Sunday, November 15, 2009

Braided Challah (Page 610)

RECIPE #1044

  • Date: Saturday, November 14, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I was in the mood to do some baking this weekend, so I made this challah yesterday. I first made a starter by mixing water, sugar, flour, and yeast in a warm jar. I let it sit until the mixture was very bubbly. Then I combined peanut oil, sugar, salt, honey, eggs, egg yolks, warm water, the starter, and some bread flour in my stand mixer. I beat it for 5 minutes then put the dough hook in and more flour and kneaded it for 10 minutes. At that point my dough was very, very soft. I put it in a bowl and let it rise for a couple hours, then I punched it down and let it rise some more. I then kneaded in more flour, then let the dough sit before shaping it. To shape I divided the dough in half, then each half into thirds. I made each piece into a long rope, and braided them into two loaves. I brushed the loaves with egg wash and let them rise again. Then I then baked them on greased baking sheets that were dusted with cornmeal. I covered the loaves with foil halfway through the baking so they didn't get too brown.

I love homemade bread, and I love challah, so I had high hopes for this recipe. Sadly, though, I was very disappointed. The texture of the bread was nice enough, and it did have the eggy flavor you would expect from challah. But the peanut oil was so trememndously overpowering that it ruined the bread for me. When I read the recipe and saw that it called for more than a half a cup of peanut oil, I was surprised. Peanut is a rather strongly flavored oil, and a half a cup is a lot! Indeed, the loaves came out smelling and tasting predominantly of peanut oil. It's not a bad flavor per se, it was just too much. I left my apartment shortly after baking this and when I returned to the building, I was shocked by how strong the peanut oil scent was from the front door. Indeed even a set of stairs and a long hallway away from my apartment, the unmistakable smell of peanut oil was in the air. This challah might have been tasty with the peanut oil replaced by a milder oil, but as written I certainly wouldn't make this recipe again.

This recipe isn't online.

What a day.

I went into the office this morning to finish writing the third exam for my business calculus class. Obviously delusional, I brought food for a very light lunch, but no dinner. I thought I would be done by 4pm or so, but this was not the case. Exam writing is difficult, and especially so in this course. For one thing, because of the rampant cheating I have to write four versions of the exam so that students don't have the same version as the people sitting near them. Further, half the questions on the exams in this class are multiple choice, which are easy to grade but hard to write. This exam in particular also included a lot of figures, which adds to the time it takes. Four o'clock came and went and I was still working on it. By six-thirty or so I was done. And starving. I had only eaten an energy bar and a bowl of cereal (my light lunch) all day and it wasn't enough. I just needed to run to the bathroom quickly and then I was ready to head home.

As soon as I shut the door to my office, en route to the bathroom, I realized that I had locked my keys inside. People say that when you spend enough time with someone you pick up pieces of their personality. My husband is awesome and I would be happy to pick up almost any aspect of his personality. I was hoping, however, not to pick up his tendency to lock himself out. I have never locked myself out of my office. But tonight, I did. Not only did I lock my keys inside (including, of course, the key to my apartment), but also my wallet. So there I was, starving and penniless. I called the university janitorial staff, and they could let me in, but not for 4 more hours. I don't mind chilling in the department for a few hours, but the idea of not eating until 10:30pm was not sitting well with me. I wandered the building floor by floor looking for help. Finally I found the one other faculty member in the office at dinner time on a Sunday. He couldn't help me with a key, but he did lend me money to eat!

Dinner helped, and now I am feeling much more balanced, although still locked out. Luckily we have Sunday night movies in our department, so after I ate I went to the movie. Then a colleague let me into his office to wait. So now I am at least fed and comfortable while I wait for the janitors. Ugh. Not smart. Not smart at all...


GilaB said...

I have a really excellent challah recipe (I make it most weeks) if you're interested.

Teena said...

I am interested! I like challah a lot (just not this recipe!).

GilaB said...

I'm sorry about the delay - I hadn't checked back to this comment thread in a bit. It's adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

Makes four pounds of dough, about three large challahs, but can be halved/doubled if you like.

1.5 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt (do not use table salt)
1.5 cups warm water
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey (minus a tablespoon or so if you'd like it less sweet)
4 eggs, lightly beaten, plus one egg for egg wash
6.5 cups bread flour

Combine yeast, salt, and water; stir. Add oil, honey, and eggs, stirring to combine. Add flour, mixing with a spoon or your hands just until the flour is incorporated; kneading is not necessary. Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow to rise until the top collapses when you jar it a bit, 2-3 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Refrigerate for one hour, or up to 5 days. (The longer it's refrigerated, the more sourdough-y it gets. I prefer it fresh, but it's a matter of taste and your schedule. The first hour makes the sticky dough more workable.)
After it's been refrigerated, braid as you like. Six strands is traditional - I learned a six braid from this Youtube video:
Preheat the oven to 350 F while you allow the challahs to rise, 45 minutes for freshly made dough, or 1 hour 20 minutes for dough refrigerated longer than one hour. Brush with egg wash (one beaten egg plus a tablespoon of water), then sprinkle with seeds if you like (we like sesame or cumin seeds, although poppy are also traditional). Bake for 30 minutes or until it resists when you push on it, erroring on the side of underbaking a bit because it dries out and gets crumbly when overbaked. If you're not going to eat it within the next few hours, seal it in a ziplock bag after it cools (very important!) Enjoy!

Teena said...

Thanks for the recipe! I will definitely give that a try!