challah


four (now 3.5) loaves

Challah batch #3 is of the dried apricot and white chocolate variety. Mmm! Once again, the recipe is from Baking and Books. This time I didn’t change the recipe at all (usually I cut everything in half) but divided the dough into four loaves, each of which were still pretty sizable.

four-strand weave

Really loving this food-weaving business. Four strands, this time.

apricot chocolate challah detail

It’s nice to have a dessert bread to snack on throughout the day. This was generally a success, but some notes: I first considered chopping the dried apricots in a food processor but ended up just roughly quartering them instead, leaving pretty large chunks. This was a good choice I think, though David is requesting more apricots for next time. Personally I don’t think white chocolate is that great, but I had leftovers from making the oreo truffles from before. A a bittersweet/dark would be good here, considering how sweet the crumb and crust were this time. I wouldn’t go as far as not sprinkling sugar on top, though… ! Also, I might roll in the dried fruit/chocolate a bit later in the process (just before weaving?) since I felt like the dough couldn’t rise as much with stuff weighing it down. Maybe.

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A new developing trend in my life is to bake some kind of bread every week. I have the ingredients, an oven, and an over-sized bowl… so why not? After opera on Friday night I began the no-knead bread process but made the fatal error of letting the 12-18 hour rising period take place in my oven. Before you say anything, no, I didn’t turn and leave my oven on overnight. But when its door is closed, the oven is always at at least 80 or 90 degrees–maybe more? So the dough just became a sloppy mess the next day.

To meet my quota I set out to make another challah: this time, the apple honey challah from Baking and Books.

apple honey challah

Two words: SO GOOD. I halved the recipe because I didn’t have enough milk and grated up some nearly overripe apples (and squeezed out the juice for later consumption) instead of using dried ones. The extra moisture led to needing more flour; I probably ended up using maybe a half cup to a cup more (?) than what the recipe called for.

Extra note: The tutorial for weaving a round challah linked in the recipe is a really good one, especially for those of us who have trouble dividing things into thirds.

Oh, and here’s what the inside looks like:

apple honey challah detail

The crumb is fairly dense but very, very soft. This thing smelled absolutely delicious all night and still has a good cinnamon aroma to it the next morning. The “grain” (is this the right word?) follows the contours of the braiding more so than my other (somewhat bloated) challah; not sure of this is because of density differences or because I only let this one rise 20 minutes (second rising; first was still two hours) before throwing it in the oven. I think I also prefer the egg + olive oil glaze over a plain egg one… crackly is good, in my book.

Basically, I am very much in love with this loaf of bread right now. And it’s already half gone :D

Next up in the bread queue, in no particular order: this focaccia, something with some combination of herbs, meat, and cheese in it, no-knead bread (I MUST get this right), bagels, beer bread (to practice for the summer! I have one bottle of Asahi. Any recipe recommendations?), sourdough (this seems difficult), and maybe some biscuits and scones.

I am a bread-loving person. One of my all-time favorite foods is 饅頭; my taste for dense, plain breads and rolls extends to muffuletta (mmm) and–I admit this guiltily–the interiors of baguettes and challah. (Side note: Don’t get me wrong, I won’t go on a mining expedition when eating with friends or hosting a dinner. But since Mom is a fan of flaky and flavorful bread crusts, I have been known to dig portions of bread and leave the outer shell behind… I digress.) With this breadly history and! inspired by this awesome “braiding a six-strand challah” video recently posted on Craftster, I decided to (finally!) make a loaf of my own.

The recipe I used is from Chai Time (same author as the aforementioned video); link here. And my humble attempt follows:

just asking to be punched

After leaving the ball of dough alone for a couple of hours while I went shopping for groceries and mystery sales at Target I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I hadn’t messed anything up so far. So some punching and three botched braidings later I had this:

freshly braided

Cutting the dough was pretty difficult, for one. And then there was the funny business of always ending up with one really short strand, for some reason. But finally! On to the second rising and baking…

making bread! A challah loaf.

Voila! Somehow, during the second rising the loaf took on an about-to-explode quality. The Secret of Challah (via Wikipedia) suggests skipping an official second rising and just putting the loaf in when the oven is preheating instead; maybe this will make my bread less bloated. Despite appearances, though, grab a handful and deliciousness overwhelms :)

a handful
Quite successful, I think! And very delicious with this apple-spice spread that was on sale at the grocery store. The famous no-knead bread is next on my list, I think.