Friday, October 31, 2008
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.
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.