Saturday, May 26, 2012


how to braid challah
All those summers of braiding gimp bracelets were good for something!

May's Daring Baker's Challenge was challah, which I was jazzed about because I've never braided a loaf on my own and I like how pretty and distinctive challah is. Plus, the stuff I've had at various shabbat dinners has been delicious (my friend K makes a mean challah the size of a baby).

I made 2/3 of the challah recipe from Smitten Kitchen, because Deb called it "best" and I tend to trust her. I wanted to try a bunch of different braiding techniques, so I made two mini-loaves using four and six braids (that didn't turn out to look very different, so in the future I'd try this six-braid technique suggested by Korena), a braided round roll that was a bit of a shaping failure, and some totally adorable little knotted buns.

knotted buns challah
The trick to the dark shine is to egg wash after shaping and then again before baking.

I don't know how the loaves ended up tasting because I didn't eat them (too much bread and no meat makes Rachel something something). Instead, I pawned them off on K and she took them to a family dinner where everyone probably laughed at them because by then they were a few days old and probably also a few days hard (judging by the way the rolls turned into pretty little rocks when I left them on my counter for a week). I did cut into the round loaf the morning after I baked it and it was delicious with a nice crumb.

challah round loaf

best challah
Not kosher in any way.

When I got home in the evening, the cutting board looked like this:

You know from the added accessories who got into this bread.

So I guess someone thought it was good.

A week or so after doing these loaves, I wanted to try my hand at braiding filled strands of dough. I invented fillings for a cinnamon and a chocolate version both of which turned out beautifully. Visually beautifully. 

However, horror of horrors, I forgot the salt. 

You might not think that that would be a big deal when it comes to bread because you don't generally think of it as "salty", but I'm here to tell you that it's a big, big problem. The fillings tasted great, but the bread itself was bland and dry and inedibly boring. Some of the chocolate filling was salvaged to my tummy before loaf-disposal in a sort of archaeological dig fashion that reminded me of a similar grade five class activity in which we had to dig chocolate chips out of cookies with toothpicks. The students with the most intact chocolate chips won. What did that teach me?? I now imagine my teacher sitting at home one evening thinking, "How am I going to shut them up for a solid forty fifteen minutes?"

I guess it taught me that palaeontology is delicious.

chocolate challah
Lovely though, no?
cinnamon challah
A better round loaf than before!
"May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads."

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