Saturday, January 5, 2013


Challah - made January 1, 2013 from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
2nd loaf made from refrigerated dough - had a higher oven spring
I love bread.  Even more than sugar.  There's just something about a slice of homemade bread, still warm from the oven and slathered with melting butter that makes me forget I want to keep fitting into my clothes.  And out of all the breads out there, challah, a traditional Jewish bread. enriched with eggs, butter and honey, is one of my favorites (and I don't even like honey).  Challah is similar in taste and texture to versions of Filipino ensaimada, except without the butter and sugar on top that ensaimada has.  Challah is also typically made in braided loaves while ensaimada is coiled rolls.  Still, regardless of the comparison or non-comparison, my love for good challah knows no bounds.

But much as I love bread, I don't make it that often because of the time and effort involved.  When I do make it, it's on a rare Saturday when I have time to make the dough, knead it, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise again, shape it, rise, bake, yada yada.  In other words, when I have nothing to do all day....which almost never happens. And I still don't knead the dough properly enough half the time.  I'm so afraid of overworking the gluten that I don't work it enough.  Plus, there's that whole I want to keep fitting into my clothes thing.
Baked from newly-made, unchilled dough - spread out more
Nevertheless, I broke my self-imposed ban of not buying any new cookbooks by buying this book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  A friend on my online fitness board had recommended it awhile back and someone posted a pic of their challah made from this book on pinterest.  Hello, did someone say challah?  So I bought it on impulse because amazon prime membership and two-day shipping are dangerous elements to combine with no willpower.

But one taste of this bread and I forgave myself.  As the book claims, it's really easy to make - you literally put all the ingredients in the bowl, mix it with a dough hook on the Kitchenaid, let it sit for a couple of hours then use it.  I like to think I braided the challah correctly but the dough was pretty soft (a must for this method of bread making) so when it rose, the braids blended into each other somewhat so the distinctive braids weren't quite so distinctive.  The authors say if that happens, try increasing the flour a bit more next time.  Still, I loved the taste.  I'm not a fan of honey but you can't really taste it in this bread other than as a slight sweetener.  I don't like hard crusts on my bread and this one was a bit soft yet a little crunchy when it was warm.  I think I ate two pieces before my mind was fully aware of what I was doing.  My taste buds had taken over all conscious thought processes.

If you like homemade bread but don't like the big time investment it normally takes, try out this recipe (the challah also serves well as good sandwich bread) and try out this book.  I've only made this one recipe so far but I think it's worth the entire book.  It does make more than enough dough for a couple of good-sized loaves.  I made 2 loaves on two different days and still have some leftover that I think I'll use the rest to make beignets - stay tuned.
Warm with butter - fantastic
1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 ½ tablespoons Kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1.     Mixing and storing the dough: mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2.     Mix in the flour without kneading using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook.  If mixing by hand, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
3.     Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
4.     The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days.  Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.  Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.  Then allow the usual rest and rise time.
5.     On baking day, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quick shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
6.     Divide the ball into thirds, using a dough scraper or knife.  Roll the balls between your hands (or on a board), stretching to form ech into a long, thin rope.  If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again.  Braid the ropes, starting from the center and working to one end.  Turn the loaf over, rotate it and braid from the center out to the remaining end.  This produces a loaf with a more uniform thickness than when braided from end to end.
7.     Allow the braid to rest and rise on the prepared cookie sheet for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
8.     Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350°F.  If you’re not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate.  Brush the loaf with egg wash.
9.     Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes.  Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.  The challah is done when golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf offer resistance to pressure.  


1 comment:

  1. That's a beautiful loaf of bread Carol! I can't wait to see the beignets. I'll bet that you can turn this recipe into a panettone by adding some dried fruit and fiori di Sicilia.