Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice: Challah

I've skipped ahead one week in the challenge. This week's bread is supposed to be Casatiello, a kind of Italian take on Brioche filled with sausage and cheese, but I couldn't bear to make another brioche variation too soon, and we needed something less rich around the house.
You know you're in trouble when 'something less rich' is a challah. Challah was one of the first breads that I learned how to make, in part because it is easy, and in part because it is, like the Artos, a celebration bread, therefore the baking specialty of one or another of my parents' group of friends. John's (large, fluffy, wheaty) and Nina's (long, braided, seeded) challahs made it obvious that challah making was possible and came with great rewards, and I've never looked back. For Rosh Hashanah, I have occasionally been known to make Martha Stewart's rich, rich yolky challah, but Reinhardt's recipe is a good one for more everyday wear (as is the recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook, fyi). I subbed in 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour into 4 cups total, and the result was a heartier taste with no change in texture.

Since my one other wedding assignment this summer, in addition to the cupcakes and cake, is a celebratory challah, it's good to flex the challah muscles. Like a very few other recipes, challah always feels so close and familiar to make that it is less like an adult challenge and more like a childhood memory. I like it that way.
Sophie, who has come to live with us for a little while, also likes it, but likes it best when Matt french toasts it, which he did this past Sunday.

French toast is outstanding. I have no manners, and, as with pancakes, tend to think it is best eaten by hand right off the griddle, one by one. Matt is very tolerant and allows such behavior even though he was not raised by wolves. My mother always did express the forlorn hope that I would behave more conventionally outside the house. That's why I never go out for brunch.


Susie said...

What a beautiful braided Challah. Great job!
French toast is a good idea. :)
I'll be making mine tomorrow BUT will not do a braid as I did one last week. At least I don't think I will. :)
Great baking along with you,

Sean said...

You challah looks beautiful. I am looking forward to making it myself.

Liana said...

love the pictures. can't wait to EAT it myself!! In an ironic twist of fate, one of my students was over and mentioned that he "wanted to learn proper table manners" and could i teach him.


Rebeca said...

Looks great!

Cindy Feingold said...

What a pretty challah. Is that a 5 strand braid?

The Missing Piece said...

Gorgeous! I made french toast with mine also. Loved it!

Anonymous said...

Your bread bake is gorgeous! I want to reach out and steal the loaf..;)

ATigerInTheKitchen said...

Very pretty -- how many strands was that? I was so intimidated by trying the three-strand braid to begin with I didn't even consider doing anything more complicated. Yours turned out beautifully...congrats.