Well, I’m back from hiatus, and I’m picking back up with the BBA Challenge. I am now several weeks behind, but as I’m not an official member, I am not too worried about it. It’s a task I’ve set for myself, a challenge that I wish to complete, and while it has fallen by the wayside it is something I wish to pick up again.
This week’s bread was challah, a traditional Jewish bread, though I don’t know how traditional what I ended up turning out actually was. Other than pretzels this is the first shaped bread I have done, and I found the process very interesting. I really liked how well my finished bread turned out. The contrast between the golden bumps and the paler crevices and the dusting of poppy seeds all made for a stunning visual impact, as if the double-layered braid was not enough. I do seem to always choose the more seemingly difficult options out of those presented by Reinhart for each category. It all plays to my over-achiever nature, I suppose.
The prospect of an only very slightly enriched bread was a very welcome one after the brioche and the casatiello. While I truly loved the casatiello, there was still the matter of the debate with my waistline. Challah has only a very little oil in it instead of pounds and pounds of butter. It does still have four egg yolks in it, but that’s still a step down from the number in the casatiello if I remember correctly, and it also doesn’t have all the salami and cheese in it. This bread is light and soft, the texture almost feathery inside a just-barely crisp crust that softens after a bit.
The recipe for Reinhart’s challah can be found on pg 133 of the “Bread Baker’s Apprentice.” It is a straight forward dough, moderately hydrated and easy to handle. The details are in the shaping itself. It is unique of the breads made so far in the BBA Challenge in that it has a triple rise. The dough is mixed and allowed to ferment and rise for one hour, then degassed and allowed to ferment and rise for an additional hour before the shaping process is begun.
Divide each of these into three sections and roll out into ropes. I’ve learned that the easiest way to do this is to initially roll from the center out. At some point the dough may slip and slide across your counter or pastry cloth rather than rolling. When this happens switch to holding one end down and roll with the other, working away from the pinned end so that you are stretching and rolling at the same time.
When all sections have been rolled into ropes lay the three larger so that they are crossed at the center. Braid one end and then turn your dough and braid the other. This is a bit tricky if you are not used to doing this as it will require braiding one end “under” instead of “over” in your typical braiding motion. When you reach the ends tuck them under neatly. Repeat with the smaller sections and then lay the second braid atop of the first.
Brush the braided loaf with egg wash and then mist with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise, about one hour, until it has risen to 1 1/2 times its original size. Preheat the oven to 350F. Once the oven is hot, brush again with egg wash and then sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake for 20 minutes then rotate pan and bake an additional 20-30 minutes until the bread reaches an internal temperature of about 200F. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.
As usual, this yeasty baked goodness has been submitted to Susan over at WildYeast for this week’s YeastSpotting.