Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Challah Bread

Maybe because it’s Rosh Hashanah, maybe because the NY Times had a big article last week about different varieties of kugel, which sounded intriguing though I’ve never tried it, I’ve been curious about the traditional foods eaten at this holiday. My friend Carol is going to bring a kugel her mother used to make into the office on Friday, so I’m looking forward to that. But last night I was having a craving for bread, and remembering how good challah French toast is, I decided to try my hand at the bread itself.

Surprisingly, it is not at all difficult to make, and the results turned out perfectly. The end result is very impressive, with a golden-brown, puffed up loaf, crispy on the outside, soft and dense and fragrant on the inside. For my recipe I chose to follow Mark Bittman’s in How To Cook Everything, which my friend Beth refers to as the “Bittman Bible.” (I refer to it seven to ten times each week). I decided to divide the recipe in half, both because Bittman recommended not keeping it for more than a day and also because my food processor is too small to process five cups of flour, and I love using the food processor to make bread.

2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Rapid Rise yeast
1 Tblsp. Honey or sugar
1 1/2 eggs (this was a stretch—I used a single egg and 1/8 cup egg beaters)
Milk, warmed in the microwave, midway between 1/2 and 3/4 of a cup
Coarse salt to taste

First I put the flour, salt, and yeast in a food processor, whirring them to blend. As the machine was running, I added the honey, eggs and milk. I processed the dough for 30 seconds, and its consistency was supposed to be barely sticky and a well-defined ball, so I had to add a few more tablespoons of flour until it came out like this. Then I kneaded it for about thirty seconds on a floured surface and turned it into a mixing bowl coated with cooking oil.

For an hour and a half the bread rose in the inferno that is the Florida garage. By this point I was getting hungry, so I cut short Mark Bittman’s recommended time to do these other steps. I punched the dough down into three equally sized balls, then let them sit five minutes (rather than the recommended fifteen). I rolled them out into three ropes about 10 inches long and placed them on a greased baking sheet, connecting them at the top. I simply braided them and connected the dough again at the bottom, (they were supposed to sit in this state for 30 minutes but I couldn’t wait), brushing it with egg yolk and sprinkling coarse Kosher salt on top. In a preheated 375 degree oven I cooked the small loaf about 30 minutes, until it was golden brown and made a hollow noise when I tapped it on the bottom. Mmm. Great with dinner, can’t wait to have it again for breakfast…


Jon (was) in Michigan said...

That looks good, Rachel! My mom used to make this. The recipe sounds like I might even be able to handle it (as soon as I figure out what "punching it down" means). Thanks!

Liliana said...

Wow, this is great! I have a wood fired oven that I purchased from www.wildwoodovens.com-I am going to try this recipe out ASAP! This oven is fantastic for breads-there's something special about cooking near real wood fire.
Thanks so much, Rachel!