Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yet another new challah (it’s FAMOUS!)

Searching for an eggless or almost-eggless challah, I set out to see what the most popular one was on Recipezaar. 

And, well, gack!  Recipezaar is apparently now food.com.   And my login doesn’t work… well, it sort of does, but kind of doesn’t.  I assume they’ll work out all the kinks eventually.

But there IS one recipe that, with 77 reviews – apparently ALL five stars – seems to be the outstanding favourite.  And the pictures are gorgeous.  It’s called Tante B’s Famous Challah.

First of all, let me just say that the recipe is PERFECT.  I rarely find a bread recipe that doesn’t need some kind of tweak.  Not this one.  I did ignore some of the technique; I use instant yeast, so no proofing or premixing required.  Plus, I used the food processor, not a mixer, for the initial step.

I also “metricized”/scaled the quantities – at an equivalence of 140g Canadian all-purpose flour per cup – but otherwise have not changed a thing.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Dry – pulsed in food processor to combine before adding wet stuff.

  • 980g all-purpose flour (= 7 cups)
  • 14.17g dry yeast (= 1/2 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 100g sugar (= a bit less than 1/2 cup)

2.  Wet – measure and add through food processor tube while running.

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups warm water

3.  When food processor appears about to die under the burden of all this STUFF, pull it out and knead by hand on the table.

The texture of the dough was incredible when I yanked it out (just shy of killing the motor, which can’t really handle more than 5-6 cups of flour).  Very elastic, absolutely perfect with no added flour on hands, table, anywhere. 

While hand-kneading, I did add in flakes of dried dough left over from the inside of my bucket where the pizza dough rose overnight.  Pizza dough which also incorporated a smallish blob of my previous bread, a yummy rye dough from Monday night. 

Here are the flakes of dry dough:

famous 013

So this bread will have a bit of a unique provenance and hopefully a nice flavour of its own, as well.

When the flakes were well-incorporated I kneaded ‘till I got a nice gluten windowpane (see dough-testing pic in this post), then popped it into a bowl.  See how nice and smooth it is?  Not quite the “chewing-gum” texture of super-kneaded bread, but very spankable.

  famous 016

Yeah, spankable.  Good challah dough often, VERY often, has the texture of a naughty baby’s bottom and spanking is about all I can think of sometimes.  So much so that the kids and I sometimes sit around spanking the dough before I get ready to braid it.

(shh… sometimes, I press the middle down in a line with the side of my hand to make it look even more like a little tushie)

It’s rising now and will rest in the downstairs fridge to continue rising overnight.

Meanwhile – what’s this?

famous 011

Yup, Lenchner’s.  It is my Secret Shame.  For our weekly Shabbat Party when the neighbourhood kids come over, I serve Lenchner’s pre-made challahs.  I thaw them overnight in the fridge, bake in the morning – perfect.

Why not homemade?

First of all, they are sweet and yummy and MOST kids like the raisins (most).

Second, I am rarely organized enough to have braidable challahs by Thursday night.  I suppose I could do it a day ahead and simply bake mine first thing Friday morning, but like I said, I am rarely that “together.”

Third, I used to have to run out to a bakery Friday morning to buy a fresh challah for circle time.  Lenchner’s is WAY easier than the early morning bakery run with kids in the car.

Third, they are STANDARD.  I want the challah to be the same from week to week and not have that moment of anxious expectation when we crack open a homemade challah.

Even when it’s a recipe I have made a bazillion times, there are so many variations, both small and significant, to the flavour, texture, doneness.  Well, I’d just rather standardize the thing with Lenchner’s, a challah I know will be yummy and perfect every single time.

Is it sad that I have my own bread blog, that I bake what I consider extraordinary bread, sometimes several times a week, and yet still have to buy premade challahs when I want something convenient that I can really rely on to be tasty?

Or is it merely sad that HAVING A BREAD BLOG is considered a credential?  I mean, sometimes when people ask if I baked something myself, or if we’re just talking about bread and I make an assertion, one of my family or friends will back me up by pointing out that I HAVE A BREAD BLOG.

I should set up an OMNISCIENCE BLOG.  Maybe then my kids would listen to me more often.  “I really do know EVERYTHING… and I have a blog to prove it!”

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