Wednesday, October 15, 2008


And I'm back! With what the nerd and me can only term a "flurry of blows." Meaning I will probably follow my usual M.O. of posting many tasty recipes all in a row and then going off into hiding.

But what a recipe to come back into action with! Yes, ladies and gentleman, I, the professed "non-baker" have, in fact, baked bread. Not just any bread, but the delicious challah bread of Jewish fame. My cousin asked me to bring a challah to their break fast post-Yom Kippur, and not knowing where to buy a challah in my new neighborhood, decided to bake one.

Yes, I'm a little crazy. Please don't call the men in the white coats. Unless they are professional chefs, come to whisk me away to a glorious fantasy cooking land. Then please. Give them my number, even.

But believe it or not, I did bake a challah and it didn't suck! In fact, my family was very much impressed an my mother was totally shocked. "I would never bake a challah," she said, "Good for you."

Not that it's hard or rocket science. Well, baking is a bit like rocket science to me. I am very interested in rocket science, but the math/physics of it are completely beyond me. Same with baking. No matter what I read or watch about baking, I am still in the dark about how adding eggs HERE instead of HERE will make something tough or runny or fluffy. Or how too much liquid/flour/mojo can make something rise or fall or have a "nice crumb."

So when I misread The New Best Recipe's directions and began to add an extra quarter cup of flour, even though the dough didn't need it, so I then began to add tablespoons of water to get it to stick together again, I was fearful. I was also afraid that our yeast was not going to be fast rising enough, as the date on it was from July. However! I Persevered. And baked a very challah-looking and tasting-challah. I think the crust was a little tough (perhaps due to the extra flour/water mishap?) and the first bout of rising didn't result in much, er, rising, but when I left it out the next day, it just about tripled in size.

I did all the work the night before, then fridged it overnight, and took it out the next morning to rise some more and come to room temperature. I did this, knowing I was coming home early from work. I'm not sure if you are really supposed to leave it out for a WHOLE day, but according to Smitten Kitchen, if you fridge it you should leave it out for 5 hours to come to room temp so I did.

It was tasty! I made mine in a round shape for the Jewish New Year and we ate it with honey. Mmm.

Makes 1 large loaf
from The New Best Recipe with mods.

3-3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I think I actually used regular all-purpose and it came out fine)
1 envelope instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg seperated (reserve white for eggwash)
4 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 1 TBS water, room temp

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter (cooled!!), and 1/2 cup water. Add the flour mixture; using the dough hook, knead at low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 4-5 min *adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 TBS at a time if necessary*
2) In a small bowl, whisk th egg white together with remaining 1 TBS water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
3) Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large owl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Gently press the dough to deflate it, cover again and let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour.
4) Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half the size of the other. Divide the large one into three pieces. Roll each piece into a 16" rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line the ropes up side by side and braid them together, pinching the ends of the braid to seal. Twist into a circle and pinch the two ends together. Repeat this process with the smaller piece of dough, with ropes of dough about 1/2 inch in diameter. Place the smaller braid circle on top of the larger one. Then loosely drape the loaf with plastic wrap and either:
a) (For baking today) ...let rise in a warm place for 30 -45 min, un til increased in size by about a third.
b) (For baking tomorrow) ...refrigerate overnight! The next day, take the dough out about 5 hours before baking and let come to room temperature and rise (mine doubled in size! though it didn't rise much during the first rising periods)
5) Adjust oven rack to middle-lower position and pre-heat to 375ºF. Remove plastic wrap from dough and brush with the remaining eggwash.
6) Bake the loaf for 30 -4 0 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in thes ide of the loaf reads 190º. Allow loaf to cool completely over a wire rack before slicing and devouring!

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