Megan’s ‘about‘ states clearly that she’s no good at making bread. I saw this as an opportunity to prove myself by whipping up some top notch bread without breaking a sweat. I should have stopped and considered Megan for a second, if she’s not good at something (other than singing and marksmanship) its probably a good sign that its not easy. I will say that while losing battle after battle, I won the war, because this bread was damned delicious, although it wound up being closer to a giant croissant.
Challah is a bread of the Jewish people. I went to a Jewish preschool and have been an appreciator of Jewish culture my whole life, I might even go so far as to say its the religion with which I have the fewest problems with. I’m also a huge fan of Matzoh Ball Soup, Bob Dylan, and when I used to mysteriously have school off for a day in October. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 1/3 ounces fresh yeast
- 5 eggs
- 5 1/3 cups bread flower
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 1 Tb + 2 tsp salt
- 1 lb of butter (in restrospect I would go with less)
This should be done in a standing mixer with a bread hook. Start by mixing the yeast in with one cup of water, then add 4 of the eggs and the rest of the non butter ingredients. Then slowly add the butter one cube at a time. Sounds easy enough.
The problems started very early on when our Mom’s mixer’ bread hook was too long, so the thing kicked up and down as it spun and threatened to splatter the dough all over the room. OK, hand kneed it, no problem… Unless your trying to fold 1 pound of butter into a small amount of dough, good luck keeping it from becoming a giant smear on your table. Had to mush it together in the air.
One thing to keep in mind while making bread: It takes a long-ass time. The recipe says it should not rise for more than 2 or three hours and we where about to go out for six. Luckily googling this revealed that putting dough in the fridge triples your rising time. Except ours didn’t rise. Not in the fridge, not on the counter, not anywhere. That’s when I found out that my yeast might be bad and there was a way to test it called proving it. The way to do this is take a teaspoon of yeast and put it in a bowl with a cup of lukewarm water, a cup of flower and a couple pinches of sugar. After about 20 minutes if it looks the same, you have dead yeast. If its begun to bubble and grow, kneed it into your dough and it should take action.
Two days, and three yeasting attempts later I finally had bread that rose to about 1 1/2 times its original size. Which is great except that according to the recipe its supposed to triple in size, and this is important considering the butter content. At this point I had decided that I was going to put it into the oven even if it was just one big blob instead of three nicely braided loaves.
I overestimated how much there was and the loaves got smaller as they went along, such is life. At this point your supposed to put plastic wrap over your loves and give them about 30 minutes to rise again. I did. They didn’t. So I basted some egg onto them and tossed them in on 375 for about 45 minutes. As a final fuck you, they decided to make me singe the shit out of myself while taking them out.
(Picture not as drastic as hoped)
It looked great, Danielle and I agreed as we stood over it preparing to take the first bite. I pulled the loaves apart and grabbed a little piece of crust that had broken off the bottom. It tasted like fish. I spat it out and continued to spit in the trash for a few minutes, she thought I was kidding. I was about to pitch the whole mess but it had been so much work I decided to take one more bite… It was great! The first bite must have been an anomaly, because I have eaten tons of it since and haven’t had any fish taste whatsoever. Googling ‘homemade bread tastes like fish‘ reveals very little, so I’m not sure about this, maybe it had something to do with the 3 day old dead yeast that was swimming around in there somewhere. Who knows, who cares.