I think I may be ready to cross out “conquer anything with yeast” off my kitchen bucket list.
This month’s choice for Avid Baker’s Challenge called to make Challah bread. I have to note that I love French bread, because I tend to like breads that are super “crusty” and then light and airy inside. But, Challah is one of my favorite soft breads (the other is brioche) plus I use it all the time to make the best EVER, SUPER DUPPER EASY French Toast Casserole. It also holds a special place in the Jewish tradition of the three Sabbath and two holiday meals, which begins with two complete loaves of Challah bread being blessed by the head of the household. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the challah may be rolled into a circular shape (sometimes referred to as a “Turban Challah”), symbolizing the cycle of the year, and baked with raisins in the dough. Sometimes the top is brushed with honey in honor of the “sweet new year.”
I was really looking forward to it because this would have been the second time I have previously baked something from Flo’s book that involved the use of yeast and my first tried was much more difficult than the Challah and a total success. So, the confident level was there. But, it was still yeast and my past experiences with this ingredient are filled with a love-hate rapport, so I can honestly say my confidence was a bit dented with hesitation. In order to go in there all guns blazing, I took the time to read Flo’s instructions FOUR times just to make sure I had all my ducks in a row before even measuring the flour.
Oh, how little do we know the baking gods.
They are a funny bunch those baking gods.
Because if you read this previous post, you would understand that the beginning of this recipe was all sort of a hot mess. My old trusty Kitchen Aid mixer died on me in the middle of this recipe – which meant:
Baking Gods = 1, Monica = 0
All was NOT WELL.
But, like a good little soldier I forged ahead. After I got my shiny new Kitchen Aid out of the box and gave it a quick rinse, we were back in business. This bread is pretty easy and with the ingredients being staples in most kitchens it’s a wonder most of us do not make this in a weekly basis.
The flour, yeast, sugar and salt is mixed together before adding the wet ingredients, which is just water and oil, then it is finished with two beaten eggs. The mixer does the rest.
It was time to rise. And this is the point where I totally dropped the ball. I put my perfectly kneaded dough into a bowl and covered and placed on top of my toaster to get it to rise. But, I failed to notice that my house was not warm enough for the yeast to do its thing and of course, the dough failed to double up in size.
Baking Gods = 2, Monica = 0
Of course I notice this AFTER I prepared it and braided it. Which by the way it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially if you want that pretty intricate pattern. But then that is why the Internet exists and after a couple of searches I found a nice video that showed me how to do this. Basically all you need to remember is: Over one, under one, over one – and you are pretty much set.
Baking Gods = 2, Monica = 1
I still had the temperature to deal with, since I needed to let this rise one more time. Then I remember that I read somewhere that the best way to let dough rise was in an oven (out, since I had it turned on already) or the microwave. I also remember that humidity was the yeast friend. So, in order to create this, I took a bowl of water and placed it in the microwave, turned it on to 2 minutes and let it come to boil. That made the internal temperature of the microwave hot and the water created a nice humid state. I took my braided Challah and stuck in there. The recipe tells you to let it rise for 30 minutes; I left it there for over an hour. I was trying to compensate for the first rise. But, after the 60 minutes my dough had double in size and it looked pretty awesome.
Baking Gods = 2, Monica = 2 (HA!)
A quick coating with the beaten egg wash (I skipped the sprinkle of poppy seeds) and into the oven it went … after 15 minutes you need to coat it once more with the rest of the egg wash and back in for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature shows 200F.
Mine baked beautifully. Nothing beats the smell of fresh baked bread in a house. We let it cool off about 15 minutes before we cut a slice, smoother it with butter and jam and then “ohh” and “ahh” all over it. We shamelessly proceeded to cut 3 more slices each to top wtih Nutella and called it a “midnight snack”.
It was mouth-watering.
We have since pretty much worked our way thru it and this morning I use the last piece by making myself a ham sandwich for lunch.
Once more Flo has proven to me that yeast has nothing on me and I should totally not be afraid of it. As always, practice makes perfect – take that baking gods!
Check out the other ABC Bakers and their take on this month’s choice.