The other day, I felt like baking. I felt like baking challah. I’d baked challah only twice before — one sprinkled with sesame seeds and a honey-vanilla challah. My braids always turn out very interesting-looking. This current braid improved but I could still use more practice. Also, I didn’t care for the color of my challah. It seemed to come out darker than my last two. I wasn’t sure what I’d done differently. When I complained to Simona, she gave me some tips, which I’ll use the next time I bake. I learned from her that the color of challah depends a lot on the kind of egg wash used. She uses Peter Reinhart’s recipe and he specifically recommends not to use the color to estimate the doneness. Instead he recommends that you use your thermometer. Simona mentioned that she makes her egg wash with whole egg and her challah comes out a nice color. Last tip was that the crust softens after it is allowed to cool. Thanks, Simona! I’ll keep that in mind for the next time I bake challah.
How much is that loaf of bread in the window?
This is my contribution to the fourth edition of World Bread Day, hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf. The few times that I’ve baked bread, to my surprise, I’ve enjoyed it. And my bread has turned out terrific! I didn’t get a chance to bake bread for World Bread Day but luckily there are many stores in my neighborhood that provide delicious bread. The bread displayed in the window was very tempting, so I bought some.
Zorra will post a roundup of the entries on October 24 and 25. Be sure to stop by her blog to see other deliciously-baked bread posts.
Ed. Note: You can find the roundup here.
Dan of Saltshaker made some good-looking, tasty-sounding dinner rolls, a while ago, which enticed me to make them, too.
For those who are familiar with my blog, I like easy recipes and this one was relatively easy. 😉 The recipe calls for white flour and whole wheat flour but I just used white flour. My rolls came out well, with a tiny exception — the shell was a little hard. Edible but hard. I’m not sure why? Can anyone explain? The inside was nice and soft. Or was it supposed to be that way? All in all, I liked my rolls. Thanks, Dan! You can find his recipe below.
Olive Oil Bread Rolls
Makes approximately 3 dozen
In the bowl of a mixer fitted out with a bread hook (or you can do this by hand if you like):
2 teaspoons of sugar
1½ cups warm water (that’s for here, you’ll need to experiment, I’d start with 1 cup and work up if needed)
1 packet of yeast
Let sit until the yeast proofs – all bubbly looking – about 5 minutes. Add:
½ cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can go up to 2 cups, and cut the white flour to 3, and still get a nicely texture roll, more than that and they tend to get dense and heavy)
Mix at low speed with the dough hook until it all comes together. You might have to stop once or twice and push stuff down from the sides, and, if need be, add more water – however, add it in very small amounts – bread dough changes texture very suddenly – I tend to add about a teaspoon at a time until it all comes together as one mass. Once it’s all in one mass, increase the speed – not too much, just a bit, and let it knead for about 5 minutes – until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
Mound the dough into one ball and either in the same bowl or another, cover with a small towel and place somewhere warm to rise. Let it double in size, then punch it down. Form it into small balls – a little smaller than a golf ball is about the size I use – but you can make smaller, bigger, or even form this dough into loaves if you prefer. I line them up on a silpat, a non-stick silicone sheet atop a cookie sheet, and let them rise, covered with the towel, again, until doubled in size. Bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes, until nicely browned, and if you flip one over and flick it with a finger, it’ll sound hollow. If you make loaves, it’ll take more like 45-50 minutes to bake, you’ll have to check it a few times until you get the “speed” of your oven down right. Let cool to room temperature and serve… or, I suppose, you could serve them pretty much hot, right out of the oven.
In terms of the butters, really all I do is let butter come to room temperature so it’s soft, and then add things to it, whipping it all together with a spoon or fork, and then leaving it at room temperature for enough time for the flavors to come together – don’t over-add stuff to it, the flavors will develop as the butter sits – better to go subtle than too intense.
For more info, go here.
I’m going to face the fact that my Challah braid will never be as nice and perfect-looking as the ones sold in the store or the ones I see that others make. But they taste damned good, if I do say so myself.
This is the second Challah that I’ve made. I think my first one looked a little better than this present one. I braided that previous dough a little better even though its outcome didn’t look perfect. With this Honey-Vanilla Challah, I was a bit distracted when I braided the dough. After putting it in the oven, it came out like so. *sigh*
Oh well! That’s beginners bread-baking luck for me, I suppose. Perhaps, I’ll get better with more practice. In the meantime, I liked the taste of this Challah. The honey and vanilla didn’t overpower the bread but instead gave it a pleasant taste.
Something’s missing from my bread. Can you tell from the picture? As I mentioned above, at some point while preparing the challah, I got distracted (a little bit of drama in the household) and forgot to perform the last set of instructions. Any guesses? I forgot to brush the dough with a mixture of egg and olive oil. No matter. Like I wrote earlier: My Honey-Vanilla Challah still tasted good. Damn good. Yes it did.
I got this recipe from Baking and Books. Thanks, Ari.
Oh, I almost forgot: Does anyone have any tips for me for making a nicely braided challah that won’t pull apart in the oven? I’d appreciate it.
Adapted from “The Bread Bible” by Beth Hensperger, “The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook” by Carrie Levin, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart and “The Bread Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, among others.
Ingredients: Makes 1 Loaf
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of warm milk (whole is best, low-fat is ok too)
- 2 eggs + 1 for the glaze
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl and another for the glaze
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon honey
In a large bowl using a whisk combine the yeast, sugar, salt and 1 cup of the flour. Add the warm milk, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then the honey and vanilla. (Add the olive oil first, then use the same measuring spoon to add the honey – residual oil on the spoon will make the honey slide right out.) Vigorously mix the ingredients until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, switching to a wooden spoon when the dough becomes too thick for the whisk. Continue mixing the dough until it is too stiff to stir.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and springy, about 4 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust with flour 1 tablespoon at a time – just enough to prevent it from sticking to the surface. The dough is done when it’s smooth and small air bubbles show under the skin. If you press your thumb into it the impression should bounce back. This is a slightly firm dough, which is exactly what you want for easy braiding later on.
Place the dough in a deep container greased with 1 tsp of olive oil. Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it with non-stick spray. Gently deflate the dough by pressing your fingers into it, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 20 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Lay these ropes side-by-side, not quite touching.
Beginning in the middle and working towards you, braid the lower half of the three ropes. To braid, alternately move the outside ropes over the one in the center – left over, right over, left over -until you come to the end. Now go to the other side of your working space and braid the other half, this time moving the outside ropes under the center one. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the braided dough on your baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
Just before the rising time has finished whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before slicing – or at least wait until it’s warm, not hot – then enjoy!