Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge - Challah

I've been wanting to perfect (or really get started on) my bread baking skills. It seems like my dough never rises right, or the crust browns before the inside is done. I heard about The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge over at Pinch My Salt and decided to go for it. The rules are simple:

1.) BUY Peter Reinhart's awesome book The Bread Baker's Apprentice

2.) FOLLOW along with the group by baking one recipe per week

3.) SHARE your successes, failures, tips, photos, etc

4.) ENJOY the fruits of your labor..mmmm...

So I FINALLY got my book in the mail and started today with Week #6 - Challah. It was a good, fairly simple recipe to begin with.

Challah is a traditional Jewish yeast bread made with eggs. The dough turned out beautifully and the color was awesome with the addition of 2 eggs/2 egg yolks.

Two rounds of kneading meant the dough was silky smooth by the time it came around to forming the loaf.

It took right at an hour to rise during the first fermentation period. The second went a bit quicker, and I knew it was working when the big bubbles started to form during the second rising. One reason for me to not curse this heat wave: bread dough loves heat and humidity.
After separating the risen dough into six sections I rolled and braided. It's harder than I thought to roll springy, risen dough. It worked best to start in the middle of each section and move my hands away from one another at the same time while rolling.

I made one big and one small braid, and placed the smaller on top of the bigger to make the Celebration Loaf. Brushed the entire thing with an egg wash to make the crust crispy and golden and let it proof for a little longer. Traditionally, just before baking, you would sprinkle the top with seeds to symbolize manna from heaven. I was fresh out of poppy and sesame seeds thought, so I used a little bit of kosher salt to give the crust a nice flavor and a little sparkly texture.

I was surprised at how much bigger it got during baking! It smelled wonderful and luckily I pulled it out at just the right time. The recipe said bake 20 minutes, rotate the loaf, and continue baking 20 to 40 additional minutes. I pulled mine after approximately 27 minutes total. Really need to get an instant read thermometer, but I just took a guess at it's doneness by the look of the crust, and it was perfect!

The crumb turned out really well too. Very soft and springy with good uniformity and no gigantic air-pocket holes.

The BF and I slathered it with butter (and a bit of honey on our second pieces). For my first venture, I'd call it a success!
Next up: Ciabatta


Dionne said...

Oooh this looks soooo yummy! I love making bread, but in this summer heat, I haven't had the patience. But looking at this makes me wanna do it despite the heat!

Liz @ McFargan: A Midwestern Matrimony said...

Holla! Challah!

Cara, this looks so good. I have a girl crush on your baking skillz. SRSLY!

--C said...

Thanks girls! That loaf is gone already thanks to the boyfriend. He is highly supportive of this baking endeavor :)

Jason Cowan said...

touche'. it was so delicious, right down to the last nubbin'.