhalfcups your kind words are really appreciated.I've just finished using this recipe to make kuglehopf and it really works well.

Cate Bruce-Low said...

gorgeous gorgeous pictures. and thanks for the link to the 6 braid-your hour was not in vain.

Mary said...

Cate, thank you so much. The six-braid instruction are really clear. I hope you'll use them

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