BBA#6 – Let me hear you ‘CHALLAH!

 Well welcome back bread fans, its been a few weeks since I update this blog but don’t worry I’ve been keeping up with the weekly bread baking here at Casa de BNT. The next bread in the challenge is the Challah bread. It is traditionally a Jewish bread, and thankfully the recipe is included in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice so I had a chance to try baking it. In fact my only frame of reference seems to be that episode of Seinfield when the challah gets stolen. Well here goes nothing!

The cast of characters: 

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 Vegetable oil, bread flour, salt, sugar, eggs, water and yeast. 

After forgetting the malt powder in my bagel dough, I have decided to be more diligent about my mise en place. Hopefully, this will keep me from making such silly mistakes in the future – despite the additional dishes to wash!

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My mise en place

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Next I combined all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients and started to stir until I had a shaggy ball of dough

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 I dumped the shaggy ball of dough into my stand mixer and mixed for about 10 minutes until the dough cleared the sides of the bowl. I tested for a window pain but the dough kept tearing, so I hand kneaded the dough until it reached the right consistency. I really enjoyed working with this dough, it was soft and smooth and soon became the right texture.

I sprayed my bowl with oil and set my dough ball inside for its first rise.  

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 After it doubled, I degassed the dough and split it into three evenly sized chunks. I wanted to make small rolls for sandwiches, so I split each of the three chunks into three smaller pieces and started to roll them into ropes for braiding.

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 Since these rolls were quite small, I used a simple three strand braid to keep things from getting to complicated. Here is the process so far:

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 While I was working with the dough, I kept the pieces I was not using under plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. I then carefully “painted” the tops of the rolls with an egg wash (just a beaten egg) to give the bread a brown glossy appearance.  Here are the six braided rolls:

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 I had to wait another 60 minutes or so for the final proof, so I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and prepared a steam bath. I’ve been working on my steam bath technique to create steam in the first few minutes of oven time. Steam is supposed to help crisp-en the crust. There are many methods for the home baker, but I have settled on placing a cast iron skillet on the floor of my oven and then just after I load in the dough, I dump in about a cup of boiling water into the skillet. This produces a lot of steam but I am always afraid of scalding my arm in the process. I have been experimenting with different ways to dump in water and so far I have avoided injury. These are the times that I envy professional bakers with ovens that have a steam injection mechanism!

After about 25 minutes the rolls were looking good and smelling even better! 

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 I checked them with my digital thermometer and they registered 190 degrees, so out of the oven they came to cool. They are so very pretty!  

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 I was curious to see what the crumb would look like so then next morning I sliced one open. Soft crumb, slightly crunchy, flaky crust and awesome to eat as-is or with butter! Yum, these were a hit.

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 With such success, the six rolls were quickly gobbled up, so I decided to make some more. I also wanted to try my hand at another braiding technique. Some other challenge members had made 3, 4, 5 and even 6 strand braids! Amazing for sure, but I settled on the four strand braid that was shown in the book. I had a little trouble to start with, but once I stopped thinking about the process and let my hands take over, the braid evened out!  

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The wierd blob on the right was the start of the braid and I moved to the left.

I also made a few more rolls, but didn’t bother to braid them this time. They turned out pretty interesting!

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 Last but not least – the crumb shot of the large four-strand loaf. So, so good!

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This is another great recipe that I am so happy to have made (twice). I just can’t put into words how satisfying it is to make these great breads right at home! It is an amazing feeling to see it start off as flour and water and end up as something that people actually WANT to eat!!!!

Next up – Ciabatta! Who-hoo!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Absolutely beautiful. SO golden in color and the crumb so tasty looking. Great job.
    Nice baking along with you,
    Susie

    Reply

  2. Nice write up! Such detailed pictures, and the challah looks great. I love the small braided loaves you made. Very cool!

    Reply

  3. Oh! Such cute little baby challahs!

    Reply

  4. Gorgeous! Love the photos too.
    Beautiful job!

    Reply

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