Perfectly disappointing challah
To celebrate the conclusion of our Week in Bread and also to get myself thoroughly back on the challah wagon after using storebought (gasp!) last Shabbos, I made the Challah straight off of Page 240 Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (B:ABB), which I’ve been using as inspiration and technical guide all week.
The recipe actually appears twice, with the exact same formula and instructions - once in the chapter on straight doughs and once in the chapter on braiding. Is that considerate, not making the reader flip back to find the recipe, or is it inconsiderate, making the reader pay more for extra pages that duplicate a recipe found elsewhere in the book? Just weird, I think.
Anyway, the recipe uses way more eggs than I usually use, and a lot less sugar, but I followed it more or less literally (discovered I was out of canola oil, didn’t want to sub olive oil, so I used margarine instead – there isn’t much in the recipe, so I figured the taste wouldn’t come through (it didn’t).
All in all, I’d say this bread has a GREAT texture for braiding. With no folding whatsoever during the bulk ferment phase, I ended up with a nice, strong dough that rolled out and braided up super-easily after two or three hours.
I decided to do a fancy 6-braid instead of my standard 4-braid. Easy enough, but it was almost 2 in the morning and I didn’t have the energy to make sure the strands were even
I left the loaves in the glass pans to rise overnight in the fridge (they did, very nicely). Probably should have taken them out to bake, but anyway, I didn’t.
Rose another whole bunch in the oven, making these very high loaves indeed… with that rectangular bottom, they look like something you could stick in a commercial bread slicing machine and come away with a nice sandwich loaf.
One of the loaves folded a little bit when I stuck it in the glass pan, creating the unpleasant-looking crease you can see in the bottom bread. (I should have taken it out right away and put it back in the pan while tucking the ends a little further under, but it was late – I was tired).
A little stringy-looking on the outside crust (I don’t mess around with egg wash and toppings until I’m sure I’ve got a winner recipe!), but absolutely perfect-looking inside:
And the taste?
Also absolutely perfect… yet utterly disappointing!
Amazingly enough, all of that careful following-of-instructions created just about the most perfect challah texture I have ever made. Probably all that egg meant that when you tear off a piece, it comes away with long fluffy strands that look almost like cotton candy. Bakery perfect texture, absolutely.
Everybody ooh’d and aah’d. Lovely!
Yet the flavour was also bakery-perfect. Just not necessarily that of a bakery I myself would frequent. I don’t like bakery egg challahs very much, and I was hoping that making it at home would give the challah an extra something to make me love it.
So… I think the extra “something” that I love is oil, and sweet… and not necessarily egg. I don’t love eggy challah, and now I know that no matter how meticulously I make it at home, I will probably never love eggy challah.
I guess I have to conclude that B:ABB offers a classic, pareve (thank you!) egg challah recipe that will satisfy the taste buds of most consumers. Certainly, it’s what all the bakeries around here seem to produce and I doubt they have a problem selling them.
Just not to me.
(Or Elisheva; she made a long, sad face and said it looked lovely but that it wasn’t my regular challah. Next week!)