Friday, October 7, 2011

Baking Challah Bread to Soothe the Spirits

I was only able to take one blurry photo of this before my camera died, oh well!

Last night I watched a dramatically tense baseball game (Yankees vs Tigers) on my computer while juggling various lab tasks during commercial breaks.  It was so gripping I ended up staying in lab for far too long.  I can't be considered any kind of real baseball fan since I only follow post-season games and only care about two teams: the Yankees (#1) and the Phillies (#2).  The fates of these two teams have been remarkably parallel the last couple of seasons so I really hope the Phillies will make it through round 1 tonight.  Yes, the Yankees lost last night and was eliminated, an event so annoying that I decided to start a challah bread at 9:30pm.  I never made challah bread before and there was a simple looking recipe included in my food processor recipe book.  Everything came together marvelously well and at around 12:30am I was rabidly eating warm slices, restored to my usual sunny spirits.  It is incredibly, insanely delicious warm.  This morning it was still tasty, but nothing compared to how it was last night.  I highly recommend eating this loaf fresh.  I do foresee some pleasant challah french toasts this weekend!

I like to weigh everything so I am including my googled weight conversions in parentheses in case anyone else likes to do the same.  My food processor is 9-cup size, fyi.

Challah Bread (adapted from Cuisinart's recipe book)

3 tbs white sugar, divided  (I probably used more like 3 tbs + 2 tsp)
1 package active dry yeast (googled to be 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (406 grams)
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup butter, melted (76 grams)
1 large egg, mixed
egg glaze (1 large egg + 1 tbs water)
cooking spray

In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, combine 2 tsp sugar, yeast and the warm water.  Let stand until foamy, ~5min.

In food processor using dough blade, add flour, 3 tbs sugar and salt.  Pulse 2-3 times to mix.

In the cup with the proofed yeast, add cold water, melted butter and the egg.  With the food processor on, slowly pour in the liquids in a steady stream.  Let the food processor knead the dough for 45 seconds (I'm obsessive so I actually timed this exactly).  Place dough in a plastic ziplock bag and let rise for 1-1.5 hours (1 hour was good for me) until doubled in size.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and press down.  Divide into 3 equal pieces and roll into long ropes (1 1/2 x 14 inches, again I measured because I like measuring).  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, set the three ropes onto the sheet and braid.  Tuck the loose ends under and let rise another 45 min until doubled in size.  (Cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking)

Preheat the oven to 375F, 15 minutes before you are ready to bake.  Mix up the egg glaze and brush on the top of the bread.  Bake for 20 minutes on the lower third of the oven and then turn the heat down to 350F and bake another 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.  

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