Sunday, June 28, 2009

BBA Challenge #6: Challah

I made Challah last weekend. Having lived in New York a hundred years ago, I have had good and bad Challah, but strangely enough, never homemade Challah. Unless it was at a restaurant, but even if the restaurant advertised it as homemade Challah, it really is more like "restaurant made".

I do have to note that the Challah at B&H Dairy on Second Avenue in New York was spectacular and really stands out in my head, even though it wasn't braided. But with their veggie lasagna. Oh, man, it really takes me back.

In any case, I made the Challah and prepared the Ciabatta (BBA #7) on the same day.

Here I am weighing the ingredients in two stages. I conveniently forgot about mise en place for this one and sort of winged it to no ill effect. In this pic I am measuring the flour in two bowls for the two stages of adding. There's my trusty old orange Escali Primo, brought over from the States.

Here's all the wet ingredients.

You can see by the order of the photographs that it was all a bit haphazard. One of the great things about living in Germany is the refrigerators. Okay, not really because most people have really small ones. Even for families, it is quite common to have a small fridge. However, if you have a large one, the freezer is always on the bottom. I never understood why it was to that he freezer had to be on the top in the States, particularly as it is opened less frequently than the fridge part.

Here you see the lower-most drawer of the freezer, which is on the bottom. Yeah, I said drawer. On this one we have three drawers and a fourth, smaller one for ice, which we never use. Well, we have trays in there, but the water usually sublimates because we rarely use ice. In this drawer you can see Bagels from BBA Challenge #3, Fermipan instant yeast in the bottom middle, and hops for brewing on the right. In that particular bag, Fuggles and East Kent Goldings.

Salt and yeast. Best of Friends. Für immer.

If people actually asked me, then I could say "People often ask me how the Electrolux DLX works." But, alas, I've not been asked. I often tell people how it works. The wet ingredients go in first, then the dry, and you adjust the dough based on the dry. It is actually very difficult to add in water afterwards, as it does not get mixed in at all.

So you actually have to have a light hand with the flour, as you can easily add too much. My best advice with the machine is to watch the dough the first few times to see how the dough transforms from wet mess to "ball o' dough".

I have to admit here that the recipes often take me longer than what Peter Reinhart writes in the book. I made the Challah on a Friday, and by the time I took this picture, it was pushing 23:00, so I decided to stick it in the fridge and make it the next morning.

Some of the pictures look inconsistent because I had just gotten all the equipment I needed to use my flash. Lightstand, flash bracket, and umbrella, so I was testing the different settings. This one and the one below were taken with daylight.

Here's the boules ready to be formed into ropes. Reminiscent of the bagels.

I decided to make two loaves, as we had planned on giving one away. Unfortunately, I realized only too late that I had made the strands too long, and that the loaves were long and thin instead of fat in the middle like I remember from Brooklyn.

Still, I could not believe I had braided the bread successfully. I have only braided Amy's hair, but it wasn't very long, and I went by intuition.

After 20 minutes I was supposed to turn it 180 degrees to cook, but the loaves were already brown! I made a tent and left them in there for another five minutes before I took the thermometer out and measured their internal temperature. 195 already.

It was dark, but not golden.

This one had a light sprinkle of poppy seeds. I had them left over from, again, the bagels.

And the plain one.

Hardly anyone photographs the underside of the loaves. Perhaps it's not so interesting, but I love the great patterns on the bottom of some of the breads.

And finally, the crumb shot. The bread was light and nice, though not buttery like the brioche. My favorite part was the crust, all dark with the egg wash and overall flavorful. Well, the bread itself had a great flavor, but there was just something about the crust of this Challah.

I made the poolish for the BBA Challenge #7: Ciabatta on the same day as this one, and baked it the day after, so I still have the write up for that one. Today, the day I am blogging about this bread, I made the BBA Challenge #8: Cinnamon Rolls, so I am actually two breads behind.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I can get caught up soon.


  1. Your Challahs look great.
    It's funny how people comment on being behind or saying some are ahead. We just need to get through the book weather it be 6 months, a year or even two. :)
    The challenge is to finish the book in ORDER. I didn't stay in order once now the guilt keeps me on the straight and narrow. LOL.
    Your doing great and nice baking along with you,

  2. Very nice! Your Challahs are gorgeous!

    As far as adding water to your dough after it comes together... I use a spray bottle and mist the dough a couple times as the mixer is doing it's thing... once the water is worked in, then I mist the dough some more ...until I get the right consistency.

  3. Loved reading your post. That orange scale is gorgeous! When I saw the first picture of your mixer I planned on asking about it, but then you went on to explain it. So now you can say that people (well one person) asks about your mixer!

    I also found that my breads bake way faster than PR says so I have learned to check early. Too bad about the burned outside. The inside crumb is gorgeous.

    I always photograph the bottom of my breads too. I never put those photos in my post because i figure who wants to see the underside, but now I have met a kindred spirit, so I'll show mine since you are showing yours!