I made this!

They’re still baking bread over at Michael Ruhlman’s site, and it’s delightful. This week Peter Reinhart did a guest blog on Challah and I had to try it out – it just looked so good!

Full admission: I’m a secular jew. What that means, my friends, is that I don’t spend time at the synagogue, and I identify as a jew mostly in terms of ethnicity. Sure we haul out the menorah for Chanukah, and yes, I know the shabbis prayers for candles*, but religion by no means plays a center-stage role in our household. There’s a whole post about this business, I’m sure, and at some point, I’ll write it, but not today.

So I’m not great at the whole judaism thing, for sure. But there are things that I truly love about the culture. For one thing, there’s the music. For another thing, some of the food is really great. I do adore a good challah. So when the how-to showed up on Ruhlman’s site, I figured, Hey, I have a mixer – and all the stuff that goes into this. Why the heck not?

Well! It was an adventure!

For starters, the recipe had instructions that involved a stand mixer. If you remember, I got the pretty red Kitchen Aid for my birthday, and any excuse to use that is a good excuse. The instructions on this recipe called for all three of the mixer attachments – the whisk, the paddle, and the bread hook. Heaven! And so I went boldly forth.

HOLY CRAP THAT’S A STICKY DOUGH! let me just say, it took both me and Will to get the mixer clean in the end. There were a dozen egg yolks in there by the time I met the gram requirements.** Jaquelyn declared that this would be a, “Super Bread,” and painfully dense. By the time I shoveled the double  handful of dough into the fridge to wait it out overnight, I was like to agree with her, to be honest. I was nervous about this bread!

But look look! Look what happened in the night –
That was from a double handful or dough. Please let’s be clear: a quart is four cups.*** That’s a LOT of dough. To be completely forthcoming, I was a little terrified when I took it out of the fridge. It did, tho’, settle down into a triple handful once it was turned out of the bucket, which was reassuring.

The Man Cub and I set it up and braided it after the initial rise –

And we popped it in the oven and took its temperature at the appropriate time (without peeking early, even!), and voilà! Delicious.

We demolished the first loaf in two days (and these are very large loaves). So far it’s been great for a sandwich, made lovely toast (it’s stellar with brie, in case you were wondering), and been a pretty great stand-in in a baked turkey meatballs recipe that called for three slices of soft italian bread. Will would like to make french toast out of it – I suspect the results will be brilliant.

I do recommend making this bread – it’s really yummy. Just know in advance that in the night-before stage, it took some doing. My mixer may have been a tad undersized to handle this dough, as it got up in all the crevices (and covered the spring that holds the attachment in place). Seriously, it was a beast to clean up.  I believe that had my mixer been a little bigger, or had I a spiral bread hook instead of the standard one, I would have had less grief (I panicked. I totally panicked and screamed for Will to come help). But in the end it was well worth the trouble. I may even try making another one of these at some point, but with raisins in it.

***

*Even the ones for bread and wine! And I have taught Our Man Cub as we go.
**I knew that kitchen scale would come in handy at some point. I’s been completely invaluable for baking bread – for example, if the recipe comes in simply cups measurements, I’m never sure if I’ve added enough flour or not – is it sifted measure? Unsifted? What? Also, Dood, is that really enough eggy business? comes up a fair amount. I loff my kitchen scale. It was like $12 or some such at the Linens N’ Things a few years ago. I think Weight Watchers has them too, but they may be fancier and more expensive. If you’re making bread regularly for the family, I highly recommend picking one up. It totally gets rid of a lot of the anxious mystery.
***I learned that this year! From my shower curtain, even – it has a bunch of measurement conversions there on the bottom. Who says you can’t get scrubbly bubbly and get smart at the same time?? Lather and learn, my friend, lather and learn.

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