August 30, 2011

Challah Back

Whole Wheat Challah Bread

Forgive me, my gluten-senstive friends, but I baked some bread over the weekend that you definitly cannot have. I apologive, but I just had the time! I had enough toilet paper, wine and apples to last me through whatever the hurricane brought, my apartment was obnoxiously clean, I already had a chicken roasting in the oven...and I just had the time for some rising action.

I've mentioned before how I am not a baker- still true. Given the choice I would much rather cook than bake, but I am inspired now and then. I'm frequently inspired more by the physical process that goes into baking a loaf of bread, than by the baking and icing of a cake (this is not to say that the making of a cake is not incredibly important- more celebrations than I can think of are commemorated with cake- I mean who doesn't love a nice slice on their birthday?!) I will continue to make and frost cakes indefinitly, but its the live yeast, the kneading and the magical rise of the sticky, elastic dough that just absolutely fascinates me.

This recipe is most likely from a patient I had years ago in Jersey City, NJ, at one of my very first occupational therapy jobs. I cannot recognize the handwriting and there is no name or date, but it doesn't matter, I really just should have made it sooner! The whole process was very easy to prepare and complete and really quite peaceful. Common pantry ingredients, a bit of time, and the result is wonderful. I don't even think I braided it right and it still turned out to be a very nice-looking loaf of bread!

The egg-wash creates a just hard enough outside exterior to hide and protect a soft center, perfect for slathering on a little softened butter that gently settles into the open pockets of dough within. Given the braided formation, its also a great loaf to pull apart, knot by knot, and pass around. Untoasted and not even warm, this has been a lovely and satisfying reason to wake up each day. Tomorrow will be day four, and yes, I think I'm yet again looking forward to it .(Although, I also don't mind constant repetition being that I've made myself the exact same lunch each day, for the past six years...and still look forward to it... I like routine, what can I say?)  Anyway, If you decide not to eat the loaf over an entire week, I am certain a hunk of this bread would be perfectly dunkable in soups or can be used for french toast (if sliced, and probably without the seeds).

Whole Wheat Challah Bread
*1 pkg dry yeast
*2 Tbsp. sug
*1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
*5 c. whole wheat or all purpose flour
*2 tsp. salt
*2 whole eggs
*2 Tbsp. oil
*1 egg yolk, mixed
*2 Tbsp. poppy seeds or toasted sesame seeds (or both!)

Combine the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Let stand and dissolve for five minutes.

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and drop in the eggs, oil and remaining water. Work all together. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Let the dough rise for one hour, covered. I always cover with a damp tea towel. I don't know if I've just read too many recipes and books at this point, or it actually does affect the rise somehow, but its something I just always do.

Push down the down (I actually do not punch the dough down. I cannot tell you the reason why I don't, but it's probably something I learned from America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Country, from the writer's of Cooks' Illustrated) and knead again. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in size.

When doubled in size, divide dough in three equal parts or six if you are making two loaves (or if you are going all out and making one crazy six braided loaf- I would love to see pictures if you do. Acutally the dough can be formed into a braided wreath as well, or even single challah rolls. Have fun.)With floured hands, roll out and lengthen the seperated balls of dough into rope-like pieces and begin to braid them on a greased baking sheet. Cover once again, and let rise until doubled.

Brush wtih egg yolks and sprinkle with seeds. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown. I used whole wheat flour and far too many poppy seeds, so I loosely covered my bread with foil at 45 minutes, and kept a close watch until the bread was baking for about 50 minutes.

Let cool until comfortable to the touch, but feel free to tear away at the braided loaf, as hot and fresh is always best.

1 comment:

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Hi Audra! Wow I'm impressed by the beautiful Challah bread! It's always my dream to make nice homemade bread but I haven't found time for myself to spend several hours a day for the day... You just started blogging but your website already has nice collection of recipes and has some baked dish that I need to learn from you (I normally don't use oven and I need to change!). Looking forward to more of your recipes. :-)