Saturday, July 16, 2011

Challah Bread

I got a new cookbook and it has made me (and Bunker) so happy! It is The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and it is filled to the brim with descriptive and easy to use recipes, diagrams, tips, photographs, variations, history lessons and troubleshooting. A good cookbook can be a total game changer in the kitchen.

Sleepy Shafer

I love Challah bread. The slight sweetness and the incredibly delicate body of the bread is just such a comfort, and it is all wrapped up in the most beautiful braid, like a present tied up with a bow. You can understand why Challah bread is the centerpiece of Jewish celebrations.

Cort the Co-pilot.

Earlier this year we had a dear friend bring us soup and Challah bread, it is one of those meals that is just pure comfort to the soul, a hug in the form of food. Can you think of someone that might need a "food hug"?

Shafer chilling out on the couch.

4 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (I might use 3 or 4 next time as I craved a little more sweetness)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2 eggs whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash

1. Stir together flour, sugar, salt and yest in a large mixing bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and yolks, and water.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine.

4. Continue to stir until the dough forms itself into a ball.

5. On a floured surface, turn out the dough and knead for about 10 minutes. If you need extra moisture you can add little sprinkles of water, but try to resist this unless you really need it. As you knead the dough becomes more moist, so you really should not need to add much extra water.

6. Oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl and cover. Let rise for about an hour.

7. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about 2 minutes to punch out the gas.
8. Re-form into a ball and return to the bowl. Let rise for an additional hour.

9. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 3 pieces and form into small balls. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.

10. Roll out each ball into long strands, all of the same length, and all fatter in the middle and tapered at the ends.

11. I then moved the strands to my baking sheet and braided the strands from the center out to each end.

12. Brush the loaf with your egg wash.

13. Cover and allow the dough to rise for another hour.
14. Bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, turning around at 20 minutes to ensure even baking. Your bread will be rich and glistening brown in color, hollow in sound, relatively hard to the touch, and deliciously sweet and warm in smell.

The Challah bread was the centerpiece for our special dinner at home. I always try to come up with reasons to have a special dinner and pull out our wedding china, silver and crystal. Otherwise, it sits in the cabinet, and you only enjoy it once a year or so. 

Ricotta Gnocchi with spring post!

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